Firecracker Tri Race Report 
Sunday, July 5, 2009, 10:45 PM
Posted by Administrator
There was a lot of smack talk going on at the Vyriotes' house this weekend. Though we have competed in the same race many times, Paul and I have never "raced" each other. (I don't think I need to explain why.) However, the staggered start of the Firecracker Triathlon presented an interesting situation that leveled the playing field - I got a 30 minute head start.

Here is the text message conversation that took place just after I discovered our start times:
Me: You start 30 minutes after me. Think you can catch me?
Paul: That's just what I needed to kick me in the pants. Let the games begin!!
Me: Bring it.

Paul had not done a sprint tri in a decade (why do a sprint when you can do an Ironman?), but thought 1:10 was a reasonable goal. My previous time for this event was 1:35:48. These numbers gave me a slight edge, but they gave Paul a whole lot of motivation.

As usual, the Tri Girls were out in full force with high energy and lots of encouragement despite the ungodly hour of waking that morning (3:50 a.m. for us). I headed for the purple balloons to rack my bike with the growing crowd of Tri Girls. While setting up my transition area, Rachel "borrowed" a marker and started her own body marking station at our rack. And Lynelle demonstrated a new method for storing Shot Blocks for easy access on the bike - just lick and stick! (See photo below.) This group of women is nothing if not resourceful.

As the 46th starter in the race (slower swimmers go first), I only had to endure about 20 minutes of waiting before starting my swim. I view the early start as the one perk that comes with slow swimming. I took advantage of the new pool (adjacent to the race pool) to do a quick 100 meters to warm up and calm my nerves, and then stood in line with fellow TTG'er Kathy who happened to be #47.

My swim times have remained about the same as when I last did this race in 2007. I was #19 then and so was surprised with my "high" number this time around. But it all became clear as I watched the first swim wave. There were people without goggles and people who swam with their heads entirely out of the water. There were back strokers, side strokers and breast strokers. There were people having conversations while stopped at the wall. There were people clinging to lane lines in the middle of the pool.

As someone whose fear of the swim caused me to delay signing up for a tri for 2 years, I had a lot of respect and admiration for these people who had, seemingly, decided to just go for it. As someone who does this stuff for fun, I had a lot of concern for these people because many of them looked rather unhappy.

With 2 minutes until my start, I got into the water next to Kathy and watched in horror as her goggle strap broke. Being the resourceful Tri Girl that she is, she somehow tied it back on...only to have the other side of the strap break. Nothin' like a minor heart attack 60 seconds before you start a race.

As the seconds ticked by and we got closer and closer to the starting lane, Kathy stayed calm and managed to get the goggles attached to her face just before I took off. Throughout the swim, I would catch glimpses of purple on the other side of a lane line and feel relieved that the goggles held. She handled the whole crisis like a pro!

The first 150 meters went smoothly and then, over the next 200 meters, I was passed by a number of men - some more courteously than others. No sooner had this wave of testosterone subsided when I began catching members of the aforementioned admirable, yet unhappy-looking crowd from the first wave. For the most part, they were very accommodating about letting faster swimmers pass at the turnarounds, although I was somewhat startled at one point to find myself face-to-face with a man wearing gigantic goggles and a snorkel. I'm sure there's an interesting explanation for this rather unusual triathlon gear.

I climbed out of the water in 20:18 which is 30 seconds slower than my previous Firecracker swim. But, this finish is not surprising given the amount of time and effort I have devoted to this discipline. I have been hitting the pool twice a week for about 2 months, but only for 20 to 25 minutes at a time.

I managed to get through transition in 2:22 which I thought was decent until I saw in Elaine's report that she did it 41 seconds faster. There are so many avenues for improvement in triathlon!

The bike was rather uneventful - just kept spinning and tried to avoid the potholes on Euclid. As I rode by the race site to start my third and final lap, I kept an eye out for Paul. I figured that I had probably just missed him as I was seeing racers with numbers in the 140's and 150's and he was #141.

I completed the bike in 43:17 and added another 1:13 in transition. (Elaine got through T2 in 42 seconds. She's the master!) The bike and transition times are lumped together in the official results and, in this block of time, I was 15 seconds slower than in the 2007 race. Yes, this is a trend.

