Felt B12 – Biking Ace?

My gear addiction has gone to the next level and I might add not without some amount of guilt, fear and trepidation.  I have now taken the plunge and purchased an awesome über cool Felt B12 triathlon bike a/k/a “Ace”.

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Being a competitive swimmer in my former life…I’m not talking Olympic quality or even top 10 college level, but rather being a swimmer as a child and through High School.  And, those of you who are in this camp will generally attest that once a swimmer, ALWAYS a swimmer.  Anyway, my point here is that I had assumed that swimming would be the strong suit of my TRI-fecta.  But, NO, who’d believe it is the bike?!  Who knows why, I sure don’t!?  But those are the facts.

Until I purchased my Giant road bike a/k/a “Zen Boy”, who by the way I adore, I had not been on a road bike since my teenage years.  I am not a technically trained cyclist, I do not understand gear ratios, I do not know all the fancy hand signals… I honestly just shift on feel, follow the basic rules of the road and it seems to work reasonably well.   But, was I satisfied with my performance on the bike?  Was I willing to say hey I’m strong enough on the bike and swim to be an age-group contender at some Sprint distance races cuz there isn’t enough time for the fast runners (since I’m a penguin runner) to catch up on my lead?  Oh NO, couldn’t do that, could I?!  The reported 1-3 MPH extra speed on a TRI bike had me like a moth to a flame.

And…now I have a sparkling new, speed machine in my garage that frankly scares the crap out of me more than just a little!  But then looking back, the first time I clipped my SPDs into my clipless pedals on Zen Boy back in 2011 I was pretty darn freaked out.  So hopefully I’ll work my way through the pit in my stomach and adjust to the Look KEO cleats and aero position, and shifting and breaking being on separated parts of the bike and my Ace and I will work together smoothly and safely as a streamlined biking machine.

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Half Iron Distance – Harvest Moon

It is now almost a week since I finished Harvest Moon which is a long course triathlon of the same 70.3 mile distance as a half Ironman.  I needed a bit of time to pass to let my thoughts coalesce.

Here’s a recap–The GOOD, the BAD and the UGLY.

(GOOD) Leading up to the race I followed my plan to a “T”.  I was diligent in my training taper, my nutrition, my hydration, my sleep.  I did NOT cut ANY corners.  (BAD) I was however more than a little nervous and it showed in my less than jovial manner (read bitchy attitude) and churning stomach full of butterflies for a few days prior to race start.

(GOOD) Morning of the race, I followed my typical routine of drinking like a camel and eating my oatmeal, PB&J toast and banana.  I arrived at the transition area when it opened at 6:00 a.m. and secured an ideal spot close to bike start and finish.   I was pleased that my friend and triathlon mentor @KirkMac was there to give me moral support.

After setting up transition items, (GOOD) Heather and I headed out on a brief bike ride and run to warm up.  I then put on my wetsuit and proceeded to complete a short swim, just to get wet and glide through the water.  Time seemed to fast forward at that point and before I knew it Wave 1 which included the old women (a/k/a ME), young women and Elites, was in the water with the countdown underway.

Now, swimming is in my roots.  I spent much of my early years during the summer and through High School in a pool.  Hair that resembled straw as a result of Chlorine was my norm.   I swam competitively and was a strong albeit not super fast swimmer and distance races were my strong suit.  The swim for this event was a 1.2 mile “wish bone” shaped course.  As the horn sounded, I started off using my typical approach of swimming fast for the first 150-200 yards and then getting into a rhythm, I then try to pick up speed a bit on the turn, fall back into a rhythm and then pick up speed again at about the 200 meter to finish point.  (GOOD) My swim start was fine, but, I soon realized I was starting to (BAD) swim off-course, inadvertently adding considerable yardage to my efforts.  After the turn around point, the wishbone swim course format introduced the feeling of swimming head-on into the oncoming swim waves.  Then…after all the yardage I swam in Masters, I got a (BAD) calf cramp in my left leg at about 200 meters from the swim finish; just when I was trying to swim FAST.  I thought, “YOU have GOT to be kidding me!  After all the time in the pool I’m going to get a frick’n leg cramp?!”  SH*T, it hurt too!  So there I was trying to stretch out my left leg by flexing my foot and still kick with my right leg while continuing to swim freestyle.  Not the ideal, most efficient or fastest way to race a swim.  My swim resulted in a time of 38:01 for 1,931 meters.

Running into transition helped me forget my calf issue.  I proceeded through the T1 drill of peeling off my wetsuit and putting on my shoes, helmet, sunglasses etc. as quickly as possible.  In retrospect my (GOOD) transition times were the only area where I actually beat my target goal time!  Hey, ya gotta look for the silver lining somewhere!!

