Monday, December 27, 2010

Week Four: Ahhhhhhh, Recovery Week...

Finally I have reached the first plateau! One month down, and green is still the color of compliance! This week's workload was cut in half and truly felt like a vacation compared to the last three weeks. I was even able to move some workouts around without feeling like I was competing with myself to fit them all in. It was the best Christmas present ever!

Challenge of the Week:
  • To continue rising early enough in the morning to get it done before work, and not procrastinate and convince myself I could exercise later since I had more freedom in my schedule.
Lessons Learned this Week:
  • The more I stick to my program on the hard weeks, the more enjoyable the recovery weeks are.
  • Weight training seems to be helping my balance as well as my core. I suddenly feel more stable when challenged with one legged balancing acts (which in my circus routine I do frequently).
  • I can't skip breakfast. I should know this one by now. I CAN'T SKIP BREAKFAST! I wish I could learn this one. Maybe this should be in my Lessons I Should Have Learned list.
So, the week is done, but I am pleased to say I did recover...

Planned: 6:10
Actual: 6:30

    Sunday, December 26, 2010

    Dirty Mama's Go Out With a Bang!

    Grace, Gnome, Dirty
    Sadly, the 2010 Dirty Mama's Adventure Racing season has come to an end. It has a been an exciting season filled with spills, thrills, drama, laughs, and its fair share of sweat and hard work. I have never before enjoyed being part of a "team" as much as I have enjoyed being a Dirty Mama. Over the course of our first racing season we have fine-tuned ourselves into a small but potential threat for any team that is willing to compete against us in enough races to earn more points than we do by sheer participation in the sport. Oh, and we're good too. Don't think we'll just hand it over to you if you show up enough.

    We've been interviewed by local newspaper reporters, written about by a gnome, and have even started to become recognized at our races from all of the massive publicity that three middle age mothers can generate. It's been hard to remain humble throughout it all, but somehow we've managed to remain a team and not let the celebrity factor tear us all apart.

    So for our final season's race report I have decided that I will narrate. For only I can tell it like it was...

    November 6, 2010
    New Orleans Adventure Race - Finals

    I'm going to be honest. In the week leading up to this race I was just a tad bit disappointed. After all, it was the last race of our first season and all along we had talked a good talk about how we were going to blow it out in New Orleans and really celebrate our impending victory. I had bonded with my Mama's and was really looking forward to a girl's night/weekend in the Big Easy...playing in the French Quarter, racing hard, and then playing some more. It seemed like it was one thing after another that kept us from making the road trip as planned, and eventually we succumbed to real life and decided to just drive down the morning of the race and return home afterwards.

    Other than my Alzheimer's kicking in as usual, there wasn't much to our drive down. Once I remembered where Grace (previously known as Here) lived, we were on our way for a greasy bacon egg and cheese biscuit, coffee (which Grace managed to spill all over her lap and my van), and a quick pick-up of Dirty and her gear. Packing up has become a non-issue as we are such experts now. The quick check list of "did you remember to bring your bike," and "who has the Captain's?" was reviewed before leaving the city, but other than that we trusted that we all knew the routine by now.

    We arrived at City Park and went through our preparations. The necessities were addressed first. The inhaler went into the back of Dirty's camelback so I could have quick access; the flask of Captain's went into Grace's camelback so Dirty could have quick access, and so on. It was decided that knee-highs were silly for an urban race so they remained at home. That was mistake number one (at least for Dirty who was like our bulldozer and cleared the paths through the wilderness for us).

    While we unpacked we were informed that this race would be longer than usual since it was the championship race. This made us a little nervous considering an average race could take us 6+ hours. We made the unanimous decision to not break out the Captain's until we felt sure we had made it to a point where we could finish the race. We were racing smart.

    Dirty bike check
    Knowing that we might be gone for most of the day without food, we decided to take in a little nutrition pre-race. I found some old squishy energy bars that I shared with my girls, and Dirty decided she would try and burn off some fat pre-race.

    Last minute calories

    Unfortunately for her (and us) she wasn't able to keep it down...
    We looked fine. Hot. As hot as thirty-something (cough cough), slightly overweight women can look in skin tight new Nike capri pants and super small tank tops. We had hoped to be able to cover up with long sleeves to leave a little something to the imagination of our competitors, but the weather was not cold enough.

    Grace getting a little pre-race love

    Tally Wackinhole made the trip, but at some point in the race he escaped. It was weird. One minute he was there, the next he was gone.

