The Week in Review 
Sunday, August 30, 2009, 06:21 PM
Posted by Administrator
Bike Commuting
For three years, I enjoyed the many luxuries of a 2.5-mile work commute - walking out the door at 8:50am; infrequent stops at the gas station; popping home for forgotten items or the occasional lunch; never having to listen to the traffic report. Ahhh...that was the life. But, apparently, the world does not revolve around me (or at least MDA doesn't), because my office recently relocated to central Tucson, 15 miles from my house. Regardless of the route I take, and I've tried many, there is no avoiding the multitude of stoplights, snow birds and students that conspire to make me late to work.

On the bright side, the new office comes with a shower, albeit one in a basement that brings to mind the site of grisly killings in horror movies. I decided to take my chances and so, twice this week, I was a bike commuter.

I've varied my route each trip in an effort to minimize the risk of getting flattened by a semi or, more likely, run off the road by a large pick-up truck with NRA bumper stickers and a growling pit bull in the back. Between the Rillito Path, Mountain Avenue and the 3rd Street Bike Path, I'm down to just a few perilous miles of riding on Tucson's city streets.

It's taking me about 1:20 to get to work and 1:10 for the return trip. I'd like to blame the stoplights for the lengthy ride, but, let's face it, my weak legs bear most of the responsibility. However, if I can manage the commute one or two times each week, I think it will go a long way to improve my leg strength for both running and cycling. I'd love to do it even more, but my clinics, support groups, presentations, etc... have me driving all over town on some days, and so I'll bike commute only for days spent at the office.

Track Workout
I ran 4 miles on Wednesday, including 4 x 400 meters at 2:00 each. That's not much, but past injuries have taught me to ease into speed workouts slowly. I'm hoping this conservative approach, along with Kinesio Tape and some quality time with my foam roller, will keep my IT Band happy.

Open Water Swim Clinic
Paul and I are registered for the Nathan Tri in late September, which includes a swim in Tempe Town Lake. It's been over two years since either of us has swam in a body of water that did not offer a black line at the bottom, and so I contacted TTG sponsor Pete Simon to arrange an open water swim clinic at Lake Patagonia.

Five other Tri Girls joined us for the 90-minute clinic which left me noodle-armed, yet much more confident. Pete taught us a very a cool turning maneuver to get around buoys and I learned some other lessons that I will be repeating to myself while in the sketchy waters of Tempe Town Lake.

1. Go slow. It's not a race. Okay, it IS a race, but not for you. Your only goal is to survive. Going fast makes you tired which makes you think of not making it back to land which makes you panic.
2. Don't panic. It wastes precious energy that you could use to actually swim.
3. Remember proper form. Sloppy form means slower swimming and, hence, more time in the murky water.

I also learned to better communicate with my husband about the exact places I need sunblock applied.

Leg Shaving
Being a frequent leg-shaver, this activity would not normally merit a place in my "Week in Review." However, Paul shaving his legs is definitely worthy of a mention.

A few times during the past week, Paul casually raised the topic of shaving his legs, and I did my best to dissuade him. I think that, for most women, shaving your legs ranks right up there with needing your first bra, being old enough to wear pantyhose, and getting your period - all things that seem fantastic until you have them, at which point, you'd like to give them back because they're just too much hassle. (The pantyhose reference will make sense to East Coasters only. Pantyhose is practically non-existent in the desert.)

So, when it's socially acceptable to walk around with hairy legs, why would any man choose to burden himself with the laborious task of leg shaving? Do they have any idea how long it takes to shave two whole legs? For Paul, all my talk of stubble and nicked ankles was overpowered by the silent peer pressure of being the only cyclist in the lead pack without smooth, hairless legs. Sure, aerodynamic legs might save him a few seconds in the water and on the bike, but, really, it was the peer pressure.

And so, when Paul resolutely announced that today was the big day, I gave him my full support. Then, I grabbed the camera. Paul first attacked the hair in the backyard with the "Professional Animal Clipper" that we use to shave the dogs. (The front of the box shows a clean-shaven dog, horse and cow.) This may seem extreme, but he's a 47-year old Greek man who has been growing leg hair all of his life. A Bic razor didn't stand a chance.

