Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why Hubby Should Not Send Me To Buy Chicken Food

I should never be allowed to go into a Farm and Garden store. Or a pet store. Or the local animal shelter. Or anyplace with small cute mammals. Because I Am A Sucker. With a capital S. And it's worse when my daughter is along because she's basically a mini-me.

And so it was that today we went to get chicken food, and came home with a bunny. Because with 16 animals here at Casa del Crazies, we needed one more. In my defense, let me just say that this is the sweetest, absolutely cutest bunny on the planet. Absolutely.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bored In the Pool? Try These Workouts

I have to admit it: I'm allergic to being bored in the pool. Every summer after coming in from fabulous months of swimming in blue lakes under an open sky, I look at that 25 yard length of enclosed water and shudder. So I have to get really creative with my fall swim workouts so that I don't go absolutely bat-shit crazy in my first month or two swimming indoors.

Here's a couple of my recent Masters Workouts to get you back into the swing of indoor swimming. Both of these will kick your butt if you do them right (go HARD when it says Hard, go DISTANCE PACE instead of Easy when it says Distance Pace):


300 Swim
100 Kick Fly, 100 Pull
100 Kick Back, 100 Pull
100 Kick Breaststroke, 100 Pull
100 Kick Flutter, 100 Pull


4 x 225 @ 3:30:      Odds: Straight @ Distance Pace
                               Evens: Break at 150 for 10 seconds, go hard on the final 75

6 x 125 @ 2:00       Odds: Straight @ Distance Pace
                                Evens: Break at 75 for 10 seconds, go hard on final 50

8 x 75 @ 1:15         Odds: Straight @ Distance Pace
                                Evens: Break at 50 for 5 seconds, go hard on final 25

200 Pull
100 EZ

TOTAL: 4150 Yards


300 Swim
300 Drill/Swim/Kick by 25s
200 Pull
200 Drill/Swim/Kick by 25s


3 x ( 4 x 100:  
        #1:  25 Fast/75 Distance Pace (DP) rest :30
        #2:  50 Fast/50 DP r. :30
        #3: 75 Fast/ 25 DP r. :30
        #4: 100 Fast, r. :60

3 x ( 3 x 100:
        #1: 25 Fly, 50 Free, 25 Back r. :30
        #2: 25 Back, 50 Free, 25 Breast r. :30
        #3: 25 Breast, 50 Free, 25 Fly, r. :60

3 x ( 2 x 100:
       #1: 25 Kick Hard, 50 Distance Pace, 25 Kick hard on back, r. :30
       #2: Build 0by 25s to ALL OUT r. :60

3 x 100: #1 SLOW, #2: MEDIUM, #3: FAST  @ 2:00

200 EZ

4200 Yards

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Countdown to Ironman, Weeks 39 & 40: Why Race?

Why Race? Why not just go and run or bike or swim and not bother going to these events called races?

I asked myself that a lot this year, especially since, unlike most summers, I was not racing. My family would probably sigh a big sigh of relief if I didn't spend the time and the money to race. And very few people really understand it. I mean sheesh Robin, you've done triathlons for 25 years now, do you really have to go and do these races? What are you out to prove?

Why Race?

To me, every race is an opportunity to discover, to see the world a little more clearly, to exist in that space where everything becomes very very simple. Life is complicated. Every day involves a thousand decisions and distractions. Even on a run or a bike ride, my mind may be reeling through my To Do lists, or thinking through some problem. Racing cuts away everything that is not essential to the task at hand. Speed, time, breathing, cadence, hydration, this is all that's left. Like Occam and his razor, entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem, nothing unnecessary need be added.

Why Race?

To learn new things about the world, about myself, about the human body. What did I learn in Lake Tahoe last week? That doing a race in water that clear is an amazing experience, that hills that would've once defeated me mentally on the bike now seem like a strength to me, that altitude has more effects on race performance than I understood. I now know, for instance (sadly only in hindsight as I've done some research this week) that if you're going to race at altitude, you should either show and up race within 24 hours of arriving, or after a week or more. The worst time to race is around 48 hours, which is exactly what I chose to do. Twenty-five years of triathlons, and I'm still learning all the time.

Why Race Ironman?

