Thursday, September 21, 2006

I have recently come into a large sum of money

And when I say "I" I really mean the OCRF. We're tight like that. Okay, maybe we're not but that's my post title, dammit.

I started this post on Monday, the day our air conditioning hadn’t been working for about two days. I was miserable--as was our whole apartment, which was a roasting 85 day and night. Bummer, I know. To cheer myself up, I decided to post my final race report from Wisconsin: my Janus Charity Challenge numbers. Much to the disappointment of my dramatic side, the A/C was fixed long before I finished this, so I abandoned the effort. I know that doesn’t make logical sense, but that’s just how I work.

With the help of my family, friends, and amazingly supportive tri community here in H-town I raised $5635 plus a match from Janus for $750--bringing the total gift to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund to $6385. Holy shit!

I loathe fundraising. I hated selling calendars for Girl Scouts, and I ate more candy bars for school sales than I dreamt of selling. In college I’d pay to get out of Thurtene fundraising even though I was broke. Selling stuff I didn’t like and asking people for money felt dirty, and the feeling is compounded by my hating to ask for any type of help. For this particular round of fundraising I felt a lot less bad about asking, but also wanted to give people the opportunity to donate in hopes of getting something in return; the raffle was born, and I decided to write the Houston businesses I loved to see if they could donate anything. Of the 75 letters I sent out, I only received maybe 12-15 positive responses, but the prize pool ended up being around $700 worth of stuff. Apparently all you have to do is ask.

Anyway, here are some neat numbers I found:
$ from family-- $1400
$ from friends-- $1962
$ from Houston Racing Triathlon Club-- $1216
$ from Texas-- $2860
$ from non-TX-- $2775
$ from folks I’ve never met-- $1301
$ from work-- $1156
$ from the raffle ~$775

Clearly the numbers overlap in some places, but that’s a lot of money from a lot of different folks. Some donated because I did an Ironman, and some people just wanted to support me. Others knew my mom or my aunt (who also died of ovarian cancer), and still more lost someone they loved to the disease. No matter what the motive it was very touching, and more than one training session found me thinking about how lucky I am to be surrounded with such caring people. I don’t do much sap, but I’ve been a total baby about this from day one... thanks guys.

I know you're not supposed to get competitive with this kind of thing, BUT I simply can't help my nature. :) I'm pretty proud to have been ~15th of the 50+ athletes in the Janus Charity Challenge at Wisconsin when ranked by how much moolah raised (NOT finishing time). I wish I could get the exact number but they pulled the search for WI 06 athletes after the race and don't publish such things (besides, what kind of self-involved prick would care about a charity ranking? Besides me of course). What's important is the effort, right?

Okay, no more WI stuff. And no more excuses for my recent fusion to the couch and cheese. I'll start training again... this weekend. ;-)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Race report

So here’s the report. In case you’re wondering I made none of my time goals, but I held it together pretty well with most of the other ones (except the pics... they’re awful). I also placed really poorly in my age group, but I was okay with it—those girls were fast and weren’t messing around. Anyway--

The Swim

The course: two loop, wade start. The day before I’d hesitated mightily to get in the water, but found I was being silly—despite the chilly air, the lake was very comfortable, almost warm. The water wasn’t especially clear or cloudy, just a normal lake. Like I mentioned yesterday, I don’t care much for double loops, but the water itself was a-okay with me. On race day I found George and Ben on my way to the water, and we laughed and joked while we waded out to the start. It was relaxed, fun--like college but with wetsuits and better bodies. I opted to start about 10 feet in front of them, and we started drifting apart. We wished each other luck and I tried to put my game face on.

I like to start swims on the front line and out to the side; it’s worked for me so far in these things. The canon boomed and the melee began. I’m used to getting the “swim beating” for about 5-10 minutes, then having the place clear out for the most part. While I started this race in the same spot, I never cleared the water traffic. Most of the thrashing and punching was accidental, but it never seems that way when you’re the one who was punched in the face. There are people who do that crap on purpose, and I’m ashamed to say it occurred to me at one point to deliver a well-timed jab. Of course, my jabs wouldn’t be well timed, and my one attempt to intentionally push someone ended up reaching only water. I took it as a sign I wasn’t meant to be a swim brutalizer and should just keep moving.

At the first turnaround buoy the water got rougher. Since I haven’t open water raced since June I forgot that you can’t take your breaths for granted, and this is especially true in choppy water. I tried to keep my cool, swim straight, and work with the waves, but I had a sinking feeling my swim would be bad. The second loop was more of the same: struggling bodies and waves. I emerged from the water at 1:09:42, 4 minutes after my original (silly) goal. While this isn't a time to be proud of, I did beat 2 female pros-- kinda cool.


