Monday, July 28, 2014

Race Recap: XTERRA Aspen Valley

If I could sum up this weekend's race in one word it would be this:  unexpected.

In an attempt to beat traffic into the mountains on Friday I left work early and we headed out around 1PM.  With only a semi-irritating amount of cars on the road we were able to get to the race site around 4:30PM and had enough time to pre-ride the bike course.
Whatever wanted to come with.
Before I go on I want to describe the course and the situation.  This is the first year this race is being held at the venue, private land in El Jebel, CO (Aspen Valley).  Signing up for the first year of a race has pros and cons.  It is sort of like buying the first year model of a new car.  You have the shiny new car, but all the kinks haven't really been worked out yet.  This course was no different.  When the press release about a new XTERRA was happening in Aspen it was described as beginner to intermediate course.  That is really all we knew about it.  I would consider myself a beginner mountain biker, with the ability to probably push myself on some intermediate terrain while always knowing I could get off my bike and walk it.  So Patrick and I signed up, not knowing much more than what was released in January.  As time went on we found out more and more about the course and the website was still saying it was a beginner to intermediate course up until about last month, and the course description was released:
 If there's one word to describe this bike course it's "unique".  The course starts out on the south end of the property with double track trail for the first 3/4 of a mile to allow for ample passing.  After the double track riders will quickly hit a switch back single track climb.  Right at the apex the course dips back down for the most technical descent of the course before hugging an old canal built in the 1870's.  After a few bridge crossing riders emerge from the woods for a 1.2 mile lap around a wide-open motocross track that will be specially prepped for the event.  

A quick 1/4 mile transition on a dirt road that will allow for more passing and it's onto the north side of the property for the majority of the features and singletrack.  Riders will climb to the top of the property in two stages on wide single-track.  Then it's onto a descent where you'll encounter high-banked wood turns that will make you feel like a professional down hill rider!  Once you hit the base riders will cruise under a fly-over, specially built to allow a cross-over of course traffic, and then it's on to lap - 2!  Note: this course will spoil you as all rocks have been removed! all rocks ha
Well, this may not have been the most accurate description of the course.

As we were driving to the venue, I was texting with Gaby, who works for the race production company, and she told me there had been some "mixed reviews" of the bike course.  My ears perked up.  And when we got there I understood why some people were upset.  To be perfectly frank, the course was advanced, and there were a lot of people who signed up for this event because it had been advertised as a beginner course.  I heard one guy say "it isn't supposed to be easy"....which I would agree with in most circumstances, but when you label something as beginner it literally is supposed to be easy.

I want to give the race director the benefit of the doubt, mostly due to the fact the course was on private property and nobody had ever ridden it before.  He must have had to take the word of people who clearly have a different scale of what the word "beginner" means.

Patrick and I hopped on our bikes and had a great first mile through the trees on packed dirt, I was really really happy with the terrain and thought I had a great chance for doing well.  Then we hit the first major uphill and I was off my bike.  I pushed and huffed my way to the top where it was more rolling packed dirt and still very doable.  I was reasonably nervous at this point.  Soon after that my pedal hit a rock in the course and I toppled over, creating a funny, clip shaped bruise on my left shin.  I started to cry.  Not from pain, but from knowing I was in over my head.  I was starting to doubt myself and we were barely 2 miles in.  Then we got to the motocross course.  I think this seems cooler than it was.  Everyone was really struggling to get their bikes to the top of the jumps (there were tons of people out there) and I was hearing a LOT of negative feedback about everything.  One woman was swearing and calling the race director every name in the book for "LYING TO ALL OF US".  And on the other side of things, I saw some people who looked like they were having the time of their lives...dicks.  :-)

After the motocross course we found ourselves somewhat close to the start line again before the course headed up to the more technical bridge section.  At that point I knew it was going to be too hard for me.  I told Patrick to keep going and that I was out, I wasn't going to race.  He didn't give me too much of a hard time, which I know to mean that he knew that I was making the right choice.
Bridge section.
Banked turns.
Sketchy drop.
Technical bridge descent w/more banked turns.
Fun rollers.
Motocross course.
So, feeling very very defeated I waited for Patrick to finish his lap and I decided to jump into the water to cool off.  A few other people were swimming and I was able to appreciate the strange, man-made waterskiing lake.  The water is extremely blue, unnaturally blue, and everyone was talking about how they use dye to make the lake blue!
I guess there is a benefit to having the lake be so blue with the algae not forming at the bottom because the sun cannot hit that far down into the water.  I learn something new everyday.  I also feverishly tried to see if anyone wanted a swimmer and to do a relay.  I felt like a drug dealer as I went up to people and quietly said "Hey, you need a swimmer?"....nobody wanted to give up the whole thing.

