Monday, August 31, 2009

Exactly How Much Life Insurance Does He Have Out On Me Anyway??

I live on a hill. Not a big hill (though it seems that way sometimes at the end of a long hot ride when I'm chugging upwards) but a pretty steep one, with a stop sign at the bottom. So when I start off on my daily ride and go bombing down the hill and grab my brakes a few feet from the stop sign to roll gently to a stop, imagine my surprise when my front wheel locks up and my back wheel rises off of the ground and I almost go endo, ass over teakettle.

Yes, dear considerate hubby decided to install new brakes on my bike "for my safety" but neglected to TELL ME.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Because You Needed a Laugh Today

I think this just might be one of the funniest things I've ever seen on the internet. I absolutely hate this song, and my fave radio station in town has one DJ who seems to pull the @#! thing out of the archives every other day. I almost didn't watch this absolutely frakkin' brilliant Literal Video Version of Total Eclipse of the Heart'cuz I didn't want the song to get stuck in my head. But I'm so glad I did. Everyone needs to fall down laughing once in a while. Enjoy!

Friday, August 28, 2009

IronMom to a Teenager

The best thing about being mom to Mackenzie is his infectious smile and laugh. From when he was a really little baby, he had this great big laugh. I just can't believe my little guy is thirteen today.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

So Cool

Boy I missed my regular Crossfit workouts in the taper process! It was fun to get back on the horse today with a workout called "One Minute Pullups". That's 1 pullup in the first minute, 2 in the second, 3 in the 3rd, etc. One of those workouts that seems super easy at first but then gets ridiculously hard. Sometimes its surprising what your limiters turn out to be. Today it was my forearms - not shoulders or arms or back or even my poor blistering hands. Nope, it was the Popeye muscles, those pesky forearms. I bet if I was still riding my old Triumph with the drum brakes I would've had better forearm stamina. I used to have the grip of steel when I was riding that thing everywhere. You couldn't actually stop unless you squeeeezed really hard.

But I digress (so easy to do when you start thinking about old British motorbikes, and isn't mine a beauty??). So anyways, now I'm down to the very last pullup band, the purple one. I can actually do a couple of regular (no band) pullups, but for this workout that wouldn't get me very far so I used the band. Four months ago I tried and COULD NOT DO ONE PULLUP with the purple band. Seriously. Today I did 14 minutes, which adds up to 105 pullups. So today I can only do a couple of regular pullups, what will I be doing in four months?

As for the bike, the kids want me to fix it back up and get a sidecar...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Race Report and CFE Review: Portland Triathlon

First of all, I'd like to state that although I am not superstitious, I lost my lucky triathlon towel this year. It was big and purple and had a cute dolphin with punk rock sunglasses on it and has been to every race with me for 20 years. Well, all but one other. I didn't take it to Ironman Florida because they just have that transition bag system instead of an area. And look what happened there - dislocated toe! Not that I blame anything that happened yesterday on its disappearance, but still...

Second of all, I have to say this up front: PORTLAND TRIATHLON IS AN AWESOME RACE. Seriously, if you're looking for a really fun metropolitan triathlon to do, consider this race. No, just register for it and do it. The course was very challenging (river swim, massively hilly bike course with technical turns) but also very pretty, it was extremely well organized, well marshalled, tons of volunteers, every twist and turn of the course was marked or covered by volunteers or police or both. The run was on a riverside path and crossed two bridges with great views of downtown Portland. You really couldn't pick a better urban race. The post-race BBQ was pretty darn nice to boot, and really, they had FREE BEER and FREE GELATO for athletes. Doesn't get any better than that. My only negative experience with this race is that they failed to close the transition area when they said they would. They shooed all of the athletes out of the transition area and down to the water for the start, but continued to allow latecomers to rack their bikes. This resulted in someone racking their bike RIGHT ON TOP OF my transition area, which made for a pretty infuriating T1 for me. Rest assured that the race directors will be getting an email from me on this point since the rest of the race was such a positive experience.

Thirdly, as anyone who has been reading this blog this summer might already know, this race was my watershed moment to see how well the much-touted "Crossfit Endurance" training program would stack up. You can visit their website to read all about their program, but their main selling point is that you can train for endurance events much more efficiently by training in shorter and more intense sessions instead of in longer endurance-based slower sessions (like the traditional long bike/long run weekend that most triathletes put in). I've been doing only Crossfit Endurance training for the last four months, and have not put in any longer endurance sessions, not adding in anything that was not in their program. I also followed their prescribed taper for this race. Also, I was curious to find out how adding Crossfit training into my regimen might affect my swim, bike, and running abilities.

