Sunday, July 22, 2012

Racing for a Geode

Last weekend was my second of four Olympic distance races this year, Lake Geode Challenge Triathlon.  Again, we camped for the weekend.

This was the first year Wes and I have done the race.  I’ve heard great things about it, and had signed up for it a few years ago but had to sell my entry (I love races that allow you to do that).  It’s mid-July in Iowa, so the race is known for being HOT!  It’s been warmer in years past, but it was still steamy for us.

Friday night we pulled in to the park, found some water to fill up our tank (didn’t think to fill it up prior to leaving the house since we didn’t have on-site water), parked the camper, and then headed to Burlington for packet pickup with Ebe.  Getting our info was quick and easy.  I found out there were three waves, and the women would be all together.  There’s money for the top finishers, so having all the women together makes it much easier to see where I’m at throughout the race.

Back at camp we grilled up some dinner with the Meaney’s who were camping near us.  It was pretty late by the time we got to bed, but that’s usually how it goes. 

Race day brought our standard breakfast with coffee.  As we were packing up the truck to head over to the race start, Shawn stopped by to let us know he wouldn’t be racing due to a flat tire and loss of ambition, but he’d still cheer us on.

We arrived just as transition was opening.  The body marking area was a bit slow going, but we had plenty of time before the race start.  The start to both the bike and run were uphill, so I took my bike out for a quick ride to make sure it was geared correctly.  With a few minutes left before the pre-race meeting, I put on my Xterra Speedsuit (first time wearing it this year) and did a quick warmup.  I had heard the water can be pretty nasty, but they have been working on it the past few years.  It didn’t bother me besides that it felt like bath water.  The official water temp was 83.

The waves were 3 minutes apart.  The start was an in-water start, and most people could touch the bottom so you didn’t have to tread water.  One of my current teammates (Stacey Jackson) and one former teammates (Jen Parker) were also racing.  There were both to the right of me, and all the other women to the left.  As soon as we started, the three of us were quickly ahead of the others.  By the turn buoy I could tell that I had a bit of a lead on them.  The race was paying $25 for the fastest swim, bike, and run times, so I was trying for those in addition to the overall cash (and really cool plaque).  

Swim exit

T1 could have been a bit smoother.  I really should work on getting out of the speedsuit before I have to use it again.

The bike was somewhat hilly, similar to the big pig and Kansas 70.3.  A few flat areas, but more hill than flat.  I took the bike out too hard to begin with.  When I looked at my powermeter, my watts were where I should be for a sprint, not an Oly, so pulled back a little. 

There is a little out and back section a few miles from the end that is all hill and curve.  Thankfully you didn’t turn around at the bottom of the hill, but instead partway up the next hill.  This was the first time I could see where I stood against the other women.  A bit after the turnaround I saw Stacey and that was it for the women.  I’m not a great runner, but I was pretty sure I had enough room between us that she wouldn’t catch me.

Getting ready for T2

The run was hilly with a few flat areas.  A few of the hills were steep, but the rest were gentle enough that when you ran down them you could actually run and not spend the energy trying to stop yourself from running too fast.  The hill just out of transition is one of the longest on the course.  Great way to start the run :(  Being that it’s usually a very warm race, the aid stations were every 3/4 of a mile instead of every mile.  They were well stocked with Gatorade, cold water, sponges, ice in little baggies, and several volunteers.  At the first one I grabbed two sponges and put them on my shoulders, and picked up a baggie of ice.  My only complaint of the race was not having the option of a cup of ice so I could just toss it in my bra and grab out a piece as needed.  It was kind of a pain to the get Ziploc open while moving forward.  Other than that, the race was VERY well run. 

Loving the sponges!

The run was an out and back.  At the turnaround I found out that I had over a half-mile lead.  With about 3 miles left, it was really unlikely that I would be caught, so just ran it in.  The guy’s race on the other hand was a mad dash to the finish.  I was grateful to not have to push myself on those hills in the heat!

Almost done
The finish line consisted of getting my chip off, having a volunteer had me a cold water, another volunteer wrapping a cold towel around my neck, the option of getting into one of two kiddie pools with ice water, or grabbing an ice cream cone.  Nice!  Before hoping in the cold water, I did a couple quick interviews (this has been a new experience for me this year).


I still wasn’t ready for the ice cream, but loved that it was at the finish line! 

