Saturday, May 28, 2011

SF Tri Bike Ride....5000 elevation!

OMG! I was looking for a group ride and the Facebook group for the SF Tri group showed a 55-60 mile ride from Presidio and into the hills towards Mt Tam.

I knew this was going to be a hilly ride (it said so!) and I looked it up on MapMyRide and saw a similar route listed at 3,500 elevation.

I'm not really a good hill biker (getting better but still lame compared to others) and so don't generally whoop up for joy on these things...but there wasn't really another group bike ride....and I'm looking to meet new people...and get to be a better bike I signed up.

Turned up and a nice group of nearly 10...good turnout...and they seemed quite friendly and approachable (rather than the hard core bikers that give you the evil eye I often see). Approach was a semi-drop ride...they'd stop at meet-up points but generally have to pace yourself to keep in the pack.

Pack seemed to have some different pacers. I was of course at the back...but the gap between me and the next set was a lot smaller than a nice improvement point! Hooray!

Lucy...the ever improving biker chick

Biking felt much better and more capable of doing hills....focusing on stroke counting and not looking too far ahead....and the music helps of course.

This turned out to be some crazy ass hills...10+ miles straight of hills...I'm serious!

The summary ended up showing over 5,000 elevation! Crazy!!!! Total time was 4 hours with riding time of 3:30 Wildflower ride was 4:18 total time with 3 flats and a 3,500 definite improvement!

We got to a section called the Seven Sisters (rolling hills...guessing there is 7) and I was following another biker who turned it I decided to play chase. I was doing some mad speed and feeling great....moments like this is what I'm loving about biking...the wind whipping your face...the speed rushing across your body...the adrenaline of pushing your speed and not knowing how fast you can go.

I did hit a curve pretty hard and by back tire did some nice hop...skip skip...hop and that made me slow down pretty fast and keep it at a 'safe' speed for the next few miles. Good thing after entering the redwoods...there was a truck that decided to overtake a group of bikers on a corner...taking the full lane I was in....emergency maneuvers needed and with a drop on the side of was a close call!

The next meet-up point is where I said goodbye to the group..they were going to do another 1700 elevation climb and I didn't know that I'd done 5,000 but I did know that another 1700 and the mileage back was going to be beyond my limit right now (something to look forward too!) and turned around.

The weather had started to turn and there was a beautiful sight of the fog rolling in over the seven sister's a picture...but darn it got cold fast!! And it was the downhill section meaning more cold.

Enjoyed the trip I was without the group I had to remember where we had gone, so testing my navigation skills. We found our way back the Golden Gate Bridge and stopped for a tourist photo.

Got back to the car and wanted to add more mileage as had only done 44. Nigel went for a run (jealous!) and I did another 6 miles in the Fort Mason / Aquatic Park / Crissy Field area....mostly played "avoid the tourist on their Blazing Saddles bike rental" but still nice to hit the 50 mile total point.

Total: 4 hours biking time, 50 miles, 5,000+ elevation

AND there was a hill on Fort Mason that all the tourists were pushing their bike up....and I took that hill completely...didn't even get out the saddle...with those tourists jaws dropping. Woo hoo!

Feeling good...disappointed I didn't get to a new mileage point of 60 miles...but hey that 5,000 elevation was fantastic and I'll take that win today!

I might be crazy...

I like to do races as my goals and thinking about what races to do over the next 6 months.

Coach Julie advised me to not run whilst injured...darn! I'll try hard to take this advice....but itching to get a race in!

Searched for races that would not involve running and found the VineMan AquaBike.
They are pretty much sold out for Vineman except for the IronMan distance....a 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike.

So I signed up...July 30th....crazy! 8 something weeks to go from a 50 miler to a 112 miler....oh yeah and do the swim distance too.

How?! What??! Hmmm...

No Wine or Whine on this Bike Ride

I've been looking for a flat bike ride to do for my IronMan training in the Bay Area. The Arizona course is pretty flat so I need to work on long distance on a flat course to train a similar style...and build up speed!

A few folks I met mentioned a trail called the Silverado Trail in Napa.....its a non-stop road that goes for 50 miles with very few stop lights or stop signs and traffic is not bad either...Perfect!

So last Sunday it was an early start to drive the 1.5 hours to get here, find a space to park and off we go!

My goal was to increase my speed to a 17 mph average. I chose 17 as it was higher than my current average in the 13 - 16 mph area, seemed reasonable, and was something I heard many IronMan finishers 17 it was.

Summary: Woo hoo did it!!
Completed 50 miles in under 3 hours...and a 17.6 mph average...fantastic!

