Saturday, March 9, 2019

Baby's got a brand new bag

Elle: Okay, so not a 'new bag', but new shoes, I'm of the brand of people who DON'T buy running shoes every 6 months, or whatever the running shoe companies tell you. When my shoes start to break down or fall apart, THAT'S when I buy a new pair (right Trent?!?) So I haven't bought new running shoes for a couple of years. But finally, I decided it was time. Mostly because I needed a new pair of tri shoes that would make my transitions speedy as hell (If I don't have one of the top 3 fastest transition times, then what the hell am I doing there...competitive much? Yup. Not apologizing). I've been looking for shoes like this for a LONG time. And no dice. And then one day, out of the shoe-ness blue, I found these, like a gift from above:

Integrated tongue, pull tight laces, high back and front for quick slip on. YES! Finally! After so many years of searching. See, sometimes dreams do come true...

So far, as I slowly get back into running, I've only been running short distances. One of my staples is an out and back from my apartment to the hotel in Dorado del Mar and back. When I run, I like to establish landmarks that I run toward, or pass, as a mental push that helps me along the way. The first and favorite is the kitten house. There are like, 5 - 6 (or more?) kittens that live at this house. I've been trying to make contact, and I'm determined to make friends with them. They are cute as hell, obviously.

Somewhere in mile 2 are the Egrets. Like a bunch of them. Ya just get used to their white feathered beauty after a point. And that's right near the 'Bird Tree'. A shite load birds live there. And they are always there. Right in this specific spot. Every day.

And there's also a couple of geese I pass. They're on the other side of a fence, always in the same spot. They live on the golf course near a pond with a smattering of other fowl. And a calico cat also lives there. Like a boss. I often see her sitting by the fence right where the goose couple are. She just sits there, hanging out with them. Her and all her fowl friends. The geese squawk at any one who passes by, and she just sits there. It's like her goose friends are protecting her. And she's like, "Yeah, you wanna mess with me? I don't think so.....".

So for my speed workouts, I use the 'track'. A term I use loosely, as it's far from a typical American track. But hey, at least I have a wonky track to use! No complaints here, it does the job. Here are a couple of speed workouts that I've done so far. Try 'em for yourself:

Workout 1:
200 meters @ your 5k pace, 200 meters at your mile pace (x2)
30 second rest
400 meters @ your mile pace
rest: 2 miuntes
(Now do that 4 times. If you're not completely gassed after that, you didn't run hard enough.)

Track Workout 2:
300m @ 10K pace, 100m @ 5k pace
1 full lap strong
(Repeat 3-4 times)

Now normally, I've been running in the morning, which is ideal on a tropical island. It's still relatively cool outside, and the sun hasn't had a chance to warm the ground up to 100-degrees. But one day, I had to postpone my workout (something to do with a bike ride in Old San Juan, which was fantastic), but lack of planning left my friend and I without food and water for about 5 hours, and we got dehydrated. And that sticks with you for awhile. Long story short, I ended up doing my run at 3pm. In the blazing sun + heat. The plan was to do a simple 6 mile run. But I couldn't even manage that. 4 miles and I was DONE. But hey, got a run it.

Meanwhile, here's a couple of pics from the Old San Juan excursion:
Plaza in Old San Juan

Famous side street of umbrellas

Me + Bridget with whom I bike around Old San Juan...

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Mama said said there'd be days like this

I'd like to tell you a tale of woe. Everyone has a bad day every now and then, and sometimes it helps to hear about someone else having a bad day to know you're not alone. Today was one of those days.

The day started out well. I got up early and headed out for my long run, which isn't long right now, since I'm still coming back from my knee surgery. I ran 6.7 miles, which is the longest run since the surgery. And I felt good. Hooray! Things were going well.

On last Sunday's ride, I had some serious problems with my bike. My back cassette wouldn't shift through the 4/5 middle rings, which was super frustrating. I basically couldn't shift up at all. Ugh. So I had to bring her to the shop. When I got home from my run this morning, I called Pedalea, the bike shop 2 towns over. They said I could bring it right in, so I put the bike in the car and headed over there. That's when things started to go downhill. I don't have GPS in my car, so I looked at the route on Google Maps and tried to memorize it and headed out. I missed the first turn. I thought something was wrong, so I stopped on the side of the road ( stop 1). Yeah, I had missed the turn. So I turned around and headed back, and made the turn. Wait a minute, this doesn't look right either. I pulled over (stop 2). I had turned the wrong way. Fack. I finally got on track, and got  to route 2 where the bike shop was. I knew it was on an access road, so I turned into the first one. Nope, wrong one. And it was a dead end so I had to stop (stop 3), turn around, and got back onto route 2. Drove for a while, and saw another access road. This must be it, so I turned into it. Nope. Wrong one. (stop 4) Back onto route 2. I didn't even know what I was looking for anymore. So I turned into THIRD access road. Success! I brought my bike into the shop, and Sammy  (the awesome owner) said he'd call me when it was ready. Great. So I headed out. And since I had no food at home, I decided to go to Costco.