    As usual I exited to use the pot-o-gold about the time my team got the maps and instructions for the checkpoints. This has been my strategy all along. I am sure they have not figured me out yet. I can't find my way to my teammates house, I really feel I am doing us all a favor not trying to find my way through the woods in City Park.

    The whistle blows and we head out like a herd of cattle with young pups nipping at our feet. We raced smart (at first) by sticking to the asphalt while the younger all-female teams took to the fields. It wasn't long till the first group payed the price as someone hit a hole and twisted an ankle. This reaffirmed our strategy to race smart and safe. We never questioned as our fearless leader led us through the brambles, thorns, and poison ivy as we watched in our peripheral vision the same team that sprained an ankle earlier reach the next checkpoint by just running through another grassy field. Hmmmmm.


    It seemed like there was lots of running at first, and then eventually we made it back to our bikes. We rode through City Park until we found the canoe entrance. We showed our finesse this time as we actually put our canoe into the water with ease, faced it in the proper direction, and coordinated our paddling. Dirty managed the tunes from her Ipod in the center console, and we cruised the waterways without any difficulty. Our relaxed moods combined with our good tunes and our center navigator who responsibly dished out gels and water made the trip more enjoyable than usual. We actually felt a twinge of pity for the all-female team who was seen trying to punch a canoe checkpoint from their bikes, not realizing they had really f----- up and completely missed a leg of the race. Just a twinge, but for us that was something...

    At the turn-around for the canoe I gave up my spot in the rear of the canoe and took over navigation (to my distaste). Dirty went into Coach mode and gave me the task of returning us to the canoe exit and then on to the next two bike checkpoints. Just because it was a straight line back to the canoe exit they acted like it shouldn't be stressful. I studied the map hard and we made it back without error. I then held my ground and led my team (as the strong leader that I am) to the next two checkpoints...even arguing my directions with those who questioned me (not naming names). Once there I handed the reigns back to the team members who are better adept at reading fine print.

    The most confusing part of the navigation seemed to be City Park itself. The turns and lakes became confusing, but even with the questions that arose we still managed to maintain a decent pace and get through each checkpoint. We rode towards the French Quarter, past hobos and tourists, and then along the levee until we got to the bike drop at Heritage Park. Here we found a sea of bikes from those that had come before us (which were many). The first debate was whether to leave the camelbacks with the bikes or to carry them on our run. The second was whether to leave the Captain. He came with us.

    Bike drop
    Always time for a photo
    One last look at the map and we decided the shortest, most direct route to get to our first Mystery Challenge location, Elmwood Fitness Club, would be to run straight down the street and then take a right. So we immediately proceeded to run, criss-crossing through the warehouse district, making many turns down back alleys instead. Grace and I became a little fatigued with the pace so we slowed, but in true Dirty fashion, she just kept right on running, glancing back every so often in exasperation at her pitiful teammates. But we knew who was really in control. We had the Captain's...

    We arrived at our Mystery Challenge to learn that we had to run up 13 flights of stairs while one team member carried a 15 pound weight. Being the team player that I am, I volunteered to make the first leg  carrying the weight. I made it up about 4 flights before Dirty said, "give me that." She then left us in the dust as she mule-d it up the flights at an un-Godly speed while we were left huffing and puffing in her wake. She's a monster. Grace and I exchanged knowing looks.

    Pop a gel, puff an inhaler, suck down some cold water, and we run towards Cafe Du Monde...our next mystery event. It was fun running through the quarter and downtown New Orleans, especially because we weren't being chased by anyone. We knew the side streets pretty well so we could choose our route without too much tourist foot traffic to hinder our speed. We arrived at Cafe Du Monde to find a table with buckets of powdered sugar on them and were given directions for each member of the team to bob for a beignet, removing it only with our mouths. One beignet had to be eaten by the team, but no hands could be used. We eagerly dove for the doughnuts (as we had no problem with this), but then Grace and I stood back and watched as Dirty tried to swallow an entire beignet in a few bites. It was ugly and hysterical at the same time. Neither of us were sure how to help without making it worse. I took a bite off of it in the early stages, but as it became lodged in her throat, Grace took charge and knew what she needed to do. It was strangely erotic yet disturbing as she went in for a bite. Having gnawed it into smaller bits, eventually Dirty was able to devour what was left. I felt dirty, but pulled it together so we could move on.

