29 April 2012

I Made It!!

Aaaand the month of travel is over.  Five weeks.  Twelve flights (bleck).  Three continents.  Five time zones.  Five cities.  LOTS of friends and great fun.  Now I'm tired and I think I could sleep for a week.  At the very least, I'm looking forward to NOT getting on a plane next weekend.

I stayed with my parents this weekend when I was up in New Hampshire for my childhood friend Heather's wedding.  The wedding was beautiful, the bride was gorgeous, and I'm hoping that the newlyweds will come and visit me in DC sometime soon (hint, hint if you are reading this Heather!)

The bride and I

It was so nice to see my parents as well.  My mom sent me home with some of her homemade granola and a box of Maypo, both of which I will be rationing since neither of those can be found in stores down here.  Lucky for me, Mr. Sweetie doesn't like Maypo so there won't be a throwdown in our household every morning at breakfast.  There were also sweets galore at the house (Magnum bars, mini eggs, York peppermint patties, brownies, Lucky Charms, and Cinnamon Toast Crap) and with my first race of the season coming up next weekend (!!!), I tried to restrain myself (I did give in to the Magnum bars and Lucky Charms, mostly in moderation though).

PS - reason number 685 I don't live in New England anymore.  It was the last weekend in April and I had to wear tights for my run.  And gloves.  It was that cold.

Speaking of running and such - mission accomplished for this week.  NO skipped workouts.  I managed to get a long bike ride in on Friday before I left for New England, it was a windy day of repeats around Hain's Point.  Not the most exciting ride, but definitely the most efficient time-wise and it's a good place to go when you want to bury yourself in your aerobars and just go.  Saturday was a run that was a bit harder than it looked on paper, but I felt pretty good during the whole thing.  I ran the circuit I usually run when I visit my parents - down the first street we lived on when we first moved to town, past my middle school bus stop, past my best friend from middle school's house, past my old, old, old, old house, and straight to the house of some close family friends.  I always knock on their door and say hello whenever I run by their house, they are never surprised and always very welcoming when I come banging on the door at 9am on a Saturday.  After that quick visit, my run was complete.  I was lucky enough to see a few other friends from home that I don't get to see nearly enough and then the weekend was over.

I'm already excited for this week - semi taper topped of with a race!  Really doesn't get much better than that!

26 April 2012

Finding Fast Feet on the Roads

It has been almost 14 hours since I finished my AM run and I can still feel the reminders of it in my slightly sore quads and a core that feels like it got a workout.  All in a good way, of course.  Yesterday when I looked at my scheduled run, I almost laughed at what I saw - you want me to do what at WHAT pace?  It's been awhile since I saw any run intervals at a 6:xx pace and I hoped my legs would remember what to do.  I hoped I'd be able to shut my brain off and not think about pace and just concentrate on going hard - if I could do that, the times for my intervals should take care of themselves.

I didn't want to do the run in the evening after work - I wanted to get it out of the way in the morning, so this meant running after swim practice.  I got home, ate a few mini strawberry muffins because I was STARVING from swimming, put on the running shoes and headed out the door.  I set up the Garmin to show my current pace rather than my average pace so I'd have a better idea of what pace I was holding for the intervals.  The ten minute warmup went by quickly and then it was time to start the eight intervals..  The first few were a little rough - the bike path is a false flat on the way out and my legs were screaming at me that now was NOT the time for fast intervals.  But then I warmed up and suddenly found that I was holding my steady goal pace during the intervals and not dying.  Suddenly I found myself running the easy rest intervals faster because 7:45s felt easy and slow compared to the speedwork intervals.  As the miles ticked by, my confidence in my running ability grew.  By the end, even though I was tired, it wasn't a question anymore on whether or not I could hit my goal pace.  I knew I could if I gritted my teeth hard enough and wanted it badly enough.  I was beyond thrilled after this run, tired, and hungry.  I can't think of a more perfect way to have started off my Thursday.

25 April 2012

Getting My Bake On

It has been *forever* since I used our oven for something creative.  With all this travel over the past month, there have been absolutely no baked goods in our kitchen.  Sad, sad.  Tonight I fixed that sorry situation with some homemade strawberry muffins.

When I was growing up, we'd go strawberry picking in June, right around the end of the school year.  We'd make BATCHES of these ah-mazing muffins with all of the freshly picked strawberries.  It never fails, whenever I have one of these muffins, I always feel like summer is just around the corner and school is just about out for the year (even though it has been ages since I was a student).