The highway, route 22, was nearby, so I decided to hop on. I looked at my phone to see where it was and it was pretty easy, I took a left to get on, and there were a couple of roads on the right that look like they did go onto the highway, but I didn't know which one to take because there was no sign. Is that west? Is that one east? I glanced at my phone, which made it look like I should keep going. Maybe there is an exit up ahead. So I kept going for a while. This doesn't seem right. So I pulled over (stop 5). Blerg! I had missed the exit! so I turned around, and headed back. I'm sure there must be an exit on the other side of the road to get on route 22, right? Of course not. I ended up back on route 2, where the bike shop was. I wanted to turn around and try to get on the highway, but route 2 has barriers all along it so you can't cross the street, and I didn't know how far I'd have to travel to turn around. I didn't want to go in circles, so I just got onto route 2. Route 2 goes the same way as route 22, but it's a lot slower and has about five hundred traffic lights. And lots of people driving really slowly. So the trip that should have taken about 20 minutes took about 45-50 minutes. Flash back to when I finished my run this morning, I took a quick sip of water and headed out to the bike shop without eating. Remember? There's no food in my apartment. And as I drove on the slow as hell route 2, I started to get hungry. Very hungry. Hangry. And really really thirsty. My throat started to hurt, my lips were dry, and my mouth got all gummy. And it seemed like everyone around me was driving like an asshole. Or maybe I was the asshole. I figured I'd pull over some place to get a bite to eat and some blessed water. But I swear to God, there was nothing on the right side of the road where I was. And loads of restaurants, cafes, CVS, and Walgreens on the other side of the road, the side I couldn't get to. Arrggg! Soooo thirsty.....

After what seemed like ages, I finally got to Costco. Hallelujah! And there was a cafe across the street. Win! I went in and ordered a sandwich and a Sprite. Oh, glorious Sprite! I reached into my into my bag to get my phone, I had to tell Webb about my Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. But what's this? My phone wasn't in my bag. Fork! So I ran out of the cafe to my car, it must be in there, right? I looked all around, but it wasn't there. Are you fucking kidding me? I ran back to the cafe, maybe it was in my bag, but I didn't find it at first. So I emptied my bad. No phone. Oh. My. Gawd. WTF??? So I ran BACK to my car, it HAD to be there. I searched everywhere. Everywhere. Then I finally found it, wedged underneath the passenger seat. Of course it was.

I ran back to the cafe and enjoyed a very nice tuna sandwich and another Sprite. I was just across the street from Costco, but after the day I'd had, I was scared about what was going to happen to me next. I just wanted to go home at this point, but if you remember, there was no food in my apartment. Fack. I had to go to Costco. So I left the cafe and, with fear in my heart, headed across the street.

Things at Costco went relatively well. When I got to the cash register, she discovered that 2 of the items I had in my cart out had been opened, so I had to run back to get new ones. At this point, I wasn't even surprised. It was the least of the bad things that had happened to me today. I left Costco and headed home. Then, around 2 miles out, the car in front of me stopped short, and I almost hit it. And all of my groceries flew towards the front of the car. Again, I had surrendered that shit was just going to happen today and I had to deal with it.

I finally got home, put the groceries away, and then looked at my phone. Sammy from the bike shop had sent me a message. Great, my bike was ready! But then I read the message. He asked if I had crashed on the bike. I told him 'no', which is really funny, since I had crashed on 3 of my previous bikes, but not THIS one. He told me the bike was broken.


He said I could pick up the bike now. Honestly, at this point, I was terrified to leave the apartment. What the fack was going to happen to me now? I took route 22 to get to the bike shop with a post-it on my steering wheel with very specific directions to the shop. And I got there, unharmed. Sammy showed me where the bike was broken.

 I had just bought this bike from a guy for A LOT of money. More money than I should have spent, really. And now I find out it's fucking broken. WHY ME?!?!?!

But Sammy said it wasn't the carbon that was broken (praise the freakin' lord!), but an aluminum part. And I could have some guys fix it for about $100. Well, at least there's that. I paid Sammy, put the bike in the car, and headed home, where I arrived without incident. Thank gawd for that. I was totally physically and mentally exhausted.

Next up, 6:30am bike ride tomorrow. Was I going to be ready for that? Doesn't matter, it's happening. And tomorrow is another day...

Monday, February 25, 2019

Run Like a Diva 5K - San Juan Edition

Elle: So, first race of the year and first race after knee surgery. I wanted to break my racing drought and start the year out in a positive way. I wanted to get back into the routine of training. The past year or so I suffered from a stunning lack of mojo. I know how it feels to get down on racing and training and fall into a slump. But it was time to drag my sorry ass out of the pit of despair and get back on the speed wagon.

I've never gone to a race by myself before. Having someone or some people there with you makes it so much easier to get motivated and it's just nice to have the support of friends. So this was a new experience for me. I was a little nervous, but I just concentrated on getting into the mental state to run strong and do my best.

I've also never started a race in full on darkness. Oh, and did I mention that I didn't preview or know the race course at all? Yeah, on the racing list of things NOT to do. I figured I could just follow the people in front of me. That strategy worked out well in the beginning, but around mile 2, after passing a bulk of the runners, there was no one left to follow. The race signage was good in the beginning, but then I was just out there, in the dark, not knowing if I was still on the 5K route, or if I had accidentally fallen into the half marathon race, which was happening simultaneously. And I was not in the mood or condition to run 13.1 miles today. So I kept running, but I starting asking the other runners, 'Hey, is this still the 5K?', but none of them knew. Everyone I asked said, ' This is the half marathon!'.