Elevation gain was interesting and unexpected....but a good time to practice keeping speed on fact i even tried to increase my pace on a few of them.
Or catch up to someone in front of me! Competitive spirit awakened!!

Food was my standard IronMan perform drink mix - had 2 large bottles that drank 1.5 bottles of, and 1 water that I use to dilute or change the taste in my mouth. I don't drink much but a good back-up.

I ate a pack of the Cola chews I LOVE so much at the turnaround's a photo of me with the wine groves behind me....but no time to whine or drink wine on this trip!

Details of the ride with my personal notes:

Speed: Average speed was 17.6mph, but also happy to see that there were few areas of low speed with only 1 hill dropping below 10mph and the rest keeping in the 14-16 mph range. Trend in 2nd half was faster as pushed myself harder on the way back looking for a negative split in time.

Elevation: Higher than expected overall with the monitor reading 700 ft elevation (but the graph showing 300 (??). Was nice to get these in for practice at hill climbing. There was also a gentle wind that was good practice to pace against.

Heart Rate: Nothing special here in terms of seeing it higher or lower than the average 160-180 range for a higher pace ride. Might think how to decrease this over time and still increase speed.

Final note: did a 10 minute T-run after the bike, shooting pain straight off in the knee. uuuurrrgggghhhh!
This is driving me crazy. Going to book a specialist doctor...but can't get an appointment for 4 weeks!

A change of mindset

I was really happy that I finished my first half-IronMan distance with Wildflower. It was a half-way point and a proof point to myself that I can do it.

At the same time I was angry and disappointed. I came in the bottom 5%...12 minutes before the cutoff time. Now this would be fine usually because if you asked me I always said "My aim is to finish".

But seeing my team mates and how far they had improved int he past months, and the times they posted compared to mine left me feeling disappointed in myself.

I'm 32 and physically able (barring the bloody knee but hey... people do this without a limb!) and I'm looking to just finish?! Where is my competitive spirit...the sense to push myself and join in the game?

Seeing the photos of me from Wildflower finally pushed me over the edge of this discussion in my head for a week after Wildflower....I looked like a bottom 5% finisher.

So...I hit bottom...and instead of giving up or accepting my fate...I'm waking up and changing my mindset.

Time to give it my best and set myself some REAL goals. No "bottom 5%".....not crazy or stupid to say "top 5%" but instead it's "do the best you can" with something proud to tell others...and get a look of respect on their faces instead of the pity face.

Time to get rid of this damn spare tire that I see in every photo....reminding me that I'm just trying rather than competing.

Time to set some real goals....

Steps I've made since I changed my mindset 3+ weeks ago
(1) Started P90x and completed 3 weeks...lost 6 pounds and feel muscles forming....I'll share those before / after photos after I finish
(2) Increasing my biking to increase my form as well as counter the lack of running
(3) Holding myself accountable to my new mindset..hence posting it here.

Welcome to the new Lucy!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Race Report: Wildflower Long Course

WARNING: This is a long report…it contains moments of X-rated stories, humor that only I find funny, and the group’s final times that may make some of you cry (aka Jeff). Read on at your peril...

For more photos of the weekend, go to my Picasa photo album.
Go the the end if you just want to see results, final comments, and the final photo!

The big weekend had arrived…months of training and trash talking to culminate in 8 hours of swimming, biking, and running….for the t-shirt, medal, and lifetime story of “Wildflower Long Course” participant.


The pre-day event was filled with the usual stuff…collecting my race registration, pitching the tent, and chatting amongst friends. We were camping with  our training crew, coach, and some extra support crew in tow that made our whole group of 12 a fun crowd.

I took the opportunity to go to the massage tent and got advice about the knee….a run 2 days ago had still shown signs of pain after 2 miles even with the recent cortisone shot…so my anxiety was high about being able to finish the run course. The team there moved the knee around and then used kinesiology tape (aka Rock Tape) around the knee. I hoped that the patriotic Stars and Stripes were on my side.
Stars and Stripes Knee
A big thank you to our fellow crew for volunteering – they made it possible to have THE best space to camp…at the Lynch camp grounds right net to the whole event, expo center, transition area….which meant instead of a 1 hour extravaganza on a bus to get to the race…we had a calm leisurely walk of 5 minutes.

Camp Ground B right next to Transition Area
Our support crew (Grace, Dennis, Jo, Kevin, and Bear) created fantastic meals for us with a feast of salmon, salad, and garlic bread for us before we sat round the fire and ate smores…or in my case my double dipped fire marshmallows.
Burn those Marshmallows!
Now sitting by the camp fire is a time to tell stores…so I asked the group to say “their favorite vacation” and that was well received but when I asked “your worst race event story” I got looks from the group that I should NOT have asked that question….as if I would jinx someone….and sure enough the next day proved it to be true with my horror race story!