    Once the show ended we were running again. Down along the levee and then onto the trolley tracks. This is where we had to make a choice. This was the one time in the race that we could take public transportation if we chose. We could sit and wait for the trolley, not knowing when it would come, or we could run along the tracks and hope that it would be worth the effort. While all the other teams rested at the trolley depot, the Dirty Mama's went hardcore. We ran. And ran. We leaped from track to track, across the gravel, jumping train ties and trying to space our footing just right so as not to break an ankle. I don't know how Grace did it, but she never fell. Dirty was enjoying it way too much. "I have found the perfect way to run on my toes!" she kept saying. I, being smaller in stature, was struggling to keep up as my legs were not quite as gargantuan as my partners. We ran forever, always looking over our shoulders to see if the trolley that we were trying to beat was coming up from behind. I felt like I was in the movie Stand By Me where the train runs the kids off of the track and they jump just in the nick of time before getting squashed by the train.

    Track Running, a new sport
    My attempt to catch up. Hey! Let me take a pic!
    Finally we get to the end of the track and decide to grab the next trolley. We had run forever. We see the trolley filled with our well rested competitors coming towards us. We get on and sit for about 3 whole minutes, long enough to take our first (and only) shot of Captain, and then the trolley lets us off at our stop. We could have saved the five dollars and run 30 more steps and been there. Lesson Number Two.

    The next checkpoint was inside Mardi Gras World on a float. It is really a cool place to walk through. I was there years ago and loved it. I did not however realize that Dirty would be freaked out by floats and life-size fake people so I did not get a chance to look around as she zipped in and out so fast I barely got a picture. She kept saying things like "Oh my God! This place is awful!". Wuss.

    We reclaim our bikes at Heritage Park and ride back through the Quarter towards City Park. Mystery Challenge number 3 involves compass navigation. I'm out. We are given a compass and a set of coordinates and we have to come back with three letters attached to trees that we navigate to. They must be in the right order. Dirty takes the compass and goes to work and within a minute we have our first letter. On to the next letter. Its about 200 yds from the last tree. Suddenly the heat must be getting to Dirty, because for a swimmer she should be able to estimate yardage, but she is football fields from where she should be but is insistent that she is right. Thankfully Grace guesstimates the proper distance and leads us to the next letter without using the compass (as it is football fields away with Dirty who is still walking in circles and arguing that she is right). We then quickly find the last letter and take our answer to the judge who checks our work and send us off to the next checkpoint. Success! And we have made up some time on some of the other female teams!

    We are almost done, and are left with just a few more checkpoints. We ride our bikes to the location of the swan boats and are told we have to paddle boat our way around the fountain in the lake in order to get our next punch on our card. Grace and I take turns paddling the left side of the boat and Dirty and her mammoth strength maintain her position on the right the whole time. It was a blast, even as we got drenched in the cold fountain that we had to paddle through. Cold and wet, we got our punch and headed out for the last few checkpoints.

    The last mystery event was at Massey's Outfitters. Once we made it to the store we had to work a long math problem in order to get the number to a lock on a safe that we had to open. Once again, I busied myself with anything I could think of to not slow my team down more. I mean, I have a state auditor and a swim coach, both should be quick with numbers. Well, after working the problem about 5 times, they got the answer and opened the safe. We then had to find certain items in the store before we could punch our card. Once done, we were off again!

    We biked back to the van and dropped our bikes so we could run to one more checkpoint before crossing the finish line. We were looking strong. Hot. Sweaty. Frothy even. Frothy? What the hell is coming out from between Dirty's legs?? Oh my God she's foaming!! She is working so hard she has worked up a lather! (I have never laughed so hard in the last 1/4 mile of a race before). Apparently it is wise to completely rinse your pants of soap before you race in them. We are going to assume that was soap.
    Cleaned up and ready for our award!

    So it ended. We finished the race in 5:08:05 and claimed 4th place. We won 2nd place overall in the series and got a lovely plaque to commemorate all of the hard work. And Dirty got to squeeze Dave, the organizer's, butt during the pictures. Overall, it was a glorious end to a season.

    Dirty Mama's Second Place Overall

    And how did we celebrate? 
    Well in true Dirty fashion of course...

    To My Mama's: Thanks for accepting me into your small and very exclusive sorority. I have had an incredible time racing with you both. Just when I think we've done it all... we have another adventure! I look forward to next season and can only imagine what laughs it will bring! 

    Your Dirty Mama,

    Yard Gnome

    Sunday, December 19, 2010

    Week Three: Mean Green Triathlon Machine

    One option for next season's Fitbird Tri-Suit?
    This weeks summary:

    It started off normal consistent with the previous two weeks ~ runs almost every day, bike twice a week, weights twice a week, two swim workouts. And then it happened. The gavel came down. New workouts appeared on my program. An extra swim got thrown in. There was even talk of an open water practice. Coach is starting to sneak things in on me. Apparently 11 hours of training a week isn't enough.

