Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Capital City Half Marathon

This race is held in the capitol of our state, so I've never figured out why they spelled capital with an "A."

No matter.

This race followed my first century ride of the year. Mind you, I didn't finish the ride, and subsequent transition run, until after 8:00 p.m. the night before. The half marathon started at 7:45 a.m. the next day. That's less than 12 hours of recovery between events. However, considering I'll have just a few minutes between events at Ironman Canada, this was probably not a bad thing.

Okay, I'm going to post this now because if I don't I'll never get it up. Suffice it to say, this was a new course, with a fairly challenging hill between mile 9 and 10, which I walked and had no shame in doing so. The run downhill to the finish was great. During most the race, I'd occasionally trade places with these two young gals that were obviously friends. One had not had much training and the race was taking a lot out of her. By mile 10, I hooked up with her and encouraged her along. Doing so, helped me keep going.

When we hit mile 12 and there was only a mile left to go, which was all downhill, I told her we were going to pick up the pace. We did so and flew the last mile, passing a couple of people that had passed us back at mile 11. It was a rather victorious feeling to cross the finish line in just under 2:30. Considering that my PR for a half marathon (Seattle) is 2:22 and change, doing this one in under 2:30 while preceding it the previous day by doing a century is fairly monumental. I have to wonder how I would have done had I been fresh and tapered? Maybe I can find out some other time.

For that day, I was pleased. My cycling was progressing and so was my running. My endurance overall was getting better. All I have to do is keep it up until August.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

First Century of the Year

My first century of the year, coming a couple/three weeks later than I would have liked (interrupted by the whump, whump), was followed the next day by a half marathon.

First, the century (yes, it's a long report, but so was the ride).

My boss (James) is a great guy—he’s an avid cyclist, so he understands my compulsion and need to train. He does what he can to accommodate me without disrupting the group (I’m the receptionist at a smallish manufacturer, thus, when I’m gone my absence is sorely felt). Thus far, however, we had never ridden together. Typically, James rides with another of the employees (Ed) in our company. While James is a big guy, easily topping out at 6’4” (or more), Ed is several inches shorter and a good 50 pounds (or more) lighter. This means Ed climbs hills easily (having less mass to get up them) often dropping James along the way. James is a good-natured fellow, though, and takes it all in stride.

Ed (who works as a forklift driver in our shipping department) often stops in to see James and they will iron out their plans for their weekend of riding. Normally, my schedule and theirs are at odds with each other and I’m not usually in a position where I can ask to ride with them. This last week was different though. They were riding on Saturday and would be starting later in the day. Their plan was to go up to Greenwater (small town in the mountains) and back. Given that I’m the receptionist, female, and slower, I wasn’t sure if James (and/or Ed) would be all that crazy about riding with me, but I asked if I could tag along anyway. In the end, we decided I would be the “rabbit.” I would start out ahead of them and they would “catch up.”

I left my home around 10:45 a.m., which is a late start when you are going to be riding for 7 hours (coach wanted me doing 7:20 or more). Just as I started out, I saw a running buddy, Sonya, walking the trail. I barely said, “Hi, Sonya!” as I went flying past, but I was on a timetable and didn’t have time to stop. I felt bad that I couldn’t, but knew Sonya would understand later when I explained.

Fifteen miles (or so) into the ride, I arrived at my first hill. I’d already climbed a couple hundred feet, but when it is spread out over 15 miles, it’s not like you really notice it except your speeds are a little slower than regular flat ground.
First "Flat" Fifteen Miles

However, the Tubbs Road hill is more than just a slight incline. It has an average 5% grade for about a mile. James has nicknamed this hill, Dog Hill, because of the dogs that come chasing you just as you are preparing to crest the top and going at your slowest. Fortunately, today there were no dogs.
Dog Hill

I encountered a few more rolling hills but nothing like Dog Hill. Soon, I found myself in the town of Buckley and I was close to being on my schedule. Mud Mountain Dam Road intersects with Highway 410 in two places, upper and lower. I would start at the lower end and go to the upper end. It was my hope to reach the upper end by 1:00, but that wasn’t going to happen. No matter, as I called James and let him know where I was. He quickly confirmed that Ed would be at his place shortly and the “hunt” would be on. With that knowledge, I wasted no time in getting moving again. After all, they weren’t going to be far behind me and they were stronger, faster cyclists.

