Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The World Loses Another Great One Too Soon




RIP Dr. Sophia Yin.  Her positive influence on the lives of dogs and their people is so far reaching and profound and will be sorely missed.  Strummy and Lola are forever thankful for their beloved Treat Gizmo.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Goals You Didn't Even Know You Had

I love the tired feeling after a good hard race.  The first 1-2 nights after a race of twitchy legs and restless sleep aren't so fun but the next 4 days or so of super sound, long deep sleep and the feeling of strength coming back to your legs and arms are wonderful.  Also the feeling of not having to be anywhere.  Like the reservoir at 6:15 on a cool cloudy morning.  Or outdoor masters at the pool when it's in the mid-50's and cloudy and the pool is not particularly toasty warm.  I will get back to a training routine pretty sharpish but for now it feels good to keep things loose and easy.  As long as I keep moving in some fashion I'm good.

I had a load of experiments and other fun things planned for the off season and then an email arrived informing me that I had accomplished the completely unplanned goal of qualifying for the Xterra World Championships in Hawaii next month.  Now this made me laugh a bit because, um, Worlds?!  This was not even on my radar.  I only vaguely knew how to qualify and I knew it was hard and competitive.  It wasn't until the morning of Nationals that someone told me about the 'roll down' spots and that it was a possibility.  Still, I didn't let that thought seep into my day at Nat's. and it did not effect my race.  Because Worlds.  Yeah right.  You have to place 1st or 2nd in your age group at one of 4 Regionals across the country or at Nationals to qualify.  If people who finish ahead of you already earned a spot then the spot rolls down to you.  Or something like that.  Even a roll down spot is hard to get.  Former Ironman Pro and triathlon icon Wendy Ingraham got in to Worlds on a roll down spot. 

Anyway, Hawaii is way too far to go for a race which is another reason I've never even considered Worlds as a goal.  It's going to sound weird but Hawaii has never been on my wish list of places to go.  Long expensive plane ride, expensive hotels once you get there, hot, humid, icky sticky.  And what is there to do?  The volcanoes and whales would be cool but otherwise . . . what?  Lying on the beach in the icky sticky humidness?  Not really my thing.  And I live 50-60 minutes drive from this:


I'm not super compelled to spend zillions of dollars and the nightmare of 16 hours on a plane to go to the icky sticky.

But participating in a World Championship?  That could be interesting, not something I ever considered but now the seed is planted.  No way I would go this year but maybe next year?  Or in a couple few years if I could cut a lot more time off of my races?  Definitely something to ponder.  There's no guarantee I would qualify next year either.  It all depends on who shows up, who claims their spot, etc.  Too many factors out of my control to set it as a goal but at least I could consider it as a possibility so that if I qualify again I could be prepared to go if I wanted to.  The race looks challenging - steep climbs on the bike at least.  It looks like a race that requires a lot of physical strength and building physical strength is my main goal for the off season anyway.  If I prepare and train with Worlds in mind I should do well at my local races and Nat's. even if I don't make it to Worlds.

Now, what to do about building that strength, that is the next big question.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Xterra Nationals 2014

QUICK STATS

Swim course distance: 1,500-meters/1640 yards (0.93 miles) Combines two 750-meter laps (no run in-between)
 Elevation at Port Ramp Marina for swim start:  4,900-feet
Water temperature: Probably around 67 degrees
Mountain bike course distance: 28-kilometers (17.7 miles)
Total climbing on bike: 3,400-feet
Elevation at highest point: 7,300-feet (where Sardine Peak Trail meets the ridgeline)
Elevation at T2/Snowbasin Resort Lodge: 6,400-feet
Trail Run course distance: 10-kilometers (6.2 miles)
Total climbing on run: 700-feet
Total climbing on course: 4,100-feet

LOVE the purple shirts they gave us this year!




Finally I have a good race at Nationals.  Such a great feeling when it all comes together and you have that awesome day.  I get to Utah late Tuesday afternoon and have plenty of time to relax, pre-ride the bike course, have a swim in Pineview Reservoir and of course a visit to Antelope Island.  Such a difference from last year, night and day.  I feel strong and rested and ready.


