Sunday, November 30, 2008

December Runathon Goals

Tomorrow kicks off the December Runathon with the Tucson Tri Girls. Alejandra posted this idea to the group, and I jumped on board. The goal of the runathon is to run everyday in December, with a minimum run of 2 miles each day. I really need to improve my run. At the PBR off-road tri I had a mid-pack swim, 2nd fastest bike, and slowest run in my AG. That's just not acceptable. So this will help motivate me to get out there and run.

I have some additional goals for the runathon, and divided them up into A and B goals (A is most important). So here they are:
  • Run everyday in December and not miss a day. A
  • Minimize treadmill running. B
  • Do my trail run at least once a week. (Run from my house and do part of the Agua Caliente Hill Trail). A
  • Try to go 0.5 miles further up the trail each time I do the ACH trail run. B
  • Keep this blog updated with my Runathon results. A :)

The Agua Caliente Hill trail is 2 miles from my house, but the first part is crazy hard and steep. I figured if I can get strong running up that, I'll be in good shape for other trail runs, especially those in XTERRA.

This weekend is the Dawn 2 Dusk mountain bike race, and the weekend after that is the Kentucky Camp epic mountain bike race. So I'll have to run before those races, as I'm pretty sure I won't feel like running after.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Starr Pass

Today was an absoloutely awesome day to be out on the trails. Our friend Jeff (who is in a band with Zac) wanted to do a ride, so we settled on Starr Pass. We hit the trail a little after 9 AM. It was a bit chilly at the start, but quickly warmed up to a comfortable temperature. Less than 2 miels in I was stripping off my arm warmers.

Given the recent rains, the trail was in great shape. It was nice and tacky without being muddy. Jeff had a few mechanicals, with a slit sidewall and a snapped chain. We couldn't believe it as this was the 4th or 5th ride on the bike! But this gave me a chance to take some great pics.

This is at the top of Goat Hill. On the other side of the saddle is Gates Pass. Jeff and Zac and in the small clearing below, fixing the chain.

While I snacked on Shot Blocks, they made their way up the hill. Zac climbing:

And Jeff and Zac:

We finished up right around 11:30 AM and hit Chipotle for recovery burritos. We covered 9.5 miles today, which was the perfect distance for having fun and not killing ourselves. I'll be killing myself next weekend in the Dawn 2 Dusk race with Liane. Given the recent rains, and our past history, I have ordered a motocross mud coat to pack just in case of bad weather. Hopefully the weather from this weekend carries over in to next weekend and I won't need it.

Turkey Trot

The Turkey Trot is quickly becoming a Tucson Tri Girl tradition. For the past 2 years I've gone out and run with the TTGs in this race, and it's been a blast. It's a 5K through Reid Park, complete with hay bale jumps and water hazards. So it's sort of like cyclocross without a bike.

The water hazards increased this year with rain. As I drove to the park, I passed through torrential rain on the east side of town, but thankfully reached blue sky at the park. When I arrived the men's wave had already gone off, and they were dashing their way through the park. TJ called and parked next to me, and made sure I changed my hairstyle to pigtails for our team, the 2008 TTG Board team. Little did I know there would be much hair pulling at this race!

We hiked our way to the starting area and found the mass of purple TTGs. Iron Holly had awesome purple bags complete with the TTG logo and a T-shirt inside. I was grateful for Holly's T-shirt, as the one provided from the race was less than attractive. It had a drawing of a turkey in a sports bra and a running skirt. Do turkeys have boobs that they need sports bras? I shudder to think.

We made our way to the starting area and before we knew it, the gun sounded. We were off in a mass of estrogen. Of course, the drainage ditches that the course passes over filled with water between the men's wave and our wave, so at the first crossing we had to run through several inches of water. It was hilarious hearing the girlie screams and squeals. Princesses! The course was crazy muddy and I started to like the wash crossings to wash my shoes off. Robin and Jen came by and I told Robin this was exactly like an XTERRA (minus the swim and bike). We headed up a short muddy hill, followed by a downhill and a stream crossing. There was actually a bottleneck due to people trying to cross at the rock crossing. I headed straight through the stream. The worst was the steep hill just before the hay bales and water crossings. The mud was crazy slick, so I resorted to a snowshoe technique of turning my heels inwards and forming a "V" with my feet. Granted, I've never worn snowshoes, but I would guess this is how you climb hills in them. I avoided falling in the slick mud on the other side of the hill, and made huge splashes in the man-made water crossings after the hill. The water crossings provided for the race seemed kind of hokey after the flooded arroyos we had previously crossed.