Eventually I just stopped. WTF? Where did I go wrong? I didn't know where I was at all. Did I have to run the half marathon now? Blerg!!! As I stood there, not knowing what the hell to do, a couple of guys, who must have seen me standing in confusion, ran up behind me and said, 'This is the 5K...'. Oh great, I've lost valuable time! To make up for lost time, I put my foot on the gas, and pushed to catch up with the guys who just passed me.

Meanwhile, I didn't know where the finish line was, but as I turned the corner back towards the start line, a couple of my friends who came to cheer me on yelled at me,

'There are only 6 people in front of you, go, go, go!' 

My friend Martha took this as I ran by, while she shouted at me to GO GO GO!

What?!? Really?!? That can't be, I've only been back in training for about a month and a half...
And right about then a guy came up behind me, hot to pass me. Oh, HELLS NO. I don't like being passed, especially not in the final leg. Now we've got a race on! I chased him down and got up really close to him, 'Iron War' style. Now I was motivated just to beat this guy. But I still didn't know where the finish was, and I couldn't see it. Again, WTF? Then I saw the reason I couldn't see it, just ahead there was a short, but STEEP hill. Ack! Determined to run this guy down, I gave it my all up the hill. We were both passing each other back and forth. This is racing! Oh, the excitement! Oh, the pain! At the top of the hill, the course turned to the right, and there it was - the beloved finish arch. Yasssss! I did my best to keep up with this guy and crush the finish. But then, Oh yes, then, just before the finishing shute, my adversary steps out of the route to the side. He was A FREAKIN' BANDIT!!! Whatevs, I finished the race feeling good, 6th overall runner, and 2nd in my age group. Yeaaaaaaahhhhhh.

2nd place in my age group!

Monday, January 28, 2019

Another day in paradise

Elle: Since I moved to the lovely isle of Puerto Rico on December 1st, 2018, I've been sin carro, getting around via my bike, and asking my co-worker Bridget to haul my butt to and from work every day (muchos, muchos gracias Bridget!). But finally, with much in the way of trials and tribulations, I nabbed a sporty little car - the Mitzubishi Outlander Sport (ooooohhhh)! It may seem like a small feat to many, but for me it was a huge milestone. I've never had go on my own to get a car loan and buy a car. I know there are a ton of questions I should have asked before layin' down the cash for New White (yes, there was an Old White, a trusty, white Honda Civic Hatchback, may ye rest in peace) but daaaaaamn, I own it now, and I'm free! Free to explore the places my bike can't take me.
So that was kind of a big deal.

New White in all it's glory

Elle: In bike news:
- I was so excited to finally test out my new-to-me Argon 18 TT bike (sexy-ass bike, yo)
- I was on my short test drive and just returning to my apartment when, what?!? The left aerobar fell full out! Oy!
- To remedy the unfortunate situation, I msg'd Iron Danny (the seller of this magnificent beast of a bike) and told him about the snafu. He felt bad and came to pick up the bike and bring it to the shop. Ok, I can wait for the bike to be fixed...
-  Ironman Danny brings back the happy, healthy Argon in time for me to take it out for the Sunday ride- YAZZZ!
- Sunday morning I leap out of bed at 6am, giddy to finally ride the majestic Argon. I gear up, put my cycling shoes on, and take it just outside my front door for a little test drive. I stood over the bike, and tried clip into the pedals.
- And tried.
- And tried.
- And tried.
- Arrrrggghhh! Are you kidding me? Really?
- Sooooo... Webb had shipped my cycling shoes to me, plus clips and pedals. BUT guess which clips and pedals are NOT compatible with my Sidi cycling shoes...go ahead, guess....oh yeah, THE ONES THAT WEBB SENT. So another weekend was to go by without riding the Argon. Frack!

The badass bike that I DIDN'T ride this weekend...

Webb: Ugh. That was totally foreseeable on my part.

Elle: Looks like I'm ridin' Big Bertha again! Oh well, it's still a good workout. And I wasn't going to waste a good workout, so I headed out on the big gal and made sure to stop along the route to take photos for all the folks back home...

Addendum 1: You may have noticed that Webb did not contribute much this week. But don't worry, I'll make sure he doesn't shirk his blog duties in the future. Hear that Webb? I'm comin' for ya...

Addendum 2: For anyone who was wondering about the fate of Robbie, the ambiguous amphibian who was playing tag with me in the shower, here's what happened: He was still in the shower the next day. I was sad because I thought he was dead. But lo and behold, he still had some life left in him! Once I realized there was still hope, I use the tried and true method of paper and glass (which I once used to save a bat who flew into our apartment in Brookline, MA), and was able to capture and release Robbie back into nature where he belongs. Hooray for happy endings...

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Triathlete's Journey: Puerto Rico Edition

Aaaaaaand we're baaaaaack!

Elle: Yes, after a HUGE break, we're getting the band back together - the Blog is back!

So there have been some changes lately. Mostly that I moved to the island of Puerto Rico! Webb is still holding down the fort in Boston with the cats, but for the next year, I'll be soaking in the sun and palm trees.

Webb: Holding down the fort means, I'm staring at the bike trainer afraid of the outside, dreading cold walks to the pool and telling myself, "...this time, I'm definitely going to do that run workout," all while Elle works on her selfie-at-the-beach game.