Swim




Heading out for my warm-up and feeling good.




The water is 67.5 degrees, air temp. must be low to mid-60's with the sun beating down.  I don't wear my swim socks and I'm not cold at all.  Probably don't need my neoprene skull cap but it helps to keep the water out of my ears and doesn't hinder me in any way so I wear it.


The swim field seems smaller than last year and it's not my imagination.  The Championship age group field was 342 last year and is 266 this year.  I decide to line up with the buoys this year so I don't waste time swimming extra yardage.  The race director has promised that the course will be accurate this year.  Last year it was possibly as much as 660 yards long which is a LOT for a course that's supposed to be 1640 yards.  Last year the buoy had drifted overnight and no one had checked it in the morning but this year the race director promises it will be checked.  And standing on shore I'm happy to see that the buoy looks significantly closer than last year.


And we're off.  That smoke is from the starter cannon.  Because Xterra uses a cannon, not some panty waist starter pistol.




The washing machine





The first buoy comes up much more quickly this year and I'm able to sight it a little better since it's closer in.  There's congestion at the first turn but I'm expecting it and keep calm and wait my turn to get around.  It's crowded but not nearly as bad as previous years.  I occasionally get boxed in even on the second lap but thanks to the races I did this summer I can figure out how to work my way through.  I draft a bit here and there but I don't do it too much because I feel like the people I'm drafting off are holding me back so I go a good pace for me and catch a few feet here and there when I can.  I focus on my stroke technique, trying to pull every bit of power I can from every stroke.  I feel smooth and strong in the water despite the crowds and turbulence and I'm passing people the whole way.  My time is 35:07/2:08 per 100 yards, a bit slow for 1500 meters compared to my Stroke-n-Stride/race times this summer which were more like 1:48-1:50 per 100 yards but given the crowd I had to navigate and the long day I have ahead of me and how good I feel coming out of the water I'm VERY happy with my swim.

I run up the boat ramp to T1 in 1:16, a big improvement over last year's 2:08.

T1 is 8 seconds slower than last year.  I probably don't need to worry about tying my gear bag shut, the volunteers usually do it and that's likely where I lost the time.  Gloves are a bit problematic as usual but I've left a small towel to dry my hands and this helps.


Bike



My bike goes really well this year.  I ride all the way up Wheeler Canyon without having to get off at all (usually there's a spot or two that I have to walk due to steepness and other people walking).  My coach passes me at the one rocky, steep spot I always get off at and some other people get off but we ride up it no problem. 

Jonny is waiting to cheer me on at the Green Pond trailhead.  I hit the trailhead at around 1:04 hours.  I'm not sure but I think this is a good time.  I can't remember my times from previous years.  I feel much better than in previous years though.  It's pretty much all climbing up to this point and usually I'm plenty tired.






For the first time the other racers from the sprint and non-championship race don't try to pass me on the single track downhill after Green Pond.  This has been the one scary part of the course for me in year's past but this year I ride it no problem and only 2 people pass me on a wide portion of road.  Phew!  In fact pretty much everybody that passes me this year is really nice and patient, waiting for a good place to pass rather than trying to squeeze by me on narrow trail.  There are a couple of meat head local guys from the local race being impatient and yelling, 'left, Left, LEFT' over and over even though there's no where for them to pass but at least all they do is yell and they don't try to run me off the trail like the other years.  When I reach the turn off for Sardine Peak which is where the sprint racers turn off I hear the volunteer tell the sprint racer that he's in 5th so I was well ahead of most of them and this makes me realize I must be going faster this year.

But being faster means I end up in a bigger crowd on Sardine Peak.  This is kind of good because I have some pressure and people to pace off of.  I fall behind a man who is about my pace and I let him pull me up the mountain.  Sometimes he surges ahead a bit and I push to keep up.  I also have a couple of women on my heels pushing from behind.  Usually I'm on my own with a few other people struggling on Sardine Peak so I'm excited that this year it actually feels like a race.  Xterra interviewed me for their race t.v. show this year and one of the thing they asked me was what would be a Facebook status that I would post during the race.  I tell them, 'Riding up Sardine Peak feeling strong, enjoying the fall colors,' and this keeps running through my head as I ride.  I do feel strong and I am enjoying the colors.

