Monday, June 28, 2010

Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning: What to Watch Out For

Since so many of us are going to be open-water swimming this summer, often with others who may be new to the open water, and since so many of us are parents who will be in and around water with our kids and with other kids, please take a moment to read this webpage on Why Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning and how to identify someone who is truly drowning.

The statistics given are eye-opening:

Drowning does not look like most people expect.  There is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind.  To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this:  It is the number two cause of accidental death in children, age 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents) – of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult.  In ten percent of those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening
 Take a moment and read the article. It could save a friend's life, a child's life, a stranger's life. I have pulled one drowning child from a river, he was on an inner tube yet could not swim. He was wearing cut-off jean shorts that became very heavy when he tipped into the water. Many other adults were present yet none recognized that the child was in trouble. It's not always easy, and always best to err on the side of caution (especially with a child). Be safe!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Running With Giants

One of the best things about being a triathlete is that wherever you go, you interact with the local environment. You're out running at dawn when the shopkeepers are opening up, or you're biking through the fields and waving to farmers, swimming in a pristine mountain lake, or trotting through a grove of enormous trees that may have been standing since Julius Caesar walked the earth. You're never just a tourist when you're an athlete, because when you're out there doing your sport, you're part of the everyday life of a place. In some places you may stick out like a sore thumb, places where running or biking for fun and exercise just aren't common. But in other places, being in your running shoes or on your bike lets you see the scenery from a completely different angle.

On my camping trip with my son last week, I got to do some amazing trail runs. My favorite was an hour and a half run on the Hiouchi trail and Mill Creek trail in the Jedediah Smith Redwoods on the California coast. You really can't ask for a more awe-inspiring place to move your feet. The trail winds along the Smith river, turning away to meander through groves of giant redwoods. At one point you even run right through the middle of a burnt-out redwood tree, big enough you could make a small home inside. It was one of those runs where you never want to turn around, never want to stop. As my watch read :45 minutes, I reluctantly slowed and made my feet point back in the direction of camp. Luckily Mackenzie had a thoroughly engrossing novel to read and was happily ensconced in a camp chair while I enjoyed my traipse through the ancient forest.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Quick Update

I spent the last week starting at my Mom's house in Southern Oregon and then on a week long camping trip with my teenage son. Lots of fun and lots of opportunities to get out in new places, especially some great trail runs (can you beat trail running among the giants of the coast Redwoods? I think not!). Photos to come!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Things You Don't Expect To See on the Bike Path

There are things I've more or less come to expect to see on the bike path around here. Like gaggles of geese (which can actually be a pretty big hazard), and the occasional snake. When it's a rattler, it's a bit more disconcerting...I'm pretty sure this big guy was a gopher snake, but I wasn't about to get any closer to make sure. He was about four feet long!

Once I even saw a strange parade of big orange crawdads walking down the bike path with their claws in the air (wish I had a photo of that one). But what I didn't expect to see last night as I bombed down the bike path on my way home was an ancient Deadhead-driven bright orange VW van! Kind of like this one, driving straight down the bike path! I told the driver that he was on a bike path (gee, maybe the fact that the path is only as wide as your vehicle and there are no street markings might've been a clue), and he kept insisting that he had read the sign and it didn't say it was a bike path. I think a little bit of ganja might've gone a long way toward that conclusion as well.

I have no idea if or how he get himself off of the path, but I continued on my merry way home. Less than a mile later I came around a corner and almost ran into a cop car, also driving down the path. The officer warned me of a drunk and disorderly transient ahead of me who had passed out across the path and somebody had taken a magic marker to his face and tied his shoelaces together. Apparently he was combative enough that the officer couldn't get him to let him help untie the shoes. So he warned me that he might still be in the path. Luckily he was off to the side by the time I cruised cautiously by. Luckily there were no more strange encounters for the rest of my ride!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Stronger Bike = Stronger Run

I was talking to a triathlon friend and amazing athlete yesterday who has put up some very impressive times this year (and PRs even), especially on the triathlon run. He was talking about everything he did to improve his run, on the bike. Yep, on the bike. More biking, more intense biking, more biking with fast people. And when you can bike strong and still have legs left, you can run fast. That's the bottom line, your bike controls your run.

So I was thinking about my triathlon this weekend, how disappointed I was in my run performance. Yeah yeah, I know I had a pretty good race overall and was pleased with my results, but after every race I'm really looking for the take-aways, what can I do to get better? Especially when one segment falls short like my run did this time. I mean I'm never a very fast runner, but 27:27 for the 5k run segment is 2.5 minutes off of my normal sprint distance run time. That's almost a minute per mile. So clearly I did something wrong. Part of it was definitely that my left glute/hamstring was locking up on me, but I've run through stuff like that before and still performed decently.

