Thursday, May 29, 2008

Gotta love a man in PINK!

Go Alberto!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Great May 15th!

I think it won't matter how old I am, birthdays always make me feel like a kid. The moment I open my eyes, I know the day is different and I can't help but feel good, happy and excited. The sun seems brighter and little things never get me down or under my skin.
This morning was no different and today has been fantastic! I've felt spoiled and definitely special. First thing this morning, Bart had a wonderful card for me and and even a separate card from Lulu. He also gave me a Yurman bracelet I've had my eye on for some time that matches my blue Yurman ring. Its beautiful and I've worn it all day. He also sherpaed my bike on to the back of his car so I could take it to my VO2 bike test this morning. I also got to open up a package from my Mom and Dad that I've been eyeing for a few days - a cute new red and white outfit to match the red patent shoes my mom and I bought the last time she visited.
Then came my workout for the day. Even my dreaded V02 max test on the bike didn't seem as bad as usual. Don't get me wrong, there is still nothing good about wearing that claustrophobic mask and pushing yourself to the limit, but I tried to harness some of my positive energy to push myself a little harder. My results are still improving so I guess the hard work is paying off.
I finally made my way into the office late this morning and had a busy, but effective day filled with well wishes, cards and even a pedicure from some of my friends a work.
Tonight, since Bart had a scheduled tennis match, I'm going to celebrate with my friend Carol, who is my birthday twin. Drinks and dinner with the gals at Osaka. Can't wait. Then tomorrow its my bday dinner with Bart at Chez Max.
I am definitely blessed!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Tougher than Tough

During my long flight to LA yesterday for business, I relaxed with the June 2009 issue of Triathlete magazine. About three-quarters of the way into the magazine, Steve White gave tribute to two professional athletes that had "toughed it out" in 2007 Ironmans when their races didn't go as planned.

The first pro, Rutger Beke, a Belgian, walked the majority of the run portion of the 2007 Hawaii Ironman champtionship and finished in 11 hours, 13 minutes and 58 seconds. In previous years, Beke finished 4 times in the top 5. Reading the article, I remembered his post race interview on the Hawaii Ironman TV coverage. While Beke could have easily quit the race and called it a day, he stuck with it. "A lot of people in Belgium and America, they might never qualify for Hawaii. Out of respect to them, they'd love to do Ironman Hawaii in 11 hours," Beke explained at the finish. "To win at Kona takes huge amounts of physical and mental strength, but to tough it out and watch 890 athletes pass you by requires an enormous amount of courage and humility."

Similarly, Lisa Bentley toughed it out at the 2007 Australia Ironman where she initially competed to preserve her 5 year winning streak. 2007 was not her race and with 12k left to race and an injured heel, Lisa walked to the finish. Not just satisfied with finishing, Lisa stayed on to cheer her fellow Ironman competitors to the end including a fellow Ironman participant who finished just outside the cutoff time in approximately 17 hrs 9 minutes.

While the Triathlete magazine article ended there, my tribute does not. Last Saturday, I watched one triathlete, TG DJ, who tops the list in terms of toughness and if I had the option of adding another story, hers certainly would be it. From the start, her swim did not go as planned. Rather than rolling on her back and calling it quits, or even stopping in T1, she hopped on her bike and set out to do the best with the hot and windy conditions we were dealt at WL. Despite a solid bike, by the time she entered the run course, temperatures were well into the 80s and we had all been racing some time. But you wouldn't necessarily know it. . . when we passed on the run course, she still had a smile and encouraging words to pass along. Although she was forced to DNF, she never once quit. Her toughness and courage persevered and as she neared the finish, virtually every one of her teammates had stayed to cheer her on. Her own cheer was still the loudest, "Next year."

We all have a lesson to learn from these athletes. They all possess the grace, strength, tenacity and courage all of us should aspire to. Each are role models in showing us how to raise our game to the next level, respect this tough and demanding sport we compete in and to tough it out, even when doing so requires us to dig deeper than competing at the highest level. I'm glad and proud that I've at least got to know, train with and compete with one of these three athletes.