Sardine Peak during the pre-ride


Near the top of Sardine Peak one of the women behind me starts chatting, asking me where I'm from, etc.  I'm always amazed when people do this.  I answer her in short, one words gasps and she eventually gives up.  The guy who's been pulling me up pulls over to the side for a rest near the top.  I thank him for the pull and then quickly everyone I've been riding with smokes me on the downhill.  It's o.k. though, it's not a very long downhill and I'm happy to go a pace that feels good to me.  The descent is super fun, smooth swoopy singletrack with a few tight switchbacks but mostly fun, fast weaving through the woods and the fall colors.



There's a another short climb on the Maples trail but it's not too bad and soon I'm back at Snowbasin where Jonny cheers me on once again and snaps a few more photos.


Love this aerial shot.  He was up on a hill above the course.


As I head towards transition I look at my cyclometer and realize my time is 20 minutes faster than last year!  SO excited for that.  Later my official time is about 2 mins. slower and I realize my cyclometer turns off when I stop and I probably lost 2 mins. on Sardine Peak having to stop to let people by at some switchbacks that I walked up.  Also a woman ahead of me fell down at a switchback she couldn't quite make it up and it took a bit for her to clear off the trail.  Still, so excited by that huge improvement.  And I felt a lot stronger on the bike this year as well.


Run



Ah the run.  I'm hoping for a 10 min. or so improvement on the run but pretty early on I realize it's not happening for me this year.  The first mile is a steep climb up that most people end up walking including me.




The second mile is downhill and I usually end up getting a cramp and this year is no different.  Then the trail becomes more rolling - some ups some downs - and the cramp eases up.  Don't know what it is about running steep downhills but I even get cramps in training even if the downhill is at the start of the run.  Something to work out this winter/spring.  It's a bit warm, maybe high 70's, but there's a stiff breeze here and there and plenty of aid stations so I'm able to dump water on my head and cool myself down.  Still my head wants to go but my legs won't cooperate.  I feel like I have strength left in my legs, I don't have that burning feeling, but somehow I can't go any faster.  At almost the half way point someone from my age group passes me and she's going way faster, no way I can even pretend to try to keep up.  Oh well.  I have to run my own race and my overall goal of breaking 5 hours looks darn achievable if only I can keep up some kind of forward motion on the run.  Watching my run splits go by I fear it may end up being close.  I end up walking a lot of the uphills even though they don't seem that steep.  I do this every year.  The elevation is around 7500' which isn't super high for me though I realize I do very little running at higher altitudes, it's mostly biking and hiking in the higher country in the summer for me. 



The miles tick by, I end up falling twice for no particular reason.  I'm not hurt but it does cause an adrenaline rush each time that takes a few moments to recover from.  The last mile is a steep downhill and looking at my watch I realize I have a very good chance of breaking 5 hours.  I go as quick as I can and for now the cramp is not bothering me.  I hear the crowd at Snowbasin sooner than I'm expecting and next thing I know the finish line is coming up quick.  They've changed the finish so that we don't have to slog up a steep hill right at the end anymore.  Thank you Xterra for that.  So happy to see that finish line!  I click off my watch at 4:53.  Way ahead of my goal!  Such a great feeling.



The pros have a 2 minute head start so that's not my finishing time.





Yay for the finish line.




My run time is only 1:08 faster than last year and part of that is due to the lack of the final hill and my splits from last year to this are all over the place.  But my overall time is over 31 minutes faster than last year and even with the longer swim last year this is still a huge improvement.  And I felt so much better, especially on the bike.  Such a great feeling when it all comes together.