Elle: I have to admit, I have upped my selfie-at-the-beach game...
I haven't been training all the much lately, and I had knee surgery this past fall, but I'm ready to get back into it for 2019. I've signed up for my first race, the Run Like A Diva 5K in San Juan. I'm on a big team of women, of whom I know only one person,a co-worker who got me connected to the team. Apparently I won't meet any of them until race day. And I think the plan is for us all to be wearing the matching tutu thing. Oh well, it'll be nice to be with a group of runners anyway...

But today I want to talk about bike rides.
In the suburb-y town of Dorado, Puerto Rico, there is a fabulous thing that happens every Sunday. They close off a section of road that runs along the ocean and a nature reserve. And from 6am to 11am, there's a tropical 10 mile loop. I've done 2 rides along this route. From my apartment to the loop and back is about 18 miles. The first bit from my apartment to the start of the nature reserve is a little dodgy, through the center of town with bad, narrow roads. So I try to get up early to avoid as much traffic as possible. However it doesn't get light enough until about 6:45am, so I have to wait until then to head out.

It's pretty amazing, having the road all to yourself (along with a bunch of runners + cyclists). And there were a bunch of nice, NICE bikes out on the road, and even a couple of legit, 25-man pelotons.

Insights - the Sunday bike ride
  1. It's a beautiful, car-less, 10-mile loop training course, 5 miles out, 5 miles back
  2. I forgot to put on my Chamois Buttr this past week....
  3. My bike shorts are over 3 years old....
  4. OUCH
  5. I think because it's between the ocean and a humid nature reserve, there is an abundance of these tiny black bugs. SO MANY. I smashed a BUNCH with my face and legs. And I definitely ate at least one.
  6. The route is basically flat. Except one hill I hit on the way back into town. It's very short. And very steep. The first time I rode it, I didn't think I was going to make it to the top. 9.3% grade! But I did make it that day. So the second time I attacked the hill with more gusto, and basked in the glow of reaching the top with aplomb.
Next time: PHOTOS!

Webb: While Elle is enjoying tropical nature reserve bike rides, I've joined the #DoThePlanWithDan training. It is a 10-week bike plan built to bring Dan Lloyd, former pro-cyclist and current GCN (Global Cycling Network) presenter, back into fitness. I'll leave it to Dan to tell his story and why a guy whose job is cycling has fallen out of shape. You can follow along on Strava and Facebooger or if you are simply curious about how effective The Sufferfest is, check back with the GCN YouTube channel to see how Dan fared.

I'll be using it for similar purposes. My fitness has been up and down over the past two years. This structured approach will give me four hours on the bike each week which should allow me to squeeze in some run and swim workouts. At the end of the 10 weeks I hope to have some target races so that I can pick a proper training plan and be ready to go.

Elle: Elsewhere, I took my life in my hands recently and biked to work. Which normally isn't a big deal. But on this island, people drive a tad bit crazy. There's a shoulder for part of the way, but not the whole way. And with all of the monstrously deep pot holes, drivers often have to swerve into the other lane or shoulder to avoid them.
When Webb was here, we drove the route to see if it was safe to bike. Due to the conditions of the road, etc., Webb forbade me from riding it. But after a month of having to ask my co-workers to drive me to and from work everyday, I was craving some autonomy. So, despite my fear, I finally took the plunge and rode my bike to work. I don't know the deets on the ride because I didn't wear my sports watch. Was it because I didn't want Webb to get the auto alert from Strava that I had biked the forbidden route? Or did I just forget to put the watch on? You decide....

This morning I shared my shower with this guy:

Don't know how he got in, because he couldn't seem to get himself out. So we played chase around the shower, as I tried not to step on him. Ahhhh, island living..

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Race Report: Patriot Half (MA)

June 20, 2015
E. Freetown, MA

Swim: 1.2 miles
Bike: 56 miles
Run: 13.1 miles

Elle: So I liked our pattern of doing one Half Ironman a year. And I really enjoyed Challenge St. Andrews. And since so many people talked about how they really liked this race, we decided to do the Patriot Half.

Webb: I was persuaded. For me, it was supposed to be the commitment that kept the off-season from becoming too long. We signed up in October and before you knew it, winter laid upon us like a heavy, cold, frozen blanket. Not making excuses, just telling it like it was: there was infrequent and inconsistent training in the Triathletes Journey household from December through a good portion of February.

The SWIM: 1.2 miles (2km)

Webb: We arrived early at the race site to grab a preferred parking spot near the transition area (TA). With plenty of time, low expectations and some good planning, we took our time making our final preparations before heading to the TA to rack our bikes and set up our gear.

This is a great way to mark your row
Elle: I like to arrive early, get everything taken care of, and get in a pre-swim. But alas, that didn't happen. So we set ourselves up in TA, chatted with other athletes, spirits high, ready to enjoy the day. Tri tip: Try to find something unique about your row in TA so that you can easily find it when running in from the swim and bike. Some triathlete had done this in the most delightful way that I want to use myself for the future. It involved a monkey...

Webb:  On this day I purposefully resorted to the old ways of using the swim as my warm-up. For one, I was not feeling particularly strong going into the race event. Second, in the 4-6 weeks prior, I had developed some serious soreness in my right shoulder that kept me out of the pool. I had no idea how it would react. I decided to drop any goals and just swim nice and easy.