I was feeling pretty down and wondering what I should do.  The event was capped at 250 people and sold out.  I was one of the lucky few to get a spot, but I felt like it would have taken me about 6 days to complete that bike course.  I found out that no matter what happened, if you didn't start or if you didn't finish it was still a DQ, no differentiation.  And due to my low morale at that point I said to myself, why start if I am not going to finish.  So I created my own plan of running from our campsite to the race site (about 10 miles, all downhill and at altitude) and just watching Patrick.  And that is exactly what I did.

I was able to get in a great run and when I got to the venue it was about a half hour till the race started.  Feeling inspired by my run, I grabbed my cap and goggled, put on my suit and decided to do the swim, if anything, to cool off.  I got to see Patrick finish his wave (they were about 10 minutes apart and ranked by mtn bike ability, or inability in my case) and he won!
Real men wear pink.
I opted not to wear a wetsuit because I wasn't truly "racing".  And I got in with my purple wave (the last wave) and enjoyed the 1200 meter swim.  I won my wave and I was the second woman to finish (first without a wetsuit) and 18th including men and women who all wore wetsuits.  I would say the swim was a success for me :-)

After the swim I went into transition, wasting about a minute outside of transition because I was explaining to them that I wasn't going to bike, so my time reflects about a minute difference.  So I dropped my chip at Patrick's transition area and got changed and walked over to the bike course to see my man riding.  Both times I saw him he was tired, but determined.  I was so proud.

When he finished his bike we had the plan to do the run together.  The first quarter mile was over a marsh on a rickety old bridge.  You could see the beating the bridge had taken due to all the pounding from the faster waves and I took my time.  Running on a bridge where you had no choice but to fall into the drink is not something I wanted to mess around with.  We them went onto the bike course that I recognized from the prior day's ride.  We did the fun rolling hills in the forest part and then took a different course over to the motocross track and had to "run" the motocross track.  Talk about brutal.  The hills were just plain torture.  I could feel that I had pushed my 10 mile run earlier and even more I felt the fact that I had been in the sun for about 6 hours.  Patrick was in even worse shape and was just pushing with everything to get through the hills till we finally got to the downhill and crossed the finish line together.

As always, the race crew, the volunteers and the spectators were great.  You couldn't ask for a more cheerful and positive group of people to see during a hard effort.  And.....

My guy got 3rd place in the Clydesdale category!  He got a bronze medal and made the podium.

After the race we packed up our stuff and headed to Snowmass Village where we spent the night and slept for 12 hours.  And even though we had big plans to mountain bike the next day, the thought of putting on those bike clothes and taking the bikes off the roof seemed like way to much work.  Instead we found some hikes off of the highway (The Grotto, in Aspen) and got out at Independence Pass to admire what was around us.
12,100 ft
Since we took the long way home we didn't make it there until about 6:15 PM.  A long weekend, an interesting turn of events, and lessons learned.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

I'm tired.

People say "I'm tired" all the time.  What good does that do?

When someone tells me this I instantly want to ask them (in an acusatory, asshole-esque way) "WHY?".  Almost every reason someone can come up with for being tired is self-imposed.  And the truth of the matter is that even when sleep is a priority, everything we do has an impact on when we feel tired.

I am writing this today because today I feel really tired.  I can't blame sleep, because I sleep at least 7 hours a night, but what I do notice is that my body is just beat.  For me, being tired is much more than just feeling like I need to take a nap, it is my entire body telling me to stop.

Endurance sports require - you got it - endurance.  The ability to keep going when the body wants to give up.  But how much is too much?  This is probably the thing my mom hassles me about the most.  At some point, you just have to give it a rest.  And I don't mean taking a rest day, or even two.  I mean a solid couple weeks of backing off and letting your body recharge.

I am so ready for a break.

But where I live, in Boulder, working out twice a day is normal.  Training for marathons is normal.  Training for 100 mile races, dare I say, is somewhat common.  People are outside riding their bikes, running, swimming and doing anything else you can imagine at all times during the day.  It seems like 90% of the population here are professional athletes.  Like, people get PAID to work out all day.  So these are the people who I expect to have the endurance and the energy to keep up the strenuous pace.  And then there are the rest of us, mere mortals who have to go to work every day.  I am just a pedestrian in the land of chiseled athletes. I am not the person that is going to win.  I can't even consider smelling the podium.  I am just a regular person doing the best I can.  