A few minutes later, I found myself on the lower end of Mud Mountain Dam Road. The first part of the road is relatively easy as it meanders through lovely farm land and horse pastures. The tough grade doesn’t come until later, and when it does, it can be gruesome. The hill on Mud Mountain Dam Road is a favorite of cyclists as it normally has little traffic, especially at this time of year, and is a steep climb, great for hill training. There are even a couple of stair steps which provide some respite from the climb. Once done, you have easily climbed 500 feet in the space of just under 2 miles.
Mud Mountain Dam Road

I was pleased once I’d reached the top and didn’t feel too wiped out. I was slow by most standards, but I kept plugging along. In fact, as I approached the hill, another woman cyclist passed me; she climbed the hill with relative ease. I remember being a little envious of her ability, but reminded myself I was also probably 15-20 years older than she was and came into this game rather late in life. Given those conditions, I thought I was doing remarkably well to climb this hill without walking (or tipping over) at an average speed of about 4-5 MPH. As I climbed, I concentrated on trying to keep the pedal stroke even and the cadence as high as possible. I have a triple crank set up front with a 12/27 cassette on the back and I think my average cadence was somewhere around 65-70. Ah, well. Practice, practice, practice, yes? I will say one thing in my favor. I never got out of the saddle. Climbing out of the saddle requires power and power means energy. I was still very early into my ride with a long way to go. The last thing I wanted to do was waste energy trying to climb the hill faster if it meant I would tank later in the ride.

At the top of Mud Mountain is a flat stretch of road before the hit the major highway. But, like the ride from my home to South Prairie, it is deceptive in that it isn’t really flat at all; it is ever so slightly uphill for the next mile. It’s just that after climbing Mud Mountain it seems very flat and is a welcome relief.

Addendum #1
I found this great picture on Google when I did a search for Mud Mountain Dam and wanted to share. It is an example of some of the trees that can be found in the park at Mud Mountain Dam.

When I arrived at the upper end of Mud Mountain Dam Road and the highway, I figured it was a good time to take a break. I called my husband to let him know where I was and that I was in one piece and waiting on my cohorts. Eventually, I saw two riders headed my way. (Oh, and the gal that passed me on the way UP Mud Mountain? Never saw her again. She got WAY in front of me. Maybe one of these days that can be me.) As the riders approached, I hurried to finish what I use as a power bar. When they got close enough, it was evident it was NOT James and Ed. They turned west to go down the hill (fun ride!) towards Enumclaw while I would be turning east towards Greenwater. Not wishing to wait any longer, I started pedaling once again.

Somewhere along the way, I had taken off my cycling jacket and stuffed it in it’s own pocket. But a couple miles into the ride on the highway, the skies got slightly darker, the wind seemed to pick up, and it got chillier. I pulled over, put it back on, and continued on my way.

The views were spectacular along this piece of road. The only detraction was the clear-cutting that blighted the hillsides. Such is the price of progress, I guess. I work in an industry that relies heavily on paper. Without it, I wouldn’t have a job. I suppose I shouldn’t bemoan the destruction of forest land. After all, it is a renewable resource. It’s just that it ruins the scenery.

The highway I was on ran parallel to the river that was formed as a result of mountain glacier and created the natural pass through the mountains. Given all the mild weather we’d had the previous week, the snows were melting rapidly leading to the swollen conditions of many of our rivers. This one, was no exception and it ran fast and furious down the mountainside, the water a slightly milky color from picking up dirt and debris as it tumbled along.

