Sunday, November 3, 2013

New Additions to our Family

Unless our next dog is a puppy, this is as close to babies as we will ever have.  So, forgive us if we start posting pictures to FB or talking about our chickens as if we were parents of a actual children.

A little background...
In July of 2012 I sent an email to the City of North Liberty inquiring about urban chickens.  The response I received was basically, "it's been brought up and we're not even considering it".  I was definitely disappointed, and we started questioning if we wanted to live in a town that was anti-urban chickens.  To us, the benefits of raising your own food in the form of a garden was similar to raising chickens for their eggs, and we didn't understand why North Liberty was so against it.  So, we briefly looked into moving.  Madison...?

I was shocked this spring to see it appear in the city council agenda.  Wes and I happily attended the first meeting in which the council would decide if it was worth moving forward with updating the city ordinance.  By a slim margin, they proceeded!  The process was slow moving, but we kept up with contacting the city with our questions and concerns as they changed the ordinance. In the end, it's not ideal, but it's good enough.  Before the end of 2014 it will be brought up again for discussion, or it will sunset and we will need to get rid of our coop and chickens.  We hope during this process we can not only convince the city council that the ordinance should remain, but also lighten some of the restrictions.  As it is, we can have 4 hens in a coop that is 25 feet from our property line and 10 feet from our house.

The chicks...
After taking the required class, we applied for the permit and was granted our wish along with 4 bands that will eventually make it onto the feet of our still-to-small chickens.

We are the first in North Liberty to get our permit!!!

We ordered the chicks through Murray McMurray.  If we wanted day-old chicks, we would have to purchase 20.  Umm, no.  Once they get to 4 weeks old they will ship them individually, so we went with that option.  A little more expensive, but worth it.  Since they are a local company, I had hoped we could just drive over and pick them up.  But, we were told they wouldn't allow it since they are kept off site. The day before they shipped I was contacted by the chicken raising people and found out they will be mailed from Texas.  That's definitely off site!

Shipped with cucumbers to keep them alive.

Clockwise from the top: Rhode Island Red, Black Star, Red Star, Black Australorp (I think...?)

First day outside in Iowa.

The coop...
The coop has been in process for longer than we had anticipated, but it's coming together well.  We found some plans, and some inspiration here (scroll way down for the pictures) and here.  The siding is almost the same color as the siding on our house.  The roof is metal in somewhat the same shade as our shingle roof.  There are two functional windows that can be opened in the warmer days, vents up top to help keep the coop dry in the winter, a nesting box with two nests, and the entire thing is insulated.  The inside still needs walls as well, which are made using tub-surround type plastic.  Soon it will have gutters, soffits, and a run.

Almost done with the siding.  The nesting box (thing sticking out from the side)
is made from the bottoms of the pickets that will eventually be used along the run.

The access door is on the left.  Coming out from under the window side
will eventually be a 4'x8' run.  Under the coop with also be fenced off.

The neighbors...
Before moving it to the backyard, we contacted each of our direct neighbors to give them a heads up of what our latest project was.  We were somewhat surprised with how receptive the neighbors were.  The most common request was to let their kids visit.  Of course the can! We've even had a few visit already.

Is it worth it...?
We are sometimes asked if we will come out even with the cost of the coop and the cost of eggs.  Unless we sell the coop for about what we paid to build it, no.  But, the ability to just walk out the back door and gather eggs is priceless (well, not completely, but you get what I mean, right?).  I wonder sometimes if we break even on our garden.  I do know that the price of our coop and chickens is less than what we have paid in vet bills this year for our dog and nothing edible comes out his butt!

And, the journey begins...

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Finishing Up On Top

Last race of the season, the Hy-Vee 5150 US Championships.  I didn't realize it until a teammate told me that I had a free entry into this year's race because of my 2nd place finish last year (top 5 in each catagory earn free entries).  The original plan was to head to Madison the Friday of Labor Day weekend and stay through the following weekend, but I couldn't pass up a free entry and another chance at an Orca/Orbea gift card.  I finally used last year's ($500) on a new townie bike (aka barcycle).  It's currently at Geoff's Bike and Ski being built.  Anyway, we modified our plans and headed to Des Moines for the labor day weekend, then make a short stop at home before going to Madison.

Orbea Carpe H60
Late Friday night we arrived at our campsite at Walnut Woods in Des Moines.  It was already after 10pm by the time we set up, so we pretty much just went to bed.

Saturday I got up at 6am to get in a short bike and run (felt good enough, but not great), and breakfast before heading over to Gray's Lake to watch the Ironkids race.  Several kids we knew had qualified and were racing, including my running partner, Kiersten.  I haven't been training with her as much as I would like to this summer, but the local youth tri team, T4, has been keeping her going.