Monday, May 5, 2008

White Lake Race Report

I finished my first half! How was it? Hard, challenging, fun, uplifting, fulfilling, emotional and definitely rewarding. And, I'm already looking forward to the next. But before then, here are the details:

Despite having my usual pre-race restless sleep, I awoke Saturday morning feeling rested and my stomach, eerily calm. I ate my banana and my cup of white rice with butter and put the last minute touches on my transition bag and bike. I had premixed my Endura the night before and thanks to the helpful suggestion of TG40 even froze the bottles on my fuel belt in an attempt to keep the cold before I got to the run.

Here is the Lake Place Condo gang ready to ride down to the start, our bags packed in Sherpa of the Race Gregg's car.

After arriving at transition, I unpacked my transition bag, got my bike ready for a quick grab and rubberbanded my shoes to my bike. TG Charlotte and I shared side by side spots in transition and TGs SanDee, Lynn and Susie and Bart were close by. By now, having observed the racks and racks of bikes, my stomach decided to reach its normal, pre-race nervous state. Thank heavens for lots of port-o-potties. We then picked up our chips, got body marked (with an age a year older than I am) and headed to the water front with our wetsuits.

Bart and I exchanged good luck wishes and kisses. It was awesome to have him competing with me, help calm my nerves and to be able to share this experience. Bart was in the swim wave before me so I got to seem him start from in the water with TGs Karen, Liz and Lynn.

The swim start sounded for my wave and I was off. I tried to get in a quick rhythm early, stay at the front of the pack and find some speedy straight swimmer to draft off of. I soon found a swimmer, no wet suit, whose feet I drafted off of for a significant portion of the first leg of the swim. Then we turned, and my rhythm seemed to disappear. I started seeing purple caps (the wave behind me) and I wondered if I had moved to the back of my wave. The crowd seemed to get rougher too and I got elbowed hard and swallowed a good gulp of White Lake. After a few breast stroke strokes, I collected myself, and went back at it, hoping to find my straight, wetsuitless swimmer to draft off of again. I never did, but soon I rounded the corner and started to push it again to the swim finish. Finally, after what seemed like a long time in the water, I was out and I headed to transition.
As I ran into T1, I was relieved to hear some girl yell out to a spectator, "How many blue caps are out?" The spectator responded, "Not too many" and I knew I had at least had a solid swim. I pulled out of my wetsuit, put on my helmet and sunglasses and ran out of T1.
After a fairly successful flying mount, I struggled with putting on my cycling shoes as I pedaled down the road. My left foot kept getting stuck and didn't want to easily glide in as I had practiced. Finally, however, I was settled, shoes fastened and I then began to take inventory of my HR. The plan was to ride in zone 3. At first check from the swim, I was high. So as I winded through the center of WL, I took the opportunity to take it slow, settle in and just get my legs at a high cadence. I purposefully picked a Garmin screen that showed no distance or speed... only total time, cadence and HR. My goal for the bike - stay in zone 3 and pedal around an 85 cadence as much as possible and not drop below 80. The bike, despite some very windy head winds at times, was definitely my favorite part. My legs felt strong throughout, I stuck to my nutrition and hydration plan and I kept a fairly even effort, even passing lots of folks towards the end of the ride. The scenery was nothing spectacular, but I kept myself focused and just enjoyed it. Other than the wind, the only negative was that towards mile 45 the road had a bunch of seams and I was already suffering in the female sensitive areas, so every bump hurt. Once back in WL, the bike finish quickly neared. I had decided the morning of the race after looking at the dismount area not to stress about the dismount and to just undo my shoes on the bike, but dismount like a normal person without the "flying" part. Thankfully, taking off my shoes was much easier than putting them on. I successfully dismounted sans shoes, without falling or stubbing a toe, and I was back in transition.
Although I tried to be efficient in T2, I did take the time to wipe my dirty feet off and put on socks with my running shoes. I tried to be speedy and carry my running belt as I exited, but kept losing water bottles so ultimately stopped, put it on and then ran out of transition. Just as I was finishing the exit chute, I remembered my Garmin, which was safely stowed on my bike. The quick strap I had worn all race was empty. After a frustrated expletive, I headed out to the run with no HR monitor and nothing to judge my pace.