Click here to see a video.

A first pass with the animal shears paved the way for step two, the traditional shaving cream and razor in the tub technique.

Click here for that video.

Despite all of my objections, I have to admit that I like the result. I've always thought Paul had great legs, and now I can see more of them! Paul is also happy with his smooth legs and looks forward to his first hairless bike ride with his buddies. Let's hope they don't decide to ride off the Brooklyn Bridge.

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Hummingbird Tri Race Report 
Sunday, August 23, 2009, 12:33 PM
Posted by Administrator
While driving to Sierra Vista in a rainstorm on Friday evening, Paul asked if I had thought to check the weather for the next day. As a matter of fact, no I had not. I live in Arizona. And it's August. Hence it will be hot.

By the time we got to Chili's for dinner, I conceded that logic had failed me and was wishing I had brought something more substantial to wear. We backed the car up against a bush in an attempt to dissuade thieves from stealing our bikes of off the rack (it worked) and rushed through the rain to meet fellow TTG'er Jackie and hubby Jeff inside for dinner. After filling up on fajitas and tri-talk, we parted ways and Paul and I checked in at the Comfort Inn, chosen solely for its location, just 1/2 mile from the race site.

We were in bed by 9:00 p.m. and I slept great until 3:15 a.m., at which point I dozed intermittently and suffered the usual pre-race nightmares of missing the wake-up alarm...until the actual alarm sounded at 4:30. We each downed a banana while getting ready and then hopped on our bikes for the short ride to The Cove, Sierra Vista's recreational pool.

This is a fairly small event - about 100 racers - and the swim was organized in 6 waves of 16 people swimming two to a lane, with the slowest swimmers going first. I was puzzled to find myself assigned to the second wave. I mean, when you put 20 minutes as your estimated swim time, you're accustomed to being solidly in the category of "slowest." However, this was all cleared up when Robin pointed out that the wave 1 swimmers had estimated swim times of 25 - 45 minutes. And so I was in the unusual position of having to hang around and wait to start my race.

While wave 1 was underway, I took note of the abundance of dark clouds and decided to switch out my dark sunglass lenses for the yellow lenses in preparation for my bike leg. I was also getting concerned that I might actually be chilly on the ride. Again...Arizona. August. It had never occurred to me that I might need arm warmers.

As it turns out, the final wave 1 swimmer hauled herself out of the pool in 31 minutes, and so the wait for my wave was not as long as expected. In addition to the lap pool, The Cove has a beach-style entry pool and so I was able to hop in for a quick warm-up. Then, after a brief hello to my lap counter and my lane-mate, my race had begun.

My lane-mate, a very nice gentleman in his 50's, took off quickly enough that I assumed he had either lied about or grossly miscalculated his estimated time. It wasn't long before I realized that it was more likely a lack of proper pacing...or male bravado. By the 6th lap, I had caught him and, when I exited the pool, he still had a full lap to go. I glanced at my watch and was thrilled to see 18:19. By most standards, this is a slow-ass swim. By my standards, this was a PR by 50 seconds, which felt pretty damn good.

Paul, who had to wait for wave 4, was my personal swim and T1 photographer and cheerleader. He followed me out to transition where I struggled to get a piece of Kinesio Tape on my leg (to help keep IT band issues at bay). This took a few more seconds than I would have liked, but, with my adrenaline pumping and the pressure of knowing that the clock was ticking, my fine motor skills were not at their best. I ended up getting through T1 in 2:25 and then took a guess as to when I could hop on my bike as mount and dismount lines were nowhere to be found.

I had heard that the 14-mile bike course was a gradual descent on the way out and and gradual climb on the way back. But it just seemed so flat! I was cruising - feeling great and keeping a high cadence. Now that I was moving, the temperature felt perfect and even the brief sprinkling of rain didn't bother me. However, nearing the turnaround, I checked my computer and saw that my average speed was 19.5, confirming that I had, indeed, been going downhill and that a gradual climb was coming right up.

