Sunday, December 5, 2010

Traveling Maniac - Peru Part 1

Two months ago I was in the jungle of Peru in the Amazon rain forest. My sister Molly and I like to travel together and we often talk about what kinds of trips we want to do. She mentioned Peru, I said "sounds great!" She mentioned a jungle adventure, I said "sounds great!". And it was. We started out at the tour company in Cuzco where we boarded a bus and headed into the cloud forest. We drove on winding roads up and up through the Andes Mountains. It was just absolutely beautiful. We stopped in a small village called Paucartambo for breakfast and went to the farmers market to see all the local vendors and their produce. After the brief tour, we got back on the bus and headed out again. We would often get off the bus and hike a bit. We saw some ancient ruins and beautiful flora and fauna.

We stopped for a picnic lunch and got to hike some more. We saw so many types of orchids and we saw incense plants which I never even knew existed. We got to see the national bird who is quite elusive to the camera. We spent quite a bit of time watching the Cock of the Rock and trying to get a good photo of one of those beautiful bright red birds. We saw unbelievable devastation to the roads and the landscape from flooding that had occurred earlier in the year. Finding an appropriate toilet became more and more of a challenge and an obsession as the cliffs up and down either side of the road got steeper and steeper. At one point I needed to pee so badly I climbed down the side of a cliff for modesty and poor Molly thought I was going to tumble into oblivion never to be see again! Needless to say, I survived.

At last we reached our final destination for the day. We stayed at a nice little camp where Molly and I shared a cabin with camp beds. It was very cold in the cloud forest and we had to bundle up in many layers to keep warm. We had power for a few hours so we could recharge our camera batteries and there was real running water. We ate an amazing dinner, got to know our fellow travelers a bit and went to bed early knowing that morning would come soon enough.

The next morning we awoke to a beautiful sunny day and we had a quick breakfast, packed up, and headed back to the bus. We were leaving the cloud forest and heading back down the mountains into the rain forest. Along the way we stopped in another small village to interact a bit with the local people and to see how they live. It was the day after election day so everyone was curious about who had won which elections. We headed out of the village and back onto the mountain roads where we stopped again at a coca plantation. Coca can be grown and sold legally in Peru, albeit highly regulated. The Peruvians use it to make tea, to bake with, or to simply chew on the leaves to help alleviate altitude sickness. I bought some oatmeal coca cookies and they helped with nausea and other symptoms from the high altitude. After we left the plantation we came upon a clearing where we could see the river Madre de Dios and our guide told us that we would soon be boarding our boat that would take us on the next leg of our journey into the rain forest. Stay tuned for more!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Final Race of the Season

The FUNtastic2 Nantasket Sprint Triathlon. September 26, 2010. 1/4 mile ocean swim, 10 mile bike, 3.2 mile beach run in the scenic Hull, MA. Why has it taken me so long to write about this race? Because I hopped a plane to the S. American jungle 5 days later and I have only been back in the USA for a few weeks, readjusting to corporate life and getting back into the swing of reality.

After the epic PA Olympic distance race in August, this race should have been pretty easy. And it nearly was. It had its moments -- both high and low, but for the most part it was a great season ender. I did this race last year and really enjoyed the festive atmosphere and knew that I had to do it again this year. This one will be a keeper on my list, life permitting of course.

Last year the swim was shortened due to high surf (and I mean scary high). This year, the tide was out so far that we had to run the first 1/4 of the swim and the last 1/4 of the swim. Not much actually swimming took place in the swim. Last year I placed 2nd in my age division in the swim, this year I placed 6th. I guess that means I need to work on my shallow water running. When we actually were able to swim, the water was so cold that it took my breath away. I swam as fast as I could whilst numb, hoping to end the pain and overcome the feeling of needing to vomit. It was at that point in the race that I decided quite firmly that I would not do the 5k swim on Veterans Day, where the water would be at least 5-10 degrees colder. The difficult part for me for this race is that I am a swimmer. It is my strongest leg of the race. It it where I get any advantage that I can hope for. On this day my hopes were washed away by the tides.

The bike was a great experience. It was pretty much all flat, which was such a blessing after all the hill training I did for the PA race. I had hoped to improve my time over last year by posting an average 14.8 mph ride. Last year I came in last in my division in the bike but I knew that I had been training hard since. I came out of the water strong, peeled off my wetsuit and suited up for the bike. Once I passed into the riding zone and hopped on I started passing people right away - shocker! I gave everything that I had left in me on the bike, with no concern for "saving it" for the run. I ended up posting an average 16.6 mph (!) and coming in 14/23 in my division. I was so pleased and so shocked that I not only accomplished my goal but far exceeded it. I had underestimated the progress I had made in my training and the way the adrenaline and determination would hit me during the race.