Since this is a highway, there were cars speeding by me doing 50 or 60 mph. I had often used this pass to come home from eastern Washington, frequently preferring it to the more common Snoqualmie pass for both it’s scenic beauty and because it is a less traveled road. The views of Mt. Rainier on the other side of the pass are stunning. And while traffic on this day was light, I still needed to use caution. On my left side were the cars. On my right the ravine that led to the river. In between was the shoulder I was riding on that was littered with debris. As you might imagine, logging trucks come barreling down this stretch of road with their heavy loads and pieces of tree (primarily the bark) flies off. These pieces find their way onto the shoulder where I was riding and can make it hazardous. It isn’t bad, but I had to pay attention to as not to end up in either the road or the ravine. That’s my way of saying I didn’t try to take a picture of the countryside or the river to share with everyone. Besides, I was still trying to stay ahead of James and Ed. I thought it would be fun to hit Greenwater and be there waiting for them when they got there. Well, THAT didn’t happen.

Addendum #2

While I didn't take any pictures, some kind soul out cyberspace did and this is a fine example of the White River just above Mud Mountain Dam and the river to which the highway ran parallel.

I was probably 5 or 6 miles out of Greenwater when I hear something/someone coming up behind me. Eventually, I see a rider to my left and there is James grinning from ear to ear. They had caught the rabbit. We exchanged hellos and he got in front of me. Ed came up along side me next and we did the same thing. By now James was no longer pulling me, but quite a ways in front. Ed took the lead and it didn’t take long before he joined James. At some point, they must have taken pity on me as they slowed down some while I tried to catch up, and we rode the rest of the way into Greenwater.

Once we arrived, our first and only stop was the local store. James informed me their restroom was one of the nicest and cleanest around. I didn’t feel any need to use the facilities, so I simply went into the store for a bottle of Gatorade. I also bought some beef jerky. Sounds weird, I know, but I was craving the salt. I was feeling crusty from my exertion and I didn’t have any salt tablets with me (I couldn’t find them before I left home). I figured the salt in the beef jerky, in addition to the Gatorade would work for me.

I’d also been experimenting, rather successfully so far, with a new (for me)carbohydrate replacement. I’m using a product called Carbo-Pro, which is a tasteless, colorless carbohydrate supplement. Two scoops of this stuff added to you favorite drink and you have an additional 244 calories and 56 grams of carbohydrate. Nothing else. No electrolytes, no protein, no vitamins. Pure carbohydrate. You can add it to any liquid, without changing the consistency of the original liquid, and I put a full serving (two scoops) into my Gatorade. I’d already added half a serving each to my two bottles of Propel (melon-flavored, my favorite). I also took the beef jerky out of it’s bag and put it into my jacket pocket for easy access. Then we were off again and on our way back the way we came.

Now, just for a little perspective, you might note the total elevation change from where I started to where we turned around. I started my ride, some 44 miles earlier, at an elevation of less than 100 feet. I was now at over 1700 feet. That’s 1600 feet of climbing. Granted, that’s only an average two percent grade, but a two percent grade for 44 miles is one very long damn hill! No, it isn’t all uphill, there are downhills in between, but is always going uphill. The first big uphill you see is Dog Hill. The second is Mud Mountain.
Beginning to Turn Around

So, the trip back down promised to be faster than the one up. Initially, I was not disappointed. James started out by taking the lead. I fell in behind James and Ed followed me. We were soon whipping along at better than 20 mph. YEEEEHAAAAW!!! In spite of what seems to be my propensity for flatting and the inherent danger it proposes, I love going downhill fast.

Pretty soon, Ed took over for James and James fell in behind me. Ed upped the intensity a little and we were flying along. Ed kept looking to make sure he hadn’t lost me, but I urged him on to go even faster. When I reviewed my files later on, we covered one of those miles at an average of 24.5 mph. I wish I had the power to go that fast on the flats for a sustained period of time, but for now it eludes me.

