So be sure when you step. You step with care and great tact and remember that Life's a Great Balancing Act.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Xterra Trail Race Report

This race was on Sunday - it is unlike me to wait until Wednesday to post a race report.  Work and kids have been keeping me very busy.  Unfortunately, I don't feel the same zing after the race excitement and adrenaline has worn off.  It's harder to write from memory as opposed to emotion...with the latter, I find myself reliving the moment and my writing flows effortlessly from my fingertips.  When I write from memory, I have to think.
It almost becomes work.

But anyway, I loved this race.
It was my first Xtrerra event and it was everything I expected.  Beautiful, scenic, technical and hilly.
Some parts of the trails were extremely narrow, a slight trip or stumble could be a very bad thing, which I forced myself not to think about.

The course even went through a river (twice) with water that went up to my knees. Then with wet shoes, we had to run through sand and across boulders on the river bed.  Leaping from rock to rock was exhilarating and upon reflection, I cannot believe I did fall.
Did I slip? Yes.
Did I scream? Yes.
But I never slowed down.

As usual, the race started fast. I was the first woman as we entered the trail system. "Holy crap, we are running 5:37 pace" I heard a guy say behind me.

It was just one of those days though where I didn't feel tired.  I mean, I did feel tired, but not to the point that required me to slow down. Up hill, down hill, through water, across rocks - I pushed.

Mile 1, Mile 2, Mile 3, Mile 4, Mile 5...I was the lead woman.

When I passed Mile 5, I knew I was going to win. The excitement of winning made me run faster.

Logically, the race should have ended up about 3 minutes and 30 seconds past Mile 5.
But it didn't.
It kept going - and not in the direction of the finish line.

I knew something was off but I followed the men in front of me...until they stopped.
"Wrong direction! We went the wrong way!" they shouted.
"Are you kidding?" I asked. "How far in the wrong direction?"
"A half a mile."

I didn't even process it, I just turn around and ran.
Or should I say I sprinted.

Could I still win? How much of a lead did I have?
My lungs and legs burned as I returned to the course. Now I had a ton of people I needed to pass..."On your left! On your left!" I said repeatedly.

I was able to pass a few women but no, I did not win.
1/2 mile off the course + 1/2 mile back to the course = 1 mile. That is a lot of extra race.

I did come in 6th though, which is not horrible.

And I will admit - I deserved not to win. Part of racing is 1) being responsible for knowing the course and 2) running to the finish line.
I KNEW we were not going the right direction.
My mistake. My loss.

Why did we go in the wrong direction?
The course was marked very well - however, a mountain biker (not affiliated with the race) was covering the arrow that pointed to the finish. And, he was directing people in the wrong direction!

Most likely, he saw someone run that direction and believed he was escorting us correctly. I give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was trying to help.

The only thing that "bothers" me (for lack of a better word) is that if you Google my name or look at my Athlinks page, it now appears that it took me 50 minutes to run a 9K.
How vain and shallow, I do admit.

After the race, I got to help distribute the awards with my favorite announcer. He has an unlimited amount of energy.

Despite running an extra mile, I still managed to get 2nd in my age group and present myself with an award.

As if this race was not awesome enough, at the end there was pie. Not just one kind of pie, but many kinds of pie. And really really good pie. Apparently, Rock Springs Arizona is famous for pie.

It reminded me of Harold and the Purple Crayon when he had a picnic of nothing but pie, "9 kinds of pie that Harold like best."

I did bring some pie home for the family.  This was the longest I have left David with the kids - I did not arrive home until nearly 2pm! But, they seemed unfazed by extended absence.
Worn out by a morning trip to Home Depot and post-lunch trip to the park, Brenna was soundly napping in her crib and David and Hayden were cuddling on the couch.

Friday, March 23, 2012

It's Summer Time, Part 2

Perhaps this post is slightly premature since I didn't start talking about the heat last year until May.

And since earlier this week, we played outside and there was a distinct chill in the air:

But it's a moot point because the inevitable is approaching. It's getting hot.

I don't mind the heat but the beautiful weather during the winter does spoil me. Lots of things change during the summer...I will say goodbye to sleeping in past 5am, afternoon trail runs at South Mountain and lunch time frolics with the jogging stroller.

A few weeks ago during our Costco outing, we were cruising at a 7:30 pace with ease.

Last week when it was warmer, we slowed down a 7:45 pace.

Yesterday, it was even even warmer and we were slowed to a 7:58 pace.

