Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Mt. Graham Experience

Officially, I am still a triathlete. But, every once and a while, I expand my horizons to include running races and cycling races.
The Mt. Graham Hill Climb - AZ State championship climbing race fell 8 weeks out from my goal race, IM AZ. I figured, "I love climbing, I love racing, I need a good workout that day... fits perfectly!" So on the schedule it went.
While this mountain in only 2 hours away, I had not had the chance to check it out.
I knew it was tougher than Mt. Lemmon, and gorgeous.
My coach told me it would hurt, a lot. I believed him as he isn't one to lie about pain. I was expecting it to do a little more than tickle.... close to 6000ft of climbing between 7 - 9% grade and ending at 9000ft. yep, painful. game on!

The first kilometer looked like this:

Now, I wasnt wearing a HR monitor, or a PM, but I knew I was in over my head within the first mile. So I pulled back --- way back. I didnt get in a super long warm up and was planning on taking the first 5 miles ez.... wanted to do the race in 2 hours and figured the first 30 minutes should be conservative. I knew even though I was being passed, I was still pushing way over 200 watts (you just know after using it over and over again on a mountain). I got to mile 5 in just over 25 minutes and suprise suprise, my legs were toast. I'd never done a 2 hour TT before and I was now understanding why.... I slowed down more, took 2 gels and by the time I hit the 7 mile mark I was picking it up and picking off girls.

I was having a hard time sitting and needed to stand most of the race (seriously, like half of it). Coach said my sit muscles were sore from the speed work a few days earlier. What ever it was from caused me to get the worst adductor charlie horse at mile 16. Crippling. I was afraid to get off my bike (wouldnt have started again) so I just did this weird stretching while pedaling move that must have looked incredibly rediculous, but it did the job.
I ended up finishing the race strong, totally exhausted, in total muscle failure, in 1:58 and 4th female overall.
The ride back down was a lot less fun than Mt. Lemmon, as you had to negotiate the same switchbacks that took you so long to ascend.
view from the top:

Tucson girls that like to kick ass:

switchback ouch

switchback o rama

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Muskoka 73.0 report

This race was hard. This race was amazing. This race was a PW.
Despite this race being my worst result in terms of time and placing, I am walking away from this race feeling as though it was a hugely positive experience.
While 'winning' is always nice, success doesn't always mean coming in first.
I can honestly say that I will be taking more away from this race than any other half
IM that I've done and that, in my opinion is a success.
It started with the morning prep. I just wasn't feeling the desire to go and rip it up. I was there and was happy to see my friends, but I just wasn't feeling the hype that I normally feel going into a 5 hour race. I also had this weird feeling that something was going to happen. I have been racing tris since 2005 and have been lucky enough that I have not had any kind of mechanical issue on the bike. I knew my time was coming... it was just a matter of when. For some reason, I felt like it was going to happen in Muskoka. Maybe I set myself up. Maybe I'm psychic. Who knows (yes, I will tell you your future - for a nominal fee).
The swim was awsome. I found some fast (male) feet. This was new for me. I was working but it was very controlled.
My time was not fast, but I was within 3 minutes of Mirinda C. and that`s the closest I`ve come to her so I`m okay with it.
The run to transition was a long steep one. A foreshadow of what was to come.
I moved quickly through transition and was out on the bike. BRRRRR. Maybe racing in a swimsuit was not such a good idea - definately not in AZ anymore.
The bike was tough. Like 7000ft of climbing, 94km tough. But I felt good. I was moving pretty comfortably through the miles but still didn`t feel like I was in `the zone`.
It was probably around 30 km that I felt like my front tire was going flat. I kept riding until I knew it was going flat and when it was close to rim on road, I conceeded to having to stop and change it.
I thought it might have been a slow leak and maybe I could refill it and keep going. I used one CO2 cannister and instantly found out that was not the case.
I changed it pretty quickly and pulled out another CO2 to fill it. The tire filled but the valve was `f`ed, and the air came back out. I took my last CO2 out and tried again - same result. By now, I was cold and starting to think I would be better off being a spectator instead.
I stood there, in my bathing suit and watched a million people go by. I decided that I would catch a ride in the sag wagon and call it a day.
Instead of a van, I was greeted by a man in a motorcycle. I asked him where we were going to put my bike.
He said giving me a lift wasn't an option but he had a couple of CO2`s.
This time, the air stayed in. Lucky me.
I have no idea how long I stood at the side of the road. I didnt have a computer, but it was long enough for me to want to sit (lay) down on the side of the road. It was long enough for my body temp to drop to `uncomfortable`.
I got back on my bike and TT`d for the next 60 km. I think I pushed too hard.