The only glitch I have is that I forget to put my bottle of 2 servings of UCAN on my bike and the only other fuel I have is a one serving gel flask in my Camelbak that I threw in last minute in case I needed extra.  I stop at the only bike aid station and grab some Powergels which wastes some time because I have to stop to put them in my bike jersey pocket.  I never use them though and the one serving of UCAN (about 50 calories) is the only fuel I have for the whole race and I'm fine, never feel bonky or like I need more fuel.  I'm declaring the high fat/low carb diet a success.  I never got all the way to ketosis but apparently I had enough fat burning adaptation going on to get me through a nearly 5 hour race on only a little UCAN.



Overall very happy with my season and my performance.  Looking forward to an easy recovery week and moving on to fall/winter activities.



Final Stats

Swim:  35:07 swimming time (2:08/100 yd.)
            [47:23 (2:04/100 yards if 2100 m/2297 yards is accurate) last year] 
            188/266 overall (278/342 last year), 58/86 women (84/110 last year), 3/7 age group
            (8/12 last year) 



Run Up Ramp to T1:  1:16 mins. (2:08 last year)

T1 plus run up from beach:  3:01 (2:53 last year)

Bike:  2:42:00/6.71 mph (2:59:20/6.06 mph last year)  240/266 overall (326/342 last year), 73/86
           women (101/110 last year), 5/7 age group (12/12 last year)

T2:  1:51 (1:48 last year)

Run:  1:30:16, 14:27 min/mile (1:31:08/14:27 min/mile last year)    249/266 overall (317/342 last      
          year), 77/73 women (98/110 last year), 6/7 age group (11/12 last year)

    Run Splits:

    Miles 1 and 2:  32:26
    Mile 1:   (18:46 last year)
    Mile 2:   (11:44 last year)
    Mile 3:  16:30 (19:22 last year)
    Mile 4:  15:16 (13:28 last year)
    Mile 5:  14:17  (15:22 last year)
    Mile 6.2:  12:01 (13:07 last year)

Final Time:  4:53:31 (5:24:40 last year),  243/266 overall (315/342 last year),  75/86 women
                    (95/110 last year), 6/7 age group (11/12 last year)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Rest Day - Antelope Island

Antelope Island is a great place to spend a rest day.  It's full of wildlife and surrounded by the Great Salt Lake and there are easy trails with little elevation gain so I can let the dogs stretch their legs a bit without wearing mine out.  Just enough walking to keep the blood flowing.  I've been all 3 years I've gone to Nationals and this year didn't disappoint.

We saw loads of bison.



Some were a little too close for comfort.



I'm glad this wasn't my tent.  Not that we were camping anyway.  My camping days are over.  The guy in the visitor's center going on about the wind and lightning and mosquitoes did not make me yearn for any more camping in my life.  But he was there to extend his permit one more day so apparently the hardship was worth it to him.



And of course antelope.





There were Jack Rabbits as well.  Lucky for them Lola can't run anymore.  He was up on his hind legs in a very cute pose but of course as soon as I got the camera pointed he ran away a bit and turned his back to me.


Beautiful mountain views across the lake.  And more buffalo.  Because you can never have enough buffalo.  I always feel bad for Ralphie the CU mascot when I see scenes like this.  Sadly the football team uses an actual real buffalo at their football teams rather than someone dressed in a buffalo suit.   Don't even get me going on that one.



The only bad thing about the island is that traffic is a bitch.  Glad I was in my car and not on my bike. 






There are nice hills on the island as well.  Supposedly there are big horned sheep on the island and I suspect they're up in these hills.  I've never seen them in the lower elevations and the trails up there are steep and not the best for hiking on a rest day so I've never been on them.



The causeway itself is a fascinating feat of engineering but I suspect I might be in the minority with my fascination.



Ah well, time to eat dinner and get my gear organized for tomorrow.  Two transition areas always makes for a fun sorting of gear the night before.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Grooving Out Before Nationals - Swim/Run Day

I met my coach for a 10:00 a.m. swim in Pineview Reservoir on a beautiful sunny warm Thursday morning.  Water temp. was 66 degrees according to her thermometer.  Hopefully it'll be that warm on race day.  We only swam about 1/2 an hour, easy peasy pace, so relaxing.  I felt like I could have gone all morning.