That same lazy attitude led to some early tense moments. I took my time getting into my new Roka wetsuit. Elle zipped me up and we started making our way over to the swim start. There were a number of people exiting the swim warm-up area where I also noticed a small pack of swimmers heading out in haste. I asked Elle, "Is that the first wave?" Uh oh, I was in the second wave. I had to hustle.

Luckily, race management (i.e., Sun Multisports) was continuing an experiment where each wave sent off three competitors every ten seconds. That gave me the extra time I needed to zig-zag through everyone to jump on the back of my wave. I really like this format. Being able to swim free of a pack was exactly what I needed to have some confidence with my shoulder. It was sore from time to time but held up fine for most of the 1.2 miles. Thankfully, I did not have to jockey for position or alter my stroke to navigate a crowd. As it was, I ended up only swimming about 2 minutes slower than my normal half-iron distance pace.

Elle: I started my swim about 15-20 minutes after Webb. I was excited to try this new 3-at-a-time start. Granted, I don't have a problem with the group start, I oddly like the insanity of it. But this was good too. Now to the bad news: I felt my extreme lack of swim training, and struggled a bit. OK, a lot. Note to self: stop skipping swim workouts!

T1: Or, when to get out of your wetsuit

Webb: Recently I read a wetsuit review by QR founder Dan Empfield, a pioneer in our sport. He recommended getting out of your wetsuit as soon as you get out of the water (without obstructing your fellow athletes). Since I have had problems extracting myself from my wetsuit, I gave it a try. I think it worked better. The better solution may be to cut the legs at an angle to create a larger hole for my feet to escape. (This is apparently a thing triathletes have been doing for ages but does not get a lot of press.)

The BIKE: 56 miles (90km)

Webb: The bike is a fast, New England flat course, meaning, rolling hills without any hills that are difficult. Let's be clear though that flat in other parts of the country means no hills. It is also not a particularly technical course. There are about six turns in the first couple of miles and two hard right turns that warrant caution. Other than those it is a great course to settle in and drive a steady effort.

My plan for the bike was to take it easy on the first lap and just go with how I felt on the second lap. Since the training was not there for this race, I wanted to ease into each leg and try to negative split. That was not going to happen. Right out of T1 I paired up with another guy and we began working together. I knew it was not sustainable but I was having such a fun time. About 15 miles in, I decided it was a really bad idea because I could ruin my whole day. I let him and another guy who had joined us pass. Soon enough I had caught them again as they had come up on six guys riding questionably close. I hung back, sat up on my saddle and moved the left to catch some air so I would not be drafting. Frustrated, I dropped the hammer and attacked, passing all eight guys. That took a lot out of me but I figured if we caught those guys to begin with, they would not follow suit. My race buddies passed me and I was happy to let them go. Within a few minutes, the six hangers-on came racing up and fell in line between me the guys up front like we were doing a team time trial. I attacked again. Hard. It worked; we finally dropped them. It took its toll though, as I needed a few miles to recover.

The calm before the storm.
Elle: As usual, I was just really happy to be done with the swim. We had done a couple of practice rides on this course before, so I knew what I was in for. And things were going A-ok. Alright. I'll just cut to the chase here. At the first bottle exchange (around mile 18), I was ready for some more water. So I grabbed a bottle and started to pour it into my handlebar-mounted water bottle, as I've done before in other races. No big deal. But then, all of a sudden, catastrophe hit. Like a brick wall. All of a sudden my biggest race fears were realized as I found myself, seemingly for no reason, flying over the handle bars of my bike, diving head-first into the pavement.

1. I didn't crash into another athlete
2. I don't remember seeing anything in the road that would have caused me to lose control

What I do remember with clarity is the suddenness of it all. I remember the distinct feeling of pure dread and fear as I felt my body hurdling toward the earth with force, unable to stop, knowing that what was about to happen would be bad. And I couldn't do anything about it.

And then I hit the ground.

I remember lying in the road, unable to move. Since it was at the water station, there were a number of people there. I remember them all around me. I couldn't speak at first. But when I could, the first words out of my mouth were:

"Is, is, is, MY BIKE OK???"

Eventually they moved me off the road and into a chair. Then things are a little fuzzy, but I recall people doing some superficial cleaning/treating of my wounds. And people talking to me. They wanted me to go to the hospital. I wanted to keep racing. They asked me if there was someone I was there with. I gave them Webb's full name and race number. I was told that I was disqualified because my helmet was not longer regulation, since it was cracked all the way through. Crap. And as I refused the option of going to the hospital, I distinctly remember one woman saying, "If you could see yourself, you'd want go to the hospital."
But at this point, I was just so emotional about the idea of not finishing the race, I wasn't thinking rationally. Finally an EMT convinced me to get in his van and go back to transition, since I had to accept that my race was over. I can't tell you how devastated I was by this. My emotions regarding not finishing the race were overriding the clear physical problems that my body was trying to broadcast. One of them being that I couldn't stop shaking. My whole body was just shaking, and it wouldn't stop.

Webb: Elsewhere, I had intentionally and considerably slowed down for the second lap, unaware of the drama unfolding.

T2: Going different places

Webb: The transition to T2 was painfully long, running with my bike in my shoes was difficult. This was the first time I had wished I learned how to transition keeping my shoes in my pedals. I think it would make it a lot easier.