So that being said, on with the race report... The swim is in the Willamette river, which was about 70 degrees on race morning, and beautiful in the sunrise I might add. The men's wave went first, exactly 3 minutes in front of us women. I don't care for that arrangement because it means I will have to swim through the obstacle course of the men's wave. In fact, it meant I had to pass all but a few of the male swimmers which was a pain in the ass. 5 minutes between waves would've been a lot better methinks. Maybe I'll add that to my email to the race directors, LOL.

When I started out swimming, it just felt so darned good. I started to wonder if maybe the downstream swim start was throwing me off and I was going to end up with a slow swim time. It was hard to figure out pace because I felt like I was flying along, but also didn't feel like I was putting out a whole lot of effort. Still, I could only see one or two red caps (women) near me and the rest of the women's wave was behind me, so it seemed as if I was doing fine. Unfortunately, my goggles got knocked a little off in the start and they kept fogging up. I had so little visibility that I actually had to stop cold and rinse them out several times, which I've never had to do before. I knew that was slowing my swim time down, but it was that or run into a concrete bridge abutment or one of the 200 male swimmers in my path or something. Turning around at the buoys and heading back upstream didn't seem to slow me down noticeably, and that felt great. Hubby said I looked like a shark cutting through schools of fish, my red cap swimming around the herds of silver caps in front of me. The end of the swim was at a dock and there was a traffic jam of men crawling up the netting that we were supposed to use to haul ourselves out. Also a slight disadvantage to the faster women's swimmers as the fast men didn't have to worry about slower people in front of them. Still, all in all even with the goggles and treading water waiting for my turn to get out, I had a killer swim time: 21:58. 10th fastest overall swimmer (male or female or relay) YAH! I'm going to chalk this one up to Crossfit because my swim times in the pool have been getting noticeably faster with every pull-up-and-push-press-laden Crossfit workout I've been doing.

Into T1, I mentioned before that some lame-ass latecomer racked his bike right on top of my transition area. I couldn't easily get to my stuff, and my bike was totally stuck behind his, which was also wedged against the triathlete to my left, leaving both of us struggling with locked handlebars trying to escape T1. 2:22 for T1 was slower than it needed to be.

Onto the bike, I've been doing some of my CFE intervals on hills to prepare, but looking at the course profile was a bit daunting with that 2100+ feet of elevation gain. Still, it didn't seem all that bad once I got out on the course. Most of it was a long gradual climb, and then there was one steepish bit towards the end. I felt pretty darned good on the first round, which took me 26:19 to finish. That seemed like a good pace, felt very much within my usual Oly comfort zone, and would put me under 1:20 for the bike course which was what I was aiming for. I zoomed down the back side of the hill, and into the U-turn for the 2nd loop. This is a great course for spectators with a 3-loop bike and a 2-loop run, and hubby was cheering loudly right before the turn-around which really got me smiling. The 2nd loop breezed by because now I wasn't worried about it, 26:48 was the pace for that one and I was soon watching hubby cheering again. By the time I hit the 3rd loop, the course was getting more crowded with folks from the sprint race all hitting the bike course.

This last loop on the bike was also when I noticed that now that I was about 90 minutes into the race, I was slowing down considerably. I just couldn't seem to get any steam on that last loop, which for me is unusual. I'm usually an endurance specialist. Not particularly quick in the short run, but generally the longer I go, the better I feel. This race was starting to not play out that way, and I could feel that my snap was going. It was a really odd and new feeling and I didn't think I liked it. More and more women were passing me on the bike (this is unusual, usually it's maybe one or two total!). Last bike loop took me over 30 minutes, way slower than the first two, for a total bike time of 1:23:30.

Still, steaming downhill into that last u-turn was great fun, knowing that the big hills of the bike course were behind me and all I had left to do was the run. Normally, the run in an Oly race is pretty fun for me. It seems like I usually run my best after an hour or so on the bike to warm up, and this run course was flat, scenic, and the temperature was balmy and pleasant. After wrestling my bike onto the rack (strangely, there was now a different bike racked right over my transition area!) I was out of the chute and onto the course. About halfway through mile one, it became apparent that this wasn't going to be the race I had hoped for. I just had nothing left at all. It was the weirdest feeling, like running out of gas in a car. Hubby saw me after the first loop and knew I was just having a really tough time of it. The 2nd loop was more or less a death march, just couldn't get going Not really able to even enjoy the scenery. Final run time: 57 minutes, about 5 - 6 minutes slower than I should've been.