Though my time doesn’t show it (7:45) I had a great Mishele T1. I got my wetsuit stripped by an efficient stripper (tee hee), got my stuff together, thanked at least 3 people for their help, and headed out. What took so long? Running up that parking helix, running into the building, then running down a very long transition. Again, I lucked out because my bike was right near the mount line, so my time should have been way worse. I really liked changing indoors because the carpet was so warm and soft under my bare feet; it was also nice knowing my clothes weren’t getting soaked in the rain, which came later. The only bad thing I guess I’d add is my cap got lost in the shuffle, and I really like the IM caps b/c they’re the original small Speedo ones--the best for training unless you have 12 feet of hair to tuck under that cap. Oh well... no sense in lamenting over a $1.50 cap that I got for free.

The Bike

The bike started by riding down another parking helix, which was way funner than running up one. I felt really good but was determined to go very easy til the second loop. Despite my efforts I was riding really fast for me, and I can only assume it was a tailwind helping me along. The drizzle that had begun when I got on the bike never let up, but it was still feeling like a beautiful day. I decided I’d be positive for the first 60 miles no matter how I felt; if I could do that, I could endure another 52 with some semblance of joy. So yeah, the ride out was fast and lots of people passed me, as always. I kept waiting for George and Ben to whoosh by since they are both strong cyclists, and finally Ben pulled alongside me at mile 24.9 (couldn’t he have waited til 25? Sigh). I saw him again at 30 because he stopped to pee. We chatted about the upcoming “hilly part” (funny because a lot of it is hilly) and I told Ben I had yet to see George... strange. He continued on his badass way and two hills later I met up with George. I never saw the two again til the run where they were kicking some serious Ironman booty--it was very inspiring. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The course was as hilly as it had been the day before (I hit a new high speed of 42.8 mph-- while braking!), though it was a bit less scenic due to the dreary weather. Still, it was a nice trip out to the country, and locals lined the roads with cow bells, radios, and lots of enthusiastic cheering. At the top of one especially long hill there was even a guy handing out sausages, and while I knew it was a bad idea I simply couldn’t resist. That sausage tasted so good! I also got lucky and didn’t suffer any consequences for letting my bravado control my nutrition. Speaking of nutrition, I did okay with the eating on the bike, but wasn’t very thirsty; when I stopped at 56 and 80 miles to pee what seemed like gallons, I finally decided that I wasn’t drinking unless I was thirsty for the rest of the ride.

At mile 62 my back started to feel crummy. It was unexpected since it normally doesn’t bother me too much, but I was hardly surprised--it’s an ironman, right? Earlier in the day I’d grinned at the thought of getting a “hard” race to do: rain, cool weather, and a tough course. It would be a day I’d have to earn my stripes. By my pit stop at 80 I wasn’t feeling the challenge, but I was lucky to still be riding... All day ambulances screamed down the road with regularity. Chilling, especially when I thought how it could just as easily be me skidding off the road with my numb hands and feet controlling my ride.

Though I hadn’t worked hard in the first loop at all, I barely survived the second one. The wind picked up and my emotions went all crazy-haywire, and it was with great relief that I turned to head back to T2. In the last 5 miles about 30 people passed me, but I my ego wasn't engaged enough to try to stick with them. Finally I got to the parking garage helix I would have to ride up; I wondered briefly if anyone had walked up it so that I'd be excused if I had to. I thought it would totally suck riding up that thing, but there was no wind or rain on most of the ramp, which was really all that came to my mind when I got to climbing. Finally, I dismounted (clumsily) and gratefully met an indoor T2 after 7:33:06 in the saddle.


I ran into the building, got my bike to run bag, and hit the ladies changing room. Then I started to cry because that’s what I do. After about 10 seconds I got hold of myself, but didn’t make much progress changing with my cold fingers. About that time a volunteer came over to help me put on my clothes. I felt like so helpless and lame before her--and grateful for her help. While we negotiated my running top and mittens she told me with a touch of worry that her son was still on the bike course. Let me pause to say how much I love people who will sacrifice the 7 seconds they’ll see their loved one at some point on the course just to volunteer to help miserable strangers like me--I’d truly have been a mess without her. I hope her son finished okay.

The Run

The run
Out of T2 (a sluggish 10:06) I started worrying about my time, but what could I do? I was going as hard as I could. As I left Monona I watched the winner come through the chute, which strangely inspired the thought, “26.2 miles isn’t that far.” Clearly I’m on drugs. I shuffled along for a few miles, seeing George and Ben going the other direction and looking pretty cheerful. I got excited; having friends on the course is really nice, and though I didn’t like the out-and-back format, it allowed me to see my buds twice each despite their awesome performances (George finished in 11:45 and Ben in 13:30!).

