Thursday, August 31, 2006

I love these

Freeze-dried whole fruit. Crunchy, sweet, tasty, packed with lots of zingy fruit flavors. Expensive, but worth it. My girls think they're candy, but I don't want to share. Only 150 calories for a huge bag. Blueberry and raspberry are both wonderful.

And I hate to say it, but the Starbucks coffee that I got in my hotel room over the weekend was yummy enough that I might have to start buying that for home. I have been assimilated.

Smart girl!

Catherine did her whole alphabet puzzle today, almost. She has a little trouble scanning all 26 spots for the right place to put each puzzle piece, but she could turn most of the letters around to face the proper direction and she knew the names of all the letters except for I and J.

She even told me that G stood for Good Morning. She also informed me that Q stands for Quilt. Which is like a blanket. That you use when you sleep. At night. (All with appropriate signs, too).

Running is hard

I may be switching allegiances for my preferred discipline. You see, cruising along on the bike or floating along in the swim is easy. Running, especially when the humidity is 200%, is hard.

"It never gets any easier, you just get faster" -Greg Lemond

But the babysitter was here yesterday, I was paying her, and that means it's time to get serious and get the workout done. That's one thing that helps me keep focused in my workouts.

I was aiming for six 11-minute miles on the track. On the track for mental strength training, because those last dark miles on the road at Ironman Florida in the middle of the night are going to take a lot of that mental strength. Eleven minute per mile pace because that's just pushing it a little for me, I have to keep alert and pay attention to keep myself from shuffling too slowly. That's somewhere between my 10K pace and my ten-miler pace - a bit faster than I expect to be running at Ironman Florida.
  • 11:04
  • 10:46
  • 11:03
  • 11:13
  • 10:56
Close enough. I didn't make it to mile 6 because I ran out of time. I spent too much time walking in the intervals between miles, and timing myself walking. And figuring out that my walking pace is too slow to walk it in at Ironman Florida, so I'd better crank up that running mileage. Ugh, I felt tired and sore in the evening, too.

More to come this weekend, even though Tropical Depression Ernesto is scheduled to arrive on Friday. Train in adversity, race in adversity, right!??

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Fix two things, break one

OK, I was able to replace old my bike seat (lower one, below, with the stuffing coming out) with the new one in an identical model (top one), both Forté Contour Women's Saddles. This involved transferring the water bottle holder to the new one, and getting it aligned just right on the bike, which means endless playing around with threads and fittings. I think I have it all squared away now, FINALLY, though.

But replacing the sliced-up handlebar tape didn't go nearly as well. It took me a couple of tries to wrap it correctly with the "Felt" logo on the outside. Then getting the brake handle loose involves two Allen-wrench settings linked to some kind of obscure internal fitting. Now the brake lever is loose and I can't seem to tighten it without disassembling the whole thing again. Grrr!

Maybe I should just toss out the whole works and replace it with a fancy new $600 carbon aerobar set, eh? Nah, not this year.

65 days until Ironman Florida

In my countdown to my Ironman attempt, I was reviewing some online training programs again. Hey, what do you know? My volume has looked remarkably like this chart! Including the final build about 9 weeks out from the event, which I'm entering into now. What I have planned for this next nine weeks is remarkably similar to most training program recommendations out there for someone at my fitness level. How 'bout that?

I was also enjoying Gordo's thoughts on improved performance after some slack time. I'm in agreement with the notion that consolidation of training improvements happens not during the actual training, but during the rest and recovery phase afterwards. So my vacation weeks, a.k.a. step-back weeks, have had an important function, I believe, in terms of mental and physical R&R.

But now we're heading into the final countdown. For those casual readers out there, suffice it to say that this blog is probably going to be consumed by my obsession with this single Ironman triathlon over the next 2.5 months. Please keep arms and legs inside the ride at all times.

P.S. Congratulations to PuddyRat on becoming an Ironman at IMC! I'm looking forward to that race report!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Roller coaster training

Despite my emphasis on consistency in training this year (which was VERY solid up until the beginning of May), my training over the summer has been a roller coaster. When I've been traveling, preparing for travel, and recovering from travel, or had a race week, my training volume has plunged downwards. Lots of high weeks with 14 to 15 hours of training, but then they've dipped down a few times into the region of 7 to 9 hours per week of training. Which isn't enough.

66 days to go until Ironman Florida. Subtract 14 days for a 2-week taper, and that leaves us with 52 days. Seven and a half weeks of training left to go.

Now since my babysitter has gone back to school, I'm re-figuring out how I can get my training done while juggling two three-year-olds. Lots of rain in the forecast too this week, so that precludes a lot of jogstroller time. Back on the indoor trainer with me!

Oh well, it is what it is. A lot can be accomplished in 52 days! Especially with a solid base. RIGHT? That's still nearly two solid months. My plan for this Labor Day weekend includes a century ride, but I'm not yet sure when I can squeeze in the swimming I need to do. And some running some time as well. It might end up being a run-bike-run brick again, starting in the darkness on the track. Whatever it takes!

But I just did a calculation that makes me feel a little better, a la Ellie:
So far in my training this year, I've done the equivalent of over:
  • 29 Iron-distance swim legs
  • 17 Iron-distance bike legs
  • 19 Iron-distance run legs
So while it's still lower training volume by some standards, spread over 34 weeks, it's still something. . . .

Monday, August 28, 2006

The wedding weekend

This is a quick recap of my getaway weekend to Colorado to attend the wedding of my old college friend Debbie. I flew to Colorado on Friday afternoon and the wedding was that evening, at a gorgeous location outside Littleton, southwest of Denver at the Arrowhead Golf Club.
I got held up in some traffic on the way to the wedding, unfortunately, and arrived just in time to witness the wedding vows and the kiss.

