Monday, August 8, 2011

XTERRA Snow Valley

Last Sunday, I traveled to Snow Valley, aka "Big Bear," California. Big Bear is home to some pretty nifty ski (I mean snowboard) slopes, a lake big enough for fleet of motorboats and a wakeboarding zip line, a few thousand feet of elevation, and some sick mountain bike trails (I've heard. In reality, I've experienced a few sections of sweet single track during a RimNordic XC race, but that was well over a year ago.). It is also the site of my very first XTERRA race- one year ago. At that time, I had been swimming for a couple of months, riding pretty well, and running not at all. I had a pretty good race and ended up in 2nd overall, after being passed on the run. Being my first event of this type, I had no idea what was going on and was thoroughly stoked to finish the event at all- mostly because I didn't drown during the swim. I came out of the water near the back of the pack and got to pass a bunch of people on the bike, inflating my tender little ego to the point of popping, before I got demolished on the run. I actually was just juiced on the energy of a different kind of challenge and was thrilled with a 2nd place finish.

This year I felt really flat going into Snow Valley. I've been swimming for well over a year, riding alright, and running only marginally more than last year at this time. You could say I was rested and "fresh" for this race. Or you could say I've been a slacker. I'm tending toward the latter. I'm learning that in order to effectively train, I require a pretty strict schedule. I thought my free-spirited nature would lend toward the opposite, but the problem lies in a little case of attention deficit.....I realized this the other day when I had five different projects going on throughout the rooms of my house- and was totally absorbed in starting a new one in the backyard when I walked inside to get some juice. I saw the juicer in pieces on the counter with 2 cooking projects I had started and abandoned. Then I walked into the bathroom and found it half-cleaned with cleaning supplies spread across the counter. I had stepped over a 3X3 foot pile of random crap in the doorway that I was organizing into some project or another, and was trying to ignore the window/WD-40/clothing projects in the bedroom. Yikes. How many hours had gone by since I started these messes....and I was supposed to be getting ready for a bike ride!! This, I'm learning, is what happens when I don't have a schedule for my training and my day.

My lack of focus was probably the reason I felt like a limp noodle going into the race. I had gone for a couple of rides during the week and could barely get my legs to agree with me. My right arm was super sore from swimming hard the week before and I felt undertrained with my running. My goal for the race, far from wanting to dominate, was to stay as steady as I could- and try to keep myself from getting competitive about it. You know, race my own race kind of thing......right.

I was super stoked when my plan backfired. Or worked, depending on how you look at it. The swim was a mass start- guys and gals. I was nervous about the kicks and punches that usually accompany so many swimmers going off at one time. I started near the back so as to avoid as much of this as I could. Fortunately, I was able to swim the 1000 yards with minimal bumping and no injury and came out of the water 2nd (ladies). That put a huge grin on my face. The bike portion was where I went flat. My legs still were not cooperating with me, so I just went steady (snail's pace, really) on the climbs and tried to make up time on the descents. No one passed me on the bike, and surprisingly, I had more energy on the run than before. Sweet! Backing off on the bike was a great, uh...."strategy." I passed by the gal who had beat me last year going the other way on the out-and-back portion of the run. She was clocking away and, with a mile and a half to go, I thought she had a good chance to catch me. Time for a little pep talk. I told myself under no circumstances was I allowed to walk, and in fact, it was time to pick up the pace a bit. I came in 2 minutes ahead of her and was super surprised to hear I was the first woman overall!!

I'm still waiting on pics from the event photographer......The event itself was super well organized and a ton of fun. Sweet course, great people, good food, well-organized...even the handmade awards were some of the sickest I've seen (pic to come). Definitely a race for the books.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pacific Championships

I've been trying the XTERRA thing for a few go-rounds recently. Learning to swim has been no small feat, but finally I feel like I've got a little grasp on it and have been cranking out consistent times in the pool. It has certainly taken a toll. I can wake up at 5:00 and get my funky self to the pool before work, or get a good workout in before a ride on my off days...but how people actually train well for three sports and work full-time........let's just say running has fallen short lately. My plan for the Pacific Championships was to pull a decent swim, blaze it on the bike, and suffer through the run. Sorry, suffer fast through the run. At least, suffer fast enough to get first or second in my age group, and somewhere in the top 3 overall. It was a great, great idea, but I forgot the part about training to run if you want to Whoops.

