Saturday, December 19, 2009

Cliff Notes versions of race reports

Yep, I'm still alive. Apparently I took a break from blogging. Right now I'm averaging 12-13 hours a week with XTERRA training, which ranks right up there with Half Ironman training and the early weeks of Ironman training as far as volume goes. Phew!

I'm not going to be able to do the usual detailed race reports for the 6 (!) race reports that I am behind on, so here is the Cliff Notes versions of each race.

PBR Off-Road Tri - 10/11/09
After surviving several insane XTERRA courses, it's a nice treat to drive up to Tempe and do the PBR off-road tri. I think it's a requirement for each XTERRA course to have something insane. The PBR tri is not part of the XTERRA series, but is kind of the same idea. Swim in a lake, mountain bike, trail run.

We drove up to the Phoenix area the day before because Zac had a mountain bike race at McDowell Mountain Park as part of the Dust Devil series. He made it 4 miles in to his race when his fork broke, forcing him to walk something like 6 miles back to the car. He was not a happy camper. We hit a hotel that night in Tempe at a super cheap rate thanks to a last-minute bid on Priceline, and got up early on Sunday for my tri.

I'd like to say I rocked the course and beat my time from last year, but my swim, bike, and run times were almost EXACTLY the same as last year! The swim was uneventful, but it was nice to only have to go 750 meters. The mountain bike was a blast and I rode the techy rock section each time, which was a great way to pass a bunch of people. The run was a mixture of trails and road, with the road section heading down Curry avenue and under the 202. As with last year, the race ends with an awesome slip n' slide.

Rock y Road 50/50 - 10/17/09
I had ridden the Reddington area trails a ton in preparation for this race. The week of the race I had to travel for work, and that Thursday I came down with some sort of stomach bug that purged my body of all electrolytes and fuel. Thursday evening I was definitely not doing the race. By Friday evening I had eaten toast and drank tons of Gatorade, and managed to get down some bland pasta. I was down 6 lbs in fluids. Saturday morning (race day) I was still a bit shaky but decided to see how far I would get on the course.

We headed out just as the sun was coming up, and it was already in the 70s, with weather predictions showing it to be on course for the hottest day in October. I slowly climbed up Redington Rd and made it to the Chiva turn-off, alternating water and Gatorade as I rode. These were my least favorite roads of the course, with many of the hills covered in scree and lots of wash crossings. I was way behind the group and just focused on keeping moving foward and taking rest breaks when I needed them. As I climbed to FR 37, there was a large bull standing in the Jeep trail, munching on the grass. I had to walk up the hill behind the bull and hoped he wouldn't come after me. At this moment I recalled Chad's AZT 300 race where he ended up in a tree as a bull came running and rammed into the tree. I made it safely past and continued on. As I rolled to the Italian Trap singletrack, a herd of cows on the other side of the fence next to me started trotting, and I recalled Liane's story of how she stampeded a herd of cows and had to track down the rancher to apologize.

As I rode the trails alone, I remembered all of the training rides I did with Zac, Liane, and Johnny...where we stopped to rest, where we just about died from heat stroke, and where we ran out of water in the past. I made it to the singletrack and started the long, rolling hills of the AZ Trail. Johnny said he'd be there in spirit, and sure enough he was. On 2 rides we stopped to un-wedge his chain from between his large rear cog and spokes. Well, on the Bellota trail my chain got wedged in the exact same spot. It took me forever to get untangled, but I finally did.

At 12:10 PM it was well over 90 degrees and I reached the major decision point at the La Milagrosa trailhead. Do I continue on down Milagrosa, one of the most technical trails in Tucson, or head back to the forest road and call sag support (my dad) to come get me? I rested in the measly shade of a mesquite tree and switched the last of my water bottles around. Miraculously, I had cell phone signal here, so I sent Zac a text message: "Starting La Milagrosa at 12:10 PM." That way if I didn't make it, he'd have a time stamp and Search & Rescue would only have 4 miles to find my body.

I started down the Milagrosa trail, telling myself to keep moving as much as possible. I had put my arm coolers back on to try to keep the sun off my arms. Also, it's never a good idea to ride trails like this in the heat of a hot day when you're in the middle of reading books like "Death in the Grand Canyon." Your actions closely mimick those in the book that have died. Somehow I survived the trail and got to the granite slab section of trail, which is the steepest and most technical. The few ounces of water that I had left were as hot as soup and it was hard to force myself to drink it. I finally got down to the pavement of the neighborhood and started riding back to McDonald park. I breifly thought about going straight home. I REALLY wanted to stop at someone's house and ask to use their water spigot, but I didn't want to stop riding. The last stretch on the pavement back to the park took forever, but when I got to the park I found Zac there at the Jeep. I dumped my bike, immediately laid down in the parking lot in the shade of my Jeep, and started drinking water and dousing my face in the water we had stashed in the coolers.

