Amica Tri Race Report 
Sunday, November 1, 2009, 09:50 PM
Posted by Administrator

This photo says it all. You know you're in for a tough day when the first major climb of the race comes before T1.

We drove to Carefree yesterday afternoon to pick up our Amica Sprint Triathlon race packets and get body-marked. Pre-marking seemed like a fantastic idea until we woke up the next morning with smudged numbers on our bodies and black marks on the hotel sheets. A little bleach will take care of that, right? For the record, the Homewood Suites North - Happy Valley was a fantastic place to stay. It was a 30-minute drive to Lake Pleasant, the race site, and cost $90 for a great suite with a kitchenette.

We were up at 5:00 a.m. (thanks to the hotel wake-up call and no thanks to Paul's IPhone that was set to the wrong time zone and "fell back" an hour along with most of the country) and pulled into the race parking lot around 6:45. Note to Amica - more signage would be helpful to the participants and appreciated by the very nice park fee collector who had to give directions to us, as well the long line of bike rack laden cars behind us, after we all took a wrong turn.

In theory, we had plenty of time to set up our transition area before the 7:45 a.m. transition closure. However, the matter of some missing socks left me running back to the car in a mildly panicked state. I then hurriedly slapped on some sunblock and squeezed myself into my wetsuit just before they began threatening time penalties to anyone still loitering in transition. On the bright side, I found fellow Tri Girls Mae Lee and Kandy racked nearby.

Rumor has it that the water was 68 degrees, a little warmer than had been anticipated. It felt just fine with the wetsuit, although putting my face in was a shock. It had been about 18 months since my last wetsuit swim and it took me until the first buoy to really feel comfortable. The suit certainly helps with flotation, but I feel like my arms are working overtime when I wear it.

Kandy and I exited the water together and I was happy for the company for the walk up the insanely steep boat ramp. I also appreciated the surprisingly enthusiastic cheers of some spectators, and then realized that it was a Team in Training support crew reacting to the Team in Training logo on my wetsuit that I bought secondhand. A small part of me felt like an impostor. But a larger part of me appreciated the cheers.

In a word, the bike course was hilly. At 17 miles, it was also longer than your typical sprint bike distance. Using my power meter, I had a number I was shooting for on the uphills and then just hammered as hard as I could on the downs. My chain was acting up and I dropped it once, but the bike was otherwise uneventful. My nutrition went better than usual as, after listening to Sal Tirrito's nutrition talk at yesterday's expo, I made a concerted effort to take in a good amount of XOOD. In Sal's words, "Recovery starts as soon as your workout starts." Also, I tried Robin's trick of sticking Cliff Shots to my top tube for easy access, allowing me to take in calories without risk of embarrassment or bodily harm. I'm not proficient at riding one-handed while using the other to deal with food packaging.

There was an out-and-back portion that we did twice and so I got to see Paul, Kandy and Mae Lee a few times. Paul was clearly WAY ahead of me and Mae Lee cruised by me toward the end of the bike, looking fantastic.

After the endless hills, I was thrilled to be off of the bike and on to the run, my strongest of the three disciplines (yet still rather mediocre). However, I quickly realized that the 5K run course was going to be just as challenging as the bike had been. Flat ground was no where in sight. I tried to keep my heartrate in the mid-160's, which meant walking some of the steeper hills. I commiserated with Mae Lee as I caught up to her and, later, appreciated the older man who said, in a very soft, serious voice, "Run hard, young lady."

The road turned to dirt and I knew the turnaround was near. Seeing a short, steep hill in front of me, I assumed the halfway point of the run was at the top. No such luck. Upon cresting the hill, I was incredulous to see the turnaround at the bottom of a steep decline. The run down was great - the coming back up sucked.

I was pleased to pass a number of people on the run and, thanks to my good bike nutrition, I felt good at the finish. However, this honeymoon period passed quickly and was replaced by light-headedness and nausea. Walking briefly, slamming a cup of XOOD, and sitting in the shade brought me back to life. My legs were toast, but I was no longer in danger of passing out or vomiting.

We stayed for the awards as most of the XOOD team members ended up on the podium, including Paul who took 3rd place in his age group. One of the more exciting moments of the day was when I went up to accept an award. Unfortunately, it was not for me, but I was thrilled for Kandy who had taken 3rd in her age group, an honor she, apparently, was not expecting as she was packing up her stuff in transition when it was announced. Congratulations Kandy!

This event was the championship race of a new national series presented by Amica Insurance. Here's what they did well:
- Easy parking
- Friendly and encouraging volunteers
- Clear lake (a nice change from Tempe and Sahuarita)
- Closed course on a well-maintained road
- Fantastic race announcer
- Nice medals

And some areas for improvement:
- Expo was a little sad with only a handful of vendors and was also too far off-the-beaten path. I would have preferred an expo and host hotel in north Phoenix.
- Course is not spectator friendly - your cheering section has to stay near transition.
- Better directions to the race site are needed as Lake Pleasant has multiple points of entry and boat ramps.
- Directional instruction on the course was also lacking in areas. Here I am nearing the finish, confused by the line of cones that appeared with no explanation. Which way do I go?

- A better race timing system is needed. Many of the times announced during awards were not quite right. Also, 10 hours after the race has concluded, the results page of the website still says, "Results will be posted immediately following the Championship." Immediately? Amica needs to learn the principal of "under promise, over deliver." (I think I finished around 2:15.)

Though not perfect, a day spent racing is a day well spent. It's been a great tri season for us and we're ready to move on to half marathon training!

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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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