The only reason I got through the run in less than 6 hours is because of Diane from Chicago. We met walking up a hill around mile 5 (where she’d already made up over 5 minutes on me). We chatted and I decided to shed my lazy pace to stay with her. At mile 8 I started slowing down again and thanked her for running with me, but she wouldn’t hear it. “Running is like dating,” she replied. “You just gotta make sacrifices.” We slowed a little but stayed together. Later when she started feeling like dog poop, I was more than willing to walk for a bit... even so, she definitely sacrificed minutes of her time to stay with me. Our time was slower than we both wanted but I was grateful to share the experience with someone.

The run was basically cold and dark and nothing earth shattering happened. Things of note could be running on the UW football field and my extreme chafing that would have forced me to take off my shorts had I been wearing underwear, but neither truly stuck out in my mind. Ultimately it was a long, slow 26.2.

I was so relieved to finish. I’d picked it up at mile 25 but when I made my last turn my heart sank a bit. In front of me was a man running with his small son to the finish, and I thought I’d have to walk across the line since there was no way I was ruining their moment just to knock a few seconds off my time by passing them. I jogged behind them for a few seconds, then realized we were just getting to the 13.1 turnaround--the finish was still beyond! I carefully passed them and crossed the line with a 5:25:22 marathon.

The Aftermath

At the finish they always hold up a banner for you to cross to make your moment and picture that much cooler, but I always feel silly; my photo shows this with my rolled/half closed eyes and drunken smile on my face (at 14:26:01). Diane crossed a few seconds later, and we thanked each other for the run company. I got my medal, bag, etc (and got to keep my timing chip bracelet thingy, which was cool and unexpected) and met with my roommate. Did I cry? NO! I didn’t do lots of things well this race but I did do that. After snagging some pizza/Diet Coke we headed to the car. That basically ended the glamorous part of the night... I went home to really bad chafing and lots of wet stinky clothes. Roomie was great about dropping off my bike with Tribike Transport and general assistance with my junk, which made this trip a lot easier than Arizona. Friends are nice to have around.

Overall, Wisconsin was many times harder than Arizona--the weather, the hills, and the lines. Maybe it’s not fair to compare the larger IM WI to IM AZ, but I just wasn’t impressed with the former’s facilities or organization... one day once I’ve gotten to all the North American Ironman races I’ll have a better sample to compare this place to. And though I swore on Monday I’d never be back to IM in Madison again, I knew I was lying; I’ll be back for this course, just not next year. Heh, maybe I’ll wait til I move somewhere with a fall, winter, and hills before I do so, but I’ll be back. And I’m bringing arm warmers! :-)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Wisconsin: the second state in the Union in which I refuse to live

Hey! I’m alive... barely. My race--the whole trip--did not go as planned, but I made it. I had a nice little race report on my laptop last night, but managed to run out of batteries while insisting on not saving; you’re going to have to wait a day to hear about the race. But you can hear about the pre-race activities and my overall impressions of Madison, Ironman WI, and the great cheese state itself. Neat, huh?

I arrived in Milwaukee on Friday morning to dry weather and the mid 70s. I shivered getting off the plane. My roommate and I got our luggage, hopped in the rental, and drove the 75 or so minutes to Madison. Before we entered Monona Terrace in Madison so that I could register, we were definitely in the top 5% of the thinnest people in the state. Wisconsin seems quite, um, pale and heavyset. Once we walked into Monona Terrace, however, we became just about the fattest people in view. Of course, we’re kind of used to that at these races. We found a restroom, then hopped in a reeediculously long line for registration. While stuck in the line for about 1/2 hour (til we got a sheet of paper, then moved to another reeediculously long line), we were subjected to the conversations of those around us.

I’m not sure I’ve made this as clear as I could, but I utterly dislike Ironmen. And their conversations in line. So, roomie and I made fun of the jerks around us (and those wretched WI accents) for a good 90 minutes before I finally got my wristband and freedom. Next we went up to Inside Out Sports to buy some CO2 cartridges and look around (and stand in another unbefreakinglievably long line). After that we headed to the expo, which was the worst expo ever. PowerBar wasn’t even there, and Clif wasn’t handing out packets of their drinks, only teensy samples. I was annoyed; here I was, wasting a day of vacation, paying for parking, and did I get to score some recovery drink powder samples? Heck no. After I checked in for the Janus Charity Challenge (I raised over $5600! Thanks to everyone who donated! There’ll be a special party in heaven for you!), we headed down to pick up my bike from TriBike Transport--who, by the way, I’d recommend 100 times over. Very friendly, very easy, and I got a free Headsweats visor. Woohoo!

