Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Father's Day Tribute ( a little late)

This morning I made the increasingly familiar 20 mile bike commute to work. Tonight I'll ride the same 20 miles home. It was 88 degrees on the way in and will be 108 when I leave tonight. Just when I start to feel like some kind of martyr to the biking cause, I'm reminded of just how cushy I have it compared to my Dad, who still makes his own 14 mile round trip commute by bike.

First let's look at my commute:
  • 20 miles
  • little to no elevation change
  • bike lane the whole way
  • never any precipitation
  • 3 months a year of triple digit weather / 9 months of perfect weather
  • private commuter room with showers and lockers at work
  • indoor bike storage
  • new bike co-op at work for all repairs
Now my Dad's commute:
  • 7 miles
  • rolling hills
  • no bike lane, some limited multi-use path
  • rain in summer, some snow in winter = frequent wet/icy roads and storms
  • bike locked in public parking garage
  • shared office bathroom
I think it is important to note that until just a few years ago my Dad's route involved crossing a creek on a sewer pipe while carrying his bike. At times the pipe was slick as the result of natural phenomenon, and at times it was booby-trapped (greased) to keep him from crossing. He's ridden in hail, sleet, snow, rain, humidity, and heat. He's had to change in his office for years and clean up in the bathroom. I've ridden when it's hot outside...hmmm.

I feel a great deal of pride in continuing the bike to work tradition. So tonight when it's 108 and the oven-air-breeze blows across the blacktop I'll be thinking about just how good I really have it and what an inspiration my Dad is.

Monday, June 29, 2009

It's been tough

Last week was a tough week. The ugly "your job is in danger" monster reared its ugly head again. The state continues to struggle to find answers to the current budget and future budget shortfalls. A 1% tax increase vs decimating k-12 and higher education with further cuts seems like an easy choice to me, but I admit I'm highly biased.

My plan B has been to return to graduate school for my PhD if I lost my job, but that plan took an unexpected turn when I learned my application had been rejected. This was particularly jaw dropping because I saw my application as a safety and had received feedback that led me to believe I was in with no worries. Now I'm worried.

This weekend was a nice break from thinking about Plan A and Plan B. I worked 24 of 48 hours in our backyard. The highs were 108 the low in the mornings was 88. I shoveled gravel, shoveled gravel, dug out stumps, and carried heavy things - like gravel. My body hurts so bad today it is unreal. I can hardly grip anything between the blisters and the muscle pain and my back has really flared up again. The good news is we are 24 hours closer to having a backyard.

I've got a local 10k race this coming weekend. I've been doing almost no running. It's going to hurt, but be a good measure of where my run fitness is right now. I've been killing the bike so hopefully there's some crossover.

Training Update:
Thursday - bike 40 miles (split 20/20, to/from work) with 1600m swim during lunch
Friday - strength session at the gym
Saturday - yard
Sunday - woke up at 5:30 to ride the SS, but I couldn't do it, can't imagine how bad the day of yard work would have felt had I ridden before I started
Monday - 1600m swim during lunch, trying to loosen up my back and hands

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wednesday June 24th, 2009

No swim. No bike. No run. No lifting, stretching, or recovery. Instead of any of these things I ate this for dinner and crashed. The brownie I had for dessert is not pictured. Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


The heat is here. The next couple months are our equivalent of winter. People hunker down indoors to beat the heat, unless your a triathlete trying to train, then you get up early and suck it up in the evenings.

Today we are having a guy give us an estimate on synthetic turf for our backyard. It is always green, always soft, no need to water, and made from recycled products. The only downfall is the expense. I could live without grass in the desert, but not without the pool. I've been enjoying nightly swims before bed. I'd like to see that during tough weather months other places.

I placed a pretty hefty order of new bike parts today. I'm getting ready to repair my Niner EMD race bike from the XTERRA in Show Low. I'm also making some upgrades to my full suspension rig and my CX bike. I'm really pumped for a fall full of great riding on some amazing bikes...and the new bike co-op!!