I laid under my Jeep for about 30 minutes, not caring about the stares of people in their cars as they rolled through the parking lot. I told Zac that I couldn't continue, and packed up. There was no way I had any strength left to continue on the road up Mt. Lemmon. But I had survived the trail portion of the 50/50 which was much further that I thought I was going to get after being sick right before the race.

Zac had gone straight from the exit of the Milagrosa trail back to our house and laid down in the driveway by the hose bib for 30 minutes before continuing on back to the park where our vehicles were. The heat got to him, too, so we both decided today wasn't going to be our day to finish the event with how hot it was. Hopefully next year the weather will be a bit better.

Tinfoilman Tri - 10/25/09

I had done the Tucson tri and the Firecracker tri, and the Tinfoilman was the last race in the series. I signed up with an estimated swim time of 14 minutes. I was swimming just under that in the summer aquathlons, and I figured that would motivate me to keep swimming up until October. Well, it didn't. I went on a strike from swimming, and forgot that I really should update my swim time. So on race day I was in Wave 8 out of 10. Lots of sitting around and fretting about the swim. Why, after doing 5 years of triathlon, would I fret over an 825 yard pool swim? Because I had volunteered for these races in the past as a swim lap counter, and know that Jim the race director paces up and down the lanes and does the math of who in the current wave is going the slowest, and holding up the entire next wave of swimmers. (This is why an accurate swim time is important). I didn't want to be THAT swimmer, especially in Wave 8! Keli was in Wave 7, so I had someone to talk to while we waited and waited for our time in the pool to come up.

This race I actually made an effort to warm-up, and got in the Kasser pool and did 200 meters right before my wave started to get in. I was hoping this would help get the heart rate up and the start wouldn't be such a shock to my system. Before I knew it, it was time to go and start swimming. It felt like the swim took forever, but when I got out I wasn't the last person in the pool! I looked down and my time was right in line with my swim time for the Tucson Tri, so I was happy with that. I got through T1 in about a minute, and got on my bike with it's new Zipp 404's installed (great buy on ebay). I hit the bike course with the plan to bike as hard as I could and hopefully turn in the best bike time I could. I forced myself to stay in the aerobars on the straight sections of road, and ended up leap frogging with 2 other ladies. On the last lap the one in front of me crashed as she was making the turn onto Enke Drive, so I slowed down but she was already up by the time I got there. I did my flying dismount, but had a sloppy racking of the bike that may have cost a few seconds. I got my run gear on and was out in about 30 seconds for T2. A quick check of my watch showed my fastest bike time ever!

My running wasn't as abismal as my swimming, but I hadn't been doing as much as in the past, and definitely not any speed work. I had mostly been biking on the mountain bike the months leading up to this race, so I was less than prepared for racing a sprint tri. I decided to push as much as I could on the run and my time would be what it would be. The first race was a 1:20:25, and the second was a 1:20:05. I was mentally preparing myself to be no where near that once the run was over. I wasn't sure if I could pull down the same run split, especially after pounding so hard on the bike. The 2 laps around the UA mall were painful, and as I ran past the garage I looked down and saw that I was close to last race's run time. Could I actually do it? I didn't look at my watch anymore and pushed as hard as I could for the rest of the way and crossed the line and looked at my watch. 1:19:18! I had beaten the 1:20 goal! I was all teary at the finish but quickly found some water and calmed down. Hmm...maybe I should re-think this training thing since I went faster on my least amount of training. ;) I ended up 4th in my age group and the series champion in W30-34 for doing all 3 races.

Casa Grande Tri - 11/7/09

The Casa Grande sprint tri would be my last race of the 2009 season. I had read on the entry form that they only awarded 2 deep in each AG, so I made getting top 2 in my age group the goal. Zac was there to do the duathlon, so of course I had to sign up and do the triathlon. We arrived to the race super early and set up on the tennis courts. The swim was super short with only 400 meters to swim. The only problem was that it was self-seeded, meaning you lined up where you wanted to in the line of racers. Krista and I slowly worked our way around the crowd and got in with folks that were in the 7.5 min timeframe. We got in and started the serpentine swim. The pool was nice and heated, but crowded with all of the racers. By the last 50 meters I caught up to a guy that was WALKING on the bottom of the pool! And he was ahead of us! Apparently he was a bit over zealous in his swim time estimate. I quickly passed him and got out to start the bike.

I left T1 with a guy that was in a white shirt and we headed out onto the course. The duathlon riders were already on the bike, so there was a lot of passing to do. I kept myself down in the aerobars again, and it was nice to have long stretches of road to just spin in the high gears. The white T-shirt guy and I kept passing back and forth. He was the only one that passed me. We came into T2 right next to each other, and it turns out we were racked right next to each other in transition. "Nice bike!" I told him, and he agreed. I took a little extra time to grab a sip of water and was out onto the run course.

