Saturday, May 19, 2018

Tour de Floyd Metric Century

I've been eyeing the Tour de Floyd metric century ride for a few years. (You know, you hate to rush into that sort of thing, lol.) Well, this was the year!!

It's one county over from us and includes part of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the 62 miles includes 5000+ feet of climbing. In other words, it sounded like a lot of fun!

We pushed off at 8:30 and, despite days of rain preceding this and an iffy forecast, it turned out to be quite a nice morning to ride. We had some misting rain but not much wind and we finished under blue skies.

One of the cool things about these rides is how you group up and pair up with people you don't even know and you look out for one another. There's a connection and common interest without even saying a word!

Also there's a lot of yummy food. This ride is known for the homemade cookies at the Parkway stop - they are amazing. I will be having dreams about the lemon cookies!

I met the ride founder and organizer, Paul Lacoste (below), at a rest stop. I asked him how the ride came to be. He said it was a favorite ride route of his and for probably 10 years he thought about creating a ride to share it with others. Good thing he finally did! This is the 11th year of the Tour de Floyd. The support, food, and route are fantastic! Even though it's a good bit of total elevation gain, there's nothing monstrously long or steep.

I rode much of the ~30 mile Parkway stretch solo because I knew that section (and there was no way to really get lost there - always my fear!!). I grouped up for the back roads as I could, even though the turns were very well marked. The probability of getting lost was really quite low (even for me).

There's one part I could have done without -- At one point I was part of a group and I had just gone to the front on a downhill stretch when a very large dog bolted onto the road in front of me. I just managed to avoid him but he took down the rider behind me. I knew the dog would claim a victim. I heard it before I looked back and saw the rider on the ground. Erring on the side of caution, the cyclist got a ride back with a SAG driver. I saw him post-ride and he was in good spirits, albeit with some road rash.

I really REALLY enjoyed this ride. Cycling never gets old. I appreciate new routes, new scenes, and new people now and again!


Sunday, May 6, 2018

8th go at the Smith Mountain Lake Triathlon

One-on-One Endurance athletes: Me, Kristin, Chris, Coach Jim, Rebecca, Kirk, Kimberley

Yesterday was my 8th time racing the Appalachian Power Smith Mountain Triathlon, and my 9th year going (one year volunteering). When I started I was just a youngster in the 40-44 age group!

I love this race because it's our local season opener, a time to reconnect with friends, and Smith Mountain Lake State Park is so tranquil and beautiful. 

BUT the water is usually so cold in early May. BRRR! Guess what?? This year it was actually OK! The morning air temps were in the mid-60's and the water was near 70. 

My oldest son Spencer came with me to the state park cabin. He was ready for some much needed R&R and sleep after an especially tough week of school with many deadlines.

Spencer is 6" taller than me, not 14" as it appears in this photo. 

Race night I slept horribly. In fact, the week prior I had not been feeling great at all. I'd pulled the plug on two runs and had very low energy. I blame/credit hormones for most things. At my "age group" I"m allowed to do that, lol.

Race morning I did not feel well. Emotionally I felt frazzled. I leaned on friends and pulled myself together. I was thankful for good race conditions and didn't want to squander that. I knew in my head that you don't have to feel good to race well, so at least I should give myself the opportunity to do my best. 

The air horn went off. I made a decision to swim steady and not exhaust myself. I drafted as I could to conserve energy. I was the 11th female out.

photo credit: Christopher Davis

I had the quickest T1 of the women with credit given to the fact that my wetsuit came off fast! SCORE!

On the bike, I have to try to chase down all the fast swimmers. I didn't know it at the time, but I was 3 minutes down from the front runners which I knew would include my speedy friend Rebecca. I found my strength on the bike and let myself enjoy the hunt. I came off the bike in second but with a quicker T2 than the leader, I led off the run with Laurie Grant on my heels. (Transitions matter!!)

Competition on my heels!!
photo credit: Christopher Davis

I didn't know where I stood but I heard encouraging news from spectators and other racers. I felt OK enough on the run but it was one of those efforts where I was afraid to even talk, afraid to break my concentration. Sweat and snot gathered on my face and I didn't even care. At the turnaround I saw Laurie and Kristin not far behind which strengthened my resolve. And scared me a little!!

But I found my way to the finish and was proud of myself for keeping my head in the game. I had pulled myself together and found focus and a mental calmness.

And as a bonus, I finished first (results here). This was my fourth overall win at this race and meant a lot to me. At age 51, with a life that can feel pretty overwhelming at times...yeah, this meant a lot. 