Race Morning

We all ventured to bed…and those with ear plugs slept well…the others got to hear the event crew set up until 1am…and then the ever so generous volunteer wake up siren at 4:30am.  Guess we’re up then!

Race Morning
I took the morning opportunity to walk and get focused….taking the course map with me and mentally visualizing myself going through the whole race….from the swim start, to the transitions, to the food I would eat, and the smile on my face as I crossed the finish line at a goal of 8 hours.

I was planning for a 1-4-3 event…1 hour swim, 4 hour bike ride, and 3 hour run/walk with the transition time included. I wasn’t here to win any elite medals, but this was my goal for knowing my current physical condition and abilities. And a key proof point on the way to IronMan Arizona in November this year.

My secret weapon for the day was my play list….no music allowed on the course which is my lovely companion in training…so I created my paper play list to get me through various stages on the day….some of my team mates laughed at me (yes…you know who you are) but I also heard that they used a few of these songs themselves….so glad to help out the crew!

Paper Playlist...Beatles, B-52s, Black Eyed Peas

Race Start - Swim

Our crew walked to the transition and ten we split up into our respective waves and areas. There were over 16 waves (1700 racers!) for the long course and I was the last wave of the bunch. Wildflower chooses to put the women at the end of the waves, like it or not, so I was expecting to be last in to the finish line of the group by quite a least I'd have a good homecoming crowd!

Tick-tock.....each of the group starts...then it's my turn at 9:15am. Got a quick splash in the water to adjust to the water temp of 63 degrees. It was lovely in the 70+ degree morning that was building up standing in those black wetsuits.

Bang...and the group was off. I started off in the back-right of the group as suggested. You get a chance to breathe and don't get squished into the dock on the left hand side. What I hadn't realized was this group was all the same age and gender (F30-34) so there was not such a wide split of abilities as I had expected, so I was in the middle of the swim pack for most of the way.

swim start
I decided that in the end was a good thing...I didn't get the issue of feeling like I was "at the back and useless" like I can in some groups, and I also got to use the group for sighting.  I have quite a bad hook in my swimming which means I veer off the course quite a bit...the kayaks have to touch me to tell me "way off course lady". So this time I tracked in the middle. I had to pay the price of being the the blender a bit, but my attitude adjusted to elbow jabs, leg kicks, water splashes quite easily. It was interesting to note how aggressive you can feel in a swim...

Kept to the standard pattern of focusing on swim stroke (where hand enters, the pull of the arm, and breathing every 2 with a switch of sides every 10 strokes) and counted a standard pattern 1-2-3-4 to keep the mind occupied. My right shoulder seems to take 1/2 mile before it warms up lately (another injury to add to my growing list....I sure am going to become one of those people!).

At the turn point, I have the mental moment of knowing I can do this and being comfortable to pick up the pace. My training crew are also a bunch of competitive guys talking how fast they are going in this and in it kind of registered to me I should push myself in the race and not just stick at a comfortable pace. 

I pick up the pace and get instantly hit by high choppy rolling waves created by the wind. Gulp...water in the mouth. Much better than salt water so no gagging here....just adjust with a different stroke and higher lift of the head. I have to stop 2x to adjust the goggles (this is the 3rd pair this season...can't seem to settle on a pair that fit my face) and 2x to have the traditional pee (TMI for some but it's the truth, and you know you do it too!). Keep chugging away and out the transition I get.

My watch doesn't work in the water so didn't know my pace, from the clock I thought I had hit just under 1 hours at 57 minutes but turned out I did much better than expected so congrats to me.

Swim Time: 00:47:40

Race - Bike

The T1 transition was ok. I seemed to take longer than in other races I've practiced on, partly because of the long distance to get to the bike form the water, but partly mentally decided I'd rather get it all right and take 1 extra minute than find I forget something I need on this brutal 56 mile bike ride.

I did get to see the lady (Margot) next to me who is also training for IMAZ and was surprised that my first long course was Wildflower...more to come later.

T1 Time: 00:05:26

Off on the bike then....I've got the plan and am off to stick to it. Ate my transition food of a banana, drank some of my mixed drink, and am spinning a high cadence to get into the groove before the first hill.
First hill, uuurggh...but I get through it and know the next 15-20 miles are looking forward to it.
After leaving the park and onto the main roads, I first feel the wind...a light headwind that feels refreshing on the face. By Mile 15, where I had planned to get some good speed up of a 17 mph, the wind kept me down to a 12 mph. Not good!  I knew from the start that I had to keep to my 4 hour plan to be in the cut-off range on the bike....they set it 5:20 hours after the last wave of me ~4:30 hours to complete the bike. Last time I did it in practice to was 4:10 hours so I was expecting to be in the same range today.