After 4 or 5 miles of traveling at these increased speeds, we came to some small inclines. These very same inclines had been downhills for us on our way up the mountain, but were now uphills on our return trip. I was unable to maintain the pace set by Ed. As James was being polite, he was behind me. I told him to go on ahead and I would catch up on the next downhill. I’ll be darned, I never did. While it’s true we were headed downhill, there was enough uphill on the return trip that, when coupled with the headwind I was experiencing, prevented me from traveling any faster. There were times when I think I slowed to 10 or 12 mph. Rats.

James and Ed got far enough in front of me that I could no longer see them. As I approached the cutoff for Mud Mountain I wondered if they had continued on down the main highway or if they turned off onto Mud Mountain. I decided if they weren’t waiting for me at the turn off that I would simply head on into the town of Enumclaw and make my way home from there. I knew the way and it was no big deal, but I had enjoyed the company while it lasted. No sooner had I made this decision than I saw them waiting for me where I had originally waited for them.

I checked behind me for cars and seeing none coming, I moved into the lane of traffic. None were coming at me, either, which left me free to make the left hand turn onto Mud Mountain Dam Road. I kept pedaling and left James and Ed to catch up to me which they did with relative ease. This part was fun as we were able to easily ride three abreast and chat without worrying about traffic. A couple of times, Ed had to shout “CAR BACK” and we would all move over, otherwise it was fine.

As we approached the major downhill section, I asked for advice. On my way up this hill, I’d noticed a few places where the road didn’t look like it was in the best of shape for a fast descent. James noted there were a couple of divots to look out for and there was a gravelly patch or two, but otherwise it was okay.

I allowed James to get in front of me. I thought to follow his lead going down the hill. Mind you, this hill twists and turns. It is not a straight shot. For two miles, it turns first one way, then the other. Some of the corners can be rather blind.

As James started careening down the hill, I took a quick glance at my cyclometer and noticed we were doing over 30 mph. I tried to follow James line down the hill which meant when he moved to the left to follow the apex of the curve, that’s what I did. I still found myself braking down the hill and I absolutely LOVE going downhill fast. But this hill scared me. Maybe in part because it isn’t a straight shot, maybe because I did notice some of the bad parts, and maybe just because I’m gun shy. Or in this case blow-out-flat-shy. When all was said and done, I topped out at almost 40 mph going down the hill. I believe the speed limit for the cars is around 25 mph. So much for obeying the speed limit.

Eventually, we all finally arrived back in Buckley. As we started heading for the road that would take James and Ed back to James’ home, we came upon another cyclist. He had just stopped to possibly attend to some mechanical issue and had hopped back on his bike about the time we all showed up. James was still in the lead, so this other cyclist fell in behind James and I came next with Ed bringing up the rear. What was interesting about out last minute addition, though, was his size and relative age. To my knowledge, none of us yet know his name. We are guessing at his age. We have all seen him on the trail now and again and he usually has a friend with him, another riding buddy. We are guessing he is 12 or 13. Now, it isn’t unusual to see a 12 or 13 year old boy out riding his bike, but it is a bit unusual to see him riding a road bike and wearing spandex like the grown ups. Not only that, but he looks as though he is wearing team colors. And, he is scrawny enough that James said the rubber gripper in his shorts don’t cinch up properly around his thigh. While we laugh about this, we also admire him greatly as he is evidently a dream in the making. For all we know, this young boy is another Lance Armstrong in the making. Maybe one day, when we are older and grayer we can say, “We knew him when…”

The rest of my ride was fairly uneventful. By the time I got to Dog Hill, I was alone and I flew down it anyway. Okay, I admit I hit the brakes around a couple of the curves, but this road has a good deal more traffic on it and I can’t just take up the whole road if I want to.

It was a great ride and I proved to myself I could get up both Dog Hill and Mud Mountain in the same ride. I proved I could go 100 miles, early in the riding season. My nutrition plan seemed to be working. I wasn’t wiped out as I’d been on earlier rides. The introduction of the beef jerky didn’t upset my stomach.

Once I arrived home, I quickly changed shoes and headed out for the 15 minute transition run my coach wanted me to do. I wasn’t thrilled with this idea, but I also know it is a crucial part of the training. If you don’t get used to making that transition during training, doing it while you are racing could be ones undoing.