(GOOD) Proceeding onto the bike course went smoothly and the first 25-30 miles of the 56 mile course went fairly easily.  But, the Harvest Moon bike course is deceiving.  (UGLY) The winds and elevation change at around the half way point and really start to wear you down, reducing your speed to maybe half of what it was on the front of the course.  I watched my “Cat-Eye” bike computer average speed slowly reduce as the miles wore on.  I knew that I needed to keep a pace of close to 19 mph to hit my goal time.  (BAD) The wind and strain made my upper body tight and tired.    I was discouraged as I saw that my average speed had fallen below 18 mph.  (GOOD) As I rode into T2 I saw my guys #1 and #2 positioned on a hill cheering me on!  THAT lifted my spirits…thank you GUYS!  Bike leg resulted in a time of 3:16:48 with an average mph of 17.1.

Once in T2 I quickly noticed that the hydration flasks that I’d filled with Infinit liquid nutrition while almost frozen when I arrived at 6:00 a.m. were now (BAD) warm, as in HOT and undrinkable.  That was a bummer as it left my hydration belt worthless.

As I started to run my body, shoulders, back and legs were sore and my spirits were a bit low.  My run goal had been 2:10:00 which equates to a 10 minute mile.  (UGLY) The day was also hotter than expected with temperatures heading up to 90 degrees.  An aide station with water and Gatorade was located each mile and every other aid station also offered food such as bananas, Oreos, pretzels, gels etc.  I had hoped to run between aid stations and walk through them to allow a short recovery.  That lasted until Mile 2.  At that point (BAD) my back and legs were starting to become quite painful in a muscle cramp sort of way.  I started to introduce more walking and less running.  This continued for the next 4 miles with other athletes also walking but many jogging by…with a quick “you’re doing great”.  Which while these words were offered with best of intentions, it made me feel a little like I SUCK!  They’re running/jogging and I’m walking…frick’n WIMP!  Close to the turn around, as this was an out and back  course, (GOOD) I came across a man (Michael) that was struggling as I was and I suggested we do a walk/run combo together.  Running with someone has an amazing effect on your ability to keep moving forward.  What a nice man!  Michael and I continued our walk run combo until mile 11 at which point Michael wanted to run the remaining distance.   As I jogged a little and walked and ran I could see the finish line in the distance.  I had told guy #2 that we should run through the final yards together.  So as I approach I could see my (GOOD) personal cheering squad and little guy #2 was there.  I yelled (or more likely squeaked) for him to run with me and so (GOOD) guy #2 and I ran the final 100 or so yards at an all out sprint.

That was the highlight of my day! I heard the announcer proclaim that Alison Kane from Centennial, Colorado had completed the Harvest Moon with a “fast finish”.  (GOOD) No penguin call-out for me on that finish!  Although, in fact, I really did deserve it this time!  With a run time of 3:01:21 with a true penguin pace of a 13:51 minute mile.

(BAD) Unlike when I cross the finish at Sprint or Olympic distance TRI, I didn’t feel that elation of finishing.   I felt a little…empty, discouraged, annoyed.  Where was that endorphin rush, that healthy “high” that I love?  Unfortunately, I had left it somewhere out on the 70.3 mile path to the finish line.

(BAD)  I told guy #1, “THAT was HORRIBLE” please remind me how much I hated this…don’t let me do this again”.  (UGLY) I then got a nasty queasy sorta feeling, something similar to what I vaguely remember from my college party’n days and I had to locate a private spot to address the issue…yes, I did in fact get sick post finish (sorry TMI).

THAT was Sunday afternoon.  (GOOD) And, after two beers, half a pizza, going to bed at 7:45 and sleeping 11 hours…by Monday morning, I had already started to forget, (similar to childbirth I guess) the pain and I was surprisingly only minimally sore.   (GOOD) By Monday afternoon, I looked.  YES,  I looked at possible IM 70.3 races for 2013.  I am a freak…a triathlon addict, maybe I need an intervention or something?!  Truth is, I want to beat my sad little PR for the half Iron distance of 7:00:58.

And so ends my triathlon season for 2012.  And, (GOOD) YES! I will be sporting a 70.3 car magnet.  Slow, maybe, but a FINISHER never-the-less which is truly AWESOME!

Taper Week

Time marches on quite quickly when the starting line is staring you in the face and before you know it we were in early May 2011.