Now that I'm less than forty weeks away, this is the question that I'm continually asking myself. Only in my brain it's usually phrased more like "So tell me why the hell you're doing this AGAIN?" And the answer is that it will take me to places that I wouldn't visit otherwise. Of course it will take me to Coeur D'Alene and some of the lovely scenery around there that will be new to me. But I could drive there and see that. Instead, it will take me to places inside myself that most of us never go. We don't usually have to dig down for that last tiny reserve of strength and willpower until we have to. But that's precisely where an Ironman will take you. Yes, there's something magical about the distance. The half doesn't take me halfway to that place, but the full distance will almost always drag you through that wringer and back out again. Even when you think you don't ever want to feel that way again, it turns out somehow that you do. And that's why I race.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Iron Girl Lake Tahoe Race Report

The Short Version: 
Beautiful race, amazing location, great organization, with the fun all-women vibe. Had a bit slower day than I'd hoped due to lack of oxygen, this anemic flatlander really suffered at 6225 feet above sea level. Still, I had the fastest swim of all the triathletes (even while gasping like a fish out of water), and finished 4/63 AG and 30/494 overall (with most of those placing high being from Reno/Tahoe area.) Learned some valuable lessons I want to take forward to Ironman Coeur d'Alene (more on that later).

The Long Version: 
The day dawned dark and early, as race days tend to do. Usually with me thinking "Why am I doing this to myself?" I am not a morning person. I have to take a shower just to get my eyelids to open. I ate my Paleo pre-race breakfast of coconut-banana custard which I'd made up and brought ahead of time and drank my traditional Yerba Mate. Yes, I'm that crunchy.

Walking down to the race start, I was amazed at how many people there were on the streets at 5:00 am. Not people in athletic gear either. Mostly people in slightly-to-very mussed up fancy clothes, wobbling on high heels or leaning on friends or dates, sometimes looking like they were about to puke into the bushes. I guess that's what being in a casino town adds to the early morning hours. Glad I don't drink much, or gamble. All of a sudden, going to a triathlon start seems downright reasonable in comparison.

At the Iron Girl transition area, I got to meet up with Laura again, and her excitement was contagious, it was fun to feel the energy of all the women, so many of them first-timers. I was also very glad to have brought my Oregon duck striped hat and gloves because it was colddddd outside! The transition area was filling up and so we set to getting our gear ready. I thought some of you might be interested in how I typically lay out my transition area, so here's a photo. There's the lucky polka-dotted towel, the Pointy Helmet of Speed, shoes with socks pre-rolled, and my race belt and hat.

I was sure glad I decided to wear my wetsuit, especially since we had to vacate the transition area over 30 minutes before our wave start. The neoprene at least kept us warm as we walked down to the beach. I found Laura again and was very glad for the company, it's much more fun than going to a race all by your lonesome.

So, on to the race:

SWIM: 400 m:  6:35   Wow, have never done a triathlon in a lake this clear. So cool! It was also a running beach start which was great practice for IM CdA, and a little intimidating. I was in the 2nd wave, and I could clearly see the swimmers from the wave ahead of me as I approached them in the water. I mean like see them as if they were floating in the air! It was like some swimming video game where the swimmers would appear in front of me and I'd have to decide to go left or right. As I came out of the water I was well ahead of everyone in my wave, but didn't learn later that I had the fastest swim split of the race. 6:35 seems pretty slow for me for a wetsuit swim, so I'm guessing the course was marked a little long.

T1: 5:54  This is a LONG transition, about a 500m run up to the transition area. The beach sand is very coarse and darn near impossible to get off your feet. I wasted way too much time trying to get the sand off with a washcloth at the "shoe transition" area near the beach. That was dumb. Shoulda run barefoot (after all, I'm used to that!) or just run with the sand in my shoes. Seeing as how I missed both 2nd and 3rd places in my age division by 30 seconds or less, this was probably my biggest mistake of the day. Other than that, I executed a good transition once I got to the main area. I did notice (foreshadowing here) that I could barely catch my breath when I was running from the beach to T1.

BIKE: 24k : 46:09 Lots of rollers on the bike course, I just tried to keep in a groove. The biggest worry for me is that I haven't been doing any climbing out of the saddle due to my injured arm, and I was hoping none of the hills would be steep enough to need that. Luckily, there was only one spot I needed to stand up and then only for a few seconds. Most of the hills were spinnable. Still, I can see how a race course of steady big rollers can be taxing! While I didn't notice the altitude on the bike as much as on the run later, I did note that my average speed was not what I'd hoped. Not sure how much was due to the thinner air, how much to my lack of hill training and how much to my lessened bike volume this summer.  Overall though, the bike course was so pretty I just tried to enjoy the heck out of it! I loved how they blocked off the center lanes for the course, no need to worry about traffic. Also the pavement was beautifully smooth, which makes for a nice biking experience.