So - here is the ridiculously easy recipe:
Combine 3 cups of flour, 2 cups of sugar, 1 teaspoon each of salt and baking soda, 1 tablespoon of cinnamon, and 4 eggs. (I usually add in a bunch of extra cinnamon).

Then add: 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce and 2 cups of sliced strawberries.

Mix together, put in lined muffin tin.  Bake at 325 until they look done (put a toothpick in and when it comes out clean, muffins are done).  I'm guessing it takes 20-25 minutes or so.

And then... enjoy!

24 April 2012

Daily Food Snapshot

I'm always curious what other triathletes eat on a daily basis to fuel themselves and their workouts. I also find myself wondering am I eating too much? I've stayed at roughly the same weight since high school, give or take 5-10 pounds (and not counting those few years in college where I was a complete slug), so I think I'm doing something right. However, the thought has crossed my mind that a consultation with a nutritionist might be a smart idea - then I'd have a more concrete idea of whether or not I'm eating too much/too little/not enough of the good stuff/too much of the bad stuff. I'd like to have this year be a great one in terms of triathlon and nutrition is a really important part of the whole puzzle.

So - here's a snapshot of what I ate today.

- wheat bagel
- 2-egg omelet with shredded mozzarella cheese, beans, onion, and zucchini
- smoothie (orange juice, strawberries, blueberries, plain yogurt

Snack #1:
- greek yogurt with granola
- fresh strawberries and blueberries

- grilled eggplant/zucchini/pepper sandwich with balsamic vinegar

Snack #2:
- olive bread with hummus
- cottage cheese

Snack #3:
- oatmeal
- handful of walnuts
- apple
- pear

- 3 slices of cheese pizza

- smoothie (orange juice, protein powder, blueberries, strawberries, plain yogurt)

* The sandwich, the smoothies, the pizza, the omelet were all homemade and we went pretty light on the cheese when it came to the pizza and the omelet.

*This seems like alot of food, but it helped fuel me for 3000 yds of swimming, 20+ miles of biking, and 5.5 miles of running. I probably could've used an additional snack (or at least timed my final snack better) between the run and my commute home because there was some serious bonking going on the last two miles of my ride.

23 April 2012

Don't Grocery Shop Hungry. Just Don't.

Last week I did a pretty terrible job at getting all of my workouts in. Ohhh, I ate too many crepes, I cannot possibly run that prescribed one hour. Or I'm too jet-lagged to pull my TRX out of the closet and use it. Etc. Etc. Etc. As the saying goes, there is no extra-credit in Ironman training. If you miss a workout, chances are pretty good you're not going to find the time to make it up. Do it or lose it. And updating Training Peaks?! HA - you slay me. I'm simply going to say that I was just giving Jen an opportunity to completely focus on the Illinois State Swim Meet by not filling in my Training Peaks for last week.

But this week - it's a new week. I woke up determined to start it off on the right foot. This consisted of waking up late, scrambling to find my yoga mat, scrambling to scribble down the bootcamp workouts, and forgetting my lunch on the way out the door at 5:40am (I'm still mad about that - so mad that I remade that lunch when I got home from work just so I could enjoy the veggie quesadillas I missed out on at lunch. It was my pre-dinner dinner). The morning did get better - bootcamp went well AND I ran into Kendra on my way to swim and we split the lane - SO GREAT to have someone else to swim with! Then I made the unfortunate mistake of stopping in at the grocery store while I walked from the Metro to my office. Never go to the grocery store post-bootcamp-swim workout. I walked in to grab breakfast and somehow found myself leaving with over $40 worth of snacks. Chobani, cottage cheese, strawberries, a loaf of olive bread (??), butter, and bagels. Whoops. And my co-workers love me because I now own half the real estate in our tiny office refrigerator with all my loot.

And the workouts I did manage to get in last week - they all went really well. This past weekend I was in Tennessee to see Erin, Ashley, and this cute little girl:

Reagan's pretty sharp - gotta watch what you say because she'll say it right back!

Can I just reiterate that the people down in Tennessee/Kentucky are the friendliest around? Not only did drivers wave at me while I was running and biking, but fellow runners gave me high fives, others joined me for a little bit to chat, neighbors and their kids waved at me from their yards. It was like living in Pleasantville. I could get used to that. Cars did not swerve near me or honk at me while I was biking - not that there were many cars around, most of the roads looked like this:

70+ miles of this Sunday morning.