On the second lap Julie caught up with me, and so I moved over so I could run with her. We had a fantastic time chatting as we made our way through the course. Even though it's a 5K, it feels much harder. On our last lap we mugged for the cameras of the TTGs cheering for us, splashed through the water crossings one more time, and made the last sprint to the finish. I looked down at my watch and saw 30:19 on my Garmin as I crossed the line, a full 2 minutes faster than last year and on a much harder course. That's always my secret goal for this do better than the year before.

Afterwards I hung out to visit with the TTGs, photo ops, and finally made my way back to my car. I came prepared with a towel and sandals and a plastic baggie so that I could wipe my legs down and take my soggy shoes and socks off. What a great way to earn that Thansgiving pie!

I stole the following photos from Julie and Danielle. :)

The clean Tri Girls before the race. What an awesome turnout from the club!

Here we are being well behaved and looking normal.
Then all hell broke loose and the hair pulling began. Jump on the Tri Girl train!
Danielle caught a great photo of my splash, which was my big goal for the race. Biggest splash! Mission accomplished.

A tour of the riverpath

A few weeks ago, I decided to try out the Rillito River Path, as I had never ridden it. I looked at a few maps, and determined I could potentially get from my house to the Sweetwater trails on mostly bike path and river paths, minimizing road time. So one day I pulled out my trusty hardtail mountain bike and set off to see if I could do it and find a route. I settled on the hardtail as my weapon of choice as I doubted I would need any suspension, it wouldn't bob on the road, and the fat tires would help keep me out of trouble if the terrain got rough. I also don't feel bad about tossing it over fences.

After studying satellite images, I found a nice little dirt trail not far from my house. My journey started by taking a trail that parallels Ft. Lowell that many people walk everyday. I hopped on Conestoga and the bike path for a short distance before turning on Sundance and the dirt trial at the end of this residentail street.

I've run this trail a few times and it's a nice way to break up a training run. This connected to the Tanque Verde River Path, which is very short. Perhaps someday it will connect to something. But this path cut my normal ride down by a full mile by the time I hit Tanque Verde road. I did have to lift my bike over a guard rail to get to Tanque Verde, and this verified my bike choice.

I took the dirt shoulder of Tanque Verde east to the Tanque Verde wash. I was hoping to get on the river path there, but was instead greeted with a very foreboding fence. The nirvana of river path was just beyond this fence. The fence was too high for me to toss my bike over.

So I continued on the road to Pantano, and found another entrance on the south side of the wash. This looked much more inviting.

The Tanque Verde river path on this side was quite nice. Residents along the path had landscaped the area around the path, making for a scenic ride.

That is, until I hit Sabino Canyon Rd. The path came to an abrupt halt, and there was a steep drainage ditch in the way. I didn't want to slip in the bike shoes I was wearing, so I opted to go back to the closest ramp and cross over through the wash.

Unfortunately, the ramp on the south side of the wash that I took to get down in the wash did not line up with the ramp on the north side of the wash that I would need to get out. I ended up hiking a quarter of a mile in the wash! Later, when I did a return trip of this ride with Zac, we just rode up Tanque verde to Sabino Canyon road and stayed in the bike lane.
From the satellite images, I couldn't figure out any trails that clearly stayed on the north side of the wash to the Rillito River Path, so instead I took Sabino Canyon to Cloud up to River and down Craycroft. This is where I found the "official" start of the Rillito River Path.

