Saturday, September 28, 2013

Finishing my 'unfinished business' with Burkes Garden

Today I finished my unfinished business by doing the Burkes Garden metric century ride solo. Along the way I met the camels pictured above. Yes, camels in Virginia. More on that in a sec.

Backstory: In August I did 56 miles of the Burkes Garden Century ride (within blog report here). I was a little bummed to miss the best part which was climbing up and dropping down into the bowl-shaped community that is surrounded by mountains but it was more important that I stick to the distance and terrain that fit Coach Jim's training plan for my racing goals. I figured I would go back out this fall and do the rest of it, so today was the day.

I did the metric century (100k = 62 miles) that started part way into the century (100 miles) and all but 16 of the miles were new-to-me which is fun-scary-fun for me. I hoped I would not get lost as there was little cell service for iPhone maps.

As (un)luck would have it, I picked the day that Tazwell and Burkes Garden were both having community festivals and traffic was nutty in places. I found myself in a long line of traffic several times as cars waited to enter and exit parking areas. The long switch-back climb on a narrow mountain road had steady streams of festival traffic in both directions and it was a white-knuckle ride for me. I was careful and thankfully the drivers were too.

I was treated to a ride past alpacas, ostriches, thousands of cows, and I dodged lots of wooly bear caterpillars crossing the road. I saw quite a bit of brown on them, so hopefully that will really mean a mild winter!!

The best and most surprising part was the "Camel Ranch" I found in Burkes Garden. I don't normally stop or take a lot of pics on rides because, well, that's called touring not training. But I could not resist a quick stop at the camel ranch!

I got the best little camel snuggle too!! A few miles past I was treated to the scene below on a barn. That made me very happy, as did the return to route 61 for a final 20 downhill miles on fast asphalt!

It wasn't super speedy, but it was a good workout and most importantly, a safe ride. And the unfinished business is unfinished no more!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Rolling rolling rolling....

Rolling, rolling, rolling
Though the streams are swollen
Keep them doggies rolling

That song about a cattle drive, the Blues Brothers version, was echoing in my head as I tried the new (used) rollers I picked up this week.

My road bike was getting a tuneup at East Coasters, expected back today, but I got it back yesterday and gave the rollers a try right away. I arranged the playroom so I was safely (sort of) sandwiched between the wall and the attractive green leather couch.

I should have probably worn the stuffed dog for extra protection.

This is going to take a little time to master, I can see. Staying in the middle of the rollers is tricky part it's hard to imagine doing this all clipped in, or doing so without razor-sharp zen focus. I can't see doing this and say...watching TV...or watching anything but that front drum! I'm envisioning a safety harness going up to the attic rafters....

Aw, really, I like a challenge and am glad to have the rollers! For now I will just stick to short sessions to get the hang of it since I need to be careful till I get through the Beach2Battleship half. And I will try not to bleed on the wall any more. Or anywhere else. 

Move 'em on, head' em up
Head 'em up, move' em on
Move 'em on, head' em up

Cut 'em out, ride 'em in
Ride 'em in, cut 'em out
Call 'em out, ride 'em in

Rolling, rolling, rolling
Rolling, rolling, rolling
Rolling, rolling, rolling
Rolling, rolling, rolling


Monday, September 23, 2013

70.3 prep....Enjoy!

I finally got my bike put back together today. I just think bikes are beautiful and I always feel happy to see them in the garage.

This weekend I started up training again. I got in a nice run through all the tailgaters at Virginia Tech. We played Marshall and won in triple overtime. Not that I go to the games, but that was what I read on Facebook. I ran just over 8 miles on the roads with no problem so that was encouraging.

Sunday I did a 42 mile ride with a friend, Ed Shepherd. It was a "reconnaissance" ride of sorts for an upcoming project that is in the works. Ed is a former semi-pro cyclist. It worked well that I was pretty fresh and he had just raced hard the day before so it was his recovery ride. While it didn't level the playing field, it at least made it less lopsided!!

