No. AZ Road Trip: Day 1 – Tucson to Holbrook 
Wednesday, November 25, 2009, 10:06 AM
Posted by Administrator
Determined to stick to my half marathon training plan, I made time for a 10-miler before beginning our adventure. I found that a long workout eases the guilt of spending the rest of the day on your ass. I also learned that a long car ride does nothing to ease the stiffness caused by a 10-miler. Even with compression socks.

We avoided the dreaded I-10, instead opting for the scenic route through Oracle and the dusty little towns north of it. In the spirit of adventure, we stopped in Globe to check out “the world’s tallest 3 story building” as touted by our guidebook. While I wouldn’t recommend going too far out of your way to visit this landmark, it did show me that there is more to Globe than the gas station I always stop at for a potty break en route to the White Mountains.

We took a break in Show Low for dinner at Addi J’s, a newer restaurant advertised as offering modern, fusion cuisine. We were intrigued by the menu’s listing of the Southwestern Lettuce Wraps, but they turned out to be…odd. Good idea. Bad execution. I might just try my own version at home. We should have known better - Show Low is not known to be a foodie town.

We continued north to the Heward House at Holbrook B & B, a beautifully restored and decorated historic home. After getting settled in our Native American-themed room, we sat down, under the watchful eyes of a large collection of kachinas, for drinks and interesting conversation with our extremely friendly and welcoming, if not always politically correct, hosts.

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Friday, November 20, 2009, 10:00 PM
Posted by Administrator
Tomorrow morning, Paul and I embark on an 8-day, 900-mile road trip adventure! Having lived in Arizona for more than 10 years, we're overdue for a visit to some of our state's most beautiful areas - Canyon de Chelly, Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell.

Our final two days, including Thanksgiving, will be spent in Sedona, a town to which we have been many times, but to which it is always a pleasure to return.

We're bringing along a laptop and I hope to post reports and photos as we go. Feel free to check in for updates.
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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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