Camping Weekend 
Saturday, August 16, 2008, 05:15 PM
Posted by Administrator
Last weekend, we packed the Prius full of gear and dogs, and escaped the desert heat with a long weekend of camping in the White Mountains. We chose Fool Hollow Lake in Show Low as we have visited the campground for the Deuces Wild Triathlon and Paul knew he could take the dogs swimming - something the dogs like and Paul absolutely loves. Swimming alone is a bit of a chore, but swimming with the dogs is pure fun for Paul! We arrived mid-afternoon on Friday and were pleasantly surprised to find a small, but beautiful spot overlooking the lake.

After setting up camp, we headed down to the boat ramp as Paul couldn't wait to get in the water with the kids. With cloudy skies and temperatures in the 70's, it wasn't nearly warm enough for me to join them, but, as you can see, a good time was had by all.

We had a delicious dinner of salmon, veggies and corn on the cob - all cooked over the fire. I was looking forward to relaxing by a roaring campfire for the evening, but a thunder and lightening storm started shortly after dinner and, as we do not have a canopy, all five of us headed into the tent. It took us quite a while to calm Molly, who is terrified of storms and was shaking uncontrollably.

With nothing else to do, we climbed into our sleeping bags around 8:00 p.m., but the dogs were so restless that I was up half of the night. The low point was when Mielo vomited. Yes, in the tent. I pushed him toward the door, but could not move fast enough to unzip it in time. I was rather grouchy the next morning.

My mood improved with a great trail run Saturday morning. For much of it, we followed a flower-filled path surrounding the lake. I got in about 7 miles and the kids enjoyed multiple dips in the lake to cool off.

We regretted the last plunge when it started raining just as we returned to the campsite. With no place else to go, two sweaty people and 3 wet dogs piled into the tent. Note to self - invest in a canopy before the next camping trip.

Luckily the rain was short-lived and we were able to air out the tent while we showered (okay, so we weren't exactly roughing it). That afternoon, it was wonderful to have absolutely nothing to do! We read...we sat and looked at the lake...we chatted with the little girls from a few campsites over who had fallen in love with the kids and visited a few times. Heaven...

Our peace and quiet was interrupted when an enormous SUV pulled into the site next door and a cranky woman complained (rather loudly) to her husband that, if they stayed at that site, "We'll be next to dogs!" It was clear by her tone that she was not a dog-lover. Unfortunately, available campsites were sparse at that point and so they decided to stay. At that point, FIVE children came piling out of the truck. And she was worried about being next to dogs?!? The kids ended up being pretty good, although the woman's sour mood never improved.

Although it was overcast for the remainder of the day, the rain missed us and I was able to have my relaxing evening by the fire. Having adjusted to the camping experience, the kids were much calmer and we all had a great night of sleep. The next morning, Paul took the kids on short run while I broke down camp, and we hit the road for Tucson in the mid-morning.

We have only been camping two other times in the five years we've been together, and this trip convinced us that we really need to camp more often. It's so relaxing! And there are lots of great places just a short drive from home that would work for quick overnights. First, we just need to buy a canopy.

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Training Update 
Saturday, July 26, 2008, 02:28 PM
Posted by Administrator
Today is my last day as a 33-year old and I marked the occasion with a 12-mile training run. Considering that my head didn't hit the pillow until after midnight last night, I was not overly optimistic about how this run would feel. Why the late night? I marked my second-to-last day as a 33-year old with dinner and a viewing of The Dark Knight, which was fantastic! Long, but fantastic.

I slept in until 6:30 and finally hit the pavement an hour later with temps in the high 70's and humidity in the mid-60's. It was warm and rather sticky, but I was excited to be wearing an early birthday present from Paul - a Polar RS800 running computer with heart rate monitor, shoe pod and watch. This gadget is designed for gear geeks who live for stats. While numbers have never been my strong suit, it was fascinating to take in all of the data this gizmo threw at me - time, distance, pace, cadence, heart rate, stride length and even calories burned, which is rather satisfying to watch. (1,270 in case you're wondering)

I took it easy and felt surprisingly good. Fatigue did not rear it's head until 8.5 miles and, even then, it was only mild. The last mile was tough, but very do-able, leaving me feeling like I could have gone farther...but was happy that I didn't have to.

While I'm not setting any land speed records, I'm just pleased to feel strong and healthy at this point in my training. I've got many miles ahead of me before the big day in San Antonio, but I'm on track and feeling confident.

Life on the edge of 34 is looking good.
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Sahuarita Lake Triathlon 
Monday, May 26, 2008, 10:57 PM
Posted by Administrator
Whenever someone asked if I was ready for this race, I would say, "I'll be participating - not racing." Spending 12-hour days, as well as some weekend hours, at the office does not allow for ideal training. I wasn't sure whether or not I should even sign up, but decided that, if nothing else, it would provide motivation to keep up some semblance of regular exercise - and it did.

And so I awoke at 3:40 a.m. ready for a slow, and probably somewhat painful, race. While the event did not start until 6:30 a.m., I had volunteered for body marking with the Tri Girls and had a 5:00 a.m. report time. For the non-triathletes out there, this means I used a magic marker to write race numbers on the arms and legs of athletes. As far as volunteer assignments go, handling the biceps and quads of triathletes in not a bad gig. Also, arriving at the crack of dawn earned me excellent spots for both my car and my transition area.

Once again, I was racing solo. Last week, Paul was just getting over shingles (see Police Memorial Challenge below) when he developed a case of pneumonia. He just can't catch a break lately! He's feeling better every day, but a triathlon was absolutely out of the question.

Relief volunteers arrived at 6:00 a.m. and I handed over my marker, so that I could hit the porta-pottie one last time and put on my wetsuit. I was surprised to see a few people spraying themselves with Pam cooking spray to accelerate their own wetsuit-donning process. After a race, I feel disgusting enough being covered in sweat, sunblock and whatever's in the lake water...I wouldn't want to add cooking spray to the mix. I prefer to use a trick Paul showed me. Bring along a plastic grocery bag, stick your foot in it, then pull on that leg of the wetsuit - it slides easily over the plastic. Then pull the bag off and repeat with your other limbs. Much cleaner.

The morning had started off chilly, but the temperature was perfect by the time the race started and was ideal throughout the race. I cheered on the first two swim waves and then took the plunge with the other pink caps for wave #3 of the 1K swim. After the initial shock of the 75 degree water, I felt very comfortable in my wetsuit. Many people had opted to swim without one, but I needed all of the warmth and buoyancy I could get.

This swim was tough for me and lasted FOREVER. It was a straight out-and-back course. Sounds easy enough, but I have a hard time swimming straight when there's not a black line underwater to follow. I kept veering to the middle and toward the oncoming traffic of swimmers who had already made the turnaround. I had one pretty good collision with a swimmer form the first wave who seemed to have the same problem. I was relieved to make it to the turnaround, but dismayed to see 16:15 displayed on my watch. Not only did that mean I'm incredibly slow, but it meant I had another 16 minutes until I'd be out of the water! Apparently swimming 2 to 3 times a month isn't nearly as effective as swimming 2 to 3 times a week like I did last fall.

Alas, I survived and was greeted by some fabulous TTG cheerleaders as I climbed out of the lake. While swimming, I had been thinking that the lake was not nearly as gross as rumored. Then, when I got out of it, I noticed the green crap stuck all over my wrists and ankles. It didn't occur to me until after the race when I looked at other racers that the sticky green crap was also on my face and neck - disgusting.

I had a smooth transition and then headed out on the 25K bike course to the supportive cheers of more TTG'ers. I took it easy the first few minutes to catch my breath and take in some sport drink. The course was a nice, smooth road with minimal traffic. It is also an out-and-back course which I love. In addition to cheering for other Tri Girls, it's fun (in a humbling sort of way) to watch the fast athletes fly by. Cycling is the area in which I have the most to gain. I know that, if I focus on it, then I'll shave a lot of time off my races. Maybe that will happen someday...but, for now, I plugged along and hollered "good job!" to all those who passed me.

