tri times…

said I’d update with times, so here they are:
174 374 T VAN ES PEPPERELL MA 1:40:38 5/8 F3539 136 13:58 2:54 176 47:43 2:00 186 34:05
to interpret, 174 overall, 374 was race number, 1:40:38 time overall, 5/8 in my age group, 136 overall in swim at 13:58 (surprising), 2:54 transition 1 (average for a newbie), 176 overall in bike at 47:43 (need to ride more, shoulda coulda been faster), t2 2:00 (again average for a newbie), 34:05 and 186th overall in run (which is good for me).

Massachusetts State Tri (Sprint)

There was a flash, and then another. My sleep laden mind tried to wrap itself around what was happening. It was a minor miracle I’d been able to fall asleep as normally I am too nervous to sleep well. I heard the peal of thunder and groked what was happening. Oh dear, I thought, as I looked at my phone. I’m supposed to get up and head for the race at 5. A quick check of Wunderground was not promising, lots of red and green. I wondered if they’d make it a duathlon or cancel altogether. I didn’t go back to a full sleep but cat-napped my way through to 5 am. Looking out the window to a steady rain, but no lightning and thunder. Hmm, maybe it was meant to be my tri would be rainy too…. Checking the weather again, it looked like there was a slight window at the race location where no storms would hit. I went into the bathroom and got ready, giving Aaron just a few more moments of sleep. All my gear was packed minus the drinks and the bike, so we had an efficient departure by 5:50 am. With the GPS, we were able to arrive at the location by 6:50, so almost exactly 1 hr drive. I snacked on a few blueberries and gatorade on the way in, about as much as I could get down, and was relieved that at no time did I feel like throwing up. A small step in the right direction.
As we approached the park, I was stunned to see the entire lot full with triathletes and bikes. I’ve swum and biked around this park before, and never seen it more than 1/2 full. The races were in their 2nd year (Sprint and Oly at the same time) and the first year had drawn 200 or so; it looked to be at least double that present. At least it looked like the race was going to go off, so I quietly set about getting my packet, body marked, set up the transition area, and even put on my wetsuit to “reaquaint” with the water.
I am definitely still not “comfy” in a lake swim, particularly with others in a competing format, and it takes me a few minutes to coax myself into swimming. I can do freestyle for laps on end in a pool (slowly, but still…), but in the lake I find myself often popping the head up with several breast strokes before going back to free. I am sure it’s because I am not as familiar with lakes, and the only time I ever swam in one as a kid in Wisconsin, I thought it was pretty gross. Never liked the ocean either. I don’t know anyone to OWS with around here, so my time has been limited to when I can drag someone along (these have been mostly non-swimmers) to watch me swim but never going very far from the shore.
Anyway I am digressing, but although I did a lot of slow breaststroke, I was pretty relaxed the whole way through, just following the others. Slowly I passed a few people in my wave (I pretty much started at THE back), and then even caught a few in earlier waves. The course was a triangle format so after rounding the last buoy I sighted on the beach and tried to do as much freestyle as possible back to shore. Exited the water feeling very good, and smiled at my husband by the mats. Ran to the bike, popped off the wet suit, dried a bit, put on the cleats, helmet, sunglasses, and I was off. No food, no gloves, no socks. I did have gloves and socks stashed in an “emergency” bag. I felt great on the bike and mostly passed others, though I was passed by a few really fast people on tri bikes, probably from the olympic waves which started just after mine. I was trading spots with one woman a few times, and we even hit t2 together. There were two climbs of note, and for the longest I did put into the small ring to try and preserve my legs for the run. But overall I felt I had a very solid ride over the course. Back at transition, I hopped off the bike, headed over to my rack, fought with my cleats which have an annoying habit of sticking on the ratcheting strap, shoved feet into shoes, grabbed hat and gu, and off. Again, no socks.
I was feeling a little hungry now so I had a little gu at a time while running, and a swig of gatorade at the 2nd water stop. I don’t think this strategy (not eating/drinking more) will work as well for the olympic I am doing in a month, with the longer distances. I’ll have to ponder this some. Although I had bike legs for the first little bit and have not done bricks recently, I pretty quickly settled into a run pace that I was comfortable with. The garmin was all over the map with paces from 9:30 to 12:00 so I am not sure if I was really varying my speed that much but there were two major improvements over my last triathlon. 1. I ran the whole way. 2. I think I *may* have run a strong 5k, and this after 2/3rds of a race! I will have to see when the split times come out. I finished focused, happy, and relaxed, and on that basis alone it was a great race. I had to look around for Aaron at the finish and he was surprised to see me, guess he thought I’d be in later.
My clock time coming in was 1:49, which I admit to being surprised by, I felt great during the whole race. This translated to a 1:40 adjusted time but I’ve no idea of the splits yet. I will update the entry once I know them. I had a 1:39 for my 1st tri last fall, but walked most of the 5k, and also had slower transitions… so I’m not sure how to compare, if I even can.
Also, AO didn’t get too many pictures, since the camera battery died too….

