Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 in Review

Another year of dogs, triathlon and life is in the books!  I could spend all day writing a recap and still miss something but the highlights are captured throughout this blog anyway.  I'm hoping to have a better New Years Eve than last year (where the neighbors tried to blow up the neighborhood with sheer quantity of illegal fireworks) and am spending it in a hotel room with the beardies, while we do an agility trial in Los Angeles this weekend.  With any luck, the lack of houses around here will mean minimal fireworks and the sounds of I-405 rolling by all night will drown them out.

To continue the trend of recapping the year's mileage, I made a pretty little table this year to summarize everything and compare to past years.  I started running in November 2005 and so 2005-2006 were run-only years for me...2007 was the year I got the bright idea to do a triathlon to celebrate my wedding and the rest is history.... This time around I added what my main races for the year were, I think that helps explain the mileage better.

Main Races
Two marathons,         two 1/2marathons,          five sprint tris
One marathon,        one 1/2marathon, three sprint tris, one Olympic tri,       one 1/2IM
Two sprint tris, two 1/2IM,      one IM
Four 5ks, one 10k, four sprint tris, two Olympic tris, one 1/2IM
One duathlon, three Olympic tris, one 1/2IM,      one IM
Swim (yards)
Swim (miles)
Bike (miles)
Run (miles)
Strength (hours)
Total Time (hours)

2012 brings a lot of exciting things...a bunch of new fun races (I LOVE to race!), a road trip to Canada, a boatload of dog activities (agility with Stanley, the show ring with Puck, nose work with all 3 dogs) including the beardie National here in California, hockey hockey hockey, and plenty of good times with those I love.  

I wish you all a happy new year and hope this year is a glorious, happy and successful one!!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Back in business

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!  Jeff flew back into Phoenix on Friday night so it was just in time to get my holiday spirit going.  We ate (and drank) out with good friends several times, we saw a couple movies (Tintin and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - both great!), and I did my best to live on a diet of movie popcorn and Baileys/hot chocolate.  And on Monday afternoon, we packed up and hit the road for home - after about 10.5 hours of driving, we got back to San Jose at 2 this morning.

One of Jeff's gifts to me was a juicer - I'm so excited to have some fun with it!  I went right out on Christmas morning and found the only grocery store open and bought a ton of apples, oranges, carrots, beets, and so on.  So far I've tried the following combos: apple-orange, apple-kale-celery-cucumber-beet, raspberry-pear-cucumber, carrot-orange, and apple-cucumber-lime.  They've all been different but very good!

My coach requested my TrainingPeaks account back today and started filling it in with my January schedule.  That means I only have a few days left of going at it alone to enjoy before it's time to buckle down and get to work for 2012!  Of course, nothing intimidates like the first workout of the year being...a swim test.  This year, I'm not going to obsess about it though, I'm just going to look at it as the chance to set a baseline for all the improvements to come!!!

I'll try not to let so much time go by in between blogging this week, especially since I don't go back to work for another week and that means lots of time to have fun!  If nothing else, my usual year-end recap will be up sometime this weekend.  Have a great week!!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Vacation Days

I had a few unused vacation days going into this week and no critical work deadlines, so I took a few days off.  That meant there was fun to be had!

With Jeff back in San Jose starting his new job this week, I had 3 dogs to exercise.  The beardies are pretty easy but the puppy is a LOT of work!  Mostly because he doesn't walk well on leash yet and isn't trustworthy off-leash yet.  So we rented some space at AZ Dog Sports to play a little agility (Max & Stan), work a little obedience (Puck), and just make them all tired!

 Unfortunately most of the agility equipment was inaccessible when we got there - I would have spent half our rental time trying to drag it out and set it up (plus blown my back trying to set up the contact equipment) - so we mostly worked obedience and the couple things we could get to.
The dogs have been sleeping happily for hours since we got home!