Yes, I did get dressed up! Here's a shot in the, uh, bathroom.

The happy newlyweds Debbie and Jeff:

They had a very fun reception and we made great use of the disco ball dancing to the oldies with old friends. (I was also able to talk triathlon with several people from the old crowd from San Diego, where I used to visit Debbie frequently, too - ah, how I envy their training grounds!) I didn't wear heels, just dressy flats, and my feet were much happier for it during the dancing.

The next day I got in a pretty good workout in the hotel fitness room - an hour on the exercycle and then 75 laps of the 15-yard-long hotel pool. The weather was kind of cold and wet so I had the pool all to myself, but the water was nice and warm. I had forgotten my watch upstairs so I counted laps by swimming up and down each of the 4 lane lines once, then across the diagonal. Repeated 15 times. I was getting 9 strokes per 15 yards fairly consistently = 1.66 yards per 2-arm stroke. It could be longer, but it's better than the 1.43 yards it used to be, and I think I'd slow down a lot to achieve a much longer stroke right now.

The weather got worse before it got better! This was about all I saw of the real mountains on the way back over to Debbie and Jeff's house.

Fortunately the weather cleared up! They hosted a fun cookout at their fabulous home, with yummy food and great company which was enjoyed by all.

Much too soon it was time to go home again. . . .

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Home sweet home

I'm back! I had a great trip, too! I can't post photos until tomorrow, though, so I'll have to catch up with you all then. The weather was kind of sucky but everything else on the trip was great. I even cleaned up pretty well too. More tomorrow. Sleep now.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Off to the Rockies

I'm off to HATC (High Altitude Training Camp) for the next 50-odd hours. Since my training and eating have been in a slump this week I'm hoping that gasping for breath will get me motivated to put in a workout or two, thereby boosting my red blood cell count to levels otherwise attained by massive infusions of EPO.

Or at least I have a great time seeing old pals at the wedding, one of the two!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Angry Pluto

I'd be angry if they took away my planet too. I guess the little model of nine planets at our local playground is going to have to be changed now. Too sad.

Blacks and swimming

The other day on one of my email lists I got into a bit of a debate on the topic of typical body types of various races and the probable effects on swimming biomechanics. Which, of course, got me flamed. Okay, I like controversy as much as the next person, it was not altogether unexpected.

Want to get really offended? Check out what Rush Limbaugh has to say on the topic. (Disclaimer: I loathe him.).

That said, I'll be watching the next season of Survivor (Cook Islands) with interest, when they pit tribes of four different races against each other. (Starts Thursday September 14th).

Plus the Amazing Race, and naturally I'll be cheering for Ironman (and amputee) Sarah Reinertson. (Starts Sunday September 17th).

From my bike trainer, of course.


So the other day I was all psyched about fitting into a new lower size again. I bought some new polo shirts and jeans from Land's End and I loved getting back into a new number.

Then a so-called "friend" told me to check the sizes for Vogue patterns. Pattern-makers probably don't have quite the incentive of ready-to-wear clothes vendors to make larger sizes in smaller number labels. Like, "Ooh, I love my new polo shirt, especially since it has this great lower number on the tag!" Pattern-makers probably haven't adjusted their sizes since the 1940s.

Sure enough, she was right:

Land's End: Size - bust, waist, hips (inches)
6 - 34 1/2 27 1/2 37 1/2
8 - 35 1/2 28 1/2 38 1/2
10 - 36 1/2 29 1/2 39 1/2
12 - 38 31 41
14 - 39 1/2 32 1/2 42 1/2
16 - 41 34 44
18 - 43 36 46

Vogue Patterns: Size - bust, waist, hips (inches)
6 - 30 1/2 23 32 1/2
8 - 31 1/2 24 33 1/2
10 - 32 1/2 25 34 1/2
12 - 34 26 1/2 36
14 - 36 28 38
16 - 38 30 40
18 - 40 32 42
20 - 42 34 44
22 - 44 37 46
24 - 46 39 48

So, for example, if you think you wear a size 8 from Land's End? Think again. You're really a size 14 with Vogue.

Then again, I've heard many times that Marilyn Monroe was a size 14. It's probably apocryphal, though. Those must have been 1940s sizes, anyway - today she would probably wear an 8.

It's only a number. RIGHT?

More on the Marilyn size thing at (where else?) - the measurements listed there put her somewhere between a size 10 and 14 (from above). Thanks for the link, Carlene!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Holly rocks!

I know you all knew that already, but did I mention. . . . HOLLY ROCKS!?

Not only is she coming all the way from DC to Panama City Beach to cheer us all on at Ironman Florida, and volunteer, and generally spread around her good cheer, but:

She reserved the airplane seats directly next to me for the two legs of the flights home.

Just in case I'm so sore that I can't walk on to the plane unassisted - she's there!!!


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

New stuff!

How sick is it that I'm totally indifferent to clothes and jewelry and makeup these days, but I can really get excited that my new Felt handlebar tape just arrived? Now I can go replace it on the place on Buttercup where it got shredded a little bit when I laid her down accidentally on the asphalt when I, uh, forgot to clip out.

A happy bike is a trustworthy bike.

Heels or no heels?

This will be another low-mileage drop-back week for me. Over the weekend I'm making a whirlwind trip out to Littleton, Colorado to attend the wedding of a dear old friend that I've known since my undergraduate college days about 30 - yes, THIRTY! years ago. Oh. My. God. The stories we could tell about each other!!!!

It's been nearly that long since I've worn high heels, and I'm debating whether to pack those or a pair of dressy flats. Seriously, I think I haven't worn heels more than 3 or 4 times in the last eight years, literally - one conference, a job interview, maybe a cruise or two, I think that's it.