After racking my bike and putting on my shoes, I surveyed the racks to estimate how many people were already out on the run. Lots of bikes were still on the course, except for one notable Trek. I saw Elle's bike and recognized it immediately. Thoughts started running through my head:

She could not have passed me on the bike. I don't know, that second loop felt really slow. But there is no way; she started 15 minutes after me! How slow was I going?

I started to run out and decided to double-back to see if her run shoes were there. Yep, there they were. That set off a new series of thoughts as I walked down the 'Run out' chute:

Oh no, I hope she's ok. Did something happen in the swim? No, no, no, that is too unlikely. She wasn't feeling great this morning, maybe she abandoned. Maybe I should check? Don't overthink this. If you don't go out and run and she is hanging out, yucking it up, making the best of a bad day, she'll just feel bad. Just get this run over with.

Elle: So I got back to race headquarters. The nice EMT guy pulled my bike out of the van. And a race official was there, ready to take my timing chip. Again, this was a very emotional thing for me to do. The final, "Yeah, your race is f*cking over today" moment. Again, they asked me if I was at the race with someone, and I gave them Webb's info. Then I walked my bike over to the EMT truck, because I said I would. The guys there tried to get me to go to the hospital, but again I resisted. At this point, the most acute pain I was feeling was in my calves, from stopping so abruptly after intense stress, the muscles in my calves had seized up. So I headed to the next tent over (the massage tent) to see if they could do something about it. The race was still going on, with no finishers yet, and they had nothing to do, so they told me to lay face-down on the table and they started to rub my calves. It wasn't even 60 seconds in before I started to awkwardly sit up and mumble, "I don't feel so good". I was getting nauseous and dizzy. "I feel kinda nauseous..."
And before I knew it, the EMT's were all over me, sticking things to my body and hooking them up to a machine, and shining a light in my eyes. I could hear the massage therapists behind me, whispering to each other,
"She doesn't look good..."
"She's only going to get worse..."

And the EMT's were now pressing me harder about how I should go to the hospital.

"We can't force you to go, but based on your vital signs, we HIGHLY suggest that you go to the hospital. Now."

I wasn't feeling good at this point, so I finally relented. With the simple utter of, "Ok, I'll go," before I knew it, I was strapped onto a gurney, and was in the ambulance on my way to the hospital.

The RUN: 13.1 miles (21km)

Webb: We did not preview the run course at all. I had no idea what to expect, other than it was a single 13.1 mile loop. Right away I was feeling fatigued. The first few miles were marked by rolling hills.  I struggled from time to time wondering what was up with Elle, which was actually a really good distraction to my shuffling, tired legs. Three miles in I actively tried to push thoughts about Elle and running out of my head.

I started counting steps: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 1, 2, 3,  ... You get the idea. It worked like a charm for the next four miles. Between miles seven and eight, I stopped being able to count. I considered asking aid station volunteers to see if they could get on the radio and find out about Elle. I figured it would be easy to say, "Hey, I'll be at the next station in about 10 minutes or 20 for the one after that. Please send word ahead." I did not do that. Hindsight still doesn't tell me if that was the right non-decision.

At mile 8, I bypassed the aid station and saw that the course was heading uphill again. The course basically climbs gradually from mile 8 past mile 9. My race fell apart during that stretch. It is possible I have never walked more during a run than in those 4 final miles. If I thought I was having a bad time of it ...

Elle: I won't go into all the details, but here's the crux: I had hit my head hard, and had a huge lump on my forehead. So they performed a CT scan right away. Good news - CT scan was clear. Next up, x-rays for the huge, discolored lump on my right forearm, just below my elbow. More good news - no break. Woohoo! However, I very probably had a concussion, and due to my unfortunately long history of concussions, I was in danger of post-concussion syndrome (PCS). So they redressed my wounds, gave me a packet about PCS, and released me. Now let me draw you a picture:
All I had in my possession was the race suit I was wearing (a skin-tight onesie), and nothing else.
That was it. I didn't have a cell phone, a wallet, ID, or even shoes. In fact, they had to give me hospital socks so I could use the bathroom. They told me they'd pay for a cab to take me back to the race site.

So there I was.
Standing on the sidewalk in front of the hospital.
In my race suit, and nothing else.
No shoes.
Wondering if Webb had any idea of where I was or what I had been through.

The cab finally showed up, I climbed in, and we headed back to the race site.

Post-RACE: The Aftermath

Webb: I crossed the finish line and went straight for an empty chair that I spotted in the shade. I drank water, ate a banana and began searching the finishing area for Elle. When I didn't see her within the first minute, I knew something had happened. If she had abandoned for a minor reason she would have met me at the finish line. I struggled to stand and made my way to the TA to check out her area.

