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

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Too Hot to Trot / Salsa Festival 5K

In general, 5Ks are a comfort distance for me.  I understand them and even when they suck, they only suck for 10-15 minutes.  But, I have only ran one this entire year, and it did not go very well.  My efforts have mostly gone towards running farther, not faster, so I knew a PR was not in the cards.  But I thought maybe I could win.  The race market is so saturated that all the fast runners are dispersed.  This means that more average runners, like me, are able to win races.  It was just a matter of luck - luck that no one fast shows up.

I was running on behalf of my "other" family, who had a tent sent up and so gave me a race entry.  I run a  lot. hundreds of miles a month.  Yet, I have been injury-free since 2006. I like to take credit and say it is because I do hot yoga, intrinsically listen to my body and never run through pain.  And IS part of that.  But, come on, I have bunions and scoliosis - I am basically an injury in running shoes. My saving grace is my magnificent team and their marvelous hands.

As I was on the massage table getting my regular routine, I saw a fast looking girl wearing a track and field shirt.  People who wear track and field shirts never fail to be fast.  I immediately decided that she would win the race.

And she did - but I enjoy and appreciate a good race - it keeps it exciting.

She took the early lead the first mile but I felt really good. I only glanced down at my Garmin once - towards the middle of Mile 1.  It said "6:02."  It felt fast but also effortless.

Right after that first mile, I found myself behind her - this is my favorite spot because you get to control the pace.  But she slowed to let me pass and I found myself in that common conundrum of whether I should make the move.  My legs would not slow down so I passed.  

At Mile 3, I let her pass me back.  She got ahead of me and remained ahead of me - although I was able to not let her gain much distance, I couldn't dig it out of my legs to catch her. 

At the end, I was doing that floppy weird thing with my hands that shows I am fatigued, but I still felt relatively unscathed for the end of a 5K.  

I came in second place by a handful of seconds (19:06).  It is a very average 5K time for me but I am okay with that.   Brenna quickly claimed my award as her own, so obviously she was with it, too.

And yes - yes that is a bag of chips in her hand, which should not be surprising since it was a SALSA FESTIVAL.  While I was enjoying my speedy competition, another race was going on behind me:

The kids, especially  Hayden, were pretty crabby during this whole event.  After the race, we went home to change and let the kids recover (because sitting in a stroller can be exhausting) and then returned for our "complimentary" entry.  This included a margarita and unlimited chips and salsa.

Even though chips and salsa are one of Hayden's favorite foods (second only to hot dogs), there were very few moments spared of whining and complaining.  Admittedly, the conditions were not ideal:  it was hot (upper-90s) and uncomfortably crowded.  

Eventually, things were calmed when the kids each got an ice cream and I got a margarita.  Brenna and I walked around in our matching running skirts and pink tank tops.  She also experienced her first porta-potty.  Multiple times.

But it didn't take long for my margarita to spill and for the kids' ice cream to melt.   So that concluded our day at the salsa festival.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Queen of the Mountain

There are a lot of mountains in Arizona.
On a good weekend, I find myself on top of one of them.

On a great weekend, I find myself on top of multiple of them.

Saturday started off with a 4-mile trail race.  It was a small (100 participants) and free(!) event.  Aside from its price tag, there were a few other selling points:
1) Everyone was allowed to run in a test pair of trail shoes.  As many of you know, I have a thing for shoes. 
2) It was a trail system I had yet to explore.
3) The fastest woman would be named, “Queen of the Mountain.”  I have always wanted to be queen of something. 

Like most trail races, the race started with a sprint to a single-track trail.  The first mile was a slight uphill, with a little dips to keep you interested.  At Mile 2, there was sharp turn and a huge increase in grade.  The trail, a series of switchbacks, steeply continued all the way up the mountain.  When we reached the peak, the trail quickly brought us back down.  Fancy footwork was required.  

I love running up mountains and had little doubt that I would be dubbed queen.  I got a gift card but unfortunately, no royal sash.
"My" mountain is only a few miles away from where I grew up – although I have very little memory of that early in my life, I do recall my parents taking me hiking in the surrounding areas.  I sorta remember whining and complaining.  I also sorta remember having fun.  I definitely remember the time we climbing up a mountain and a naked man came running down.  I am so glad that my parents made me climb mountains when I was small because it helped enable me to run up mountains today.

I pay that forward to my kids, especially Hayden since he inherited my love for mountains.  Or, maybe he just loves all the dirt.  But regardless, I took him up his own mountain later that day.

The next day, I found myself on the bottom of a different mountain - in a lake, to be specific.  It was gorgeous.  At least at first glance.

But, the water was cold.  And choppy.   
It made my nose and ears hurt. It made me really dizzy.