I didn't even wear heels at my own wedding, just sandals. Those are my actual feet on my actual wedding day in 2001. Hey, it was in Maui, what do you expect? Even those sandals weren't very comfortable, so I left them in my hotel room after their one and only outing. Besides, I needed my feet at the top of their form to complete the Maui Marathon two days later, even very slowly.

I think my feet in heels would feel like they broke in half after ten or fifteen minutes. I wouldn't want it to interrupt my running, would I? And flats take up less suitcase room.

And then there are my nasty fingernails. They're all chopped off extra-short for minimal maintenance. If they're any longer, the bicycle grease just gets under them, you know? They wouldn't know what to do with polish on them.

And the hair. . . . I got it chopped shoulder-length a couple months ago so that I could avoid that long wet drippy ponytail after swimming. Now I just have it pulled back in a short ponytail most of the time. I just like it out of my face. I did re-color it yesterday, so at least I won't have light gray roots shining through from underneath.

And makeup? Sigh. The only "beauty product" that's gone on my face recently is Oil of Olay SPF 15 after every time I wash it, habitually, just to keep off the worst of the sun damage. I'm pretty sure that Bolder uses more beauty products than I do.

Then there's all the other stuff you have to pack for dressing up. All the special underwear that goes underneath a dress. Nylons. Gack, I haven't worn nylons any more than I've worn heels in the last several years. I'll need to pack some dressy jewelry, too, of which I own exceedingly little and also seldom wear. Most of the time it's my plastic Timex Ironman Flix watch and my plain gold wedding band, and maybe a pair of gold hoops in my ears for special occasions.

Not that I don't like going fancier places, mind you. I enjoy a luxury destination resort with the best of them! But I enjoy the places most that you can "come as you are" wearing a clean polo shirt and maybe a pair of flip-flops or Docksiders -- which includes nearly all the great restaurants in my small town. But if it's the type of place that's stuffy enough to require suit coats on the gents - usually I just go elsewhere.

I suppose I'll have to get some photos to post here later. There aren't many opportunities any more to see me in anything but Lycra shorts and jogbras and maybe an expensive wetsuit or fancy bike jersey now and then.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

What do real triathletes look like?

Like this. Forget those airbrushed bimbos.

(From Pem at Deep Language). I hope to look anywhere near as good when I'm 81!

Update: Her name is Mirjam Tuovila, from Yorktown, Vermont, and the photo was taken at the 2006 Greenville (SC) Triathlon, where she was the only female competitor over age 64. She went 11:49 for the 400m swim, 1:02:38 for the 15-mile bike, and 46:09 for the 3-mile run to finish in 2:08:07.

Correction! There must be a typo in the results, and her home must be Yorktown, Virginia, which makes more sense. There isn't a Yorktown, Vermont. Thanks to sharp-eyed Triathlonmom.

For those scorching runs

I want one of these for those sunny long-distance runs! But I can't wear it in public yet because of that pesky Ironman logo. I haven't yet earned the right! Just like I haven't yet earned the right to call myself Iron-Anything. It's just plain bad ju-ju, there's no two ways around it. It gives me the shivers when I see unqualified people doing that, like falsely calling yourself a Navy Seal on your resume or claiming a fake PhD (mine is genuine, honest!) or something worse.

But if I cross that magical finish line in Panama City Beach in November, there will be no living with me. I'll be wearing Ironman pajamas and underpants and contact lenses and earrings and deodorant and getting an Ironman license plate holder and a 140.6 sticker for my minivan and. . . .

Eagleman Ironman 70.3 for 2007?

Wow! Where is this year going!? Summer is almost gone, and Eagleman Ironman 70.3 registration is about to open up already on September 10th for next year's race on June 10, 2007 in Cambridge, Maryland. As one of eight or so half Ironman races in the country that can be used to gain slots for other major races, including the Ironman World Championship in Kona and the World Championship Ironman 70.3 in Clearwater, it's sure to fill fast, so be thinking about it NOW! I think I'll do it again - it's a very convenient location for me, 45 minutes from home, not to mention I have a score to settle with that course! And FLAT FLAT FLAT! Plus I'd love to target a sub-7 finish. Ack! What am I saying? I thought I wasn't going to plan anything until Ironman Florida was done!!!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

What sports am I good in?

Based on personal history, I'd say I'm NOT good at triathlon. NOT NOT NOT swimming, NOT running, and NOT cycling. I enjoy them, but I'm not particularly good at any of them. I'm definitely good at powerlifting (but I don't like the long hours of gym training), and I'm very good at some types of equestrian sports (although I haven't spent time on it in years).

But this online survey says I might be good at speed skating (never tried it), and road cycling (hmmmm....), but not so good at snowboarding (it hadn't caught on the last time I went skiing years ago), surfing (never tried it), squash (hopeless - no hand-eye coordination), and table tennis (more hopelessness).

What does it say for you?

RBR Brick

OK, I take back all those bad things I said about my workout buddy David. We got the workout done today and I never would have gotten as much accomplished without him along! And I certainly never would have gotten up at 4AM to get onto the track at 5AM. Well, 5:10 or so, actually, I was late since the girls woke up and needed attention, but anyway. . . .

I arrived at the track when it was PITCH BLACK outside. David had already completed a mile! I managed a sleepy ~5K warmup jog (plus several walking laps since my Shredded Wheat wasn't settling well enough in my stomach - definitely no more of that before workouts!).

Then we headed out on the road on the bike as soon as it was light enough. I wore my heart rate meter (also known as Nancy's $65 personal powermeter sans bells and whistles), which I usually don't because it chafes.