The parking lot was packed! Being that this was my first time on the path, I took the north route. Well, turns out that was under construction, so I had to do some back-tracking. But the north route did take me past a round house. It is now a side project of mine to find all of the round houses in Tucson and document them. I don't know why. Maybe it's kind of like when you get a new car and suddenly you start to recognize all the other cars like yours on the road. This round house was a 2-story rock house with a Spanish tile roof. This made me glad we went with a metal roof for our round house, as ours looks much nicer.

As I rode the river path, I crossed over from the north side to the south side and back so many times that I can't remember where I crossed over. But from this point on there was great pavement to be had.

I also discovered the river path has really cool bridges. I have a thing for bike bridges. They are so cool!

Right around Campbell Ave is where I came across the first map of the river park. Of course I had to take a pic of the map (add maps to my list of bike bridges and round houses).

The path goes right through the Children's Memorial Park, where I stopped for a brief rest and snack and a chance to take a pic of my steed.

Not far from the park was an awesome tunnel of trees. The path was completely shaded by mesquite trees. This is looking back at the tunnel.

There are also really nice bathroom and water stops all along the path. This was the last one I came across before the path ran out.

The path comes to an abrupt stop at the train tracks and I-10. I'm not sure what they are planning for the path in this area, but I was kind of a bummer to have the path end so suddenly.

Each bridge has unique artwork. This was the last bridge before the end.

I took a few side streets down to Ruthraff and crossed under the freeway. Holy cow is that scary! No bike lane and a ton of traffic. I crossed over the Santa Cruz and rode the dirt shoulder up Camino Del Cerro for a bit, before deciding I was too hot and tired to continue. I took this pic of my turn-around point. The dip in the mountains just to the left of the phone poles is Reddington pass and where my house is and my starting point, 28 miles away.
I stopped at a Circle-K to fill up on some Gatorade. I didn't want to ride another 30 miles back that day, so I hopped on the Sunny Tran and for $1 got to rest for an hour while it took me and my bike back to the east side of town all in one shot.

The bus dropped me off at Golf Links and Harrison, and I rode the remaining 7 miles home. Even though I didn't quite make it out to Sweetwater (the trailhead was still a few miles past where I turned around) I did find out it's possible to get myself out to those trails via bike and the river path. I just have to leave earlier and know where to cross over on the river path to save some time. And if I don't feel like doing 60 miles on the mountain bike that day, I can always take the Sun Tran across town. I had a blast on the river path, and will definitely be doing this ride again in the future.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Off-Season

My blog posts have been few and far between, mostly because the off-season has begun. I can't spend the entire year focused on training and racing as it mentally burns me out. I haven't raced a motorcycle since my burnout a few years ago, and I still don't have a hankering to go back yet, I'm sure much to Zac's dismay. So for the triathlon season, this is the part of the year where I get to relax a bit, train a little differently, and not worry about my eating or the scale as much. Of course, I can't stop the crazy planning, and I already have races on the calendar for 2009. Everything is a tentative race as XTERRA is the focus for next year, and they don't have the schedule out yet for the American Tour. So I sit around, constantly checking my inbox and to see if a schedule is up yet, and end up getting disappointed. I am NOT a patient person.

I have been running quite a bit, biking here & there, and not swimming. Last year I swam all through the winter to get through the April IMAZ, which included 5 AM swims in 25 degree weather where my swim gear froze to the deck. I refuse to do that this year. My plan is to swim once in awhile, then really get back into it in January.

Biking is going to be taking over with some long endurance rides. Zac and I are signed up as a duo team for the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, so I need to keep the endurance riding up. Liane and I are doing the Dawn 2 Dusk race as a duo, and then I've somehow conviced her to do the Arizona Endurace Series Kentucky Camp Epic with me. 34 miles of riding and over 5,000 ft in elevation gain on a mountain bike. Then there are some long road bike rides planned, leading up to 24HOP. The MBAA mountain bike series begins in January, and my plan is to follow that series to get faster on the MTB. Of course, I'm not sure which dates I'm racing for sure as XTERRA hasn't come out with their schedule yet. Do you sense a recurring theme here?

