Sunday, April 22, 2012

Finally, A Good One!

Seabiscuit is fast.

I have had three bikes in my life as a triathlete. My first bike, Little Red, was a (comparatively) inexpensive Canondale road bike. I only rode her one season, but I learned to ride on her, so she remains fondly remembered. Little Red now belongs to Jordan.

Jordan hasn't really figured out shifting yet. That is the only problem. Little Red is patient, so it's okay.

Then there was Mrs. Z (Mrs. Zebra) who became my first real triathlon bike. I rode her to train for four Ironman events.  Mrs. Z was a rockstar in her day. But I rode her pretty hard over the last four years, and she was in need of retirement.
Here is Mrs. Z in Kona. She looks good even though when this photo was shot she was on her 4th Ironman.
And now there is Seabiscuit. I ordered her last fall, and it took all winter to get her. I tried to be patient. Mrs Z and I spent the winter riding outside getting dirty and cold and waiting for her arrival.
I have not been riding well lately. I'm not sure why this is; I suspect is has something to do with the natural course of triathlon training. It seems I always only have one discipline of three going very well. Right now it's swimming. Both riding and running have been sub par lately, but biking has been especially discouraging. Until the arrival of Seabiscuit.

Yesterday I took her out for 60 miles. And we cruised! Although the watts I put out were not much different than what I have been producing lately, my speed was so much faster. Is this just because she is sparkly and new? Could be. But who cares! I'll take it! I felt awesome the whole ride, and completed the ride faster than I have ever completed 60 + miles in this area before--with the same watt output. Amazing!
I'm grateful. After riding quite a few miles this week I am sad that today I am not riding. This is good... since for the last few months I haven't wanted to ride at all.

Last week the kids were home for April vacation. It was a good week. It was a long week.

They rode bikes, had multiple lemonade stands, fought a lot. We went to see Mirror Mirror (average at best), we went out to brunch twice for diner food (which we all love), walked the dogs for hours in the woods and let Hazel fetch sticks we tossed into the pond, and we read books. The kids also watched copious amounts of TV and played video games ad nauseum and made elaborate lunches in the kitchen that took me forever to clean up.

Here they are, bored, waiting for customers at one of the many lemonade stands they had this week.

And here, finally, they served a few customers--two young guys who had been doing lawn work down the street. (They were really sweet and bought like 5 cupcakes and 5 cups of lemonade... I think they felt bad because they saw the kids looked so bored and discouraged.)

There was also quite a lot of riding bikes this week. Here Jordan and Lara get ready to ride.

 And here's Lara on her mini-bike.

Early in the week Lara made this poster detailing the week's agenda:

Now that's my kind of list!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Biscuit

Meet Seabiscuit.
She's gorgeous. And fast. And awesome.

Just like the original Seabiscuit.

 (Now if I could JUST get as aero as Seabiscuit's jockey...)

I named her after Seabiscuit, the legendary thoroughbred born in the early 1930s. The original Seabiscuit was foaled by Hardtack, whose father was the famous Man O'War, known to be the most amazing race horse of all time. Seabiscuit was named for his father, Hardtack. Hardtack, or "sea biscuit" is actually the name for a type of cracker eaten by sailors. Though he was named for his sire, I noted that Seabiscuit's name also mimics his grandmare's name, which was Tea Biscuit.

Seabiscuit grew to be only 15.2 hands, which is small compared to many he raced against, and because of his early failure to succeed, little was expected of him. But after an inauspicious start to his career, he showed the world that he was not to be underestimated, eventually beating the great War Admiral  (interestingly, also sired by Man O'War) in a head to head race featuring just the two great horses.
I think it one of the greatest horse races of all time:

Gives me chills!

I thought of naming my new baby Spectacular Bid after the famous thoroughbred of the 1970s, who was my favorite horse growing up. (I knew horses then only because my older sister, Laura, was both a rider and an artist. She subscribed to horse magazines and then drew all of her favorite horses, displaying the pictures throughout our basement and our shared room.) But the name Spectacular Bid doesn't have many great nicknames that can be associated with it, as Seabiscuit does. Also, many of you know about Seabiscuit because of Hilldebrand's recent novel and the subsequent film made after the book's release, so the name doesn't seem totally bizarre, as Spectacular Bid might seem.