So, bottom line report card on the training protocol I've been following: I think I have gained a lot of strength and power, and I could really feel it on the swim and in the fact that the big hills on the bike seemed pretty easy, despite not putting in a lot of mileage on hills like I've done in years past. I felt that I really came up short in endurance though, and for me at least I feel like I can definitively say that short intense training does not train my body in the same way as endurance training. I don't think I would follow this protocol for anything longer than a sprint triathlon. While it might be a fine way to train for someone with limited time who just wants to complete a race, I don't think it gives enough endurance to be able to be competitive. Case in point, this is the first race shorter than Iron distance that I haven't placed in my age group in many years. It was actually kind of humbling to go through that, and probably good for me in many ways. At the very least, it told me something about the way I've trained this year and the way I've trained in years past. I can take the good parts from this year and move forwards, and chalk the rest up to experience.

Swim: 21:58
T1: 2:22
Bike: 1:23:30
T2: 1:28
Run: :57:03

Total: 2:46:21

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Athlete's Garden

As I said in a previous post, I'm thinking a lot more lately about the ways in which optimal health is all tied together. Health for the community, health for the environment, health for the human body. For instance, if we walk more places, we see more of our neighbors, we shop more locally, we strengthen our local ties, we don't use fossil fuels, we increase the health of our air and our environment and the health of our body.

My Crossfit coach Jeremy passed on this interesting article about food shopping by Robb Wolf. If you're not familiar with Robb Wolf, you'll find he's a very opinionated wealth of information about the type of eating that many Crossfit athletes are embracing - a hybrid merging of Barry Sears' Zone Diet (tailored toward athletes and not toward caloric reduction or dieting) and an athletically-oriented paleolithic diet.

For me, this kind of eating dovetails very nicely with a community-oriented, earth-friendly, locavore kind of lifestyle. After all, a processed protein bar is synthesized from dozens of ingredients trucked to a factory in god-knows-where and merged into a shrink-wrapped blob which is then put into a box of other shrink-wrapped blobs to be trucked to your Costco where you will probably drive with a car to buy it. Not local, not community-strengthening, not environmentally friendly (even if some like Clif bars ARE made out of organic ingredients, they still have all the downsides described above) and not all that good for you either.

By contrast, a 4 oz. piece of locally-raised chicken breast coupled with some lettuce, a cucumber, and a few tomatoes from your garden, topped off with yogurt made from milk by some local cows and some blueberries you picked on Saturday, now that's a bit of protein, carbs, and fats that are totally good for you, good for your local community and farmers, and infinitely better for the larger earth around you as well. Now I'll grant you that it's harder to take with you in the back pocket of your cycling jersey. But I've found that I really don't need to have portable protein for anything under about 2 hours of riding or running. A lot of the time that we rely on protein bars it's for a quick before or after exercise snack (at least that's what I used to do) and I'm getting better now at making sure I have some raw almonds and dried fruit available for when I need something less messy than a salad or a handful of strawberries.

While I think Robb Wolf's article about how to shop is great, I'd go one step further. Plant an Athlete's Garden if you can. If you don't have a garden spot, a few buckets or containers will do. Throw in some dirt, some lettuce seeds, a couple of cucumber seeds or a tomato start. If you don't like those options, research what foods you do like and find ones that are easy to grow ih your area. Every climate has plants that tend to do really well there and others that are hard to grow. For instance, after several years I've given up hope of growing a decent melon in my own garden, they just don't do that well here. But I've got 7 blueberry bushes now that are doing just great and my tomatoes are busting off of the vines (I've picked 34 POUNDS so far and they're still producing!). Additionally, if you have any landscaping at all, consider gradually replacing it with foodscaping. There are evergreen berry bushes that make a nice replacement for landscaping shrubs - blueberries, huckleberries, and these nice ground-cover raspberries are just a few. Fruit and nut trees are a great replacement for just-for-show trees as well.

Believe me, I'm the world's worst green thumb, so if I can grow food from plants, anyone can!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

One Nice Thing

100 Degrees outside today (went for a bike ride yesterday at 2:00, almost melted), but projected 81 for race day. Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhh

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Seven Days Away

It all comes to a head this week at the

Almost six months of Crossfit training, four months of Crossfit Endurance programming and a lot of unanswered questions about how it will all turn out.

Here's my pre-race update:

I'm feeling like my strength and power are greatly increased. I've done some hills on the bike recently that used to seem tough that look like tamed lions now. My leg strength is definitely dramatically increased, and it's really starting to show up in my swim stroke as well. I did an interval workout last week with a friend and easily held alternating 1:15 and 1:20 pace per 100 without too much effort. People have asked me what my secret weapon is, and there's no doubt in my mind that I owe all newfound power to Crossfit. It's definitely a program I would recommend to triathletes looking for all-around total body strength and core conditioning, not to mention to anyone at all looking to get more fit over a broad range of conditions.