Finally, I was done and I felt good. What remained to be seen was how good would I feel the next morning when I got up and had to run a half marathon. But for now, I was content to take a shower, eat dinner, and head to bed!. Lights out!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Well, it felt like an invasion.

Wednesdays and Fridays are my swim/bike days. Usually, I do my swimming in the morning at the Y (where they have a wonderful 25 yard saline pool) and will ride in the afternoon. This morning, though, while I got up in time, I was simply not motivated to move quickly enough to get myself to the pool. Instead, I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather we have been having and ride my bike to work.

I had a wonderful ride in. During lunch, I rode into town, grabbed my lunch from the Safeway, and rode back to work. After work, I rode home, after a little detour to add a couple miles to my ride.

That meant I had to swim in the afternoon. I don't like swimming when the pool is crowded with children, so I decided to wait until 9:00 p.m. when I knew all the kids would be clearing out and only the adults were left. When I arrived, there were still a few children/families playing, but there was an open lane, which I took. Within a few minutres, all the kids and parents had left the area. The only people left were a few high school kids and a couple of serious swimmers (me and one other person). This is what I live for. A quiet pool with a lane to myself.

A few minutes later, my solitude was soundly intruded upon. As I approached the end of the lane, I could tell there was someone on deck. I ignored them, did my flip turn and finished the lap. When I returned and got my feet solidly under me and my head out of the water, I saw several oriental men making their way to the kiddie pool. The kiddie pool? Well, whatever, so long as they stay out of my lane.

Not 5 minutes later, a bunch of women showed up! At this point, they all proceeded to congregate in the main pool and they had no compunction about barging into lanes without so much as a by your leave. My Y pool had been invaded by a chinese tour group! And they were really annoying. I mean, one gal had on a swim suit that had sequins on it with a flouncy skirt. C'mon! SEQUINS??? On a bathing suit?

Okay, so I reminded myself to take this as an opportunity to practice mental toughness and focusing skills. I managed the mental toughness in that I did my best to ignore them when they moved into my lane. I tried very hard not to be distracted by them sitting on the bottom of the pool and all the other antics that were going on. Eventually, I lost my concentration. I had no idea where I was in my workout. I no longer knew what set I was on, or even what repetition. I finally gave up and focused everything I had on doing a solid 500.

When I was done, I was supposed to do 6x50 of kicking easy, but I'll be damned. One of them stole my board! I gave up. I got out of the water and approached the lifeguard. I asked her if they had changed the adult lap swim times. She said they had not, that the tour group was just as big a surprise to her. In fact, she went on, normally it was pretty quiet in the pool after 9 p.m.

Well, maybe next time I won't skip out on mymorning swim. Lesson learned.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Bike Riding Progress

Saturday (yesterday), I had the opportunity to actually do a bike ride with my coach. I wasn't alone. This was a group ride. There were about 20 of us of varying levels of fitness and experience. Some riders were faster than others, so they went on ahead. Those of us that were slower stayed closer together. Since Kathryn, Cheryl, my coach, and I were all going to be doing the New Balance Half Ironman together, my coach choose to spend most of her ride time with us. With all of us there, we would be making a day of it. A single loop was 55 miles, a double loop was 110.

To say the loop is hilly is an understatement. After all, it IS an island and islands in the Pacific Northwest aren't known for their flatness. Below is the elevation profile for this particlar ride.

What is significant about this ride, at least for me, was I didn't walk a single hill including the one they referred to as a "knee-popper." Knee popper. Terrific. One of my knees is already bad, and I don't (k)need (okay, bad, bad, pun) to make it worse. Even now, as I sit here and contemplate the 2-1/2 hour run I must still do today, said knee is not terribly happy (it's the one which had surgery a few months ago and also the one that slammed into the pavement during my little mishap a few weeks ago). Ah, well. It is what it is.