I've also managed to fit in a hair appointment, a "brow design" and a massage in my couple days off!  I said goodbye to my long hair and hello to fun hair!  It will take getting-used-to though as it goes up into a very very small ponytail!
I hope everyone is having a good week!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dam Jingle Bell Run 5k and other happenings

On Saturday my sister and I joined up with some friends to run a chilly little holiday 5k.  I knew it was too soon to race after IM AZ so I just ran it nice and easy with Meredith while my sister went harder (and won her AG!).  The best part was visiting with my friend Sara's beardie puppy before/after the race and then taking my sister to visit Stanley's breeder and her 10 puppies!

 Homemade cupcakes at the finish line was pretty awesome too!

 Max and I hit the road on Saturday night and headed to Southern California so we could collect Stanley from his dog show in Long Beach.  He had a great weekend and went Best Opposite twice and Select once over the three days.  He just needs one more major for his Grand Championship!
And then my boys and I were on our way to Arizona to join Jeff and Puck!
 The excitement of today is that Puck got his first drool :-)
I also participated in someone's birthday swim today, but I'll let her blog about that!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Training Peaks Ambassador Team

Yesterday I received the very exciting news that I've been selected to join the Training Peaks Ambassador team for 2012.  (They also announced it to the internet here!)
I've been using Training Peaks for over 4 years (over 3 with my coach and for a year on my own before that) to track my training, so this is a wonderful way to connect with a company whose product(s) I fully support!

I expect I'll have a lot more to say in the coming year about the benefits that Training Peaks provides but just a quick summary from my own experience:

  • Outstanding, customizable calendar to view and plan all of your past and future training
  • Customizable dashboard that makes it easy to see the metrics and graphs I want to see about my training
  • Nutrition tracking pre-loaded with just about every food item I've been able to think of
  • An array of tools for training analysis
  • The best setup I've found for delivery of coached workouts and ease of interaction with/feedback to a coach
  • Simple data uploading and great display of information - I LOVE looking at the maps with my path on them as well as all the graphs that go with them
  • All sorts of useful and educational posts on their blog
  • Free webcasts
  • Awesome iPhone app!  I love being able to look up my workout or log it in from my phone!
Anyway, clearly I already have had great experiences using TP and am excited about the year ahead working with them.  I'm unbelievably honored to be among the 20 athletes selected for this role and I hope to make them proud!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Coming Back Down

Wow, 2 weeks without a blog post, that might actually be a record for me.  You know how it goes, sometimes life just takes over - and given how long life took the backseat to Ironman training this year, that's OK.  I've been busy with dog activities and spending time with my husband and working working working so I can wrap up my projects before our corporate holiday shutdown.  It doesn't help that I spent the first few weeks post-race with a bit of a foggy brain but I know that's normal for me too.

So I'll try to summarize everything going on in bullet points!

  • I reacquainted myself with beer.  And it was good.

  •  I used the 100% leaf cover on our lawn to take funny photos of the dogs.

  • I reacquainted myself with pie.  And it was good.

  • The dogs met Santa.  Max was happy, Puck was a little confused, and Stanley was just not happy about the dog in line growling at him.

  •  Jeff had knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus.  The dogs were eager to help him recover.

  • I've been swimming, biking and running on my own and enjoying a free-form schedule as I wait till January to get back with the ELF for coaching.  I went to a TRX group class last week that was a blast.  I tried a Powerflex class at Ballys this week (a weight training group class).  That was...interesting.  I'm very sore so it was a good workout.  But it was just too much gym-bunny for me.
  • Speaking of swimming, I've enlisted the help of an expert to improve my swim stroke and can already feel the difference as he is totally altering my stroke.  It's ON for IM Canada in 2012.
  • Puck turned 4 months old.  He's about 30 pounds and all leg.
  • I went on a beer ride (ride to the brewery, have lunch, ride home).  It was extra awesome.

