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

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Xterra Black Canyon 9K

This race is bitter sweet.
On one hand, it is my favorite race.  On the other hand, it also earmarks the end of the Xterra series.  At this point, I remained undefeated in the world of short-courses so of course I wanted to win this last one.  And, my short-course domination did not go unnoticed - in fact, a few weeks ago, I received a phone call from the Xterra trail race office located in Hawaii.  It was almost like receiving a phone call from God.  I mean, I have always said that trail running was a spiritual experience for me -- there is no serenity like that found on the top of a mountain.

But, Xterra did bring up a good point -- the trail race series has ended in Arizona.  There are trails, and trail races, all over the country.  Why not travel and see new sights?  So that is what I am going to do. 

In the meantime, let's relive Black Canyon and the reasons why it is my favorite race.
1) It is stunningly beautiful.  I think all trails in Arizona are pretty, but this one is just a little different than the rest. Perhaps a little less gray and a little more green?

2) The course is intense.  It begins going up a mountain.  Although you can only admire the view for a short period of time because you must concentrate on the tricky descent.  I say tricky because the trail is full of abruptly sharp turns and if you trip on a turn, you literally trip off the mountain.  The trail is also extremely narrow.  For this reason, it is important to start fast because your position on the trail may be your position for the next few miles:
Also, there are gates along the trail and you must climb over cattle-guarded ramps.  I believe the ramps are for mountain bikes.  If you are too mid-pack, you can wind up getting stuck in a line.  

Once the race returns to sea level, it is easy to pass because there is no longer a trail or even officially marked path.  There is a river crossing.  I am sure if you stop and study, you can strategically cross the river without getting your feet wet.  But it is a race, so who has time for that??  Plus, wet feet are part of the fun!!

Next, you run through some sand and rock and get to cross the river a second time.  The race then goes along side the river, over sand and huge rock.  It is up to each person to find their best way.

Eventually, the race finds it way back onto the trail and you return up the mountain. This part is pretty hard because your feet are wet and weigh an additional two pounds each.  But, it eventually starts to descend again and you find yourself moments away from the finish.

It is a glorious, whirlwind of a race, especially when you don't go the wrong way.

And yes, I did indeed win.

3) PIE.  The race is located in a small town that would probably not be known if it was not for their well-renowned pies.  I am not the hugest pie fan but it is not a dessert offered to me very often.  Aside from Thanksgiving, I never come in contact with pie.  Needless to say, I brought home a lot of pie.

Just like the race, the pie is unforgettable. 

It will still be a few years before the kids are ready for an Xterra race, but we are already getting ready.  

Monday, March 18, 2013

Never too Old?

I try not to think about the fact that I am getting older every my head, my perpetual 27-year old-self has not changed.  But then I catch myself dozing to sleep while watching the 10 p.m. news.  Or instinctively clicking on the Groupon for anti-aging treatment.  The worst was driving pass a crowded bar on St. Patricks day and asking, "Why are all these people drinking?  It's a Sunday!"  I hang my head in shame.

Even though I run faster at 31 years old than I did at 21 years old, I notice that I recover a lot slower.  This becomes glaringly apparent when I get sick.  First, I am not used to getting sick.  I don't think I got sick the entire time in college.  I may have claimed to be sick, but it was actually just a hangover that two Advil and a two hour nap would cure.  My last hangover was Halloween of 2011 - lets just say it took a lot more than a nap to recover from that.

Second, getting un-sick takes a ridiculous amount of rest and patience.  I find myself frustrated when I am not better after spending half a day on the couch.  This was the situation the past week.  I so badly wanted to run and bike and swim, but for two solid days I could barely open my eye lids.

I guess I just need to accept that I am getting old.  There are probably some unwritten rules about what is considered appropriate for each age bracket.  One would probably argue that sequined leggings should have been banned from my wardrobe since 1998.  But, when I saw these on the Clearance racks in Target, I just could not resist.  As my mom would say, age is nothing but a number!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Time and Trains

Perhaps one of the biggest intricacies of being a mom, nonetheless a mom of multiples, is time. It just takes so much more time to do anything – leave the house, prepare a meal, clean up after said meal, run an errand…. Even a simple task, like responding to an email, requires a ridiculous myriad of steps.  First you must distract children by turning on the TV, settle the impending dispute over which episode of My Little Pony to watch, fill two water cups, blow a nose, clean up a water spill…and finally 15 minutes later you can slither into the office to perform a five minute task.

Between juggling time, racing and working, it should not have surprised me that I only did one long run (12 miles) during the entire month of February.  Before I had kids, I did not even categorize a 12 mile run as a “long” run. 

Committed to push myself past 5Ks, I jumped at the chance to do a 12 mile weekday run, with 9 miles of tempo intervals.  I cannot even remember the last time I did a tempo run.  Running a little longer, and a little faster, made me feel a lot better about my running.  It brought about a sense of relief that I still can double-digits at a decent pace- but it came at the expense of Masters swim – a reminder that I simply cannot do it all.

If I run as much as I want to run, I do not have time to swim.  If I swim as much as I should swim, I do not have time to bike.  If I bike as much as I am told to bike, I do not have time to run. And that is simply the conundrum of balancing twins and triathlons.

The only solution to this is acceptance and to appreciate everything I get to do – be it a run or a bike ride, or a picnic at the park.  Or should I say train park.

