Bisbee Stair Climb Race Report 
Sunday, October 18, 2009, 06:56 PM
Posted by Administrator
Last weekend's race was all business. Showed up with a goal and left with a PR. Doesn't get much better than that.

This weekend, I once again set and achieved a goal - to have fun and enjoy the morning at the Bisbee Stair Climb. A girl deserves a break, right?

It was a good thing my goal wasn't loftier as I underestimated the driving time to Bisbee and we barely had time to pick up our race packets, visit the porta-potty and squeeze into our corrals before the race began.

Paul started in the first wave with a very manageable number of fast runners. I chose to start in the second wave with, it appeared, almost everyone else. There was a third wave for walkers, but the bulk of the crowd seemed to have self-selected wave 2. This was my sixth time racing here and, while I appreciate the great strides they have made in easing course congestion by introducing the staggered start, I'd like to see them take it one step further and assign racers to a wave.

Regardless of your pace, climbing over 1,000 stairs is a butt-burning, quad-busting, shin-screaming workout. However, in keeping with my goal, I walked each of the nine sets of stairs and, on the road portions, ran at a comfortable pace. It wasn't exactly a stroll in the park, but I felt good enough to share commiserating remarks with the runners around me and to pick it up near the finish to pass two people wearing khaki shorts. I simply cannot bear to be beaten by people who are not wearing proper running attire.

This event has always plagued me with side stitches, but, this year, I was cramp-free. This lack of pain, combined with a decent base of fitness, resulted in a surprisingly good finishing time of 56:58, which is less than one minute off my personal best. I was also pleased to place 15th out of 91 in my age group, although, like last week, this accomplishment has more to do with the weak field than with my running prowess. My overall placing was 433 out of 1337.

Paul is still trying to shake the residual cough and chest congestion from his never-ending cold, but still turned in an impressive time of 37:22 which placed him 32nd overall and 4th out of 54 in his age group.

Post-race, we caught up with our respective TTG and XOOD teammates while enjoying a little people-watching, which is always entertaining in Bisbee.

This was our first year doing this race as a day trip, as opposed to a weekend stay. The 9:00am start time makes is do-able for Tucsonans to drive the 2 hours that morning, but the weekend getaway is far more relaxing.

Before getting back in the car, we did take time to refuel with lunch at the Copper Queen Hotel. And, for Paul, no trip to Bisbee is complete without a shot of espresso from Old Bisbee Roasters.

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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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