Sunday, October 30, 2011

The FitBirds Dabble in Black Magic

The moons aligned and the FitBirds sold their souls to the Race Director in exchange for a sweep of awards at this weekend's Vo Doo Duathlon. It was a beautiful morning for a race, cold enough to break out the long sleeves and running tights, but still warm enough to not blow smoke rings while exhaling on the run. There was a good size group of Birds in attendance and an assortment of races to chose from. There was a two mile run, a 5K, a 'Lil Vo Doo Duo, a Big Vo Doo Dou, and even a Dirty Doo Dou!

I had decided to partake in a little Dirty Doo in hopes to work on my mountain biking and running. It was more challenging than I had anticipated. All of the events began at the same time, but some turned right on the levee, some turned left, and some turned around before ever reaching it. It was a little unnerving for those of us who don't listen well or retain information. I really didn't want to run or bike more than I needed to.

I had hoped to draft off of Lizzard in my first two miles, but that thought quickly went away as she left me eating her asphalt from the start. I settled into my slow but steady pace and watched as most of my FitBirds passed me by. I was actually quite pleased to see that I was running about a 10 min pace and wasn't completely miserable doing so.

Pre Race: Lizzard, Coug, Recruit Bush,
Crash, Kitty, Smiles, Dr. Roboto
When I made it back into transition I slowed long enough to toss my hat and replace it with my helmet... and to look over to see Lizzard with a bloody nose from her over-exertion of pushing for a sub 9 minute mile. Impressed, but not deterred, I set off on my mountain bike hoping to make up some time. I was fine until I reached the hill that led to the levee. Halfway up I had to get off and push the bike to the top. I laughed at my unimpressive beginning then re-mounted to try again. The gravel was more brutal than I had expected. The vibration from the path became really annoying and I couldn't get any real speed up. I decided I much preferred the more technical trails at Comite than riding on this flat, gravel surface. I thought about the friends who offered up bike support to aide our team in our upcoming 126.2 mile run from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. I decided that they are crazy for riding that distance over 24 straight hours on this surface. It would be miserable. (But if any of you are reading this, we are so glad to have you along!!)

New MTB shoes, waiting to be worn
I kicked myself for not being more organized this week. I had just gotten my new mountain biking shoes, but it took me all week to get around to trying to replace the pedals on my bike. I couldn't get the platform pedals off the night before the race, so I didn't get to try out my loaner clipless pedals. Although I knew it was the right decision to not try them out on race day, I knew that it would have been a huge help to have had them on. If I'd been better prepared I would have had it done earlier in the week. Oh well. I was slow, but I wasn't sure just how slow I was because the field of racers for the Dirty Doo was so small. So I just kept at it and looked forward to the one downhill section that would take me quickly back to the paved road.

FitBird Molly-Ween: Crowe, COOg, Koko, Polly, Karin
Smiles, Walsh, Kate
I actually forced myself to eat my least favorite flavor of Gu, strawberry banana, in hopes it would give me some energy for the run. I unstuck it from the walls of my throat with a few sips of water, and rode towards transition. I was still suffering the after-affects of the FitBird Molloween Adventure on Friday night, and had waves of queasy mixed with fatigue hit me during the ride. When I turned the last corner I was confronted with a spattering of FitBirds and Coach Canada cheering me on. It made me smile as it has been a long time since I've been cheered for in a race!

Transition only consisted of removing my helmet and running out, but for some reason that seemed to take much longer than it should have. I passed by my cheering squad one more time and tried to focus my thought on anything other than my tired legs. I didn't fare as well over these last two miles and found that I had to walk at times. The last mile wasn't as bad as I had finally found my legs again, but there wasn't much left in the tank to sprint to the end, even with a cheering section.

The FitBirds cleaned up ~ winning pretty much every award short of the free mountain bike door prize. I actually was pretty confident someone would get that too just by the sheer number of us present at the end. It was a fun day, a great race, and we are already working on the next group adventure.

Docs in A Box/Doc Duo: Crash and Roboto
2nd Place Relay 'Lil Voo Doo
Wild Thangs: Lizzard and Kitty
1st Place Relay 'Lil Voo Doo
Joyce Ryder
Grand Master 2 Mile Jack-O-Lantern Run
1st Place 60-64 'Lil Voo Du
Andrea Talley
2nd Place 25-29 Big Voo Du

Mary Winette
First Place Masters Dirty Voo Du
1st Place 40-44 Dirty Voo Du

FitBirds In the House:
(top) Recruit Ellen Bush (2nd Place 50-54 'Lil Voo Du), Dr. Roboto, Crash, Smiles, Joyce
(bottom) Migrated Mary, COOg, FitDix Jay (1st Place 44- 49 Big Voo Du), Lizzard

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Sweet Trail Run on the Plantation

Margaret Plantation, Port Allen, LA
I am learning quickly two important things, which may already be obvious to those of you who are runners. Training is a lot more fun a) with friends and b) when you use small races as part of your training plan. Hence my registering for the Cane Field Classic Trail Run in Port Allen, LA this weekend. As it seems lately it has just become par for the course for me to barely make a planned event, once again I was able to slip away from the latest family emergency long enough to get a quick training run in. I am so glad I made the extra effort to do that!