Endurance, I'm not so sure about. I am still not feeling like I have a handle on how well I'll be able to last through a 2.5 hour race. I ran a 10k this week at about 85% effort and to be honest it kind of sucked. On the other hand, I usually run better off the bike (emphasis on usually) and usually the longer the race, the better I feel. We'll see if that still holds true.

Taper: I only did two Crossfit workouts last week and none this week, and I'm tapering the Crossfit Endurance workouts this week. I'll do some transition work this week too.

The course:

That's one of three loops on the bike, each of which gains close to 700 feet. I'd be lying if I didn't say I was just a teensy eensy bit worried. Normally, I'm good on flat courses, great on flat windy courses or rolling hills where power works for me and weight doesn't work against me. But the bigger and steeper the hills, the less advantage I have. I don't really know how to predict my times on this course, what with the current on the swim in the river and the hills on the bike.

Looking at times from people I know who have done the course (and who I've done other courses with, so I can get a relative triangulation on what times I might do), I'm going to say I would normally (with my normal training and speed that is) be able to do:

Swim: 23:00 - 25:00 (giving myself a little extra due to current from the river)
T1: 00:2 (Swim and T1 times seem to be long from previous results)
Bike: 1:20 - 1:25 (I'm giving myself 10 - 15 minutes over my usual Oly distance time)
T2: 00:1
Run: :52

Total: 2:38 - 2:45

I have no idea if I'll be on this time, faster than it, or slower than it. It will probably come down to whether my extra power on hills will give me a faster bike time, and whether or not my endurance is compromised and my run time will be slower than usual, or not. My last Oly run time was :50, but I haven't come anywhere near that in workouts in the last few weeks. So it's all up in the air. I'll probably be very nervous this week, so keep your fingers crossed for me that all goes well on race day!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Why I Hate Bike Shorts

First of all, you can't fold them. Those stupid big padded parts just make it impossible. They're like those sheets with elastic on the corners. Sure, Martha Stewart can fold them, but for the rest of us mortals they are just one big pain on the closet shelf. Mine are always sliding off the shelf - combination of slick material and unwieldy padded assymetrically-folded piece of clothing.

Secondly of course is that you can't walk around in them. Ever try going into a mini-mart on a long ride wearing some extremely padded shorts? 'Nuff said.

Thirdly, they seem to only come in black. Sometimes this is for a very good reason. But couldn't they just make colored pairs out of thicker material? I do have one well-worn pair of Pearl Izumis in bright purple that have been so beloved they're now threadbare and relegated to the "indoor trainer only" stack. They're like the Velveteen Rabbit of my cycling short collection, at 14 years old and still not totally worn out.

So these days I've fallen in love with tri shorts. You know, the things that have almost no padding at all and seem like they'd be way less comfortable than the ones with the big ol' pad. As it turns out, they're way more comfortable, even on long rides, at least as far as I'm concerned. I bought one pair of Tyrs which never fit right, and one pair of Orcas that I adore and are my current short of choice.

The best thing about bike shorts? They might be the one piece of clothing that looks signifigantly worse on fashion models than it does on us muscular types:

I mean, once you're used to seeing them on cyclists and triathletes' legs, this just looks appalling, no?!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Workin' It Out On the Road

Our family is still up here in Washington, we came up for a family reunion and especially to be with hubby's brother who is still deeply grieving. Although the sadness is there, there's also the joy of seeing family and getting to spend time with people you don't see very often. A real emotional roller coaster this week for sure. Whenever I travel, I try to find ways to slot those workouts in, and especially when things get intense I find that I need that pressure release valve more than ever.

Running is of course the easiest activity on earth for the traveler, so the well-worn running shoes are the first thing to get packed. The family reunion was at a lake, so the swimsuit and goggles were a no-brainer as well. Although the lake was full of waves in the afternoon that kept the kids having fun jumping them and body surfing, the early mornings were like polished glass and so clear I could see the individual leaves on the kelp-like plants growing up from the bottom (is there such a thing as lake kelp? I don't know what that stuff is.)

The bike got thrown on for good measure, though I've only used it once for some CFE-prescribed hill repeats. This morning I payed a visit to a local Crossfit gym as a visitor and got my butt handed to me by the "Deck of Cards" workout (weighted back squats, power cleans, power snatch and push press according to suit, and the number dealt by the card... yes, an entire!). I'm hoping I can manage a run tomorrow morning before we head for home tomorrow a.m.