Adirondack ride, 2008.

I try to do several area rides when we are in the ‘Daks – these are time and weather permitting, and this trip we only had one real good opportunity to go for a ride, which was Monday. With the long wet Sunday in Lake Placid, we were not sure if it’d be dry enough to even ride, but if it was, we had a route picked out to maximize the time and scenery. I’d driven part of it last summer, and the rest on a drive on Saturday when we got to the area. Saturday I did a 3mile run near the base of Whiteface.
Monday was bright and sunny, though with the chance of rain we were both smart and brought our rain jackets. We had the bikes, gear, and ourselves ready to go by 9:30 or so, so we headed left from the campsite into town. Riding on 86 is somewhat nerve wracking, because while the car traffic was expecting cyclists, and are tolerant on race weekend (after all, many are racer posses), it is still a windy, narrow, fast road with wear and tear on the sides. I just tried to stay focused on riding a clean line into town, where we’d get to the much quieter roadways. After the stop, we headed out onto Bonnie View which is a shady, low traffic road which climbs upward but in no dramatic fashion – just a steady slow burn…

We stayed on this road for about 8 miles. Near the end, we passed two young men in classic cross country skate motion with roller skis. We’d seen this in the area before. At the top was a man with a stopwatch, and a parked van. As we rolled by, we observed the Olympic ring logos and US insignia – these were guys from the Olympic cross country development team! Very cool! There was another skier on the next road we turned onto, which was more open to the sun, but still climbing at that consistent upward pace with a few rollers mixed in. To either side were views of rock and forest mountains, and it felt like we were truly in high country.

Since we knew this route had virtually no towns to stop, we each had many Gu’s, bloks, and two full bottles. Our one chance for more water was at the Silver Lake private campground, where we stopped to rest, and Aaron refilled. This lake is nestled right in a bend of the road, and it is a classic mountain lake, like the others we passed on this route. Only the campsites stuck out and detracted from the view, but yet there couldn’t be a better location for such peaceful endeavors.
Back on the bike, we passed the road sign which actually warned of… bears? moose? ice? No, none of these – it warned of driveways. I guess you can get on roads where they can surprise the motorist up there. Not too long after this, we stopped for photos at Union Falls. Here’s Aaron:

We saw a man and woman walking, and the woman asked if we planned a route avoiding mountains because they wanted to ride around here too. Aaron was right when he later said we should have told them were actually looking for them, but I joked about driving in the area instead…
Another little section of rollers, then a left onto Franklin Falls road. This was where we had the company and annoyance of many biting flies. Climbing, we could not outrun them, and even in descending, a new group would find us quickly. Basically anything under 18 mph or so, they would stick with us.
Otherwise, this was a lovely forested road in pretty good condition, and not a main road so we didn’t see any cars for a long time. We only passed a few homes, it was mostly just forest. The road winds back down to Franklin Falls, which picks up a road we’re familiar with from prior years. To get back to Wilmington, we needed to head uphill again, this time on the back ridges of Whiteface. This is the steepest climb over length I have done anywhere, and I did finally have to hop off and walk the same section I had trouble with last year. When you’re down to no gears left and 3 mph there isn’t much choice… Later, number crunching tells us that it’s a 14% grade at this point. I took solace in that I’d already done more miles and climbing on this ride than in years past, and I certainly haven’t done as much riding over the season. Aaron though took it pretty well, since he’d already logged hundreds of hilly miles via the B2B and Trans NH in June.
It also started to rain, just in time for our descent to Wilmington. I mentioned earlier this is the road to Whiteface mtn. We pulled on our jackets. This is a straight descent on overall good pavement, but I still don’t like to just let the bike go unless I see a “run out” i.e. a flat or uphill section where the speed will slow of its own accord. I need to work on this….
Add in the steady rain, which had water sheeting of the side of the pavement, and I was feathering my brakes the whole way, and my hands hurt. Aaron too was on his brakes, probably because of me, but in any case, we both noticed our rims were warm at the bottom, and my legs were caked in brake dust by the bottom.
One last section on the narrow and busier 86 again, which has an uphill climb back to the campground, and I was cooked. I sat in the rain at the picnic table, my legs quivering, for a good five minutes, before getting up to help Aaron corral the wet gear and bikes.
Total, ~41 miles, 3200 ft of climbing.
After showering, we headed into LP and ended up walking the perimeter of Mirror Lake. Though it seems counterintuitive, it helped keep my legs loose. We even were able to watch the weekly summer sprint tri held by the local cycle shop, and I snapped a few photos. Went back to the campground, and had a big fire.
This left just one thing to do – swim. Tues AM we packed up and were in Lake Placid by 9:30 or so. It was another sunny morning, rainy afternoon type day, so Aaron sat in a chair while I psyched myself up to go swim. This is one of the few places I can swim in a wetsuit without getting stared at, but I also didn’t feel prepared enough to swim out on the course which is marked by cabled buoys. Instead, I swam to the sprint buoy and back twice, as well as floated around in the wetsuit. I hadn’t practiced with it since last September, so I had to get over the initial constrictions and tightness for a little while, before being relaxed enough to just swim.
We walked around town some more, got a coffee, then headed home via backroads. This is a picture I took just before we left…

While we have yet to go to the Adirondaks and not get rained on to varying degrees during a trip, it is the sunshine on a beautiful lake and mountains I always remember best, just like in this photo.