This was my 2nd tri 5 years ago, and I had forgotten that the run course climbs along the base of a mountain with some rollers. I hit the first aid station, grabbed some water, and looked at my watch to see 11 minutes. I wasn't sure if the mile 1 marker had been there or not, but kept going. Thankfully, the next stretch was all downhill, then a long flat section before making the final turn to the finish. I crossed the line in 1:09:34, which was under my goal time of 1:10, and I was surprised to see I had averaged under 9 minute miles on the 3 mile run. I caught up with Zac at the finish, and he was happy with his finish time as well. We waited for Krista to cross the line, and it was her turn to get teary at the finish because she had her best 5K run time ever and wasted her goal time.

There was a nice breakfast at the end while we waited for the results. Results showed Zac 1st in his 30-34 AG, and I was 2nd out of 52 in the W30-34 AG for the tri. But when awards were announced, our names weren't called. For some reason, for awards, the race was grouped into 10 year age groups. So Zac and I were grouped in 30-39, and the 35-39 folks were ahead of us in the standings. No idea why the race did this, especially when last year they were grouped in 5 year age groups. So for 30-39 I was 7th out of 88. I guess 52 women in 30-34 weren't enough to justify awards and they had to expand it to 10 year age groups. USAT sanctioning is good for some things, like keeping races consistent. (This race isn't USAT sanctioned).

Zac had fun in the duathlon, so I think we'll try to find him some more races to do. Oddly enough, there are only a few duathlons around, but a ton of triathlons.

Dawn 2 Dusk - 12/5/09

Liane and I do the Dawn 2 Dusk mountain bike race every year, and the past 2 years Zac has done it solo. This year there were the usual parking issues, but we found a spot and managed to grab some space for Liane and Nate to park. This year, it was freezing cold. I had the first lap, so Zac and I rode our bikes down the road to the start line in the dark and 36 degree temperature. I was wearing bike shorts, tights, and insulated pants on the bottom, and 2 long sleeved jerseys and a wind breaker on the top and I was STILL cold! The race started and Zac and I rode together, letting the mass of the group go ahead. It was kind of disappointing to see people that had been late for the start coming down the road and hopping in with the group and shortcutting the road to the start line.

We hit the singletrack and the sun finally came up, but I was still cold. Zac rode behind me and joked it was nice for the duo racer to allow the solo racer to draft off of her. The Pemberton trail that we were on has a long, grinding climb at the beginning for several miles, and I lost Zac towards the end of this climb. But he caught back up and decided to go ahead on the downhill section. I finished my first lap about 5 minutes behind him and handed off to Liane and headed for cover in the RV. I immediately turned the furnace back on and started to warm up my frozen feet. It took about an hour before they were warm again, but it made a difference for the second lap.

I was still bundled up on the second lap, but thankfully didn't have the extra 2 miles of road to ride. I wore my heart rate monitor for each lap, and this lap I spent 34 minutes in Zone 4 and 32 minutes in Zone 5. It sure didn't feel like it on the course. I finished up the lap and handed off to Liane and grabbed more food before sitting down briefly to rest.

On my 3rd lap I was doing the math and determined there was no way I would be getting a 4th lap in. We would need me to go out before the 4:30 PM cutoff, and both Liane and I would have to turn in record-breaking laps to do so. Besides, on the 3rd lap I was tired and didn't really feel like doing a 4th lap in the dark when it would be freezing cold again. I came into transition and handed off to Liane for her 3rd lap and told her to enjoy the last lap of our race. I then packed up the RV and waited for everyone to finish their last laps. Zac completed 5 total, and was happy to see the burrito I had warmed up and ready for him at the finish. Liane finished up her 3rd lap, locking in our 6th. Our goal was to not be last in our category, and we succeeded.

Kentucky Camp Epic - 12/12/09
I did this ride last year with Liane, and we decided to do it again this year. There was the option of riding a 29 mile short course, or 58 mile long course. I had already seen the section that makes up the long course, and didn't want to be out on the trail for over 8 hours, so I decided the short course was the best bet. The course was slightly different this year with the start at Rosemont Junction and heading south on the AZ Trail. This would give me the chance to ride a new section of the AZT that I had never ridden.