I hopped off the bike and onto to the beach for the 3.2 mile run. Last year I came in last in my division, with no shame - I finished and I was happy! This year the beach conditions were so much better, I was in much better shape (but still not a runner), and the adrenaline high from my bike ride was keeping me moving fast. This lasted for about 3 full minutes when I hit the wall. My first mile was a disaster - 15 minutes, at least. My second mile was much better, I actually felt a rush of energy and did it in under 10 which for me is quite amazing, and then the last mile was my usual 12 minute pace. I felt great when the race was over, sure that I had blown away my run time from last year. Final result for the run? I came in last in my division and last in the ENTIRE field of racers, and only finished 2 seconds faster than last year. Sheesh. Oh well, I finished and overall I was 18/23 in my division at 1:26:55, a vast improvement over last year.

Guess what I have been focusing on ever since I returned from the jungle? Yup - running. I figure if I focus on my running for next season like I did my biking for this season I might not come in LAST PLACE again when I do this race next year.

Next time I write I'll catch you up on my jungle adventure. Wow was it ever amazing!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Traveling Maniac - Part 2 (Venezuela)

Life never really slows down. I keep thinking that it will, but it just never really does. I got back from an amazing trip to Venezuela, squeezed in a quick triathlon, then headed off to South America again -- this time to Peru with my sister. I have been back for almost two weeks and things just keep moving faster and faster. I have unpacked from the race and both trips, but nothing is put away, laundry is in disarray, and my house is need of an old fashioned scrub down. Today I was so amazed at the creative way in which I have arranged the piles of stuff, that I actually thought about renting a dumpster just to empty the house and start over again. If I don't start the cleaning tonight it won't get done until next weekend, at which point I will be naked unless I either locate where I put the clean laundry or I buy more clothes. At least my dogs recognize me when I walk through the front door!

When we last left off I had just returned from Venezuela and was hoping to squeeze in some training for my race. Ahhh Venezuela. So many people ask me why I go to Venezuela. I have been there twice and both times it was with my church on short term missions. I hope to go again and again. I love the people there and I have made friendships with my brothers and sisters in Christ who live and worship there. I go because I feel called by Christ to go. I go with no fear for my safety when I am there for His purposes. Some will think I am not being very smart. I am okay if you think that. I know God will protect me and that He has a plan for my life and He knows how my days are numbered. I don't take unnecessary risks. We go as a group and we have well seasoned travelers and savvy locals who travel with us. It is sad that a few people in that country who speak out against US citizens can scare us away from such a place as this where the majority of the people really do love us. But I understand the fear. I would not want to go there as a woman alone and vulnerable.

Our mission this time was to help build a church in Pampatar on Margarita Island. We worked harder than we ever have on a missions trip. We poured bay after bay of a concrete floor without the help of any heavy equipment. We were the heavy equipment! We laid block to build the walls of the church. We tied re-bar, we shoveled dirt, and we consumed gallon after gallon of water. For 5 days we worked in hot (100-125 degrees F) and sticky weather to accomplish what we set out to do. We took a siesta every afternoon when the sun was at its highest so that we could eat lunch and rest to allow us to be more productive in the afternoons. We worked side by side with the locals until the sun went down, and sometimes some of the crew had to work even longer to use up the concrete that we had mixed so that none went to waste. I saw people push themselves far beyond what they would normally be physically or emotionally capable of. How? Only through the power that Christ provides which strengthens us in our weakness. I experienced it there and I continue to experience it now that I have returned. God continues to bless my life in so many unexpected ways.

We didn't work every second. We did have Sunday off plus one other day where we got to enjoy the local sights and spend time with the local people. I had the opportunity to go snorkeling for the first time in my life (I know, really?). I was amazed at the simple beauty of a sea urchin and the complex nature of the coral beds and the tides that pushed us around and around in the water. The island that we were on is off the northern coast of Venezuela in the Caribbean not all that far from Aruba. There is a beauty there which I have never seen before, but hope to experience over and over again in my life. God gives us this beauty as a gift and we can choose how to experience that gift - with eyes wide open, or through our cynical nature. I try so hard to set aside my cynicism and more often than not, I fail miserably. But trips like this truly change me and how I view this world that we live in. I am blessed.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Traveling Maniac

Hello again. It has been a long time. I have been a traveling maniac over the last four weeks, and I am not done yet. This week I have spent a lot of time sick and recovering. I'll spare you the details. Suffice it to say that training for my race next weekend is non-existent. It will be what it will be. Perhaps I will get in one each of a swim, bike, and run during the week. Perhaps not...