So she will be my Biscuit, the Biscuit, Mrs. Sea (as opposed to Mrs. Z), That Fast S.B., and simply, Seabiscuit. I'm so in love!

I need to give a shout out to Brian at Fast Splits.
Best mechanic/bike store owner EVER.
Thank you so much, Brian, for all of your help, for setting me up with such an awesome, awesome bike,  and for dealing with my persistent emails all winter long of Is it in yet??? You're the best!

 Mrs. Z will still be my old standby, taking me out in the inclement weather, and remaining ever faithful. She is so tired, though. I know she is quite pleased to be retired!

On a totally separate note,

I have four athletes competing in the Boston Marathon tomorrow. I can't wait to bear witness to these four runners' awesomeness! It's supposed to be hot, but my people know what to do, and they will persevere! You guys, rock! Good luck!

Friday, April 6, 2012

When You Have a Truly Suck-A-Rific Ride and Other Thoughts

Oh, they look super cute--don't they. Soft. Snugly. Incapable of causing major parental distress.

You'd never guess how *evil* they can be, though. The baby girl less so than the baby girl dog...

On Wednesday the baby girl found the chocolate Easter eggs and jellybeans I had hidden (obviously not well) and brought them down to her level to snack on a few. And she left them there--on her level. Enter Hazel, the *evil* girl puppy. She found those chocolate eggs and jellybeans. And she snacked on a few.
Or, more accurately, she snacked on them all.

When Hazel walked into the kitchen, chocolate covering her lips and her belly swollen 10x its normal size, I knew something was awry. When she farted a big ass chocolate Easter egg fart I knew I was in serious trouble.

A good dog mommy would rush her young chocolate-eating pup to the vet. But I didn't. I tried to assess the damage. How much had she had? The remaining chocolate eggs strewn across the floor indicated consumption along the lines of a quarter bag. All of the jellybeans were gone. I would risk it. Have I mentioned that it is $1000 bucks just to enter the emergency pet clinic? (I know I know... should have sent her for a stomach pump....)
I also decided against inducing vomiting with Hydrogen Peroxide, as I was not positive when she had downed the chocolate. Longer than two hours and it would already be in her small intestine. 

The shitting/barking/pissing extravaganza began a few hours later, when it was time for me to go to bed. She would bark, then shit out crushed pink foil and chocolate smelling diarrhea. The she would bark, and then piss everywhere. Then she would bark, and then barf, a special chocolaty vomit that really made me need to hurl myself. In the end Andy and I spent a good chunk of the night up, comforting her and cleaning. By the morning the worst of it was over. I'd like to say she has learned her lesson, but, ummm, she is a Yellow Lab. If I put chocolate eggs in front of her snout right now, she would sniff them and smile her lab smile and say, Yummm, chocolate eggs! Gimme!

Now you might ask, what does this have to do with the super sucky ride to which you refer in your blog title?

Well, I will tell you. I had a 4 hour 30 minute ride scheduled for yesterday, the day following the Easter Egg shit/piss/vomit celebration.

I awoke groggy and exhausted, and really, really not in the mood to battle the cold and wind for that long on my bike. I debated whether to mess with the schedule and move the ride. But it wasn't really an option. Today, Good Friday, the kids are home. Saturday and Sunday, a day many athletes use to get in the long ride, is not a good option for the Mommy athlete of kids in elementary school--kids who have soccer, swimming, karate, etc. slated for weekend days. Plus, Sunday is Easter. I will have a hard enough time fitting in the assigned long run that day, let alone an additional long ride.

So I climbed on my bike, and hoped for the best. I will add here that I had been tired even leading up to the Hazel debacle of the night before. I'm sure if I had one of those little meters that measure readiness to train it would have flashed RED--DO NOT ATTEMPT TO WORK OUT TODAY, DUMBASS! at me. But I don't have one of those. There is a reason for that. ;)

I have been rather obsessed with my bike volume lately. There is a reason for that--namely that I attribute my past lack of run prowess off the bike in IM to my not significant enough bike volume leading up to my IM races. Kurt and I have discussed this. He does not buy into my thinking. He has other theories (having to do with life stresses leading up to my races and problems in my noggin), but I remain obsessed with bike volume, which is concrete enough for me to actually do something about. For this reason, if he assigns a bike, you can be damn sure I will do it, and maybe do a little *more* then he has asked. (sort of piece of contention here, I will add....)