Hayden seems to get scared of things very easily, if not irrationally, and the best solution thus far is placing heavy-handed in situations he will not place himself.  For example, the aquarium. Initially, he was terrified – as evidenced in this family portrait:

But, shortly after being exposed against his will, we had trouble keeping him out of the fish tanks:

In an effort to employ the same strategy, David took Hayden back to the train park.  Hayden freaked out, his nose started bleeding, and they returned home in red-spotted shirts.  A few days later, I made the same attempt but added a new element: ice cream.   My kids will do just about anything for ice cream.  In fact, their love for ice cream is so overwhelming that their minds cannot process any conflicting emotions.  Ice cream cannot co-exist with sadness or pain or fear.   No one in line had any clue that Hayden did not want to ride the train.

I let him pick where we sat.  Of course, he chose the little cage - it wasn't even guaranteed that I would fit.

But luckily I did.  Barely.

Although he acknowledged he had fun, I was worried that the fear would irrational return.  But the following weekend he asked to ride the train at a small carnival at the ostrich festival.  This train was faster, louder, and more expensive - so I opted out.  He didn't even notice.

And yes, we have an annual festival in Arizona that is focused on one of the ugliest creatures - the ostrich.  I don't know how this festival came to be, or why this bird is deserving of such a thing.

At the ostrich festival, we watched ostrich races and ate an ostrich burger.  Despite the ostrich's ugly appearance, this festival is quite popular so lines were long.  I started to space out while waiting in line for our ostrich burger.  In the background, I heard a woman gasp, "Oh my gosh!  He is peeing."
I blinked my eyes.
And then my Dad, standing next to me, said, "Oh my gosh, he is peeing!"
This snapped me out of my daze and I glanced down to find my son creating a yellow puddle right there in the grass.  Unsure of what to do, I apologized to those surrounding us.   And he must have really had to pee because it was a very long pee.  And a very big puddle.

Apparently after David showed him how to pee in the backyard, Hayden assumed that the world was his toilet.  This world came to crushing end.  I told Hayden that he must always pee in a potty.

There is always enough time to find a potty.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Desert Classic Duathlon, Again

This race holds sentimental value because it represents the creation of this blog - It was the very first race report.  It also viciously kicked my ass, which stung for a few days, but ultimately inspired me to invest in a better bike and become a better cyclist.  I returned the following year to debut my improved cycling skills, but a longer, more challenging course which knocked me over and kicked my ass again.

My goal for this year was simple and safe – race smart and leave unscathed. 

The original races distances, as reported online were 3.5 mile run-24 mile bike-5 mile run.  At the last minute, it was changed to 3.5 mile run-24 mile bike-3.5 mile run.  I was slightly disappointed.  However, the actual distances were 3.8-mile run-26.5 mile bike-4 mile run.  These distances are fine, I just wish these were the distances they used when determining our paces. I am glad I wore my Garmin for this race or else I would be gasping, "How could my paces be so slow?" 

My goal for the first run:  Restraint.  No one believed that I could do this – I even doubted myself.  I wrote the word Patience on my hand as a reminder.

The course starts on an uphill road and enters the trail system right before a half a mile.  I started in the middle of a large pack, but was third when we emerged on the trail.  My watch said 3:15, which meant I was running a 6:40 pace – MUCH better than the crazy 5:40ish pace I ran last year.  The course was the same as last year but with a slight modification towards the end, which seemed hillier.
Distance = 3.8, Time = 26:51, Pace = 6:58
Last year’s pace was 6:37 – but although I was slower, I was also less oxygen deprived and able to use my brain.  Instead of spending 96 seconds fumbling through T1, I only took 48 seconds. 
I was the first woman on the bike and it was everything I remembered – hilly and windy.

My goal was 20mph and I think I did that for the first loop.  But I started to struggle during the second loop....let me rewind to the following day:

The day before the race, Brenna and I had a photo-shoot at the local track. I cannot leak the pictures but each girl represented a sport.  I was the track runner.
 Brenna was the tap dancer.

 Everything was fine until I tripped over the little railing the outlines the track.  This is precisely why I am NOT a track runner.
The fall was exceptionally balletic and almost undeniable, but it sent a lightning bolt of pain to my delicate and very high maintenance hamstring muscle.  I had no time to get a massage, I had to rely on stretching and epson salt.

I was relieved that it felt better the morning of the race but during the second loop of the bike, my hamstring started to cramp.  I was able to stand up on the peddles and stretch it, but it made me realize that I was ready to be done with this bike ride. Immediately.

I started to curse the wind, curse the hills and curse the fact the course was 2.5 miles longer than promised.

Eventually two women passed me, reminding me that I needed to focus on my race - and I finally returned to the transition area.
Distance = 26.5, Time = 1:21:52, Speed = 19.4

Frantic to get as far away from my bike has possible, I spun around in circles in T2 desperately looking for a way out.  The transition area was about the size of a small classroom and yet I had to ask for directions.

The second run repeated the first but was a little longer because you had to run back to the start line.  Four women passed me on the bike and I was able to see two of them on the road ahead of me.  By the time we entered the trail, they were seconds ahead of me.  Well, you made it, I told myself.  Now it’s just a trail run.  This is what you do.  So I passed them and never looked back.

The only other girls I could see on the course were doing the off-road race so I did not feel compelled to push myself past discomfort.   I really enjoyed the second run.
Distance = 4.02, Time = 30:48, Pace = 7:39.

I think there was less competition this year than previous years so I managed to finish third overall:

This race is a cyclist’s race – you really need to bike around 21mph to win it.  I am not sure how you do that with such hills and wind. 

But I think considering my longest bike ride was 28 miles and I only did one brick workout,  I did pretty good.  I am not as fit or fast as last year, but I avoided all my mistakes.

And, although it is a bit sore, I did not get my ass kicked.