I spent much of the ride out patting myself on the back for the speed I seemed to easily be holding and for how good I felt. Note to self: when you haven't been on a long ride in weeks, do not automatically think you've made magical gains in bike fitness. Odds are - you've had a tailwind that whole time. I was in for a rude surprise when I turned around and was slapped in the face by a nasty headwind. And so began the slower slog home - the skies were becoming grey and I was becoming hungry and cranky. Once I made a few turns and got out of the headwind (and downed some more PowerBars), I felt better and was able to pick up more speed and negative split. My quads were yelling at me afterwards for it, but this ride was worth it.

The only ruckus I encountered was when I was chased by a pack of dogs - twice. The first time was unexpected. Three dogs came bolting out of a yard, aiming straight for me. Two of them were short, fast little things that looked like they were ready to take out my ankles. By sheer luck, I avoided hitting them and/or falling off my bike and made it away unscathed. The second time I passed that house (no choice - I was doing an out-and-back route), I was ready for them. I ate a Clif bar to get my energy up. I rolled up my armwarmers (or rolled them down - whatever you did with armwarmers), put on my game face and started to sprint as soon as I got in sight of the house. I was cocky and thought about hollering at the dogs to egg them on, confident that I could easily outsprint them since I was expecting them, but fortunately I thought better of it. True to form, the dogs came charging out of the yard. I dropped two of them pretty fast but the third hung on for what felt like forever and he kept getting right near my front wheel. After a hundred yards or so, he got tired of chasing me and gave up. And that was my excitement for the ride.

Well, I'm off to eat the olive bread topped with Chobani, cottage cheese, strawberries and butter. KIDDING. At least I won't starve this week at work.

20 April 2012

Random Friday Facts

It has been awhile since I did this Blog meme, and so in no particular order, I present some facts:
- Sometimes when I'm riding my bike, the Wicked Witch theme from the Wizard of Oz runs through my head.
- Sadly, I'm pretty attached to my iPhone. I never thought I'd be one of "those people."
- My desk at work is a mess, not organized at all.
- I am slowly but surely getting better at the butterfly. It's still ugly as heck and I've been known to hit the lanelines and my lanemates, but I can make it up and down the pool.
- I'm not adventurous with food, especially in foreign countries and in restaurants.
- I've been on an iTunes downloading rampage for the past few weeks.
- I've watched "Crazy, Stupid Live" on each leg of all my trips to Burkina. That equals 12 times in the past 6 months.
- I'm close to getting a mountain bike.
- I need a new Bento Box for my bike. Four years worth of leaky gels, melted Powerbars, and pulverized NUUN tablets have taken their toll.
- I don't have any races scheduled after Sep 9th. This needs to change.
- Things in my shoulder bag this AM: 2 granola bars, running shoes, helmet, and Malarone.
- I have an abundance of embarrassing pop music on my iPod and that's all I'm going to say about that.
- I had fish earlier this week. And nope, fish/meat still not for me.
- I'm torn: IM Lake Placid or IM Coeur d'Alene for 2013?
- I really miss riding the Poolesville route with the IMLP girls from last year, even though I never showed up on time.

18 April 2012

What's Your Weakness?

It's no secret that I have a wicked, wicked sweet tooth. While I inherited most of my genes from my dad, it appears that I got this rogue sweet tooth gene from my mother. She's an amazing baker and there is always, always chocolate in the house. Unfortunately, I seem to be lacking a corresponding self-control gene, which makes having sweets in the house a threat to both a successful race season as well as the eyes of spectators at triathlons (spandex is NOT forgiving).

This morning I finished off a giant bag of pretzel M&Ms. And about 6 peanut butter cups. All before 6am. Hey, at least I didn't chase it with one (errr, two) pieces of pie. The chalkboard on the pantry still says, "What do you want more? Chocolate Chips or a PR?" I've obviously been ignoring it as I've gone straight for the sweets.

Enter: An Intervention. Mr. Sweetie had a look of horror on his face as he watched me demolish the bag of M&Ms this morning ("out of that whole bag, I only had ONE handful" he said mournfully). So this afternoon I called him at work and told him to hide the remaining Easter candy and not ever tell me where it is, even if I beg and plead. We're going to work out an allocation plan (probably won't be as liberal as 1 calorie burned = 1 mini egg earned). He proudly informed me tonight that I will never, ever find the candy. He says he's hidden it someplace really disgusting. I don't know how serious he is, but now I have an image of the purple bags of Mini Eggs floating in the toilet tank in my head, so maybe I'll just never eat the Mini Eggs he gives me. Problem solved.