All in all, I felt like my ride was a tremendous success. My coach indicated I had made some real progress in my cycling skills since she tested me last December. That was good news to hear. After all, I didn't walk any of the hills. Granted, I went up a few of them at a whopping 4.0 mph, but that was usually only at the steepest part. Some of the downhills were a real rush. I think I maxed at just over 40 mph on one of them. Going down another, I was hitting about 30 mph when a gusty crosswind caught me by surprise and almost blew me over. I'm glad I wasn't aero at that point as I had more control.

There was another time when my coach and I were speeding down a road doing more than 30 mph and we slowed just enough to make a wide left turn. My coach was in front of me and I watched her back tire slide sideways on her. She recovered without falling, but seconds later, I was behind her. I'm happy to say, I had just enough time to slow my momentum down even further, but I still slid a bit, but not so much that I wasn't able to recover. So, twice, in the same day, I had more near catastrophes. I admit I'm just a wee bit skittish these days, but that doesn't seem to stop me from speeding down a hill at over 35 mph. More evidence, of course, as if doing an Ironman wasn't enough, that I should have my head examined.

I'll try to post more pictures later so you can get a sense of the scenery I had to put up with on my ride, but for now, I've got to go do a long run.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Arduous April

Well, it was supposed to be arduous, but after my bike crash, it turned out a little less so. I had hoped to finish the equivalent of a quadruple ironman in April, but that little flat tire I had put a bit of a damper on things. I didn't even meet the goals for a triple (though I came close). Ending numbers look a little like this:

Goals for April
Total to date
Total Hours
16800 y
12100 y
448 m
362.3 m
104.8 m
68.4 m

Basically, after I went down, I was down for the count for the rest of the week. I did manage to get on my bike for a whopping 3 mile ride two days later, but that was just to "get back in the saddle" as it were and to make sure the bike was okay.

Funny story goes with that, though. Pat and I have the same brand and model of bike (Kestrel Talon). Because I didn't have any spare tires around (I didn't just blow a tube, the whole tire blew out!), and since he isn't riding his bike, I, um, "borrowed" the front tire off his bike. Well, of course, his tires were flat, so I had to pump it up. After getting the inflator valve on the tire and pumping it up, I went to take it off and the damn thing sprang back and bit me on the hand giving me a blood blister. Damn! That was just adding insult to injury. So BOTH hands had owies on them. But I rode the bike anyway.

A couple days later, I managed to ride the 4.5 miles in to work, then rode to town and back during lunch for another 6 miles (round trip), then rode 4.5 miles home. I got a total of 15 miles in that day and it felt good to do that, but the hip objected slightly.

Speaking of hip, this is what it looked like a week after it slammed into the pavement (taken as a reflection in my bathroom mirror).

That is a full 6 inches in diameter. Honestly, though, it doesn't hurt nearly as much as what it looks like it should. There is still a lump, even as of this writing, that hasn't gone away. I've seen a doctor, though, and he says I'm doing okay, considering.

However, for the last week in April, I admit to babying myself. Short jogs at work between the copy room and the phone would hurt, so running was out of the question. The abrasions on my hand and knee kept me out of the pool. Cycling was possible, but I was working some long hours (we are doing a software conversion at work), and between sitting on my bum (and on the bruise), for hours at a time, by the time
I would get home, I would be just too exhausted to think about doing anything else.

Had I been able to get in the pool, I would easily have made my quad goal for the swim. Had I been able to finish my ride on Sunday, I would easily have made my quad goal for the bike (especially considering I had another 7 hour ride planned for the following weekend). The run would have been harder to predict, but I had a 3 hour run scheduled for the following weekend (the day after the 7 hour ride), not to mention my regular weekly runs, and believe I would have come in close to a quad on the run.

But, given that I took a full week off in April for my injuries, I don't think I did all that badly. May won't have the same volume as April, simply because the way my schedule works out, I'll have two rest weeks in May and fewer weekends, but it will be no less intense as I'm preparing to peak for the New Balance Half Ironman in Victoria, B.C., in mid-June.