It felt great to stretch my legs and I booked it out of transition with lots of cheers from the Tri Girls, followed by a near collision with an elderly spectator who unknowingly walked into the run out chute. Within 30 seconds, my heart rate skyrocketed and I had to reel in my enthusiasm and my pace. I wanted to push and, though tired, my legs were willing, but my heart rate held me back throughout the run.

About 3/4 of a mile into the 5K, I glanced across the UA Mall and saw Paul just starting out on the run. Holy shit - how could he be off the bike already?!? Though I had really expected to cross the finish line before him, I was prepared for the possibility that he might catch me...just not so soon! But I was thrilled that he was obviously having a great race and so I called out to him, knowing that he would push to catch me. And he did - just before the 2-mile marker. He slowed a bit as he reached me, but I told him to keep going and I continued on my slow slog of a run. After finishing, Paul had plenty of time to grab my camera out of the transition area to document my finish.

The run was hard. Hot and hard. I finished it in 31:09 which is not out of the ordinary for a 5K for me, but is almost 2 full minutes slower than my 2007 run. My overall time was 1:38:08 which placed me 85th out of 139 women. Not great...but that's okay. I had a fantastic workout, did something healthy with my day and had a blast with the Tri Girls. It's hard to be upset with all of that!

Paul and I took advantage of the free massages and then lounged in the shade with the Tri Girls while awaiting the results. We typically leave early, but stayed in the hopes that Paul, having finished in 1:04:11, might place in his age group.

When the results were finally posted, Paul joined the crush of anxious racers searching for their names and he emerged from the crowd looking astounded. Not only had he taken 2nd place in his age group, but he had placed 9th overall (out of 300) and had the fastest bike time of the day (26:19), which was just 36 seconds off of the bike course record set by pro triathlete Chris Leito in 2007. Wow!

While Paul has done a lot of biking and running in the past two years, this was his first triathlon since being hit by a car in June of 2007 while on a training ride for Ironman Coeur d'Alene. That year, he showed up to the Firecracker Tri (as my personal cheerleader and photographer) with one arm in a cast and the other in a sling. This year, he made an amazing comeback.

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Long Weekend! 
Monday, June 29, 2009, 10:47 AM
Posted by Administrator
Taking advantage of some hard-earned comp time at work, I enjoyed a 3.5-day weekend. I kicked it off by picking up a new pair of running shoes at Performance Footwear. I wore Brooks for a long time and then, after some injury issues about a year ago, switched over to Mizuno. While comfortable, I don't think they've been giving me quite the support I need and so I'm giving Brooks another shot. I'm curious as to whether I'll notice a difference...but not too curious apparently, as I forgot to wear my new shoes on yesterday's 6-miler. The comparison will have to wait a few days.

With new running shoes checked off my list, I headed to LA Fitness for the 4:15pm spin class and enjoyed the more mellow atmosphere of this during-work-hours class. It was only half-full and allowed for some casual chit chat with the instructor. Before we had wrapped up, there was a mob of post-workday spinning enthusiasts outside the door, anxiously waiting to pounce on their favorite bike for the 5:30 class. I felt quite satisfied to have my workout behind me and to be starting my weekend.

On Friday, I had a great swim and then thoroughly enjoyed trying out two new recipes, both of which turned out fantastic. Paul is quite happy that camp season has ended because he knows that having me at home means new, yummy food. Check out my latest!



We dusted off the tandem on Saturday morning - it had been weeks since we'd ridden together - and headed out for a 2.5-hour ride over to the Avra Valley area. Though a fairly flat ride, I was completely spent toward the end. Having slept in and left later than planned, the mid-morning heat took its toll. Not to mention it was my longest bike ride in at least a month.

The rest of the weekend was spent cleaning and cooking in preparation for a post-camp BBQ with some of my lead volunteers. Only five people were coming, but it was a great excuse to give the house and the back patio a much needed deep cleaning. I don't expect it to last for long, but, in the meantime, walking into a clean house makes me smile.

Now, just four days of work until the next long weekend. I could get used to this!
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Home Sweet Home 
Sunday, June 21, 2009, 12:22 PM
Posted by Administrator
For the past two months, my mind and body have belonged to MDA Summer Camp. I spent most of my evenings and weekends at the office, except, of course, for the two weeks I spent at camp - one in the White Mountains of Arizona and one in Salt Lake City.