I took Friday off from work and Benji and I headed north. First stop after crawling through HelLA was San Luis Obispo, where I was hoping to get some help from the Fuzzy teammate. I had picked up my bike, (the new lightening cruise vessel) from the bike shop without realizing that the tiny bits and pieces we had been missing meant my bike was still far, far from ready to ride. Awesome, another whoops! I proceeded to feed Fuzzy beer and watch him work some magic, weaving shifter cables through my carbon frame and checking derailleur tension. There's something highly ungenious (note, not ingenious) about a last minute bike build two days before the race. It's so not recommended, yet, somehow I always find myself doing just that!!
I planned to pre-ride the new bling on Saturday while checking out the bike course. I figured it would be perfect for working out any kinks.

Oh the best laid plans, the best laid plans.... (maybe it's the whole reason I avoid them so) The drive up to Santa Cruz ended at Wilder Ranch State Park, where the 2nd transition and race finish were set up. Five miles down the coast, the swim and transition to bike were waiting for race day set-up. XTERRA races are so much more complicated than a good ole mountain bike race. 3x the gear and the prep and the training and the blah, blah, blah, why am I doing this??? I suppose it looked like an interesting race course. The 1-mile ocean swim would be followed by a short, but supposedly fun 20-mile mountain bike course which would be followed by a 6-mile coastal jog along the beach (see where my brain was at? I said "jog"). I was certain my lack of running was going to hurt, but was hoping the flatland would work in my favor.

We parked Benji's Nissan on the coast highway, thinking the $10 day-use fee was a bit steep for packet pick-up and pre-ride. We got the bikes out, loaded our pockets with wallets and cell phones, and rode into the venue to get our free t-shirt and coupon bag. While picking up our number plates and learning about the race course, we got distracted by the pre-race meeting. An hour passed and we decided we needed to get back to the car and gear up for our pre-ride. We approached the car with our weekend hosts (they had ridden road bikes to the venue), chatted with them for a few minutes and bid adieu as we turned to the vehicle. As soon as Benji opened the rear hatch, we knew something was wrong. My bike kit and towel were strewn across the back with a handful of other items. It took a few seconds to register, but we both realized at once that the side window had been broken and the car broken into. Benji's race bag with his wetsuit, race kit, bike and running shoes was gone along with my purse, courier/clothes bag and laptop. The GPS that had been in the window was missing as well, and I thought what a fool I had been to forget to take it down. I started crying because I knew instantly that I had not backed up my computer in some time and there was a slew of pictures, poems/writing and music that would be impossible to retrieve. What a knuckle head. Benji's race gear, wetsuit and my laptop were the greatest insults materially, but the invasion went well beneath the surface of what was taken and all the anticipation of doing a race went with it.

The next few hours were spent talking with the policeman assigned to our case (an angel no doubt) and trying to get our heads around what to do next. I really wanted to skip the race and set up a stake-out for the thieves. I thought they would come back the next day, tempted by all of the geeky triathletes and their posh gear bags. But I realized the stupidity of my plan and decided not racing would be Letting The Bad Guys Win. Plus, with my current luck, I would heroically jump out of the bushes to do something savvy like take video of the burglars on my cell phone and end up getting my ass kicked. That was one sure way to make the weekend even worse. Sigh, it was on to plan B (formerly known as plan A)- racing.

Fortunately, the bikes were in working order, so the option of racing was still viable, but we had some items to replace. As little as we felt like shopping, it was the next step, so hi ho, hi ho, off to the bike shop we go. We spent the afternoon borrowing and gathering the remaining pieces we needed to race, trying to get some food and relax. I ended up spending the afternoon insanely hungry. Eating just wasn't working into the know, 11:30-get broken into, 12:00-2:30- hang out with cops, 2:30-5-quickly spend a few hundred dollars on mediocre replacement gear, 6 or so- get to our friends house, set-up bikes and number plates and new gear...and, oh yeah, eat dinner (thanks for cooking Polly!!!). At some point we were finally heads down, eyes shut, getting some sleep, grateful that we live in a country (and a part of this country) where this kind of thing doesn't happen everyday....or worse.