That morning I geared up and waited with the other short course racers for the start. There was no sign of Liane, and I wondered what had happened to her since the race is just down the street from her house. The race started and I let the speedy folks go ahead and fell in behind. This wasn't really a "race" for me, more like a long ride where I just wanted to see new trail. I didn't see Liane at the beginning, and as I rode I figured maybe she thought the race started at last year's start point, and I might see her out there. I climbed and climbed the new section of trail, and fell in with a group of people that were also out there to have fun and rolled with them. As we rolled along FR163 and hit the junction where the long course people came up from Kentucky Camp, I spotted a rider in pink long sleeves. It was Liane! Somehow we intersected each other. Sure enough she had parked at last year's start point and decided to ride the course backwards hoping to find us, and she did. So she rode the rest of the trail with me until we hit the intersection where I would continue on back to my car and she would take the dirt road back to hers. As we rode we began to remember the long climbs and sketchy sections of last year's ride, but at least this year we didn't have the crazy wind that we had last year.

I hit the last singletrack and made it back to my car and then headed off to Liane's for some of Nate's panini sandwiches and tomato soup. Which, by the way, is excellent ride recovery food. Hot food never tasted so good!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My next BIG race

Wow, over a month since I've updated my blog. But, it is probably because I've been racing almost every weekend. Race reports that I have yet to do:
  • PBR tri
  • Rock y Road 50/50
  • Tinfoilman Tri

They will be out of order, as I hate holding up the blog for race reports. I'd better get on it because the Casa Grande Tri is this weekend, which would add another report to the list. But, Casa Grande is an important one, because it's Zac's first duathon! (I'm not counting Muddy Buddy, because that's a cutesy event and not really a race).

So, onto the big news. I have a coach! Yes a real live, living, breathing coach! And why would I do this after 5 years of triathon? Because of next season's "A" race. Let's go over the race first and then the coach stuff. So what is next year's big race? Another Ironman? Ha! You are so wrong if you thought that.

Next year's big race is:

XTERRA Saipan on March 13, 2010. I know what you're asking...where the heck is Saipan? About a 3 hr flight south of Japan, near Guam. Google Map here. It's not a race that I've been thinking about forever. Rather a few months and the pieces fell together. Zac has been racking up the frequent flyer miles at work, so I of course, have come up with an ingeious way to spend those miles. To do a race there would be pretty cool. The course is crazy hard, but awesome. The swim is in the ocean over a coral reef, the bike goes through the jungle, and the run takes racers through the tunnels the Japanese dug during WWII. Saipan is considered to be part of the Western XTERRA region (it's a commonwealth of the US), so points count towards my regional standings. But THE most important reason for doing this race: it's a qualifier for the XTERRA World Championships on Maui! (That's like Ironman Kona for the road triathletes out there).

That's the plan. Go to Saipan in March and try my best to qualify in my age group for a world championship slot. XTERRA is similar to Ironman in that they have a lottery system for slots to Maui. The lottery opens in January, and because XTERRA is smaller compared to Ironman, chances are pretty good on getting in via the lottery. But I know if I apply for the lottery, that will be a safety net. I want to fly without a net. I want to qualify and I think I can do it. This is why it was time to get super serious and find a coach to get me there.

There are very few XTERRA training plans out there compared to other training plans. You can find 100s of Ironman training plans, like "20 days to your first Ironman," "Iroman Training on 3 hours a day," and "The peanut butter Ironman diet." Ok, so maybe I made those up but some plans are about that level of crazy. Look for XTERRA and you won't find much. The plans and magazine articles that are out there are for "finishing your first XTERRA" and not "kicking ass at XTERRA." Plus, if I have a shot at a qualifying slot, I want to be the most prepared possible, and to know I did everything training-wise to get there. I needed to get a real live coach.

So how did I go about finding one? This is where the super fabulous Tucson Tri Girls come in. We have several coaches that sponsor the club. Over the years I've heard them speak, so that helped me to narrow it down. But the top personal requirements I had in finding a coach were:

  1. Has to be a mountain biker - This is the key portion of the XTERRA race, and the most technical. I wanted someone who knows what it's like to climb crazy hills covered in scree and go bombing down rocky descents. More importantly, they need to be able to tell me what I need to do training-wise to be a better racer on the mountain bike leg.
  2. Has to know what XTERRA is, and already trained other XTERRA athletes - XTERRA triathlons are completely different than road triathlons, and I wanted someone that knows how different the races are and how different the training is.
  3. I have to like and trust them - I'm not going to listen and follow the training plan of someone I don't like or "click" with. I'm going to be investing a lot of time, money, and effort into this, so I have to trust that the training plan they come up with is the correct one.
  4. Has to be about balance - I'm not quitting my job to train for XTERRA. I'm an age grouper, not a pro, so I wanted someone that would allow for the balance of training and real life.
  5. Affordable - Holy cow cost can get out of control when you're looking for personalized coaching! I do have other expenses and didn't want to take out another mortgage to cover coaching services.
  6. Has to be in Tucson - I wanted someone that could tell me to go climb Mt. Lemmon or go run the Rillito River path, or to do my run in the morning to avoid the heat because it's a tough workout. This also helps in meeting face-to-face with the coach for #3.
  7. Has to listen to my feedback and not think I'm crazy - Yeah, so it may be a huge leap to go from my lollygagging training to possible qualifier. But they have to think it's possible, and not think my goals are nuts. Thanks. :)
  8. Has to work with the full spectrum of athletes - I like people that work with the people that want to get fit as well as the people that want to be pro racers (and not just work with the pro racer crowd). The coaches that do this seem to be very down to earth and realistic about training and goals.