Tomorrow it's back to structured training. I kind of got the wake-up call when I saw Coach Jim's little note on my Thursday "off day" - something about upcoming "straight days of 70.3 prep...that distance demands some volume and now is the time:). Enjoy!" Translation: prepare to suck it up!

My mind and body had gone into semi-retirement this last week. I suppose I thought I'd coast the remaining 4 weeks and 5 days until the Beach2Battleship 70.3 but I see now that is not the case!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Wrapping up five days of OFFness

This week has been pretty awesome. I took what I believe is my first-ever full five days "off" from training in the 5 years that I've been at it. Above is my weekly training duration report. It's never been empty! Even during times of injury, I've always managed to do something, whatever I could, to keep some level of regular activity.

Maybe this is also part of my "growing up" as an athlete and realizing that it's OK and can be beneficial to take some time now and again!

One other thing I did NOT do this week (or last) is register for the Boston Marathon. It was kind of hard to see that come and go especially since after last year I thought I wanted to return. But I know now that the marathon took its toll on me physically, impacting my triathlon season, and I want 2014 to have a focus on short-course tri and things that directly support that or at least are not in conflict.

I've caught up on life and work, restored order to the family universe (well, as much as one can given it's much like 'herding cats').

I participated in a few "Celebrate Sustainability" events in town this week.

I updated my phone to iOS7 (hooray, not).

I got a nice message from TrainingPeaks telling me that thanks to my race performance, they are raising the bar for my threshold work. Hmmmm.

I got my sleep schedule pretty much back on track.

And I'm recharging the batteries and the mojo. I can't tell you how excited I am for my next and final triathlon of the season - the Beach2Battleship half on October 26 in Wilmington, NC. I am truly doing this race for FUN with no pressure. I'm excited for some relaxed training and the chance to just enjoy some fall running and biking and the final outdoor swims of the season in southwest Virginia! That all starts tomorrow!

I'm ready for the weekend. How about you?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

That London bike course will be hard to top

I finally uploaded my bike data. I cannot imagine a more exciting bike ride than the one we experienced in London!!  Here's the route we took (click image for a zoom-able map):

Looks like I let off the throttle a bit in the last 18 minutes or so but that was also when the wind picked up. That first 45 minutes was full-on beyond redline for me, it's awesome what race day adrenaline can do!!

Advice to future triathlon Team USA members

I've happily settled back into home, the family schedule, and work and even the time change thing has not been too bad. Before the whole experience gets pushed aside completely by regular life, I thought I'd put together a list of advice for future Team USA members based on my two experiences to date. (Oh and I got the professional pics...with ZERO on the bike which is a bummer but I think due to the fact that without body markings and with our numbers behind us, it was nearly impossible to know who was who)

Pack mainly USA Triathlon and Team USA clothing for race week. I pretty much lived in that stuff, and it's expected and perfectly acceptable to wear it for everything! It makes packing simple and those "plastic" type clothes are easy to rinse out and hang to dry.

Try the team uniform before it is customized. If you can verify sizing before your name is put on the suit, do!! Our suits ran so small this year it was a fiasco. I could have used a size larger.

Bring warm clothes including arm warmers, gloves, and a hat. Triathletes hate to be cold and these races always seem to be in coldish places.

Read everything thoroughly and multiple times. Read the Team USA handbook and ITU Competitor Guide cover-to-cover when you get them, again closer to race week, and then again during the week. There are always rules unique to each race/venue, such as the lack of body marking and need to wear our race belt on the bike.

Load relevant and important contact info into your phone - hotel number, airport transfer, Team staff. My transport was not at the airport waiting and it required a quick call.

Pre-arrange transport from the airport because it can be difficult to find taxis that can handle a bike box.

Be sure your passport is current and remember to take it! Make a copy and/or take a photo of it with your phone just in case.

Bring some local currency to get started - it can be ordered through the bank or obtained at the airport before you leave the US.

Alert your credit card company you will be traveling abroad so they don't suspect fraud and freeze the card.