Now I just have to do something about that pie...

17 April 2012

Back At It

One of the benefits of flying back to the States from Europe: I woke up an hour before my alarm went off for my 5:30am Masters swim. 4am actually felt more like mid-morning. That, coupled with the fact that I was chomping at the bit to swim some laps because it has been TOO LONG, meant that I arrived at the pool on time, before the workout started. I know, I think Hell has frozen over too. I moved myself down a lane - I figured I'd be a hot mess in the pool because I haven't gone swimming since my last day in Tucson. Turns out, today wasn't that bad. Maybe I'll move back to my regular lane on Thursday, we'll see what the workout will be.

I also bike commuted to work today. It was too gorgeous outside not to. Plus, I really, REALLY missed my bike. I'm starting to like biking more and more. And minus the cluster of cars I have to fight through near Union Station on my way to work, I'm really enjoying bike commuting too. It's both physical exercise as well as an exercise in defensive biking skills. Don't worry, I'm a cautious bike commuter and I rarely run lights or do anything remotely daring. I'm just always on the lookout for rogue cars.

It feels great to be falling back into my routine. My first triathlon of the season is less than three weeks away. I vacillate back and forth between feeling like I'm really ready for that race and feeling not ready at all. But I am excited about it, no doubt about that!

16 April 2012

Travel stories

I'm back in the States! I came home to BAGS upon BAGS of Mini Eggs AND a homemade apple pie, courtesy of my award-winning husband.

Great American Food. Yes.
This past trip to Ouagadougou and Paris was great - not only for what I got to do, but also for the people I got to meet, spend time with, and this even applies to some total strangers. I really feel like our lives are made richer more so by WHO we have in them than by WHAT we do.

On my way back to the hotel

This was my first time being in Ouaga on my own for part of the trip; normally I am there with a co-worker who has MUCH more experience in the country and I just let him do the thinking, talking, and action. This was a great opportunity to see what I could do on my own - I got things accomplished, managed to get points across in French without much misunderstanding, and got myself around the city no problem, thanks to my very competent driver. I was a little worried after my co-worker left that I would basically be just going to work and then just coming back to the hotel and eating dinner there and then reading my book and really having nothing more to talk to than the four walls of my hotel room. Fortunately, there were some other Americans staying in the hotel who saved me from boredom and solitary dinners. It made the trip much more fun and enjoyable to have others to chat with.

Pool. Helpful in the hot weather.

Paris was fantastic. Chelsea and I didn't set foot in a museum, opting instead to eat and drink our way through the city. We stopped in any open air markets we saw, consuming fresh strawberries, cheese, apples, crepes. We made multiple food runs to various boulangeries for baguettes, croissants, and pain au chocolats. We managed to snag a table, completely by chance, at a very yummy restaurant in the Marais on Saturday night - the food was incredible (topped off by a sugar and butter crepe, with melted salted caramel sauce poured on top). By the time I left this morning, I felt like I needed to be rolled out of the city. To be fair, we did EARN all that food, walking around the city for two days straight. But what made the trip memorable was just spending time with Chelsea, she's one of the most brilliant, down-to-earth people I know and it really didn't matter what we did, as long as it was with her, it was fun.
We met up with fellow triathlete and cupcake lover Kate O for hot chocolates one of the evenings - Kate and I both live in Virginia, but I've seen her more often when we are both outside the east coast time zone. She introduced us to an amazing sweets shop and I came close to eating my weight in meringues. True story.


Would you like to hear a small-world story? On Sunday we had lunch with one of Chelsea's friends from high school. They were in Paris with friends of theirs who were visiting them from the States. The friends of friends also lived in Arlington and as we sat down to eat, the husband looked at me and asked - "do you run?" When I answered in the affirmative, he asked, "did you run the half marathon in DC last month?" I said yes again and he asked, "Do you remember the guy you ran with during the last two miles of the race before leaving him in the dust 1/2 a mile from the finish line?" Turns out, it was him! We have about six finish line photos together as we chatted after crossing the line - we ended up talking for about 10 minutes after the race and I remember him mentioning he and his wife were going to Paris in April to visit friends. And so we met again in the Jardin de Tuilleries.

Just a little excited to see the Eiffel Tower. Just a little.