Maddy, FireFly, COOg, Lizzard (not pictured: Koko who got lost)
It was a beautifully crisp and sunny morning, the sugarcane field locale was unique and filled with new running challenges and I had plenty of FitBird buddies to run with. With my new approach to off-season training in full effect, I put on my headphones, cleared my mind of any expectations, abandoned my Garmin, and set out for my four mile run in the back of the pack.

From the start of the run I had to adapt to a different terrain than I was used to running on, different even from when I have run off-road. The ground was rutted from heavy machinery and it was difficult to run without one leg being consistently higher than the other on the uneven dirt. There were cane husks littered in piles along the paths that obscured holes and ankle-spraining crevasses. It required focus and at first most of my attention was on the ground five feet in front of me and not on the scenery. Once I got my footing and became more comfortable with the obstacles I was able to look up and around to take in the greens of the sugarcane, the freshly burned and still smoking fields that had just been harvested, and the winding line of runners that weaved ahead of me through the brush.

As usual I wasn't fast, but my intent was to manage my pace and to just keep moving; to control my breathing, to clear my head, to focus beyond the cramping in my shins. I spent my time thinking about how much more mentally tough I have become these last few years, about the races I hope to one-day attempt, and about how I need to remember to enjoy what I am doing so that I will continue to want to do it.

My group of FitBirds quickly disbanded as some moved ahead and some dropped behind. I saw the first aid station at about 1.5 miles but elected to pass it as I didn't feel the need to drink and didn't want to risk stopping or slowing down. I was pleased as I hadn't had to resort to walking and wanted to maximize my run as much as possible. I plugged away and was challenged by some deep and finely textured dirt that my feet would sink into as I ran along the path. It was not coarse like a beach and the lack of traction made it hard to gain much of a push when I would progress my legs forward.

My run technique is bad and I am highly aware of it. I strike with my heels, my hips are weak, and I have a short stride. I took the time to think about my technique and tried to correct some of the glaring mistakes. As my legs became fatigued and my muscles felt heavier, my technique would return to what it knew best.

There was a Weirmaraner that must have been owned by the property residents as she seemed to know the course, and she loved to run. She easily cruised the paths, dodging runners, and would wait patiently at each turn in the field for the runners to catch up to her. At times she would retrace her steps and meet the slower runners for a while to help encourage them along the way. We spent quite a bit of time together.

I stopped to walk at the last aide station so I could rinse some of the dust out of my throat, but then I resumed my pace to the finish. I had been leap-frogging with a lady that I have seen on some of the Forge Trail races, and refused to allow myself to come in behind her, so I managed to put in some speed at the end to cross the finish just ahead of her. It wasn't impressive, but it gave me some self-satisfaction.

Overall I kept a pace around 11 minutes, which for the terrain and where I am right now in my fitness I am satisfied with. This run did reinforce to me that I need to increase the time and frequency of my running over these next eight weeks or I will be in a world of hurt for the half-marathon trail run.

I am thrilled to have been able to run with some of my buddies. It is always nice to have people at the finish cheering me in and encouraging me during the process. We received a finish line award of freshly cut cane to suck on, Greek food, jambalaya, and cake balls and a symphony of live Cajun music.

Lizzard explaining the nuances of "bagasse" in relation to both racing and sugarcane

It is nice to start to feel some of my motivation and "mojo" returning. Mixing it up and cross-training has been a good choice for me. It helps to have people in my life that inspire me: Linda "Freebird" Adams who just demolished her very first full Ironman distance race, clenching a first place in her age group and Susan Hayden who is competing in the Xterra World Championships in Maui as I am writing this. Both of these women are mentors and give me the hope that one day I can compete in these kinds of races if I just keep persevering.

So for now I will continue to plug away at the smaller scale. Next week's adventure is yet to be confirmed, but I am considering the Voodoo Duathlon so I can get some more trail running and mountain biking experience under my belt and do it in a race situation that may motivate me to push a bit harder than I would on my own.

To be continued...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Woman Versus Wild

Right now I am so sore it hurts to type, but I am energized and eager to get back out to the trails and explore! Yesterday I ran the Battlefield 5 Miler at the Port Hudson Civil War Site and then followed it with a mountain bike ride at Comite. The weather was perfect and it was just what I needed to jump start my off-road off-season adventures.