The race started 15 minutes early (I'm guessing due to the weather already getting a bit warm), so we missed much of the Intermediate kids, which is who we were there to see.  While walking from the car over to the finish line we were able to cheer on Kierst for both the out and back section of the run.  She was looking very strong.  It's so motivating to watch her and all the other youth participating.  My favorite is seeing them mount and dismount their bikes.  Some are much better at it than I am.  No fear helps :)

Afterwards we drove to packet pickup and the expo, then back to the campsite for lunch, relaxing, and a pep  talk from my coach, Daniel Bretscher.  With the temps as high as they were I wanted to wait until later in the day before checking in my bike to transition.  After the disappointing Iowa football game, we drove over, Wes dropped me and my bike off, then I met up with him at Confluence Brewery, conveniently located right next to transition.  Great atmosphere and bartenders, but the beer was just OK.  It was getting a bit late already, so for dinner we ate at The Spot food truck which was parked in their parking lot.  I had an amazing sage rubbed chicken and Wes had their Veggie Philly.

Flight of Confluence Beers
As usual, it was almost 10 before heading to bed.  It's not like I was going to get much sleep anyway.  But, morning came a bit earlier as we were woken by a thunderstorm rolling through.  We love camping at Walnut Woods, but the name comes from the walnut trees in the park...which will drop walnuts in heavy winds.  Scared the crap out of us when the first one hit the camper.  There was no going back to sleep after that.

I finally rolled out of bed at 4:30am, made our standard breakfast (egg sandwich, cantaloupe, and lots of coffee), and kept flipping between checking weather and the race facebook page to see if the race would be delayed.

Around 5:10am we started our drive to Gray's Lake.  We made it there by 5:30am, but were in traffic for another 15min. The weather was starting to clear, and the rain stopped by the time we parked.  Good thing there were port-a-potties in the parking lot as the coffee was really making things flow.  Back to the truck, grabbed my gear, and started the walk to transition.  A girl stopped me and let me know the race has been delayed 45min.  I was happy to have more time in transition, and glad I had some spare calories packed in my bag.  I wandered back to the truck to let Wes know, and gave my mom a call as well.

Walking to transition I was surprised how many of my Iowa HEAT teammates I saw.  It's great to have friends to talk to and forget about pre-race nerves.

I slowly set up my transition area since I had plenty of time.  The race provided water to mix my HEED for the bike, but I think the water had been sitting out all day yesterday.  I didn't have any other options, so filled up with the very warm water.  I got in a quick run before transition closed, then made the half-mile trek to the swim start.  Last year's swim start was at transition, but extremely crowded.  This year they moved it to the other side of the lake.  Much less congested and well worth the walk.

During the Star Spangled Banner the let off a few blank fireworks "bombs", followed with 10-20 more after the song was done.  Good morning Des Moines!  I'm sure the people living in the area were glad the race was delayed 45 minutes :)

Shortly after I saw my mom and aunt, Carol.  I knew my mom was attending, but wasn't sure about Carol.  Very happy to see both of them there.  Wes followed soon after.  While wandering to the age-marking area I saw my uncle, Ron, as well.

My mom, and biggest fan!
The water temp was 84 degrees, so no wetsuits. I had purchased a WTC-legal speedsuit last year for the race, but didn't need it.  The tag was still on it.  It's the same brand as my other speedsuit, so just hoped it fit the same.  Really should have used it at least once prior to the race.  Oh, well.

I did a short warm-up, then stayed in the water a bit.  The air temp was much cooler than the water, so I was not looking forward to getting out.  My wave was being corralled and I wanted a spot near the front, so sucked it up, made a quick stop to see my family, then hunted for Jami (teammate in my age group that swam for Iowa).  Found her in the front, along with Janet who usually has a the same swim time as me, or slightly faster.  Good spot to be!

My wave getting ready to go!

Swim - 23:57 (2nd in age group (Jami was 1st by almost 2.5 minutes); 23rd overall women)

The swim start was calmer than I expected it to be.  I was able to get out in front of most of our wave, but quickly saw Jami speeding ahead.  I caught on to someone else's feet pretty early on.  It felt a little easy, but when I tried to pass I wasn't gaining any ground, so tucked back in behind her.  It was nice not having to fight through the mess of people in the earlier waves.  As we were nearing the end, she was swinging wide, and I saw another women in my wave taking a shorter route, so switched over to her feet.  I exited the water just behind her, and was happy to see it was Janet.

A little background on Janet...she's an amazing 48-year-old triathlete from Waverly, Iowa.  For several years now, she's been just a bit faster than me.  Up until this year our swim and bike times have been about the same, and then she either passes me or pulls ahead on the run.  This year my bike has been faster, but she still manages to pass me on the run.  At Age Group Nationals (AGN) this year I finally posted a quicker time than her, but then was once again behind her at the Pigman Olympic race the following weekend.  I wanted to prove that AGN wasn't a fluke.

