Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I Eat. I Sleep. I Train.

Well, yeah, I also homeschool, shuttle my kids around to various activies, attempt to cook meals and keep the house clean (it's much harder to cook when you're always hungry, however) and keep a few minutes a day to connect with my hubby, but all extraneous activities have gone by the wayside. Forget renting movies because I fall asleep before watching them. Books? Haven't cracked one in a month or more (and that's an anomaly for me). Internet use is down to a few minutes here and there. I am loving this whole Ironman process, but I'm realizing that it's a sport for people who don't want to do anything else, and that's just not me. So while it is fun right now, and I can't wait for race day, I also can't wait for the day when my six year old doesn't have to say "Mom, you're going biking again???" as I head out the door, and I don't have to squeeze in a run while the kids are in their robotics team meeting, I can just hang out with them again and enjoy. And maybe pick up a novel or two...

Friday, September 22, 2006

The "Day Off" aka God I Must Love This Dog

Like every good athlete who doesn't want her joints and ligaments to tear themselves to shreds, I take at least one day off every week so that my muscles and stuff can recuperate. This week, a friend and I took our kids hiking to one of our favorite lakes, and as I have on every hike before, I brought my wonderful and faithful dog, Sabre. Except that Sabre is no spring chicken anymore, he's 13 1/2 years old, which in big dog years is very very old. About 95 I guess in people years. Although last year, he hiked with us just fine, now he can hobble about 1/2 mile down the trail and then he's just done.

So I did what any dog-loving nut would do, I decided to bring my Burley stroller, and when the old pup pooped out, I thought, I'd just push him along. That was the plan anyway. As it turned out, I took a slightly different trail than the one we usually take, because it looked flatter and less rocky. Which it was, except that it was also about a mile and a half longer! And while I was busy going on this trail, my friend and the kids backtracked to take our usual route. Except that they got lost and when I got to the peninsula where the kids like to play, they weren't there. Which meant that I more or less sprinted back to the parking lot, insanely pushing my dog over roots and rocks in the stroller. At 6000+ feet of elevation! And when they weren't at the parking lot, I pushed him back. Finally, we met up at the appointed spot.

Yep, my day off. Pushing a dog in a stroller for 5 miles on a bumpy trail at over a mile of elevation. Phew. Now I'm really ready for a day off! I might be tired, but they just don't make dogs better than this one.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Things I Didn't Need to Know (But Am Glad I Do)

Who knew that they made organic toaster pastries?? These things are awesome for long bike rides. Organic whole grain flour and organic real fruit filling, but they taste like those yummy Pop-Tarts of youth gone by. Now that's nirvana!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

One Hundred Miles Down Memory Lane

My longest bike ride in over a decade was yesterday - 100 miles! About thirty miles of it was on this gorgeous bike path that skirts a lake, one of the many Rails to Trails conversions that have turned old, unused railroad lines into wonderful paths for biking and walking. As I was riding along, enjoying the amazing vistas out over the lake to the mountains beyond, I was struck by the fact that I had taken a train ride here on these tracks when I was a kid.

I thought back to that younger me, and pictured myself riding along in the railroad car, looking out at the scenery rolling past. That 11-year-old me in the train car was chubby, spectacularly uncoordinated, and the least likely person to become an athlete in my grade school class (I finished dead last in the 400 meter walk/run that year, if I remember correctly). I could not have predicted that almost 30 years later, I would be powering my bicycle along the path of those rail lines, mucles working smoothly together to travel over 100 miles under my own steam (don't you love how many of our cultural idioms still come from the time when the world was powered by steam?).

As a side note, several wonderful movies were filmed along this rail line, notably at the trestle that used to cross the river before it was dammed to form the reservoir that is now there. Here's an article about the filming of Buster Keaton's The General, in which a real steam locomotive was crashed off of the trestle (no CGI or special effects, they had only one take to do it in). The 1986 movie Stand By Me (rent this if you've never seen it, it's excellent) was filmed there as well. Here's one bridge that was in the movie, and here's a photo of it as a trail today. Emperor Of the North with Ernest Borginine was also filmed on this railroad line.

All of this proved a most welcome distraction from a pretty difficult ride. I think my legs are still recovering from last week's race, although I was able to ride two of the main big hills on my route staying seated, when just a few weeks ago I had to stand up to make it up and over. I love seeing all the incremental improvements that a body makes when it keeps adjusting to increased distances!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Who Knew??