IM USA 2008 – Suffering and love: Part 1

Every year I’ve gone to Ironman USA I’ve learned or seen something new about the sport, and maybe about myself too. The first year, it was a curiosity factor – I had no emotional attachment to the race or triathlon, but I guess you could say it got me interested. Last year, I’d gotten more interested and was there to volunteer. It seemed to be about joy – the joy of competing, the joy of finishing, the joy of the moment… I was caught up in it and even did my first tri two months later.
This past Sunday, the lessons meted out at IMLP were twofold – suffering and love. We got up early race day, and took our backroads route into the parking area we knew we could get access to. This had a slight positive of giving us access to the car during the day, but with the road closures it still isn’t easy to get around. So we’d planned to spend the day in Lake Placid. My ideal day would have been to watch the swim start, wander around a bit, have a bite, then go down to the lake and make a base camp for swimming, with good access to the bike and run courses. After some time, heading out to have a nice dinner, then campfire etc. We’d mapped out our “monster” ride for the day after the race (more on that later).
The skies were overcast which has a cooling effect, unlike the prior year where it’d been quite warm throughout the day and few clouds. I thought to myself, not so bad for racing. We went down to the lake side and were able to hear the cannon go off for first the pros, then the main field. The race was on, and we watched the thousands of churning arms and legs advancing along the buoys. Just then we felt a drop of water, and another, and another. Maybe it would stop, I thought, because I couldn’t imagine the alternative.
Cycling in the LP area is for me boundary pushing. The climbs are long and sometimes VERY steep, views jaw dropping, and descents heart pounding. Maybe more experienced cyclists take all these things in stride, but for me, I am still learning how to put it together in those kinds of conditions.
For those training on the Ironman loop prior to or after race day, cars and trucks add an extra concern. The bike course is one of the hardest IMs out there for sheer brutal nature – I’ve heard this from people who have done multiple IM courses, and from books, and from the actual profile of the bike course that can be found online. And I’ve seen it with my own eyes, so I’ve no reason not to believe this.
The seven or so mile descent from LP to Keene happens along a twisty, windy road. It has its share of roughed up bumps, two lane traffic with no shoulder in areas, and a rusty metal guardrail beyond which is a drop to the river below. It gives me a pit in my stomach to see cyclists flying down, and I haven’t had any desire to follow suit. It looks anything but fun to me. That said, I see many people making the loop successfully even with the traffic, and on race day, thankfully one lane is just for the cyclists, and vehicle traffic restricted by the heavy police presence etc. It seems like there are always cyclists on the IM course when I am up there, with heaviest use on the days leading up to race weekend but mostly people not competing that year.
On the opposite side of the loop is the way up, a prolonged several mile climb with no recovery areas. I don’t know what the grade is, but it’s steep enough. It will burn the quads and those headed up on the climb always look haggard halfway or more up. This road, by the way, continues on up to Whiteface.
The sections of the course I have done are more varied, some with steady climbs but always with areas to recuperate somewhat. 9N has a nice clean shoulder in most areas, which makes it easier to enjoy some of the scenery. I have not ridden what I think are therefore the two hardest sections. Ok, back to race day, now that I’ve covered the course. By the way, all of this assumes nice weather.
Ironman USA 2008 did not have nice weather.
Imagine you have paid thousands of dollars in gear and entry fees, trained for a year with long rides and runs that may leave you little energy to do anything else, made a race plan, traveled with friends and family in tow, and have all the positive outlook for an ideal race. Now, race morning, crumple up that race plan and throw it out the window, because as you exit your swim ready for your 112 mile extremely challenging ride, you quickly figure out your 2008 IM race will take place in a full on 15 hour downpour that prompts flash flood warnings.
Where do you find the motivation to go on?
I found myself wondering this over and over. I’ve ridden in the rain, both on days I was prepared to (at least, having a jacket with me), and days I was not (sudden dark sky and down it comes). It’s not real fun. If you’ve got glasses on, they fog and get coated with droplets. If you do not, the water streams down your face. Cars splash you, the brakes get soft, tire traction is not ideal, and you are cold and and wet. I often can’t even feel my bike shorts in the rain because they are clinging to me so much. The water runs down my legs into my socks and soon my feet are soaking too. And I’ve never set out to do a long ride in the rain.
So, the suffering of IM2008 was borne on the faces of cyclists coming through, and later at the bike to run transition. There was a firm collective gritting of teeth and focus to get through what they had to. As a cyclist, I found it hard to put myself in their shoes, because I’m not sure what would make that worth it to me. I can’t describe just how sloppy it was, but as an example, spectators were standing in ankle deep water along the bike course at points. There wasn’t any hanging out along main street, and only a small row of onlookers under umbrellas along the course gates. As the riders went by, their back tires left a rooster tail of water spray. Even worse for the guys who brought their disc rear wheels, great for nicer weather (and I’d think flatter courses), but it’s like the saying of bringing a knife to a gun fight – the wrong tool for the day. We didn’t take any pictures.
I don’t mean to say everyone was miserable – they surely seemed appreciative just the same of their friends and family in town. Out on the bike course (we happened to drive some of it later) it was a little different though – with only their own thoughts to keep the feet going.
I’ll never say there is an “easy” way to do a full Iron distance triathlon, from my vantage point as just an onlooker. It requires too much of oneself to get through the months of training and finally race day. But this was a shared experience in suffering. In my book the 2008 competitors – and crowd too – were ready to go beyond themselves to be there in the moment. I’m not sure where else I’d see such a display.
Which brings me to the second lesson of the day – love. I have learned more over the last year about the sacrifices made for one person to realize an Ironman goal. There’s some effect of this on any triathlete, cyclist, or even serious athlete in general, but Ironman distance is 3 endurance races in one, and training is effectively a part time job with no pay.
Spouses, kids, parents, friends… many have paid the price along the way to support the person getting to the start in the first place. In gifts of gear, in gifts of time to train, in gifts of taking on more themselves. An Ironman is an individual accomplishment but never achieved as an individual, if this makes any sense. And on top of paying the day to day price, here these family and friends all are, standing and yelling, clapping, waving signs, wearing their shirts, standing for hours in the rain, in ankle deep water, all for a few glimpses of the athlete as he or she passes by in just a few seconds.
That’s more than dedication – it is love.
Part 2 which will be a write up of our (my?) 3rd annual Lake Placid area “monster” ride hopefully tomorrow…