There is a 2-mile hill leading to the turnaround, and it was great to crest it and fly back down. At the bottom, while shifting out of my big chain ring, my chain jammed and I had to stop briefly to correct it. Otherwise, the bike was smooth - slow but smooth. I managed to get down one gel and a good amount of sport drink. My legs were tired, but I felt great otherwise.

I was thrilled to pull into transition, although slightly peeved that I had to run to the far corner of transition to use the porta pottie. Can't they put one closer to the in/out areas for the bike and run?!? I headed out on the course and it felt great to run...for about 30 seconds. Then my shins started screaming at me. My legs didn't have much left in them and so I did a walk/run for the 5K. As time went on I decided to use more frequent, but shorter walk breaks which seemed to help mentally.

I was relived and happy to reach the finish line and wound up with a time of 2:18. As I had absolutely no expectations for this race, I'm totally fine with that. However, the race definitely makes me look forward to the time (which should come in mid-June) when I return to a sane work schedule and can get back to training again.

I stuck around to chat with the Tri Girls, as well as for a post-race massage. At most races, the free massages are about 5 minutes. At this one, they were about 20, which was really annoying to everyone waiting their turn, but heaven once you were on the table. I enjoyed every minute, but felt somewhat sorry for these wonderful massage students who had to rub down sweaty, smelly, green-crap-covered triathletes with their bare hands. We're a far cry from your standard spa clientèle.

All-in-all it was a great morning. As I suspected, the race was slow and, at times, painful. But it's so satisfying to feel like I've pushed hard and challenged myself.

And for the Tucson Tri Girls - congrats to all of the racers; thank you to those who volunteered and cheered; and best of luck to all those racing at Deuces Wild next weekend!
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Police Memorial Challenge 
Sunday, May 25, 2008, 12:29 PM
Posted by Administrator
This was the second annual running of this event and my second year participating. Designed to give runners a taste of the training police recruits endure, the race takes place at the Police Academy...which is about 45 minutes home. I was on my own today as Paul opted to sleep in. Remember the gluten exposure I mentioned in my "Mystery Weekend Race Report?" Well, it turns out that the rash was not due to gluten - it was shingles. He was experiencing some symptoms before the race, and then the 50K run pushed him right over the edge. Now he's laying off exercise and focusing on getting healthy.

This is a smaller event with about 150 participants, but I was happy to see a bunch of Tri Girls at the race, as well as old friends from my Better Than Ever days. Last year's race featured a wave start with about 20 people in each wave. This year, they had only two waves - the men and then, five minutes later, the women. I was concerned that we would get backed up at the obstacles, but they were spaced far enough apart that it was not a problem.

We started off by zig-zagging through cones in a parking lot for about one-half mile before climbing through SUVs and hitting a dummy with a stick. After another few minutes of running, we did 10 two-legged jumps onto large tires, 10 push ups, 20 lunges and 20 overhead lifts with a medicine ball. You think that you'll be getting a break because you've stopped running, but all of these things send your heart rate soaring. I was relieved to start running again, so that I could catch my breath!

During this next stretch of running, I actually caught and passed two male runners from the first wave...which was very satisfying! Next, we shot a pellet gun 3 times at a target and had to do push ups for each one we missed. I did just one push up and then headed to the tower where we climbed stair to the top. This year they added an extra challenge of doing 10 push ups at the top of the tower. Up to this point, I had been doing traditional push ups, but had to resort to modified ones (on my knees) for this set.