  • I gave Puck a twitter account.  PuckSaint can be found here.
  • I put up our dinky little tree.  All that really requires is carrying it out of the garage and plugging it in.  But it took me a few weeks to remember Christmas was coming (Ironman brain strikes again) so this helped get me in the spirit.

  • The boys VERY much enjoyed the cold mornings we've been having.

  • They did not enjoy quite so much their post-bath holiday dress up time.  Stanta is pissed, the elf is in hiding and the reindeer is passed out.

  • I've ferried the dogs around to various activities.  Since Jeff had knee surgery, I took Puck to puppy class last week.  Stanley has done a few shows since he's been home.  In fact, last night I didn't get home until 1am because I was out on I-5 handing him off to his handler who is taking him to a big show weekend with her.
  • I gave a big presentation at work today and despite my sleep deprivation (see late-night handoff to show handler) I nailed it.  And now my whole department has a better idea of what I spend all of my time doing.
  • I'm enjoying celebrating the wonderful things happening to people around me!  I'm so excited for my friend Mary who started with a coach this month.  She's going to see some big gains in racing this year!  I'm also excited for my aunt who signed up for Ironman and started a blog, all in the same month!  And I'm extra excited for my husband, who feels like he's been looking for a job forever but always held out for the right fit - he got the offer he was hoping for yesterday!
  • I got some pretty exciting news myself today but I'll save that for a separate post tomorrow.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Now What?

After a couple days of limping around feeling a little sore, I was ready to fully embrace the off season and all of its delights.  I think, in order, that, sushi, more beer, donuts, more donuts, even more donuts, and pizza.  Followed by more pizza.  And Fat Tire.  The scary part is, I haven't really gained any weight.  Much to everyone's amusement, I'd really LIKE to gain some weight and not sit at race weight all winter.  I was so sick of junk food after the first week though that I greeted brussel sprouts with glee this past Monday.

I drove home after Thanksgiving, took Stanley to a couple days of dog shows (where there was a drive-by shooting), did a body fat dunk test (seriously, did all those donuts mean nothing to you, body?!), went back to work (that went about as well as expected), and have been managing Max being sick.  He's in the midst of a much more intense bout of prostatitis than he had a while back and we're waiting for all his meds to kick in so he can get some relief.  I've made the decision to neuter him now that he's done showing and that is likely to end his problems in this realm.  So my stress levels have been a bit higher than I'd like, without the hard training to boost my mental health.  Oh and the weather sucks too. what?  I've been on my bike for some slow small-ring spins to loosen my legs up. I swam once and my shoulder hurt when I did, so I gave myself a week off swimming to let it heal.  I'll get back in the pool tomorrow (really, I swear) and take it nice and easy.  I'm flying solo for the month of December without a coach, before I get back to training with the ELF in January.  I haven't been self-coached since August 2008 so it's good for me to have a break, even if I did panic when I first got the message from Training Peaks that she dropped me like a hot potato (I kid, I kid).  I'm going to spend a lot of time in the pool this month, take a TRX class (I want to learn more moves than the ones I know and do at home!), and reunite the trio of Awesome (Jen and Lisa) to do a little mountain ride in Tucson around Christmas.

My race schedule for 2012 is more or less set, though I have to wait until January to hear about the Alcatraz lottery.  I still can't decide if I really WANT to get a slot for that race or not...but I'll do it if I get the opportunity!  I'll get around to posting the schedule for next year in the sidebar sometime soon.

Until then, I enthusiastically raise a donut to the off-season!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ironman Arizona 2011 - Video!

Think of it as the video race report!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ironman Arizona 2011

For those who want the cliff-notes version, come back in the next day or two for my race video.  I really wanted to wait to post this till I had race photos from ASI but 5 DAYS after I ordered them and I have not received anything yet..

The start cannon went off and the crush of bodies in the water began to swim.  There was bumping and jostling and occasionally half a body on top of my legs but I felt good!  I really don't mind the triathlon body contact any more and I knew I was getting pulled along with the masses for some extra speed.  If I wanted, I could just pretend I was working the pole up the street at Babes or Skin, given how many times my ass was being groped by strangers.