And my last short story about my trip, another illustration of how complete strangers can end up making your journey that much better. This morning the Charles de Gaulle Airport was a vrai bordel (French for chaotic mess). Someone left a suitcase unattended and there were many men with large machine guns standing between me and my check-in gate. Minutes ticked by, and even though I had arrived at CDG with PLENTY of time to spare (and for those of you who know me, you KNOW this was a major effort on my part), I watched time quickly creep closer and closer to my boarding time and I still hadn't been able to get to my gate, get my boarding pass, or check my bag. Some of the airport personnel were trying to assuage the passenger anxiety of those unable to get to their gates. One man in particular went above-and-beyond, eventually finding us a roundabout way to get to the check-in gate through the parking area. I saw him later as I was on my mad dash to the passport line, with only 20 minutes to go until boarding. He saw me, pulled me aside and brought me up to the front of the line, saying that I had been running around enough that morning and he wanted to help me out. Thanks to him, I made my flight. I'm going to do my best to pay it forward.

Tomorrow marks my return to serious training after a bit of a hiatus. I haven't checked the schedule, but I'm hoping, hoping, hoping it involves the pool! Extra motivation - a certificate and letter arrived in the mail while I was gone, notifying me that I received USA Triathlon Honor Mention and I'm now qualified for the Age Group National race in August up in Vermont! Today just kept getting better and better.

Final random thought. I watched The Descendants on the plane today. In the final scene of that movie, George Clooney's character and his two daughters join each other on the couch, sharing a blanket and ice cream while watching tv. No words were really said as the screen faded to black, but that scene captured the epitome of what's important in life. You can travel near and far, visit exotic places, do big and important things, but what really matters is if you have people in your life to curl up on the couch with at the end of the day. And THAT will make today complete.

09 April 2012

Books, Books, Books!

Little victory today - lasted over an hour in the hotel gym, splitting my time between the stationary bike and treadmill. Thanks to the poussiere (dust storm) it was a coolish 90-something today, making for a much more pleasant visit to the gym than yesterday (where I only lasted 30 minutes flinging sweat on the treadmill before calling it quits). The upside to all this heat and sun - I am slowly but surely erasing my bike shorts tan. I am sure it will be back, but for right now, it is fading.

I've been remiss on adding to my booklist lately, but I HAVE been doing some reading. A couple of weeks ago I finished Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity by Katherine Boo. An American woman spent about 4 years observing, researching, and interviewing people from a slum just outside of the Mumbai airport in the late 2000's. This was an eye-opener of a book. I've never spent time in India (the closest I've ever come was visiting Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha in southern Nepal, right next to the border with India), and I've never witnessed everything the things she describes in her book, and it's difficult to imagine how people are able to live day-to-day in those conditions (both physical and mental). The book talks alot about the bribery and, I can't think of the right word for it, but the overall corruption of everything from the education system, judicial system, police system, etc. And I understand that it's just how things are in some parts of the world, but it makes life pretty hard for those people at the bottom who can't pay bribes and are at a disadvantage 100% of the time - namely, the people described in this book. I highly recommend this well-written novel.

Over the weekend I finished Chris McCormack's book, I'm Here to Win: A World Champion's Advice for Peak Performance. Macca won the Ironman World Championships twice - in 2007 and again in 2010. People at tri camp were talking about his book and had good things to say about it and I'm game to read anything that might give me insight into the mental side of the sport. I've always thought of Chris McCormack as being pretty cocky, and even after reading this novel I still feel the same way, but now I do think of him as less abrasive. One of the aspects I found to be most amusing was how he kept referring to himself as one of the bigger guys in the sport, in height and weight. I remember seeing him in passing at the Columbia Triathlon a few years ago and being surprised at how small he was - so if I think he is small, I can't imagine how much smaller the other guys are that he is comparing himself to. Anyway, the book did offer some decent thoughts on the mental aspect of the sport. I especially liked the line, "The more you suffer for something, the more you value it. What you get is worth what you paid for it" I've started to learn that doing well in a race should not make you feel good - you should actually feel pretty terrible and you need to learn to be OK with that. I still have a long way to go when it comes to figuring out how to suffer and still push the pace, even when it hurts. But few things feel worse than finishing a race where you gave a mediocre performance because you didn't want to push the envelope. There's a feeling of regret that just can't be erased. Bottom line - a good read (I was a little irritated with the style of writing, too colloquial, but that aside, it was a good book).