I started the run and immediately went to the `bad place`. Both of my calves were cramping and I was moving ssssslllllllooooooowwwwww. I wanted to walk. I wanted to stop. I wanted to swear and cry like a baby. But I kept going.
This awful, black vail stayed with me until around the 5 km mark. Then, I passed a girl who said she saw me on the side of the road. She told me to `never give up`.
I decided right there to put on my big girl pants and worked my way out of the rut.
I put myself in the hurt box and did my last 10 miles in 1:11 and negative split the run.

I took away many valuable lessons. 1 - being 8 pounds heavier than race weight hinders performance - especially on the run(30 seconds, per pound, per mile can really make a difference) and I now have the motivation to cut back on this:

(only available in Canada, and I got my fill while I was home).
Two: I got to practice changing a Zipp flat in a high stess situation. 3. I can pull myself out of a very dark place. Four: exertion cramps can go away, even if the exertion doesn`t. 5. this is not the best activity to revisit the day before a race:

Six: My Mommy, Daddy and sis are the best spectators ever.
7. Never give up.

Next stop, Soma.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Oh the places we'll go!

About 3 weeks ago (hey, I'm busy), we headed to Utah for a quicky (vacay that is).
We were looking for a race to do before Muskoka 70.3 to shake out the cobb webs - Ryan's first tri since smashing his hip and my first race since 8 weeks off due to sloppy footing.
The Utah half was it! The website said flat and fast. Perfect for problematic body parts and egos. I flew into Salt Lake City and Ryan drove from Tucson so we'd have a car.
We camped in a tent, something I'd always thought of doing before a race and wanted to try but will never do again! Slept terribly and found it very hard to organize in the dark!
We awoke to high winds, cool temps and the threat of thunderstorms. Yippee!!
The race directors tossed around the idea of cancelling the swim, but after waiting an extra half hour to start, decided to shorten it to around 1200 m. It ended up being, without a doubt the roughest (kinda scary) swim I've ever done.

The bike ended up being nothing short of Hawaii revisted. Definately equalling the "scared for my life" type of wind felt in the lava fields. My goal became to stay in the aerobars as much as possible. I came out of them 3 or 4 times to prevent my face from kissing the asphalt.

It was also my third ride on my new ride, SCHAWING!
Love it.
The ended favorably for me. Ryan had tire issues but all things considered still rocked the race, less than a year after a broken hip!

After the race, we headed to Zion NP where we hiked a trail that should questionnably be closed to the general public, Angels Landing. It was hard and at times induced vertigo and a slight panic at the thought of how far up you really were. The trail was 2.5 miles one way and took almost 3 hours, but this was one instance where I wasn't racing.

Yes, we climbed up there!
The day after a Half IM, we hiked 12 miles (11 hours). I have never felt so used and abused as I did at the end of the day. To practice my mental pain tolerance, I completed 6 hours of hiking with a blister on my right heel. By the time we were finished and I could replace my bloodied hiking shoes with the trusted Birks, I had a stage III pressure sore on my foot. it was worth it. Zion is amazing.

Next up: The great Canadian wilderness (read: Tim Hortons, mosquitos, Shoppers Drug Mart and a little swim, bike and run in Muskoka)!