Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Last Summer Days

On my ride this morning I saw them. Children. Children up early. Children standing with backpacks and fresh clean sneakers, waiting for the bus.

My kids don't go back to school until next Tuesday, and maybe it's for this reason I have been able to trick myself into believing that my summer days aren't actually dwindling. But there's no denying it now. At 5:30 am, upon rising, it's dark outside and cool. The streets of Ocean Park, once jammed with cars, are quiet and sleepy. When I'm finished with my morning workout, there isn't a line to get coffee and a paper at the tiny Ocean Park Grocery Store.


I'm trying hard to relish these final days here.  I have my kids (and Alina's too!) all day, every day, right now. As much as I joke about looking forward to that yellow bus picking them up and taking them away, I also love having them with me as they fritter away time, screaming and stomping through the house, complaining that I won't let them spend their bottle can money on penny candy, bought at the local variety store.

Jordan is learning piano. She learns by ear for the most part, listening hard to a song and then mimicking it. I've been trying to teach her to read music. This morning we worked on Fur Elise.

Fingering is a problem. Also a problem is that Jordan memorizes sections instead of reading music. But she's getting it.... and I will miss these mornings during which if we feel like doing something, like learning a new piece, we instead have to move move MOVE! to get to the bus stop.

While I'm in uploading video mode, here is a quick shot of the ocean during Hurricane Irene. We just got the very edge of it. The storm really hit to the west of us, into Vermont and upstate New York. But still, the wind was crazy here, and the waves for the last few days have been super fun in which to play.

Yesterday I did an open water swim, though, and that wasn't so fun! Or it was... it just was very hard to actually swim. I spent the time swimming, then going under to miss a crashing wave, then stoppng, and riding a wave in, and then trying to swim again.

Alina's back to work, so I have all six kids on the beach the next few days, which is fine, since they really entertain themselves and leave me to read. I'm absorbed in Unbroken, a WWII biography about Louie Zampernini.  Have any of you read it? I'm still reeling after grasping  the statistic that 70% of deaths in aircrafts did not occur during combat. Those B-24s were deathtraps. I can't imagine the courage it took to go up in one each day, knowing that whether you were facing combat, a rescue mission, or just training in friendly skies, your chances of going down were gigantic. I had no idea... I just assumed that most death occurred during combat.  Reading about the POW camps also has wrankled me. One thing I love about reading is how it can yank me from my oh-so-minor problems and complaints and remind me how freaking good I have it. I am a female, and wouldn't have experienced the combat these boys did. And I have my husband, my son, my father... they are right here. My husband has never experienced those horrors, and hopefully my son will not, but who knows. My father has: he is a veteran of Vietnam. If he had not survived it, I would not exist. I'm a Nam baby... born in Fort Devens while my father was still enlisted.


I have been thinking about creating a few inventions for use during triathlon:
  • A kit with breast pads that inflate to the size of your choice. 
  • A barf bag that can be extracted and hung neatly between your bars if you get sick on the bike.
  • Special mints that take away the special barf taste if you happen to blow chunks when riding or running
  • A very tiny spray gun that can be put in your bento box. It would squirt noxious spray that you can squirt at a person who is passing you or about to pass you, or best of all, a person who won't stop drafting you. You could buy different flavors: sulfurous fart, dead mouse, rotting cheese... and so on. 
  • Windshield wipers for sunglasses. This is one I have pined after for awhile now.
  • Bike shorts with a pad that gradually dispenses paste into your most sensitive regions so that you don't ever chafe on the bike.  
  • A helmet that plays music, so you don't have to wear headphones, but you can still hear music when riding. 
  • A little salt pill dispenser that automatically slides out of the helmet and into your mouth when activated. It would place the salt your tongue so you never had to try to get/take salt from your Bento box.
  • A piss collector. A contraption that would direct your pee (when you pee on the bike) into a little vial that you can remove from your bike shorts and spray at people if they piss you off (no pun intended!) during a race. I see this as a way to even things up between men and women. Men can just whip it out and do their bidding. Women, obviously, cannot.
  • A very very very thin, absorbing shield that collects pee when a person is running instead of allowing the pee to drip down legs. (This for those of us who, after several rounds of childbirth, are left with stress incontinence.)
What do you think?
You can add to my list. It would make me happy.