It's worth it to pay extra for lodging that is convenient to the race site. I probably walked to and from the race venue ten times and it took 25 minutes each way -- that's 8 hours of walking -- and I was in a close hotel.

You don't need to stay at the Team hotel but in some cases it makes sense. It can be more expensive and is not always in the best location relative to the venue, but if the race is in a non-English speaking country or if all lodging is fairly far from the venue, it could be well worth it.

Make hotel reservations EARLY to get the best choice.

Find a nearby market for your basic drink and snack supplies. It gets expensive to eat everything in a restaurant.

Book a hotel with an in-room refrigerator and microwave if possible, or request one. This gives you more meal options.

Figure out what you are doing for coffee and breakfast race morning since you may need those before restaurants open!

Pack your Team suit in your carry-on in case all your luggage is delayed or lost.

Pack your wetsuit and running shoes in your suitcase in case your bike box is delayed. My bike was delayed three days for the New Zealand race but because I had packed my wetsuit and running shoes in my suitcase, I could still run and swim.

Activate Global Data services abroad. I'm not sure how I would have functioned without my iPhone maps and Skype!

Pay very close attention to the schedule and well in advance of the trip add all the relevant events, swim start times, parties, swim familiarizations, group training, and Team meetings to whatever calendar system you use. Don't miss the Team USA meeting or the Team USA party. Plan to be busier than you even think!!

Allow plenty of time to get places. City travel logistics can be tricky and I, along with quite a few others, missed the Team photo. Getting to the race venue can take longer when races are in progress and you have to wait to cross the course.

Take a string-bag/backpack and keep money, extra nutrition, water, and an umbrella or raincoat with you at all times. The forecast for the opening ceremony was a 0% chance of rain and most of us got soaked through.

Be flexible. Okay, so there is no swim warm-up, and no-one is allowed to have a towel in transition, and the transition area is muddy so you might not want to run in bike shoes. Deal with it!

Put the bike together ASAP because the team and race mechanics get busy and it could take a while to get the maintenance you need. Double check that everything is tight. Take the bike for a test ride. Don't walk through the hotel in bike shoes; carry them till you get outside.

Arrive early for all check-ins. Lines can get very long and organizers do not always have the best systems or enough volunteers. The morning of the Aquathalon a giant line formed to enter transition after I'd already set up and left.

Double-check what is needed for check-ins. It varies. You often need to take your uniform and bike helmet to bike check-in but sometimes they want to see your race number or wetsuit as well. When in doubt, take it.

Take a Sharpie. Last year we waited in pouring rain to get body marked with a Sharpie, something that could have been done on our own. Label everything with it (wetsuit, goggles, etc) since things get really jumbled in transition.

Be prepared to wait in lines. We assembled for our swim wave half an hour before go time. Take water and a gel if needed. Port-o-john lines can get crazy. Plan accordingly.

If it's a long time between transition setup and your swim wave, go back to the hotel between. You'll stay warmer and calmer.

Know the flow through transition and know where your bike is. Find landmarks and be ready!

Plan your race-day checked bag. Take warm/dry clothes and cash. You never know if you may need to pay for a last-minute bike repair on race morning. This event oddly had no post-race food so if you were hungry, you needed money.

Enjoy the experience! Very few will podium at these events so be sure to "check-in" with yourself and take the time to appreciate where you are swimming, biking, and running!

Other Team folks, let me know what you would add!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

London Day 6 - Standard Distance Race, Team USA Party

Note to future Team USA members: No matter where the ITU World Championships are being held, pack a hat, gloves, and warm clothes. And a parka, fur-lined boots, and thermal underwear.

Today started off in the upper 40's with water temps in the upper 50's. We could see our breath and frost was evident on the blue carpet of the finish chute. So, as a not super-fast swimmer who hates the cold, I was VERY happy (elated, overjoyed, jumping up and down...) to discover the swim had been reduced from 1500 to 750m. Supposedly that was due to some ITU rule about air temp vs water temp, but I still found it odd that last year in New Zealand, it was colder, windier, and the water temp was lower, but we swam the whole 1500 in crazy chop!!