I made a couple changes on this ride - the first was that I added Carbo-pro maltodextrin (half cup per 2 quarts) and extra salt (1 tsp per 2 quarts) to my Gatorade, which I think helped enormously to keep my energy high - I kept feeling stronger the whole workout! (Note to self: I need to practice making a concentrated formula in one water bottle, probably marked off at one-hour consumption intervals, and mix it on the fly in my aerobottle with water on course so that I can use it in two 56-mile rounds on the Ironman course. I'm not fond of carrying a gel flask on the bike since I always seem to have problems closing it tightly and it leaking sticky goop somewhere.)

The first 35 miles I had my watch beeper on at 10-minute intervals, and we rode at a comfortable pace for 7-8 minutes, then picked up the pace to increase my heart rate by ~10 bpm for 2-3 minutes, repeated throughout.

For the last 16 miles I rode at a continuous 10-15 bpm higher heart rate (~150 bpm) than my comfortable pace (~135 bpm)

I ended up with an average speed 0.3-0.5 mph higher than most of my other training rides in the 3-hour range (16.7 mph). I even had enough energy afterwards to run another track 5K just about 3 minutes off (33:44) my PR time in suffocating humidity.

I'm going to keep up a similar approach on my 3-4 hour rides. I think my leg strength is okay (since my bike times on Eagleman-flat and Steelhead-hilly half Ironman courses were nearly the same), but I primarily need to improve on my ability to sustain a cycling effort at a higher heart rate. Build stamina, in other words, to get faster.

But in two weeks, we launch the 100+-milers, hopefully at least two before Chesapeakeman. The first of which will be at a slow and easy "just finish the sucker" pace.

Another note to self: Suck it up, lube effectively, and wear the damn heart rate meter. Even though you hate it. It helps.

Bank of Ironman deposit - check!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Nation's Triathlon is on!

They did it! They managed to get approvals to run an Olympic-distance triathlon in the monumental core of Washington, DC on September 16, 2006. Congratulations to the organizers on what must have been an enormous task juggling numerous agencies and government entities.

Registration is open here. It will set you back about $183 to get in. I think I'm going to wait-and-see this year, and perhaps give it a go next year if it survives. If they get rainfall anywhere in the Potomac watershed within a day or two preceding the race, I think they probably will have to cancel the swim due to water quality issues. But let's hope it goes!

Good, bad, and ugly

In the manner of our favorite half Ironman the Boldmeister, I have a few goods, bads, and uglies to share today.

  • Getting in 42 miles on the bike on a weekday morning
  • Having a perfectly beautiful day to ride in
  • Most of the bike working fine, and especially no breakdowns *knock wood*
  • Having a fully-kitted hardcore-looking cyclist chat me up to ride with me at one of the local pitstops, but I was going the wrong way
  • Portapotties at lots of convenient locations on my local ride routes
  • Body weight still going in the correct happy direction
  • Having a great babysitter to mind the girls while I work out
  • Maybe having the babysitter for a nice Friday night dinner date with my husband this week
  • Getting up at 6:15 AM to make it to the 7:30 AM lap swim during the very last week of lap swim this summer, and then nobody shows up to open the pool (which allowed me to ride longer, but still).
  • Still unable to get much into the 16 mph vicinity when I include pit stop time in the speed calculation
  • Cranky, crampy body still objecting to aero position
  • Babysitter going back to school in another week
  • Elisabeth deciding it's fun to run around the house with the pizza cutter while Catherine brings me knife after knife out of the sharps drawer they're not supposed to be getting into
  • Running over a snake on the side of the road that I thought was a bungee cord or something until my tires rolled over it *thump* *thump* (I hope it was already dead, but I didn't stop to check)
  • Bike seat starting to come apart - I need to buy an indentical replacement quickly, along with a few other things - handlebar tape, new chain perhaps
  • After I got home, the girls poured a cup of orange juice on the carpet and a can of root beer on the couch and so got sentenced to immediate naptime without hope of parole

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

5AM on the track!?!?

Let me take back all those nice things I said about my workout buddy David.

His great idea for the weekend:
Meet at the track at 5AM for an hour run. On a Saturday.

Uh, yeah. That would be when sunrise is at 6:17AM. We're just going to run on the track because it's too easy to break an ankle running on the road in pitch blackness. I'm pretty sure there won't be any lights on the track, either, but at least it's reasonably flat. Maybe I should bring a flashlight.

Then when it's actually light we get to do something fun like ride our bikes another 50-60 miles. I have to be home by 10AM so my husband can go sailing, so that's all I'll have time for.

I'll let all you fine readers know how it goes.

Some workouts....

Sometimes workouts don't end up being quite what you had planned.

Heh. Is that the understatement of the month?

Today I went out with the two girls in the jogstroller. We went over to the track and went around it once, and that was fine, despite Catherine falling down on the asphalt about three times.

Then we loaded back up again and went out for some road mileage. I was hoping to get in 4 or 5 miles. Fat chance.

First Elisabeth pooped, which at first she didn't mind sitting in, but then which made her progressively crankier.

Then Catherine took off both her favorite red sandals and was playing with the velcro, but would periodically drop one and would scream until I retrieved it.

Then they both started hitting each other and screaming, just to aggravate each other and me.

That was when I finally gave up and turned around and went home and put them both in Baby Jail. AKA their cribs, which they can actually climb out of now but they don't seem to remember that.

2.6 miles. Guess it's the bike trainer tonight instead. I just found out yesterday that Elisabeth is probably going to get into preschool for speech therapy and Catherine probably won't be eligible because her development and speech are right on track. (She comes out with sentences that surprise me every now and then like "Where did that ball go? What is Elisabeth doing?", and identified all the pictures for the nice lady yesterday and named the colors while signing them too and counted to five yesterday.)