Friday, August 26, 2011

AG Nationals Race Report Part Deux

Here I am just after finishing the swim. It must be post-slip, since the slip occurred while I was still ankle deep in water.  As previously mentioned, I experienced a massive wave of disappointment when I witnessed my swim time. Still, I'm taking it as a good sign that the two caps in back of me, one green and one pink, are caps from previous waves. That must mean I'm actually super fast, right? (Either that or those folks it the green/pink are reallllyyyyy slow--but let's just say I'm fast, shall we?)

Onto transition.
I got there. It happened. Not very fast.
The one problem I had was that my sunglasses broke as I was running out of transition. I hadn't put them on yet, and a lens popped out, probably because I crushed them by accident with my super human strength. Or the glasses were cheap. Or both. My friend Carrie, leaving T1 at the same time, alerted me to the lost lens. I didn't go back for it... but LATER I  found out that Janda had seen me lose it while spectating, and he reached into the fray to retrieve it. He gave it to me after the race. Thank you, Janda!

So, it was a sunglasses-less ride. I briefly contemplated wearing them with the one lens. That combined with my double-padded breasts would make for some good race photos! I decided against it, though, which was likely a good choice given that one eye in darkness and one eye in brightness might make me feel kinda trippy.
As is, my bike race photos turned out rather silly. What was I doing with my face? Trying to be coy? Also, I still look flat. I can't imagine what I'd look like without the pads! (Actually, I can imagine it since I didn't wear padding at IMLP, and have the pictures to prove it. ) Anyway, at least it looks like I am enjoying myself! (Perhaps that's why my average watts are some much lower than I had been shooting for, hmmm?)

So the bike. What is there to say? When I left T1 and finally was on the course I saw Andy. He yelled that Ange and Tracy were only a little ways up and Carrie was just barely ahead. I knew this, but it is always nice to hear it, and always good to see him, too. So that was a boost. Then I saw Kurt, who yelled, Good Swim! which also was good to hear given that  I felt my swim had sucked and I was ashamed of it.

For the first five minute a girl in my AG in a one piece tri suit designed to look like a spider web kept passing me and then dropping back. I found the suit oddly disconcerting. She appeared almost non-human in it-- like a small spider-woman-- a real live character straight out of a comic book.  I had to resist the urge to slow down to ask her where she acquired such a get-up.  Finally, though, I had had enough of her back and forth antics, and sacrificed my VI for a bit and rode extremely hard to get away from her.

After that I remember only that I was frustrated that although my watts looked pretty good I wasn't going very fast. I reasoned it must be a headwind, though I wasn't sure. Were we going slightly uphill? Thank God for the power meter in cases like these, where my speed is slower than I think it should be. My watts were where they should've been, so I resisted the temptation to believe that my slow mph was due to my being out-of -shape, just slow, pathetic, etc... I just rode and reasoned that if I blasted any harder than I already was (and I was definitely riding hard) I would be screwed later. 

After a 180 degree turn (during which I felt the need to un-clip and put my foot down so as not to tip over--. DEAR GOD I need help in bike handling....) Anyway, after the turn my speed picked up considerably even though my average wattage remained the same, so it really must have been a case of a headwind early on.  During the second half of the bike I felt both strong and light, and most importantly after my race at IMLP, I felt psyched to be racing. The only annoying moments came at the end of the ride. The last half mile of the course was clogged with riders and the shoot to the finish was so narrow that there was no passing and the pace was really slow. (Like 13 mph slow. No kidding.) I lost time there, but I tried to just chill and not get pissed. Everyone had to slow down, right? This was confirmed for me when I read Ange's post and realized she experienced the same problem upon finishing.

When I got off the bike (awkwardly, I will add) and ran into T2 we went over a black mat. The volunteers yelled again, "It's slippery! Careful!" And so of course, I slipped again, this time right on my ass, my bike on top of me. It was comical, and luckily not painful... but still.... another slip? arghhhh.
Luckily I did not slip again for the rest of the race!