Remember that camp fire question "what's your worst race story?"....well at mile 16 mine began.....flat tire as I was getting my groove on. Urrrghhh.

Ok, keep a level  head and plan for 10 minutes....take your time and do a proper job so you don't have to do it again. I see a SAG vehicle and I wave him down as back-up but I pretty much am nearly done at this point. He's not SAG but stands and watches me (like that helps!) whilst I check my watch.
SAG rolls up as I'm on the final bit...the inner tube was pinching on the tire and I my fingers were just not able to get in under the tire rim. The SAG guy grabs it and starts his business....pulls the tire off and starts again. Fills it up and then says "great, I'm off the the next one"....of which I get on the bike and start to roll another flat tire!!

2 flat 10 minutes of lost time just became 20 minutes! 
We start again and check the tire and tape and tube triple time....he had equipment in his truck that  could use which was great as I wanted to keep my back-ups in as a just in case....

I took the extra 10 minutes to mentally rest and eat some food (Peanut Butter sarnie - yummy) so try and spin it into a positive rest break.

So 20 minutes later, I'm off. My music play list and my pacing are now out the window. There are few bikers on the road now and my cut-off calculations meant I no longer has that 20 minute time buffer to make the cut off to my planned pace.

So I played "chase people down". I set the goal to get past 10 people to make up for the 2 flats...and floored it between Mile 26 - 36. My pace was cooking and I had passed 6 people...admittedly this was back of the pack but it's what I had.

Then just as I start to see a line of people ahead of me (and thus the feeling of more people to pass), my tire blew again. Urrrgggghhhhh.....WTF!! *%$%

I'd just passed the aid station at Mile 36 so got off on the bike and ran the bike back up the hill so they could call SAG. I had enough equipment, but I'd rather have luck so far was not good! A truck is luckily there and asked "do you want to stop"....what? way!! I just need an inner tube and air!

The SAG vehicle had a racer called Jason in it that was pulled from the race at Mile 41 (Nasty Grade) as a spoke on his wheel broke...and there is no replacing that. He came and talked to me as  changed my tire and I saw the look on his face of the defeat and resignation after the months of training....and I was determined not to get that same face.

The SAG guy starts to change my tire but I soon realize he's not that well I take it from him and the tire is off in like 5 seconds flat...there is NO time left in my buffer bank here....I get a tube from him and borrow some compressed air. I also get the important information I need...the official cutoff time for the bike. It is 2:45pm for the's 1:15pm right now....

3 flat tires and 30 minutes gone....with officially 1:40 hours to finish 20 miles and nasty grade....doable...just

I shout to the Tri Gods as I get on the bike that they've had their fun...time to find someone new. They wanted me to earn the right to wear the medal for this race and I damn well have earned it....not go away and let me finish!

There is no proper form at the this point, there are no happy sing songs....there is just mashing as much power as I can out of this bike and working out the math in my head for what mile I need to hit by when to know I can make it.

A little humor or rather mesmerizing moment occurred before nasty I saw an older biker male wearing mesh biker his whole bum was exposed. I mean, sweaty crack...hairy bottom...all there....It seemed like a black hole to me....sucking me in towards it.....but I had to go and tackle nasty grade.
Like the mesh biker pants cyclist I saw on the course....

Nasty Grade....I know this...I've done it...I'm slow and I walk a bit of it....but I get back on and I just keep going. Energizer Bunny who is meant to beat us up the hill is no longer beating a drum....instead just looking limp in the heat and standing drinking a bottle of water....

I don't stop for water....I just go. The downhill sections are where I push my usual fear factor of the speed (when I hold the brakes and slow down) out the window and take the hands off the brakes a good touch...not completely...I don't want to crash or die....but a tip from a team mate said "look ahead of you and see the bend in the curve rather than straight in front of you" and I did and it made me more confident and faster in this much needed time.

My last 8 miles and 35 minutes...meaning I have just over 4 minutes per mile. I count off the time to pace each mile...the first mile take 5 minutes....the next one takes 5 way am I missing this.....and I push it hard! I pass Margot (my transition neighbor that was surprised I was doing this course and tell her time is I pass her...will she make it??)