I definitely slowed on the ride back and then lost a few seconds when I dropped my chain while shifting gears. The chain was slipping and I kept spinning, willing it to catch. When I saw it jump off the chain ring completely, I quickly braked and dismounted, only to find that the chain had, somehow, jumped back on the ring. It was a triathlon miracle!With a grateful nod to the cycling gods, I hopped back on and pedaled like hell. My swim lane-mate was about to overtake me, but I slowly regained my lead.

With one mile to go, I saw Paul just starting his bike leg and gave him a quick holler. And, 50:42 after getting on the saddle, I was back in transition racking my bike. When pulling off my helmet and sunglasses, I noticed blood on my fingers and realized that my mid-week eggplant slicing injury had taken a turn for the worse. On the bright side, the wind on the bike ride had dried the blood on my hands (and brake lever and water bottle) and so it wasn't still flowing. T2 time = 1:17.

(Please note that this photo was taken after the race. I did not stop to take it while in transition.)

My lane mate buddy had arrived in transition shortly after me and we had some good-natured, self-deprecating chit-chat before he scooted out just ahead of me onto the run course. As I ran after him, I felt an all too familiar heaviness in my legs. I am well aware that brick workouts would go a long way to improve this situation, but this knowledge has not yet motivated me to actually do them during training.

I kept my eyes on Lane Mate's back as I passed a 77-year old competitor who was pushing like a champ. I found out later that, just one month ago, he finished chemotherapy for colon cancer. Now that's inspiration for you.

Despite the tired legs, I felt good. At the Firecracker Tri in July, my heart rate was skyrocketing, probably due to the heat, making it impossible to really push. But the weather today was ideal - cool and overcast - and it made a real difference. I ran the entire 5K without stopping to walk and completed it in 30:13, which is a good 5K time for me. Paul is convinced that when I enter my next stand-alone 5K, I should bike first as it seems to improve my times.

Just before finishing, I got the chance to high-five Paul who was just heading out on the run and was looking strong. I crossed the line in 1:43:03 and then filled up on water and a banana before grabbing my camera to catch photos of the other Tucson finishers, including Jackie and Jeff:

TTG'er Melissa:

TTG'er and Team XOOD member Robin. There was some drama to Robin's finish as the woman behind her was coming on strong. I yelled at Robin to keep pushing because someone was about to catch her and then I felt horrible as I watched the woman stumble at the corner and go down. She was okay - just a skinned knee and wounded pride.

And, of course, Paul. There were a few strong competitors on the course, but he still managed an impressive 5th place overall and 2nd in his age group.

I really appreciated Hummingbird's small-race feel, nice course, abundance of traffic control and the little extras like carpets in transition. However, the race also had its shortcomings.

#1 - This sprint race with less than 100 people took 5 hours from start to finish. I'm sure the limited pool lanes are partly to blame, but there has got to be a better way. Sprint races should be quick - hence the name - and should not take up half the day.

#2 - If you're going to have a 5-hour event, then you need to feed people. Bananas and orange slices just do not cut it. Knowing that Paul placed, we wanted to stay for the award ceremony, but, by the time we got out of there at 11:00 a.m., all I had eaten since waking were 3 bananas. Thanks to all of the potassium, I was in no danger of cramping, but my muscles sure could have used some protein. Some advice for next time? Hit Costco for bagels and big jars of peanut butter. Triathletes don't need a fancy spread, but we do need proper recovery food. By the time the awards rolled around, we were very hungry and a bit grumpy.

#3 - This race offered some sweet hardware. For the relay racers, that is. Each member of the relay team, in a variety of categories, took home a beautiful trophy of a swimmer, biker or runner. They were some of the best awards I have ever some across, and yet they were for the people who completed just 1/3 of the race. The age group winners, who completed all three disciplines, received a run-of-the-mill medal. I think relays are a great way to experience a triathlon, but let's give credit where credit is due, huh?

Despite all of this, we enjoyed the race and had a great time hanging out with our little TTG crew.

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Canadian Rockies Vacation - Part IV - Calgary 
Thursday, August 20, 2009, 11:21 PM
Posted by Administrator
Located in the Kensington district and owned by the extraordinarily welcoming Deanne, we found the River Wynde to be an exceptional B&B. We spent one night in the main house on the day we flew into Calgary and then returned for our final three nights of the vacation and stayed in the adorable cottage in the backyard.