So now I have to figure out a way to get in my workouts in September and October with a single jogstroller or something. I'm not sure I want to put the kid-carrier on the back of the tri-bike, but maybe on the back of the old steel bike it will work. . . .

What will it take, Flatman?

Flatman is one of the "old-timer" bloggers whom we've been in contact with for some time now. He's a popular guy. He lost his blog and then found it again. He always has a few moments for a kind word or to needle his fellow bloggers. He gets lots of comments on his blog even when he posts photos of his ridiculous miniscule dog wearing clothes.

He spent the summer weight training and he's now bulging with muscle to show for his efforts.

After all this time, though, a question comes to mind: When are you going to RACE, Flatman? On foot, on the bike, in the water, wherever. Makes no difference to us.

You've got that great Teddy Roosevelt quote in your sidebar. When are we going to have the fun of seeing you "actually in the arena; [with your] face . . . marred by dust and sweat and blood"??

I'm just wonderin'. . . .

Do we have to start a public campaign or something?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Body weight and speed

I just saw this calculator on another blog (sorry, I've lost track of where!// Update! Neoprene Wedgie is my source! Thanks for the link!) and I thought it was interesting to play with:

Predicted effect of weight change on running speed

It seems to use a factor of 3 seconds per pound of body weight per mile; whereas I've always heard that the difference is 2 seconds per pound of body weight per mile. And it only gives you information for plus or minus 4 pounds. But interesting, nevertheless!!!

Free speed with weight loss. Simple physics.

Let that be an incentive to me as I work off another ten big ones before Ironman Florida!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Steelhead Ironman 70.3: The race I needed

This turned out not to be the race that I wanted, but rather ended up being the race that I needed to continue my preparations for a full Ironman attempt in November. The Race Gods have been good to me.

Short results:
Swim 1.2 miles: 50:05
T1: 9:16
Bike 56 miles: 3:43:54
T2: 3:18
Run 13.1 miles: 3:01:38
Finish: 7:48:10

Overall place: 1401 out of 1430
Athenas over 40 place: 4 out of 4
Gender place: 418 out of 437

Long, windy narrative results for my third half-Ironman:

This race was in a convenient location for me to take my twin 3-year-old girls on a visit to their grandmother, as well as enjoy a destination triathlon. I was expecting the moderately-sized small town triathlon event that was held last year, with 518 triathlete finishers and a smattering of relayers and aquabikers. Nope! This year registrations exploded, and it became a mega-event with 1430 half Ironman-distance triathlon finishers. Maybe it's because they were awarding slots to the half Ironman championships in Clearwater, Florida this fall, or maybe it's just an indicator of the increasing popularity of triathlons.


Packet pickup went smoothly the day before and I was delighted to be able to meet Shelley McKee finally, though we were running in different directions and only had a brief minute to chat.

Race morning began early in my mother's driveway and we fired up the 31-foot RV to drive the 22 miles to the race site. When we arrived there things were totally crazy - it was still pitch-black and volunteers were directing vehicles into a dozen parking lots at some distance from the transition area, triathletes were zipping dangerously among the lines of cars on their bicycles in the darkness (despite supposedly mandatory bike-racking the day before), and we were all getting quite stressed out circling around several times in our 31-foot behemoth RV after several mis-directions in our attempt to find a parking place that we reasonably might be able to maneuver into.

After much delay in the parking process, I hurriedly gathered up my wetsuit, bike helmet, bike shoes, running shoes, and all my other transition gear and carried it on a long walk to the transition area. All of that was heavy, and I found my arms shaking from a combination of fatigue from carrying all the gear, plus a fair amount of nervousness. I reminded myself that feeling like I was going to puke was a normal and anticipated part of my pre-race anxiety, and I tried not to let it bother me.

I was racked in with the relayers, and there were lots of people milling around and there was way too little space for all of us. My rack number was facing a nice wide end aisle at the edge of transition, so lots of people from the other side decided it was a good idea to put their bikes on the opposite side of the rack from their number so they could use the nice wide end aisle too. The result was a nasty tangle of bikes and barely space for me to lay out half a towel directly in front of my bike wheel with my shoes arranged on it. I ended up having to put my gear bag about 30 feet away by the outer fence line (along with many other people, as the announcer directed us).

I wheeled my bike over to the bike help tent and borrowed their pump to inflate my tires. Everything seems good. I ask the guy to check the bolts on my bike Buttercup's chainring, and they're all tight. Good.

I was in the last swim wave at 7:30, so I waited until most of the people had cleared out of transition at 6:45 to catch the shuttle bus to the swim start, which worked fairly well. I arrived at the sandy beach area with about 20 minutes to go. I pulled on my wetsuit, and went out into the water to try to get comfortable. The water temperature was perfect for me in my sleeveless wetsuit, about 76*F or 77*F. I watched the preceding waves jumping off the pier. I tried to estimate the drop to the water - perhaps 6 feet? My nervousness increased with every minute. I told another athlete, "This is freaking me out!" I reminded myself of something that Fe-lady had posted on my blog the day before: ". . . you will be in your element(s) as soon as the gun sounds!" Don't project. Stay in the moment. You'll know what you need to do when you need to do it.

Soon enough it was me lining up on that pier facing the rising sun in a crowd of other wetsuited triathletes with orange swim caps on, looking out at the line of buoys extending into the distance and then down at the water below. We counted down the seconds and I started my watch timer with a few to go. The gun sounded, and I waited a few seconds for a clear space in the water to take the plunge. Then I held on to my goggles and JUMPED!