Anyway, I am lobbing for future a ITU Grand Final in Mexico!

I set up my transition area when it opened at 5 am, with a borrowed flashlight ("torch") from the front desk of the hotel. The race began at 7, but I wasn't to head off until 9:25 so I returned to the hotel to have coffee and breakfast and stay warm!

race morning the sun made a brief appearance for a few hours!!

One new thing I did this year that I learned from watching Sarah Reinertsen was that I swam with my race number and belt on under my wetsuit since we needed them for the bike. I folded it up for the swim to get it out of the way but I never noticed it! I used the Challenged Athlete Foundation race belt she gave me for a little extra mojo.

I suited up and checked my bag, along with the 2000+ other checked bags!

I'll start with results then a brief description - I finished 27th out of 105, so roughly top quarter. The swim I was top half (49th of 105), bike I was 28th, run was 25th, T1 was 38th, T2 was 39th. The Brits are all over the top-25. It was a decent race for me, but LOOK at the top three who finished 12 and 13 minutes faster! Well done, well done!! Thanks for giving me a very high mark to aim for!


This time I took care to be at the front of the line so I'd be positioned to the far left of the pontoon, giving me a straighter shot to the first buoy and keeping the pack on right side that I tend to breath to more often. It's a long process to get through the swim corral process so I was happy when we could finally get in the water so I could....yes...pee. At that point the sun was out and the water felt pretty good. This swim was much straighter and smarter than the Aquathalon. I felt good exiting and making the long muddy run through transition. (Hi to reader Kathy who I met in the swim queue!!)


OMG, what an unbelievable course! I wished I'd had a GoPro onboard to share it as words cannot do justice. We couldn't pre-ride the route so it was hard to go all-out in parts on the first loop till I got it sorted out. There were quite a number of speed "humps" and cobblestones, metal plates, tight S turns, and four 180 degree turns. Spectators pretty much lined the course and it was probably the closest I will ever get to feeling like a pro cyclist/triathlete. Little groups of pedestrians would be hurriedly ushered across the road. We'd hear cheers in many languages, cowbells, etc. It was freaking AWESOME. I ended up in a pack of about 5 girls who changed position repeatedly over the course. I tried hard to escape them, telling myself not to let them set my pace, but we were all going all out. The wind really picked up on the last 1/4 of the ride and I had to stay on my base bar for parts just for stability. My heart rate stayed in the 170's which is like uber-threshold for me, average pace 21.4 mph, pretty decent on that type of course. I'm always happy to finish without a mechanical issue or flat, which was not the case for many.


I ran what I felt I could run, it turned out to be a 7:09/minute pace. That's better than I've been doing and my legs held up with very little "worry" on my part. It was a three-loop course and the spectators help so much! It's great to hear "Go Martin" and "Go US" and check out all the three-letter country codes on all the butts as I pass or they pass me by. Our neighbors the Hobarts happened to be in town and they came to the park to watch. It was great to see them along the course and after the race, they treated me to lunch with them and their youngest son who was very enthusiastic about the city!

One part of the course was some kind of plastic interlocking overlay that was put over a muddy path. That was not fun to run on but probably better than the mud would have been.

On each loop I passed by the USA Triathlon contingent as they were ready with the US flags and I couldn't wait to grab one on my third and final loop! As I finished, I felt a flood of emotion for a successful race, without mishap, capping off the main part of my race year. It's been a long and tough one. I made my way over to the race course and stood in one place for a very long time while I took in the race, the week, the season, the sport. I hardly knew what to do with myself next. (Eating was not an option since for some strange reason there was NO post-race food for any of the races, unless you wanted to stand in a long line at one of the food-trucks and pay for a meal.)

thanks, Hobarts for the pic!


Transition post-race

Team USA Party

We all look forward to the Team party the evening after the last race of the week.  We had the whole Swan Pub reserved for us.

We get the commemorative pin, which is pretty cool to add to the collection. But best of all, we get to see friends, meet other triathletes, and exchange stories from the week and the year.