    Sunday, December 12, 2010

    Week Two: On a Roll!!

    I have just completed Week 2 of 20 weeks of training. Wow. I was really proud of myself until I just typed that and realized I have 18 more to go. Maybe I should hold my enthusiasm a little longer. I was going to say that I was pretty proud of myself for completing a second week of training as written. But now it just doesn't seem that impressive. Oh well. I'll keep nipping away at the mountain ahead of me. Maybe if I face it one week at a time I will be able to look back in a few months and feel I've accomplished something. Wow. I didn't know I could let the air out of my own sail.

    So, this week's summary:

    I seem to be continuing on the build portion of training as my time investment is rising. Lots of running is still in my plan and I suppose that is mostly due to Rouge Orleans creeping nearer and nearer. I am getting more comfortable with long swims in the pool, and have even adjusted somewhat to swimming outside in the cold. I know that my hours in the pool are just going to get longer and longer but I'm trying not to think too far ahead as it could easily bring me down. I am missing my road bike as all my training this week has been on the stationary bikes at the fitness center. I hate not moving when I ride. I miss my training group and Fitbird rides. Something about "gusts of 40 mph" kept me from riding outside and I had to settle for the spin bike. Luckily I had a good training partner who tried her best to entertain me with songs from Glee and unusual Christmas tunes. It was interesting, to say the least...

    Lessons Learned for the week:

    1) I am capable of training solo when it is required, although it is not my first choice. Stray dogs can be nice to run with when I am desperate for companionship.

    2) There is something disturbingly nice about freezing in cold air and then diving into a heated pool to swim...except when the lifeguard calls you out in front of everyone for diving into the pool.

    3) I like the way it makes me feel when I enter my daily logs into Training Peaks and the blocks turn green.

    4) I am somewhat relieved that the three days of utter and complete exhaustion I felt mid-week was not 100% due to deconditioning. I can account some of it to a wayward stomach virus that seemed to be floating around the hood. This makes me feel hopeful about facing future weeks of true utter and complete exhaustion.

    5) I am learning much about what some call "runner's trots". I shall say no more (except thank you EBR Parish Library for your location).

    6) I am learning a lot about proper nutrition this time around. I am far from mastering it, but I like when I know what works and what doesn't for me before and after a workout.

    7)I am visualizing success. Whenever I am running, biking, or swimming all I let myself think about is that damn race and how I am going to destroy every obstacle it presents to me. I picture every aid station, landmark, and competitor along the way and watch myself go flying by and think about how good it's going to feel. I think about my Coach at the finish line handing me the peanut butter shake I should have earned last year.

    Planned Time: 11:00
    Actual Time: 11:27:33

    Sunday, December 5, 2010

    Week One: Making Friends With My Garmin

    Training Week One ~ Completed as written! First time EVER I have actually stuck to the entire program and gotten all my time in as instructed. My plan for this season is to actually follow my coach's written program with as little deviation as possible. I have come to the realization that I may not know quite as much as I think I know and maybe, just maybe, the one I pay for the expertise could know more. AND considering my fantabulous results in NOLA 70.3 last year, I am thinking it might be a good idea to get on board early.

    The weeks challenges? Lots of running on my plan. The distances weren't bad, but there were lots of run days. Re-introduction of a strength and conditioning program to get my 32% body fat down to a 24%. Hence my screaming calf muscles from calf raises and running. Keeping focused on the program. I had to battle through the discomfort and fight the urge to stay in bed on those cold mornings and choose to get up and run in 32 degree weather in the dark...which was even more difficult when certain teammates bailed or threatened to bail on me (I will not name names, but you know who you are!). Fighting the urge to puke when I run. Discovering that when my heart rate jumps with my increased speed I want to puke, and trying to learn how I can control that.

    Lessons Learned for the Week:
    1) Do NOT drink a beer before a race, even if it is a fun "Reindeer Run".
    2) Do NOT run in exercise pants or long sleeves no matter the temperature. I overheat and would do better just being cold to start out with.
    3) Keep my cold weather gear in a logical spot at the end of the winter season so when the next season starts I can find it easily.
    4) Early to bed makes early to rise so much more pleasant.
    5) Lube my bike chain before a test ride...especially when I haven't ridden in a long time.
    6) Appreciate the long hours adventure racing ~ they have really helped my endurance and strength.
    7) Stretch, stretch, stretch. Bio-freeze. Epsom salts. Stretch again. Keep moving. It will eventually stop hurting.

    Time planned: 9:37
    Time completed: 9:53