Deanne has created a warm, welcoming atmosphere that makes you feel like you're staying at a friend's house. She chatted with us over breakfast each morning, allowed us to use her computer and offered to throw our laundry in with hers when she was doing a load. I even heard her offer to loan a pair of bike shorts to another guest...which may be taking the customer service thing a little too far. But, when we left, we truly felt like we had made a friend.

Our only complaint is that there are no private bathrooms. Although robes and slippers were provided, we especially missed this convenience during our nights in the cottage as we sleepily stumbled to the house for midnight potty breaks. But, it was a small price to pay and we would stay there again in a heartbeat.


Shop at Mountain Equipment Co-op: This is Canada's version of REI and Paul cannot pass up a visit whenever he's in the country. In fact, it was our very first stop after picking up our rental car.

Knowing we would be doing lots of hiking in Banff and Jasper, we asked for bear spray, expecting a cute, little, finger-sized canister like our pepper spray at home. When the sales guy reached into the locked case and pulled out something that looked a hair spray bottle (but much more dangerous), we said, "Oh no, we want the small bottle." That was the small bottle. Then, Paul had to fill out a form and sign a waiver vowing not to use the spray on humans. It was quite an ordeal.

Head to the Paths: With 330 miles of recreational paths, Calgary is a dream come true for both athletes and environmentalists. As far as we could tell, these paths were well-used by cyclists, runners and inline skaters, as well as business commuters sporting sneakers with their slacks or skirts.

We spent lots of time on one of these fantastic pathways just a short walk from the River Wynde. We walked, we ran, we biked on a crappy tandem we rented one day, and, on the weekend, we watched the locals floating down the Bow River on rafts. We marveled at all of the outdoor recreational opportunities right in the middle of the city. Sure, Tucson's Rillito River Path is great. But this river actually had water!

Olympic Park: Calgary was the proud host of the 1988 Winter Olympics and is now the proud owner of some pretty freakin' cool training centers. On our way to the bike rental at the University of Calgary, we happened upon the Olympic Oval. At times, it is used as a velodrome, but, with another winter games fast approaching, it is currently set up for ice sports.

We thought we would take a quick peek, but ended up spending quite some time when we discovered that Olympic athletes were actually training in there. The large and small ovals were being used by speed skating teams from Korea and Japan. And the non-ice part of the facility was full of athletes doing plyometrics, sprints and drills.

Click here for a short video of luge athletes practicing their starts with wheeled sleds.

We also drove just outside of the city to Olympic Park. Part training center and part tourist attraction, they have added activities to bring in some summer cash, such as mountain biking, challenge courses and zip lines. There were also several groups of children enjoying summer camp at the park. That has got to be the world's best summer camp!

We rode the ski lift and checked out the ski jump towers, some of which had athletes actually practicing jumps. (There was no snow, but the jumps have a surface on which you can ski in any weather.)

We then walked the length of the luge/bobsled course while discussing whether or not these endeavors should actually qualify as sports. Our verdict - no.

Then we headed to the world's only indoor luge training center with ice. The runs aren't long, but are just long enough to give athletes a chance to practice their starts. After that, you pretty much just hang on, right? There was one athlete warming up, but we didn't hang around to see her practice. We did try out all of the equipment though!

Our last stop was the Olympic Hall of Fame which had lots of fun, interactive exhibits which I'm sure were designed to keep kids occupied, but which we played with anyway. Just for the record, I kicked Paul's ass at the hockey game.

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Canadian Rockies Vacation - Part III - The Wedding 
Sunday, August 16, 2009, 05:55 PM
Posted by Administrator
We departed Banff on Friday, June 24 and spent the bulk of the day - about 5 hours - on the road to Fernie, British Columbia, the small ski resort town that David and Catherine had chosen for their destination wedding.


- Staying, along with happy couple and some members of the wedding party, at The Timbers, an amazing 6 bedroom house in Fernie Alpine Village. It served as "wedding central" with the wedding rehearsal, rehearsal dinner and the post wedding reception party held there.

