Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Upside Down

This whole week turned upside down. Friday night Zac and I came home late to find one of our greyhounds missing and not greeting us at the door. I ran outside and found Bella lying on the ground in the dark in the yard, struggling to get up. She only has 3 legs as the front right leg had to be amputated due to osteosarcoma (bone cancer, common in greys). We carried her inside and her back left leg wasn't working. Off to the emergency room where they did X-rays and didn't find anything broken, but felt it was a spinal thing. The neurologist in Tucson wasn't supposed to be back until Monday. We took Bella home, where she drank lots of water but wasn't going to the bathroom. This time we went to the emergency vet where the neurologist works, so they could evaluate her for a second opinion and see if she was having bladder issues. Her bladder wasn't full yet (most likely she was dehydrated) but they kept her there as the neurologist was probably going to come in as 3-4 more cases showed up. That night he put her under anasthetic and did a dye scan and found some issues in the spine. Most likely a contusion from a fall.

We have her back home, and have to help her get around as she isn't stable on 2 legs. Recovery will be slow, and we have PT we can do on her to help her recovery and hopefully she'll regain the use of her back leg. This, of course, throws a huge wrench into the Tahoe plans. Given race fees and non-refundable condo rental, I couldn't walk away from that much money. I began to scramble and make a new plan. Zac will stay home and take care of Bella, while I fly to Reno on Thurs night. The bike was my main issue. The bike box we have is too large (95 linear inches) and all the airlines have changed to either 80 inches, or 115 (for $100 - $125 each way!). Fedex and UPS were $130 - $150 shipping each way. I made a quick call to Kyle Justice to see if they still had the TTG bike box, and he was kind enough to measure it for me. Turns out it was about the same size as my box. So I called Liane and asked when their departure and return times were. I didn't want to saddle them with an extra bike if they were going to be on vacation the week after the race. They have to get back early as well, so Liane awesomely accepted being able to drive my bike up there. Whew! Huge stress relief there. I made my plane and car rental arrangements and should have everything set. I'll get back Monday afternoon, and will take care of Bella the rest of the week during my planned vacation time. Zac is running low on vacation, so he'll have to head back to work. But he has a huge sinus infection right now, so it's probably best he doesn't travel anyways. The rest of our schedules after that are up in the air right now, and will depend on how well Bella is doing.

So it appears I will be following a 3-4 week taper plan, given my head cold earlier this month, and now a sick doggie. I will be going into the XTERRA nationals very undertrained, but they always say that's better than overtraining, right? I just want to survive the course and finish, and given I can't remember when I last swam, biked, or ran, it will be interesting.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Sweetwater Solo

Today I wanted to try out some new trails, as riding the same ol' trails in Tucson can be a tad boring. This morning Zac came down with a sore throat (most likely the beginnings of the plague I had 2 weeks ago), so I decided to hit the trails alone. I was still going to explore the new trails without him, and would just take pics to share. Besides, he can go along next time.

With today being an off-Friday, it's the perfect day to do trails that are usually crowded on the weekends. I had heard the new Sweetwater trails get busy on the weekend, so that was my destination today. Around 8:30 AM I left the house with my trusty Blur tucked safely in the back of the Jeep, which now has AC again. I took Grant all the way down to Silverbell, then up to El Camino del Cerro, making a left on Tortolita and found the trailhead parking lot at the very end. I had a map of the trails, so how bad could it be? I unloaded the Blur, while 3 other riders got ready for their ride. One of the guys saw my TRIGRRL Jeep and asked if I had gone to the meeting at Bodycentral. No, that had been the first meeting I had missed in 2 years, due to having to tow my Jeep home. Anyways, he worked there and asked if I wanted to ride with them. I politely declined, as I was set on my solo ride. I let them go ahead and waited until they disappeared before I entered the trail through the gate.

I took a sharp right and quickly entered a corridor of saguaros on either side of the trail. Very cool! I continued on, guessing at which trails led to the loops that I wanted to do. I started on the Abracadabra trail and did the Abra and Cadabra loops (I didn't make these names up, so don't blame me). I found myself back on the Abracadabra trail, and decided to do the larger loops. I climbed up the Lost Arrow trail, which had some cool techie rocks in the slight climb. I got to the intersection and decided to go down The Spine and ride the large loop in a clockwise direction. I found the Ocotilla Hill trail, which crossed several washes, then cut over and did the bottom half of the loop before taking a cut over to do an inner loop called "Shazaam!" This one was advertised as being more technical, which just meant some cool rock features and tighter corners. I got back on the main loop and climbed up to the intersection of The Spine again. I took that all the way down to the Red Roller Coaster trail, and back to my car.