Woke up Sunday morning to 43 degrees and rain. Too drained from the day before to be nervous, the idea that I was racing finally started to sink in as I waited for the swim to go off. I stood on the beach with a couple hundred other humans in seal suits and stupid looking colored caps. I jumped in the ocean to get as "warmed up" as one can in 57 degrees and got raked down by the first wave I ran into. It knocked me down on my back with my feet straight in the air and sand swirling around my head. Nothing like a solid rookie move to get the morning going. I smiled big and dug the sand out of my ears.

The swim was surprisingly fun. I had to get well past the break before I could keep my head in the water without my breathing reflex kicking in. Once my face adjusted to the cold I melted into a nice rhythm and was pleased to discover that I mostly swam in straight lines and covered the mile distance without breaking my aerobic gate.
I came out of the water in 6th place and fumbled my way through the transition. My fine motor skills were zappo with my body heat and my fingers stumbled clumsily across my jersey zipper, helmet and shoe buckles. Finally I boarded my never been riden white Niner and headed off for my favorite part of this silly XTERRA thing.

The mountain bike course was just as I like it. Plenty of climbing and fun singletrack descents, with enough technical aspects to keep it interesting. It could have been twice as long and I would have been stoked. But it was long enough to let me pull into the lead and get a little gap on the other women. I made it through the bike-to-run transition smoothly and headed out in first place. Stoked. Now I just had to hold onto my momentum and not lose too much time.

I started trotting along the coast and within a single minute felt the first twinges of cramping down my inner quad muscles. I cringed with concern and tried to convince myself it would soon pass....deep breaths, deep breaths. Five minutes later both legs were entirely consumed with spasms and it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other. This is where I usually give up and start walking. I am a mountain biker at heart, not a triathlete. That means I like my races to have a strong element of FUN in them and full-on leg cramps don't make me think, "Fun!" This time though, I wouldn't let myself give in to the pain- I knew that if I started walking, I probably wouldn't start running again. Plus I really wanted some beer. And salty chips. Walking would really extend the time between now and beer+chips.

About 2 or 3 miles into the run, 1st-place-woman-to-be passed me- and she was jamming! Damn runners, I thought. She was followed by 2nd and 3rd in short order. Then there was a nice lull where I thought I might be able to hold on to some semblance of dignity. I even tried to run faster....which lasted about 15 seconds til the cramps returned. Then, somewhere between miles four and five, 4th and 5th place came by all at once. Finally, in the last half-mile, I was passed one more time, sealing my 7th place finish. I limped through the finish line, hurting. I could barely make it to the car, let alone to the beer! Yikes.

I would say I was embarrassed, but my training regime had been to dumb for me to allow myself any embarrassment. I just felt like a pathetic, slow, mountain biker, who thought she could do a triathlon and found out it wasn't a joke when they said "tri" means "three." It also means "do all three well."

In the couple of weeks since, I have found this (surprising?) motivation to run. I've been finding meditation in the leg pounding and gasping for breath (still talking about running). The last 2 Fridays I've enjoyed a steady 8 mile "base" run resulting in decent legs the next day and am trying some track running. I suppose the long and short of it is: I'm not much of a runner. Edit: I'm not much of a fan of running. I can pull some fast times and distance when I put myself into it. I guess there's only that many hours a day I want to spend hurting myself. Blah, blah, blah.....

I'm signed up for another one of these stupid things in a week. My goal for this one: no goal. Finish, finish, finish. And finish with enough leg strength to get to the beer tent, no cramps. I guess I'd like to have fun on the trails in RVA too, and hanging out with my teammate, Donna. Then get back to some straight up mountain bike races. That is, unless I qualify for National Championships.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Cove

If you care, it will make you care more. If you don't care, you will start.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Let your love be like the misty rains, coming softly, but flooding the river.