Surprisingly, given that the water temperature was identical to the Splash & Dash I'd done the previous week, I was not really cold.  Certainly not the bad shivering and shaking I'd done in 2009 in similar conditions.  Maybe all those days of ending my showers with a blitz of cold water to the head had worked.
I'd worried about sighting on the outbound leg into the rising sun but as it turned out all I really needed to do was follow the many flailing arms and bobbing heads in front of me.  I made it to the far end of the course, turned left once, turned left again and began the trek back.  At that point my watch said 53 minutes and I was on track for about the swim I'd expected.  Well, the way back turned out to be a bit more of a challenge.  Much of my draft was gone and sighting was oddly difficult - I KNEW I just needed to get to the Mill Ave bridge and yet the buoys seemed to curve in and out.  With about 1000m left to go, a bigger girl with a huge kick went by - I latched onto her feet and went hard to stay with her for the draft.  I rounded the final turn buoy and headed for the exit stairs.  At that point you can hear Mike Reilly and the music and the crowd, you *just* have to swim a little further.  100 yards from the swim exit, my draft, who was having some trouble sighting and had gone off to one side, kicked me squarely in the right eye.  We both popped up stunned for a millisecond and then kept swimming.  At that point, who cares if my goggle might leak or I might get a black eye, I just want to finish this swim! While it was not exactly where I expected to come out time wise, I learned that pretty much everyone I knew had slower swims than anticipated so I'll just take it for now.  We have plans for working on the swim for next year.

A wonderful volunteer grabbed my arm and hauled me out of the lake, I ran up the steps and across the mat, and that was one leg of this amazing race DONE!

2.4 mile swim: 1:57:26

I ran right to the wetsuit strippers, who had me out of my lovely Blueseventy suit in no time, and began the long run to transition - all the way around the bikes and changing tent, grabbed my bag, and then into the changing tent. was chaos!  Last time I'd raced and come out of the water 13 minutes later than this, I had the tent mostly to myself.  This time it took a second of scanning the area to find an open chair, which I dropped into and got to work.  I had planned in advance with my coach to wear the same outfit all day, which meant riding in tri shorts (having applied copious amounts of Aquaphor before the swim) and a faster transition.  While I put my socks and shoes on, my kickass volunteer got a baby wipe for me to clean the TTL dirt off my face, stuffed my nutrition in my pocket, and put my race belt on.  I grabbed my helmet and sunglasses and ran out.  It definitely paid off to think through the order/commands I needed to bark out in transition to fly through quickly without forgetting anything.  I ran for the bikes - where mine was racked on the far end, closest to the bike out - and was lucky enough to get Danni as my bike handler - great to see a familiar face as I headed out!