Perhaps I should have held my nose instead of my goggles. I ended up underwater, disoriented, with a noseful of water. I looked for the light and came up sputtering and stressed out and trying to find my bearings again.

Then I started swimming freestyle. With a perfect water temperature, I didn't have a difficult warm up, I was able to start swimming comfortably right away. The water was surprisingly calm. I was glad to see that the buoys were closely spaced and I was able to see them clearly almost all the time. Just settle into a steady swimming stroke.

After a few minutes I had the surprising realization that I was having FUN! I *was* in my element! I *did* know just what to do when the gun sounded! I was keeping steady pace with several other swimmers and even passing a few! My stroke was comfortable, my breathing was comfortable, I was just going along on a lovely swim in Lake Michigan on a beautiful August day and having a great time! This was a total shock to me, since it's the first time I've felt truly comfortable in a triathlon swim. Happy day!

I just kept it up, concentrating on my stroke technique, repeating my mantra. Long. Smooth. Reach. Reach. Tick off the buoys one after the other. Oooh, there are a few big swells in the water. Is it going to get rough? No, there are no waves cresting, it's probably just a boat wake.

Just keep swimming.... I spot one woman with another color swim cap from a preceding wave, hanging on to a buoy for a breather. Poor girl, I can sympathize. Keep swimming. Along the way I pass people struggling through the water with two other different cap colors. COOL! The good thing about being in the final swim wave is that you know for sure you are actually AHEAD of everyone that you pass!

Just keep swimming.... I'm passing each buoy in the straight line about 30 feet to the left, well out of traffic but sighting well. This is my good side for breathing and I can spot the buoys without too much effort. I look ahead and there's still a cluster of swimmers in sight to follow. I try to get behind another swimmer a couple of times to draft, but the water is too murky to see underwater and I quickly lose them.

Just keep swimming.... Whew! How many buoys ARE there, anyway? Two or three more? This is getting monotonous. I look at my watch. 36 minutes and a long way still to go. Ugh, how am I ever going to swim twice this distance? Push those thoughts out of my head and try to think of a song to amuse myself and pass the time.

Just keep swimming.... Finally I reach the final buoy for the single turn in the swim leg. I'm away from the other swimmers and pop my head up for a moment and shout out to the people sitting on surfboards inside the turn, "Thank you, lifeguards!" They yell, "No problem! Good luck!" and I head in to shore with a smile on my face.

Soon I can touch the sand with my fingers, attempt to breast stroke or dolphin a couple of times in the shallows, then stagger to my feet and head in. Check my watch when I hit the beach: 49:05. Hurray! That's a big PR for me, 6:25 (11%) faster than my swim at Eagleman in June!

Swim to bike transition:

I stagger up the beach through heavy sand. It's too deep for me to try to run without tiring myself too much. Plod through it up to the boardwalk, where I think I crossed the timing mat. Then trot along the boardwalk, which seems to go on forever. Grab a cup of Gatorade. At some point Habeela passes me and says hi - how she recognized me I'll never know! Pull off my wetsuit top as I go.

Finally after a long, long way barefoot on tender feet I'm back in the transition area. Dump my wetsuit by my bag next to the fence. Back to the bike, rinse the sand off my feet, pull on socks and shoes, then stand up for my jersey and helmet, then trot the bike out the exit. Somehow over 9 minutes has elapsed since I crossed the mats.


We start off on a rough little backroad. I start out casually and get myself settled in for the long ride. About a half mile along I approach some photographers and hunker down on my aerobars for a proper shot. Not long afterwards I start up the first of innumerable hills and OOPS! My rear derailleur begins popping out of the easier gears, forcing me to climb with a lower cadence and muscling the pedals around. Ugh! I think the derailleur has been bent during transport or the cable has gotten too loose and I'd need a pair of pliers to adjust it (which I didn't have). I briefly consider bagging it and heading back to transition and calling it a day.

No, I refused to quit. I made it up that hill okay, let's just keep going and see how many others I can get up. I think of Bob Mina reporting on some other long triathlon where he had a broken cable or something, but where he ended up surprising himself by riding a good time. Nancy, you're no Bob Mina, but maybe you have enough leg muscle to power it up these hills too, like a fat female Jan Ullrich or something. Well, you're no Jan Ullrich either, but just keep pedaling.

I test the gears on each hill, to see what I have available to use. The larger gears on the back wheel are all gone, and I have maybe 2 or 3 of the middle gears to play with that don't slip. The front derailleur is working fine. (I had forgotten about the tightener ring on the cable, and it just never occurred to me to stop and try to adjust that, unfortunately. Yes, that might have helped. Lesson learned.) Okay, I may have to use some bad gearing combinations here and destroy the chain, but let's work with what we have. I muddle my way through most of the course by shifting between front gears and then shifting in back when it works.

I get through most of the hills without standing up. I still end up popping out of gear countless times on the uphills, which is jarring and tiring, but I make it up them. They're short enough that works okay, and I try to work up some speed on the downhills and flats. I even pass a few people on some uphills, which is really unheard-of. The hills keep coming, one after another.

The roads are terribly rough, compared to what I'm used to. There are almost no wide shoulders, on much of the course cars whiz by dangerously close, and the rural backroads are worn-out, bumpy asphalt. The bigger craters are marked in paint, but I can't always spot them in advance and still travel over lots of big bumps. Part of the way feels as jarring as cobblestones.

About Mile 41 I'm scouting out the bushes for a likely pee spot (having been unable to pee on the bike previously), when the bike starts getting increasingly wobbly. Is it bad pavement again? No. I stop and get off and take a look. The back tire is getting soft. I take the opportunity for a pee break and check the rear tire. No obvious damage. I give it some air. Maybe it's just a slow leak and I can limp back to transition. Only 15 miles to go.