So after talking with Andy yesterday, it dawned on me: part of the reason I'm running slow is that I have no biking base. And of course I have no biking base because I broke my arm in February and wasn't on the bike for a couple of months. Who would've thought a broken arm would mess up my run? But clearly, I don't have the biking legs right now to put forth a strong run in a triathlon, even though my standalone 5k time right now is faster than it was last year when I ran a faster sprint triathlon 5k. That's one thing I love about this sport, no matter how long you've been doing it, there's always more to learn. I'm grateful that I have some awesome athletes around who are endeavoring to take their performance to the next level, and I can learn so much from them.

Now, before I tackle an Oly distance this year, I clearly have get my biking back up to par. Onwards!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Race Report: Blue Lake Sprint

The short version: Lots of fun, great friends, awesome weather (in a month marked with horrible drenching rains), a muddy course with long transitions, and a fairly well executed race for me (except for a surprisingly slow run). 2nd place in AG, 5th overall woman. Woohoo!

This was the first race of the season for me, due to breaking my arm earlier this year. Normally I'd do a spring sprint, one of the many in this area that are usually an indoor pool swim. I haven't done a sprint with an open water swim in a few years, so this was fun. Two of our folks from our garage gym were going to do this race as their first triathlon, as well as one of my Master's swimmers. So we've been going up to the lake (mostly in the cold, rain, and wind) in the last couple of weeks to make sure everyone was comfortable with wet suits, open water, and to do some transition practice and brick workouts. I think that really paid off as everyone had a terrific and relaxed swim (and if you read first-timer race reports, the open water swim is usually the worst part).

Three of us went up to Portland the night before in our VW camper van and camped out in some friends' backyard who live a few miles from the race start. We had dinner and played a fairly complex board game called HansA Teutonica (if watching this video about how to play doesn't make your head spin, I'm not sure what will!). That definitely took our minds off of getting nervous about race day (probably mine more than anyone else's because they are all much more into gaming than I am, and probably didn't find the game as overwhelming to keep track of as I did)

Race Day was a little crazy because we have had SO MUCH RAIN here (I'm not kidding, I went to take my dogs for a hike on a local trail and the ENTIRE FOREST was underwater and looked like a bayou) that the grassy field where they normally have race day parking was a mud bog. So they had to set up an alternative parking area at the very last minute and have shuttle busses bring us in on race day morning. Also, the grassy areas you run through in transition were also muddy boggy slicks, which led to a lot of discussion about which is worse: keeping your bike shoes on your bike, running through transition in bare feet and then trying to stuff your completely mud-covered feet into your bike shoes; or running in your bike shoes and filling your cleats with mud and grass. Tough Choice.

Still, although it has rained non-stop for a fortnight or so, race day dawned clear and absolutely beautiful. Lucky lucky us! We set our alarms for 4:45 and got up early enough to get to the shuttle parking at 6:00 am in time for the first busses. That left us with a very relaxed pace for our pre-race preparations. Unfortunately, athletes were still arriving and trying to get shuttles right up until race start time and the race was delayed. But not by too much and from that point on most of the race went as planned.

The waves were small, about 50 people each, with 3 minutes in between each. Carrie went first and I actually cried as I watched her start swimming with her wave. This time last year she could barely swim, and not with her head in the water. She has worked so very hard and has become a very proficient swimmer. Mastering the open water swim was a huge achievement and it was cool to see her passing people!

I didn't get to see Devlin start as I couldn't pick him out in his wave once all of the black wetsuited folks were in the water with the same caps on. But I was hoping he was off to as good a start as Carrie was, then it was my turn to start getting warmed up.

Compared to what we've been swimming in, the lake was warm (about 67 degrees I think) and pleasant. I had taken my bike out for a warmup and gotten some running strides in. My left hamstring/glute still felt very tight from the car ride up from Eugene. The VW van has the WORST seats of any vehicle and for some reason the driver's seat always bothers my left hip. I was hoping the leg would relax during the swim.