With all of that I did my research and selected Scott Blanchard of Pyramid Coaching. Scott is a super cool guy as he has done several clinics and speaking events with the Tri Girls, and is a national pro mountain biker. When we had our first meeting, Scott had already looked up the Saipan race and was excited about it. That made me even more excited about it. He felt we could get my fitness up to where it should be and didn't think my goals were completely nuts. Sold!

I went in and got my anerobic threshold testing done, which set up my heart rate zones for training. I had to actually search through my house and find the HR monitor strap that goes with my Garmin because I never used it. I used to follow my HR zones when I was first starting out in triathlon 5 years ago, and quickly abandoned them. Scott sets up all the training based on zones, so I had to get wired back up and start getting into the habit of wearing the strap on my workouts. Last week was my first full week of training on the Pyramid plan. It made me realized how much I had been loafing...pretty much all this past year. I kind of took this year off after last year's Ironman AZ deal, and now I'm mentally refreshed and ready to go after the next crazy goal. But the thing is, I'm really looking forward to this race, and getting to Maui would be awesome and rank above IMAZ in my book. :)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Revealing my secret race

For the past month and a half I've been riding the Redington Road area each weekend. As I alluded to in previous posts, all these rides were in preparation for a race that I was keeping secret. No person in their right mind would ride that area week after week without a purpose. My riding partners know of the race, but they all know about having "races that shall not be named" that you keep under wraps to avoid fully commiting to such races. If you don't declare the race, you can back out at any time for whatever reason. Like you suddenly came to your senses or something. You can also avoid people being critical of your training. "You're doing what?!? Shouldn't you be swimming/biking/running more than you are then?" And then you have to go into your training philosophy and how swimming/biking/running no more than 3 hours per week is a perfectly acceptable way to train for endurance events. Just like living on chocolate, Root Beer, and pizza is a perfectly acceptable nutrition plan.

I'm very careful who I divulge my race info to. Mostly it's the friends that are equally crazy and also have their own personal list of "races that shall not be named." We check on each other periodically through the season and ask "Are you still doing Race X?" Sometimes Race X gets dropped and it's no big deal in this circle. We are all understanding and ask about the next race coming up, as if the thought of doing Race X never existed. Or Race X is still on the list and we sit and wait for our friends to return from said race, to evaluate it and see if it's something we want to consider next year. If it was horrible, thankfully your friends experienced it and not you and you now know to stay far, far away from Race X. Or it was a grand time, and you and your friends can plan on doing Race X the following year.

So it's time to reveal one of my "races that shall not be named" because we are now 2 weeks from said race, and it now appears on my Facebook page. That kind of puts it out there.

Here it is:

Yep, it's the Rock y Road 50/50. It's one of those events where there are no entry fees, no support, all you. Half of the ride is on a mountain bike and the other half on the road. Sounds simple, right? Well not when you add in where the course is. The mountain bike portion is just under 50 miles. We start from McDonald park, ride up Redington Road, down FR4417 to Chiva, over to the Italian Trap AZT and climb that, climb and descend the Bellota AZT to the final turnoff at Milagrosa. Milagrosa is one technical, difficult trail that we descend for 4 miles. After that we ride back to our transition area (our cars) at McDonald park to switch to the road bike portion. After all that nastiness on the mountain bike, we are rewarded with a climb from the base of Mt. Lemmon up to Palisades (mile 19) and back down. Overall it's 88 miles long and 12,134 feet of climbing. Since there's no support, we have to carry all water and nutrition with us. And no, we can't drop some in the desert ahead of time.

Finishing this race is my goal. Last year there was 1 finisher. The year before there were 2. So the chances of not finishing are very high. Sounds perfect!

I've been doing training rides out on Redington each weekend, and technically I've covered all of the course, just not all at once. And thanks to this summer's Easy Peasy Lemmon Squeezy rides, I've done all of Mt. Lemmon several times over. I have the road on Mt. Lemmon and Redington Rd memorized now because I've ridden them so much. Each mountain bike ride I carry all of the water and food that I think I'll need for the race to get used to the weight on my back. I'm hoping the weather will be cooler so that I don't have to carry as much water, because the weight is killer.