After Wes finished up, I showered and changed clothes, had some of the post-race food including an ice cream cone and LOTS of watermelon, and hung out with friends until the awards ceremony. 

I ended up winning the fastest swim and bike, and the fastest overall woman awards.  I finally got a geode to take home with me.  A great way to start my birthday.

Awesome award!

In all, the race was extremely well run.  The amount and helpfulness of the volunteers was amazing.  I would definitely like to do this race again.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

July Garden Update

It’s been a trying season for the garden so far, but we’re doing our best to keep it alive.  Receiving only 25% of our average rainfall, the 1000-gallon cistern has emptied twice now and the rain barrels three times.  The record-setting heat hasn’t helped any either.

The spring started off well with a lot of our bulbs we planted last fall coming up and looking beautiful! 

Tulips, Hyacinthus, and a random bulb

We had also worried that our garlic bulbs were rotting in the ground, but they quickly emerged as well, and a few weeks early.


 We were very excited to try out the greenhouse this spring, and it worked out really well.  Wes installed a baseboard heater that would turn on if it got too cold.  When it gets too warm, the greenhouse came with a vent that would open and a fan would turn on.  Much fancier than our old, cheap greenhouse.  We started several varieites of seeds.  The tomatoes did well as usual, as did the peppers and eggplant.

Tomatoes - 11 different varieties

Peppers, eggplant, and a few other random things

Like all the previous years, we tore out more grass to make room for additional veggies.  I hope this is the last time renting the sod cutter.  Not much left of our yard to cut out.



Each area that we mulch means more mulch to spread, and more weeding for me to do.    Thankfully with each year that we mulch the weeds become less in that area.  I have a few spots that are still a bit troublesome, so they got another layer of mulch today.

Weeds :(

June rolled around as did the start of the heat and the end of the rain.   The grass around the main garden is just starting to turn brown.

June Garden

But, I was still able to harvest some veggies early on...beets, onions, carrots, green beans, and blackberries.

First 'large' harvest

The garlic was ready a few weeks earlier than last year.  42 heads this year, up from 25 last year.  We ran out after only a few months, so made sure to plant extra this year so we would have some of our own to plant in the fall.


It's not July and still praying for rain.  Even a little bit will help fill our cistern so we don’t have to use water from the house.  We’re not a huge fan of grass, and would really like to not have to water it.  At least everyone’s looks just as brown as ours.

July Garden

To help keep the patio a bit cooler, we put up a sun sail shade.  If it doesn't get below 90 even a shade isn't going to be enough to make it enjoyable to be outside.  

Sun Sail Shade...and Wes watering and watering and watering...

I’m very curious what the rest of the summer will bring.  Hoping for cooler temps (at least they dropped today finally) and more rain.  I’m just glad I’m not training for an Ironman in the heat we have had!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Start of the 2012 Racing Season

It’s been a busy spring!  Between training, working in our garden and yard, and working on a garden at my office, I haven’t had much time to relax.  My goal for this year was to relax and have fun, but I was only getting in the later.  Since the beginning of May, my weekends have either consisted of playing in the garden or racing.   I just haven’t had the motivation to train on weekends, so my expectations for the summer races was low.   I decided this year to race sprint and Olympic distance races.  This was the first summer in several years not doing a half-ironman.

The first race of the year was Kansas City 5150.  I wanted to find a race that I could use to qualify for the championship waves of the Hy-vee 5150.  Originally we were going to race Memphis in May, but in December I found out that the Kansas City race had been acquired by WTC.  I did a bit of research on the race and we signed up!  Entry price at the time was only $50 (very cheap) and the top 5 in each age group won free entry into the Hy-Vee race.

KC 5150 was an Olympic race with a one loop swim, two loop bike, and two loop run.  After the 5150 waves started, the sprint distance took off for their swim, and one loop each of the bike and run, so we were on the course at the same time.   By the time I got to the run, I had no idea where I was in my age group.  A few people with my age group on the calf passed me, and I had hoped they were in the sprint distance race.  Most were, but one was not, and she won our age group.  I was very happy with my second place finish.  

Two weeks later was the Pigman Sprint triathlon in Palo.  Earlier that week we decided to upgrade our tent to a small camper.  This was the first weekend in our 4-weekend race spree, which included camping at each one.  A little bit of racing, and a little bit of relaxing.