Four weekends ago I dropped my youngest child off at school in Chicago, thus the "empty nest". We had great flights, a nice hotel, some amazing food, and saw some of the sights of the city. I absolutely love the city of Chicago, and I hope Dave does too. We did some really touristy stuff like Navy Pier and we ate at the original Uno's. We shopped for dorm supplies and just had some great bonding times which were both bittersweet and exciting. I am so proud of him and this step that he has taken to be a man on his own. I look forward to the holidays when I get to spend time with him again, but I know that it will never be the same as before. He is forever changed and I must be too. I returned home to an empty house (okay, to be fair I do have two wonderful puppies and some fish in my aquarium) on Wednesday.

No sooner did my plane touch down and I was off to Pennsylvania to compete in my first Olympic distance triathlon. My friend Michelle and I hit the road on Friday afternoon, got to our hotel late, and hit the sack. The next day we checked out the race venue and we were both quite daunted by the size of the hills in that section of PA. We didn't even bother to check out the run route, we were just dazed by the bike route. We bought some food and then ate, hydrated, and rested for the rest of the day. On Sunday morning we woke up early and hit the race hard.

The swim was a .9 mile river swim with the second half all upstream. I half expected to see salmon swimming along side me. I used drafting to my advantage to get a little rest before pushing ahead to the next group of swimmers to draft off of. I made out okay and felt I finished the swim strong. I got on the bike and headed out knowing that it was going to be a long 25 miles. The hills were daunting but they were made somewhat easier by the Army National Guardsmen that were at every turn and at the top of every hill offering encouragement with every turn of the pedals. There was only one hill that did me in - the one at mile 5. My heart rate got so high that I had to push up the second half of it. Funny thing was that some of the people riding weren't going all that much faster than I was walking. At the top, I got back on and did my thing for the rest of the ride. I exceeded my mph goal for the ride, felt good about that, racked my bike and headed out on the run. (run is a term that I always use very loosely) The run was 3.1 miles uphill followed by 3.1 miles downhill. I walked most of the first half and a little of the second half (whenever I hit the slightest incline).

My goal for the race was to finish, even if I came in last. 4:00 hours would have been sweet, too. Well - I finished, I came in 5th from last, and finished in 4:07 (including a bathroom stop). What amazed me is that at no time during the race did I wonder what I had gotten myself into. I was just thinking "I can really do this thing" and "Thank you Jesus!" and "Wow, I think I'll do this again!" and I will, but not in Pennsylvania. Give me the hills of New England any day.

We arrived home on Monday evening and on Friday I headed off to Venezuela for 9 days for a missions trip. Stay tuned for more about that amazing experience.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Come on in, the Water is Really Cold

For some reason I cannot put my finger on, I have decided to do a 5k charity swim for Veterans -- around Veteran's Day -- in New York -- at Brighton Beach. Anticipated water temp?? ~52 degrees. Actually, I know exactly why I decided to do it - my grandpa, my dad, my father-in-law, and a whole bunch of other friends and family are veterans. Besides them are many other friends and family, and family of friends, and friends of family who are currently serving in the military. No one is untouched by the sacrifice these men and women have made or are making. The least I can do is raise a little money and awareness by jumping in the cold water and swimming 3.2 miles. The sacrifice to my comfort is so small in comparison.

To me, the funniest part about this swim is that there are two divisions - the wetsuit division and the non-wetsuit division. Seriously, you ask? Yes, seriously. Clearly, I am opting for the wetsuit division. No question about it. The last time I swam in water that was that cold I wanted to vomit for the first 300 yards and the total length of the swim was only about a mile, but it felt like 5 miles! I was woefully unprepared and uninitiated in the ways of cold water swim preparation. On top of that, I had just returned from a 10 day trip to South America where the temperatures hovered around 110 degrees and my blood thinned out quite nicely, thank you very much. When I got out of the water my exposed skin was red as a lobster - apropos considering the race was the "Lobsterman Triathlon".


So I have been reading a bit about cold water swim preparation and I have a lot more to read to really prepare. However, to start with I have committed to taking only cool or cold showers and baths between now and the swim in November. A warm shower is a luxury I cannot afford. On the plus side, I am burning a whole lot less oil and helping to green the environment in the process. In addition, I will need to purchase some additional neoprene coverage for my head, hands, and feet. Continue to watch this blog as I learn more and more about the preparations for long distance cold water swim events and to see if I can actually raise enough money to register for the swim before the event closes. The countdown begins!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Goals and the Preparation Thereof

What a training week this has been! After a teaching riding with Chuck on Monday, I did a swim/run brick on Tuesday, a 17 mile ride on Wednesday, rested on Thursday, a bike/run brick on Friday, a 10K run on Saturday, and a challenging 23.5 mile ride today. Then tomorrow starts a whole new tri training week all over again.

After Monday's ride I felt exhilarated and couldn't wait to ride again. Tuesday was a lazy swim, followed by two 1.5 mile runs -- both of which felt quite good. Then on Wednesday I was back on the bike for a 17 mile loop where I was able to try out many of the things that Chuck had taught me. One of the biggest struggles that I had was my breathing - also true in my running. Having asthma as a triathlete adds a little bit of an extra challenge, but I have pushed through that with the help of my doctor and I rarely, if ever, struggle with an attack. However I still wanted to maintain my breathing without sounding like an obscene phone caller. What I have learned was that I was expending too much energy using the strength in my lengths which was making me oxygen deprived. When I lightened up on the gears that I was using I spun a lot faster, but didn't expend the same amount of energy and I was able to take the big hills with more energy and less heavy breathing.

By the time Thursday rolled around I had planned to run a 10K, but there were thunderstorms -- always a great excuse for a rest day!
Then on Friday I was back at it with a 9.5 hilly ride followed by a 2.5 mile jog. The bike was good, but oddly enough I felt better on the run. I didn't use the MotionTraxx training podcasts that day, but I have used them enough now to help me establish a good pace for myself where I am not breathing too heavy or starting out too fast in a speed that I cannot maintain. I don't know that I will ever be a fast runner, but I am feeling pretty solid at an 11-12 minute/mile pace. I would love to get below a 10 minute pace someday and I will continue to target that as a goal. I know that I can sustain it for one mile, but after that I'm punked.

Saturday morning was supposed to be a rest day, but I needed to make up for my missed 10K from Thursday so I headed out with my MotionTraxx and finished in 1:12 which was about as perfect of a pace as I could get. My legs are now starting to give out *before* my breathing which I believe is a sign of progress for this girl! I rested in a cool bath (more on that in another blog post) for about an hour and then pushed to rehydrate as much as I could in preparation for today's ride.

Today was supposed to be a 26 mile ride, not too overly challenging, with a break in the middle for snack/lunch. Obi-wan had other plans for me - and the 5 other people on the ride besides us. He knows that I am training for this tri coming up in three weeks and wanted to help me to prepare better. This guy has been at this for years -- who am I to argue? So off we went on a shorter (23.5 mile) ride, which was far more challenging with a lot of hills and gradual inclines that seemed to go on forever. At first I thought he was trying to kill me, but as the ride went on I saw the wisdom and genius of his plan (thus the nickname Obi-wan). He worked with me a bit on pacing up the hills and maintaining a certain heart rate so that, in the race, I would have something left over for the run. After the ride I felt great and he talked with me a lot about strategy for THE HILL that is at mile six in my race.

The race is exactly three weeks from today. I am actually feeling pretty good about my chances to make it across the finish line. I am even resigned to the fact that I might be the last person across the finish line - after all, the last place finisher always gets the loudest cheers, do they not? :-) I am confident that I can complete each of the events individually. The question is, how will my body react when I string them all together? For the record - it's a .93 mile swim, 24.8 bike, and 6.2 mile run. Thus the crazy preparations over the last week, which will continue for the next two weeks at which time I will taper the training to give this poor old body a rest before race day.


Monday, August 2, 2010

The Importance of Being Earnest

Tonight I went for a ride with one of my training partners - Chuck. Chuck has been letting me teach him a thing or two about swimming. It was a rewarding experience for me and he is now a good swimmer, with good technique. (I assume that means it was a rewarding experience for him too.) With swimming, technique comes first then strength comes later. But I digress...tonight he repaid the favor and taught me a thing or two about biking.

I am an "okay" biker and have come a long way from last year. But I have plateaued and was in need of some TLC and some real technique. My strength cannot get me any further. I want to improve and I am unable to do it on my own. So tonight I became a biking sponge -- an earnest learner. And Chuck complied as a willing trainer and filled my brain with tip after tip. Cadence, shifting, gear strategy, butt-on-the-seat position, body position, hand placement, hill climbing techniques, when to spin, when not to spin, planning for the hills, when to push on the pedals and when to pull and how to combine that with butt-on-the-seat-position, and so much more that I may not even remember.