Thanks to Coach Jim McGehee of One-on-One Endurance, master's swim coach Judy Wolfe, sponsor Solar Connexion, and my friends and family :-)

photo credit: Jim McGehee

Monday, April 30, 2018

Trans-American Cyclists: Naomi and Maya

This weekend we hosted, with great delight, two trans-American cyclists, Naomi (from Maryland) and Maya (from Lexington, Virginia).

I met them along Blacksburg Road, where I was doing the ride part of a brick workout. I ride there almost weekly and it's part of a popular coast-to-coast route for cyclists. I saw quite a few riders with the telltale panniers.

These two riders were pulled up on the side of the road so I stopped and asked if they needed anything. It turned out Maya's knee was bothering her so they were looking for a place to camp in Blacksburg. I offered our home - we have tons of room. And given ALL the times we have the kids' friends over, it was my turn!

I gave them the address, and called ahead to let my kids know.

I finished my workout and returned home to find their bikes in the garage. I was happy they had made it safely!

I was intrigued to learn more about these two and their journey.

They are both just a few years out from their undergraduate years at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Naomi graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering and is beginning medical school at George Washington in August (she JUST got her acceptance the day prior - yay!). Maya has been working as a chemical engineer. They've been talking about this journey for a few years and decided this summer was the time to do it. Maya got a leave of absence from work, and here they are!

Spencer brought food home. Maya iced her knee. We all refueled and the pair napped, woke briefly, then went to bed early. They were going to take a rest day the following day. I convinced them to stay at our house and we made plans for them to get to our LBS, East Coasters, for some help with bike fit. They needed more comfortable positions for the long journey - which would also reduce injury risk.

They had 12 hours of sleep and a good breakfast, then we loaded up the bikes (it was a rest day). I took them on a short driving tour of campus and the town and then dropped them at the bike shop. They were in good hands with Nate at East Coasters (thank you so much!!).

Naomi, who had been having shoulder issues, got a much shorter stem and some recommendations for riding more comfortably. Maya got a new saddle to better support her seat bones and her seat was raised.

Then they rode to Gillies for lunch and enjoyed the nice descent down Harding to our house!

After one more night of sleep, they left this morning, off again on their journey to the Oregon coast.

I hope this brief stop-off will, in a small way, contribute to their success. They are quietly, humbly courageous and I have every reason to believe they will be successful. I reminded Maya - it's one pedal stroke, one mile, one day at a time. I'm definitely rooting for them!!

I'm so happy I crossed paths with these two.

If you'd like to follow their adventure, they are on Instagram @twotired.

Monday, April 2, 2018

OH. So that's what I signed up for.

Last April I did the USAT Long Course Duathlon Nationals in nearby Cary, NC. I did it because it wasn't far away and it was something different. It was my first duathlon.

There wasn't much "long course" about it with a 5 mile run, 31 mile bike, and 5 mile run. It was a small field (I think we had two waves), had a local race feel (less than 200 people in the race), and I won my age group, out of 9 people. It was very laid back.

Our little race kind of flew under the radar.

I noticed later in the season - in June - there was a much bigger USAT Duathlon Nationals in Bend Oregon that got a lot of press.

Fast forward to this year.

I see something that says USAT and Duathlon and Nationals, again in April, a little further south in Greenville, SC. I figure it's basically the same race that I did.

So I signed up.

The race is this coming weekend. Yesterday I finally took a few minutes to look at the race website. My first clue that it's not the same race is that I see an official Pre-Race webinar and full Athlete Guide. I see they are closing the roads for the race. Then I realize over 1000 people are expected for the three races. This year there is just ONE Duathlon Nationals and this is it.

It's the biggie!

It is attracting top athletes from across the country. There are 28 in my age group for Standard Distance Non-Drafting coming from Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Among them are names I see routinely on the podium at Age Group Nationals.

Not that this changes anything, but suddenly I'm feeling like oh $hit maybe I should have been working harder or running further or just giving the prep a bit more of the respect it deserved!

So I'm wrapping my head around the vision of a slightly different experience for the coming weekend!!

LOL. I am preparing to be humbled!

Coach Jim of course has just the right words to give me the proper perspective: "Just go run, ride and run like you enjoy doing…and then you can look at the results once you are done. I’m excited that you are healthy and enjoying your training and hopefully looking forward to racing again!"

Yes! I am looking forward to running and riding on closed courses and seeing what I can do at this point. It's still very early in the season and it's fun to feel my strength and fitness building back again.

My goal through the efforts of this race are to find FLOW, and as always, to stay positive!!