Long run with A on tap for tonight, should have cooled off to around 100.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

For my female readers

How do you handle having to pee on long rides? A and I have been enjoying some long road rides lately, but we always spend some portion of the ride with her furiously looking for bathrooms. The debate on what happens if we can't find one has been total speculation at this point, but we do agree on how TriDiva probably handles this...Thoughts? Suggestions? Stories?

Pictures from the weekend

Father's day ride - I'm 15 miles in
according to A, finding this was the best part of the ride
empty streets
say goodbye to the flat road
the last 3 miles of my 43 mile day were on this beast (just like this)
A's new classic cruiser
shoveling gravel in triple digit heat - awesome

a training update

Thursday - I biked 20 miles home from work, jumped in the pool, then hit up happy hour with friends

Friday - I was totally spent and took the day off

Saturday - I meant to go swim, but we got busy re-arranging the living room, removing closet doors, and planning our drip irrigation system and backyard.

Sunday - 15 mile road ride to in-laws for father's day, met A there and rode a 25 mile loop with her, then we had a nice lunch with my father in-law and drove half-way home before buying ANOTHER bike. This is a cruiser for A, but since we already had two bikes in the car I got to ride it the 3 miles back to the house. Long day on two wheels - 43 miles. Got home and started trenching for the irrigation system. It was a long day.

Monday - tried to run in the AM, but felt sick and had to settle for a walk with the dog. Tried to workout during lunch (swim), but still felt sick. First day of big time triple digit heat in the valley and it hit me hard following a long day of exertion Sunday. I think I'm really dehydrated and my nutrition is out of whack.

Tuesday - 1,000m swim AM / 30 min elliptical lunch and lifting

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Back in the Valley

Monday was the start of a new training plan. My new plan is focused on a 70.3 race in October. That's a 1/2 Ironman distance for all those non tri folks. With just one more XTERRA back home in TN left for the year, I'm looking ahead to the 70.3.

Monday - 1,600m swim / lift during lunch
Tuesday - 4 mile run / lift during lunch
Wednesday - 20 mile bike to work / 1,400m swim during lunch / shovel gravel

I've had a lot of fun working with the new bike co-op. This is going to be such a sweet addition to campus and to my professional career.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

N. AZ training camp - day 3

Recovery. That's what Sunday brought. I thought about an easy run to loosen up and put in some more miles, but instead my mother-in-law, who is a yoga instructor extraordinaire, put me through a 2 hour personal yoga class outside. Thank god for the calming views and gentle breeze because most of the postures were focused on hip openers and I was struggling.

After yoga I could feel so much more blood flowing to my legs and was psyched to have learned some great new stretches. I grabbed some more recovery fuel (cold beer) and hit up the hot tub one last time before the trip back to the Valley.

A full weekend for sure and when we weren't working out we were eating great food, drinking, and even found time to check out The Hangover (two thumbs up) and just read and relax. If only every weekend could be like that!

Weekend totals:
30 miles on the bike
4.5 miles running
2 hours of yoga + more recovery

Some small totals, but for being at altitude and trying not to push my back too much it felt just right.

N. AZ training camp - day 2

Saturday I decided to head out on my own in search of more miles on the bike. It was crazy windy and I quickly regretted my decision, but once I was out I knew it was only going to make me stronger, especially with winds so strong I had to pedal downhill.

On the road
decent shoulder, but too much traffic
too scared on the side of the hwy for a good shot
I found a pretty good loop from the house that came to just under 20 miles with one really good 8 mile climb. I can't wait to do this again and maybe add some more to it. Climbing on the CX bike at 6,000ft is great XTERRA training!

I came back from my road ride and made a quick transition to a run with A and the dog. We hit a mix of road and trails on a 4.5 mile out and back. For the first mile my legs felt great and I was feeling strong coming off two big days on the bike, but then we hit a climb and I was loosing steam fast. Thankfully A had a great pace going and helped pull me along to grind out the rest of the run.