I was tired, but looking forward to the next part of the course where we would have to cross monkey bars and climb over a few walls. I even wore bike gloves this year after having a callous ripped off my palm last year. I saw the monkey bars up ahead...and then we ran right past them. And I saw the walls coming...and we bypassed them as well. What's going on? We climbed through a window and then through a tunnel before running the final stretch to the finish line.This last portion seemed really long, but there were a group of Tri Girls cheering for me at the end. There were also a bunch of police recruits at the finish line and, as I got closer, they started cheering like crazy. I was impressed with this show of support...until a woman blew past me right at the line and I realized they had been egging her on to pass me. Lesson learned - always look behind you as you're approaching the finish line. I finished in 39:38 which was good for 96th place. I was slightly slower than last year when I finished in 39:10.

I stayed to enjoy the pancake breakfast and socialize a while. This is, without a doubt, the most hospitable race I've ever been to. The volunteers were great! More pancakes? May I take your plate? Would you like a freeze pop? Bottled water?

On the downside, I was disappointed that a number of the challenges were taken out of the course - a number of other people expressed disappointment as well. I hope they are added back in for next year's event. Also, the water stop volunteers need some training. They had police cars stationed out on the course with big jugs of water and cups. Rather than having a bunch of cups filled and ready to go, they waited until runners approached and requested water, and then they would pour a cup while you waited.

But, on the whole, this is a well-organized and really fun event! It keeps me motivated to do push ups in the few months prior provides some unique challenges. I definitely plan to go back in 2009!
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Mystery Weekend Race Report 
Sunday, April 27, 2008, 01:47 PM
Posted by Administrator
This race report starts way back in December. Paul and I always have a difficult time thinking of gifts for each other and so we decided that, instead of the usual holiday gift giving, we would each plan a surprise weekend trip for the other. We both love to travel, have fun planning trips and love surprises - it was perfect! The only details you had to tell were the dates of the trip and the sport and distance for which you needed to be prepared.

Paul went first and all I knew was that I had to be prepared for a 25K trail race - he would be doing 50K. As many people pointed out, I probably could have searched online and found the race and location. But, I love surprises and wanted it to remain a secret as long as possible! Paul did a great job with this, but the beans were partially spilled when, a few days prior to the trip, a friend stopped by the house. As he was leaving, he said, "Have fun in Colorado this weekend!" So, that gave away the state - but I was thrilled! I had only been to Colorado once before and was excited to go back.

We took Friday off of work and had an 8am flight out of Tucson. I didn't even look at my boarding pass...I didn't want to know where we were going until we got to the gate! And the destination was...Denver! I have to say that I was a little nervous as I had heard weather reports that it had snowed in Denver the day before. Sure enough, Paul pulled up the race website on his laptop and we looked at snowy photos of the course which had been posted the day prior. But he assured me that the temps were expected to be in the 70's during the weekend.

For the past few years, we've been traveling non-stop whenever possible, figuring that, if the plane takes off, then we're guaranteed to get where we're going in a reasonable amount of time. On this trip, we learned there are no guarantees. Halfway through the two hour flight, it was announced that the pilot was seeing a warning light for the right engine and that we would land in Albuquerque...and that we should not be alarmed by the fire crews that would be waiting for us, as it was just a precaution. Fortunately, we landed without incident and were booked onto another flight to Denver that would leave two hours later.

After finally arriving in Denver, we picked up a rental car and headed for Deby's Bakery & Cafe, a gluten-free restaurant. Paul was ecstatic! We had delicious bread, a rather bland chicken pot pie and the most delicious German chocolate cake I've ever had...and it was all gluten-free!

With full tummies, we drove to Hotel Monaco in downtown Denver. Although we did not have the dogs with us, we like to patronize dog-friendly businesses whenever we can. This hotel offers doggie beds and toys, as well as a welcome board in the lobby with the names of all of the dogs who will be guests that day. Rex, Mielo and Molly would have loved it! When we checked in, we were informed that there were 15 minutes left to the happy hour, which included complimentary wine, hors d'oeuvres and chair massages. That's my kind of welcome! We left our bags in a corner and joined the festivities.