Run-Bike-Run, here I come!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

How am I still doing this? Also, blog post #999

Tomorrow is my birthday. I will be 51. The kids and I went out for an early b-day dinner, and as sometimes happens, our server asked if it should all be on one check. I say yes. We laugh. The kids humor me and say it's because I look young enough for people not to assume I'm their mom. I've raised them well that they say things like that, lol.

This is my 999th blog post. No kidding. It really is. It will be one of my quickest and least edited ones too. It's my birthday gift to myself - to write for me. I don't have much time for that anymore.

Here's a picture of me right this minute where I spend 99% of my time. Not really, but sometimes it feels that way.

I'm wearing a vest inside because I'm cold until June. Unless I'm running. Then I'm hot outside in a tank top when it's 27 degrees out.

I share my office space with the dog, cat, and often my bike. I'm fortunate that I spend my time here working in the endurance sports/event registration space, which I love. 

Wow so looking back, I've done 115 races since my first ever race in 2008. Tonight is the first time I counted them all. Of those, 67 are multisport events. Among them, I've run Boston, I've raced Olympic Distance triathlon for Team USA in Auckland, London, Chicago, and Rotterdam.

Honestly, it's hard to believe I did that stuff. I am doing that stuff. Still.
Still loving it!

As triathletes, we are supposed to know our reason "why" we "tri." But those are probably similar for a lot of us: to feel strong, to have community, to get outside, to be healthy....all that.

It seems more interesting to consider my how. How am I still doing this? How can a person enjoy training and racing for years on end?

Here are my hows:

Enjoy task completion! Give me a training plan and instructions for a session, and I will bring my all to it! I will make it fit in my day and I will embrace it. I am fed by that feeling of accomplishment (and an all-green TrainingPeaks calendar)!

Choose races to fit your life. Each year I put together a race season that I believe will best fit my life circumstances. Some years it might include 70.'3s, a century ride, or a marathon, and other years, like this one, it's all short course. My life is plenty long course enough at the moment and the college application process (for kid #1 of 2) has been an ULTRA-marathon. Too often on social media I see athletes (parents in particular) sharing how miserable they are training for what ends up being a one-and-done IRONMAN. Why? Do what's fun and works for you, and change it up! There are so many ways to keep yourself challenged and interested.

Don't waste time thinking about new gear you don't need. I still ride the used tri bike I got in 2010 (I also have an aluminum road bike I got off Craigslist), I've owned just two wetsuits (one was given to me), and I train in a bike helmet I got for free.  Have what works and take good care of it. You can spend (waste) a lot of time pondering and dealing with questions of gear. Spend that precious time training! Or sleeping!

Have a bad memory. I don't remember numbers well. I can't even remember my ballpark finish times for the 7 times I've raced the Smith Mountain Lake triathlon. If I've done my best at a race, I'm happy. I'm not mid-bike leg berating myself for whatever split I'm seeing. There are too many race-day variables with the course and our own physiology.  The one exception to my bad memory? I won't ever forget my 3:33:53 Boston Marathon finish in 2013.

Have a coach! I have worked with Coach Jim since June of 2009. I've said it a million times, I can't imagine doing this without him. I thrive with the structure, accountability, and challenge and appreciate having another person who frankly just cares - not only about my development as an athlete but my balance in my life. Through the loss of my dad, little health/injury things, job change, divorce - he's helped to keep me on an even keel with this outlet of sport.

Focus on what you are doing, not what you aren't.  Do I stretch enough? No. I binge-stretch a few times a year for a few weeks at a time. Do I eat amazing, mindfully-prepared meals all the time? No, too often I'm grabbing whatever is handy, as I run out the door. Am I focusing on my recovery and sleeping 8 solid, peaceful hours? Hahaha, right. What I AM doing is consistently swimming, biking, running, and sleeping/eating as well as I can.

Enjoy the feeling of a solid effort.  It's so funny but more often than not in training, and ALWAYS the morning of races (!), I think "I do not feel like working hard today." But once I get going, I just can't help myself. I really do seek that feeling of working hard, of pushing up against a wall, and chasing the person ahead of me - win or lose!

Be grateful. For ALL of it.

Sometimes I will think about what my life would be like without triathlon training, and I can't ponder very long because I don't like what I see. I know I wouldn't be very happy. Days would quickly get lonely and repetitive and overwhelming. I recharge and reset with the quiet simplicity of movement!

Oh, and if anyone is I don't have any amazing feats of swim/bike/run/gym planned for my birthday. My gift to myself is to NOT heap anything else on me. It's to slow down for the day, visit my mom and sister, and unplug as much as possible. I'm resting up for another season of racing. 2-1/2 weeks till Du Nationals!