Saturday's post brick recovery was perfect. I enjoyed some cold beer in the hot tub before an afternoon of geeking out playing computer games. Oh Command and Conquer....
Road ride: 18 miles
Run: 4.5 miles

N. AZ training camp - day 1

This past weekend was AWESOME!! A and I skipped town on Thursday night and headed up to northern Arizona. This state is amazing and so beautiful. At 6,000ft, cooler weather, killer trails, and a house in the mountains Prescott is becoming one of my favorite destinations.
Friday morning we slept in, ate a relaxing breakfast out back while enjoying the views, and then got ready to hit the local trails. A had given up on joining me on anymore MTB adventures, but she was excited about some easier dirt riding free from traffic. Our new CX bikes are just the ticket for this kind of adventure. We mapped out a route where we could bike from the house and hit the Iron King and Peavine trail systems - old railroad lines converted to trail. Paradise.

ready to head out
3 miles on busy streets before this
the views and the trails all to ourselves
granite dells
taking a break
such a pretty ride
heading north on the Peavine trail
not quite as pretty at the far northern end
A is not amused by my shooting while riding
"if you crash..."
trail side flowers

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bike Co-op

Imagine you're at your desk when your thoughts drift to last night's ride or the epic adventure you have planned for the weekend. We've all done it (I'm making certain assumptions about my readers here). As quickly as if you heard you boss's footsteps in the hall you are brought back to reality by the realization that your bike(s) are not quite in the perfect condition you wish they were. Admit it, there is always bike work to be done. If only there was a way that your bike could be tuned for you while you were at work...

I'm guessing there are very few employers that provide an in-house bike shop as part of their perks (Google?). Imagine bringing your bike to work, dropping it off at the in office shop, doing your job, and then picking up your rig freshly tuned for the evening's ride. This is my new reality. Not only has my employer decided to dedicate significant funds to fully outfitting a shop with all the wonderful tools you could imagine, but they're employing a mechanic as well. And who did they select to oversee this venture?

That's right, if you ride your bike to work wearing lots of reflective flair, take the occasional shower in the bathroom, and come in on Mondays with bruises, open wounds, and a great big smile to accompany stories of your latest off-road adventure your employer may just reward you with supervising your very own in-office bike shop.

Some days are certainly better than others...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Buying new parts...

When this happens....
It's time to buy new parts.
And you can't just replace what was broken....updates coming.

Training post Show Low has been low key. I need my back to heal and I have only one more XTERRA race this year in late July. Despite a stable of bikes I am currently without a rideable mountain bike - a very sad state of affairs, but probably the best for my back.

Monday - strength training /stretching
Tuesday - rest
Wednesday - strength training /stretching
Thursday - light cardio + strength training /stretching
Friday - strength training /stretching
Saturday - 30 mile road ride with A
Sunday - rest
Monday - AM swim (1,400m) / lunchtime strength training

Monday, June 1, 2009

XTERRA Show Low - race report (long one)

I lined up next to Tri Diva's CoachHubby (no plans to draft off him after Vegas) and was treading water at the start. It seemed like an unusually violent start with lots of people grabbing and elbows and feet finding their mark. I started breathing every stroke because I knew the altitude would mess with me and even this was not enough to keep my system in check(6,500ft? starting elevation for the swim).
At about 300m into the swim I started feeling really sick. The pack had not thinned out, and while I was making pretty decent progress I felt boxed in by swimmers, the cold water hurt my face, and like I couldn't breathe. Being a strong swimmer I think this is particularly scary because I so rarely experience anxiety in the water. I had no choice but to try and ease back and get my head and my body in check. I didn't really succeed at either as I rode out a miserable swim wondering how one would throw up while swimming in open water and feeling weak.
Time 14:12. 1:46 pace for an 800 compared to Vegas where I swam the 1600 at 1:30. Suck.

My swim has been off this season and I think it's because I've been working so much on the bike and run and my back injury has really limited my reach and power in the water.