Two more miles and it's soft again. Damn, I'll have to change the tube. I roll over a hill to an intersection with a traffic cop and stop out of the way on the outside of the turn. The cop asks me if I need help - no, I'm fine, just have to change this tire. Lay the bike down, take off the rear wheel, and set about swapping out the inner tube. Everything works reasonably well, as it's supposed to. I don't actually check my watch, but I know my PR time is now gone, but I'm pleased that I'm able to competently change a flat out on the road without getting flustered.

I get riding again and the tire holds air. I dump the old inner tube at the next aid station (I hate course litterers!) and in due time I finish the course.

I had knocked my bike computer out of alignment during the change and so it stopped timing at 43 miles, but it recorded a 16.1 mph pace up until my second stop. If I had been able to maintain that pace, I would have finished the bike leg about 16 minutes faster. Even so, I finished the hilly course 28 seconds faster than I finished the flat Eagleman course in June (also including a flat, but no inner tube change).

Bike to run transition:

Trot my bike back into transition, and lose a little time trying to safely wedge my bike into the packed rack in the last half-inch of space. I don't change into a new shirt for running, as I sometimes do, which saved me about half a minute. Slip into the running shoes and go go go.


I jog until the first mile marker and check my watch again. Mile 1 in 12 minutes. But UGH! It feels terribly hot! We're on a road in the middle of the woods with full noonday sun but no breeze. I realize this is the time to set aside all finish time expectations and just work on completing the course and avoiding heat stroke. I get to an aid station and start my routine - one cup of Gatorade for the insides, pour one cup of water over the head, and pour the ice down the front of my jogbra. I was doing this totally unselfconsciously until a guy coming the other way said to me, "That looks good!", which made me laugh. The fluids and ice perked me up enough to keep going, but I realize that I'm going to be doing a lot of walking on this course. I see Habeela again and we start leapfrogging the entire rest of the way, encouraging each other from time to time and putting one foot in front of the other. There are still a number of people out on the course with me and I keep mentally encouraging myself by thinking that I'll beat each one that I pass in the overall rankings.

The run course is kind of bizarre - lots of strange twists and turns up and over drawbridges and through underpasses and past what looks like a Needle Park and up into a wealthy neighborhood to finally reach the turnaround. Fortunately it clouded over about that time which kept it much cooler. I passed a bank thermometer twice which read 82*F, and I doubted that it was that cool at the time, but sure enough that's what the official weather reports say.

Lots of hills and few level stretches where you can get a consistent pace going. I'm trying to maintain a jog and just walk the uphills and aid stations, but I end up walking most of the final few miles. I suppose I trashed my legs a bit grinding up those hills on the bike. I didn't feel motivated to push very hard when I knew my final time would be much slower than my last half Ironman.

On the return leg, it seems that everyone is getting in their cars and leaving, which is always a bit discouraging. One woman wearing a medal yells to me, "You can still make the cutoff! Keep putting one foot in front of the other!" Um, I'm aware that I still have plenty of time, I'll finish well before 8 hours are up. I just smile and wave and keep going.

Back down through the woods and on to the finish line with lots of friendly congratulations along the home stretch. Cross the finish line and I'm done! Get my medal and Habeela and I congratulate each other and I head back to transition to collect my things.


I pack up my gear and back to my husband who has been minding the twins in the RV in the parking lot all day long. I retrace my steps and when I arrive the girls are actually napping! Fortunately, they had an opportunity to visit the lovely beach and had a much better day than I had been imagining. One of the best parts of the day was being able to shower up, change my clothes, and get a snack right in the parking lot.

All in all, a great day with lots of valuable lessons learned! I was especially pleased to enjoy what I consider my first triathlon swim that actually felt GOOD, and a reasonably calm rear flat tire change. Onward!

I can run!

After my weak half marathon "run" (3:01:38) at Steelhead last weekend, I was a little concerned about the state of my running. I haven't done much in the way of long runs this summer, concentrating instead on my cycling and swimming.

So today after a warmup, I let out the reins a little on the track. Ran a pretty solid mile - a little too warm for a really fast effort, but not shuffling along at the marathon-pace training gait that I've been using lately.

9:23. One mile PR by 14 seconds.

Whew! I'm still on track for Ironman Florida.

Which leaves me wondering if I could finally run a sub-30 5K now, but that has to be on the back burner for a few months, unless I can find a very handy one that I can fit in my training schedule easily.

I'd also like to lose about 10 more pounds before Ironman Florida as well, which would cut off about 20 seconds per mile for me without increased effort. I've been trying to avoid planning any events out past Ironman Florida, but road races seem so simple and easy to do compared to triathlons! It will be interesting to do a few this coming winter and see how I can push the pace.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Good training buddies....

. . . keep you going when you really want to stop, helping you to get more training done than you would alone. I was ready to bag it at 50 miles today, but David flogged me on to complete the full 78-mile loop with the ferry ride. Thanks, David!

Seven days is also not a long enough time to fully recover from a half Ironman. Duh. (Also apparently not long enough to finish a race report either, but I digress.) I could only manage a 15.6 mph average moving speed on the bike today, even less counting total time with leisurely pitstops (14.0 mph including the ferry ride). I have 12 weeks to bring that average up a bit for a 112-mile distance, after some taper time but also after a 2.4-mile swim. And then there's that little detail of completing a marathon afterward. Can I do it? Time will tell! At least my derailleur and tires cooperated today, after I gave my bike Buttercup a pretty new yellow rear tire yesterday!