T2: 1:30: Not a bad T2 time given that the area was pretty spread out.

RUN: 5k: 29:25: Here's where I really noticed the altitude. I just couldn't speed my legs up on the run, not because my legs were tired. My legs felt fine. It's just that every time I tried to make them go faster I started sucking wind like nobody's business. This is when it hit me that the altitude was really going to become a problem. I was 2nd in my AG going into the run with a pretty comfortable margin on the other runners, but I just couldn't keep up any pace at all. Sadly, I was passed by #2 and #3 in my age group just before the finisher's chute (they beat me by 30 and 13 seconds). You'd think I could just speed up and take them down, but it was simply impossible. As I tried, I started gasping and I started getting tunnel vision. Not. Enough. Oxygen. Wow!

Attending the awards after the race, it was clear that most of the AG and Overall winners were from Tahoe, Reno, Carson City, etc. I was definitely not prepared for how much the altitude would effect me. After all, I just ran a 24 mile trail run at nearly the same elevation. However, and this is a big however, that was at a much more aerobic effort. I could stay aerobic no problem, but every time I tried to push up near my VO2Max, I just pooped out.

Still, I had a great time and a reasonably strong finish in what is unbelievably my first (and only) triathlon of the season! I learned a lot that I can apply to IMCdA (like get to the race site early enough to acclimate to the elevation, and work on getting some more red blood cells, practice biking on big rollers and learn how to deal with them mentally so they don't get me down). So I'm really glad I came and had this terrific experience.

Sarah from Iron Girl was great, it was nice to meet her, and really wonderful to meet up with Laura and see her do such an awesome job in this race. I missed her at the finish line because she told me she'd be happy to go under 2:00, and instead she came in at 1:47, kickin' some booty! I am hoping she will write up her race experience to share here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Iron Girl Lake Tahoe, Pre-Race Decisions

On Saturday, after Friday's unexpected turn of events at the Reno Air Races, hubby decided to head up to Lake Tahoe with our daughter Asa and I. It was really good for him to be able to get away from Reno, from the televisions constantly showing the Youtube videos of the crash, and the fact that the NTSB crash investigators were staying in our hotel. Tahoe is such a lovely place, and we got a beautiful hotel room to stay in (a lucky last-minute find for me) at the Mariott Lodge at the base of the Heavenly gondola. As you can see, Asa was jumping for joy at the idea of a weekend at the lake (yes, the girl loves water as much as her mama!)

After getting registered and checking my bike into transition on Saturday, I listened to the course talk, a wise decision since this course is a bit unusual. For one thing, you can't even see the lake from the transition area, it's quite a ways down the road and around a couple of corners. So they have a special "shoe transition" so you don't have to make the whole run barefoot. I got to meet up with Laura, the winner of our Irongirl race entry giveaway here on the Ironmom Blog, and her husband. This was a real treat since Laura is about the nicest athlete you could hope to meet. It was great fun to have someone to share the experience with, especially coming from so far out of town. Not only was she awesome and fun, but check out her pro-quality transition area: neat, and well-organized with just the right amount of gear. Very impressive!

After saying goodbye to Laura and promising to meet up in transition the next morning, I headed down to the lake with my family. The main decisions I needed to make were:

1. Wetsuit or not? It was only going to be a 400 meter swim so a wetsuit would give me a negligible speed advantage. The water temperature was given at 67 degrees, very doable without a wetsuit. However, the air temperature on race morning was predicted to be in the high 30's, which meant that coming out of the water chilled might be a bad idea. Then there was the problem of the 1/3 mile run to T1, which could be awkward in a tight wetsuit.

2. Shoes or not? Should I stage some shoes at the lakeside to wear to the transition area - how bad did the pavement look for running in bare feet?

3. Wear my regular bike helmet or the Pointy Helmet of Speed (which I have previously referred to as the Helmet of Ultimate Dorkitude)? In a race that's mostly tailored for first-timers, I hate to wear that silly helmet, I think it looks kinda presumptuous. However, in very cold air, it has the added advantage of covering my ears and keeping them from getting chilled and ear-achey, something that they're prone to.