My strategy is to metally break the ride up into sections, kind of like doing an Ironman. You don't think about the whole thing because that is just too scary to do. So if you break it up into smaller chunks that are easy to comprehend, it's easier to stay in your box and focus at the task at hand. For the mountain bike portion, my sections are: Climb Redington, Chiva, Italian Trap, Bellota, Milagrosa. I'm much slower on the mountain bike than the road bike, so I'm going to have to push through much of the dirt portion and ride as much as possible without long rest breaks. I pretty much know which steep climbs give me problems, and I'll get off and push up those to save the legs. No point in going in the red on short, steep climbs just to claim I've cleaned them when I need the endurance in my legs for the entire day. Chiva will be the toughest part for me, followed by the climb on Bellota. Even though Milagrosa is the most technical portion, much of it is downhill, and the last time I rode it I rode it really well. And I tell myself that section is only 4.6 miles long. It also helps that it's the very last section before hitting pavement again.

I need to get through the moutain bike portion so that I can get to my strong point, which is climbing Lemmon. Once I get on the tri bike, I'm a climbing machine going up the mountain. I don't know how I can totally suck on climbing in the dirt, but rock on the road. I'm going to blame lack of traction, or rolling resistance, or something. Anyways, I've broken Lemmon up into the following sections: Molino Basin (Mile 5.7), 7 Cats (Mile 9), Windy Point (Mile 14), Palisades (Mile 19). If possible, I'll try to limit rest stops to these mental checkpoints. Once I get to Palisades, I know I can finish because it's all downhill and you get free miles after that. My problem will be daylight. Since I'm so much slower on the dirt, I'll need to keep moving as much as possible to ride in as much daylight as possible. I REALLY don't want to descend down Mt. Lemmon in the dark, but if I get pushed that far I may have to. I'm prepared because I'm strapping my lights to the front of the tri bike, and will have a rear blinky light. If that's what it takes to finish the race, then so be it. Now that I think of it, it may take just as long as an Ironman takes to finish this race.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Race Report: La Jolla 1 mile Rough Water Swim

I have a goal race coming up that requires an ocean swim. I've only done 1 ocean swim before, which was last year's La Jolla rough water swim. So I decided to do the race again this year for the experience. Zac and I made it a weekend trip, and spent time in La Jolla, which has a ton of stuff to do.

On Friday we arrived and had some time to kill before heading over to the hotel. So we wadered around Birch aquarium to check out all the fish.

After that we checked in, got some dinner, and headed down to the beach to watch the sunset.

On Saturday we ran up the coast, and in the afternoon had our very first surf lessons. I loved it! Surfing was so much fun, and we are planning on doing it again any chance we get (most likely any time we are at the beach).

Sunday was race day. This race is great because the women's wave doesn't go off until 11 AM. We opted to walk the 2 miles from the hotel to the race site at La Jolla cove, and as we walked I noticed big waves rolling in. When we got to the cove it was insane. It made last year's swim look like waterskiing water.

You can see how rough it was at this Youtube video.

I watched the racers swim out and how the waves were coming in and decided I'd put myself on the far left of the group. Our wave didn't get to the beach until 11:30 AM. The rough conditions were pushing the race further and further back in the schedule. The gun went off and I ran in to the water with the others and started swimming. It wasn't long before the first wave hit. I could hear the lifeguards yelling about the waves. There was a huge chain of them there to keep us from getting pushed into the rocks. I dove under and emerged on the other side and kept swimming. The next wave hit, and I told myself to keep swimming and once I got out of the cove I would at least be into the rollers and out of the breakers.

The rollers weren't much better. It was really hard to sight, and you had to lift your whole head up and do a couple of strokes just to see past the rollers. Most of the time I looked forward all I saw was a wall of water. One thing I hate is that they use small buoys with a string of balloons tied to them instead of the large TYR dorito chip buoys. On race day the wind was blowing, flattening the balloons. All I knew was to head to the red roofs of the La Jolla Inn.

Zac was watching from the shore and watching people get pulled out of the water. In my wave a gal in a speed suit came in on a surf board. So I beat someone in a speed suit! ;) He also said the main group didn't swim straight. Afterwards that made some sense to me because I had started to the far left with the group on my right, and when I reached the first buoy they were all on my left. So I had swam straighter than the group.

I hit the first buoy and hit the lap button on my watch to see 18 min for the 800 yd leg. That was much slower than last year and my usual 800 time. But conditions were the worst I had ever experienced, and I was here for the swimming experience and not to try to win anything. On the way to the second buoy we were now swimming into the rollers, so sighting was really tough to do. I finally came up to where the lifeguard boat was and could hear them making announcements, so the buoy wasn't far behind. They were telling us to swim towards the point of the cove on the way back in. I rounded the second buoy and followed their directions as they made sense. If you headed towards the point that would help compensate for the waves and the current and keep us out of the rocks.