Back to the Hy-vee Tri...T1 was pretty uneventful.  My bike rack was just about as close to the bike in/out as you could get.   Nice!  But, it's a heck of a run from the swim exit to the bike.  My speedsuit did not come off as easily as I had hoped, but eventually got it off.  I also noticed the bike on the other side of mine was gone, but most other bikes were still there.

Bike - 1:04:24 (1st in age group; 3rd overall women)

As I was leaving transition, I saw Janet just slightly ahead of me.   For about the first mile, I just followed behind her letting my heart settle a little before making my pass.  When I was ready to pass I wanted to do it quickly.  I didn't want her to try to keep up.  Shortly after the first turnaround, I made my move and didn't look back.

The rest of the bike I just kept passing more and more people from the waves ahead of mine.  I was in wave 13, so there were plenty of people to pass.  I only had one instance of playing leapfrog with a guy.  I passed him, he passed me, I passed him, he passed me, I passed him and never saw him again.  Not sure why he thought he could beat me as I had been not-so-slowly gaining on him up to that point.  Maybe it's that I'm a 5'1" woman on a black and pink bike that made him feel inferior enough to temporarily pick up his speed.

The wind was picking up while we were out on the bike.  After the turnaround there is a downhill that felt more like an uphill into the wind.  Ugh!  I was happy to finally make it back to the park.  The trail around the lake is pretty narrow and it is encouraged to not pass anyone during the short stretch.  Thankfully the two guys ahead of me were pretty far ahead, so I didn't catch up to them until the dismount line.

Throughout the bike I sipped on my warm HEED.  It wasn't very refreshing, but I went through about 3/4 of it.  Needed to get in the calories.  I did have the urge to drink water, but I don't carry any plain water with me.  The only other issue I had on the bike was the feeling of shin splints developing in my right shin while going uphill.  I've felt this before when starting a brick run, but never while biking.  I just hoped it wouldn't resurface on the run leg (it didn't).

As I racked my bike, I saw the bike across from mine was already there and Wes has yelling to go catch her.  I was in second.


Run - 44:17 (2nd in age; 32 overall women)

The temps were starting to heat up.  I grabbed water at each aid station to drink as much as I could and dump the rest over my head.  I had hoped for ice.  I saw bags of ice at one of the stations, but when I asked for some they didn't have any to hand out.  Really?!?!  At least the water was cold.  For most of the run I switched between fighting a cramp building in my side and fighting the urge to throw up.  Thankfully the side cramp feeling only stuck around for a little bit, and never fully developed.  The slightly nauseous stomach stuck with me the entire run.  I'm blaming it on the warm HEED on the bike ride.  I was reminded of it every time I burped it up while running.

The run course had two turnarounds.  One was about about 2.5 miles and the other with about a half mile to go.  At the first turnaround I counted the time to see where Janet was.  Just over a minute behind.  I knew there was a good chance that wasn't enough gap, and also knew it was too early to try pick up the pace too much.  I attempted to run just a bit faster knowing that every second was probably going to count.  I don't race with my Garmin, so wasn't sure of my pace, but I was actually passing people, so was optimistic that I was having a decent run.

My mini-supporters who both rocked the Ironkids race the day before.

With about a mile to go I saw Kierst and her family holding up a sign for me and cheering very loud.  They were in a perfect place on the course.  I asked how far back the next woman was, but got a "Huh?" reaction.  I really need to work up a game plan with Wes for this sort of thing.  A guy standing near them responded with "50 yards".  Crap!  At this point I wasn't sure who was behind me, and I didn't have the drive to go any faster.  So, I just waited and hoped that once she passed me I could keep up with her and out-sprint her at the end.  At the last turnaround, I looked back and it was Janet.  She was about 25 yards back.  I stuck to my game plan, and she caught me within site of the finish line.  I picked up my pace and gave it all I had left.  The finish chute curves to the left and I was on her right side.  We were sprinting, the crowd was cheering loudly, and I was loosing ground as we took the curve.  We are in different age groups, so I not fighting for podium placement, I was fighting for pride, and I lost by 1 second.

The final stretch
Final Time - 2:16:06 (1st in age group; 12th overall women)

I never caught the woman, Kirsten Sass, whose bike was in transition when I arrived at T2.  I had assumed, and so had Wes, that she was in my wave, but she is 34-years-old and in the wave ahead of me.  She raced in the age group waves, but beat all of the Elite wave women to win the race with a time of 2:11:17.  Not looking forward to her joining my age group next year.