After surviving the swim, I reluctantly remained with my group for the bike ride.  The only place to ride our bikes was on the road – up the mountain.  For 10 miles, we slowly rode our bikes up a hill that never seemed to end.  Eventually, the pavement ended instead.

I like uphills.  
But unfortunately, what goes up must come down….and I hated every second of the down hill.  At one point, I got off my bike and decided to walk.  But then I realized that would take hours.

I feel like I have the most control over my bike when peddling.  The issue on a steep downhill is peddling makes me go faster, which I know most cyclists love, but I start hyperventilating at 30mph.  I lose focus, as well as any confidence in any cycling skills that I possess.  I start to scream profanities into the wind and develop a rage for every deceiving blind curve that deludes you into thinking you are almost down.  But then you descend around the corner and discover -- you are not.  You are not even close.

My bicep starting to ache from riding my break - Who even knew that breaking required bicep strength?  My forearm hurts, too.  It hurts to type this.

This ride did confirm something I already knew about mountain though:
I love going up them.
I hate coming down.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Marquee Olympic Triathlon

Last year, I struggled on the swim and did awesome on the run.
This year, I improved my swim but also drank the lake water.  After last weekend, this was my biggest fear.

Race day morning started off rather splendidly.  I fluttered around, like a little social butterfly, and did not arrive to the swim start until my wave was almost entering the water.  I saw my Dad, who had been looking for me. He held my goggles while I put on my wetsuit.  I turned so that he could zip me up only to realize my zipper was in the front.  It was backwards.

My wave started entering the water as my Dad and I frantically pulled off my backwards wetsuit.  I put it on correctly and was the last person to enter the water.  30 seconds later, we started.

Everything was fine for awhile until I noticed that some people were swimming under one section of the bridge and others were swimming under a different section.  Perhaps this was user error, but I also do not think the sighting buoys were lined up accurately.  I swam Tarzan-style while I tried to figure out where I was supposed to swim.  I eventually said, "I am so confused...." and a helpful lifeguard instructed me where to swim. A lot of people were swimming the wrong line.  You can see in this photo that everyone is on the wrong side of the yellow buoy.
 Although once I corrected my positioning, I felt like I got into a rhythm.  Even though people explained that I had to fully exhale after each breath to avoid swallowing bacteria-infested lake water, one week was enough time to enforce this new habit.  I still gasped for air.  I still swallowed.

I became more aware of my breathing style when I started belching.  While I do think I corrected it, I also think it was too late.  But I knew the best thing I could do was forget about it.

I finished the swim in 28:57 - almost an entire minute slower than last week.  But, everyone had relatively slow swim times so even though I know say this after every race, I think the course was long.  I was the 15th-20th female out of the water (out of 133).  Unlike last year, my transition was a non-issue.

The bike course was tedious.  There were six tight u-turns and at least a dozen tight corners.  There were a few hills, but a corner at the end of each down hill.  This course required as much skill as fitness.  And luckily, I have focused on this aspect of cycling with one of the best in the state.  I was amazed how everyone moved so far left before making a right-hand turn.  I used that to my advantage and passed many people by taking a shorter line.  

Last week, we did a 2-hour lesson on properly standing on your bike.  When you do this, you use your body weight to pull your bike.  Since this course had so many moments of accelerations, I was constantly standing.

The course was slightly different from last year - each loop was exactly 14 miles - the Olympic distance did the loop twice.  My pace was almost exactly the same as last year though...21.5 mph.  But, that was fast enough to be the 4th fastest bike split among the amateurs.

But, the moment I got off my bike, I felt the repercussions of my swim.  It did not feel good.

I told myself I was fine.  I really believed that I would be fine after I got things moving.

I ran the first mile okay.  The second mile was okay, too.  My stomach was really tight and crampy, but I just focused on my running form.  Mile 3 is when I started to walk.  It just hurt so bad.  Still, I did not walk often.  And then I reached Mile 4.  It totally felt like some mutant lake-seaweed baby was trying to rip my abs open.  Every few minutes I had to stop and walk.  I wanted to puke.  I wanted to fart.  I wanted ANYTHING to relieve the pain and pressure.

A little past Mile 4, I got passed by two girls.  I knew they were coming but I also knew I was in serious pain.  They both looked so graceful as they ran passed me.  I suspect that is how I looked last year when I was running 6-minute miles.  This year, I looked anything but graceful.  People quit cheering for me and instead looked at me with concern.  Even when I could see the finish line, I still could not run more than 30-seconds at a time.

I finally sprinted through the chute and collapsed, with a shameful 10K time that I don't even want to talk about.

 But, I finished.  And, placed 5th overall and first in my age group.  Nonetheless, it was humbling run.

After the race, someone advised putting a shot glass of apple cider vinegar in transition.  That way, I can gulp it immediately and supposedly, it will kill the lake bacteria.