Note to self: If I manage to get out of T1 by 2:15 race time at Ironman Florida (by 9:15 AM, including transition, which means I need to complete the swim in about 2:00), I have to make a least a 14.0 mph average for the entire 112-mile bike leg in order to make the cutoffs, which are earlier at IMFL than any other m-dot Ironman race.

We successfully avoided most of the electromagnetic radiation, I think. . . .

Got in a short beach walk waiting for the ferry, but avoided swimming due to the sea nettles (stinging jellyfish) that abound there this time of year.

The famous Chesapeake Bay log canoes were out racing in the Tred Avon river by Oxford - always a sight to behold!

Catching up

I know I owe you all a race report! I'm still catching up on being home again - unpacking, doing tons of laundry, the usual stuff. Trying to get back into the normal training week - I've only got 12 to go, including the taper, for Ironman Florida! Eeeek!

My training buddy David is meeting me for a long ride in a few minutes (6AM start, since dawn is getting later), to be followed up by an hour run. At least that's the operational plan at the moment.

It's 56*F outside!! Autumn has suddenly arrived!! When did that happen?

I looked up the temps for race day last weekend in Benton Harbor, Michigan and it said it never got above 81*F (84*F heat index). It sure felt hotter than that when there were no clouds and no wind! I was skeptical when I saw 82*F on the sign we passed twice on the run, but I suppose it was correct.

Ride now, race report later.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

My 2006 half ironman numbers

Eagleman, June 2006:
Rough brackish water swim, pancake flat bike and run course, flat pumped up (not changed) in T1
Swim 1.2 miles: 55:30 (2:37/100 yards)
T1: 4:31
Bike 56 miles: 3:44:38 (14.95 mph)
T2: 3:51
Run 13.1 miles: 2:42:02 (12:22 min/mile)
Finish: 7:30:32

Steelhead, August 2006:
Calmer swim in fresh water, long T1 through sand, hilly bike and run courses, broken rear derailleur, changed rear flat at mile 43 of bike, very hot walk/run
Swim 1.2 miles: 50:05 (2:22/100 yards)
T1: 9:16
Bike 56 miles: 3:43:54 (15.01 mph)
T2: 3:18
Run 13.1 miles: 3:01:38 (13:52 min/mile)
Finish: 7:48:10

All the increase in time was in the run, and I'm not worried about that - it's one of my slowest half marathons in the last 4 or 5 years, since I took it took it easy in the heat and walked a lot. I'm very pleased with the Steelhead swim (my best triathlon swim by far) and how well I coped with several difficulties on the bike course. I get home tonight, will catch up with everything soon afterwards!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Steelhead photos

Just a few to share - I didn't take many! I need to find a good photo of the swim start to show you all because it was truly a beautiful setting. Here's some nervous anticipation:

And just remember, for the record, I started when the clock already had over 30 minutes on it!! Those two girls standing there with the finish line banner must have had an awfully long day by the time I arrived!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Still on the road

Hi folks,
We're still in the RV, still traveling - on the Ohio Turnpike today. Our wifi connections have been flaky so I haven't been able to think about posting a race report yet, or respond directly to comments/questions. I'll get there eventually! I just wanted to say that I'm still here and I still appreciate you all stopping by and leaving your great comments! Thanks! I feel really good about the first half of the Steelhead half Ironman race, up until after Mile 41 of the bike, and the rest of the race was okay too, considering that I finished! It's all good! Lots of new take-home lessons there and encouragment in my training for that Big Event coming up in November (Ironman Florida).

Back to "normal" on Thursday night or Friday morning at home again. We'll all catch up then!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Steelhead quickie report

I finished!

Swim: 00:50:05 went great!!! (Out of water by my watch at 49:05)
T1 (by watch): 10:22 - very long run over sand.
Bike: 03:43:53 includes 2 stops and a rear wheel inner tube change. Up until mile 43 I was doing great at a 16.1 mph average over hills even though my rear derailleur was totally on the blink!
T2 (by watch): 3:43
Run: 03:01:38 (very hot at start, kind of lost motivation!)
Total: 07:48:10

Friday, August 04, 2006

Steelhead tomorrow!

It's possible there may be race coverage tomorrow at - I have no idea. My number is #1968, and yes, that IS my real name in the header!

I saw Shelley at packet pickup for about 10 seconds and she looked MARVELOUS as in her photos, but we were both running in different directions and didn't get a chance to chat. Her bike is racked close to mine, and normally we would have a chance to talk in the morning, but this race venue is crazy - there's about 10 parking lots, shuttle buses, the swim start is 1.2 miles or so from transition, and so it's going to be a miracle if I can manage to see anyone tomorrow!! Hopefully there will be a few athletes still in sight when I finish!!

Good luck and have fun, everyone racing, and thanks to those stopping by the blog and saying hi and sending their good wishes from home!!! I do appreciate it and I'll take your words with me tomorrow!!!

Taper madness

The craziness has set in. After sitting in the RV all week on my butt and eating lots of junky road food, I'm convinced that I've gained back 20 pounds, can't run more than 10 steps at a time, have forgotten how to swim.... pure insanity! I just hope I remember how to do all this when the triathlon begins tomorrow. It's just like riding a bike, isn't it? And swimming and running besides....

I hope we brought some tinfoil along with us so that I can make a hat to shut out those little voices for a few hours.

Tomorrow is Steelhead!

Hi folks! Thanks for stopping by! I haven't had much of a wifi connection while we have been in Michigan, so I haven't posted. The weather broke a little with a huge storm yesterday, so weather on race day should be in the mid-80s. Not the cooler forecast that I had hoped for, but better than 90s! Water temperature is marginal for wetsuits - we'll see what happens on that. I'm going to go check in this afternoon, and hope to run into Shelley and Habeela and some of the other great triathletes that will be there!!