Before my swim I let the dogs have at it.  Strummer loves to swim and Lola loves to get knee deep in the water and tell him what's what.





For a moment we wondered if we would be leaving Strummer there because he swam out a little bit and refused to get out when he realized we were leaving.  We got an alarming distance up the beach before he decided life with us wasn't so bad.  Normally he sticks to us like glue, especially when he's somewhere new.  That boy loves the water.

Then I had an easy 20 minute run.  A quick jaunt out to the transition area and back on a nice trail.  I could hear Strummer barking and see people walking away from the car while I was on the trail and when I got back Jonny was back at the car and said some women came up to him and said they were glad to see him because they were worried about the dogs in the car.  We had all the windows open and the rear hatch open and they were wet from swimming.  Both of them were perfectly fine when I got back and the car was plenty cool.  I realize some people are idiots and leave their dogs in hot cars but sheesh some people go too far the other way.

Grooving Out Before Nationals - Bike Day

Thankfully no apocalyptic floods this year so I was able to leave for Utah a few days early.  Yesterday was a pre-ride of the upper portion of the bike course.  We saw a moose family, turkeys and lizards and Jonny also saw some ptarmigans doing their mating dance thing and a marmot.  And of course the fall colors.

Riding up Sardine Peak.  Such an awesome trail.



Sardine Peak




Pineview Reservoir from Sardine Peak.  Thatsa lotsa climbing.



View from Sardine Peak


Near the top of Sardine Peak trail.



Obligatory photo with Snowbasin moose.  For once Lola didn't go off her head.  Maybe she remembered it from last year.


And my lunch buddy.


With this for a view.



Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Fun at the USDAA Trial

Strummer and I competed in a USDAA tournament only trial this weekend, first one I've ever been to and it was very fun.  Classes moved along quicker than normal because there weren't course re-sets and walk-thrus for all the different levels.  I signed us up for 5 classes for both days, way more than our normal load but this will probably be our only trial until November and it's only 18 mins. from the house.  Saturday was long for me even though I was finished by 4:15.  My brain was in a muddle by the last run which thankfully was Speed Jumping and even though I got lost and confused we still managed to only get refusals and qualify for Finals, somehow in second place.  I guess lots of other people were muddled as well.

Some really fun, challenging, interesting courses, some of the best I've run in a while so I thought I'd share some maps and video.  Strummer did surprisingly well on courses that ate up a lot of really great teams.  I combined 4 of my favorite runs in one video which I realize is not ideal but I don't have time to go back and redo them.

Team Standard, MC Standard, MC Jumpers and Speed Jumping Finals



 The challenging part of Team Standard was the dogwalk to the A-frame.  Even people with stopped contacts struggled to get the backside of jump 6 because their contacts weren't independent, ie the dog didn't stop while they caught up and a front, rear or even a blind after 4 put people behind on the dogwalk so many dogs took the front side of 6.  I stayed on the left of the dogwalk and did a rear on the flat.  I called him to me to prevent him taking the wrong side of the jump and he missed his contact but might have missed it anyway and taken the wrong side of 6 if I hadn't called him.  Then 6-9 presented an issue for those of us with fast dogs who didn't want to loose our knees after the tunnel.  I stayed on the left side of the A-frame and was able to run fast enough to pick him up for 9.  It wasn't pretty but we got it done without a refusal.  I knew he'd come out of the tunnel the wrong way but he corrected easily enough.  15-18 proved an issue for some teams but we serped it no problem.  I was initially planning a front at the teeter but decided for a rear at 15 on the fly.  Thought it would be smoother.  Lots of E's on this course, was thrilled to make it through with only a missed dogwalk contact.



I thought MC Standard was easier than Team Standard except for the weave pole entry.  I had a feeling we would miss that.  I have practiced this scenario with a pull but it didn't work as planned.  Most people put a front in between 5 and 6 to make the weave entry easier for the dog.  I thought about it but decided I wanted to try the pull.  And again that knee destroying tunnel challenge at 7.  Not very smooth but we pulled it off.  Missed his dogwalk again but we still ended up in 3rd.