Chicks out to run, and our cockerel crowing…

Most of the weekend was on chicken related items. I did not swim, bike, or run to my dismay – kinda have myself to blame for this but I guess the good news is the chicks are in their coop and run now. The weather was hot and I got too much sun too early, and that didn’t do great things for my energy levels…
We finished most of the list left to go, including: sticking and stapling down the vinyl tiles (which has made the chicks go ice skating once or twice), finishing the door frame, building the roost, attaching door latches (on exterior), throwing up some cheap-o bird net until the good stuff gets here, attaching two brackets for the food and water to be suspended, reattaching the ramp, etc. We did not find a good latch/system for the pop door yet so we will need to find something suited pretty soon. I also lined 1/4th of the coop perimeter with rocks,gave the chicks yogurt, and got the sunburn. Also mowed the lawn. And somehow, that is my weekend. I didn’t do as much as I could have, but we made progress. Did not do any garden work or pick-your-own, and it’s raspberry and blueberry season…
I cleaned out the old brooder but still have a ways to go before reclaiming the office – not sure when and how I’ll do this.
Anyway, today Aaron dug out the digital recorder – we captured Charlie crowing (ok, he’s not great at it, but he’s getting there), and then I recorded some “chick talk” which was actually several of the chicks as they walked around the run.
So, instead of pictures (I have some of those coming too):
Charlie crowing
and
Chickens talking

Grillied Salsa verde

I was in the mood tonight to grill a few things. So, I whipped up a grilled salsa verde to be served on white corn chips.

5 medium tomatillos
1/2 vidalia onion
1 red pepper
2 ears of corn

Peel Tomatillos, cut an x on the bottom.
Cut pepper in 1/2 and remove seeds.
Cut your 1/2 of onion into 2 sets of rings, and put on bamboo skewer to keep from falling apart.
Cut ends off of unhusked corn. Pull of leaves of husk until only 2-3 remain.

Coat everything but the corn in a bit of olive oil, to enhance browning.
Grill all items over high heat until well browned.
The red pepper’s skin should be easy to peel, the tomatillos should be blistered and peel able as well. The onion will get nice and soft and show good grill marks.
As the corn nears done, carefully husk the remaining leaves, and brown the kernels.

Peel red pepper, peel tomatillos, dice onion, and remove kernels from cob.
Mix and server. Can be refrigerated for up to a week.

Those tiny little french pancakes.

Crepezagna!

I made a batch of savory crepes this week, and combined them with some some of my favorite summer ingredients for a fresh summer dinner.