Post-race thoughts:
  • I should have worn my speedsuit at least once prior to the race.  Taking off the tag race morning is never a good idea.  Not sure if it would have helped, but wouldn't have hurt.  Maybe I would have struggled less getting it off.
  • I really need to mix up my bike nutrition before going to transition.  I normally mix it up at the camper with cold water and ice to attempt to keep it cold for the bike.  Hammer Nutrition's HEED has worked well for me for years, so I'm not ready to jump to something else yet.
  • Either the women are becoming faster swimmers, or my swim is slowing down.  When I started the sport it was my best leg, but biking overtook that fairly quickly.  My swim has been decent comparatively, but seems to becoming less so.
  • It was a fairly slow run time for me for this summer.  I don't regret how I paced it, as I could have easily needed to step aside to relieve my stomach distress.  But, I kept it down and continued to move forward.

Not as fancy as Age Group National's post-race cool down, but it will do.

After the race I caught up with one of my high school classmates and swim teammates, Brooke, and she told me another classmate/swim teammate, Bronwen, was there as well.  Wow!  It's been a long time since I've seen Bronwen, but knew she had recently entered the sport.  She did amazing, winning our age group in the non-championship race, and with a faster swim time than me :)  She always has been the better swimmer.

I was very happy to not be in the later waves.  As we were waiting for the awards ceremony, it was really starting to get warm.  12:45pm finally rolled around, I received my medal in the really cool box, and another certificate for Orca/Orbea, this one was for $750.

The blocks are not made for short people!

...but, the view from the top is awesome!

Hmmm...what to buy.  Wes thinks it should be his for all the support he's given me throughout the summer.  The jury is still out.  For now, his reward was one more brewery visit while in Des Moines, at Exile Brewing.  Compared to Confluence, Exile lacked in atmosphere, customer service, and had even worse beer.  But, we left with a growler full of Gigi, their Munich Dunkel Lager.  Only because the container was pretty sweet.

Exile flight

Fancy growler

The race was a great end to my season.  I'm very happy I made the switch to Daniel for coaching, loving my new Specialized Shiv bike from Geoff's Bike and Ski, and very thankful for the support from We Run with Zoot shoes and running gear.  I am also thankful for Wes' support this summer.  He wasn't racing most of the races, but was an awesome sherpa.  And, grateful my mom, step-dad, and aunt could make it to my last race of the season.

Now, time to relax and watch a few thousand people suffer through Ironman Wisconsin.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Mid-Pig

We drove to Palo Friday night after work to “camp” for the weekend for the Pigman Olympic distance race.  It took a bit extra to get set up because I have not yet learned when figuring out where we want to set up the camper, I need to make sure the power cord reaches the power supply box.  Oops! 

Finally got set up, had dinner, watched the beginning of Hitchcock, and off to bed with the windows open.  Loving the cool nights.  So rare this time of year!

The internet is not ideal, so Saturday morning Wes headed to Starbucks after breakfast while I relaxed a little and went for a 10 mile ride followed by a 2 mile run.  My effort felt relaxed and was going a good pace.   I didn’t feel any leftover soreness from the previous weekend.   The rest of the day was full of packet pickup, a few errands, a visit from Wes’ mom, making dinner, and finishing up Hitchcock.  Unfortunately, it was almost 10:30 by the time we finally headed to bed.  It’s not like I get a good night’s sleep before races anyway, but 4:30am still felt early.

Quick stop at the RV Dealer to pick up a part for the camper,
and were talked into getting a pooh tube pig.
The hawkeye decorations sold Wes on it.

I was able to get to transition pretty early as I heard the line starts to form at 5:30.  Getting there at 5:40 put me about 20th in line.  Good enough. 

I took my bike out for a short ride, then did a little run (to the port-a-potty and back), put my wetsuit on, and headed down to the water.  I had hoped to get through everything quicker, but socializing ate up a good amount of that time.  As I was warming up, I stopped for a sec and heard them announcing some of the people that were racing.  I only caught the end of the Olympic distance women, so got the awesome news that I would be racing against a woman that placed 20th at the London Olympics last year.  Yeah! L

The race started at 7:30am with the men, then the women in a time trial start.  Every 3 seconds someone took off.  We self-seeded ourselves, and I chose to go last.  No matter if I went first or last for the women I was going to have to climb over people in the swim.  I decided on last so I knew that everyone I passed I was ahead of.  Since the women were last, this meant I would not have a chance of someone from a wave behind catching to draft off of.   Doubt that made much of a difference.   Temps have been usually cool lately, so the water temp was only 73, which made it wetsuit-legal.

I could tell I was working my way through the swimmers.  I felt fairly comfortable with my swim.  Never pushed myself, but never let up either.  It wasn’t my fastest 1.5k swim, but not my slowest either.  I was content with it.

T1 was fairly good.  I actually got my helmet on correctly the first time, and was able to get a foot out of the wetsuit as the same time.  I’m used to having to drag my bike with my bike shoes on all the way through transition, but this was the first time in a while that I had a rack in the middle.  Much nicer!

I headed out on the bike at a steady pace.  I could tell there were a few women ahead of me and I was starting to pick them off, along with a few guys.  I only jockeyed back and forth once with one guy.  Usually it’s at least two that dislike being passed by a chick on a pink bike, and fight back. 

Everything was moving along well until the turnaround.  I was about 20 yards from the turnaround when a truck pulling a camper went through.  Not sure if he went on his own, or if the volunteers let him through.  At first I thought it would be okay.   I had hoped I could catch him before he sped up too much, so I could draft for a bit.  The exact opposite happened.  I caught up pretty quickly, and he slowed down.  Apparently he didn’t feel the urgency to pass the cyclist ahead of him.  There was not enough room for me to pass without crossing the center line, which would be a 2-minute penalty, but I also feared as soon as I would start to pass he would pass and push me into oncoming cyclists.  I hoped he was just waiting for a good time to pass, so I stayed behind…and waited, and waited, and waited.  I would pedal a few times, then sit up and hope the driver would notice and pull over or motion me to go around, or a race marshal would do something.  I even had to break while going downhill so I would run into the camper.  It felt like I was behind it forever!  Finally another cyclist caught up to me, asked if it was illegal to pass (I responded “yes”), then he went by…and I followed.  I felt safe in passing at that point, and knew if it was going to Palo, I would be slowed down by at least 2 minutes if I stayed behind it.  As I turned the corner to head towards Palo I looked to see where the camper was.  It had just crested the hill behind me.  I was so glad I finally went around.

The rest of the bike leg was standard.  I passed a few more people, held on tight for the railroad crossings, and eased into transition.  My bike bladder had water mixed with one scoop of Hammer Nutrition HEED (100 calories), and I went through about 3/4 of it.

Racked my bike, took off my helmet, put on running shoes, grabbed my belt and hat to put on while running, and took off.  I got in and out of T2 quickly (3rd fastest T1 and T2 times for the women). 

I don’t wear my Garmin will running, so not sure how consistent my pace was.  While turning the first corner, I was told that I was in fourth and two minutes behind third.  I knew there were three people ahead of me, so I was happy to know there weren’t more.  I was pretty sure the woman directly ahead of me was Jamie.  Unfortunately, I had no idea where in line she started for the swim.  I just hoped it was less than 2 minutes as I knew my run wasn’t much better than hers.  I never fully pushed the run, but wasn’t taking it easy, either.  I really dislike time trial starts.   I know I should be racing my own race, but I really like to know where I’m at and what I need to do.  I never passed any women during the run, so wasn’t sure until I saw the results were I actually finished up. 

I came in third for the women.  The first place uber-triathlete destroyed me by 10 minutes, and was 4th overall.  Second place was about a minute and half faster.  I took a look at my bike data.   What felt like several miles ended up only being 1.267 mile and 4:04 minutes of being stuck behind the camper.  Average mph on the bike for the entire race was 22.6. While behind the camper I averaged 18.7.  It definitely didn't slow me down by the minute and a half I lost to second place.  By my calculation, which could be incredibly wrong, I lost 42 seconds, but I also rested my legs during that time, so it’s hard to tell.  I was only 36 seconds slower on the bike than the first place super-chick.  It would have been really cool to have beaten her on the bike :)  However, it’s not like she really needed to try very hard to the race to win.

Radka Vodickova, Janet McCullough, and I (right to left)
I look extra short because we're on a slight incline.

 After the race, I showered up, did the awards ceremony (our club, Iowa HEAT, won the club division), and then hopped back on my bike to cheer on the on the racers slogging along the half-ironman run course. 

1st place club

One more race for the season, Hy-vee 5150 Championships.  Last year I placed high enough to get a free entry into this year’s race, and won a $500 gift certificate to Orca/Orbea.  I finally used it this week.  New bike is in the mail!

Orbea Carpe H60 (Wes affectionately refers to it as a barcycle)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Race of My Life...So Far...?

Just about a year ago I found out USAT Age Group Nationals was going to be held in Milwaukee.  Every two years the race moves.  I had previously driven to Tuscaloosa, Alabama (2010) and Burlington, Vermont (2012) to complete, and was excited to have a much shorter drive!  In Alabama, I was there for the experience and I got a great fill of that.  In Vermont, my goal was to qualify for the World Championships (top 18).  I came in 12th, reserved a spot for the world championships in London, but decided to not race it (it was interesting to learn the process and the cost).  Awards were given to the top 10 athletes in each age group, which I missed by about 30 seconds.  I never thought I would be that close, but knew I gave it my all during that race and there was nowhere I could have gained those seconds.  So, for 2012 my goal was to get a top-10 award.