During the short periods that my body was not at the office, my mind was still on camp. This includes the dreaded camp-related dreams. With 25 activities throughout the week, 83 campers with neuromuscular diseases and 120 volunteers, there was a lot to think - and worry - about. Long story went well and it feels amazing to be home enjoying my first work-free weekend - for both mind and body - in a very long time.

Summer camp is not conducive to maintaining my daily exercise, my healthy diet and my 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. sleeping schedule. Despite squeezing in a few short runs during each of my camps, I returned home feeling out of sorts, but also very motivated to get back on track. The fact that the Firecracker Tri is just two weeks from today also inspires me to get my butt in gear.

I eased back into the routine with a 800 meter swim on Friday morning, followed by a brick workout on Saturday (12 mile bike, 2 mile run). The rest of Saturday involved swinging by Howard's Orchard in Catalina for fresh veggies, clothes shopping, laundry and cooking. It did not, in any way, involve MDA.

This morning, after giving Paul his Father's Day card from the dogs, I hit the neighborhood streets for a 5-mile run. After 3.5 miles, I made a quick pit stop at the house to run cold water over my head and drink some juice. My legs were heavy, my face was red and I was sweating profusely. It was only 80 degrees, but I apparently need a few more days to acclimate to the desert heat after my two weeks at higher elevations.

I was hoping the few weeks of low mileage would cure my IT band issues, but I can still feel the tightness. Luckily, I discovered that a small strip of Kinesio Tape works just as well in preventing knee pain while running as the big, ugly, uncomfortable knee brace does. I start it in the middle of my hamstring and pull gently as I wrap the tape forward to the middle of my quad.

Tomorrow's plan: morning swim and evening 5K with the Meet Me at Maynard's group.
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Brief Hiatus 
Saturday, May 30, 2009, 01:06 AM
Posted by Administrator
Tomorrow morning, I drive up to the cool White Mountains to co-direct a week of MDA Summer Camp. Please send good thoughts my way for good weather, healthy campers, well-behaved volunteers and a smooth week!
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A Sub-30 Minute 5K 
Sunday, May 24, 2009, 11:28 PM
Posted by Administrator
After finishing the Dave's Run for ALS 5K in 30:00.4, I was determined to add some speed to my weekly workouts and run a sub-30-minute 5K. However, between my work schedule and my IT Band, I never made it to the track. Shocking, I know. I showed up for the Tucson 5000 feeling not very confident about a fast time, but feeling just fine with that. That's one of the advantages of being slow - no pressure.

We lined up on Country Club for the start of the square course around Reid Park and the race director announced that the race's only water stop had been stolen - water, cups, table and all. Who would steal an entire water stop?

When the gun went off, I tried to find a comfortably hard pace and chose people in front of me to stick with for motivation. I felt great on 22nd Street, but started tiring as we turned onto Randolph Way which has a slight incline - very slight, but I could feel it. I was not having much fun, but was on pace for the sub-30 and so kept pushing it. On the bright side, this part of the course was on a nice, shady path, which was very welcome considering the above average temperatures.

As we approached the turn onto Broadway, I was relieved to see that the race volunteers, not to be outdone by the somewhat unusual vandals, had made it to the store and back, and had set up a new aid station out of the back of a truck. I walked long enough to get some water in my mouth and over my head, and then picked it up again. Luckily, we were on a slight decline, but it still felt hard.

With about 1/2 mile to go, my heart rate was skyrocketing and I decided to walk for a minute to get it back to a sustainable pace. It wasn't long before a woman twice my age ran by me breathing like an asthmatic. This sight shamed me into running again - no matter how bad I felt, it was clear that I wasn't pushing it nearly as hard as she was.

I passed her and a few others and kept looking at my watch as I approached the finish. I crossed in 29:32 feeling pretty much like crap - yet pleased to have accomplished this goal. It took a few minutes to catch my breath and about half an hour for the light-headedness to go away. Did I mention it was hot? My time was good for 252 out of 337 total racers and 15 out of 28 in my age group.

Next up on the race calendar is the Firecracker Tri on July 5. (I've stuck faithfully to my twice-weekly swims for over a month now!) However, next up on the endurance event calendar is MDA Summer Camp from May 30 to June 6. Which is why my guest bedroom looks like this...

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