They had wetsuit strippers available, but never having used this before and being pretty quick out of my suit, I started stripping down and running up the short climb to transition. I was still having a hard time breathing and was slow to get in and out of T1. I finally got suited up and was preparing myself to struggle all morning, but was glad I wasn't as cold as I feared I would be - mid 50's at the start.
my little girl watching transition
This is the real story of this race. I'll summarize it by saying it was the good, the bad, and the ugly. I hadn't ridden a mountain bike since the XTERRA race in Vegas almost a month prior because of my back pain. I hadn't had a chance to pre-ride the course. I was riding at close to 7,000ft in wet, sticky, and rutted mud. And I had the ride of my life...almost.

I immediately felt at home on my Niner EMD. This bike and I were made for each other. I've never felt such a connection with a bike and right out the gate I got after it. My breathing calmed down and I was catching people. I've grown used to being passed on the bike, but not this day. I can really tell a difference in my climbing from all the miles I've put in on the road.

Four miles into the race and the mud began. It was sticky and slippery at the same time. My PAM coated bike was definitely picking up less muck than other people and I was making some great moves past people stopping to unclog drive trains and forks. Just when I was about to really pull away I lost the front end and bit it. The muddy ground made a soft landing, but totally clogged up the bike despite the PAM. I tried riding, but now at a vicious climb I had no choice but to push. My back was violently apposed to pushing in the mud and I started feeling pretty intense pain that made me question how the last 2/3 of the bike and the 5 mile run would go.
this was clean compared to other racers
Clogged drive trains and rear triangles were the name of the game. Everyone was off their bikes and trying different strategies for carrying, pushing, and rolling bikes backwards up the hill. It was the sticky kind of clay that pulls up rocks and tree limbs. I lost ground to a couple guys in my AG because I was having a hard time finding a pushing position that didn't hurt. At the top of the climb was a gradual descent that I bombed down and lost a lot of muck that had been on my bike.

I could see a pack of 5 riders in the distance, but couldn't find the legs to catch them on my own. There was one rider ahead of me who was running about the same speed and I knew I couldn't pass him on the narrow singletrack so I started talking to him, "Let's go get those guys!", "You got it!", "Faster!". It worked. He dropped me and I had to really push to catch back up and ride his lines. It was awesome. We got to within a couple lengths of the front group and the trail widened enough for me to pass and continue the assault. My motivation looked pretty spent as I passed and his pace slowed. I owe that guy a beer or two. I couldn't have done it without you.

Before I could catch the front group there was an aid station which meant I was a little over 1/2 way. I opted for a bottle and a gu on the flat jeep road after the aid station and let the group get out ahead. After getting some hydration and nutrition I was ready to hammer out the rest of the race.

I put the Niner in the big ring and never looked back. There were miles of wide jeep road and my big wheels and legs were totally in sync. I passed the group of 5, I picked off one or two other riders (not sure of AG) and built a lead. This was the good.

Here comes the bad. Bombing down a hill I see what looked like an earlier part of the course on my left. There had been volunteers all over the course at any questionable turns so I assumed I kept descending. Then I noticed how few tire tracks there were in the mud. I had two riders behind me, but I whipped around and started climbing back to the part of trail I had recognized. Now there was a volunteer there waving the group of 5 in my AG to turn where I had continued straight. I managed to pull within just a 100 yards or so and figured I still had enough time to put some distance on them before the run.