And sometimes doing the best I can makes me tired.  And is it worth it?  I don't know.  I feel different training for my upcoming marathon.  Is it weird to say that I feel "seasoned"?  I mean, at this point, I know I can do it.  I can get through the miles.  But the difference is, this time I feel like I am doing it quietly.  I don't feel like I need to tell people what I am doing, or that I need to look up all sorts of research about people's experiences.  This time I have my own experience to work from.  

Is that confidence?  I don't know, I still feel pretty damn nervous.  And that 10k swim, nervous for that too.

To be perfectly honest, I am most nervous about my XTERRA triathlon on Saturday.  This is what the course looks like:

I might get last.

In other news:
We have a roof on our house!!

Thursday, July 17, 2014


There are a lot of great things to be said about training solo.  Team sports have never been for me.  I like knowing that success in a race is determined by me.  Nobody else can get out there and put in the time and effort to train.  I am solely responsible for my own performance.  Unlike a team where everyone wearing that jersey wins or loses regardless of whether they play the whole game or ride the bench.

For the most part, I like having all the time to think.  And between swimming and running, I have a lot of time to be alone with my thoughts.  I would say my favorite time of the week is Tuesday and Thursday mornings at the Reservoir.  The swim itself is organized through my team, a course is set up and there is a designated timeframe for the "workout", but it is not coached and there is limited interaction with others.  Essentially, it is like a track workout with no clock, no coach and no rules.  Stepping into the water, putting my goggles on and starting to swim, feeling the shock of the cool water and the lack of constraints makes me feel alive.  It is truly my happy place.  As I make my way around the course I pass people who look like they are struggling, I get passed by triathletes wearing wetsuits and paddles, working so hard to go as fast as they can and I always smile because I know that I am the happiest person in the water.  

A lot of people hate to swim because they think it is boring.  Let me tell you, I understand how this feeling happens.  Nobody who loves to cycle would ever say that riding their bike is boring.  When really, what is more boring than pushing pedals around and around, hurting your crotch and staring at the shoulder of a road for hours on end?  This is why you usually see bikers in packs of two or three or 100.  They need each other to keep going because what they are doing can be boring and lonely.  Anyone who uses the excuse of swimming being boring as a reason not to swim is not willing to put in the time and effort to build their strength enough to appreciate the freedom that comes with not talking, and just being a fish.  One of the weirdest things you can do in the water while you are swimming is to listen.  Listen to what is happening around you.  At the surface of the water you will actually hear your stroke.  You can hear the sloshing, you can hear white noise from outside of the pool, you can hear everything.  And as easy as it is to find that noise, you can block it out and hear absolutely nothing.  You can get lost in a song, a thought, a story or anything else.  I cringe watching people click on and click off their watches at the "start line" of the course.  Way to suck the joy out of everything.

Up until this point I feel as though I have written this like the Oracle that somehow knows a secret other people don't....and that is not the case.  I find myself struggling with running the same way others complain about struggling with swimming.  I never ever allow myself to run at a pace that allows me to get lost in my thoughts at all.  I am the person starting and stopping the watch.  I am the one who is aware of every step, every muscle movement.  I think the reason is that I am not a good enough running to comfortably run at a pace I feel is "acceptable".  With all the apps available now to track mileage and time I am embarassed at what my pace would be if I were truly just to go out and run and enjoy it.  Right now I run anywhere from 9-9:45 min/miles with, what I would consider, to be a hard effort on my part depending on the heat and humidity.  If I look back on the runs I have truly considered to be a pleasure cruising speed that I have done with some of my other friends I will check the pace and see somewhere around 11 min/miles.  So why is that something I consider to be a great job for them, but not good enough for me?  

Is it because I know I am capable of better?  Probably.  Or do I need to take my own advice and let myself zone out and enjoy it?  I think I need to explore the pacing thing a bit more and let myself get lost in running.  Just this morning as I was swimming I was thinking about how much I have grown to like running, how it has shown me that I can continue to start new things.  There is a life post-competitive swimming that includes improvement in other sports.