I decided to swim the course and make a call based on that. Getting in, the water felt decidedly chilly but not unreasonable. The lake was choppy with the afternoon wind, but beautifully clear. I swam the course with no trouble. However, when I got out, even with the afternoon sunshine streaming down, I quickly became very chilled. It took over an hour to warm back up. That did it, my decision was to wear a wetsuit.

On the shoe front, I decided that the road looked too rough to run in bare feet and decided to stage some shoes, along with a small towel to knock some of the very coarse sand off.

And yes, I went with the Pointy Helmet of Speed. When I got out of the lake, just the afternoon breeze was giving me an ear-ache after that cold water. I figured I would look ridiculous, but I'd be happy if my inner ears did not feel like someone was stabbing them with ice picks.

Tomorrow I'll post my race report and let you know how those decisions worked out on race day!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Prayers Needed, Reno Air Races Crash

On my way to the Iron Girl Lake Tahoe triathlon this weekend, the plan was to stop in here at Reno and meet up with hubby who is down here for the Reno Air Races. He works in the aviation field and was at the races with many colleagues. He called me while I was still driving, very shaken up. An airplane in the Unlimited Class (the very very fast, 450+ mph planes) had some sort of mechanical failure, pulled up, wobbled in the air and came straight down into the crowds, about 100 feet away from my hubby. This photo is one I took last year when we were both at the races. You can see how fast and how low these planes are flying, it is truly incredible.

So for those of you who knew I was going to be there, I wasn't, and I'm fine. I'm so very grateful that my hubby is fine too, although I know that "fine" isn't really the word for it. When you see something like that, it sticks into your heart and your mind. The families and the children that were there need all of our good thoughts and prayers as they come to terms with injuries, loss, and trauma.

Another reminder that life is short and what we do today is what matters. Hug your spouse and children a little closer.

My heart goes out to the pilot of the Galloping Ghost, his family and his friends. This is the poem that is most often recited at the funeral of a pilot. May it wing his way speedily heavenwards.

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
— John Gillespie Magee, Jr

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dim The Lights, Put On Some Music, I'm Massaging My...... Kale???

Obviously, I live under a rock.Unbeknownst to me, all of my friends are massaging kale and I simply had No. Idea. None. How could this trend pass me by? Maybe it's because I don't shop at Whole Foods, where there is apparently a wonderful massaged kale salad in the salad bar. Alas, my little organicky local market is not nearly that trendy.

Since I am so behind the times, I had to jump right in and make a massaged kale salad as soon as I heard about it today. All it takes is some kale, easy enough to find in Northwest gardens this time of year. Normally, I would be growing simply enormous chard and kale in my garden right now, but my garden has been bulldozed for this summer's landscaping project, so I had to go and buy some at the store.

I plunged my hands right in, adding some salt, some lime, and some avocado to the mix, it was a very sensory experience to be sure. Kind of like using Play-Doh and finger paints in kindergarten all over again. When the massaging was done, the kale was tender and yummy, and all I needed to do was figure out what to add to it. In today's case, I threw in some minced garlic, a teaspoon of stone ground mustard, a teaspoon of maple syrup, and some balsamic vinegar. Then topped it with slivered almonds and dried cranberries. I can see that there could be many variations on the kale massaging theme though, and I can't wait to try more of them out!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Getting Excited For Iron Girl

It sounds very strange to say, but the Iron Girl Lake Tahoe sprint triathlon this weekend will be my first race of the season. Actually, the first triathlon I've done in a whole year! The last time I went an entire summer without doing a triathlon, it was because I was massively pregnant, so this has been a very different summer for me. Not without its adventures for sure!

So, although September typically has me doing a half-Iron, I am very excited to be heading south to do this sprint tri in such a beautiful location instead. I've done most of my biking on my trainer since breaking my arm, but it looks like the course isn't too hilly so that's a bonus. My legs are feeling a little fatigued still from the marathon last week, and strangely my calves were very tight during karate last night so I had to really back off of what I was doing. That's all I need is a big old knot in my calf!

Tomorrow is packing day, and so I'll be pulling out all of my gear, and checking it carefully, using my handy-dandy triathlon packing checklist. Then Friday morning it's road trip time as we head down to Reno, and then onwards to Tahoe on Saturday. I haven't been there since hubby and I took a romantic snowboarding excursion there in our first few months together (almost two decades ago) so I'm very excited to see it again. Sunday's weather looks beautiful, with a predicted high of 76, and a chilly 41 degree low that will leave the morning feeling brisk.