Then the ugly happened. On a relatively clear section of trail I downshifted - or thought I was downshifting. There was a horrible noise followed by me being thrown from the bike. From the ground I saw the guys in my AG pedal off into the distance, but I still had thoughts of catching them. Then I saw my bike. The chain was busted in half and the rear derailleur was bent up and backwards into the spokes of the rear wheel. I didn't fully recognize how bad the damage was because I didn't want to admit that the 14 miles I just rode were all for not. I pulled the derailleur from the rear wheel and started running with the bike.I would get some speed, jump on, and coast before getting off to run and coast again. I did this for the next 1.5-2 miles. It hurt, it made me angry, and it made me sad all at the same time. When I neared the last climb to transition and people saw why I was running alongside everyone else riding, I got a surge of energy from the support of the crowd. I cranked it up a notch and ran my bike in to transition with two guys in my AG.T2
I was still feeling the rush of having actually made it to the run when I entered transition. However, I couldn't figure out how to re-rack my bike in all the excitement and came out of T2 behind the two guys I entered transition with. I was hot on their heels and told myself I just had to hold on starting the run.
trying to catch the shirtless guy
The crowd recognized me and was yelling for me leaving transition. I was running in the shadow of the two guys ahead of me until we entered the woods. Without the energy of the crowd, and having been redlining it for far too long, exhaustion hit me and put bricks in my shoes. I slowed my pace and watched the AG guys fade away. Then I walked.how my little one entertained herself while I ran
At mile 1.5 I started getting some strength back. At mile 2 I started thinking it was a beautiful day, and when I hit the turnaround at mile 2.5 I had a realization that changed my race. All the guys I saw running at me on my way back were behind me - and I had carried my bike 2 miles. I am a bad ass.

I thought more about being a bad ass and kicked up my pace. I was running alone and kept pushing harder. I was still running alone. I came out of the woods and saw two guys running down a gully and into the lake (the course had two, fairly long, deep water crossings on the run. I knew I could catch them. By the second crossing I was behind them and on the muddy all fours climb up the opposite bank I made my move closing the gap to running right behind the leader. I wasn't sure when to make a move for fear he would see we were the same AG and have more left in the tank.
Now I see youclosing the gap
making my move on the hill
When I thought the finish was only a couple hundred feet away and around a corner I made my move and passed.
Around the corner I saw nothing but more trail. I continued to push hard fearing he was right on my heels. I saw more trail. I continued pushing too afraid to look back and growing ever more concerned that I couldn't keep this pace. Finally a volunteer directed me to a set of water bar stairs and I scampered up before hitting the road and the finish line in sight. I snuck one glance and saw no one behind me, but put on the afterburners just be sure.2:41:58 - good enough for 8th in my age group

It might be surprising that I couldn't be happier with the results. All in all I had an amazing race overcoming physical and mental challenges that I never could have anticipated. The "what ifs" of the weekend are completely overshadowed by the sense of personal accomplishment in finishing and racing the way I did. This weekend taught me a valuable lesson about why I race. The challenge and personal experience of an event like this are incredible. This weekend was deeply personal, rewarding, and an incredible success.

More Pre-race

The car all packed up and ready to go. I love being able to easily put the bike in the car.
Beautiful Salt River Canyon
We arrived and this started
Beautiful conditions on the lake race morning
Setting up transition
warming up for the swim
5:00am alarm on Sunday morning for a 7:00am race start. Why start at 7:00? Ugh. I didn't sleep well despite (because?) I went to bed at 8:30.
At 5:00am, feeling restless and tired, I wasn't hungry but put down my race day breakfast that has really been working well for me: muscle milk shake, banana, cup of oatmeal, and a granola bar immediately upon waking up. I follow this with a red bull in transition about 45min before the start. I forgo any caffeine in the days before a race.
We packed up the car and made the short drive to Fools Hollow park. The conditions on race morning were calm and cool. I was feeling a little more anxious than usual as I hadn't seen any of the bike or run course and heard the water was cold and the bike course was wet and muddy. Saturday night I ran out to the store and bought some PAM spray for coating the bike. I learned this back in TN so I gave the bike a good spray in the parking lot Sunday morning before heading to setup transition.
I got caught up with Tri Diva and her CoachHubby in the parking lot and briefly in transition. No cell phone service in Show Low meant we missed them more than once :(. It is always good to see them! BTW - They Killed it on Sunday!!!
I got in the water for a quick swim, no real warmup only feeling how cold the water was. Those of us trying to get a good position started at the end of the dock treading water before the start and that's where the race report follows...