The run began with a rather large hill. Strangely, I liked this. It did not allow me to take the run out fast, which is pretty characteristic of me.  After reaching to top of said hill, the course flattened out and remained flat. The potential for a fast run time: very good. The problem: I had no confidence in my ability to run fast. My first miles were somewhat effortless and sub-7, which I found both surprising and disconcerting. Would I blow up?  I hadn't run a sub 7 mile since... since..... since.....forever!  All that IM training with only a few bursts and NO sustained speed.

At mile 3 I started to feel a little empty and weak. I knew I needed fuel, but as is so often the case when racing, the effort involved in reaching into my back pocket for a gel seemed way too great. I only had three miles... three little miles....I would just hold on...

By mile 4 I finally convinced myself I was being an ass and pulled the gel out. Thank God I did. I got my zip back after another half mile. Too bad I had waited so long. How stupid can I get? Will I ever LEARN?  Argh. My sub 7 pace had slowed to a just over 7 min. pace. Grrrrrr..... and at mile 4.5 who should pass me? A girl with a 44 on he leg! Of course! I was able pick up the pace, but not pass her back. I learned later she ran a 40 minute 10k, so it wasn't my imagination that she was really hauling when she passed me.

With a half mile to go I saw Andy who yelled. LEAN! and Use your arms! (Later we talked about my absolutely atrocious run form. Another area I need to work! And soon!) Then Kurt saw me and yelled to pick it up. Pick it up! Go! And I tried! I did!
 Here I am close to the end. I LOOK HAPPY. And that is how I felt, even though I wasn't some speed demon. My race had gone relatively well, and I felt good, and I was having fun. I needed that. I really needed that after the fiasco at IMLP. Thank you to the almighty gods of racing!

I finished in 2:20:39. That's a PR Oly for me! My swim was 25:19, my bike 1:09:20 and my run 43:40. I finished 16th out of 108 in my AG, but in my mind that is actually 15th, b/c Olympian woman was in my wave and captured first, of course. Ange was sixth, Carrie was ninth, Tracy was 14th. I did not beat any of them, my good friends, :) but HEY! I'm proud to be even a little close by! And as I said, I had a great race--I had fun. AND THAT had been the goal here.

After the race I continued my weekend of socializing. I sought out everyone I knew and chatted and chatted and basically would not shut up. I had the best time with my new fried Rebecca. She is hilarious--nearly as funny as me--which is hard to achieve, of course. Andy and I went back to the hotel, got cleaned up, and then went to meet her, her husband, Tim, Kurt, Amy, Roger and Rebecca's friend John for drinks. Fun! I also got to hang out with Rocco, Rebecca's awesome yellow lab. What a good boy he is...

Later Andy and I got dinner and drinks to celebrate our 12th anniversary, which was the next day. 12 years, folks. I know that any of you married friends know that 12 years is definitely an achievement, and not to be scoffed at. I'm proud of us. After dinner we met Kurt, Catherine (of winning fame) and Carrie and her husband Tom out for drinks. Ahhhh.... a big weekend of socializing for sure! I loved it!

This week I'm back to Ocean Park with Alina. For Jordan's tenth bday on Wednesday we went to Funtown (a local amusement park). It was a great day.

The whole crew, minus me, of course... Sam, Jordan, Noah, Ethan, Maria, Alina, Dara, Lara, Alanna.
Dara and Lara

Watching the big kids on the Dragon's Descent

Dara and Lara on the Frog Hopper
Jordan and Maria being silly
One last week of summer....
(including one hurricane traveling up the coast....)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

AG Nationals Race Report

On Friday morning I left Alina with all six kids (I'm so nice...) and drove to Burlington, Vermont to race in the Age Group National Championship.  I had a good race. The two thick pads I used in each cup of my sports bra did not become misplaced in some terrible locale on my body that would've made others stare and point--pity in their eyes.

So that's good.

