Nathan Tri Race Report 
Friday, October 2, 2009, 10:59 PM
Posted by Administrator
After 14 months without doing a single triathlon, I recently completed three in three months...and just signed up for another. This past Saturday, I raced the sprint distance of the Nathan Triathlon while Paul opted for the Olympic.

We drove up to Tempe on Saturday for packet pick-up and the mandatory bike check-in which, I have to say, I rather appreciated. The fewer things I have to think about on race morning, the better.

At the expo, I, along with all female competitors, received a high-quality technical shirt in the most God-awful color of...I don't know, dark tan? Whatever you call it, this sad color does not flatter any skin tone. Fortunately, the sponsors made up for the unappealing shirt with some impressive schwag. This packet was, hands down, the most bountiful I have received at a race.

After checking out the expo, chatting up some Tri Girls and picking up Paul's new XOOD race top (as he is now a proud member of the XOOD racing team), we drove less than 1/2-mile to the Marriott Courtyard. This hotel's location makes it perfect for events at Tempe Town Lake and I highly recommend it for anyone racing SOMA or IMAZ.

We took a few minutes to organize our race gear and then walked to Phoenicia Cafe for an early dinner which included some out-of-this-world Baba Ganoush. Paul's gluten allergy prohibits us from partaking in the traditional pre-race pasta fest. But really, doesn't this look so much more appealing than a plate of spaghetti?

At 5:45 the next morning, we reunited with our pre-racked bikes and had 30 minutes for race prep before the transition area closed.

While I respect the need to clear transition for racers going through T1, I don't understand why it needs to be cleared a full 15 minutes before the first swim wave even departs. Everyone knows that a last-minute, pre-race potty stop is vital to every successful race. The early closing of transition doesn't take into account the need to ditch your flip flops at your transition area after taking care of business.

With no other options, I set hygiene and my better judgment aside and ventured into a porta-potty barefoot. I convinced myself that since everyone else was barefoot, then they would be extra careful and clean in there. Right?

The swim was divided into 10 waves by race distance, gender and age. It was all very orderly with waves started every 4 minutes and were differentiated by colored swim caps. I looked for the orange caps signifying swim wave #4 and joined my fellow female sprint racers ages 35 and up, including Tri Girls Shannan and Angie.

I was prepared for the worst, but must admit that Tempe Town Lake was not nearly as foul as I had anticipated. And, after finding my own space and rhythm, I actually began to enjoy myself. If you can get past the initial terror, open water swimming is surprisingly fun.

Sighting was difficult as we were swimming into the sun, but I felt on track...right up until I almost swam into a kayak and realized that the course was way over to my right. On the bright side, being off-course kept me out of the path of the next wave of swimmers, the Olympic distance pros, as they caught up to and bulldozed over many of my fellow orange caps.

After the turnaround, sighting was easier and I picked it up a little as I weaved my way through the carnage of breast-stroking and kayak-clinging red and blue caps from the first two waves.

I felt really great throughout my swim and so, after getting up the stairs and onto dry land, was dismayed to see 28:33 on my watch. I had been expecting something in the low 20's. How could that be?

I had a difficult time getting into a groove on the bike, possibly because there were a few turns on the "new and improved" course. 15 to be exact. 3 of which were U-turns. Double that for the Olympic racers. I shudder to think of what the old course was like.

While slowing things down, the turns certainly kept the ride interesting and allowed me look for friends who were also racing and cheer them on. According to Paul, this means I wasn't pushing nearly hard enough.

I felt somewhat lost when I realized that technology had failed me - my heartrate monitor had not been picking up my heartrate at all during the race. Without the hard data, I tried to just go by feel, but, at the first mile marker, realized that I wasn't doing a very good job. 10:33 - too slow. I picked it up and brought my pace down to a respectable 9:30 for the rest of the run.

There were two very motivating factors during my run, aside, of course, from the very obvious and always present motivator of being able to stop running once I reach the finish line. The first was Randy Accetta whose voice was in my head, reminding me of advice he had shared at the previous weekend's tri camp. "Focus on your arms. Bam. Bam. Bam." The "Bam. Bam. Bam." followed me for most of the 5K which was both motivating and irritating. As I crossed the last bridge, there was Randy again. "Don't give in to pity form!"