-Malagasy Proverb

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Coast Ride

Began like this:

Views from the backyard

Going through the military base, Camp Pendleton, with the ocean on the left and the mountains on the right:

Friday, April 9, 2010


Friday, March 26, 2010


5:30 in the morning has been my wake-up call. Starting a new job, commuting, training, and trying to balance it all has been interesting, challenging, sometimes overwhelming, and wholly amazing. The hardest part is sleep. I hate being exhausted- at work, on the bike, or anytime, really. But getting enough rest to compensate for the emotional, mental and physical taxes can be a job in and of itself. This sometimes means I get to bed at a reasonable hour, reasonable now meaning 8 or 9. It also means that when I have a day "off," I usually try to sleep in, but that now means I'm up by 7. It also means that if I want to take up a new sport, like say...swimming, I have to get up even earlier, at say, 4:30.

That has been the case for the last couple of weeks. On most Tuesdays and Fridays I'm up at this ungodly hour, dragging myself and Benji to the pool and shivering as I tiptoe across the cold concrete in less clothing than I wear to the beach. The pool is heated... so they say, but my sleeping body feels no more warmth coming from the water than from glacial drip.

When I started this endeavor, I could claim that I'd been swimming (and by swimming I mean laps in a pool, not learning the basics in swim class when you're a kid) a few times. I tried twice to pick it up and found it nearly impossible. My legs sink, my body sinks, my breathing is all messed up, I get scared and think I'm going to drown, I can't figure out how in God's name you can work out and not just breath however you want to; I swim a maximum,.....maximum..... of 3 lengths (that's a "75" for all you non-swimmers like me), and have to stop for a break. Meanwhile, all sorts of folks are effortlessly gliding back and forth in the lanes beside me, gently turning over their stroke like beautiful windmills breaking the water. It is hypnotic, I am entranced, and I am amazed at how difficult it is. On some level, I fancy myself a bit of an athlete, or at least an athletic type, yet swimming I simply cannot do.

One of two things happens when I can't do something: I give up or I try harder. I guess those are the two options one would have. With swimming, I tried harder, quit, tried hard, quit, tried really hard, then quit and then came to all kinds of conclusions about my swimming abilities (non of them good). But, determined to learn, having been told that swimming is quit technical (requiring proper instruction).........and fully enamored with one of the best swimmers in San Diego..........we went to the pool a couple of weeks ago, and under his strict supervision, I flapped across the pool a couple of times and hoped for the best.

I stopped after 1/2 lap (yes, one-half lap!!) and noticed Benji-the-best-swimmer-in-the-world was ready to give me some feedback. Sweet, I thought, I can catch my breath and maybe I won't ever have to show him how far I can't swim. To my complete and total surprise, he did not tell me I should hang up my goggles and move on. Instead he gave me some really awesome tips.....Keep my body more horizontal and streamlined- put my head down a bit, float my hips, stretch my front arm forward like I'm reaching for something. It was a lot to think about and I couldn't do it all at one time, but somehow it still made sense.

I started doing single lengths (yes, half-laps) and thinking about one tip each time, focusing on a different aspect of the stroke or my body position. Then I noticed I was getting to the wall faster and with enough energy to keep going, so I extended my swim to a complete lap before a break. I couldn't believe I was actually feeling good in the water, but was amazed that with all the effort I was putting out, I still couldn't do 4 lengths consecutively-100 meters. Then I did the real math, and learned I would have to do 70.4 lengths, 36 laps, or 18 "100's" to do a mile.

Without stopping.

And let's suppose that I ever want to try to do any sort of event or competition in which swimming is an aspect- most of them start at 1.2 miles and go up! It's a good thing I like a challenge, because these numbers seemed pretty daunting! Then I realized that the first few times I went surfing, I could only stay out for 30 minutes or so, then an hour, then a couple of hours depending on conditions. Chances were good that if I stuck with it, I would be turning laps in no time.

So far, so good. I went to the pool the other day and did 20 "100's." With stopping. I keep track of what number I'm on by taking off my spoke bracelet and moving it alone the tiles on the side of the pool. There are twenty tiles lining the edge of the length, so after each 100, I stop and catch my breath while I move my little metal bracelet along my makeshift abacus. What am I going to do when I start stringing together 100's?? Probably I'll be so stoked that I am making progress that I'll forget to keep track....sweet!! Who wants to bet my next race report has something to do with Xterra? OK, that may be a bit ambitious, but I'd put money that there will be one up sometime this year. Is is too late for a New Year's resolution????