They called my wave and it was into the water for a swimming start. In the front of the wave, the horn goes off and we start swimming. There was one other gal who went out fast, and in retrospect I should've gotten right on her toes because she just kept getting faster. Usually people who start fast peter out quick but she never did. Still, I was going out smooth and with all of the slower people in the water from the waves ahead of us, I lost track of her. At one point, some woman swimming double-arm backstroke (no kidding!) swam right in front of me going completely perpendicular to the swim course! It took me by surprise as she just appeared out of nowhere and I swam completely over the top of her. Tons of people were swimming backstroke, sidestroke, stopping and treading water in place. Wow, lots of unprepared swimmers out there.

In retrospect I should've taken the swim a little faster. My last few open-water triathlons have been Olys or Half-Irons and I think that was what was in my mind for pacing. As I rounded the final buoy and looked toward the arch, I said a mental "Shit! It's over already? I feel way too fresh!" I definitely wasn't swimming hard enough for a sprint. My watch said 11:50 as I got out of the water. Not as fast as I would've liked.

The race officials had warned us over and over not to try running into transition because it was a mud/grass slick and so not wanting to fall on my ass I tried to just walk pretty fast and run where it looked dry enough. Uneventful transition, everything went smooth. I decided to opt for putting my shoes on in transition and taking my chances with the mud in the cleats. It was a long chute through the grass/mud to run with the bike. As I mounted my bike I looked at my watch: 14:50. Almost a three minute transition, shit! Much longer than I've done at this course before, but I think everybody's T1 was slow due to the mud.

Luckily, the mud didn't throw my cleats off as I was able to easily clip in and pedal away. One more thing that I have not been used to is biking on a crowded course with so many beginner triathletes. This race is heavily peppered with beginners, so the course was a bit like playing Frogger on a bicycle. Still, it was sunny, most of the athletes were doing a good job of keeping out of each other's way as much as possible, and I picked up the pace to about 21.5 or so and started cruising toward the turnaround. The only eventful thing that happened on the bike was a small altercation with a local roadie. This road cyclist entered the course, and then decided to pedal along way over to the left, essentially creating a situation where you would have to pass him on his right in order to get by him. Unfortunately, if the race officials see you doing that, it's an automatic DQ. Not good. So I got near enough to him and hollered out "Hey, can you please move to the right so I can pass?" Well, if there's one thing a snobby roadie hates worse than a triathlete, it's apparently a female triathlete trying to pass him. So he sped up and said "I'm not in the race, just go around me". I hollered out that I couldn't, the race rules state that you can't pass anyone on the right. He could care less, he was going to hang out there and said so. I had to squeeze past him on the left, being careful not to cross the center line (another DQ-able offense). What a jerk. Other than that, the last half of the bike course went pretty smoothly. I downed a chocolate Accel Gel about 15 minutes from T2, which I had picked up just the day before and never tried. I have to say it was darned tasty! Probably the best gel I've had. Normally I hate the things, but that was okay.

Into T2 at somewhere around 49:00 (I think, I forgot to look at my watch), for a 34:00 to 35:00 bike. Right in my usual ballpark. Uneventful T2, managed to avoid slipping in mud. Into my lovely purple Nike Frees and off through the slip-n-slide and onto the run course. It was about 51:00 when I went through the timing mats and onto the run. I was hoping it would be under 50:00 at that point, but the extra transition time was adding up. I like the run course at this race since it just winds through the park and is very pretty. Some of it is out and back so you get a look at the other runners as well. I finally spotted Carrie coming towards me on the run and she looked like she was running well and smiling big. I knew she was just about a mile from finishing and having a great time, so I was really happy about that. I never spotted Devlin on either the out-and-back bike or on the run, but we must've gone past each other somewhere out there. Too many people made it hard to tell.. As for me, my run wasn't going so hot, my left hamstring was really locking up and the left leg felt kind of numb. So it was just about picking them up and putting them down and trying to finish it out. Fortunately, a sprint is short, but I didn't feel like I was able to get any running speed (well, not that I usually have much in the way of running speed, but I usually have more than that!)

The last bit of the run goes along the lake, very scenic. Then you turn into the chute and it's done. I forgot to stop my watch, but it was somewhere around 1:18. A very slow run, 27:30 - almost a 9 minute mile pace, yuk! I was a bit disappointed, I was definitely thinking I'd need under 1:18 to place in my age group, just based on past years' results. Fortunately, the muddy transitions slowed everyone down and I think the times this year were a bit slower overall as a result. So when I went to the results tent to look up my finishing time, I was really shocked to see that my name was pretty close up to the top of the list. Looking closer, only four women finished ahead of me, one of them in my age group. So that gave me a 2nd AG, 5th place overall women's finish. Wow, all of a sudden my race looked a lot better! I still wish I could've avoided the poor showing on the run, although to be honest it wouldn't have given me the age group win. I think the woman who out-swam me just kept getting faster and beat me by a few minutes. Three of the four women ahead of me in the race were over 40 - one in my AG and two in the 45 - 49! Damn, these women just keep getting faster, it's harder to place in the 45 - 49 than it is in the 25 - 29 AG in most races. Tough!