I have always had a sensitive stomach so it does not shock me that I cannot digest duck poop, algae and decomposing dead tilapia.  It actually makes apple-cider vinegar sound like a refreshing cocktail.

Monday, April 8, 2013

1500 Meter Open Water Swim

I never thought I would do a swim race that did not reward me with a run at the end.  But unlike last year, a run was not included.  Otherwise, it was very similar:  I ran into my old best running buddy again.  The lake was gross again.  I forgot anti-fog again.

This distance was a little farther this year (1500 meters) and I was a little faster this year (27:04) but considering how much work I have put in at the pool, I am not sure I am pleased with the investment of time.

And okay, okay...maybe I have not gone to the pool that much in the past month, but I was at Masters during the winter when it was 40-degrees and raining. 

The thing is, open-water swimming is much different than pool-swimming.  When you stand in the lake on race day and peer into the distance to sight your turn-around buoy, it always looks so far away.  This course was two 750-meter laps but yet it looked intimidatingly and frustratingly far.

I am tempted to point out that the shirtless man standing a mere few feet behind me is a South African gold medal Olympic swimmer with a really awesome accent.  But anyway, I still could not believe I paid money to subject myself to swimming in this gross lake.

When spotting a camera, I managed to smile.  But even I could not make it look convincing.

My friend, who won the race in a mere 20 minutes, is also in this picture.  She claims it's "no big deal" because she has "been swimming her whole life."   When the race started, I was kicked and hit and a few bodies literally swam over me.  It was a crowded and unpleasant start for those of us not in front.  I immediately took the opportunity to blame my mother.  Maybe if she did not let me quit swim team when I was young kid, I could swim in the front with my friend.

Although, in my mother's defense, it would still have been unlikely.  I suspect my friend liked swimming when she was young.  I bet she was very good at it.  I bet she wanted to go to practice every morning.

I know I was not born to be a swimmer.  I was born to be a trail runner who dabbled in road running.  But before triathlons, I was riddled with injury all the time.  If I want to run for the rest of my life,  swimming in this gross is lake is simply what I need to do, even if I am never able to finish in 20 minutes.

After the pandemonium thinned out, I concentrated on my stroke.  Stroke Stroke breathe left - stroke stroke breathe right. Spot.  Stroke stroke breathe left - stroke stroke breathe right. Spot.  It was very boring.

But finally, I finished!  7th place, out of 42 females.  

After the race, I was horribly bloated.  It hurt to breathe.
I need to figure out how to not swallow air and water when gasping for my life.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Oh. Taper.

My next race is an Olympic triathlon and it is next weekend.
Things have been going really great with training... I have been having a lot of fun, doing group workouts, and feeling unsurpassably strong.  In the past three weeks, I have a done at least:
- 12 mile run (with 10 miles at tempo pace / 6:50)
- 13+ mile run x 2
- 43 super hilly bike ride
- 37+ bike ride bricked with 4 miles x 2 
- Cycling intervals on the power-meter x 3
- Track x 2 and speedwork directly off the bike
- A few bikes rides bricked with my favorite running partners:
And then, on Wednesday, I was reminded that I should perhaps start my taper.

My response:  "Already????" 
I felt sorta bummed.

But then I woke up Thursday to meet my friend for what normally would be a tempo run.  But instead, we just ran.  It wasn't fast.  It wasn't far.  But yet, it felt hard.  My streak of feeling stronger every workout was over.  I felt tired.  Or, at least I convinced myself I was tired so I would abide by my  taper.

The taper is an important thing for me.  Not only is it an opportunity to recover, but it is an opportunity to swim, do yoga and get caught up on my errands -- so far, I have two massages and a facial scheduled.

Massages and facials may paint me as the lady of leisure I would love to be, but aside from this exact sentence that I am typing right now, "leisure" and "twins" are simply two words that never find themselves together.  Just the fundamental task of keeping my kids alive keeps me very busy........nevermind trying to keep them happy.

When we are not doing things, their default activity is fighting.  Brenna is usually the antagonist, but at least once a day, I catch Hayden slowly extending his hand towards Brenna's ponytail as if he just cannot resist the temptation of pulling on it.  This is one reason Brenna's ponytail never makes it past lunch time.

It is hard to be "doing things" all the time, especially with two three-year olds in tote.  So, I have continued separating them a few nights a week.  This makes doing things a lot more easier.  For example, this week, I took them each to a little carnival.

I walked Brenna through her very first funhouse:

And a few days later, I accompanied Hayden on his first flying elephant ride:

I was real excited to find out he was tall enough to ride the tilt-a-whirl...I used to love that ride!  But, he was not interested in anything that daring yet.  I was not surprised considering he is scared of practically everything in life unless you have ice cream.  And I had no ice cream.