Anyway. I would be damned if I didn't get the all important long ride in, ready or not.

I started off fine enough. It was cold, in the upper forties, and steely gray outside. There was a strong, bitter wind blasting from the north/northwest. Because I live west of Boston, I always must start my rides going west, south or north. East has me heading into the city, which is, as you might imagine, is not my favorite place to ride. I decided to start by going south/south west. I would ease into the ride and then when I had to head north I would tackle that wind and put out bigger watts. Because the wind wasn't right in my face for the first hour I felt okay. It wasn't soooo cold. It wasn't soooo hard. 

Then I started do some out and backs (south, turn, north, turn south etc) on long streets I generally like, and got a taste of that. fucking. wind. 

My average pace dropped. My legs felt that icky hot burn--which is something you never ever want to feel just an hour into a long ride. And my attitude started to drop, as well as my average watt ouput.

The mental demons started to attack. 

Why do I do this? I hate this. Why am I out here freezing my ass off? I'm going home. Fuck this.


Buck up, sister. If you can't even do a 75 mile ride how the hell do you expect to race well at IMLP? Jesus, Mary! Push the pedals a bit! What the hell is wrong with you?


OMG. I just don't feel right. I need to go in. Do I need to eat? When did I last eat? 


Mary, just suck it up for crying out loud! This is not some tragedy! You are fine. Just chill out, start working, and before you know it will be over.


Okay. My average watts have dropped by 5 watts in just the last 15 minutes. I'm fucked. I'm never going to be able to stay out here fr 4.5 hours.  MARY! If you were one of your athletes, you'd tell yourself to go in and call it a day!

on and on and on and on and on and on....

At 3.5 hours I had a nice little cry while I ate a banana nut Lara bar. (I love those things, though it didn't really help me much yesterday, I admit.) I allowed myself a full-fledged pity party. A guy walked by with his dog and looked at my quizzically as I cried and ate. I pasted on a smile. Just havin' some lunch! I said, suppressing a sob.

Then I got on that damn bike and finished the ride. 

Which I did finish. 4 hours, 30 minutes and 8 seconds of reprimanding myself for not feeling good, for not riding well, for not being strong enough...

A ride like that can have differing, lingering effects. Andy and Ange, bearing witness to my self-pitying sorrow following the ride, reminded me that of course it is hard sometimes; that I fought through it; that I was stronger for gutting it out; that my paltry watt output and my even more paltry speed on this ride did not mean I would take 10 hours to finish the bike at IMLP. (thanks, guys...weep!)  And Kurt reminded me that every year this time I bitch about the wind and lament about my lame speed and durability. He even brought up a workout report from last year in which I whined about being slow slow slow and tireeddddd....

But still. A ride like that is tough. It can really mess with your confidence if you let it. Is this what I am? Am I a woman who whimpers and cries in the face of fatigue?  

Well yes. I guess I am! But a ride like this is still necessary every once in awhile. It reminds me that I need to take care of myself--that if I deny myself enough sleep night after night I will not be able to perform when I need to--that if I I always do more than my coach tells me to do, and never allow myself to listen to my body when it screams at me to rest, I will eventually and inevitably break down.

I pine to be superhuman. I get down on myself when it seems that the rest of the world is able to put in xxx hours of bike volume a week and I break down long before that. 

I write this all out because I know many of you suffer the same disappointment. How is it that Super Woman Sally can bike 20 hours in a week and come out ready to have a big ass party, while when I try that shit I wind up face down on my pillow sick as dog, completely wiped out and practically in a coma?  It is so freaking HARD to let your body do only what your body can do... and not try to squeeze more out of it because you know you "need" those hours to be at the top of this game.
It really is. 

Sometimes it's hard to figure out what fight to fight...
Is it fighting through the exhaustion that makes you stronger?
Is it fighting through the disappointment that you can't ride all day and night without completely breaking down that makes you a better athlete?