- Watching Paul and Jon play a game of table hockey that was more raucous than you'd expect from two men in their 40's. (I regret not catching that on film.) The Timbers had a sweet game room!

- The wedding morning yoga class, conveniently held right in the living room of The Timbers. There's nothing like sun salutations and a good shavasana to calm the nerves before walking down the aisle.

- The post-yoga, pre-wedding run with Paul on a beautiful 5-mile trail in the town of Fernie. We loved chatting with some locals who taught us about Saskatoon berries, but got a little nervous when we saw the sign below. Exactly what kind of animal are they talking about?

- Riding up the ski lift all decked out in wedding attire to get to the world's most beautiful wedding site. In addition to admiring the amazing scenery, we got to check out insane mountain bikers bombing down the ski hills.

- Watching the groomspeople (which included one woman) eat sack lunches at the edge of the forest before changing into their wedding the forest. Sorry - no photos.

- Being part of a wedding in which almost every guest played a role. Mine was to read a wonderful excerpt from The Velveteen Rabbit and Paul's was to be the sound man.

- The wonderfully personal ceremony planned out by David and Catherine. Lots of touching moments, happy tears and even a sing along! Curt and Tim played a John Denver tune while the rest of us sang using lyrics written by David just for the occasion.

- Dancing with my groom at the reception. Four years of wedded bliss and counting!

- A leisurely morning-after breakfast and walk with most of the wedding guests before hitting the road once again for a few final days in Calgary.

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Canadian Rockies Vacation - Part II - BANFF 
Sunday, August 9, 2009, 01:28 PM
Posted by Administrator
On Wednesday, July 22, after three wonderful days spent exploring Jasper, we traveled back down the Icefields Parkway. Banff was our final destination, but, on the way, we had reservations at the Columbia Icefield Centre for an Ice Walk, a 3-hour guided tour on the Athabasca Glacier.

As you might expect, we were first required to sign a waiver acknowledging the inherent danger in walking on a glacier and giving up any right to sue in the event that we fall into a crevasse and die. Then, we were loaned hiking boots, fleece hats and heavy duty gloves. Apparently crampons were only recommended after rainfall, although I gladly would have taken a pair.

Finally, a group of about 15 of us set off with our Icelandic guide who introduced himself with, "My name is Freon. Yes, I'm a gas." Freon proved to be knowledgeable and entertaining. He also addressed the topic of global warming with a practiced diplomacy that suggested he had come across a non-believer or two in his day.

Having never set foot on a glacier, I was greatly looking forward to this experience. That is, until I was actually on the glacier, at which point I was terrified. The ice was not flat and easy to walk on - it was rippled and uneven with small streams of water running down it and lots of cracks and holes into which you could slip and fall. I was frightened to the core that this excursion might actually lead to my early, tragic and very cold death.

Freon added to my concerns by, over and over, reiterating the inherent dangerousness of our activity, cautioning us to walk exactly where he walked, and reminding us to beware of large holes into which we might fall. At times, I was not just scared, but also pissed off. Pissed off that we had signed up and actually paid money for this terrifying experience; pissed off that there were no restrooms at the meeting point because now I had to pee; and most of all, pissed off that I was the only person in the group who seemed to have any anxiety about sliding around on a gigantic ice cube full of holes. Didn't they know we could die out here?!? I just thanked God that the 5-hour tour had been sold out and counted down the minutes until I would be on solid ground again.

Here is Freon holding my backpack, so that I could look into one of the big, dangerous holes. He was telling me to step closer for a better look. I declined.

Paul was a saint. Of course, once we were safely off the glacier and in the privacy of the car, he let loose with the teasing, but, while the fear was still very real, he was sweet (and smart) enough to offer nothing but encouragement.

Knowing how much he was enjoying the experience, I tried to play it cool. Apparently, this coolness was only in my head as Paul later told me that I was "freaking out." He let me cling onto him as we made our way up the glacier, stopping occasionally for an interesting lesson from Freon the Gas Man who was always kind enough to wait for us before beginning his spiel since my slow, halting steps caused us to lag significantly behind the group.