At this point I was wondering if I was even going to make it. Each wave was sucking the energy out of me. I had to do a lot of sighting on the last leg in, and was hoping I would time it to where I wouldn't have too many breakers. I got lucky and only had one wave wash over my head as I came in. I kept checking behind me and got out before the bad waves hit. According to Zac, just a few minutes earlier the entire cove was white water and the waves were really bad and the group was having a hard time getting in.

I got my finisher's medal and checked my time: 44 minutes and change, which was 8 minutes slower than last year. But I survived the waves, which is what it was all about. Now I have a good gauge for rough ocean conditions and can hopefully survive in case my goal race has rough water.

The start of our wave:

Diving through the waves:

Coming back in:

My "survivor" medal:

All of the pictures of the trip are here on Facebook.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sabino Canyon trail run

I've mapped out the trail run for the upcoming Tucson Tri Girls training camp, and today Zac and I did a practice run. There is some trail-finding required at some of the creek crossings, so I figured I'd get those out of the way now and make sure where all the turns were.

We will be doing the loop below counter-clockwise. From the parking lot we will be taking lower Bear Canyon Trail to the Sabino Lake Trail. This leads into the Creek Trail, where we will cross the creek several times. The Rattlesnake Trail takes us out of the creek and across the road, where we'll head south on the road for a short bit before joining up with the trail again. There is a bit of a climb out of the creek bed as we intersect the lower Esperero Trail and take that south for about half a mile. We will cross the main road and take the Esperero Trail all the way back to lower Bear Canyon, and back to the parking lot. Overall it will be just under 4 miles. The trail only has a few technical rocky spots, no long climbs, and some great views. It has a great mix of everything for trail running, from slickrock to sandy washes to rocks to smooth dirt. This is a good one for beginner trail runners as the trail isn't technical, and the veterans will enjoy the constant change in terrain and the scenery. I was glad I brought my camera along as the views were fantastic.

Here is our route in blue. (Click to enlarge).

Heading north on the Sabino Lake Trail. (Click any of the photos for a larger version).
Canyon walls to our left as we crossed the creek.

Lots of creek crossings on the Creek Trail.

Starting the climb out of the creek bed on the Rattlesnake Trail.

View from the intersection of Rattlesnake Trail and Esperero Trail.

Another climb on the Esperero Trail as we head back to the parking lot.

View of Sabino Canyon from Esperero Trail. You can see Phoneline Trail cutting into the side of the mountain (future trail run as that one is a bit more technical ;).

The slickrock slide as we head down Esperero Trail, with Tucson in the background.

Always a chance for wildlife encounters on the trail. As I was running, I was looking for the next turn and didn't see this Gila Monster until he jumped, opened his mouth, and hissed at me. He was not happy at how close my foot got! I took a quick picture as he wandered back into the brush. This was the biggest one I've come across out on the trails.

However, the cardboard Gila Monster at the visitor's center is ok to pet. :)

So that's it! We will be doing the run on Saturday, the first day of the Tri Girls training camp. The pace will be nice and casual, and we will wait at all of the turns so that no one gets lost or left behind. Plus, it gives us a chance to take some pics out on the trail. For those that aren't into trail running, there will be a couple of groups running the road at the same time. So there should be something available for everyone. See you at camp!

Italian Springs ride

On Sunday, Zac, Johnny and I set out on our usual Redington ride. I had been sick with a head cold for the past 2 weeks (hence no blog updates) so the plan was to go up Redington to Mile 12.6, do the Italian Springs section of the AZ trail, and take the Jeep roads back to Redington.

We got lucky with the weather this time with clouds keeping the sun off of us for most of the ride. The Italian Springs section of the AZT was great up to the intersection of FR 37. After that we tried to continue on, but the trail turned into a hike-a-bike with loose rock everywhere. We decided to head back and take FR 37 to 4424 to 4417 that took us back to Redington Rd. After that the sun had come out, but at least we had the downhill for the rest of the way home. In the last quarter mile, my front tire started to go flat, so I had to sprint the rest of the way home. I rolled up to the doorstep right as the slime in the tube was sealing the hole. Thankfully the flat happened so close to home and not on the switchback descent of Redington.

Overall it was 4 hours of riding and just over 34 miles covered. The Garmin map is here.

The blue shirt twins hanging out at the OHV area.

Rolling along the Italian Springs AZT.

Zac and Johnny coming down the AZT after we turned around and decided not to hike-a-bike anymore.

A bit of mud on the Jeep trails.

Watching the storm roll in.
Heading home.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

La Milagrosa ride

On Sunday, Zac, Johnny, and I left at 5:10 AM with lights strapped to our bikes in an effort to beat the heat as much as possible. We rolled up Redington Rd. with very little traffic, except for a few early riser Jeepers. We had made it to Mile 5 by the time the sun hit the road. Surprisingly, one of the shooters was already up and shooting at Mile 6. How early do we need to get up to beat these guys?