More than anything, I'm looking forward to racing someplace totally new and different, and enjoying the spectacular views that this course is sure to bring.

Since I always try my best to do a time estimate before a race, here's my best guess for how it will go. This time it's a little more up in the air than usual, since my bike is basically an unknown, I haven't done any speed work in running, and the first transition is a 1/3 mile in which you can optionally put on shoes (still not sure what I'm going to do about that). Also not sure yet whether I will wear a wetsuit or not and whether I will don the Pointy Helmet of Speed or just my usual red lid. So many unknowns!

Swim: 400m: 6:20  if I don't wear a wetsuit, sub-6:00 if I do
T1: 6:00
Bike: 24k (approx. 15 miles): 45 minutes
T2: 1:30
Run: 27:30

Total: 1:26:30

Let's see how good my estimating skills are on this one!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Countdown to Ironman, Week 41: Gearing Up For Rainy Rides

I think I might've doomed myself with that last post about Autumn because now it's drizzling outside my window. Wait, I still have 8 more days of summer left!

But that's got me thinking about what I'm going to need to do this winter: ride in the rain. My bike base is substantially lower than its been in previous years due to this summer's broken arm, and there's only two ways to get it back to where it should be:

Ride on the trainer or

Ride in the rain.

Frankly, I'm not sure which is worse but I'm sure I'll have plenty of both in the coming months. So it's time to start gearing up for outdoor riding, making sure I can stay warm and relatively dry while I pile on those miles.

Luckily, I've spent the last couple of years trying to ditch my rain-weenie biking reputation and have actually acquired some neoprene booties, thermal tights, and a rain jacket and vest, so I should be set. Also fortunately, I swam with the Masters this morning, so I don't have to go out in the rain just yet. I can sit here with my steaming mug of tea, staring out the window and making plans.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Seasons Turning: Coming Into Parenthood's Autumn

Fall came today. Yesterday it was summer, hot as Hades, the air conditioning on for the first time this year. In the evening it started to cool down, and I grabbed my bike and headed out my favorite back country road. Swirls of wind sent the first crispy golden leaves dancing ahead of me. The calendar says nine more days of summer, but the seasons say otherwise: autumn comes earlier in the Northwest forests. The days will still be hot now, but the nights will chill and I shook out my down comforter and changed the duvet cover.

Although we homeschool, it seems our lives are inevitably tied to the school calendar. So as September rolls on like a steam train, I headed to Portland with the FTC robotics team I coach for the season kickoff on Saturday. This year my team of boys all tower over me. At fourteen to seventeen years old, they are near-men and their voices boom with new depth as they chatter about coding and servos and the inevitable video games. They make decisions with maturity, stay doggedly on task, and it seems that my years of "herding cats" as I've called my role as a coach is coming to an end.

Sunday brought the first of the year's ten thousand dance performances for my daughter. Her dance and theatre company had an open house, so she performed with the dance team, and reprised a song from her role as "Annie" in the musical. Whereas in years past, I was needed backstage for hair, makeup, and costume changes, now I can sit in the audience and chat with the other parents. Clearly, I am becoming superfluous, like a leaf cast off from a tree to drift slowly down to earth.

Yet as the earth has its magnetic poles that it must orbit around, I sense that my kids still need me at their center, still need a direction for their compass arrows to point. Even as they reach out in all directions, I am still there at the core. This year will be very different from the last time I trained for the Ironman. They were seven and ten then, now they'll be almost thirteen and sixteen when I do the race. I won't have to scramble to fit my workouts in around my husband's schedule or when I can find a babysitter. But I have to be careful to guard my time with them and make sure that I don't take my fleeting hours with them for granted. Like summer's last rays outside my window, their time with me is drawing to a close and I want to hold it close and make it last.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Countdown to Ironman, Week 42: The Emotional Rollercoaster

If it was easy, they wouldn't call it the Ironman, right? Every Ironman journey is fraught with doubts and excitement, emotional highs and lows. I have to admit that in the last six miles of my trail marathon, it was the doubts that were winning out. My thoughts went something like "If I'm bonking and choking in the middle of this little run, how am I going to handle doing this AFTER biking and swimming all that ways?

Of course, the answer is equally simple: I'm going to train more. Comparing a performance when I've only been training 20 miles a week of running and very little biking is not the same as what I'm capable of when I'm training twice that or more. It's easy to forget that if we build up gradually, our bodies are capable of ever-increasing feats of endurance. When I started training for my first Ironman after having kids, I could hardly run a mile. The fact that I just ran twenty-four of them on a hot, rocky, high-altitude, hilly trail should be comforting me, not demoralizing me!