That was my first time in months seeing my pace so close to the 8 minute range. It was windy and a recovery run...yada yada yada... but nonetheless it is time to mentally prepare for the dreaded "summer pace."

I confess, every week I do speed intervals to make sure that I didn't wake up and lose my relatively new sub-6 minute mile pace. But I think it's only a matter of time until it takes a hiatus.

There are good things about summer though that we can focus on instead, like swimming outside.

Also, when Brenna doesn't want to get dressed, I won't have to worry about her getting cold. This week, she refused to get dressed for our weekly playdate. I took her in her diaper as she pouted:

(but she still couldn't resist taking a break from misery to smile for the camera)

In my defense, I did bring her clothing - modesty always kicks in once we leave the house.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

St Patricks Day 5K Race Report

I ran a small 5K on St Patricks' day (hence the green font, lets call it "festive").  I was lured by the nearly non-existent price tag and free breakfast.  I sandwiched it between a 4 mile run with my friends, and a 4 mile run "cool down" to make it my weekly long run.

The very exciting thing about this race was that David ran it as well - and to make an unusual event even more noteworthy, he ran it with the kids.  It was our first family race!

Awkward pose with the sun in our eyes:

Much better, except the kids look miserable:

At first, I longingly wished I was pushing the stroller. It was a fleeting feeling though since the course was hilly and the air was windy. I know I have said it before but I will say it again - the only thing harder than pushing that stroller up a hill is pushing the stroller in the wind.  It just doesn't move!

There was not any competition at the race, which was disappointing. I like racing, and I would have been satisfied with a woman or man or even a dog. I won but without anyone chasing me so it was more like a tempo run.  It was still fun though and good training for upcoming events.

I did wear a Garmin and took the occasional glance at my avg pace. Mile 1 was 6:19. Then there was a very steep hill to the turn around, slowing my average pace to 6:40. But, what goes up must come down so I was back down to 6:20 by Mile 2. Crossed the finish line with an average pace of 6:19 - final time, 19:37.

After my win, I turned around to go find David.

He looked miserable but the kids looked delighted! I made this collage to help savor the moment.  I may have gotten a little carried away with the Snagit Editor.  It brings me back to my childhood days when I always made collages as gifts for my mom.  Of course back then I used magazine clippings and Elmer glues and they probably looked better.

Afterwards we feasted on the post-race buffet of eggs, yogurt, fruit, green jello and pomegranate smoothies.

And then David took a well-deserved nap until one of Brenna's tantrums woke him up.  We will talk about that some more perhaps another day.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Places with Pickles

I've heard a lot of people's opinions on pickles throughout my life - it seems most people are not crazy about sweet pickles or bread-and-butter pickles.  Personally, those are my two favorites.  However, I have never heard anyone complain about the salty delight of a dill pickle.

My kids included.

The massive dill pickles that they got a the Renaissance Festival was perhaps the highlight of the excursion.

My favorite part was that David broke away from his studying to accompany us.  We don't get enough family photos, in my opinion.

Also, I liked the exuberant amount of princess items for sale - however, I couldn't get past the price tags. (Even if I could, I am pretty sure David wouldn't).

The pickles though were only $1 each!

Besides from eating pickles, we listened to a variety of music and looked at interesting animals, like this llama:

The kids have a book called Is Your Momma a Llama so it was exciting to show them a real llama, even if it is super ugly. Brenna rode it, even though it certainly is paltry compared to a pony.

I tried to get Hayden to ride an elephant with me. He became excited at the sight of the elephants, but that turned into extreme angst at the merest mention of mounting them.
He no longer wanted to look at them or be anywhere within the sight of them.

I didn't push him - elephants are big and it seemed reasonable to be scared.

I did push him though on outing later during the week - to a train park. It was similar to this train park in that it was a park with a train. Despite his recent experience, he didn't seem to sense any familiarity. His reaction to the train, even just the sound of it, was exactly like his reaction to the elephant.

I knew that if I could get him on the train he would enjoy it. I picked him up and held him trembling in my arms as we waited in line. It was crowded though so the train filled up. We had to wait in line longer.

Since by biceps started to burn, we sat down and I finally calmed him down.

It was short-lived though because the train arrived back.
The people got off.
And we got on.

I found it slightly ironic that he was wearing a Thomas shirt (that he picked out) and carrying a Thomas book (that he insisted to bring) yet was terrified at the suggestion that this train was like Thomas.

It took about 90 seconds of movement for him to calm down. I am sure all the passengers at this point where relieved to be spared from the screaming. I did feel badly on their behalf.