After settling into our room, we strolled along the 16th Street Mall, admiring the beautiful green spaces and water, and checking out restaurant menus. We found that Denver is a very dog-friendly city, with dogs running free at parks and hanging out with their owners at many restaurant patios. Our kind of city!

We were up early and drove about 45 minutes to get to the Greenland 50K, 25K and 8-Mile Race in Colorado Springs. The three events drew 500 participants who ran a loop one, two or four times, depending on their race distance. I had come prepared for any kind of weather, but, as Paul had promised, the snow had melted - there were just a few patches along the course - and I was comfortable in just shorts and a t-shirt. I had not trained as much as I had hoped to (as is pretty much always the case), but I was not nervous. Paul would be running twice the distance and so I was in no hurry. The sooner I finished., the longer I would have to wait for him, right?

All three events started together and the course quickly narrowed to a double-track dirt trail. It was pretty congested for the first 20 minutes, which made it a little treacherous. You either ran in one of two ruts or on the uneven patchy area between them. The first 3.5 miles were fairly flat and then, after the first aid station, we began a 1.5 mile climb, followed by a mostly downhill 3 miles to the end of the first loop. I power-walked the uphills ran the flats and downs. Those last 3 miles of the first loop felt great! I was flying along, enjoying the scenery and was looking forward to my second loop. That all changed when I got to the turnaround and realized that I had been running with the benefit a tailwind...which was now a brutal headwind. I was, however, consoled by the fact that I did not get lapped on my first loop. I was about 1 minute into my second loop when I saw the first two finishers of my race (25K) coming toward me. This meant that they had about 1/4 mile left to go...and I had about 7.75 miles to go.

I quickly realized that the second loop isn't exactly the same as the first. I was now on a trail that paralleled the trail from the first loop and, where the first loop bypassed a large hill, this time we went right over it. I was not thrilled with the unexpected added elevation AND the headwind...but, again, I was in no big rush and so I concentrated on the gorgeous views of Pike's Peak in the distance as I hiked up the hill. Every so often, I was lapped by 50K racers who were on their third lap and I kept an eye out for Paul, but never saw him. I was happy to reach the first aid station (for the second time) and, as I trudged up the big climb once again, my hamstrings and glutes started to ache.

I was really looking forward to those last few downhill miles, but, when I got there, I found that running gave me a side stitch. Too much water? Not enough salt? Who knows. So, I alternated walking and running and tried not to bounce too much as this made it worse. Also, as my legs were pretty fatigued by this point, I was not feeling as stable as I did on the first loop and so I did not barrel downhill quite like before. I got to the turnaround spot and was very happy not to be heading out for another lap. The finish line was just about 1/4 mile beyond the turnaround, but it seemed like a LOT longer. I managed to pick it up for the last little bit to finish in 3:29:29 which gave me 150th place out of 162. After stopping, my calves immediately began cramping and so I tried to keep moving. I spent the next 90 minutes walking, stretching, playing with dogs, chatting with other participants, eating, and keeping an eye out for Paul.

Paul finished in 5:11:06 which was good for 32nd place out of 85. It was not what he had hoped for, but he was not feeling very well which, we discovered a few days later, was due to an exposure to gluten a few days earlier in Tucson.

We hit the hotel happy hour once again and then enjoyed a delicious dinner at Rioja. We had planned to walk around the 16th Street Mall some more, but were exhausted and stiff, and so turned in early. The next morning, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast, including gluten-free muffins at Panzano's, the hotel restaurant, and then took advantage of the Earth Day free admission at the Denver Museum of Science and Nature where we enjoyed a viewing of "The Alps" in the IMAX theater. We headed back to the center of town and enjoyed yet another excellent gluten-free meal at Maggiano's Little Italy. After informing the waiter of Paul's allergy, the chef came to our table to help us plan our meal, which included rice pasta.

All-in-all, it was a fantastic weekend! Paul did a great job of planning all the details from the location and the race to the hotel and restaurants. I feel like we ate our way through Denver, and it was wonderful!
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