The second motivating factor was searching for and passing women in my age group. Body marking, specifically the age on the calf, is a wonderful thing. I managed to pass four of my competitors on this leg.

Just minutes after finishing, I got to cheer on Angie as she completed her very first tri, followed shortly by Shannan. Go Tri Girls!

I snapped photos of Paul, Robin and Kathy as they began their second laps of the run course and I really felt for them. The temperature was rising rapidly on its way to a high of 105 degrees.

While waiting for Paul to finish, I took in as much fluid as my tummy could handle along with some bananas. I also discovered that animal crackers, being one of the world's driest foods, are a terrible post-race snack. They are almost impossible to swallow when you are parched.

Paul finished strong with a time of 2:32:34, although his first comment after catching his breath was that he was really frustrated with his swim time. For the past month, he's been more dedicated to swimming than ever before and yet his time was just plain slow.

Everyone we talked with after the race seemed to have the same disappointing swim experience which began to cause speculation that the course was long. The following morning, I emailed the race organizer who confirmed that, yes indeed, the swim course had been incorrectly marked. Sprint racers swam an extra 150 meters, while the Olympic folks swam an extra 300.

We didn't leave Nathans empty-handed as Paul wrapped up second place in his age group! We celebrated over Picazzo's gluten-free pizza on the way home.

Overall Time: 1:51:50
Age Group Placing: 40 / 62

Swim: 29:21 (note that this time is different from that on my watch because they had the timing mat at the transition entrance rather than the top of the stairs.)
Age Group Placing: 49 / 62

T1: 2:04

Bike: 47:41
Age Group Placing: 44 / 62

T2: 2:07

Run: 30:31
Age Group Placing: 29 / 62
add comment ( 7 views )   |  0 trackbacks   |  permalink

Catching Up 
Saturday, September 26, 2009, 01:29 PM
Posted by Administrator
I've been rather neglectful of my blog lately, but with good reason. Read on...

September 6 - 7

While most Americans were enjoying Labor Day with backyard BBQs or long-weekend road trips, I (along with MDA employees across the country) was working my tail off at the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. No, I have not met Jerry Lewis.

September 11
Paul and I took the day of off work to go camping at Rose Canyon Lake on Mt. Lemmon. Paul opted to bike up the mountain and, upon arriving at the campground, was surprised to discover that there was no shower. It's camping...I assumed he knew.

September 12
After a long night of intermittent sleep (apparently, 2-man tents are not made for 2 adults and 3 dogs), Mileo collapsed and was unresponsive. We threw everyone into the car for a tense drive down the mountain to the emergency vet.

September 13 - 15
Blood tests ($), x-rays ($$), ultra sounds ($$$) and, finally, surgery ($$$$) to remove Mielo's spleen along with the large, nasty-looking mass inside it. All signs point to hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive cancer. Mielo has 6 months to live - at best. Paul and I are devastated. The tears flow. Mielo gets spoiled rotten - chicken and rice for dinner, no more teeth brushing (for him, not us), our mattress gets moved to the floor to make it easier for him to sleep with us.

September 17
Everything changes in an instant. The vet calls with the amazing news that the mass is just a hematoma. Mielo is cancer-free! There is much celebrating at the Vyriotes house. We begin brushing Mielo's teeth again and easing him back onto the kibble diet. I'm sure he's confused by this sudden fall from rock star status.

September 18 - 19
I spend the entire weekend swimming, biking and running with a kick-ass group of women at the annual Tucson Tri Girls Tri Camp. There was also a boot camp session, flip turn clinic (still working on that), foam roller class, pilates, a mini tri and all of the bagels and XOOD you could handle. It was a fun, educational, motivating and exhausting weekend.

add comment ( 32 views )   |  0 trackbacks   |  permalink

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.

add comment ( 21 views )   |  0 trackbacks   |  permalink

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.

2 comments ( 69 views )   |  0 trackbacks   |  permalink

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.

3 comments ( 70 views )   |  0 trackbacks   |  permalink

<< <Back | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | Next> >>