And then what did we do?
We ate pickles!


Sometimes we just have to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones with the hopes that eventually it will get easier.

After a day of recovery and an extra day of wallowing, I got back on my bike. I did a 23-mile ride (Pecos road loop, with a two side loops)averaging almost 21 mph. I guess I needed to remind myself that I can ride my bike. I did notice though that to maintain that speed, I had to focus. If my mind started to wander, my legs started to move slower.

This was my biggest mistake in my race - I lost focus.
I concentrated on my faulty water bottle, my messy GU, my sticky fingers, the kink in my neck, the loose gravel on the road....for the last 10 miles, cycling was the last thing on my mind.
I should have brushed off the petty nuisances.
This was only my 4th time racing my bike and I think it resulted in a valuable lesson - keep your focus.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Desert Classic Duathlon Race Report

On a scale of 1 to 5, I would give this race a 3.  I didn't have a bad race nor a great race.
I did much better than last year (7th overall female instead of 21st) but I made some technical errors and struggled on the bike - AGAIN.

This race really is good at making me feel like a sub-par cyclist.

Things started off great.  It was cold at the start, but nowhere near as cold as last time.  I was a bit intimidated by all the fancy bikes, but not nervous or anxious.  I was in the mood to run and bike.


The race begins on slightly-inclined road for a half mile to the trail.  I started off very fast - not sure how fast because I did not wear a Garmin.  However, once I got on the trail, I settled into a comfortable pace.  The first run was 3.65 miles and I averaged 6:37 with ease.

Most of the bikes were still in the transition when I arrived.  I ran up my row, scanning through the nearly identical bikes, but I did not see mine.   I guess I was expecting my pink handle bars to jump out at me.  I ran back down the row, scanning once again.  Then I panicked, "Where is my bike?" I asked out loud.  A second time running up the row in slow motion revealed my bike.  I simply overlooked it in a haste.
This was technical error #1.
I sat down and put on my bike shoes.  It always sucks when you have a lead and then waste the entire thing in transition.

The bike started off smoothly until it was time for water.
I have a pretty awesome drinking system designed my Mom's husband.  The system is basically a water bottle and a camelback straw that goes up to my aerobars.   The night before the race, I moved the water bottle to the back holder - I failed to get on my bike and re-adjust the straw.  When I went to drink my water during the race, I realized the straw did not reach my mouth.  
This was technical error #2.
After slowing down to fool with it, I shrugged off the incident, determined to have a strong race.  My goal was 20mph and I thought this goal was in the bag.  20mph is a comfortable pace for me.

The road was everything I remembered - hilly and windy.  But I was very satisfied with my pace. However, at Mile 17, the race entered the park.  This was a new addition - adding 10 extra miles through the park.

I struggled.
The road had loose gravel and it was bumpy.
I didn't feel comfortable on my bike.
The loose gravel made me scared to turn, so I slowed down for each turn.
And then there was wind, my worse enemy, making things even worse.

My back and neck started to hurt.  I felt tired.

In an effort to perk up, I decided to try a GU.  This is not something I normally do since I don't normally exercise for more than 2 hours.  I know, I know, I should not try anything new on race day. But the GUs were free, so I had opened one and put it in my bento box.

When I reached down to grab it, my hands emerged full of sticky GU.
I sucked on the bag to retrieve the leftover GU.  The near empty bag  then stuck to my fingers.
This was technical error #3.

Having sticky fingers was incredibly annoying so I plugged along, at a pathetic 15mph, struggling to stay upright on the gravel road, cursing into the headwind with my all my fingers crammed into my mouth as I ferociously  attempted to suck off all the GU.
I must have been a sight for sore eyes.


After what seemed like an eternity,  the road straightened out and I realized that the bike portion was almost over.  A second wave of determination came over me and I forgot about my sticky hands.

I gratefully arrived back at the transition.  My bike pace ended up being 18.5 mph.  I feel slightly embarrassed by it.  I have to wonder if the bike course was legitimately hard, or if I just mentally gave up?

Transition number 2 ended up being just as slow as transition number 1.  For some reason, I just could not get my shoes on comfortably.  There is more to this story, but lets just say:  this was technical error #4. 

I finally start running and although the weather was getting warm, I felt really good.  I passed two women and lots of men.  I would guess that I was running about a 7:30 pace.  And then, the worst thing happened - I get a stomach cramp.
Ok,'s not the "worst" thing, I could have fallen off the mountain.
But I never get stomach cramps!  Wait...except for when I try GUs.
I know I learned this in previous races so shame on me.  And,  technical error #5. 