MC Jumpers was maybe the most fun course of the weekend.  I rushed his weave entry and he missed but otherwise he did great.  The fault put us into 2nd place.



Speed Jumping Finals.  Wee Ha Fast and Fun!  I turned a little too soon to avoid the off course jump and again helped botch the weave entry.  But otherwise a great run and a great weave entry off the A-frame.  The bobble cost us the win and we ended up in 2nd by only 1/2 a second.


Unfortunately the battery on my GoPro ran out without me realizing and I missed my Team Jumpers run.  I had spare batteries but the indicator didn't show the battery was low so I thought I had plenty of juice.  Here's the map anyway.  It was our only E of the weekend other than Grand Prix.  We had a back jump at 11 but otherwise a nice smooth run.  This was a challenging course for many and there were lots of E's.  Some had a back jump at 11 like I did, others had the off course jump at 3 because the dog went over 11 with way too much extension.  Others struggled with 13-15 either getting the #9 tunnel or a back jump at 14.  Strum had nice collection over 11, I simply decelerated, stopped and called him but rather than trusting him and continuing on I stood there watching him and for lack of any cues he turned back and took the jump.  I handled the line through 14 with him on my right, did a rear at 14 and a rear I think between 17 and 18.  Push to 19 was no problem.  Was very pleased with his rear at 14 since he struggles with rears in general and this one was a sharp turn.  He read it early enough and had enough collection though so he pulled it off nicely.  Lots of dogs had too much extension and either ended up in the tunnel or back jumping 14.  Some people intentionally turned their dogs to the left over 14 which took more time but was safer for not getting an off course  and easier on the dog if they didn't get a collection cue early enough.  Wish I had video but oh well.


I don't have video for Team Gamblers but this was our most exciting run.  I had an ambitious plan and had to alter it mid-course because I had extra time to I was a bit out of position when the horn blew but we pulled it off with 2 seconds to spare.  1st place and most points of all the dogs, Champ and Perf.  The numbers indicate the opening and the letters indicate the closing.  I'm a little unclear as to when the horn blew so the closing starts with either B or C.  25 obstacles in 38 seconds, that was a run my ass of, seat of the pants run.  And risky because there was a chance he'd blow past the finish jump and be over time and lose his closing points.  Most people did 2 loops of tunnel/tire for their closing or tunnel/tire/jump/teeter.  But the A-frame was the high point obstacle and including it and going for the fast line of jumps at the end seemed like more fun for Strummer rather than all that fussy turning.  A few people that tried this had trouble with the line of jumps at the end, missing G or running past the finish jump.  Also most people went to the left for the opening, taking the start jump/chute/A-frame then doing some combo of jump/tunnel/A-frame then moving on to the dogwalk or weaves to get back to the tunnel by the dogwalk for the closing.


Overall we did pretty well, our PVP Team got a Q in 4th place, Strummer was overall 2nd Team dog for 16" division, 2nd place in both Speed Jumping Rounds, 1st in Team Gamblers, 2nd in Team Standard, other placements kind of a blur.  And of course a 6 point Team Snooker run to keep us humble, his only truly naughty move of the trial when he ran behind me to take a tunnel I wasn't planning.  This happened to many teams.  Kind of my fault for taking my eye off of him and not leading out far enough but still.  Drives me crazy when he darts behind me.

Probably no more trials until November.  Unless I go to a USDAA trial in October which will probably only happen if I don't go to Xterra Nationals.  Which I might not because Jonny had the brilliant idea of let's buy another mountain bike that he absolutely does not need and an espresso machine and we have a huge car insurance bill next month and I'm not willing to dip into savings for a trip.  He seems to think we can pull it off but I'm not impressed with his financial planning skills at the moment so we'll see.  Maybe he has a stash of money lying about somewhere that I'm not privy to.  And yes I'm extremely aggravated.