I've been looking over my heart rate data for the race last weekend. Not having had a heart rate monitor ever before, I've never seen just exactly what a heart does in those kind of circumstances. Who knew that you could keep your heartrate about 160 for 2.5 hours!!! You'd think it would blow up or something. It's really pretty amazing. I know I'm supposed to be getting all technical about it, but I find myself using the monitor more like a fun toy. Hey look! My heart is beating! Amazing.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Ironman Stress Dream #2

I am taking my bike to the transition area (for some reason, it is race day morning) when I realize that I haven't put the pedals on yet. They're not in my race bag, nowhere to be found. So I go back and look in the car for them. The car is full to the roof with our camping gear, however. I am still frantically plowing through sleeping bags and flashlights when I wake up...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

So Much For a "Practice Race"

I don't know how people do that "Practice Race" thing anyways. All the books and articles say that as you move toward your "A" race, you should do several practice races. Supposedly, you just "train through" these races and don't go as hard. I just don't seem to be able to do that. This does not bode well for the Ironman, I'm afraid. I need to figure out how not to let all the energy and excitement and all those swimming arms and zooming bikes go straight to my adrenaline glands.

On the bright side, I did the Black Hills Triathlon in Washington last weekend. It's one of my all-time favorite races, one of the oldest in the Northwest (this was the 27th year), and it's just a beautiful race. It's especially good for strong cyclists because it has a long bike relative to the swim and run (distances are 3/4 m. S, 30 m. bike, and 5 m. run.). It's also great for not-so-strong runners like me, because all of the run is on trails through the forest. The beautiful scenery is a terrific distraction, and all the ups and downs and rocks and roots means that those jackrabbit-fast runners can't get quite such a leg up on me.

Overall, I had a really strong race, placing first in my age division, and 3rd woman overall, with the 2nd fastest woman's bike time (remember I said I couldn't keep myself from over-amping and going fast!). I think I beat my old bike time by 4 or 5 minutes (I've been doing this race every couple of years for 16 years now). It rained the night before, and it was windy on the course, very similar to the omnipresent headwind that we often get in my area (all the valleys and hills make the winds swirl, so just when you think you'll be getting a tailwind, you don't!)

I had the worst swim I'd ever had in a triathlon though. One of the bouys was right in the sun, and by unfortunate coincidence, there was a swim area in the lake on the left, also with bouys. So I ended up headed toward the wrong bouy and found myself in the swim area. I heard several folks talking about this after the race, so I guess I'm not the only misguided swimmer to end up over there. But it blew my swim time, which is usually my strongest, and by the time I was out of the water, there were several women from my wave/age group out ahead of me.

The bike course ended up being my saving grace though, because with all the miles in for Ironman, I had strong bike race. By the time I neared the end, the course marshalls told me there were only two women ahead of me (from my wave and the waves in front of me). I managed to pass one of them in the run (a first for me! people are usually passing me on the run), and one woman from behind me passed me, leaving me still in 3rd at the end.

All in all, the strongest finish I've ever had on this course, and a good race. Just not a "practice race".

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Ninety miles. Ninety degrees. Ninety hills

Well, maybe there wasn't really ninety hills, but it sure felt like it by the end!! I don't know how I managed to forget exactly how many hills were on those last few roads I took. I rode part of that route three years ago, surely the hills haven't grown since then?

Seriously though, it was a beautiful ride. It's a blessing to be able to ride here in this most lovely corner of the world. I started out rambling through some rolling hills in the foothills of the Cascades. All felt well, it was cool and breezy and the forest smelled refreshingly sweet with the morning dew. The first big hill, one I go up regularly, I just cruised up (usually I have to start standing and huffing and puffing halfway up). A good omen.

About 35 miles in, I turned away from the forest and headed west across the Willamette Valley. Into the wind. Of course. A few more hills along the way and then I was out into the flatlands of the valley. I took some new backroads, past fields of mint, head-high corn, and hay waiting to be baled. At about mile 45, there was a standoff with a great horned ram of some variety of extremely curly-haired sheep. I wish I had my camera (and some good Western showdown-at-main-street music for the background). Fortunately, as I had no intention of slowing down, he ambled off to the side of the road.

On the other side of the valley, it was starting to heat up. I called my support crew (aka husband and kids) and put them on standby to head out to meet me (I just love not always having to bike in loops or turn around and come back the way I went out). Now the hills started getting big again, and numerous. I was in the foothills of the Coast Range now, and I stair-stepped up and over one big one and then rolled down into Oregon wine country. If I had been a little less hot, I would've appreciated the scenery more. A few trees were dropping golden leaves around me as I wove around the hills, but there was scant shade out on the blacktop. My heartrate pushed over 150 and wouldn't drop back down, even on the flats.

Finally, at 89.5 miles, my crew rolled up in the minivan. I told them to park a half a mile down the road and I'd meet them. Then I ran for a mile or so, just to feel how wonderful the first mile of the Ironman will feel (ha ha). Actually, not too bad! That was encouraging after the heat and the hills.

I wound down the afternoon by hiking up a local peak with my hubby and the kids. A run the next morning revealed very little soreness and tiredness, so I'm thinking that I might actually be close to ready to do this Ironman thang after all.