The rest of Friday was spent unpacking, eating dinner with friends, and organizing my crap for what looked like a chilly race day. The prediction: 62 with 30% chance of rain. 30% isn’t much, right? Right. So it was okay I didn’t look for arm warmers til Saturday when they were sold out all over the city because 30% rounds down to 0, and if it did rain even 30% of the day, it’d only be 7.2 hours. Right? Right.

Wrong... but that’s another story. Onto Saturday. I got up (alone... my roommate stayed out with his college buddies), ran and rode around the hotel, then headed back to Monona for a quick dip in the lake. The water was warm, and my swim out was smooth and quick; the current was obviously pushing me along. I decided to cross the swim course and head back so that I could feel the water from every angle I would the next day. When crossing the course I got pummeled. Crushed. The waves were rocking and punching, but when I turned to finally head back I was greeted with an easy swim again. I could handle the thin sections of the course being rough, I thought. After my swim I ran into George and Ben at the expo/transition (I was on a rack right next to the pros and with only 3 bikes! How awesome!), and we hung around and decided to drive the bike course together in the afternoon. We parted ways, I farted around the next few hours, then met up with the guys again to see what I’d be facing on two wheels on Sunday.

I mentioned last post I’d watched Simply Stu’s videos of the course. Due to the speed required to get the entire thing in 30 mintues, the bike one is not representative of the actual course--even though it is the actual course. I'd advise driving the course before deciding what you can actually do on race day. George and I got the Basically Ben tour from our favorite local, which gave us insights into when to eat, what corners to watch, what roads were crappy (think ~80 miles of them... grr), what hills were tough. I knew my goals were screwed by the time I dropped them off--the swim was looking to be choppy, the bike challenging, and the run boring. This wasn’t a PR race situation, but I tried to stay positive; after all, I wasn’t even at the starting line and I disliked the race site, avoided most other competitors, and feared the wretched weather. If I kept being Negative Nellie I wasn’t going to finish.

But I did finish--in 14:26:01. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow. My original goal was 13:40 or so, and my during-the-race goal was to break 15 hours. I landed somewhere in the middle, and that’s okay. Maybe if I’d gotten my dry 90 degree day rather than the upper 50s with constant rain I could have done all I’d hoped for. As it was, I did my best. Am I embarrassed? A little, but only at my time. I couldn’t ask for anything more from my body, nor could I have trained any better (well, except maybe that weight training regimen... next year!).

Now I’ll skip to my impressions of the race. I hated it. The swim is a two loop course, and while you don’t have to actually get out and run on the beach after your first loop, I don’t like double loops. They’re too congested. The bike course had a lot of turns and a lot of bumpy roads, and my crotch would like to personally give the finger to whoever planned the course. The run is dull dull dull--out and back twice over an uninspiring, but largely contained, path. I mentioned the long lines, the lame expo, and the parking... we had to pay for parking every damn time we were in town, including race day. Honestly, for $450 I can’t get one freaking day of free parking? I have to send my friend hither and thither to get the car so I don’t collapse after the race? You stink, Ironman Wisconsin. You’re a not-as-good-as-you-should-be race. And Madison? It’s about as big as an almond. The hotels aren’t as close to the race site as I’d expected and there’s not a lot to look at there; I don’t know why this was such a shock to me but it was. I’d cut off a toe before I moved there, though there were some yummy restaurants, pretty town square, and cute college kids (if you could ignore that accent...*shudder*).

Yet despite my strong disappointment and my pledge to not do an ironman next year ("law school"), I had to resist registering for the 2007 race on Monday morning. I couldn’t help it--I wanted to do better on a challenging course. I wanted to be in that selective group again that got to compete in IM WI. It was my pride speaking, not my heart--and haven’t I listened to that enough?

I don’t want to sound bitter about the race, so let me go through the positives. The crowds on the bike course are great, as are the volunteers. While I could have done without the sausage my pride forced me to accept at the top of one hill--and I definitely didn’t need to be peer pressured into running up one hill instead of staying seated--the people added that spark that is essential at an ironman. The bike was challenging but pretty (if it hadn’t been raining and folks hadn’t been crashing or spitting mud from their tires straight to my face). The run was also nicely contained and allowed family and friends to watch at the turnaround/start/finish as well as the halfway turnaround at mile 6-7 and 20-21. It was also pretty flat, which I definitely needed. Finally, it was nice to be able to ask for directions from people and to not get honked at when I failed to pay attention to traffic lights turning green; Wisconsin isn't all bad. See? I’m not totally negative.