And yesterday I finished the book, Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. This is the same author that wrote Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (I preferred the latter over the former). It was an interesting story, but with two story arcs, it was sometimes difficult to follow. And sometimes I just felt like I was missing the point. It skipped between his modern day search for his grandfather's old Ukrainian village (told from the point of view of his tour guide who had a comical grasp of English) and the old history of the village. It also didn't really have an ending. It just kind of... ended. Basically, the book is an expansion of his senior thesis from Princeton where he travels to the Ukraine to learn more about his grandfather's life, a survivor of the Holocaust. I couldn't tell which parts of the book were fiction, non-fiction, etc. One book review called it, "harmless multiculturalism for the perenially bored" and "a more pretentious magical, realist novel was never written." I kind of agree with that reviewer. Pretentious. I had a hard time getting into the book - I bought it back in February and got about a quarter of the way through it over the past month and a half. Then this weekend I picked it back up, the storylines picked up, and I finished the rest of it in a little over a day. Eh, it isn't a book I would read again and I could take it or leave it.

08 April 2012

Easter Thankfulness

So I know that this isn't Thanksgiving, but there's nothing wrong with being Thankful for stuff
on Easter too. So here's what I'm thankful for this Easter/Passover/Springtime equinox/whatever holiday you celebrate, in no particular order:
-My family. I miss celebrating Easter with my mom, dad, and brother this year but I did get to talk to my dad on Skype (technological challenges aside I.e. my dad thinking I was a telemarketer because of the sound day). Later I got an email from my dad and I loved how he ended it-love you infinitely. I love that I always feel totally loved by my dad. I'm also thankful for Mr. Sweetie for supporting everything I do, being OK with the somewhat obscene amounts of money that go towards triathlon and taking care of stuff around the house when I'm too busy or feel too overwhelmed to do it myself. He also cooks a mean dinner 7 days a week. And my West Coast family is the best set of people I ever could've had the good fortune to marry into. Not only do I have a second set of amazing parents but I hit the jackpot with THREE sisters.

- right now the wireless Internet is working in my hotel room. It's the little things.
- I'm thankful for all of the incredible friends I have in my life. From my best friend Katie who has been my other half to my best friend Erin and her husband Ashley who have given me the most amazing gift and responsibility to be their daughter's godmother, to all of the friends I've met through work and triathlon, I am one lucky, lucky girl.
- I'm thankful I discovered triathlon and that I truly enjoy it. I'm thankful for Jen who has helped me see that the sport is more than just swimbikerun and that there is always room for improvement. Even though triathlon has probably made me even more Type A, I think it has made me an overall better person, one who is in tune with eating better, being active, and someone who has figured out the importance of having goals.
- I'm thankful that I love to read. I feel like I've. Even on so many adventures vicariously through just reading a good story.
- I am thankful for Mini Eggs.
- I'm thankful for a job that affords me an opportunity to do something I enjoy everyday as well as gives me the chance to see parts of the world I normally wouldn't.
- I am thankful that I live in the US. There is so much we take for granted there and so much we (myself included) complain about, but let's be honest, we have it pretty good.
- I'm thankful that Icould spend my whole day next to the pool but still get some work done. And I'm thankful I didn't have to get dressed in much else besides my bathing suit today. Too hot for much else.
Happy Easter! I hope everyone was lucky enough to spend it with those you love!

07 April 2012

Hot, Hot, Hot

Oh dear lord it is hot here. Hot with a capital H-O-T. One-Hundred-and-Six-Degrees hot. Ouagadougou makes Tucson feel like a balmy oasis of cool.

Now that I've gotten that little rant out off the way, what have I been doing?

Nothing workout related. Earlier this week was recovery from the JHC camp. Then I was a hot mess (there's that word again) when it came to unpacking, laundering, and repacking all my stuff, catching up on sleep, and seeing Mr. Sweetie for a couple of days before leaving for West Africa. I didn't actually get all packed up until Thursday morning, a couple of hours before I left. I managed to get an easy spin on the trainer in before heading to the airport. And that's it. I briefly entertained the idea of going to the hotel gym this morning when I woke up - then I looked at the clock, realized I slept almost 14 hours (!!!!!!!!) and it would be waaaayyyy too hot at 10am to do anything in the non-air conditioned gym. Maybe later tonight I'll get on the treadmill or stationary bike. Because I don't know what my schedule will be like this week AND because of the heat, I told Jen not to write out any workouts. I'll be less stressed trying to fit everything in and hopefully I won't lose too much fitness. It's just a week. And I did bring things to do strength training with, so I can at least do that, regardless of the heat.