Overall, I would rank the trails in this area between Fantasy Island and Starr Pass. More rocks than Fantasy, but no climbs like Starr. I did all the loops and came out at 8.6 miles, so Sweetwater also doesn't have the mileage you can get at Fantasy. But what is nice is that the trails are 2-way, so you can add mileage by going one direction, then the other. They will also be adding the Little Book Cliffs trail, which will add more mileage.

Looking back through the corridor of saguaros on Abracadabra:

More saguaros:
No, not Mars, just different lighting the camera phone was seeing:
At the intersection of The Spine, looking down the singletrack:
Behind me, at the intersection of The Spine (again, not Mars):

Monday, September 15, 2008

Race Report: La Jolla Rough Water Swim

I have my big, scary, pie-in-the-sky goal for triathlon that is lurking in the distant future. And to get to that goal, I need to swim in the ocean, because that triathlon requires an ocean swim. No, for those playing along at home, I do NOT want to do the Kona Ironman. Remember what I said at the finish line of Ironman Arizona? Well, that's a hint.

You'd think I would have learned by now in the 4 years that I've done triathlon that descriptive wording in race names are there for a reason. The "Arizona Xtreme Desert XTERRA" is just that, extreme. So I was a little worried about a race with the word "rough" in the title. I heard about the La Jolla Rough Water Swim through the Ford Master's website. Every year the group goes out and does this race. They have a 250 yard kid's swim, a 1 mile swim, and a 3 mile swim called the Gatorman. I would be in the Master's Women group, so that took me out of the 250 yard swim. Bummer. So 1 mile it was. I started "thinking" about the race, which meant posting on BeginnerTriathlete and asking about it, and e-mailing Jim Stites to ask how "rough" the water really was. Everyone said it varied from year to year, but I should be fine. A few days later there I was on active.com, clicking the submit button.

I was more worried and nervous about this swim than any other. I've swam in a ton of questionable AZ lakes, a stock pond in CA, and a river in CA. But they are not the ocean. The ocean has waves and currents, which is what I was worried the most about. You see, I don't do well in motion. I do well at rest. I can feel the waves if the wind blows on Tempe Town lake and creates 3 inch swells. Before each open water swim I take non-drowsy Dramamine (the PURPLE bottle, not the yellow one which does make you drowsy) which gets me through the swim enough to survive and get to my bike. But the ocean is another story. Waves are measured in feet, the water is briny, and there are currents that can take you 26 miles from shore. I signed up for a 1 mile swim, not a 26 mile one. But I remembered my goal, and how bad I wanted to reach that goal in 2010. Bad enough to learn to swim in the ocean.

My plans were further screwed up by my work schedule where I was sent away on travel the week before the race, and picked up a nice head cold somewhere between Tucson and Atlanta. I had successfully avoided getting sick before IMAZ for over a year, and now it was time to pay. Tuesday before the race I felt like I was going to die. By Thursday there was no way I was swimming because I was breathing through putty. By Friday I arrived in San Diego and felt I cold sort of swim if I only breathed through my mouth and could avoid drowning from coughing.

Zac met me at the airport on Friday, and we found our hotel room in La Jolla. On Saturday morning I went down to packet pickup. It was rather interesting because the woman in front of me couldn't decide if she was going to swim 1 mile or 3 miles the next day. Why was this even a question? It's like asking do you want to do an Olympic or an Ironman tomorrow. You know what you are trained for and capable of, so sign up for that. She left the table still unsure what to do. I sidled on up and gave them my ID and had to recite my age and phone number (interesting that they actually checked). My "packet" consisted of an envelope about the size of the Ace Hardware yellow envelope that you put bolts in, that contained my timing chip. That was it. No junk mail (thank goodness) or strange nutrition bar samples to try (also thank goodness). T-shirts were for sale, which I guess was a good thing because I already have too many race shirts. So it took all of 3 minutes to pick up my packet. We were out of there.