We worked on standing while pedaling -- which I finally got through by using Chuck's tip of applying my core muscles and pulling up on the handlebars. Then we worked on standing high and standing low and powering up a hill and the timing of when to stand. For the record, standing while pedaling makes me really, really nervous - especially combined with the forward leaning position. I kind of felt like I should be wearing a mouth guard. I tried hard not to envision myself with no front teeth. I swallowed my fear and squashed the negative self talk -- both of which have nooo place in tri training and, in fact, have no place in life.

I have a lot to practice before my next race and I left Chuck and Patty's with a great feeling about my future as a biker and looking forward to my next ride -- in earnest. Ultimately what I learned is that, as with swimming, bike technique is extremely important and should come before strength. Thanks Chuck for a great training session. I am looking forward to the next one to reinforce all the stuff swimming around in my brain!


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

An Angel's Perspective

Last Sunday I had the enormous pleasure of being a swim angel in the SheRox woman's triathlon. I have never been a swim angel before, but my focus lately has been on encouraging and helping other triathletes with the swim leg. I also wanted to give something back to the sport that has given so much to me.

So what is a swim angel? My job was to swim along side other women who might not feel very confident in the water and in their ability to complete the .5 mile swim. While I was swimming with them I was to offer words of encouragement and, if necessary, a noodle. I swam the course three times with three different groups of women hoping to give something to them to spur them on to the swim finish line. It turned out to be so much more than that. I made connections with women and heard their stories.

I hope that I was able to give something to them, however in reality they gave more back to me than I could ever have imagined or hoped for.
I swam with women of all ages and all abilities. A few needed a noodle and a few did not. Regardless of their ability, their commitment to reaching the finish line and to completing the goal that they set out for themselves was inspiring. Each woman I met had a story - about why she tri-ed. One young woman (who happens to be one of my instructors from dance camp) set a powerful goal for herself and reached high and achieved it. One woman was swimming for her son who had been diagnosed with cancer, another swam for her very young son who suffers from Muscular Dystrophy and is not expected to live. Another woman had just recovered from having a brain tumor removed and, in an interesting coincidence, we were connected to each other through my son and her husband. Out of 2100 women in the race we were paired up to swim together. How amazing is that?

I have a very strong faith and I do not believe in coincidence. I do believe that God brings other people into our lives for a reason and that these women were brought into my life and into each others lives to see that we all share difficult stories and success stories and that we can come together as women to shore each other up and see each other through. I am going to be a swim angel again this weekend on Saturday and then swim with my relay team on Sunday. I will come to each with a whole new, humbled angel's perspective.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Running Tool

Yesterday was an amazing training day for me. I hit a new personal best with my run (aka jog/speed walk). How? My training buddy Obi-wan introduced me to Motion Traxx. These are podcasts that are geared toward helping your cadence while you run. Some of them are available free through iTunes or on their website http://www.motiontraxx.com

These are workouts that are set to music. The music isn't all that great and is highly repetitive however the beat of the music is customized for various workouts. For example, I began using the run 1 minute / walk 1 minute 5k workout. This was a great way to get me back into the groove of running. There is an increasing intensity to the 1 minute runs so that you are constantly building until near the end of the run when there is a cool down.

For the last two runs, I used the 150-160 beats per minute ~5 mile workout. This workout helps you to average between 10-12 minute miles. The first time I used it I averaged closer to the 12 minute mark and ran 4 miles before I just had to pack it in due to the heat and an earlier bike ride. Yesterday was a completely different story. I ran just over 5 miles at a little over an 11 minute pace. I have asthma which usually is a big challenge for me with running. But my breathing was regulated because I keep a consistent pace. I worried less about the speed and more about the distance and the metronome that the music offered for my cadence. Loved it! I highly recommend Motion Traxx podcasts.