I start to enter the park and finally meet a person that is informing people about the impending cut off and how their pace is against that...."you have 11 minutes left, so push it if you want to make it"
4 more miles and 11 minutes.....I know the last mile is downhill but the rest is not and there is some long grinding uphills that I can do...but in the needed pace?? PUSH IT!!!

2 more miles and 6 minutes....go-go-go....

Lynch Hill....Great! Will they slow me down for safety? There are tons of runners and I am heeding the very strong warning to "not cross the double yellow line" so am heavily shouting "LEFT!...LEFT!" to every single runner. They stand between me and that cut off......

I swing in....and made the cutoff by 4 minutes!  I learn later that Margot, my transition neighbor made it by 20 seconds!

Bike Time: 04:33:19

Race - Run

I wasn't sure if the transition time was included or not and did not want to chance I changed quickly and tried to get out onto the run course. It meant I forgot to take off my bike shorts (run shorts underneath), but hey...I was on adrenaline rush!

As I ran out the transition I heard the announcer for the finish line say "Chris Jones of San Francisco" and worked out my team mate had made it somewhere around his 06:07 hour goal. First person in...5 more to go...

T2 Time: 00:03:45

Run strategy was to do more of a walk. There was not much in the tank for Miles 1-3 as I had pushed it hard to finish the bike so was really just trying to get my hear rate down and breathing rhythm in place.
I reset my watch to ensure I could watch my pace....3 hours is do-able but only whilst keeping a good walking pace of less than 13 minute miles.

My watch said I was walking a 12 minute mile....then it crapped out....battery low
That Tri god was not allowed back...I told him I'd paid the price and it was my turn to finish this.
I mentally focused to record the pace I was at to ensure I could keep coming back to this....

I paired up with a fellow racer, Karen from Modesto, and told her my 12 minute walking pace strategy, and she stayed with me until Mile 7. It was soooo much better having someone next to you, keeps that mental energy focused on something else...

Knee pain...??? What knee pain! Thank you to the shot, the rest, the tape....what ever it was that made knee pain very very minimal. Felt it on the last 1 mile running down Lynch hill....only! woo hoo!

Instead I got a big fat hot spot on the ball of my right foot at Mile 3 that got bigger and bigger....making me adjust to walking on the back of my foot or on the side....and making it hard to keep that 12 minute walking pace up.

Dehydration kicked learning about salt....need to get that into the practice schedule now.

I kept on walking with the occasional job in a flat or down hill section...and what kept me going at that fast pace was Barrie and his Wed hiking group....he always keeps us at a fast clip....and doesn't stop....keep moving he says....and I did just that and passed a good many walkers at my pace.

What kept Barrie Moving? The Cal Poly flashers from what he told us....not many of us were blessed with congrats Barrie!
Flashers on the run.....I missed these sadly...
Mile 9-11...Satan's pit. Torture to do that to us....walk down that big hill then to turn around and walk back up.....this is where I saw Margot (my transition neighbor). She was about 4 minutes behind me, found she'd made the bike cut off by 20 seconds, and wished her luck for the final.

At Mile 11, it was 5:10pm and I had until 5:45pm, so 35 minutes to make the final 2 miles. At my 13 minute pace (I was tired and dehydrated by give me a break on slowing down) it would be 26 minutes.

Absolutely doable with a small buffer for upsets....but seeing how things had not gone to plan so far...I didn't believe I'd cross that line until I crossed it.

Jogged the final Lynch hill, then rested into a walk before the chute, where I did the final which point I felt the lack of salt turning into a wicked cramp in my left calf....I was still jogging in and the people where shouting...but I was so nervous I was going to get a sudden spasm and fall to the that would just be my luck!
Pushed myself and then saw Nigel in the stand - woo hoo!! Got a hand they called my name and I came through into the end. Made it with 12 minutes to spare!

Run Time: 02:48:14

Overall Time: 08:18:22
In the end I was off my goal to beat 8 hours by 18 minutes, but after the 3 flat tires I was happy to have finished. Check mark for the half-ironman distance (which many say is more like a 3/4 ironman!) and now back to the ironman training.

Thank you Coach Julie for being there throughout the past 5 months....and now onto IMAZ!
Coach Julie with Lucy and Nigel

The Overall Crew Results
The crew of 6 all finished and had their adventures to tell...In asking them how it's what they said...

Nigel     "The swim...I didn't die...but the usual water gulping and panic attack happened...."
Steve     "I beat Barrie"
Barrie    "Not by much Steve....we'll see what happens at IMAZ"
Jeff         "No comment...."
Chris      "Not bad for no training and my first time swimming in 3 years....and I made my goal of being top 50% of competitors"

The Wildflower Long Course Finishers...woo hoo!