To get rid of the side cramp, I walked up the steep hills.  This was hard for me because I am a hill runner.  I also had to go slow on the downhills.  Doing this kept the side cramp manageable but brought my run pace to a disappointing 8:15.
In any event, I finished!

Compared to last time, I did good.
Compared to my goals, I fell short.
Run 1:  This time = 6:37,  Last time = 7:15.  Goal = 6:50
Bike:  This time = 18.5mph, Last time = 17.3mph.  Goal = 20mph
Run 2:  This time = 8:15, Last time = 8:55.  Goal = 7:55.

So once again, I have my eyes set on next year.
I really don't know if this race is challenging, or if its simply challenging for ME, but regardless next time:
- I will do more long bike rides.  I only rode 40 miles once, I only rode the race distance a handful of times.
- I will do a practice ride on the course.
- I will practice fueling before the race.  Doing longer rides will give me an opportunity to do this.

My efforts got me second in my age group. I was fated for second place, even if I made no technical errors and ran to my full potential, the first place girl was a much better cyclist.

The next big race is in the end of April. It is another duathlon, but the bike is only 20 miles. I think until the kids start school, I need to set my eyes on races that under two hours. I would love to go on long bike rides or even better, long bike rides followed by runs, but even if I bend my schedule like origami, there is no way to make it happen.

On the bright side - no more 30+ mile bike rides for me!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Outfits of the Week

It has been an uneventful week.  
I squeezed in one last bike workout on Monday - 35 miles @ 20.5mph.  It was a beautiful, quiescent day that was perfect for a bike ride.

Since then, it has been extremely windy.
Every day I think, Thank goodness I am not riding my bike!
Supposedly is it supposed to calm down today </crosses fingers>.

Between tantrums, grocery shopping and trips to the park, we have been pretty much lounging around.

I did try a new yoga class but it was Yin Yoga.
I was not a fan. For half the class we just laid in the dark and stared at the ceiling!
But at least it got us out of the house. The kids it enjoyed it, especially since it meant eating food that I did not cook. I am not sure why a simple sandwich and snacks out of a bag taste better eaten somewhere else. And lettuce?! That would be thrown on the floor immediately at home.


But even a boring week provides plenty of entertainment when you have toddlers. You just never know what they are going to say or do or wear.
This week, Hayden selected one of his outfits. The choice to wear underwear in lieu of shorts is an interesting one, but at least it matches.

Brenna decided to explore my sock drawer (really, the only drawer within her reach) and discovered my purple, sparkly arm warmers. She fervently delivered them to me to place on her legs. After a year of wearing her Babyleg leg warmers on my arms, I thought this was a reasonable request.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Duathlon Training, Week 3

Monday - Long bike, FAIL.
I noticed that it was quite windy before I began the ride. I didn't want to ride in the wind, but I thought to myself, "real cyclists don't wuss out because of some wind."   At first, the ride was rather pleasant.  Even though it was windy, it was a cross-wind.  But as it progressed, the wind picked it up.  At one point it was so strong that I had to stop because it kept blowing me out of the bike lane.
The road has a median that is difficult to cross over so that encouraged me to go all the way to the end of the road (about 10-12 miles) so that I could turn around.  Once I turned around, I was greeted with a cloud of dust that limited visibility.

It's not safe to drive in these conditions and its really not safe to ride your bike, so I pulled over for a bit so I could think about what I should do. And then I got a flat tire, which made that decision really easy.

On a normal day, the road would be filled with cyclists kind enough to help me (this was my first flat tire so I am not experienced in changing them).  Apparently though, real cyclists check the weather report.

Anyway, I called a friend who saved me.

Tuesday -  50 minutes on the trainer, followed by 45 minutes of blind speedwork:
                      -10 min 30 seconds "fast" (5:48 pace), 6 min RI
                      -6 min 15 seconds "fast" (5:53 pace), 4 min RI
                      -4 min "fast" (5:49 pace), 90 sec RI
                      -2 min "fast" x 2 (you get it, 5:50ish = "fast")
                          -12 more minutes on trainer - one foot drills
                             -20 more minutes running, this time on hills, with 3 more minutes "fast"
Some thoughts:  I really had no idea when I took my first step out of the door what I was going to do.  That is why I like these blind workouts...there is no plan, so there are no expectations, pressure or disappointment.  But there is also no structure.  I ended each interval when I felt tired.  IF I knew that I was close to running two miles at a 5:48 pace, I would have pushed for the extra 70 seconds or so to make it two miles.  But on the other hand, I may have also told myself that I just ran my two fastest miles ever and thus too tired to do more intervals.  I would have missed out on 2 additional miles worth of fast running.