As the weeks got closer to race day, we began receiving emails containing information for the race.  As I was reading one I notice they were only giving awards this year to the top-5.  A little of my motivation was instantly lost.  Each email we received, I checked to see if they had changed their minds.  Nope.


We drove to Milwaukee on Thursday, first stopping in Galena for lunch at a brewery that ended up not being open for lunch, and then Madison for a flight at the Ale Asylum.  Before heading over to the condo we were staying, we had dinner at Comet Cafe in Milwaukee,  which also included our favorite beer of the trip that we tried, O'So Dank.

Ale Asylum flight
We checked into our room, had a good night sleep, then woke to a beautiful view of Milwaukee, which included a view of part of the bike course.

 Morning coffee in Milwaukee
(bridge going through my head is part of the bike course)

My goal for Friday was get in a 10 mile bike ride, and 2 mile run, check in my bike, and relax.  The transition area was a little less than a mile from where we were staying, so I rode my bike there, did a bit of the run and bike course, headed back, then ran to transition and back.  All at a fairly leisurely pace. I was feeling good!

For lunch we checked out the local coop, then swung by Horny Goat Brewery on the way to the third ward.  It was still early, so sampled each, but thankfully the view of the was better than the beer.

Horny Goat Brewery flight

While Wes wandered off to a tobacco store in the third ward, I stopped into Lululemon, then we met up at Milwaukee Ale House for another flight.  Again, nothing too great.

Milwaukee Ale House flight

Quick stop to the Milwaukee Public Market to grab some food to cook up for diner, back to the condo, the figured it was about time to drop off my bike at the race site.  The plan was for me to ride over, Wes to walk over, then we would walk back together.  I picked up my packet, racked my bike, and no sign of Wes.  I wandered around the expo and found out there was no line for the NormaTec boots.  Sweet! For 10 minutes I laid in a chair while the full-leg contraption gently massaged my legs.  I wish I had a pair of my own....  Anyway, still no Wes.  He got "lost" and was at the Wicked Hop.  Likely story!

The night before the most important race of the summer and I'm wandering around the third ward attempting to find a place I've never been to in a town I don't know very well with a phone that doesn't have a fancy mapping capability.  "Only a few blocks out of the way" becomes a bit more, and I become more frustrated with every step.  After a few loud phone calls and non-helpful texts, I find it!!  We only stay for less than a half hour, but it was enough time to see the most awesome bloody mary.  I did not have one, but would love to return sometime to try it!

Olive, shrimp, beef stick, kosher dill pickle, mushroom,
lemon wedge, and strings of mozzarella cheese.  Love!
Finally dinner and bed!  Not much sleep, but no surprise.

Saturday - Race Day!

Temps were in the 60's to 70's with very little wind.  Perfect!

Transition closed at 7:30, but my wave wasn't until 8:58.  I usually eat about 2.5 hours before the race, but was worried about getting to transition and setting everything up, so ate about 3 hours before and grabbed a gel to take about a half hour before starting.

Wes drove to the race so we'd have the truck to pack everything up in to take back to the condo.  Worked out well.  In transition I quickly saw Steve and Kim from Iowa HEAT.  At my transition spot I found Elesa, also from our club.  Our bikes were back to back.  Crazy awesome!  It's her first year in triathlon and is already a rock star.

It was nice to have teammates to hang out with while we waited for our waves to start.  Mine was one of the middle waves.  Odd to see people coming in off their bikes before we have even started the swim.

I grew up swimming, so I'm a decent swimmer compared to the average triathlete.  In most races that means I have to deal with the nastiness of the swim start for just a few yards before breaking free.  In this race, I'm average.  I had to fight through almost the entire swim.  But, it also meant I had more people to draft off of.  Thankfully I came out of the water without any cuts or bruises.  At this point, I have no idea where I am compared to others in my age group.  I know there were several pink swim caps ahead, so I have plenty of people to hunt down on the bike.

T1 went fairly well.  As always, it was a slight struggle to get my feet out of my wetsuit, but I don't think any amount of practice will help with that.

The bike heads north for a few miles, climbs a hill, turns around to head south, passes transition, travels over the bridge in the first picture above, winds east and south towards the airport, then heads back to transition.  It's fairly flat with the exception of the hill on the north side of the course, and going over the bridge.

I started off somewhat conservatively.  I didn't have the mojo I needed to get going.  That all changed when I dropped my chain shifting up the first hill.  I have a k-edge, which should prevent that.  I later found out that it wasn't tightened down, so when the chain hit it, instead of stopping the chain, it moved and let it fall...and get wedged.  According to my bike computer, I spent about 30 frustrating seconds getting it un-wedged and back on.  I was pissed.  Everyone I had just passed, including a few people in my age group, went by as I was on the side of the road.  I got back on my bike and was on a mission.  I rode the rest of the bike leg hard and never let up.  I do wonder if my time was actually faster because of dropping my chain, even though I was stopped for a bit.