Tomorrow is the Turkey Trot 5K. My goal is the biggest splash in the water crossings. Given that the weather is supposed to be rainy, I may be diving into some mud pits too.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Race: PBR Off-Road Tri

Yeah, I know it's been forever since I posted. I was burned out at the end of the season, and with that didn't feel like blogging much. But I'm back! And I need to catch-up on a race report, the PBR Off-Road tri that was back on 10/12/08. It was the week after XTERRA nationals, hence the burnout.

I woke up at 4 AM and got out the door to drive to Tempe. Zac stayed home to take care of our injured greyhound, so I would be racing sans-sherpa again. No sherpa means hauling all your stuff on your own. I packed everything into my big blue TYR bag and put that on my shoulders, and walked my bike down to the transition area on the north side of Tempe Town Lake (not the beach park on the south side). Transition was in the dirt under the freeway, so it was quite messy. I picked up my race packet, attached my numbers to my bike and helmet, and proceeded to my assigned bike rack. I seemed to be in with all the guys. No rhyme or reason to the rack numbering. I chatted with the guys next to me while I set up my area, and several were newbies. One guy asked me for any advice on open water swimming, as this was his first. do I summarize open water swimming? "Don't panic" I told the guy.

I wandered to the lake ramp and shimmied into my wetsuit. I was in one of the last waves (or the last wave...I can't remember) so that meant a ton of guys would be in front of me and clogging the mountain bike course. All I cared about was the mountain bike and redeeming myself after the XTERRA nationals in Tahoe. After that I figured I could go all out in this sprint. Everyone was worried about the 76 degree water temperature and how cold that was. The week before I had swam in water 20 degrees colder! This was bath water! Finally it was time to get in the water. I got in and swam to the side, right on the buoy line, which is my typical spot. I warmed up right away and it was go time.

The horn sounded, and the gals in my wave and I started the 750 meter swim. I went out pretty fast, trying to focus on keeping a strong stroke with my arms. The course seemed crazy short after doing 1500 meters in Lake Tahoe. And it was so warm! It felt like I reached the first buoy in no time, and there were a few stragglers from the wave in front of me there. Then I got mixed in with that wave of guys and was passing them. I moved my way up to the next wave of guys (they started 6 min ahead of us) and was passing them! It was awesome! As I made the turn towards the ramp I started to catch a few of the straggler guys from the wave 3 waves ahead. Overall it felt like a strong swim, but when I crossed the mat my time was 17:11. A little slower than it should have been, but then again I wasn't exactly up on the swim training like I should have been.

I stripped off my wetsuit on the boat ramp so that I wouldn't have to do it in the dirt of the transition area, and ran to transition. The rocks and gravel were a little tough to run over. I figured my rack would be empty since I was surrounded by guys and they were in swim waves in front of me, but I was the first one there! I threw my wetsuit over the bar, hosed my muddy feet off with my water bottle and wiped them with a towel to get the gravel off, and got my shoes on. This took a little extra time but I really didn't want all those rocks in my shoes. I got my Camelbak on and snapped the chest strap and put my helmet on and ran out of transition. As I ran with my bike, my helmet's visor was flopping as one side had unclipped. Somehow I reached up and was able to get it reattached and snapped into place. Thank goodness. Total transition time = 2:29.

Now to the fun part. This was a 3 loop mountain bike course around Papago park, none of which I had ever ridden before. I figured that's what the first loop was for. I hopped on my trusty Blur and joined the pace line of bikers heading up the hills. It was a mess. We hit the first technical downhill part and people were walking. It was a short, steep section with 6 inch drops or so on the way down. This type of riding is my specialty, where you have to slowly crawl your way down the rocky face while controlling the brakes and your weight over the rear tire, and you have to hit that sweet spot between cleanly rolling the face or totally going over the bars face first. I cleaned the dowhill part, made it through the wash at the bottom, and got stuck behind the walkers on the uphill part. No choice but to get off and walk, but if I was going to walk it was going to be a fast walk. I ran up the hill, jumped on my bike, and passed as many as I could before they got on their bikes.