When I plotted out my season this year I did not plan on racing AG Nats. It fell too close to IMLP, it was at the end of the summer, it was too far away. But then I noted that all of my triathlon friends were racing it and my song changed. I HATE to feel left out, and furthermore, what a great opportunity for me to 1. Socialize and 2. See how I stack up against nearly every one of my triathlon friends!

So, it turns out I stack up where I always stack up, in case you were wondering. But, more importantly,  I did get in a mighty fine bit of socializing. In fact, when I reflect on this past weekend that is with what I am left: the race was fine, but the socializing was exceptional. I was also able to spend time with Andy without the kids present. That is a treat.... and a big one.

I was an anxious, nervous wreck before IMLP. In fact, I was so much a wreck that I suspect that some of my sickness on race day can be attributed to my incredible anxiety before the race began. For this race.... well, let's just say I did not get nervous until.....
Okay. I never got nervous.
This is of note only because the race was a national championship. Many competitors had made this competition the A race of their season. Still, let me be clear: I wanted to kick ass. I always want to kick ass. It's just that my want was about 40 billion times less intense then my want at IMLP.

The night before the race I began my weekend fait de frequenter des gens by meeting Steve (a tri friend from the present and actually also a swim friend from my high school days) and Kurt (my coach), and Ange and her boys. As a quick aside here: her boys are such good kids. Have I mentioned that? They are smart, well-behaved, and kind. I have decided that Ange needs to come live with my family for a bit so she can reform my kids and make them behave well in restaurants like hers? Do you think that's possible? Anyway, it was a lovely dinner, especially since Kurt didn't chastise me much for my choice to eat fries instead of a side salad. He wouldn't' give me a bit of his burger, though, which is just plain mean and likely cost me the race.

The next morning Ange and I, as usual, got to transition early Saturday morning to get ready for the race. We had racked our bikes the night before, so there really wasn't much to do--except to socialize. KT, a blogger friend who has the coolest bike EVER, was right next to me in transition on one side, and another PBM athlete, Rebecca, on the other. Ange was next to KT on KT's other side, and two spots down from me. A few places further down our rack was my friend Nancy, and just across from where I was racked were my friends Carrie and Tracy. These friends, fyi, were just the ones close to me in transition. This race was like my friend mecca. I loved it! There was no shortage of people with whom to gab! And gab I did... mostly with Tracy and Rebecca who I followed around, perhaps somewhat pathetically. It's hard to say.

Our swim wave was number 11, and so we had quite some time to wait around before we went off. I tried not to think about jumping into the cold water. I hate jumping into cold water. Actually, I hate jumping into any water. When it was our turn, however, the jump turned out to be not so bad at all.
This is not our wave, but this is the jump...
I can feel my stomach drop just looking at this picture. And yes, I know, it's not a big jump or anything... but it is still a JUMP.
The water was warm! Too warm.... warmer than Mirror Lake last month for sure. Of course, it likely felt that way because I had a wetsuit on, but whatever. After the jump I noted that most women swam a bit to warm up before being called over to the starting area. Hmmm, could this frenzy to warm up mean there were quite a few swimmers here? Swimmers generally warm up. Non-swimmers don't. I guess there were a few more swimmers than non-swimmers at this race...

Oh dear. Yes. I guess that WOULD be the case at Nationals, huh?

Did I mention that there was a former Olympian (won the bronze in tri in 2004) in our wave? She ended up winning the race--except she didn't, in my opinion. A former Olympian, especially a former Olympian who raced and medaled in the Olympics as recently as 2004, has no business competing as an age grouper. SORRY! No respect for that decision on her part. Get out of our race! (Okay, I know I'm mean and uncharitable....)
(*As an aside, did you know she was training to be an astronaut when she decided to go pro in triathlon?*)
(*One more aside. In my opinion the runner-up this year, Catherine Sterling, who is, incidentally, coached by Kurt, is the true 2011 AG National Champion. Just my opinion, but of course, I'm right. Susan Williams is a champion--no doubt--but not an AG champion. She was, and should still be, a professional.)