Overall, my peeps had terrific races. Mitch picked up 3rd in his AG, Devlin came in 6th in his, and Carrie 15th in hers. For first-time triathletes, that's a very impressive showing! They were all trained up, well-prepared, and confident. They put in the time to really get themselves ready for this race and it showed. Best of all, they really enjoyed themselves out there. I love seeing the excitement when people finish their first race, and this one definitely had lots of happy first-time triathletes hanging out at the finish. Overall, it's a terrific and well-organized race. The race directors did a great job of dealing with a potential snafu (parking suddenly not available) and getting it all taking care of. The shuttles got everyone back to the parking lots and it was time to head for home (with a side trip to Red Robin for a burger and a chocolate malt.)

Friday, June 04, 2010

Shoe Problem: Solved! Nike Free Shoe Review

Remember my shoe dilemma? Solved! I was worrying that I run much better in my Vibram FiveFingers shoes but that they're too hard to deal with in transitions. So I decided to go check out the Nike Frees that I've been hearing about. As soon as I put them on, I loved them. Okay, that's a lie. As soon as I SAW them I loved them because they are PURPLE BABY! PURPLE! Purple is my fave-o color and these are way way purple. But aesthetics aside, when I put them on they felt light as a feather and very very flexible, you can literally bend them in half. These are the Nike Free Run version, which is about a 2.9 on their scale (2.0 being the most flexible, most barefoot-like, 9.0 being the least). I bought them on the spot (luckily, a gift certificate to the running store went a long way to offsetting the cost, although they are not expensive in the way that the Newtons are, they're in line with most running shoes price-wise).

One run in these babies and I was SOLD. They're not quite like the barefoot-feeling FiveFingers, but they are as close as you can come in something you don't have to squeeze over each individual toe. Some transition practice confirmed that they are not only simple to get in and out of (no tongue, for one thing), but the way the interior is designed with no decorative stitching means that they are the most comfortable shoe I've encountered for going sockless in. Perfect for the sprint triathlon! I've done everything from track work to an 11-mile hilly trail run in them and these shoes are solid gold. Light, comfortable, bendable, breatheable, and as close to barefoot as you can get in a running shoe.

The only caveat would be that if you're used to standard cushioned running shoes, take it easy getting used to these babies. You may need to build up foot and calf strength to handle a big mileage load.

Now I'm off to stuff my gear in the van, hope everyone has a wonderful weekend. It's racing time!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Trunk Transitions

Let's say you need to practice transitions, but you don't have someone to stand guard over your precious bike while you run. You could do it in your garage but it's too crowded (or like me, you live on a big hill and don't feel like doing hill repeats!). One solution is the Trunk Transition. Drive to a location where you can easily bike/run (I choose a parking lot that's adjacent to the bike path), and lay out your transition gear in your trunk or the back of your minivan, SUV or truck. For me, I just fold the back seat of the van flat and then I can even roll the bike right in there while I'm out running. Then I do a set of three reps of 10 minutes on the bike and 5 minutes running. When I'm done, I've gotten a quick 45 minute workout with 5 transitions. This is a great workout to throw into the beginning of your taper!

Speaking of which, I'm packing up for the first Sprint of the season this weekend. The thing I'm most excited about is the fact that our unending unceasing ridiculous dumpings of torrential rain are actually supposed to stop for a couple days and the weather will be nice. Hallelujah! We have gotten more rain the 1st three days of June than we normally get all month. No kidding! I went to take the dogs for a walk in the forest down by the river today and THE ENTIRE FOREST IS UNDER WATER. I wish I'd had my camera. It looked like a bayou with trees sticking out of the water. Wild.

In any case, I've got my checklist out, and am packing things up and checking them off as I go. I feel really really good about this race. I feel rested, tapered, trained, like everything feels just right. So I'm very excited! And I have some first-time triathletes to cheer on and I'm even more excited for them. I think I've decided to wear the Pointy Helmet of Speed even though I feel like a dork wearing it and it's a sprint race. But sometimes it's a windy course, so it might help me out just a little bit. Oh well, if you don't look like a dork sometimes in life, you're not really living.