So here I am, forty-two weeks away from Ironman Coeur d'Alene (well, 41.3 if you're being picky) and I'm officially going to tell myself that I can do this. Of course, this will only be the first of many times that I'll need to do this. After all, if it was going to be easy, they wouldn't call it the Ironman.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Incredible Post-Marathon Recovery

I can still recall the last time I ran a marathon what my legs felt like the next day. Going down stairs was an agony, I wished for handrails on any chair I had to sit down in. I moved like a geriatric, shuffling around (isn't it called the "post-marathon shuffle?"), and the idea of moving fast, squatting, or jumping would be enough to make me cringe. Talking with other endurance athlete friends, it seems like this is the norm.

This time is different. I hate to keep beating the Paleo drum, but I've been doing endurance sports for over 25 years and my body has never recovered better than during this year of Paleo eating. Let's just say I felt so good the day after my trail marathon that I literally was jumping for joy, and I had to make a little video to share it with you:

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The Amazing Waldo Lake Solo Trail Marathon

A solo run through the wilderness. No cheering crowds, no aid stations, no banners, medals, t-shirts, no finish line other than the one in my head. A challenge I set for myself and accomplished solely because I wanted to. I've been looking forward to this all year.

I have wanted to run around Waldo Lake for a long time, but it's a daunting task. The trail ranges in elevation from about 5,500 - 6,000 feet, is almost never flat, and once you leave the campground you are on your own. In the middle of the Willamette National forest, adjoining the 36,000 acre Waldo Lake Wilderness, with one access road coming in, it is a remote and lovely place, one of the most utterly quiet places I've ever had the privilege to visit. The lake itself is one of the clearest in the world, with visibility at over 100 feet. From any angle above the lake, you can look down into its beautiful depths to see the rocks on the bottom.

Lucky for me, my hubby is an avid mountain biker and agreed to be my marathon support team and accompany me on this journey. He packed 110 oz. of water in his hydration pack, and enough Honey Stingers and Lara Bars to keep me in glycogen supply for the five hours we estimated we'd be out there (including stops to take photos, of course!) My brother-in-law Nick decided to come along for the adventure as well, and so on Sunday morning we set out from the North Waldo campground to circumnavigate the lake in a counter-clockwise direction.

Let's just say I learned a lot on this run. There were many lessons it taught me, about trail running long distances, about planning, about elevation, hydration, and how hard I could push myself without any kind of event to provide moral support. Leading up to the day's attempt, my longest training run this year was about 10.5 miles (partially due to breaking my arm in June, which curtailed my running for the early months of the summer). This trail was slightly over 22, though I would run 24 or so by the time the day was done.

Firstly, although we meant to leave by 7:30 or 8:00 in the morning, that just didn't happen. We had been camping for days, and between getting up and cooking breakfast for the kids, making sure they had everything they needed for the day's activities, it was 10:00 by the time I left the campground. It was still cool enough in the shade to wear my long-sleeved shirt starting out, but I knew it would be getting hotter by the minute as the sun cleared the trees. I decided to wear my Vibram FiveFingers shoes, even though I've never run more than 10 or 11 miles in them. Why? Because the trail is largely fine dirt and forest duff, because I can no longer stand to wear regular running shoes, because I thought they'd help with agility on a trail known for roots and rocks. I also wore some new pink compression socks, just to keep the old leg muscles together for longer. So here I am looking like a total dork, getting ready to set out.

Let's say this right off the bat: this trail is never flat. I actually did it in the opposite direction from this elevation profile above, which seems like a pretty stupid decision when you look at the fact that all those hills on the left side of the profile came at the END of the run instead of at the beginning when I felt a little fresher. However, I knew I'd be running through the Taylor Burn, a vast area of starkly beautiful charred trees, and doing that in the morning when it was cooler sounded better than finishing up in the hot afternoon sun with no shade.

So off I set, heading into the burn almost immediately from the North Waldo campground. The guys set off on their mountain bikes only 10 minutes behind me, but as I was running and didn't see them and didn't see them, I started doing the math in my head. If I was running at my usual trail speed of 5 - 6 miles per hour, and they were biking along this rocky rutted trail probably only making 7 or 8 miles per hour, it was going to take a long time for them to catch me! Maybe it wasn't such a good idea not to have my own water and food along. My watch had died during a lake swim the day before (curse you Ironman watches and your supposed "water resistance"), and so I only had my best guestimate to go on, but after about 30 or 40 minutes, I just ran down to the shore and drank the clear lake water. Giardia be damned, at least I wasn't thirsty anymore.