I ended the night's training with jazz class. This was my last night of dance camp and I am sad to see the week end. However, Miss Kristen was wonderful and the class was a lot of fun. My body can move like a jazz dancer - so now I just need to work on moving it at the right time and in the right direction. I am sooooo excited that I will be able to take tap and jazz in the fall. These two classes were by far my favorite of the week. :-)

Do you have a workout tool that you use successfully? I would love to hear about it!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bike, Run, Swim, Ballet

Yesterday was quite the workout day. I began with a morning bike ride with my friend and fellow tri girl Cori. We rode a respectable 17 miles with a couple of hills, but nothing crazy. We even hit one super sweet downhill along the ride. I spent a lot of the ride marveling at the progress that I have made on the bike during this season alone. Some of the small rolling hills that we rode yesterday were ones that I used to think were painful and which I previously had ridden in "granny gear". Yesterday I rode them in a higher gear than I ever thought sane or reasonable. I thank my friend and fellow tri girl+1 Chuck for encouraging me to shoot for what I thought was an unattainable goal. One of the great things about having others to train with is the encouragement and tips that we can give to each other along the way. I have lucked into a great group of tri girls and a couple of very patient tri guys, for which I am extremely thankful.

I got off the bike and convinced myself that I needed to go for a run. At least one mile... So I walked/jogged a little over a mile. I am simply not a runner. I was the girl who failed the 10 minute mile in high school - 4 - years - in - a - row! Running and I, well we just don't really speak to each other. In my twenties I sustained an injury that, for many many years prevented me from running (poor me!). Once I finally recovered from the injury I was motivated by my desire to do a tri. I can't say that I am a runner. I am definitely more of a jogger/speed walker. But I persevere.

In the early evening I headed to the lake for a swim with two of my tri girls - Allyson and Michelle. Truth be told, I didn't train all that hard in the water. I did a leisurely quarter mile warm up and then tried to hit the last quarter mile hard. The accumulation of the workouts over the last three days hit back. I was exhausted trying to push myself in the water. I ended up dogging the last eighth of a mile with the shore seeming farther and farther away with each breath rather than closer. I got out of the water and was starving, light headed, and in serious need of some sugar. I raced home and wolfed down some G2 and a Vitamuffin Corn Muffin before heading out to ballet class.

I arrived at the dance studio to find my friend and fellow tri girl Lisa finishing up the cardio class. She was quickly convinced to stay for ballet (yay!) and we started with a warmup at the barre which was not too intimidating. All went well until...the grand pliƩ. Not only did I snap, crackle, and pop but each of those 17 miles on the bike came back to haunt me. Oy vey! I soldiered along and didn't embarrass myself too much considering it has been 20+ years. But then the lovely Miss Kristen started talking about leaps...and then she demonstrated what she wanted us to do. Clearly if I had any hope of succeeding at this maneuver I would required both harness and trampoline. I gave it the old college try and had some great laughs. Lisa and I didn't collide into each other once during the whole hour, either!

I enjoyed the class and I still marvel at how much fun one can have when we push ourselves outside our comfort zone. I encourage you to pick one thing new to try - go for it, and then let me know how it went!



Monday, July 19, 2010

Bike, Run, Dance...huh?

Today I threw a new sport into the triathlon cross training mix - dance. I woke up this morning and rode 10 very hilly miles with my friend Wonder Woman. We convinced each other to run two miles after we got off the bikes. We started jogging and quickly decided to power walk the two miles... so pathetic. But as we loosened up, we decided to push ourselves to 4 miles and to alternate power walking and jogging. Granted, we did walk more than jog but it was forward momentum and I was glad we did as much as we did. I ran four slow miles last night, so I convinced myself to take it even slower today. Besides - I had to save something for DANCE CAMP!!!

That's right, I am taking a week of dance classes this week. I'm calling it dance camp because it makes me feel a little less old. I haven't danced in any serious way for over 20 years. Tonight's class was a contemporary class. This is a style that I have never done before. I have seen it on So You Think You Can Dance and have always loved watching it and the way the body moves in this style of dance. Today my body was not quite moving with the rhythm of the rises and falls, but I learned a lot and had so much fun. There were only three of us in the class and I was, by far, the oldest. We did some moves where we had to roll onto our knees (ouch) on the hard wood floor (double ouch) so there might be a bruise or two tomorrow. But oh my! What fun!

My work out plans tomorrow include an early morning bike/run and an early evening swim followed by dance camp again. Tomorrow I will hit the floor for ballet - a little closer to home, but I am quite rusty and rickety in that style. At least my body might remember some of what it did 20 years ago, Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Why Tri?

So many people have asked me why I participate in the sport of triathlon - how I got started - what compels me to continue year after year - am I crazy... The funny thing is when some of them try it out, they are usually hooked on it as much as I am. Triathlon is my drug of choice.