Okay. Sorry about that. Back to the swim.
There were a lot of fast women in my AG.
And they swam fast.
I swam fast, too, or so I thought.  I felt very strong throughout the swim and I was sure I would click my watch at swim's end and pat myself on the back for a job well done. Oh, so wrong, so wrong. My swim was the slowest Oly swim I have ever had ! I'm still not sure if it was a slow swim because I was slow, however, or because it was a bit long. I'm going with long, so don't burst my bubble and tell me it was dead on, okay? I don't care if you were there. Just shut up already.

So, I swam and swam and then I finished.  25:19.
As I emerged from the water we were directed onto these slippery stairs. The volunteers yelled, Careful! And Don't slip!
And so, naturally, I slipped.
Then I got up and ran while trying to strip off my wetsuit, which I've never been able to do prettily or gracefully. Usually there is snot dripping out of my nose (or water that appears like it could be snot) and I can't wipe it because I'm struggling like a mad woman to get my arms out of the suit while I stumble forward awkwardly. Finally, I did manage to get the suit off.

_______ Okay. I'm sick of writing. More tomorrow. I know you CANNOT WAIT. But tough. You have to.

Monday, August 15, 2011

I'm racing this coming weekend.

And you know what I think?
I think I need to wear my padded sports bra underneath my kit.  It is one thing to have boobs that are pathetically tiny. It is another to have pathetically tiny boobs that also SAG. It's just such a mark of becoming old--the sag. The sag needs to be masked.

And since the race is Age Group Nationals, I think it is only appropriate to try to disguise my boobs as something other than breasts that have nursed three kids and seen 41 years. If I can't win my AG at Nationals (and let's be frank here, even if I did amazingly well I would not win my AG at Age Group Nationals...), isn't it almost as good to have the winning 40-44 (padded) breasts? Perhaps I could find a padded bra that makes me look a size D? Wouldn't that be outstanding? Of course, one pad would likely become misplaced and make me look like I had a goiter coming out of my armpit or something.

The last few weeks my (very little) training has gone relatively well.  I've been swimming quite a bit and I seem to be OVER my swimming hump. I currently do not hate it! This is likely because I have been doing only open water swimming. How can you NOT love open water swimming...? It is summer; it has been warm... I can swim endlessly in the ocean or lake.

My biking has felt fresh and good. This is mostly because I have not done a ride longer than a few hours. It's hard not to ride well when you only have to be out there for a small chunk of time. I have been playing the VI game with myself on these rides. VI stands for the words Variability Index (and I never ever had that wrong not even a little). Basically it is a measure of how evenly you have ridden. To achieve greatness in VI land you have to stick super super close to a specific wattage throughout your ride--going up hills at the same wattage you go down... etc. To entertain myself I have been trying to see if I can get my average VI for a ride down to 1.01. I have achieved 1.03 consistently, but I'm not down even to 1.02 yet except in small segments. It's a fun game, though. You should try it.

Running, frankly, has kinda sucked lately. It's humid. It's hot. I'm pokey. I can't seem to run fast or far. I'm basically frustrated by it, but I am hoping that as my mileage picks up again I will get some of my zip back. I seem to run faster the more miles I run. Those miles don't need to be fast--but they need to exist.

I have put on some weight, which has gone straight to my gut and which I have to carry with me on the run, but at least I don't look quite so scrawny as I did pre and post IM. Now I just look scrawny with a little Joe. It's lovely. And I don't even really have a Joe. I think I may be imagining it. I just feel like it's there... mocking me. You can try to put on weight, and I will let you--but you will not put it on where you want to put it on! (read BOOBS or ASS.) So I am still boobless and assless--but I do have a nice little belly.
Such is life.

So, there you have it. An update on my life and training.
In other news, Jordan ran a road race (5.2 miles) last weekend with Andy. She loved it.
She is a little studette.
And better still, she sorta looks like me...
and if she is a studette, doesn't that mean I am, too?
RIGHT? Here is Jordan finishing the race with her dad.
And here she is with her dad and her Uncle Doug. (and Noah is in the background giving her bunny ears...)