I’m off to swim--and I’m actually excited about it! Woo hoo!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Ironman Wisconsin: will she be my, um witch?

I have a number (I’m 45!! Don’t ask me why I’m 2000 lower and the only non-consecutive number of the W18-24s). It’s 5 days away. It’s time to reveal some goals.

As always with these races, my hopes and dreams are tiered. Here they are in increasing order of difficulty:

1) Finish (of course)
2) Finish in under 17 hours-- to be official
3) Finish in under 14 hours
-- Swim of 1:05:xx (previous swim was a 1:06:12, but I did a crappy job sighting)
-- T1 under 6:00 (previous T1 of 6:28, but I have new sock-less cycling shoes and am swimming in my cycling stuff)
-- Bike at 15.1 mph/under 7:30 (previous bike was 15.1 and 7:25:06. This course is hillier but I’m 13% more of a badass on my sweet new ride and serious biking legs)
-- T2 under 7:00 (previous was 9:04, but that’s because I was brain dead)
-- Run at 10:58 pace or 4:48 marathon (previous was 11:09 pace and 4:52:30
-- Total time: under 13:40:00
This is a reasonable though still challenging goal. And I’m down with reasonable.

4) Finish in under 13 hours (Superchick goal)
-- Swim of 1:04
-- T1 under 6:00 (no need to get carried away here… I still have a wetsuit to take off and a fair distance to jog)
--Bike first lap in 15.7 and second at 16.0 mph for a time of 7:04
-- T2 under 6:00
-- Run at 10:40 pace for 4:40 marathon
-- Total time: under 12:59:59
Sub goal: if I break 13:00, I’m going to try hard not to soil myself in disbelief at the finish
5) Finish in top 8 (top 20%) of my age group. I don’t have much control over this one since I probably can’t convince any of the girls to slow down. Still, a good (and lofty) goal.

I’m really afraid of this race, and I keep thinking my goals are too challenging; I think I might be afraid to set the bar high enough so that it’s really a challenge. And I’ve only done this twice before with VERY varying results--how can I be sure I can do this? And what if I DO break 13? The implications are too much to consider, though fortunately it will be very difficult to do.

Anyway. I also have some quality goals--not independent of the times above, but certainly distinctive enough to merit their own section:

1) Holy crap you bonehead, get your bike nutrition executed. I’ve never done this one (and I’m just a little bitter about it), so now’s a good time to start. This could be the reason I’m so slow in the saddle, eh? I pledge to drink a bottle of fluid an hour, take a salt tablet every half hour, and try to eat every 30-45 minutes, depending on how the tummy’s faring.
2) Negative split my ride. If I take it easy on the first lap like I’m supposed to, this is a very real possibility. Scary!
3) Don’t walk any hills on the bike. While at first I thought this would be difficult, after seeing the course video on Simply Stu’s site I’m feeling a lot better about being able to keep my butt glued to my saddle the entire time.
4) Don’t go out too hard the first 10 miles of the run. Easier said than done, especially when “hard” is still relatively slow.
5) Don’t finish so fast that I catch someone at the end of the race, making my picture at the finish line suck due to the overzealous turd in front of me. Is it wrong to call someone a turd for being “too excited” for finishing an Ironman? Well I’m doing it anyway.

And here are some non-athletic goals that I’m also aspiring to achieve, in no particular order:
1) Do not lose my bike in transition
2) Don’t look like I’m drunk or high in my finisher’s pic
3) Find the cameramen on the course and smile! Never mind I feel absurd doing so--it’s important for my legacy (ha).
4) Do not cry at the finish line
5) Enjoy the visit with some awesome college pals: hero George, pledge daughter Adrienne, and genius Ben (who’s doing his first IM)
6) Snag an unbelievable amount of samples of powerbar’s electrolyte drink and clif’s recovery drink. Okay, also attempt to score the powerbar recovery stuff and the clif electrolyte stuff... beggars can’t be choosers.
7) Be nice to C
8) Look for a $370 bill on the ground so I can make my fundraising goal

Okay, I think that’s enough. If you want to watch me finish on Sunday or want to follow my progress just type in 45 for bib number or my last name here under “The Latest” in the upper right corner. If Arizona was any indication I’ll start to cry every time I think of you folks watching—which happened to be at every single timing pad on the course. I’m a sucker for support, especially when I’m exhausted and hormonally unbalanced.

See ya later!