About a mile out from transition I come upon Cindi Bannink, a triathlete that I got to know through my classmate Mark Harms who is also an amazing triathlete. I have a huge respect for Cindi, and was shocked to be riding up along side her.  This is the first time in the race where I thought I may be near the front of our age group!  And, that was the motivation I needed for the run.

In and out of T2, and I knew Cindi was right behind me.  It didn't take long for her to pass me.  The run has two out and back sections.  The first turnaround is at about mile 1 and the other is at mile 4.  Because the wave before and after us were men, I knew the range of race numbers that made up my age group.  At the first turn I decided not to look.  I didn't want to know.  It was too early in the race to do anything about it if someone was right ahead or behind.  I just kept pushing.  I was running on a fine line the entire run.  I worried that at any moment I would crash.

After the second turnaround, with 2 miles to go, I checked bibs for women behind me.  There was one that worried me.  She was probably around 30 seconds behind me, and looked like a runner....bikini-type uniform, great body, nice tan.  Crap!  There are too many triathletes out there that could make up the 30 seconds on me in two miles.  But, I wasn't going to give in.  With a mile to go I looked back quickly.  Couldn't see her, but still worried.  I checked a few more times in the last mile.  Still didn't see her, but still running scared.  Someone said only .2 miles to go.  I picked up the pace.  Couldn't see the finish line, but trusted him.  I finally rounded a curve and saw it, but it still seemed so far away.  I was running at my capacity.  When I stepped on the finish line shoot carpet I noticed the ground surface change, and feared my legs would give out before I crossed the finish line.  But, I kept running and running and running.  Finally, it was over.  I turned around and no site of the great-body chick. legs were giving out.  Med tent guy led the way to a very comfortable chair and wet rag for my neck.  It was only a few minutes later when they released me to Wes.  We wandered around a little, and found the best post-race relaxation area ever!

Ice cold water...heaven!
About the next half hour was spent wandering around and talking to people.  Finally we figured out where the results were.  I anxiously waited to see it.  They handed it over, and....I scream like a little girl.  If not out loud, I was definitely screaming inside.  Fifth.  5th!  The race marshals were giving out a lot of penalties on the course, so it wasn't official yet.  But, my PR was official.  Almost 3 minutes faster than I have ever raced at this distance.   I was a happy camper, but still cautious that it could all change between now and the awards ceremony.

So, during the race, Wes took one and only one picture... not of me, but of...


I was getting tired and just wanted to get back to the condo.  Found Wes, grabbed the post-race food to go (burrito, chips, and a banana), packed up the truck, and left.  Shortly after showering, we drove down to Milwaukee Brewing Company in hopes that there were still spots left on the tour, but they were sold out for the day.  Across the street was the next best thing, a local ice cream shop.  Good enough for me!  Next up was a coffee shop near the condo to relax a bit before making our way back to the race site.

The awards ceremony was to start at 5, but was delayed until 5:30.  Glad I brought a snack, because I was getting hungry!

The final results were not posted anywhere, so I still was not positive of my award.   I waited by the stage while they called up the age groups.  Finally mine, and I was officially 5th place.  I was honored to be standing on the podium with some of the best triathletes in the country.

After the ceremony was finally over, we walked back to the third ward for dinner.  I carried my award with me the entire way.  Can't remember the name of the place we ate, but it wasn't all that special.  Good prices, though.

After diner, I was ready to crash, and I did, hard.


Up and at em!  Breakfast and a 'long' drive home...with a quick stop at a liquor store in Madison to pick up beer that can only be found in Wisconsin.  And, a failed attempt to find the beer from our first dinner in Milwaukee.  We'll be back in Madison in a few weeks and the hunt will be back on!!

Only two more triathlons left this year...Pigman and Hy-Vee 5150 Championships.  Both olympic distance.  This summer has flown by!  With my new coaching, I'm already looking forward to what next year will bring.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Season of Change

In May just before the entry fee price was to go up for Muncie 70.3 which was also the week before I was to begin training for the race, I could only focus on the dread of training for a half ironman (HIM). Up until last year I had done a HIM every year since my first go at the distance.  Last year I had taken a break from long distance training and racing to mentally recover from Ironman Wisconsin (IMWI) in 2011.  For the summer of 2013 it was never a question of doing a HIM or not, but which one I was going to do.  Once you go long, you don't go back...right?  I knew I could get through the back to back rides on the weekend, the 3-4 hours of training on Saturdays, and the extra-early mornings during the week.  With just a few days left to sign up, I realized I didn't want to get through anything, so I told Wes I didn't want to race a half  this summer, or really ever again.  His response was "then don't", and I realized I don't have to.  Up until that second, it never really seemed like an option.  I felt a huge wave of relief, and suddenly became happier then I have felt in a long time.  Sounds crazy, I know.