I slept last night. Ten hours. And today I will just swim a bit. And I will only do what Kurt has assigned me to do on Saturday and Sunday, and no more. 
In the end it's likely both fights that need to be fought. I am a fighter--and I am also human.
Probably, just like you.
(Even though I am pissed at you if you can put in more time without falling apart.. ;)

Time to go eat one of the cake balls Jordan and Lara made this morning.
I need to get to them before Hazel does.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Garmin Data

There is something you need to know about your Garmin.

It's not completely accurate.

I don't want to poopoo the Garmin, because I love mine dearly and hate to imagine a run life without it. But just like most things in life, the Garmin is not perfect. To its credit, it errs on the side of generosity in terms of pace and distance. But it errs.

I have been thinking about this erring lately because I recently purchased a new Garmin. It is a sweet little watch, the Garmin 200. Not too big and ugly, and not too overwhelming in terms of its data reporting. It tells me the time, the distance, my pace and my heart rate. That's all--and frankly that's all I need to know, so I like it!   One thing about my new Garmin, though:  it's more "accurate" than my former 205--sad, but true. This new Garmin is not completely accurate either, but it is certainly more into striving toward truth-telling than my last one.

I knew my 205 wasn't an exacting watch before I let her go. Every time I raced longer than 3 miles my Garmin 205 would measure my miles shorter than the race course miles had been measured. If my Garmin hadn't reported a longer distance than the official race mileage in every single race I did, I might think it was those stinking race officials--who had clearly measured their courses inaccurately. But because my Garmin 205 reliably reported me running race miles 5 seconds faster than the course miles in every race I did, I knew it wasn't the officials who were off.

My new Garmin, as I mentioned, is more accurate than my old 205. It still errs on the side of generosity, however, as all Garmins do, I believe. I haven't the hard data to prove this, but I suspect it's the case. Every time I have an athlete say, I did this pace according to my Garmin, but the race officially said I was 5 seconds slower per mile, or, My Garmin said the race was 6.4 not 6.2, I think Yep, it's not the race, mi amigo, it's your watch.

I bring this up not to burst your bubble--not to humble you by letting you in on the fact that you are basically never running quite as fast as your Garmin says you are. Well, maybe that is part of it... :) I'm mean that way. But really, I tell you because many people fail to plan their pacing for road racing keeping the Garmin margin for error in mind. This is especially crucial to do in a longer race, like a half or full marathon. If the Garmin is off by just a little per mile, it's no big deal, except over the course of say, 26.2 miles, that "little" bit can really add up. At the Boston Marathon last year my Garmin told me I was at 26.2 about .5 miles before the race actually ended. My nice 7:24 pace stayed at a nice 7:24 pace on my Garmin, but alas, it also told me the race was 26.6 miles long. I had planned on this happening. I knew I had to run 7:25 pace on my Garmin in order to average 7:30 pace on the actual course. It worked. I averaged 7:29 pace according to the BAA. Had I just run according to what my Garmin told me, however, I would  not have made my goal time.

But I digress. My NEW Garmin is more accurate than my old Garmin, and so for the last month I have been frustrated that I am not running as "fast" as I had been pre-new-Garmin. Of course this is not actually true... I am running just as fast or faster. But still, every time I go out running I think, really? Why am I so SLOW today? And then I remember... I am not slower than usual. My new Garmin is just letting me in on the fact that I was never as fast as I thought I was....


One thing I kinda like about triathlon is that you never really know how long a course will be. We'd like to believe that a 70.3 is a 70.3, but really some 70.3 races are actually 68.2 and some are 72.6 and so on. The Mooseman run course has, historically, been a little short. I know this because my Garmin has measured it at 13.1--and well, as I have established, my Garmin (especially my old Garmin) is a little bit of a liar. Conversely, the Timberman run course is a little long. This could be because I always count the long, long run chute onto the course as part of the course, and technically, it's not. 

In road racing,  however, if the course is to be certified by USATF it has to be measured if not accurately, on the long side of the distance it is stated to be.

Okay. Off to ride. With my Garmin 500.
Not sure about her accuracy... and I'm not sure I want to know. !