T1: 4:17

And then it was time to ride my bike, 3 loops around the course, for a total of 112 miles.  I knew there was no "racing" that would be done here, simply spinning at the intended watts and fueling up for however many hours it would take (I guessed between 6:45 and 7:00)  There was a little headwind on the way out of loop 1 but nothing like last time where I'd had to spin 11mph in my small ring to get my heart rate down and stay within my target watts.  My legs were a little cold and slow to warm up but I felt good.  After 15 minutes to let my stomach settle down from drinking half of TTL, I began to take in calories.  The wind shifted after my first loop and loops 2 and 3 were characterized by tailwind on the way out to Shea and strong headwind on the return trip.  Sometimes, it sucked.  I might have stuck my finger down my throat and made gagging noises at Jeff on my way out for loop 3 to indicate my enthusiasm.  But I knew if I kept at it and just focused on the plan, it would end eventually.  And really it wasn't that bad, because I'd practiced riding in lots of wind in aero.
In the meantime, I was entertained by friendly comments from other athletes (soooo many men who flew by me took the time to offer encouragement and I still remember the first who did - when I looked him up later, it turns out he was the 1st overall amateur in the race - how cool is it that one of the crazy fast people is still supporting others out on the course?), by watching the little pace lines of drafters go by (and chuckling when I heard the put-put of the race official's motorcycle shortly thereafter), and by the fact that even while staying within my race limits and not trying to race I was passing people!
So here's where I managed something new and exciting...for the entire bike ride - all 6 hours and 49 minutes - I never got off the bike.  I grabbed water bottles from the aid station volunteers while riding.  I peed twice on the bike, on the downhill of loops 1 and 3.  I knew Mary would be very proud of me for that!  And I rode this distance for the first time ever in tri shorts!  I experienced some chafing but nothing any worse than usual for me - thankfully I ride an Adamo saddle (cutout in the middle) so the spot I chafe is more at the top of my inner thighs.  (Side note: however, when you are chafed...and you burns a little!)
Eventually I made the last turn onto Rio Salado and knew I had less than 2 miles to go.  I started getting ready to get off the bike, undoing my shoes and slipping my feet out, and wondered how it would feel to move after so many hours of continuous riding!

112 mile bike: 6:49:48

The first few steps were...a little rough and then I took off running to grab my bag and hit up the changing tent.  Tossed my helmet off, grabbed my socks and shoes to put on, and asked the volunteer to shove my bundle of gels in my pocket while I got my shoes on.  Her response? "I'll get it after you stand up.  Don't worry, it's not even 4:00 yet and you have till midnight, you have plenty of time to finish."  Hmmph.  So...transition took a little longer than I would have liked.  Volunteers are a wonderful thing to have so I'm not going to say anything negative but a little aid would have been appreciated.

T2: 2:28

Off to run and I knew I needed to dial back my pace right away.  Make it feel painfully easy for the first 5 miles.  I felt slow as could be, like I was trotting in place, while I ambled along passing people but it worked.
The first 8-point-something mile loop was completed entirely in my goal pace.
Our pre-planned mini goal had been for me to run Jen down and then pull her with me to the finish for a PR for both of us.  I was getting updates from her family and mine that I was catching up with her but it was sooner than I'd expected.  The next update I got was that she was BEHIND me.  Huh?  Turns out I'd passed when she stopped to use a bathroom.  So I never saw her on the run.
Somewhere around the 12 mile mark, I slowed to walk a hill and felt a wave of dizziness hit.  Uh oh, that's not good.  My race-fried brain tried so hard to figure out what I needed - calories? electrolytes? even more water?  Well after discussion with my coach the missing ingredient was salt - a lot more than I was taking in.  So I struggled with nausea and dizziness for the remaining half of the marathon.  Not exactly the run time I'd expected/trained to have but that just gives me a goal for next time.  For most of the 2nd loop, I ran from aid station to aid station and walked the aid stations while trying Coke, orange slices, anything that seemed it might settle well in my stomach.
The third loop was up and down.  I was still passing people more than I was being passed, I was taking in calories at the aid stations via orange slices, and I was trying not to walk more than the aid stations.  But somewhere around mile 22 and again at mile 23 I let myself walk for 5 minutes and tried to fuel up for the remaining miles.
At mile 24, I started running and did not stop.  I blew right through the last aid station and kept going.  I was on a mission to finish.  I think the crowd near the Mill Ave bridge knew I was headed for the end and gave me lots of cheers.  I high-fived the volunteer working the split off point between the turn to the finish and the other loops of the run.  I ran through the parking lot, turned onto Rio Salado and picked up the pace.  I ran until I had clear space for the finish chute on my own and then I ran even harder.
The magical moment of an Ironman finish chute arrived.  Screaming crowd, bright lights, and Mike Reilly calling my name.  The happiest place on earth, even happier the second time around.

26.2 mile run: 4:50:57

I can see now how each Ironman finish is special in its own way.  The first...well, there's never anything like your first and that voyage into the unknown.  This one was the confirmation that I could do more than just finish, I could come back to the same course, having worked harder and smarter for the two years in between, and improve upon the past.