I asked if this was the "kids" table, but those are some talented "kids"!!!

The Team USA ladies of Endurance Films Racing Team - Laura, me, Megan, and Diane

With Tim Yount and Stephanie Praetola

My dinner from the Porchester - steak and ale pie....mmmmmmmm!!!!!

I'm off to bed for my last sleep in London. Then tomorrow I'll have breakfast with my cousin and his wife who, like my neighbors, just happened to be in London too. Roo and I head to the airport at noon, which is insanely early for a 4:20 pm flight but that's what you get for booking with the race transport service.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

London Day 5 - Bus Tour, Rest, Bike Check In

Today was really my only chance to get out and see a few things in London, so I opted for the typical double decker bus tour and never got off the bus except to switch from one route to another. For this trip, I was just as happy to drive by Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and Harrods. The city is exquisite, the buildings and architecture are works of art, and I have enormous respect for the bus drivers who navigate these narrow busy streets!!

I packed lunch from the "Waitrose" shop that is part of a Shell station two blocks away. There I found rhubarb yogurt to go with my Brie and grape sandwich! I've probably been in that little market ten times this week.

It was a lovely day - cloudy, drizzly, cold...and did I mention cold??

 Sign announcing triathlon road closings!

 Our very knowledgeable guide.

Supposedly we ride through the marble arch?

I could see all the barricades along the Thames waiting for the race tomorrow. It's amazing that they can close down these main streets for that. Regardless of what happens tomorrow, I will be excited to ride along such a historic route, through the Marble Arch, in front of Buckingham Palace, and through Trafalgar Square!

After the bus tour I napped and read  for the few hours (The Ocean at the End of the Lane....strange can it be so popular??) till check-in. I also packed up and got ready for tomorrow.

My check-in time was 6 pm. There they check helmets, bikes, and uniforms, but all we can leave overnight is our bike.

The open race was still going on so it was pretty chaotic and the transition area was torn up. There will be a lot of mud and slick spots to contend with and to make things fair regardless of rack space location, we end up having to run quite a bit to get to our spots. For instance, on the bike in, we push to the top of transition, all the way along the back, and cut back and down to our row. I am SO glad I don't run in my bike shoes because they would get very gunked up. Better it be my feet.

Fellow US age-groupers...all pony-tailed but me! I have helmet head from riding over (below)

Waiting for check-in. We spend a lot of time waiting and preparing
and relatively little time actually racing!

 The desire to take a photo of one's bike in transition transcends nationality. We all did it!!

Bluck!! This is part of the very, very long bike in, where I'll be running in bare feet. 
Towels are not allowed in transition either so we will have some gross feet.
The UN of pretty bikes!

My main worry tomorrow is being cold on the bike. It will be in the mid- to upper-50's late morning. I know I will probably be OK racing and have been in those temps, but to train in those temps I'd be in long sleeves and gloves.

My plan is to swim "smart" - straight and strategic with quick arm recovery - and not let it psych me out. I'll reel them in on the bike, taking care around corners and accelerating out. There have been so many wrecks this week :-(.  The run I will start conservatively and ramp it up over each of the three laps.

I'm going to get to transition at 5:30 am, set up, and come back to the hotel for breakfast. Then I'll return by 8:30 for my 9:25 start time.

As with the sport on the whole, this race is bigger and more competitive than ever. All I can do is put together MY best race effort, not get flustered, and deal with whatever comes my way. It's been an incredible week. Tomorrow is the icing on the cake!!


Friday, September 13, 2013

London Day 4 - Final Pre-Race Training, Paratriathlon World Championships

This morning was my last pre-race training with a short-ish ride and short run, both with some pickups to keep things sharp. Hyde Park was closed to cyclists other than racers so I made my way to Regents Park about 2 miles away which was no easy feat on London Streets and in the rain. I kept getting stuck on one-way roads or running into major thoroughfares or cobblestone roads and I wasn't really sure about bike laws, like could I bike on a sidewalk? I guessed not. Anyway, thank goodness for maps on the iPhone, that's all I can say. I made my way and was finally able to open up the Roo on the outer loop which got me excited to think about racing. It'll be nice to just GO on Sunday!