It was a freight train of riders after that, and myself and some other faster people tried where we could to work our way around the slower riders who were in the earlier swim waves. Next up was a forced dismount area, where you had to get off your bike and run through a long tunnel. In the middle of the tunnel all of the light disappeared, and I couldn't see my feet or the rocks in the trail. I had to just pick up my feet as I ran and hoped I wouldn't trip and be crushed by the tons of riders behind me. As everyone ran, dust got kicked up and so it was like being in a mine. I could've used a bandana around my neck to quickly pull up for that part of the ride.

After the tunnel was a short uphill section, and then rolling flats before one of the big climbs. I made it most of the way up the climb, and tried to yell "riding left" as many folks pushing their bikes up the hill were blocking the way. I hit a soft section and had to dismount and run up the last little bit. After that the trail was similar to Fantasy Island with a bit longer climbs, and a few more rocks in sections. I crossed back under the tunnel and past the crowd and finished my first lap.

The second lap was much less crowded and I was able to get around people easier. This time I was able to carry more speed down the little technical section to get back up the other side and passed a few there. Somewhere on this lap I caught a girl with "30" on her leg, so I sat behind her a bit to evaluate her speed. I was better than her in the technical sections and the downhills, so I picked my spot and passed her. She must've seen my leg and the "31" as she passed back. Ok, wanna play that game? I sat behind her until I knew the trail would open up into a fast downhill section and made the pass at the very top and flew down the other side and put a few racers between us. I learned from motorcycle racing to stuff slower riders between you and the person you're dicing with, as the slower people will slow your competition down. It worked because I didn't see her again. I raced like she was right behind me and and kept the hammer down to gap her as much as possible.

The third lap was even less crowded and I had more room to get around people I was now lapping. At one point I came up on a guy that asked a girl if he could pass. She decided to try to ride a rocky downhill followed by a short uphill and fell over just as he was trying to pass. He fell over, then I had to dismount as I was right behind him. I ran up the hill and got by. I finished the lap and as I ran into T2, one of the volunteers said "You're number 17." "17 what?" I wondered. 17th overall, 17th female, 17th in my wave? Why do people give me this information in a race? I'd rather not know for this reason.

Total bike time = 1:23:03, and the 2nd fastest bike time in my AG!

Ran into T2, racked my bike, and got my run stuff on. T2 = 1:28.

The run was like my swim in that I really couldn't expect much based on my lack of training. We started out on a trail section, and about half way through the girl I had gapped on the bike passed me on the run. It was pretty obvious that I couldn't keep pace so I just ran the pace that I could hold, and tried not to fall on the trail. After that we ran up Lakeside Dr on the road and down Curry. As I ran down Curry I realized the last time I was here was IMAZ, and I had puked in the bushes right over there (yep, this is the stuff that goes through my head in a race). But I started to pass a bunch of guys here, and I could hear others coming up behind me. Everytime I heard a faster runner coming up I hoped it was a guy, or a girl that wasn't in my age group. Sure enough, I was able to hold off anyone else in my group. I got to the finish, crossed the mat, and jumped on the slip-n-slide for my big finish. Total run = 32:50

Total race = 2:17:02

After the race I walked back to my car, changed my clothes, then walked back to get my bike. I stopped by the results, and I was in 4th! I looked at the winner in my age group, and she had won the women's overall race, so I hoped we would be bumped. I waited around for the awards, and sure enough they called me up for 3rd place. I was 3rd out of 8 in my age group and got a strange PBR trophy (a PBR beer can glued to a marble base), a PBR bell for my bike, and a PBR glass.

I grabbed my bike, loaded up my Jeep, and drove back to Tucson, stopping for a Blizzard at DQ in Casa Grande. I kept the AC cranked because I was so sleepy after the race, and didn't want to fall asleep at the wheel. Normally Zac drives home after races and I get to pass out.

Checking the results, I was mid-pack in my AG on the swim, 2nd on the bike, and last on the run. Elaine will be working on her running over the winter! That's just unacceptable. I finished 20th overall out of 64 women, so the "You're #17" must've been my overall place out of the women heading into T2.

Overall, this was a great race, and I felt vindicated after Tahoe. Always good to end the season on a positive note!