At 4 PM the Ford Masters folks were meeting down at the cove for a practice swim. I decided to go to feel out the water and see if I could survive. The cove is rather tiny, and like much of southern California, crowded. People were snorkeling everywhere in the cove, and it appeared there was no "line of dance" in the water. It was fun to watch because people were plowing into each other. The swimmers that were there to practice had to navigate through the swirling gang of snorkelers to get to the open water.

I found the Ford folks including Judy Gillies and Rane Clements. Jim talked about how to sight in the water and what features to pick on shore for navigating, as seeing the buoys can be tough. The group planned to swim to a buoy about a quarter mile out, then stop and talk some more. I told Zac I was just going to swim for a little, then turn around early and head back in. No need to tire myself out too much, especially with the recovery from the head cold.

The Ford folks jumped in the water and started swimming. I waited until the very end and got in. Time to start swimming! The water was about 68 degrees. I wasn't wearing a wetsuit, as they aren't allowed in official swimming races. It was a little chilly at first, but I warmed up pretty quickly. As I passed over rocks and plants I could see fish that looked like oversized goldfish below me. So that's what the snorkelers were looking at! I navigated my way through the snorkel crowd and got to deeper water where I couldn't see anything below me any more. Good. The less reference I have of how deep the water is, the better.

One of the first things I noticed right away was that ocean water is NASTY. I would stop and look around and a wave would come and splash in my face, forcing sea water in. It was SO GROSS! I will never talk bad about another AZ lake again (well, except maybe Sahuarita, as green just isn't natural). It felt like the concentration of 10,000 dill pickles just went in my mouth. And I had no way to rinse! So I ended up spitting, a lot. Mental note for race day: Keep mouth hermetically sealed shut. The other thing was, there was a lot of kelp in the water and it kind of scratched as you swam over it. I decided for race day I was definitely wearing a 1-piece suit.

The Ford folks went out to the buoy, and I went about 3/4 to the buoy before deciding to turn around. I wanted to make sure I could get back to the beach ok, and wanted to feel the current that people had talked about. Overall it wasn't too bad in the afternoon, but I could definitely feel that it required more effort to move forward. I got back to the beach and Zac was there with the bottle of fresh water I had him hold for me and have at the ready. I was finally able to rinse my mouth out and get the vile brine taste out. I had swam for about 15 minutes, which was perfect.

We had a bit more time left, so Zac and I walked down the sidewalk and moved to a less-crowded area to play in the waves. Zac attempted bodysurfing, and at one point he went out into the ocean a bit far and I was worried I would have to swim out and get him. But he came back in ok under his own power. We headed back to the hotel, showered, and met the Ford group for dinner where I had some awesome mac & cheese. I noticed my toungue felt a little swollen, probably from the salt water that day.

The next morning we slept in. Yes, that's right...slept in on race day! My wave didn't go off until 11 AM! So we had plenty of time to get some sleep and go down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. It was kind of nice not having to wake up at 4 AM to eat breakfast to be ready for a 7 AM start. I also had practically nothing to pack. No bike, no run shoes, no nutrition for the bike, or anything. Just put on my swim suit, dry clothes, and packed a water bottle, towel, and my cap and goggles.

We got a pretty good parking space before the race and headed to the madness that was the cove at La Jolla. There were hundreds of people milling around. I got bodymarked (down the left arm, left leg, and on the right shoulder...kind of different) and stood around to check out the swim course. It was a triangle, with the "out" leg about 800 yards away, then we turned and headed west about 400 yards, then turned again and headed back to the beach. The out leg looked freakishly long. There was no big dorito chip buoys either. They used little buoys with a stack of balloons tied to them. Definitely harder to see.

I gave Zac my dry clothes, and went to the staging area. I stood with the other 44 and under women while we baked, I mean waited, in the sun. The girl next to me asked me how long I thought it would take me to do the swim. I told her I had no idea as this was my first ocean swim. She gave me a strange look and asked why I didn't think it was a good idea to swim in the ocean first before the race. I realized she thought I was one of those types, who shows up unprepared to races and practically dies on the course (which is so not me...well except for the dying part). I quickly explained that I had done a ton of open water swimming, just none in the ocean. "Why not?" she asked. "Because I live in Tucson" I replied.