I was surprised to come across the London Zoo in Regent's Park! I stopped to ask if they had a loo (having had several cups of coffee) and was directed to some facility that sounded too complicated to find. So with that big park, I resorted to what cyclists and runners so often do.....

I made my way back much better. Every few blocks I'd ask someone if I was still headed in the general direction of Hyde Park, from which I could find my way. As I passed by Hyde Park I saw some of the sprint racers cycling and *just* as I looked, I saw and heard a major bike pileup. It was drizzling and slick and with the twisty course there were a number of accidents.

After a quick shower, I headed out to meet Sarah to help get her and her gear to the venue. She had her bike, a big transition backpack, and a baseball bat bag that held her bike leg, run leg, crutches, and few other things. That sucker was heavy!! She had to put her race number on all her equipment and even on me.

Paratriathletes had a designated gathering spot, tent, restrooms, and bike parking. They have so much more equipment and need to be in close proximity to transition. While we waited in line to register, an athlete from another country asked if she was Sarah, and continued on to say that she had inspired him to do his first Ironman! Over the last several days I saw many people stop her to tell her how her racing or her courage on the show The Amazing Race had really impacted them.

Having spent 12 of 30 hours with her, I can tell you she's just like any triathlete. Just like me, she debates transition details, fueling, and equipment. She gets nervous. She digs deep. But she's very grounded, maintains perspective, and is so gracious and positive. You could not ask for a better ambassador for endurance sports and triathlon!!

Walking to the athlete lounge/check-in
Bike, handcycle, and wheelchair parking!

with her "transition assistant"....I was not real fond of the term "handler"

With Coach John Murray.
Sarah asks "one last" question of the ITU official

It's very important to know and follow the rules or you risk time penalties or disqualification. Because every race and venue is a little different, it's necessary to clarify.

We got all set up and verified how things would go. We went to the pre-transition area adjacent to the water, where she removed her leg and put on her wetsuit. She used crutches to get to the water, then we left her bike leg and crutches at pre-transition. It was so fun to walk out on the pontoon with her as she was announced. I think I was just as nervous as her. While I knew her nerves dissipated when she began swimming, mine did not. I have a whole new respect for how exhausting it is to be an invested spectator!

After the swim, ITU handlers got her to a chair in pre-transition and stripped her wetsuit then she put on the bike leg and used the crutches as insurance to get to transition. When she met up with me, she put on her helmet and sunglasses and I pulled the bike out. Off she went for a six-lap bike course.

All the handlers waited nervously for athletes to come out of the water! We had to have on our credentials, athlete number, and handler shirt. I was not even allowed to wear my rain coat over it, which was a bit of a bummer when the rain picked up and temps dropped!

Sarah on the bike!

 blind athlete with his guide

It was cool to have a front-row seat to the action. The runners came right past transition. I was really amazed by the blind athletes and their guides. Often you would see the pairs in perfect rhythm, stride for stride!

Pretty cool to have your name like this!

Across the finish!

I am extremely glad I had the opportunity to be involved in the paratriathlon race, and to do so with Sarah in particular. I was just blown away by the athleticism, courage, and determination all around me. Logistically things are so much more complicated for a paratriathlete and they have to want it more and have an even greater level of commitment than other athletes. There is nothing "less" about paratriathlon but in fact there is so much more. The first guys out of the water swam sub-10 minute 750 m swims. An athlete did the 5K on crutches. The blind athletes had no idea where their feet were landing.

Paratriathletes epitomize "running your own race." Every physical challenge is unique, there are no age groups in paratriathlon, and athletes have differing levels of support and training. The sport truly transcends country, age, and physical ability.

I thought how I'd love to be a guide for a blind racer someday. Maybe that is the extra motivation I need for my swim ;-)

That closes out another great day in London. Tomorrow is resting/sightseeing by bus maybe, and transition check-in at 6 pm.