It sure was dark when we started.

The sun starting to rise.

The sun still not officially up when we hit the dirt.

Wake up Tucson! Most are still sleeping while we climb the road.

Zac and Johnny crossing over into the sunlight.

We did our usal climb up Redington and at the Mile 10 OHV area, Erik, Liane, and Nicole met up with us. We continued on up to Mile 12.6 and rode the Bellota AZ Trail. The hike-a-bike was killer on my legs, and this was not a good sign for the upcoming ride. The downhill to the intersection of FR 36 was a blast though. We rested under our usual shady tree at the intersection of FR 36, then did the next section of the AZT up to the intersection of the FR36A Jeep road. At this point Erik, Liane, and Nicole split off to return back to their cars, and Zac, Johnny, and I continued forward to the La Milagrosa trailhead.

Erik on the AZT.

The group at our usual shady rest stop.

We stopped at the trailhead to La Milagrosa for one last rest break in the shade. It was 10 AM. This was by far one of the stupidest things I had done. La Milagrosa is a tough trail with no shade and usually ridden in the winter time. But here we were on tired legs about to start the brutal 4.6 mile stretch of trail on a hot summer day. I didn't even bother with Clif Bars this ride. I had frozen 2 Snicker bars and stuck them in my Camelbak. I finished the second half of the first bar before La Milagrosa, figuring I'd save the second bar as a reward on the trail.

The trail starts off with "The Waterfall", a technical rock section. I haven't been on this trail in a few years, and the only time I have ridden it is on my Bullit, which has a few more inches of suspension than the Blur. We hiked down the waterfall, climbed the trail up the other side, and began our ride. Right away there were rock drops to be ridden, and I quickly switched over to getting over the back end of the bike. The Blur did rather well, and the nice thing was, I was able to ride the climbs on a much lighter bike.

Zac and Johnny at The Waterfall.

Zac hiking down the Waterfall.

We were all very tired on La Milagrosa, and as a result, would end up riding over stuff we probably shouldn't have in order to conserve momentum. There was still a lot of hike-a-bike, but I was surprised at the good time we were making. We would have to stop between sections just to rest the legs and arms before rolling again onto the next section. At the top section before the descent down into the wash, my stomach started growling. But I couldn't stop, and told myself I would stop in the wash for a snack. I rode several of the drops and made it to the wash, where I parked the bike, found one of the few areas of shade against a rock wall, and devoured the second Snickers bar.

Views from the trail:

My house is down there...somewhere.

Cool saguaro shot that Johnny took.

Zac in the shade of the rock wall in the wash.

Bike parking in the wash.

We were roasting at this point in the ride, but still had a few miles to go. We hiked up out of the wash and started the descent across the granite playground area.

Johnny and I on the granite playground.

There is a gate after the playground and at this point I got a nosebleed, probably from the heat. Yet another good reason to wear full-fingered MTB gloves. We hiked down the next steep part of the trail and came across a group of teenagers in swimsuits looking for water. Um, they were soon to be disappointed. The only water we had come across in the entire canyon were pools about a foot wide of stagnant water and yellowjackets. We rolled on and finally crossed the last wash and hit Horsehead Rd. From there we took Soldier Trail back to our starting point.

It was just over 5 hours of riding time (over 7 hours of actually being out on the trail). We reached home just after 12 PM. Ironically, at about 3PM the clouds rolled in and the monsoon rains started. I would have loved to have a little rain on the trail that afternoon because it was crazy hot. But we completed a very tough ride. The Garmin map of our track circling the mountains is here. A little over 30 miles total and over 4,000 ft of climbing on the bike.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

AZ Trail run in Molino Basin

This morning I was not going to get up early, so I figured my run would have to be at higher elevation on Mt. Lemmon to escape the heat. But luckily it rained overnight and was cloudy this morning, so I was able to take advantage of the good weather to hit a lower trail (and one that's closer to my house). I decided to run the Arizona Trail from Molino Basin. It climbs from the basin parking lot and goes all the way to Prison Camp. I didn't want to trash my legs for tomorrow's long ride, so I took it easy and took the camera with me.

There were mountain bikers:

And ponies:
And I was representing the trail runners:

All the user groups were out on the AZT. I think this section is probably the most popular due to it's proximity to Tucson. Everyone was very friendly and I think we were all out there enjoying the weather. I ran up the trail for about 2 miles, then turned around and headed back down.

Tomorrow we will be on the other side of the Molino Basin Saddle. The plan is to leave our house at 5 AM with lights on the mountain bikes and head up Redington Rd. We will meet other riders at the OHV parking area, and ride the Bellota AZT. Instead of turning around like last week, this week Zac and I are descending down La Milagrosa. I'm hoping for the same weather tomorrow that we had today!