Saturday, August 6, 2011

No Blues for Me!

The one good thing about feeling really really really really crappy all day on race day is that the post IM blues.... well, they don't really exist. I would much rather NOT relive that day, thank you very much! However, the weeks following IMLP have been quite awesome.

I don't have many good pictures of me when racing IMLP. I looked sick and scary during the race, especially at the end. The photos of me during the race simply provide photographic evidence that nausea and dehydration in the extreme are not exactly becoming.  So we'll just skip any more pictures of that, and I offer you a slew of other pictures instead.
Here is a picture from the next day at the awards ceremony--the podium of men/women 40-44. You can see Ange and me up there, and between us is my friend Stacey, who placed 2nd in our AG
Right after the awards ceremony we went cliff jumping. Ange's brother, Jeff, and his wife, Leigh, found this place when they were  hunting around for things to do on Saturday before the race.

Okay, I admit--I was really lame and didn't get in the water. I still felt sick, and just couldn't handle a jump! But Andy jumped and I sportingly took pictures. The kids loved it. It was definitely a highlight of the trip.

When we got home from Lake Placid I immediately re-packed and headed up to Maine with the kids. We stayed at my parents' awesome house on the ocean in Cape Elizabeth. Alina and I ate and ate and drank margaritas while we ignored the mayhem of our six kids as they danced, stomped, ran and yelled around us. It was fabulous. Jordan and Maria (Alina's oldest) went to kayaking and paddle-boarding camp during the day. The camp was at Kettle Cove where Ted's (a tri friend from Cape) daughter, Maggie was the instructor.  They loved camp and Maggie and now Jordan is begging for both a kayak and a paddle board. At the end of the week Alina actually splurged an DID get a paddle board! She and Maria are hooked.

Here are our other four kids at Kettle Cove playing while Maria and Jordan kayak.

We spent a lot of time just hanging around the house. It's a pretty sweet spot, so there is not a great deal of incentive to leave. The pups loved it, too.
 Maria and Ernie playing tug.
 Lara and Dara sitting by the frog pond.
 Maria, Noah and Ernie wrestling.
 Hazel being a very good girl (for once).
Jordan. Just standing there.

We also managed to get up to Ocean Park (30 minutes south) to get in some family time with the Holts and some beach time.
Here Maria an Alanna (cousin) make a break for the ocean while Lara re-thinks her desire to take the plunge.
On Friday we had a huge party in Ocean Park--the "fiesta"--to which a ton of my extended family on the Holt side came. Laura, my sister, got Max (Alanna's miniature pony) and gave the kids pony rides. Awesome day, I must say.

I'm back to training.
I love training.
And I especially love training in Maine.

I had a few short and fast bike rides this week. (Riding in Cape Elizabeth is FAR less hilly than in my section of Massachusetts, so I feel like a rocket when riding there.)
I had a few slightly slow but enjoyable runs along the ocean, and I had three awesome swims.

On Monday I went to do my swim workout in an outdoor pool in Portland. Perhaps unsurprisingly, outdoor lap pools in Maine are rather uncommon, so swimming in one is a super super special treat. Alina watched the kids while I did my workout. (She is a tres good friend, no?) On Wednesday and Friday I swam in the Atlantic off Old Orchard Beach.  The water is SO warm right now--I swear I could've gone sans wetsuit. But I didn't. Too much icky seaweed to wrap around my ankles. Anyway, on Wednesday the water was pretty calm so I swam all the way from Ocean Park to the Pier in Old Orchard and back. It's about 2.2 miles round trip and I felt awesome the whole way. On Friday it was a little stormy out to sea, and the swimming wasn't so fab. One of these days I will learn that if I swim very very fast on the way OUT, it is unlikely because I have become part shark overnight. Rather, it's the current. I swam out 15 minutes on Friday afternoon, and then turned around. It took me 32 minutes to get back. I swear to you I was swimming in place. I would take a breath and look to the shore, and I would be in front of the same beach house-- for ever. I just didn't move.

Training for Kona really hasn't started in earnest.
But really? I can't wait until it does.