I saw all of her stuff still undisturbed. That was unsettling. I grabbed my car keys and headed towards the car to check my phone, thinking she would have found a way to contact me. As I was walking down the 'Run Out' chute, I overhead a man say, "I'm trying to find this guy to tell him about his wife."
      Me: Excuse me! I'm looking for my wife!
      Race Official:  Are you number 595.
      Me: Yes. (Oh hell.)
      Race Official: Your wife is okay. (oh I don't like the start of this.) She crashed and hit her head. She is at the hospital and she's fine.
      Me: She's at the HOSPITAL???
      Race Official: Yeah, she's fine. She wanted to keep racing. (that sounds about right) But we disqualified her because her helmet was cracked.
      Me: Her helmet was cracked??? (he said she was fine, he said she was fine, he said she was fine.)
      Race Official: Yeah. She was ok, but the EMT's wanted her to go the hospital. You'll need to go pick her up.
      Me: Okay. Great. Thanks. Wait! Which hospital? (Is there a hospital around here?)
      Race Official: She is at St. Luke's.
      Me: Okay, thanks! (Do I know what town I'm in?) Wait, where is St Luke's?
      Race Official: New Bedford
      Me: NEW BEDFORD??? (I was not in New Bedford)

At this point, he pulled out his phone, looked up the number, called the hospital, and handed me the phone. I navigated the phone system searching for her. I talked to about 5 people in about 5 minutes. The staff was professional and efficient as I was passed from department to department. There was no point where I felt frustrated. When I finally landed at the right department, the staff person informed me she had been discharged. I said, "What does that mean? I mean, I know what it means. Should I come get her or has she left the hospital???" The hospital staff person told me to hold. A minute or so later she came back to tell me that she had paged Elle and since there was no response, she had probably left the hospital. (Holy. Shit.)

I thanked the Race Official and headed down the chute towards the car. She must have tried to reach me. I need my phone.

: I finally reached the race site, and I stepped out of the cab, still in my hospital socks, not really knowing what to do next. During this whole incident, I had made a concentrated effort not to cry. I thought about Chrissy Wellington, who won Kona after a devestating bike crash just weeks before the race. And about Kathryne Bertine, a pro cyclist who has suffered much worse, and still raced. And about Chris Horner, who finished a stage of the Tour de France after a devastating crash, and didn't even remember finishing the stage. He kept asking, as he was being gurneyed into the ambulance, "Did I crash? Did I finish?" The strength of these heroic athletes circled in my mind and helped me to put my situation into perspective. And to keep me from crying. But as I walked (bare foot) towards transition, all of a sudden, I saw Webb walking towards me. And I couldn't keep it in any longer. As I approached him, we embraced, and a waterfall of tears streamed down my face.

Webb: After skirting through T2 and running 13.1 miles telling myself not to worry and then listen to a race official tell me that Elle went to a hospital in another town, only to learn she had been "discharged," it was almost incomprehensible to see her walking down the chute towards me. How was that possible? And what relief to see her walking and looking no worse than anyone finishing a 70.3. I took a moment to acknowledge that despite how awful the crash was, I was grateful she wasn't lost and we didn't have to go through the anxiety of trying to find each other.

Elle: You learn something from every race. Things don't always go your way. And when they don't, you need to find something to take away from that. It could have been a lot worse for me that day. It takes strength to remain positive and keep moving forward, but that's what I tried to do. A lot of the experience of racing triathlons is the mental game. How do you react in the face of adversity? You can learn a lot about yourself in those moments. I'd like to think that I learned a lot that day.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Race Report: TriZona Starr Pass

Race Report: TriZona Starr Pass

March 29, 2015
Tucson, AZ

Swim: 550 meters?
Bike: 15.6 miles
Run: 3.1 miles

Starr Pass Tucson
Webb: For the first race of 2015 we decided to leave the giant mounds of dirty snow behind us and head for the desert. The plan was to see my family and squeeze in an early sprint at the Starr Pass resort. We learned about this race from a friend on the forum. I was intrigued; Elle was more excited.

Elle: O. M. G. I just wanted to get the heck out of the cold, dark, hinterland formerly known as Boston, Massachusetts.

The SWIM: 550 meters?

Webb: The swim takes place in the resort's lazy river. Prior to race day we submitted our estimated 700 yard swim times. The race directors then placed us in order from fastest to slowest. I was lucky number 13 and Elle was number 17. Before you start thinking that we must have spent a lot more time in the pool than blogging in the preceding months, the race was limited to 50 competitors. Neither of us had swam much and the early season race had us wondering if we should have been numbers 49 and 50.

I was intrigued by this race because it begins on a waterslide. I will write that again:

Elle: Holy crap every race should start on a waterslide! I can't explain how fantastic it was, you just have to take my word for it. Or sign up yourself...

Webb: I could not agree more: Waterslides are the best way to begin a triathlon - no contest. We queued up according to our numbers and one by one flung ourselves down the waterslide every ten seconds. Race officials were clear that all competitors must go down feet first. After splash down you had to reorient yourself on your stomach and get your body pointed the right direction. Once that was accomplished, you had to head out for two laps around the lazy river against the current. Even though the current was not strong, my lats were screaming the whole time.

The 'Lazy River'
Elle: You'd be surprised how hard it is to navigate a lazy river. Even though we were technically in a pool, I almost swam straight into the wall a couple of times. On the bright side, this was by far the shortest swim we have done. And it was over before I knew it. Sweet.

The BIKE: 15.6 miles

Webb: I was more confident in my bike fitness than my swimming since we completed the Tour of Sufferlandria at the beginning of February and had continued with our workouts. Still, we had not been outdoors on a bike in months, so there was a question as to how the body would respond.

The course was a down-and-up affair. Star Pass sits atop of a hill. We rode out of the transition area (TA) down the hill about a half-mile and then onto a looped course for three laps (each being a touch under five miles). After the third lap we returned back up the hill to the TA.