I have a huge run this weekend.  I am guessing it will be more challenging than the actual marathon, which is one month from today.  Saturday I am going to cover 20 miles with almost 5000 ft of gain.  I will not be able to run the whole thing, there is a 14% grade for the first few miles.  This is not an excuse, that is just reality.  But the bottom line is that I don't want to care about time.  In fact, I am not going to look at my pace the entire time because IT DOESN'T MATTER.  Trails are not a track.  Every one is different, a mile is a mile and some are more challening than others.  All I can do is try, all I can do is get through it.

Monday, July 14, 2014


I am doing it.

I registered today and it is for real.

If anybody wants a way to get $5 off their registration just register under "Team Faszlama".  WTF is that you may ask?  Well, my Hungarian friend, Viki, discovered the bunchie originated in her homeland and that is what it is named in Hungarian.  So I am going with it because the bunchie is my power animal.

The next few weeks and weekends are going to be busy and exhausting.  But, I am looking forward to the challenges ahead.  I have been sticking with my running plan and my mileage has been (weekly) 21, 30, 37, and this week will be 40.  I have a twenty miler this weekend, and I am actually kind of excited because the route I mapped is going to take me a few places I have never been before.  And the fact that I end up at home is a bonus.  This week will be my peak, and though my mileage is lower than before, frankly, my confidence level seems higher.  There is something to be said about knowing I CAN do this.  I did my 16 mile run yesterday and felt pretty good.  I had two running buddies (thank you Lissy and Patrick) and by the end I was tired, but not paralyzed.  And today I feel fine, so I am taking it as a good sign for my upcoming week.  And today is rest day!

As far as swimming goes, that has also been going well.  I am averaging about 17,500 meters a week.  And even though that puts me way way ahead of what I should be doing for my upcoming 10k swim I still am nervous.

But on top of all of that, the race I have coming up that I am most nervous about is the XTERRA triathlon on July 26.  We signed up a long, long time ago for this race because we knew it would sell out.  I had big plans about doing the marathon and then spending the summer mountain biking in preparation for this race, but we just haven't gotten out there.  Not really at all.  In fact, I have been on my bike once this summer.  And now I am going to do a race on it.  It isn't a long race, 12 mile mountain bike, but that is still 12 miles on a mountain bike on a course that is on private property.  And that is relevant because nobody has ever ridden the course, there is no map with any relevance and no race report to look over.  It is going into a race totally blind.  And that scares the shit out of me.  It isn't like training for a swim race here and doing it somewhere else, water is water, but I am nervous about the technicality of the course and my ability to keep my cool while getting passed over and over again.  I am a great swimmer, but still a beginner biker, so I am sure that all the people that I stay ahead of on the swim will be right up my ass on the bike.  It is a race, so I don't expect people to ask nicely to pass me either.
If I can get through those 12 miles in one piece, without crying, I will be pleased.  I am hoping to see Patrick on the podium for that race, I know he can do it.  He is an excellent mountain biker and all around athlete.

So, here is the schedule:
July 20 - BAM Bare Bones 2 mile
July 26 - XTERRA Aspen
August 10 - Horsetooth 10k swim
August 17 - Revel Denver Marathon

And then....
My season ends!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

HOT running

Does anyone else struggle as badly as I do running in the heat?  It is seriously demoralizing.

I have been keeping up with my running, but my pace and effort level are not where I am used to seeing them.  It is not like I am going to the fucking Olympics here, but it has been tough to maintain my usual 9:15-9:20 pace as the temperature is starting to hover around 90.  My run yesterday, I was pretty confident I was running sub 9 minute miles based on effort and I checked afterward and I was hovering around an avg of 9:30 for the whole thing.  Sad face.

I know I should cut myself some slack and let my body slow down and find its rhythm in the warmer months, but it is really messing with my head to see a slower pace and wonder if I am improving or not.  I am already slow, so the thought of running even slower is tough for a turtle like me.

It seems to be a pretty common issue for pace to slow down and general fatigue to set in earlier into a run during the warmer months.  The interesting thing about running in Colorado is that we don't have the humidity issue that a lot of other areas seem to have.  But what I question is whether or not that is good thing or a bad thing.

I have always found that when I run in a more humid place I just feel like the sweat never dries, and in Colorado you can only be "wet" for a few minutes before all the moisture evaporates.  This is great for arms and legs, but other areas are not immune to sweat buildup, and for me, it is under my boobs.

A huge negative to running in the dry weather is the necessity of water.  I find that if I plan on trotting for more than 6 miles I need to carry my hydration pack and I always, ALWAYS finish the entire thing, which is 70 ounces.