We made our way down to the water, and I quickly took a spot at the very back and to the left of the group. I wanted to find my own water and didn't care about drafting. This was just for experience, and really wasn't a "race" for me. The gun went off and it was time to get in the water. I followed the group over the rocks in the water, and quickly found my own little bit of water off to the side. This time I did much better about keeping the water out of my mouth. It was hard to see the first buoy, so I just looked for the red tiled roofs and saw the buoy just to the left of them. I did pretty good about staying calm and just focusing on swimming. The out portion of the triangle wasn't bad as far as the waves went. After the turn was a different story. I made the turn and saw nothing but a wall of water in front of me. Yep, we were swimming right into the waves. Now I was really aware of the up and down motion of the swells. But I stayed calm and kept going. About this time the second women's wave came through, and I noticed everyone was kicking really hard. Of course! It's not like I have a bike ride after this or anything! I should be kicking hard! So I started to really kick as I swam, which helped to get through the waves. It also really tired me out. I finally got to the second buoy and made the turn towards the beach.

The final leg was a bit tough, as the waves were pushing me at an angle to the beach. I would start to swim straight, then would look up and see that I was way too far to the left and have to correct. So I started sighting a lot more. It felt like it took forever to swim this leg, even though it was the shortest. It was easy to see the stairway down to the beach, so I could easily sight and see where I wanted to be. I knew I had to get in past where the rocks were sticking out, and the waves would be a bit less. But the water was different in the morning versus the previous afternoon, and the waves were picking up. This time, it was really hard to get to the beach. I felt like I was caught in a washing machine, swimming through oatmeal. Finally I could see the ground appear below me...and it was moving backwards! The ocean was pulling me back but I wanted to get out! Swim forward, get pulled back. Alright, this is stupid. Normally I swim until I hit the ground 3 times with my hands to stand up (this ensures the water is shallow enough to run through). But this time I stood up as soon as I could. I fell over, but at least I wasn't moving backwards. I crawled on all fours until the next wave hit and pushed me in. I got up and staggered onto the beach and crossed over the timing mat. I grabbed the first water and electrolyte drink that they had, and rinsed my mouth out. It was done! I had survived a 1 mile ocean swim! I grabbed more drinks and a Clif bar, and climbed up the stairs where they had the finisher's medals. The medal was a real medal (unlike the plastic one I got at Snow Valley) and said "Survivor" on it. How fitting.

I finished the swim in 36:33, which is a pretty leisurely pace for me in open water, but I had finished and I wasn't last. I can now check "ocean swim" off my list and know I can survive in the brine. Though I will still be avoiding it when I can. I was also glad that I was a much stronger swimmer before doing this race. Last year I was a completely different swimmer (if you can call what I was doing "swimming") so all the training came in handy. And it was definitely a good race to do as my first ocean swim.

Looking northeast, and you can see the red tile roofs in the distance.
La Jolla Cove.
Zac "bodysurfing."
Zac and I hanging out the day before the race.
"Are you sure this is a good idea?" the girls were asking me. Sheesh.
Heading to the water.
First women's wave. I am WAAY in the back.
Time to swim! That's me at the bottom, about halfway in the water with one arm out front.
Heading out into the ocean.
He's a better swimmer.
Get me out! That's me stumbling forward in the water.

Done with the swim!

Me and my survivor medal, with the Pacific behind me (where it belongs).

Very cool medals!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

XTERRA Regional Champion!

I was able to stay at the top in points, most likely because everyone else in my age group stopped racing, or only did 1-2 races this year. I did 3. So that means I have ended up as the 2008 XTERRA W30-34 Southwest Regional Champion (according to the official PDF). That means I get invited to the Night of Champions at Tahoe, and I think a cool jersey is part of the deal. At least that's what I can tell from Google:

2007 Night of Champions

2007 Jersey

Good thing I am going to Tahoe! I can't wait!!!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Plague

I don't do well sick. I haven't been sick in over a year. Yet the plague struck on Tuesday. I was on a flight to Alabama for work, and literally could feel the sore throat starting. By Wednesday morning it was a bad sore throat, and that evening I had the full-blown body aches, alternating chills and hot sweats, and sneezing. Great. I've been on travel all week for work with this stupid head cold. I flew into San Diego last night, and Zac picked me up at the airport. Here it is Saturday morning and I can't take a deep breath without coughing and can't breathe through my nose from the congestion. Tomorrow is the La Jolla Rough Water swim. I don't need to breathe to swim do I? Perhaps my lack of taste means the salt water won't bother me. Anyways, I'll probably attempt the swim tomorrow, with the happy thought that at least I don't have to bike or run afterwards.