Get Moving Tucson 5K Race Report 
Monday, October 12, 2009, 11:09 AM
Posted by Administrator
It all started last Tuesday when my shoe pod battery died just before my 2-mile tempo run. Spoiled by technology, I've become accustomed to simply glancing at my Polar watch to gain all kinds of useful information, including my pace. And so, forced into an old-fashioned workout, I pushed a little beyond my comfort zone, aiming for a 9:15 - 9:30 pace, and tried to hold it for the distance. Imagine my surprise when I finished in 17 minutes. That's an 8:30 pace for those of you who are keeping track...and I was.

Earlier this year, I struggled to break 30 minutes for the 5K, and yet these numbers were telling me that a 27 or 28 minute race was within my grasp - a thought both intriguing and daunting. With my next event, the Get Moving Tucson 5K, less than a week away, curiosity led me to last year's results where I discovered that the woman who placed third in my age group finished in 27:04. Could I actually place?

Here are a few things I learned on race day...

There just might be something to this whole "warm-up" thing.
By Tuscon standards, this event has a relatively late start time of 8:00am. I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself that morning without the rush, rush, rush to get out the door for the typical beat-the-heat, moment-the-sun-rises race start.

We arrived downtown at 7:30am and, with my sights set on a PR, I pulled out all the stops and did a proper warm-up instead of my usual pre-race socializing. Keeping my eyes down to avoid conversation, I actually ran 1.5 miles and threw in three strides. This left me with warm muscles, a calm mind and 5 minutes to find a spot behind the starting line along with 700 other racers, including 397 entered in the 10-mile event.

Taiko drummers rock!
This drumming group has been a motivating presence at local races for the past few years and the new 4th Avenue underpass provided excellent acoustics for their goosebump-inducing sound. I reached them about 1/2 mile into the race, just after the 5K racers parted ways with the 10-milers. I was focused on keeping my pace around 9:00/mile and the drum beat was welcome inspiration.

4th Avenue is not flat.
I reached the 1-mile marker in 9:06 and, around that same time, began the gradual uphill of 4th Avenue. I never noticed this incline back in my single, bar-hopping days, but I can assure that it is, indeed, a hill.

I pushed as much as I could without letting my heart rate get out of control, and was thrilled to reach the turnaround at University and Euclid, as this meant that some downhill was coming my way. As I approached the second mile marker, a look at my watch confirmed that the incline had taken a toll on my pace, but I was pleased to have turned in a respectable 9:19 second mile.

Embarrassment is a powerful motivator.
I was a little concerned about my heart rate as I started the final mile, as I'd never pushed my little ticker so hard for so long. I made a deal with myself that, if I kept it up through the bottom of the 4th Avenue underpass, then I would walk the short hill on the other side. However, upon arriving at the magic spot, with my heart rate maxing at 181, I was dismayed by the normally welcome sight of cheering spectators. While their presence shamed me into running up the hill, I did take a 30 second walk break once I was safely out of their view. Then, with my heart rate back to a sustainable rhythm, I picked it up again for the finish.

What it feels like to leave it all out on the race course.
Painful, yet satisfying. I usually have enough reserves for a pretty good finishing kick, but it was all I could do to just maintain my pace down the final straightaway. Every few minutes throughout the race, I had checked in with myself - am I giving all I can? I did not want to finish with any regrets and, with an average heart rate of 177, I feel confident that I pushed as hard as I could. I was thrilled with my time, a personal record, of 28:40.

Running is always better with friends.
Races are like reunions for me. I caught up with old friends from Better Than Ever, shared support with my Tri Girls teammates, met some of Paul's new XOOD teammates and even ran into an MDA client. For me, there is simply no better way to spend a Sunday morning.

The Official Stats
81 out of 307 overall
5 out of 20 in my age group
Average pace of 9:14

In my little world, these stats are phenomenal. 5th in my age group - holy crap! However, I must inject a little perspective here and acknowledge that the primary reason for my stellar placing was the fact that all of the fast 35 to 39 year old women were running the 10-mile event. But, I'm still proud of my effort and my hard-earned PR. And I'm excited to see how much faster I can go!

I'd like to congratulate SAR on a fantastic event. It was a well-organized race at a fun venue and I love the new partnership with the Tucson Meet Yourself Festival.
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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
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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.

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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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