How did I get started in triathlon? Well, one day at work I overhead two women talking about how one of them wanted to start a relay triathlon team. She was a biker, she knew a runner, but they were having a really difficult time finding a swimmer. Hmmmm, I thought to myself, I'm a swimmer. I eavesdropped a bit more and then opened my mouth to volunteer. And that is how it began. We started out at the sprint level and did two all female races in that first year. We had so much fun that the next year we expanded and did more races, and then we kept doing them year after year. We eventually started competing in International/Olympic distance races and then moved on to 1/2 Iron distance races. We have yet to do an Iron Man relay - I hope that one day we will do one, just for the goal and subsequent accomplishment of it.

I moved into the solo competitions gradually. I started out doing a relay where I did the swim and bike and someone else ran for me. Feeling pretty confident that I could ride a bike, even though I hadn't ridden one since I was a teen - I registered for the race. I borrowed a friend's bike and hit the road hoping to be able to complete 12 miles. After 7 miles I realized that I must have lost my mind and that this was not for me in any way. However, I had already registered for the race, so tri I must. I kept at it and competed in the race and did okay. I was even a little disappointed that I didn't do the whole race solo. I could have easily walked the 3 miles if necessary. And so I was motivated to do the whole race the following year.

I began running - something that I had never been able to do - in March of last year. I couldn't even run to the end of my very short driveway. I started slow and built and persevered in a way that I don't think I ever had in my life. Once I knew that I could run at least one mile, I registered for the race. Now I had a goal. I finished the race, didn't embarrass the family, and felt a feeling of accomplishment like I had never felt in my whole life. I ended up doing two solo races that year (last year in fact). All the while, I was still competing with my tri relay team.

Now as I go forward toward my new goal of a solo Olympic distance race and I wonder, once again, if I have lost my mind, I am confident that at a minimum I can stagger across that finish line. And who knows - I may even plan to do it again?





Friday, July 16, 2010

The Goal

Several weeks ago, my friend Michelle (aka Wonder Woman because she's been training with only 2 working gears) and I signed up for the River Stock Tri in PA. We have both competed in sprint distance races, but neither of us has done an Olympic distance race. She is worried about the 1.5k swim distance, I'm worried about the very hilly 28k bike ride, and neither of is anywhere near smart enough to be worried about the 10k run at the end. I have been helping her with her swimming and she has been patiently accompanying me on some pretty hilly bike rides. Running??? Not so much. We are now six weeks away from the race and I have come to the realization that I need to get my feet on the pavement in earnest. And so it begins...

Today I did hill repeats on the bike for 10 miles - 1.25 miles down, 1.25 miles up, drink, turn around, repeat. The first 3 times up the hill I was able to maintain a high gear and to work the push and pull motions of my legs
simultaneously and hard. By the time I headed up the hill for the 4th time I was beat, the cloud cover had disappeared and the wind died down, the temperature soared, and I made the mistake of shifting into a really low gear. Ugh. It felt like hours and sweat was pouring off my brow and into my eyes. I was really happy to see the top of the hill!

I got off the bike hoping to hit the pavement hard for at least 1 mile, but that last hill coupled with the heat took all my reserves and I ended up walk/running the mile with pretty ineffective breathing - and no technique to speak of. Sunday morning after church I am going to try to just go running and see how it goes. Stay tuned!




Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Jasmine Rice and Shrimp

I made this recipe last night as a variation of "Pomegranate Rice" published in Better Homes and Gardens last November. I was unable to find pomegranate in the produce aisle, so I punted and modified and it came out quite delish!

Ingredients
1 shallot, peeled and chopped
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 cup jasmine rice
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 small portabello mushroom, chunked
14 oz vegetable broth
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup peeled roasted salted pistachio nuts
1 cup pomegranate juice infused craisins
fresh lemon peel cut in thin strips - to taste
1/2 lb medium sized cooked shrimp

Method
In a large saucepan, cook shallots in hot oil over medium heat until tender (3-5 mins.), stirring occasionally.
Add rice, mushrooms, ginger, and cinnamon and stir for 5 mins. until rice begins to brown.
Slowly add broth and water, bring to a boil and simmer covered for 14 mins.
Remove from heat and let stand covered for 10 minutes - until liquid is absorbed
Stir in nuts, craisins, lemon peel, and shrimp.
Serve hot and enjoy!!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bike/swim/bike

Tonight I did my first ever bike/swim/bike brick with two other tri girls. It was fun and reminded me of when I was a little kid and I would ride with friends to the lake for a swim. Of course, now it's all technical. And there is also the wetsuit factor. How do you ride to the lake with (and not in) your wetsuit? Knowing the wetsuit would be really heavy on the ride home, I decided to forgo the wetsuit and swim in my bathing suit the old fashioned way. I packed a miniature backpack with a small tri towel, my bathing cap, and my goggles and we headed off to the lake.