About halfway through the tour, I finally got the hang of walking on ice. Before long, I was keeping up with the group and, though never completely free of fear, I did become confident that I would live to see Banff.

Click here for a brief video Paul took on the glacier. It gives you an idea of how windy it was out there.

Next stop - Banff!

We spent two nights at Casa Banff, a B&B just a short walk from downtown, where I was treated to amazing breakfasts of fresh-from-the-oven baked goods and homemade granola. I say "I" because Paul, expecting just a run-of-the-mill continental breakfast, had not thought to forewarn the host of his gluten allergy. She seemed genuinely disappointed that she had not been able to prepare some gluten-free baked goods for him, but was kind enough to whip up Rice Krispie treats for the second morning and insist that he pack some for later in the day.

My only complaint with this B&B concerns their "no shoes in the house" policy of which I was firmly reminded when I accidentally broke the rule almost immediately. While I certainly understand the reasoning behind the policy, it made me feel on edge throughout the visit, not wanting to touch anything unnecessarily lest it get dirty. While well-equipped and very clean, it did not have a "make yourself at home" kind of feel.

We were 3 for 3 in Banff with fantastic meals at Nourish, a tiny vegetarian restaurant tucked away on the second floor of a small mall; the Balkans, a Greek restaurant at which we enjoyed everything that passed through our lips; and Masala Authentic Indian Cuisine...which is self-explanatory. We highly recommend each of these restaurants if you are fortunate enough to find yourself in Banff someday.

I have to start by saying that Jasper was our favorite location of the trip. Most visitors do not venture past the Banff/Lake Louise area and have no idea of the beauty they are missing. However, it is because of their absence (in other words, the smaller crowds and less commercial atmosphere), that Jasper was so much more attractive to us, and so part of me appreciates people's unwillingness to drive the extra 3 hours.

On our one full day in the Banff area, we spent a short while at Moraine Lake which was highly recommended by many as simply spectacular. However, having spent time at Peyto and Bow Lakes earlier in our trip, we found that Moraine Lake, though lovely, paled in comparison.

However, we did have a fantastic day on the Plain of the Six Glaciers Teahouse Hike at Lake Louse. I was finally feeling recovered from all of the mountain climbing we did in Jasper and was raring to go.

We started the hike at the beautiful Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel amidst hundreds of other tourists milling around and taking photos. The first 1/2 mile of our trek was on a paved path that took us to the far side of Lake Louise and was packed with people. As we crossed onto dirt and began to climb, the crowd thinned somewhat, but never as much as we had anticipated. It was wonderful to see so many people showing an appreciation for the trails, as well as the endurance for a 9-mile round trip hike. However, the constant company did take away from the quiet and solitude usually offered by trails.

As you may have inferred from the name of the hike, our destination was a teahouse. Yes, an actual teahouse in the middle of mountain trail. They stock up at the beginning of the season with the help of a helicopter and then supplement supplies by having employees pack in items when they hike up each week for their 5-day shift on the mountain.

This fully-operational restaurant was quite impressive considering the lack of electricity and reliance on propane stoves. Their menu features soup, sandwiches and pies, but we settled on hummus with tortilla chips and a peach-ade drink which came, understandably, lukewarm and without ice. It was all quite delicious!

As suggested by our B&B host, we continued past the teahouse about 1 mile until we came to the very end of the trail and a spectacular lookout from which we saw a stone hut perched at the top of a nearby glacier. We later discovered that it was possible to hike to and spend the night at this rustic hut. Paul, of course, thought this was fantastic and wished we had known about it beforehand, so that we could have added it to our itinerary. I, on the other hand, am grateful for our ignorance on the matter. I have no idea how you would get to the hut, but am fairly certain that it would involve walking on a glacier.

We hiked back down the trail and, as we neared the hotel, I had a moment of panic when I saw a dead body lying half in the bushes and half in the path. Then I noticed that a hat was neatly folded under the head of the body and realized that it was actually an alive, yet sleeping, man. Mind you, there were hundreds of people walking this path - not a great place for a nap.

Check out some photos of wildlife below and stay tuned for the Fernie, BC and wedding report. Also, click here to see all of Paul's photos from the trip.


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