Each lap started fast and ended slow. You begin with a fast descent, followed by a right turn continuing downhill. Your next right initially descends further, but then it levels out after a punchy hill. Your last right takes you on a gradual climb back up to begin your next lap or your return even farther up the hill to the TA.

Elle: Honestly, I was just so happy to be outside in the sun and the warmth, you couldn't have wiped the smile off my face. I passed a number of racers, men and women, young and old. I think it's possible that the long, harsh winter had actually given me a mental edge. Most of the racers were from the area, and maybe they took it for granted? Meanwhile, I was high on sunshine.

Webb: I loved it. After all that time indoors on the trainer (which I also love unabashedly), it was good to get out and race with people. Immediately out of T1 I found myself working with a guy who came out of the water just ahead of me. We yoyo-ed back and forth for the first lap. I was certain I was working too hard but just could not help myself. It was so much fun to race outside. About a quarter of the way into the second lap I realized that my race buddy was no longer keeping pace, but whoa! I had a new race buddy who came up alongside and passed me. At first, I did not think I could close the gap on him, however, within a few miles I was passing him and we began working together. (A note for new readers: I abhor drafting. By working together we forced each other to keep up the pace. If the lead rider begins to slow down, the back rider overtakes him and forces the pace anew. It will force you to work harder than if you were alone, but it can break you too.) After the final right turn up the hill he began to pull away from me. A few times I narrowed the gap but I could not get close enough to pass him or to keep up. I decided to settle down and see if I could run him down.

The RUN: 3.1 miles

Webb crosses the finish line with fervor.
Webb: This was the part of the race we both found daunting. It was pretty simple: Run 1.55 miles down the hill, turnaround and run 1.55 miles back up the hill. That's it!

Elle: That's it. Oh, and it's 80-degrees. And sunny. And there's zero shade. But even so, I was still really excited to be there.

Webb: Coming out of T2 I could really feel how much fun I had on the bike. Even though it was mostly downhill at the beginning, my legs were fried enough that I was still having problems. I focused on keeping a high turnover and hoped that I would recover enough to push harder soon enough.

Almost immediately I encountered the first two men coming in hard for the finish. (Wow, they were fast.) A half-mile later, the lead woman ran past me and offered me some encouragement. I started to count. My race buddy from the bike course was in front of me, which put me in fourth, if there was no one other men in front. I tried to maintain contact with him while also attempting to recover. After we passed the 1-mile aid station, the 3rd-place male passed me on his way to the finish line. He looked strong. That put me in 5th with a hope for 4th. A little before the turnaround my race buddy passed me. We high-5'd. He only had 200m on me and I was feeling better. Unfortunately, so was he; that was the closest I would get.

I started to run like the prey instead of the predator. I had seen a couple of guys behind me after I made the turnaround and had no idea how much, if any, of a head start I had on them from the swim time trial start. I pushed hard up the hill. Eventually the racers running the opposite direction stopped saying, "good job" and started saying, "good job you guys." Guys??? Then the footsteps behind me became more audible. I tried to run harder, desperate to hold onto 5th. He finally ran by me and to my great relief I saw the "R" relay marking on his calf. Relief was soon replaced with realization that another might be behind me; I pressed onward.

Elle: This was my time to shine. I can't beat Webb on the swim or the bike. But I can often get him on the run. I started out hard. It was hot. But I took the free speed that comes with running downhill. So I went full gas. About a quarter of a mile in, I saw the 1st place woman running towards me. Holy cow, she was fast! As we passed each other she said to me, 'Good job.' To which I responded, 'You too!'. That was nice. Then at about a half a mile from the turn around I saw Webb running up towards me. 'I think you're the 4th woman!' he called out. That got me excited. I made the turn around and started the 1.5 mile climb to the finish. I was going hard, and passed a lot of people. But ended up stopping, not once, but twice! I never stop during the run on a sprint. But this course was a little severe. As I approached the finish line, I gave it all I had, and crossed, fully exhausted, with Webb yelling out encouraging words. As soon as I crossed, Jodee, the race director immediately came over, she looked concerned. 'You're not sweating. That's a problem. You need water, now!'
I was really surprised by that. I hadn't even noticed that I wasn't sweating. Hello, dry heat!

Oh and by the way, I beat Webb by more than 40 seconds on the run.


Webb: I was taken aback by our results. I finished 5th male (and 6th overall, not counting the relay team). Spoiler Alert: Elle did not win, that honor would go to a pro triathlete. She did finish 4th female (and 10th overall, again, not counting the relay). My goal coming into the race was to finish in the top 25 overall, Elle's was to finish top 10 among the women. I was especially surprised with the result considering that the top three were a MTB national champion and Olympian (doing his first triathlon), a pro XTERRA triathlete and the aforementioned pro woman. One of the great things about our sport is that even small races can bring great athletes.

Elle: I was really surprised and pleased with my results. It was a fun race, and I was really glad we made the trip out there. The race directors, husband and wife duo Barry and Jodee Siff did a great job. They were super friendly and have created a fun, unique race at this venue that I would definitely recommend. The race has already expanded to 75 athletes - they are taking it slowly to make sure they can successfully accommodate the number of racers, which is smart. We give this race 2 thumbs up!