The run was HOT and my body struggles with heat. Early into the first lap, I got goosebumps and slightly chilled and I knew the run was going to be a battle between my willpower and my body's desire to call it a day. I felt nauseated and as hard as I tried, I couldn't find my rhythm. My saving grace? Cold towels and a bunch of familiar faces. Because the run essentially consisted of two out and back loops, I got to see Bart and a bunch of my TG friends often. And their smiles and their own determination kept me going. Quickly after the start of the run I had to deal with the cards this race dealt me and my goal soon changed from a 10-10:15 pace to just keeping it going between the water stops. I got a wet cold towel at virtually each station and managed most times to make it. After each station, however, I really had to dig deep and push myself to go again. As I got to the final "back" leg of the run, it was clear I was going to finish, and I tried to get myself into a rhythm. Less than a mile from the end, TG Lynn darted past. She was having a phenomenal run and it pushed me to finish strong. I laugh now, but as I passed the final aid station, I must have looked rough. One of the volunteers shouted out "Are you ok?" and repeated his question two more times until finally I answered not with a nod but with a convincing "yes."
I quickened my stride into the finish and as I rounded the corner and saw the finish line balloon, my emotions started to take over. I was so overwhelmed with the day, my accomplishment and the physical effort my body had put forth. And, to top it all off, waiting at the finish, with his big blue eyes and the biggest smile ever was Bart. I know my eyes teared as I crossed the line and he gave me a hug. Without sounding odd, at that moment, I was so proud of myself for trying something new, pushing myself beyond my comfort zone, sticking with my training and finishing the half. I had finally proven that my non-athletic and non-sports oriented image was definitely in the past. As I grabbed Bart's hand, I knew too that I was lucky. I get to share the experience, training and love for this sport with my husband who understands me and all my emotions about this day perfectly.
After I finished, Bart helped me hobble over to the lake to try and cool off. The water felt great but every step in the sand caused my toes and feet to cramp miserably. After a banana, a water and many attempts to walking off the cramps, I finally left the lake and rejoined the group to watch some of the others TGs finish.
All in all it was an amazing day. The smiles and strong positive attitudes were certainly infectious and reiterated why I TRI.
My stats:
Total time: 6:26.25 (101/203 overall women; 24/45 age group)
Swim 42:09
T1 2:15
Bike 3:11.05
T2 2:35
Run 2:28.23

Friday, May 2, 2008

Whose legs are smoother? Barts' or mine?

Beyond Expectations at White Lake

So far my White Lake experience has been beyond my expectations.

Accommodations - SanDee, TG40 and I road-tripped on Wednesday. From the pictures on the various website, we anticipated a run down lake area and nothing special. Much to our delight, our condo is awesome - decorated very comfortably, right on the lake and less than a 1/2 mile to the FFA center for the start. The town of White Lake is charming - certainly a step back in time, but really cute.

The weather - Initial forecasts predicted nearly constant thunderstorms. After we arrived, the forecasts changed and now predict low 80s, partly cloudy and NO rain.

The lake - I had heard the lake was clear and not deep, but nothing could have prepared me for this lake. It is FABULOUS! For any pool swimmers who don't like open water because they can't see the bottom or fear creatures, this is your PERFECT race. The water temperature is ideal too. I could have spent hours in the water yesterday in my wetsuit. I had none of my usual open water panic moments. Now.. if I could only have lane markers so I didn't have to sight.

The course - Flat, flat, flat. I had heard this but still expected a rolling hill somewhere. There were none. Not on the run course or the bike course. Now this does mean no variety in pedaling on the course, it also means NO HILLS!!! Right now, I'd rather have the later.

The experience - I've spent the last two days catching up on R&R, relaxing with great friends, starting a good book and sharing great meals. We've talked nutrition and race strategy and I've done my last few workouts in the surroundings I will race in tomorrow. While I'm sure I will still have race day jitters, I am so lucky to have enjoyed these few perfect pre-race days.
Bring it on White Lake. These TGs are ready!