Wednesday - Long bike, FAIL #2.
This just had to with a change of plans that required me to ride my bike at home.   Riding at home means riding in a lot of traffic, not ideal when only have a certain amount of time.  Ended up doing 22 miles bricked a 3.5 mile trail run.

Thursday - 50 minute run with the stroller (6.7 miles, nothing fancy)

Friday - 13.1 miles in 1:36:02.  I didn't initially intend to do a half marathon, but when I arrived home and saw I ran 13 miles, I decided to run to the street to make it 13.1.  Although the pace is just fine, the run itself was not pleasant.  It was very windy (yet again) so I decided to play with the wind and not look at my pace.  The "game" was to take it easy in the head winds and push in the tail winds.  The problem (that I realized after-the-fact) is it's impossible to "take it easy" in a head wind that strong.  So basically I had to push the entire run.  Also, I wore socks that I never ran in before which gave me blisters, and I ate lunch beforehand which gave me a stomach ache.  I realized 45 minutes into the run that it was not feeling good, but I refused to make excuses and determined to finish what I started.
Really, I have bad runs so infrequently that I didn't know how to mentally handle it!

Saturday -  2 mile trail run, 31 mile bike ride that included 8 miles up a mountain, .5 mile trail run.  I realize .5  miles is barely worth mentioning, but a brick is a brick!  I must say, I felt wonderful for that brief 3:30 run...but I had to get home to my kids.  That is the problem with cycling - it is so time consuming!
However, I do get to ride with the most excellent of folk:

Sunday:  20 minutes on the trainer, followed by a 40ish minute run.  I did not wear a watch because this run had no training purpose - it was purely for fun!
It was a beautiful sunny day, although a touch warm - over 80 degrees.  It makes me sad to think that the days of sleeping in past 5am and running in the afternoon are coming to an end.

I also took the kids out to enjoy the day.

Perhaps it is the way her her arms are erratically flopping flaunting to her sides, but I think I see myself in Brenna.  Now, if only I could find such an adorable tutu running dress.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Running Errands

This week required two trips to Costco.  (Both times to drop off a prescription, the first time they were out of the medication and it's twice as expensive everywhere else!)

Costco is usually a safe haven for us because of their deluxe shopping carts but our first trip was not as serene as usual.  In fact, an old lady had to step in and scold my kids at one point!  Mind you, it was a gentle scolding in a controlled, neutral and patient voice - perhaps some mothers would be irked at this blatant overstepping - however, it worked so I thanked her.

I was not especially looking forward to repeating this errand.  Especially for something that should be quick and easy, like dropping off a prescription, there is a lot of work involved:
- Get kids into their respective carseats
- Park by a cart (usually in the back)
- Battle with each kid individually to strap them in
- Keep them entertained in line
- Walk around and get free samples, since its an expectation at this point
- Deal with the repercussions of limiting each sample to just one

I decided to take a different, more literal, approach to running this errand.

We ran.

The kids willingly and eagerly put themselves in the stroller.  Hayden even buckled himself.
It was a peaceful jog to Costco that included a lap around the dog park.

At our arrival, we did not stop - "Just dropping off a prescription!" I told the door lady.
She smiled and waved us in.
We went straight to the far left side of the store to the pharmacy.  There was no line! 

We dropped off the prescription and did a quick lap around the store, giving new meaning to "fueling."  After depositing just one of a few free samples into their snack bowls, we emerged from the store in record time without a peep from either kid!

If it were not for the other shoppers, Costco would be the ideal place to go running with a stroller. The isles are wide enough to accommodate our stature and the stroller effortlessly glides on the smooth concrete floor.

The back of Costco is the perfect place for running fast:

It may seem like the kids are always eating in our photos. That is because they usually are:

But don't be fooled, eventually their snack bowls do become empty. Sometimes Brenna will start to doze off and sometimes Hayden will sing songs.

Hayden also likes to look at books, preferably Thomas the Train books.

Brenna likes to steal Hayden's book - no matter how many books I bring, she must have the one that he wants.
The only thing better than Hayden's book is my hand, so we run like this:

It's not the most comfortable thing to run like that, but it certainly makes me smile every time I glace down.