So what exactly have I been doing? Eating my weight in sugar-coated peanuts. Did a quick tour of the town by foot in search of a plug and adapter for my computer, since I realized the one I brought from home will NOT fit the computer plug. I did manage to find one that seems to work OK. Tried to get Skype set up and failed miserably. Sat around in my hotel room in a sports bra and shorts because it's too hot to wear much else, in my opinion. My street clothes are currently hanging up to dry after getting soaked in sweat during my short little walk around town. And I finally booked a room in Paris for Chelsea and I next week. Whew, I was worried I was never going to get that done at the rate I was going (shhh, don't tell Chelsea :) ).

05 April 2012

Tucson Tri Camp 2012: Rattlesnakes, Cacti, and ALOT of Sweat!

Welcome to Tucson!

Jen and her husband Jerome put together another AWESOME triathlon camp down in Tucson this past weekend. I was among the lucky 13 campers who got to spend four days biking up and down (and up and down) Mount Lemmon, run through Sabino Canyon, swim outside in a beautiful pool, and eat my weight in Hammer gels. Yum. This camp is truly one of my favorite vacations - the other athletes are so incredibly nice and supportive, the workouts are always challenging yet fun, and it really gives you a chance to push your limits past what you thought was possible.

Ready to climb Mt. Lemmon!!
First up - the athletes. I was so excited to see familiar faces from last year. Mia is going to have an amazing season, you can tell what a hard worker she is. Stacie always, ALWAYS was saying something that was hi-larious, and she gave me a pair of fast feet to (try) and chase in the pool. Kate O and Bethany, my fellow Virginia brethren, are two of the sweetest most determined girls ever. Bethany pushed on during the run in Sabino Canyon, even after a nasty fall, and Kate did multiple repeats up Mt. Lemmon - hardcore! Since we all live in the same state, we need to see each other more often. Jen M was the quiet, determined one who never once complained and totally kicked butt up Madiera Canyon. I also had the chance to meet some other campers for the first time. Julia is so focused and dedicated to the sport - watching her focus and determination as she KILLED the repeats up Mt. Lemmon and her dedication to being properly recovered after every workout shows me just how much I have to learn. Sarah was a first time camper who worked so hard and also made sure I always had sunblock on (my skin thanks you!), had my belly full of peanut butter cups (YUM), and made sure I had a ride everywhere. I found out that Stacey and I both grew up a few towns apart from each other in New Hampshire!! She is such a strong athlete and I can't wait to watch her have an awesome race at Eagleman! Julie and Lindsay were both super nice and amazing athletes and I really enjoyed getting to chat with them. Ben and Glen were INSANE on the bike and it was fun trying (and failing) to chase them up Mount Lemmon. They passed me like I was standing still! Glen was also our resident snake wrangler.

The workouts! We rode Mt. Lemmon twice-ish. This is such a fantastic ride, with lots of climbing and snow and cookies waiting for you at the top. Unlike last year, I knew what to expect from this ride and tried to work harder right from the start. The boys dropped me like a bad habit and I watched them disappear from sight by Mile 7. Russ, an uber-biker in town to train and join us on this ride, nicely pedaled up to Windy Point with me. It was nice to have someone to chat with and keeping up with him gave me something to focus on. With vision's of my last foray up Lemmon and bonking at Mile 12 in my head, I made sure to stay on top of my fueling and hydration. I think I had at least 5 gels by the time I reached the top. While I didn't love the additional 1+ mile climb to the ski area while I was doing it, it was well-worth it in the end. The top of Lemmon had more snow than the entire DC Metro area got all winter.

Cookie Cabin at the top!


The second ride up Lemmon wasn't to the top - thank goodness, because it was windy!! We did time-trial hill repeats up to Mile 5. Each time we were supposed to get faster, but I didn't get that memo. My first two took about the same amount of time and my third one was a little bit slower. The wind was fierce enough on the way down that I actually had to pedal to keep my speed up. Thank goodness it was a tailwind on the way up and a headwind on the way down - otherwise this workout would've been REALLY ugly!

View from Windy Point. Halfway up Lemmon!