Finally I entered the shady forest and a lovely singletrack trail winding along the lakeshore. The guys caught up to me and I grabbed a bottle of Hammer Perpetuem off the bike and slugged some down. For the next couple of miles they hopscotched me along the trail until we ended up at this fabulous overlook and stopped to ask another mountain biker to take a photo. I'd allowed myself to get a little behind the hydration curve and was feeling parched so I glugged down some more fluid. But from there on out, I figured I'd never be far from my support crew and my water and food, so I wasn't worried.

Off we went again, this time through more densely forested areas with bridges over dry seasonal streams. The trail wound toward and away from the lake, providing lovely views from time to time and at other times the solitude of the trees. After awhile, I noticed that I could no longer hear my mountain biking escort behind me. No worries though, I figured they'd catch up sooner or later. The trail began to climb, turning south and away from the lakeshore views. Although I wasn't really keeping track of time, it occurred to me that it had been quite a long time since I'd seen Wayne and Nick, and I was getting quite thirsty by now.

I stopped, listened. Nothing but the silence of the forest. I pulled out my whistle and blew. No answering tweet from my guys. Then I noticed how far from the lake I was. Maybe I'd somehow made a mistake and took a side trail, one that climbed up and away from the lake? There were several, but all were well signed. I stopped again. What if I was heading away from the lake and the guys were still going along the lakeshore? I wasn't even halfway around and although I knew I could always get back to the lake for hydration, it would be a very long slog without some nutrition. I turned around and reluctantly started running back the way I'd come. Back downhill.

About a mile or so later, I finally ran into them. Turns out that I was on the right trail after all, but Wayne had a flat tire just shortly after I'd left them so they were a long ways back. No worries, I again took the opportunity to try to catch up my hydration and headed back up the hill (ugh!) again. But mountain bike support was not destined to work out all that well for this trail. Although we stayed closer through the rest of the run, we were again separated by Nick's brake failing, and then his derailleur, leaving him as a single speed bike with only one brake.

This is about where the bigger hills took hold, with bigger rocks to boot. Some of them were gnarly enough that I had to walk the downhills as well as the uphills just in order to not trip and kill myself. But these were interspersed with lovely green meadows and water-lily filled ponds that thankfully didn't yield up the bloodthirsty hordes of mosquitoes that sometimes plague this place. I felt really strong and although I was now past my longest training run, the legs felt fresh and I was really enjoying the beauty of the place and the peace of running by myself.

Somewhere around 18 miles, that dreaded Wall came to meet me though. I knew he might be out there somewhere. Beauty and trees and peacefulness are all fine and dandy, but this is still a long ways to run. I think if I'd stayed on top of the nutrition and hydration from the get-go, I might've missed the Wall altogether, but alas that was not the case. I got hot. I got thirsty. I tried to put more fluid and calories down but by now my stomach was feeling a bit rebellious. The altitude I'm sure added to the toll.

The last six miles were definitely challenging. The trail crosses the road and stays away from the lake, it's full of PUDs (Pointless Ups and Downs) that seem tailor-made to demoralize a poor trail runner. Luckily my hubby raced ahead to refill his Camelbak with water, and my brother-in-law stayed with me and kept up my spirits. We talked about that place I call The Dark Night of the Soul that reaches out for you in long distance events, and he reminded me of how we can overcome our body's obstacles with the power of our mind. By the time Wayne got back with the water, I could hear children's voices from the campground and knew I would make it.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience, something that I've really looked forward to accomplishing and was so thrilled to get the opportunity to do. I'm grateful for my support crew, without whom I would've had to carry all my own gear. Being able to run unencumbered was such a freeing thing, and it was great to share the experience with them. I learned (or re-learned) those valuable lessons about not getting behind in my hydration and nutrition, something I really really need to keep in mind for the Ironman. Drink and eat early and often! As always, I find myself so appreciative of all that my body can do. I ask it and I ask it, and still it keeps giving me these amazing experiences. More than anything, I'm so happy to live in this beautiful place on earth. Literally 80 miles from my front door I can run through the wilderness, through silent forests and along majestic lake shores. What a lucky lady I am!