I raced in the elite wave, which is a huge advantage in this race.  The bike course can get very congested with 700+ racers on un-closed roads.  Being in the first wave provides for some nice, open roads to race on.   After checking out the other women signed up for the elite wave, my goal was to finish in third place.  Coming out of the water I was in second place, but the third place woman wasn’t far behind.  I increased my lead on her on the bike, but she closed the gap with about a half mile to go on the run.  I’ve raced this race every year.  I compared my times with previous races, and I was slower than the past two years.  With how my training has gone, I wasn’t surprised.

Next up was the Holiday Lake Triathlon near Brooklyn, Iowa.  I have never raced it, but Wes has.  A friend of our, Ebe, was helping to organize it this year and talked us into racing, and staying around afterwards to celebrate his birthday.  We couldn’t say no, and it was one of the most fun weekends we’ve had in a while.

The race went good enough.  I had hoped to take it a bit easier to save up for later races in the month.  All of the women started together, so I knew where I was in relation to the others.  I ended up leading the women from the start of the race.  The swim and bike were pretty un-eventful.  Rumor was that it had a HILLY run, and they were not lying!  Since the bike had two turnaround points, I knew I had a comfortable lead, so took it pretty easy on the way out for the run.  At the turnaround I started counting to see how far back the next woman was.  I stopped counting after 2 minutes and just eased my way to the finish line.   Best part was they put up a finish line tape for me.  I’ve never had that before and it was fun to cross!

The rest of the day we hung out in the lake, had some great food, and took a boat ride to explore the area.

The following weekend was Quad Cities Triathlon.  While setting up transition, the rain started to fall, but stopped just as the race started.  The race had a time trial start with the elites taking off first, followed by the rest of the racers lined up in order of swim pace (fasted to slowest).  I was the only woman signed up for elite, and the men took off right after me, so I was pretty much swum over right away.  Not fun.  If I race again, I’m not sure if I’d even bother signing up for the elite division.

On the bike, I was surrounded by men.  A few passed me, and I passed a few.   I kept leapfrogging with one guy, so decided to just sit back behind him.  There was just enough headwind that I think I was able to get a bit of a draft off him even with the required gap between bikes.  Coming off the bike I was still the first woman, but I knew another one was gaining on me quickly.  Knowing that she started after me gave me little hope that I would retain the lead.  After about a mile of running she passed me.  I ended the race in second place.  At the awards ceremony they gave out some door prizes and I was the first name drawn.  I got a container of HEED (kind of like Gatorade) and a Patagonia sling backpack. Yeah!  For coming in second I received a beach towel, certificate, an envelope decorated by a child that contained the award check, and an oversized check. Awesome!

Finally the last race weekend, and the race with the largest payout, Copper Creek near Des Moines.  I went fully tapered into the race, unlike the previous three weekends.  I had no idea who was on the starting list.  The elite wave ended up with 25 men and women, by far the largest I’ve ever raced in.  They started us together with an in-water start.  I’m not all that great at beach starts (I blame my short legs), so was happy to tread water.  I could tell as I was swimming that there was a large group of people with a good lead on me.  I was able to swim with a few others, but didn’t get to do much drafting.  I came out of the water in third place, but didn’t know it at the time.  The start of the bike was a little stressful.  After a few miles in I was hearing a consistent noise from my bike.  I thought it was coming from my pedal area or my front wheel.  Wes had put my front wheel on my bike and I hadn’t checked it, so I feared that it wasn’t tightened.  I debated on stopping to check.  I kept looking down and finally saw where the noise was coming from.  The tape that covers the valve opening on my disk cover had become stuck to my bike frame. Each time the opening passed the tape it made a whipping noise.  I decided it would be better to just ignore it then to try to tear it off.  Shortly after that I women FLEW past me.  I’ve never been passed with such speed before.  As I was approaching the bike turnaround I counted the women heading back.  I was in fourth place.  They only pay out to three places.  Damn it!  But, halfway back I past a women and with about a mile to go I passed another.  I still had the run left, which I my weakest, so knew I would have to push hard to stay in the money.  After less than a mile on the run I dropped back to third.  At the run turnaround I could see that I had a decent lead on the next women, but didn’t want to hold back yet.  The last mile was around a lake.  I kept looking back and couldn’t see anyone, so I finally relaxed a bit and finished the race in third place.

So far I have been happy with my season.  Nothing great has happened, but no disappointments either.  Only three more races to go.  As long as I can find breweries for Wes, he's content to keep me company along the way.