I had not set any expectations for the run considering the last time I ran was the three miles at the Santa Rosa Tri at the beginning of the month, and before that, well...

I put myself in the back of the pack of the second wave and for the most part stayed in the back of the pack. I wasn't dead last but I was close. I finished in around 49 minutes but learned that the course was marked short so that explained why the pace seemed a bit unrealistic for me right now. It was a beautiful run and quite a nice change from seeing cars, roads, and houses. I ran across wooden bridges, up and down dirt hills, and across the green grass of a battlefield. I broke all previous training run rules and listened to music the entire time. And when it was over, I was greeted with a cold beer, live music, and hot food. I came in third in my age group and finished 7/13 for the series (I'd forgotten I had already done one trail run earlier in the year - when I actually was training).

I had been tossing around the idea of doing the Thunderbird Half-Marathon Trail run in December, but was undecided as to whether I could manage that distance over hard off-road terrain by then. My hesitance was put to the test after the race when I found I had won a nice headlamp and free entry into both the Moonlight 6K (the night before the half marathon) and the Thunderbird Half as a door prize. I'm taking that as a sign that I am to do both and will now have to get my self moving so I can complete them.

The Comite trails were challenging and I wasn't sure if after having done the trail run my legs would hold up, but I found that once I began to ride I forgot about the soreness and just enjoyed the experience of the ride. Koko had agreed to ride with me and it worked out well and we were able to push each other to attempt some of the more technical challenges and in doing so improve our skills. For a while I felt like I was adventure racing, just without the canoe portion. It was nice. I really missed those races this season.

I am trying to work out a plan that can include my off-road runs and rides and allow me to train with the few people I know who can tolerate my level of skill. If push comes to shove I am just going to be creative about where I train so I can go solo if need be.

I'm pleased that I can hardly walk, sit, or squat right now. It's okay today that my jeans don't fit and most of my clothes are too small. I know I'm on the right track to getting back to me. It feels good to feel again, and not be so numb to everything. I have hope today that things are getting better.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Sum of All Things = Disconnected

Every so often I have to stop, reassess, and refocus my life. I am an individual who has many dreams and passions. I want to fill my life with "moments" that will make me smile when I reflect on them in the years to come. I want to fill my life with positive people who share my sense of adventure and who can share the journey of life with me. People I can laugh with and step out of my box with. People who aren't afraid to try new things and push their limits.

It's cliche I know, but life is short. Carpe Diem. With this in mind I am spreading my wings to venture into a new territory - off road triathlon. By no means have I maxed out my passion for triathlon. There is still much uncharted territory to discover. I still have goals and bucket list items that have not been obtained. At some point there will be an attempt at a full Ironman, but for now the time is not right. I need a break from the roads and the asphalt.

These past few months have shaken my soul and I need to find some peace with my life. I feel disconnected from everything and everyone. Disconnected to the point of struggling to get through my day, my relationships, my career. I am desperate for focus, for enlightenment, for peace. The one place I seem to find that is off-road. Although I am new to trail running and still consider myself a novice mountain biker, the one thing I have learned is that I thrive in nature. Whether it is the calm I acquire at the beach, or the positive energy that soothes my anxieties when I'm in the woods, it is something I can count on. It's the only thing I can count on right now, as everything else feels unstable, unsure, and undependable.

I have much to learn about off-road racing and training, but have some good mentors out there that I hope to pull as much advice from as I can. My first obstacle is going to be finding some reliable and consistent training partners that can handle a newbie. Off-road is one place that solo training is not the best idea.

First event - Port Hudson 5 Mile Trail run next weekend. I have no expectations as I have not been running, and especially have not been trail running lately. My goals are completion with as much running as possible, to enjoy the experience and to gauge whether an attempt at a Half- Marathon Trail run in December is doable.

I hope my desire for new adventure motivates some of my followers to get out there and try something new!

Monday, October 3, 2011

She's Back....!

I'll admit it. It has been a ridiculously long time since I have entered a post, but I have had a multitude of good reasons. To be honest, the blog originally was set up in 2009 to document my journey to an official 70.3 finish. Two years and three attempts later, finally that happened. And then... well... I wasn't sure what to blog about anymore. I lost my focus, life began to intervene, and I wasn't sure if there was anything of interest I could offer to my readers, so I just stopped.

I'm not sure what my 'focus' will be as I try and pick back up my blogging. I do know that I missed the therapeutic benefit I got from doing it. I wanted to go back and blog about Santa Rosa training camp in August, my sprint races from the summer, and my experiences this summer with multi-sport, but I think it is going to be more realistic to just start fresh from where I am now and see where it leads to. So I will start with my race report from my end of the season triathlon, Santa Rosa: