ukiah race weekend

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ukiah tri this past weekend -- in other words, my official one-year triathlon anniversary.

Remember Lake Mendocino and how much it scared me a year ago? It's nice to come back and not think about drowning. Asthma, however, was another story. The smoke in the photo was from a fire in Lake County. It's burned more than 4,000 acres since Friday and is 50 percent contained, last I checked.

But race organizers said there was no smoke in the valley, so the tri took place as planned. And I soon discovered Ukiah is either (a) people's very first tri ever, or (b) a wind-down, end-of-the-season race for everyone else. If you're in the latter category, Ukiah then becomes a competition to see who has trained the least. Conversations typically go something like this: "I haven't [swam / biked / ran] at all since Vineman!"

And because of this mutual lack of training, it is completely OK to spend the night before the race at a winery blending party with fellow triathletes, doing things such as:



I won that hat in the raffle. Hey, I may not see a podium, but who cares when you can get a free hat, right? Ha!

Perhaps not surprisingly, even though I stayed at a motel literally five minutes from the starting line, I barely made it to the water in time for my wave the next morning. And upon entering the water, I discovered my swim cap was sealed shut, and when I tried to rip it open, I tore the entire back of the cap. And since there was no time to ask for a replacement, I had to strap it to my head with my goggles and try really hard to ignore the fact that it was awkwardly flapping open.

The water was choppier than normal. And the sun was blinding. And since I missed the pre-race meeting, I had no idea which direction I was supposed to swim. I tried to follow the group, but bright pink swimcaps look remarkably similar to bright orange buoys, especially when you're squinting through drops of water. But before I knew it, the swim was over, and I was stripping off the wetsuit and getting on my bike.

As usual, a million people passed me. And the first person I passed (in fact, one of a grand total of five) was a 15-year-old girl on a pink beach cruiser. (Hey, at least I passed her.) I played leapfrog with a guy from Texas who used Texas as an excuse for hating hills. I saw monks in flowing mustard-colored robes walking along the side of the road. I cheered for people I knew, most of whom were -- of course -- already on their way back while I was still headed to the turnaround. (Note to self: Work on cycling.)

As I left T2, a friend started pacing me, but I was too confused to recognize her at first and spent several minutes wondering: Who the hell is this woman running with me and why does she keep talking to me? She asked me how I was feeling. I said: "Like there's something stuck up my butt."

Her response: "Well, whatever it is, now is not the time to let it out."

After the race, we hugged and I thanked her. I also ran into my swim coach, whom I later discovered was the top overall female finisher. And then I saw this guy:

He was sitting on the ground in T2, bellowing like a donkey because his left calf was cramping so badly. Meanwhile, his friends were laughing hysterically and trying to convince me to film him with my phone. I'm only semi-horrible and took a photo. (I did wait until the bellowing stopped.)

Of course, what's a race without the celebratory post-finish meal? After I packed up, I went to Jyun Kang, a vegan restaurant in the City of 10,000 Buddhas, home to a Chinese Zen Buddhist temple.

And after the meal, which was absolutely delicious, I found myself in the middle of a fang sheng ceremony, with monks releasing pheasants.

Nice way to spend an anniversary, no?

And the race results weren't half-bad, either.

Ukiah 2012
Swim: 22:04
T1: 3:17 (with a wetsuit)
Bike: 1:26:53
T2: 1:39
Run: 24:17
Total: 2:18:12

Ukiah 2011
Swim: 32:28
T1: 2:36 (no wetsuit)
Bike: 1:33:33
T2: 1:14 (no shoe change)
Run: 26:45
Total: 2:36:36

swim breakthrough

Thursday, September 06, 2012

For the first time ever, something a swim coach said about technique actually made sense. In the past, I've struggled with conflicting philosophies on how I should be swimming, and I never knew who to listen to or what to follow. One person wanted me to swim with shorter but quicker strokes. Another wanted me to swim long. Someone else suggested shallower strokes. I tried it all, and nothing felt quite right. I just became more and more confused.

That changed tonight when Coach Karen pulled me aside during masters and told me I've been over-reaching with my stroke and crossing over diagonally. She said: "Imagine you're on a paddleboard and you want to reach out in front of you. And then imagine that while you're doing this, you're trying to reach over a barrel."

And I understood what she was telling me.

And suddenly I was swimming faster and more efficiently -- enough so that I kept touching the toes of the person swimming in front of me. And I actually led a set tonight, too, which never happens since I am usually the slowest person in the class.

I ended up swimming 2,650 yards, or a little more than 1.5 miles. I practiced breathing out of both sides. And I didn't struggle or feel desperate. It was absolutely awesome.

Of course, I was ravenous afterward.

I guess that's what happens when you swim farther and faster!

707 shoutout, on motivation

This is completely wine-geeky. Yet awesomely hilarious. "If you have a small wiener, drink Grüner Veltliner!" Seriously. Genius.


In other news, I'm officially in marathon mode. It took awhile, but I'm finally running regularly again -- and enjoying it. And my last long run wasn't half bad -- 16 miles on Sunday at a 10:09 average pace. Yes, I realize this is ridiculously slow compared to all those speedsters out there (clearly, I'm nowhere near qualifying for Boston at this point in time), but considering I averaged an 11-minute-plus pace in my last three marathons, 10:09 is kind of a miracle.

So what helped me get motivated?

  • Running with friends. Not only does this make you accountable (no flaking!), but when you're running with friends, you tend to run better because you don't want to look like a big, lazy (and in my case this past weekend, slightly hungover) wimp. Also, the conversation makes the miles go by faster.
  • A training plan. I realize I've been anti-plan so far this year -- just kind of made things up as I went along for Vineman and didn't train at all for Water to Wine (huge mistake). For New York, I felt I had to create a real plan. Yes, it's malleable, and the weekday workouts tend to change due to work and other commitments. But I've scheduled all of my weekend long runs with target mileage, and I've noted where and when I want to start increasing intensity. It's not a strict plan, but it's a pretty good set of guidelines.
  • Fall weather. Yes, the days are getting shorter. But I absolutely love the cool mornings. Fifty degrees, overcast and slightly misty? Perfect running weather in my book. 
  • Reading about running. This is extremely dorky, but going through the copies of Runner's World I've let pile up in the bedroom has helped. (Also, why spend the money to subscribe to Runner's World if you're not actually going to run?) Plus I picked up Chrissie Wellington's book from the library, and I'm on the waitlist for Scott Jurek's.
  • Cross-training. After taking two weeks off from the pool, I went back to masters swim on Tuesday. It was brutal. (Um, kickboard for 10 minutes straight at the end of class? My legs were burning!) But I love mixing up my workouts -- keeps things interesting, helps me avoid injury and makes me feel like I do other things besides just run all the time.

Got any other tips for motivation? Share them in the comments! (There, does that make me sound like a "real" blogger? Ha!)


And one final exciting update: I'm getting a new bike. It's a Cervélo S5, and it's currently on backorder (largely due to the fact that no bike store ever has my size, which is pretty much midget-size). The new baby should be here in a few weeks. I'll be sure to post some proud mommy photos when she arrives.
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