Heading into the week of the race was “taper” time or winding down the intensity and duration of the training to allow for recovery.  This is a little difficult as by this time you’re fully amped up on training endorphins and taking what seems like a break is uncomfortable.  You wonder: Will it make you slower? Will you lose your endurance?  Will you lose your mind?  True, you become ingrained in and dependent upon the routine of burning serious energy and how that makes you feel.  Also, your nutrition leading into the race is slightly different, higher in carbs and higher in fluids.  The term carb loading is maybe over used but the carbs, or grains do provide fuel that takes longer to burn and is beneficial for endurance racing.  It just isn’t carb loading meaning the meal before the race.

Denver area weather, is as its reputation, includes severe weather fluctuations.  Mid May you’d think sunny, blue skies etc..  Yes, that was true early in the week of the race but as the week wore on it became clear that Sunday, May 15th would not be an idyllic spring day.

Swim, Bike, Run

My first lap swim was interesting.  In my days as a swimmer I would compete in the 500 yard freestyle which is 20 lengths of the pool.  So I thought, I’ll just swim a nice easy 500, of note is the fact that the swim portion of my first TRI was  a 450 yard pool swim.  After two, yes 2 lengths of the pool I was completely winded and thought how on earth did I EVER race a 500 free.  I was concerned, if I couldn’t easily swim 50 yards how was I going to comfortably race 450 yards and then tack on a 12 mile bike ride and then run a 5K?  Hello friends at Swim Labs (www.swimlabs.com), one 30 minute lesson to tune up my breathing and stroke technique and I was off and running…or rather swimming.  Was I headed to the Olympic swim trials? Nope, but I could feel my groove again in the water.

Next challenge was running.  First time on the treadmill I could not run a quarter mile, approximately 3 minutes, without being anaerobic.  This isn’t just breathing hard but truly out of breath.  Really, how could I be fit and not handle a short run?  I soon realized that each of the different components of fitness and triathlon training require difference types of skill, technique and endurance.  After a running lesson with Cary, I started to improve my ability to run for longer periods of time without feeling like I needed “the bucket”.

On to the bike, enter Zen, or actually “Zen Boy”, (doesn’t everyone name their bike?) my beautiful Giant Avail Advanced road bike.  I shopped pretty extensively with the help and research efforts of #1 guy Keith.  I looked at Cannondale, Trek, Orbea, Specialized and Giant road bikes.  While I liked all the bikes, I fell in love with Giant.  Plus the guys at Giant Cycling (http://giantdenver.com/) were great!  Now this may sound stupid, but bikes have changed considerably since my old ten speed days so I needed help with the fundamentals.  Like how to shift, break, plus there was the small matter of bike shoes.  Talk about being patient, and thankfully NOT making me feel like a total doofus, Joe V at Giant Cycling coached me through shifting, breaking, clipping and unclipping on the in-store Cycleops trainer.  Thank you Joe V!

Who’s that Stranger in the Photo?

My family including my parents went on a lovely vacation to Maui, Hawaii in October 2009—a family favorite locale that we’ve enjoyed for many years.  After the trip, I was back home reviewing the holiday photos with the intention of selecting one for inclusion in my traditional photo calendar. Now, while I knew that I was chubby at this time…I was quite frankly shocked by the photos of myself on the beach.  To be clear, I am not a candidate for The Biggest Loser.  But my “chubbiness” or really fatness had transformed me into a woman that I didn’t know.

Looking at one photo after another I saw:

  • A woman that had bad posture
  • A mid-forties gal that looked at least 10 years older
  • I looked tired and frustrated

Reflection time…these photos reflected the image I was projecting to others, which was scary.  Not the typical high energy, can do, positive gal that I consider myself and am generally (I think) known to be.  The seeds were being sown for change.

Coincidentally my friend, colleague, mentor and former “fat guy”, @KirkMac, who, by the way, is now an 8 time (and counting) Ironman finisher, including Kona, mentioned a book that contributed to his personal transformation Younger Next Year, by Chris Crowley @CrowleySpeaks www.youngernextyear.com  and Henry S. Lodge.  Being the supportive guy and fitness focused individual that Kirk is, he gave me a copy of the book for Christmas 2009.

Loved the book, if you haven’t read it I’d highly recommend it to anyone that is interested in optimizing health and fighting the general “decay” (yes, that term is used a ton in the book) that comes with the aging process.  In a nutshell, Younger Next Year speaks to the physiological benefits that result from vigorous exercise…not the “ho-hum am I done yet?” type of exercise that I mentioned earlier.  But, the kind of workout that gets your heart pumping and sweat pouring, the kind that taps into those endorphins that people love to talk about.

New Years resolution time…2010

As we all know, resolutions that tie into January 1st have a very low level probability of sustained success.  Still it was that time of year and an opportunity for me to jump into the deep end of personal transformation.