Finish: 13:44:56 
A 75 minute Ironman PR

Having reviewed this race with my coach and identified where I had problems and hearing her plans for me to achieve that next big breakthrough, I can say - though I questioned my sanity for signing up for Canada several times on race day - that I can't wait to tackle the next set of challenges.  I'll be resting and doing my own thing for another 5 weeks but then...bring it!

Thank you to my husband for supporting me 100% through all the insanity of Ironman training, to my coach for getting me to the start line in the best shape of my life, to Recovery e21 for supporting all of my training and racing this year (I PRed at every distance this year using e21, those are results that speak for themselves!), and to Dr Brink and staff at Premiere Spine & Sport for keeping all my little aches and pains from becoming BIG aches and pains.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Big Giant Long Race Report Coming Soon

Maybe tomorrow, depending on how quiet things are with work.  And how fast ASI gets their race photos posted.  For now, a little pre-race report...

Saturday's practice swim was a good indicator of how the lake would feel on race day (not bad, not TOO cold, faster going out than coming back).
 After that I dried off and got in line for bike/bag check-in.  I ran into Jen and Jerome Harrison on their way to swim at that point and then again when they came back from the swim.  You know how some people you never manage to find in a race this big and some people you see over and over and over in a crowd of thousands?  Jen was that someone for me this weekend!

Checking in my bike (nerd in line on time = first bike on the rack!)
 And dropping off gear bags..

 We met up with most of the spectathlete crew (minus my aunt and uncle who were tailgating the ASU-UofA game) for dinner at Nourish in Scottsdale the night before the race.  I know Jeff wasn't really a fan but it was a great place to get a gluten-free dinner the night before the race that fueled me up well.

I stayed up to watch the Sharks game (BIG win over Dallas - woohoo!) and then fell asleep pretty fast, while walking through my race plan (yet again) in my head.  I only woke up about 30 minutes before my 4:00 alarm and dozed till 3:50, then slowly woke up while lying in bed thinking about the day ahead.  After that I hopped out of bed, ate breakfast, coated my entire body in sunblock (which worked well, no sunburn at all!) and got dressed.  A quick walk for the dogs and then Meredith and I were off to transition, with Jeff to join us shortly thereafter with my friend Sara.  Dropped off my special needs bags (ran into Jen and Jerome Harrison on my way there), loaded my bottles on the bike, filled my tires, and I was pretty much done in transition.  Time to get body marked, hit up the portapotty line one last time (and stood in line with who else but...Jen Harrison) and go hang out with the gang!

 I am still amazed at how calm I was that morning.  I just focused on executing my race plan and what I had to do each step of the way and it kept my mind occupied.  When it was time to get going, I gave everyone a hug, dropped my morning clothes bag off (and ran into Jen Harrison AGAIN - Jen, are you stalking me?), and joined the masses waiting at the timing mat in transition.  Thankfully I ran into Lisa and her friends so we could chat for a bit before they let us down to the lake.
 Once the pros were all in the water and warming up, they let the age groupers cross the mat and begin jumping off the dock into the water.  I held back for a couple minutes and then got on with it - put my goggles on, sat on the edge of the dock, and dropped into the water.  Cold, yes, but not nearly as bad as I expected nor as bad as IM AZ 2009.

 I gradually warmed up with a nice easy swim up to the start line and then just floated there...watching the crowd, everyone on the bridge above us, and the beginnings of the sunrise on the horizon, singing the national anthem, woop-wooping loudly for the "you're going to be an Ironman today!" from Mike Reilly.  The bodies around me seemed to back off from the start line all of a sudden (did everyone panic about being near the front?) and it got more crowded at the same time.  I knew from last time there is no countdown to the start so I had a good idea we were close when things got quiet.

 And then...BOOM! went the cannon and we were off!