So I don't know which is worse, but I am feeling a little bit down about my general ability and performance in the heat.  I think what I might try doing is just not looking at the watch and focusing on getting the miles in.  On race day, which is August 17, I will be running early in the morning so I am hoping for cooler temps.  But in Colorado you never know if it is going to snow or burn to the ground.

I am taking today off and tomorrow I have 6 planned, then I can choose one rest day over the three day weekend, one day I need to run 12, and one day run 6.....

I might die.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Two Mile BAM Swim

I'm not dead.  Not yet at least.  I just haven't done anything noteworthy lately.

Two weeks ago I did an open water swim race that was a benefit for my swim team.  I managed 54 minutes for the two mile, non-wetsuit division.  I was the fourth female finisher.  Not bad, not great, it just was.  It was in my "home pool", which in the case is the Boulder Reservoir.  The only thing that I don't like about open water swimming is the mass start.  This race had three distances:  2 mile, 1 mile and half mile.  All categories had wetsuit and non-wetsuit divisions.

As I walked down to the "beach" of the Rez I noticed the winds had picked up and there were actually white caps on the water.  The excitement level got higher as I entered the water with 150 triathletes in wetsuits around me.  I only saw a couple other people without wetsuits.

For those of you reading who don't know what wetsuits do for you, I will explain that it is much more than just keeping the swimmer warm.  Triathletes prefer wetsuits because the suits themselves are buoyant.  It requires much less energy and not as great swimmers can "fake it" through a swim race much more easily than without a wetsuit.

I have my opinions about wetsuits, but I know what you're all thinking:

So before I knew it the race started and I was in the middle of a washing machine cycle.  I had humans all around me and limbs hitting me.  But I know the key to a good race start and that is to let the triathletes sprint for the first 100 meters, then they die, then I make my move.  I start to pick off the people around me and finally get to a point where I am getting a good rhythm.  I pass some people who started off so fast and are starting to struggle so soon into the race I start to think....

Because it is the Rez and it's full of God knows what.  I actually LOL'd at that meme when I found it.  Ahhh, the little things.

By the end I had a couple girls who I knew in my reach but I couldn't get a good line and I didn't manage to overtake them at the end.  But the good news is that I have another opportunity on July 20.

In other news, I have been running, I am sticking to my training plan for another full marathon on August 18, but still haven't signed up.  I flip flop about it because some of my runs are so bad due to the heat that I wonder if I can do this.

Yesterday the temperature was something around 97 degrees (according to my phone) when I set out to run.  Needless to say, my 6 mile run turned into a 5 mile run with a bunch of walk breaks and I had to stop unexpectedly to fill up my water bottle.  I question everything during those runs.

green animated GIF

Monday, June 9, 2014

Insanity at its purest level

I don't know if it is what people call the "post marathon blues" or what, but for some reason I feel the need to do another one.  Is this insane? 
I started to think about possibly trying to do another one in a few months, so I looked online at the Hal Higdon plans to figure out how I would fit in because the race I have chosen is only 12 weeks away.  And the plan I found is actually called "back to back" marathons.  And the first thing I saw on the page is the bolded words "insanity at its purest level".  Honestly, the plan doesn't look nearly as bad as my 16 week schedule that I did before.  The mileage is about the same, but the runs are split up differently.  The weekend runs are longer and the weekday runs aren't more than 6 miles, which I can do during my lunch break at work.  Also, I get an extra rest day, which is something I figured out that I needed a little too late during my last training plan.

But before I cave to my lack of direction, I want to make sure this is something I really want to do.  I don't want to sign up for a race just to fit in with the culture in Boulder.  In Boulder, everyone is training for something.  ALL.  THE.  TIME.  And it isn't usually a 5k.  It is a marathon, an ultra marathon, an Ironman, or anything else that takes up too much time and money.

So here is what I decided to do.  I am going to start the training plan, it is actually an 8 week plan and I am 10 weeks out, so I am going to continue running when I want to over the next two weeks and not pushing myself too hard.  I am going to start and then see how I feel once July 15 rolls around.  That is when the price increase happens for the race I selected.  I don't want to talk about the specific race yet because I don't want it to be "real" until I am ready.

Make sense?

Swimming this morning: (50 meter pool)
200 Free
250 Free 
50 kick/swim by 25
200 Free
50 kick/swim by 25
150 Free
50 kick/swim by 25
100 Free
50 kick/swim by 25
50 Free
50 kick/swim by 25

6x50 drill/swim

3x100 descend
6x50 Fast

4x50 kick fast
3500 meters