So, instead of signing up for Muncie, I registered for two olympic distance triathlons and a 3-part duathlon series (my first duathlon), on top of the races I had already registered for.  All of these races had cash prizes, which was a nice incentive, and they were all local, so more opportunities to camp with our new travel trailer.

I happily trained and raced through my first few races, and was doing good, but something was missing.  The coaching I had been using for IMWI was geared towards long distance athletes, and I was no longer one of them.  Endurance Nation was a great fit for me for the past few years, but with only doing shorter distance races I was about to repeat their short-course plan for the third time.  I needed something new to jump-start my desire to train, race, and become a better athlete.

For several years now I have known about the greatness of Daniel Bretcher's coaching.  A local phenomenon and former co-worker, Ron Gierut, has been coached successfully for a while, and two other friends, Ebe and Jeremy, had signed on this year.  By mid-June, Ebe was already having a break-through year.  I finally decided it was worth getting over my fear of trying something new...if Daniel would take me being it was already into the racing season.  He did, and I haven't looked back since.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

We Run 5k Race Report

I don’t normally do race reports for 5k races, but this was a special one.  A few months ago I started running with 9-year-old girl, Kiersten.  We started out doing 2 mile runs and built up to almost 3 miles.  None of our runs have been during ideal running weather.  Most days were in the 20’s, and our only “warm” day was barely above freezing with rain.  Ugh!  So, today’s temps of 40 with little wind was as good as we have had it, yet still 10 degrees below average for this time of year.  Oh, the fun of living in Iowa!

During our runs we mostly did 10min/mile pace with some short intervals thrown in at 9min/mile.  I choose the interval pace based on her time last fall at this race.  We had hoped to run about twice per week, but due to very crappy weather and her busy 9-year-old social life, most weeks we were happy to get in one run. 

One of our many cold morning runs

I decided to do my weekend run workout prior to the race, and tack the race on to the end of it to extend the workout a little.  I was anticipating a nice 9min/mile cool down.  

Kiersten’s previous 5k PR was over 27minutes.  Her goal was sub-26 minutes.  Based on our runs together, I thought that may be a stretch. 

Last fall there were about 150 people that signed up for the inaugural race.  That number greatly increased to over 600 for today’s race.  We lined up near the start line.  I pulled her back a little, as I believe we would have been on the starting line if I had let her.  No need to get trampled over!

For the first mile there were several kids around us.  I was surprised they were able to hold that pace, but I believe some of them peeled off to do the 1 mile turn instead of continuing on the 5k option.  There was a guy yelling out times at the 1 mile mark, but I knew he was off.  There was no way we were going 7 min/mile pace.  I checked my watch and he was a minute off.  I was still shocked to see we were just under 8 minutes.  Definitely on track for a sub 26.

Shortly after this, the race rounds a pond where you can see who is where ahead of you.  We were slowly creeping up on another girl, and from what I could see, she was the only kid ahead of us.  For the next half mile we were a few steps behind.  A volunteer told the girl ahead of us that she was the first young girl he had seen.  Sweet!  We were in the hunt for first place.  Soon after was a water stop.  They both grabbed waters, but Kiersten was quicker with hers.  Then I was amazed as the other girl sprinted past to catch up with her dad.  Her gait was amazing.  Probably better than mine.  I commented to her dad that she had great form.  He said her sister is just as good.  

Our second mile was right at 8 min/mile pace.  Kiersten was pacing very well.  We were on about a half-mile, slight downhill straightaway.  It seems Kiersten thought this was a good chance to take the lead, but with each push the other girl pushed back and Kiersten dropped back.  After three or four tries, she settled back in.  I was partially relieved, as my legs were not the happiest with me at this point.  We continued running along just a few steps behind.  And then things turned bad.  Kiersten started to get side cramps.  Taking deep breaths was not helping, so we walked for about a minute and watched first place run away, and Kiersten’s sadness quickly set in.   I know that feeling all too well and it sucks.

Feeling better, we got back to a jog, turned the corner to the finish line, then she took off in a full-out sprint.  I tried, but couldn’t catch her.  Where did this burst of energy come from?!?!  Oh, to be young again! 

Out sprinted at the finish line

Our final times were 25:09 and 25:10.  Just under a 2 minute personal best for Kiersten and a second place finish in her age group (19 and under)!  

Awesome award for 2nd place!

I didn’t realize until today the competitiveness she has in her.  I knew it was somewhat there, but not to the extent it is.  Hopefully she uses it to continue running, as she is going to be one amazing athlete!  Well, she actually already is.  Now if I can get her swimming and biking she can rock the tri world, too!

Post race high 5 for a great race!