We rode Madera Canyon on the hottest day of camp, led by a few Tri-Sports cyclists. They paced us out the busy roads for about 20 miles until we got to the park area. I'm terrible about riding in large groups, close to other cyclists, it freaks me out, but I tried to hang on to the pack anyways. Once we got out to the park area, we split into smaller groups and were able to settle in to a rhythm. This ride was slightly demoralizing because it has a MAJOR false flat for about 10 miles. It doesn't look like you are climbing, but when you look down at your speed, you feel like you should be going WAY faster because of how hard you are working. Towards the end of the false flat, I started to fall off pace and watched as those in front of me pulled further and further away. Jerome nicely came back and tried to help me keep up, I was huffing and puffing and I don't even want to know what my heart rate was - EEK. And this wasn't even the hardest part. We were told that the last couple of miles were a bit steeper. Normally, this wouldn't be a big deal, but with legs already tired from 10+ miles of false flats, once the steeper stuff started, it was all I could do to keep moving forward. All I kept thinking during this part of the ride was, "I wish I was riding Mt. Lemmon, I wish I was riding Mt. Lemmon, how is it possible that Mt. Lemmon feels easier than this?" Apparently the grade on this part of the road was about twice as steep, even though Lemmon looks much more daunting to the eyes. Ben Lin had given some sage advice - Don't Stop - and that kept running through my head those last two miles. If I stopped, I wouldn't be getting back on my bike. The road kept turning and around every bend I thought, "aha - we must be almost done!" And every time, I was wrong. When we finally did make it to the top, I felt relief, happiness, a feeling of accomplishment, and thirst. I don't know how many bottles of water and how many NUUN tablets I consumed, but it was ALOT. After a much needed break at the top, we headed back down - the ride back was mostly downhill and you felt like a rockstar as you screamed around corners and blew past bikers going (slowly) in the opposite direction. The fun on the ride home more than made up for the mental and physical challenge on the ride out. Glen and I rode together most of the way back, taking turns pulling. It was fun just to bury myself in my areobars and just go.

Top of Madera Canyon!

Camp was full of more than just great bike rides - we had some awesome trail runs and outdoor swims as well! The U of A pool is a fantastic venue and I was so excited we got to use it twice during our trip. Jen wasn't too cruel in her swim workouts - both of which were done later in the day after some other hard workouts. By the last swim, I was convinced my arms were going to fall off, however. I don't think I've ever done so much IM in my life (and really, there wasn't that much IM, it just goes to show how little I do besides freestyle. I need to get over myself and do more butterfly and backstroke, even if it isn't pretty). Stacie, Julia and Ben were great lanemates and kept the swim on task. Jen and Jerome were helpful in helping me figure out how to improve my stroke - I over-rotate when I breathe (if I don't, I am convinced I will swallow too much water) so I focused alot of my efforts in not looking up at the sky every time I took a breath. I still need to figure out how to do this without drinking half the pool.

Trail running in Tucson is amazing! We did Phoneline trail in Sabino Canyon again this year. And it was just as difficult as I remember it being last year, especially those first few miles when there is so much UP, it's hard to find a rhythm and get your heart rate out of Zone 6. Most of my attention was focused on not tripping and falling down the side of the mountain. I eventually made it to the paved road in one piece and finished off my run on the road and then onto some easier trails. The last day of camp we ran in Saguro National Park. This run has a false flat on the way out, which makes for an easier run on the way back. I remember feeling TERRIBLE on this run last year because of the sheer amount of work we'd done on the previous days and how tired my legs were. I felt better and stronger on this run this year and I don't think I uttered a single dying animal noise until... I had a run-in with a cactus. Again. Sigh. Just like last year, cacti needles needed to be pulled out of my elbow. Unlike last year, the needles were in deep this time and Jerome had to pull out the chunk of cactus (lucky him). I couldn't even watch, I hate anything and everything having to do with needles. Thank goodness I was wearing arm warmers, otherwise I think my arm would've looked much worse for the wear. Only regret - I wish I had a camera on me, it would've made for an impressive picture.

What's worse than a cactus? A rattlesnake. IN OUR DRIVEWAY. Ew, Ew, EW!

Doesn't look like much, but don't be fooled! Gross.

Jen and Jerome - thanks for putting on another amazing camp! I had so much fun - it was challenging, it was hard, but most of all it was rewarding. A great way to start off the season and I'm all fired up to race! Thanks for making sure everything went flawlessly - from good meals, well-planned rides, and fun places to run, you guys took care of all the details and all we had to do was show up and work hard. Loved it and can't wait until next year! And I promise I won't run into any more cacti. Bleck.