1 cup – all-purpose flour
salt
3 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tbsp melted butter

Add wet ingredients to a blender, slowly add dry. The batter should be thin.
Allow to rest 30 minutes while you prepare the other toppings.

Toppings:
1 tomato sliced thin.
7 leaves of basil – chiffonade
1/4 cup shredded cheese
1/4 cup sauted button mushrooms
1/4 cup goat cheese
3-4 table spoons of sour cream
2-3 table spoons of milk

Wisk the goat cheese, sour cream, and milk until smooth. May require more milk to make a spreadable mix.

When crepes come out of the pan, layer in a 9inch round cake pan, alternating layers of spread, tomatoes, cheese, mushrooms, basil. Pressing each layer to ensure a tight stack.
When all the crepes are stacked, refrigerate until thoroughly chilled (30 mins-1hr). Turn out onto a plate, and slice like a pie.

Long weekend and progress

We are continuing to progress… Aaron spent a lot of time (2 days) on the coop, putting up the boards and wire for fencing. This included trenching and putting down the hardware cloth. He also built a door which now just needs a latch and top hardware cloth. I didn’t do much, but did finish up the paint job. Here’s the punch list:
-Rocks around the base
-Flooring down in coop
-Door latch and finishing
-Securely attach bird netting for coop top
-Kick board for pine shavings
-Pop door latch
-Roosts
Basically a lot of little things. I really hope we finish it this weekend because they are getting squeezed in the brooder. I’m letting them roost on the top tonight, and they’ve gotten outside play time every day this week but even so I don’t like them enclosed for so long, and I can’t leave them flapping around during the day…
Our freezer is on its way, and I’ve been freezing raspberries (4 or 5 quarts so far) since they are fresh in season now. I hope to pick again this weekend. We’ll have our meat birds at months’ end too.
Here’s a picture of the wild raspberries I gathered from our driveway:

Unfortunately, they molded in a day since I had put a cover on it (I know, my fault).
Here’s a picture of the coop in it’s nearing completed state:

Sorry to be short, but I have a lot of topics running around my head I hope to blog on soon!

First steps…

Many new parents are so excited to tell you about how thier 17 month old is taking it’s first steps, or speaking it’s first words. Well, as ‘farmers’ we were both very excited this morning when Charlie, our very young rooster made his first attempts at a crow. It’s not bad for a first attempt I have to admit, as I’ve heard a few recorded from the chicken forum. If I get ambitious, I’ll bring the digital recorder out tomorrow am, and try to capture it in all it’s glory.

Productive day…

Well, with an unexpected day off from my company I tried to make the most of it. I had to take AJ to the vet for a test in the morning, and the drive is now a bit longer so dropped her off and came home. I let the chickens out and started weeding around the house. The former owners have a lot of beautiful landscaping but I do find it hard to keep up, especially when house landscaping work is one of the lowest priority. After I got warm, I went to sit with the chickens and be their hawk spotter (saw at least one). Two of the chicks actually came up to me, let me pick them up, and stroke them. They didn’t stay long but I’ll take that as a success. For the record, I am not expecting pet behavior, but having one or two who like my attention would be ok too. After I rounded up the chickens, I headed back inside to do some laundry & internetting…
Headed back out to pick up the kitty after her tests were done, and got ready to go for a run. By then, the sky was darkening but I figured I could probably make it… the first half of the run I was boiling hot and my pace was definitely off. Mostly a factor of the humidity, but I also didn’t eat much today. Anyway, the skies continued to darken and at mile 3 the rain came. But it felt great and though it was pouring and I was fully soaked, I have to say I was really enjoying myself. I loved the smell of the rain, and feeling the weather changing from the humid muck to a pleasant cool… coming back up to the house it was raining so hard that water was gushing out of the downspout which by the driveway creates almost a waterfall, as it’s not down to the ground, and I put my head under it. Cool, like a mountain stream, and I just let the heat and sweat wash away. Maybe I should time more of my summer runs to end with downpours…