The ride was 8 miles each way, not too hilly out and a little bit more challenging on the way back. We rode at a warm up pace to the lake and jumped in the water for our swim. We swam for only about 15 minutes because we were losing daylight quickly, but it was enough to stretch out all those muscles that were sore from my mountain bike ride yesterday. We hit a pretty good clip on the way back, but still not too fast. We averaged about 2 miles per hour faster than the initial ride - enough to get us home with some daylight to spare. I was glad that I didn't bring the wetsuit because that would have meant less time in the water with all the donning and stripping of the neoprene.

Tonight I am experimenting with a new jasmine rice and shrimp recipe.
It sounded like a great post-workout meal, hearty but not too filling. It is on the stove now and smells fabulous. If it tastes as good as it smells, then tomorrow I will post the recipe. My stomach is growling loudly and I am hoping the timer rings soon!


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Black Fly Weekend

My triathlon team and I headed north on Friday afternoon for what ended up to be one amazing weekend. We stayed at the Black Bear Lodge with a whole bunch of Bradfords who were having a family reunion. There had to be over 100 of them all wearing lanyards - which made them easy to identify and avoid. ;-)

Waterville Valley is a great place to hang out for the weekend. The swim was in a small pond and was only .25 miles. It rained buckets during the race and I was chilled right through because it was only about 70 degrees. Every stitch of clothes that I had to put on after I got out of the water was soaked through even before I got my wetsuit on. Fortunately our hotel was only a few hundred yards away from transition and after my swim - once I started shivering uncontrollably - I bailed like a little girl and went to the room to change into something dry.

I came in first in the swim for my all female relay division and second out of all relayers. That makes me two for two this year. No where to go but down.

Our team came in 3rd place in our all female division and we were thrilled. After we had all changed into dry clothes and the rain slowed to a drizzle we went back to the race location to eat and have a post race massage. I will definitely do this race again, but as a solo participant next year along side my team.

That night we had a great dinner out at the Wild Coyote restaurant. My meal was seared scallops, black truffle mashed potatoes, asparagus and roasted squash all with a scallop au jus. It had to be in my top 10 meals ever. I highly recommend the restaurant. After dinner we went back to our room to watch the Italian Job and enjoy some Strawberry and Cherry organic beers and hit the sack.

We slept in until 8:00 am on Sunday (a luxury for triathletes on a race weeked) and then had breakfast and headed out for an adventure. We rented mountain bikes and took the ski lift up and up and up and up. I have never mountain biked before - but WOW, WOW, WOW. I had way too much fun careening down the mountain, splashing through the mud puddles, avoiding trees, etc. I only drew blood once and was ready to go up and do it again if we had more time. I think I won the award for the muddiest bike returned to the rental shop that day. All the rain made for a lot of mud on the trail. At first I tried to avoid it to no avail, so I just embraced it and succeeded mightily.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Reflections and Anticipation

The swim clinic went better than I could have hoped. I had a lot of help from my friend Obi-Wan (Curtis). There were 8 of us in total. Curtis started off with some swim start and T1 techniques. We answered a lot of questions from some first timers. Then he turned it over to me. I reviewed some basic technique before hitting the water. We played in the shallow end for a bit, working on breathing and hip rotation and then the real work began with applying what we all learned. Curtis was a big help here, too. We watched the others swim and gave them tips to help their technique. I expected that we would be done by 8:00 but I didn't get home until almost 9:00. What a great and energizing night! I can wait to do it again.

Today I head north with my tri relay team for the Black Fly Tri. My swim is advertised as a .25 mile swim so I should be in and out of the water pretty quick. I am debating if I should bother with the wetsuit for this one. That will be a game time decision to be sure. After the race we will have the rest of the weekend to explore Waterville Valley, maybe go to the Black Fly Bonfire, and just enjoy our girls weekend. Two great young men and two big old dogs will be holding down the fort here at home while I am gone. I look forward a great weekend!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Swim Clinic #1

Tonight I am giving my first swim clinic. I hope that it goes well. I am expecting about 4-5 people to attend and I really want them to get something great out of it. I am a little nervous because my primary goal is to help people succeed. Open water swimming overwhelms a lot of new triathletes for good reasons. I want to teach them to face the fear and to give them strategies to overcome that fear. I also want to help them with technique so that they can improve their swim times.