Tuesday, July 31, 2012

We're All Going on a Strummer Holiday

USDAA issued a statement on their wacky weave pole decision, you can search for it on Facebook if you're really interested and haven't seen it already.  Basically it said the 22" poles were a compromise for the small dogs, so that they don't have to extend their stride so much.  They also stated, 'We have listened to competitors who have requested 24” poles, but we have also listened to those who have asked that the poles not be widened to that degree.'  Because so many more people out there have requested 22" poles?  Um??!!  I'm sorry but that's ridiculous.  I refuse to believe there's a majority of competitors who want 22", in fact quite the opposite is true and folks have been pretty vocal about it so the idea that they're catering to competitors is absurd.  USDAA wants the tighter spacing, not the solid majority of folks going to Nationals.  Also the idea that they're accommodating the small dogs is hilarious.  First off, there are small dogs competing in USDAA??  If they truly cared about small dogs they'd alter their aggressive jump height cut-offs and maybe actually attract a few of them to compete.  The other point being that a lot of small dog owners prefer the 24" poles.  So who out there is begging for 22" poles and where do those folks compete on a regular basis?  Because I don't know any clubs that use 22" poles anymore, at least around here.  I'm sure there are a few folks out there with training issues with the 24" poles but the notion that they're in the majority and pressuring USDAA to change for Nat's. gave me a good laugh.  So many businesses out there bending over backwards to attract and keep customers in this challenging economy and somehow USDAA seems intent on driving them away.

So that was the nail in the coffin of my quest to qualify for Grand Prix at Nat's.  I had 2 more chances locally which would have cost $47 plus the $45 entry to Nat's. had I qualified and that gives me enough for an extra day of hotel/food in Utah before Xterra Nationals.  And then I figured as long as I was making the long trip why not take an extra 2 days and see if Jonny wants to come with?  Of course he does.  And our awesome friend agreed to look after Cody since that trip would be hard for him.  Cody gets a vacation from Strummer and the Trouble Twins get to come along with us for some hiking and maybe swimming if dogs are allowed in the reservoir.  Though not on race day.  That could end badly.  So the 7 1/2 hour drive to Ogden/Snowbasin isn't looking too bad anymore and the trip will be a lot more fun for me with Jonny and the dogs along.  And I can pre-ride at least part of the bike course which will help a lot.  Plus will be fun to have a little mini-vacation rather than driving all that way just for a race.  Not sure what there is to do in Ogden but it looks like there are nice trails up around Snowbasin where the race will be.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Colorado Trail at Buffalo Creek

I forgot how much I love this trail and it's only a 1 1/2 hour drive.  It's mostly smooth single track, only one really hairy short technical rocky part that I have to walk and a few steepy bits with roots that I have to walk on the uphill because I can't quite muscle my way up but otherwise all ride-able.   Lots of uppy downy, some good steep lung busting climbs here and there.  Elevation goes from around 7200'-8100', not sure about total elevation gain.  It was fun though, such a perfect day.

Normally when I do this trail I turn around at the Green Mountain Loop but this time I was feeling good and decided to add it on.  It's another 4.3 miles or so for the Green Mountain loop and a climb that goes about 600' in about 1 3/4 miles plus some short locally steep climbs. 

And some nice views.

I didn't stop very often or take many pictures, didn't want to disturb the flow of the ride.  It's more exhausting to start and stop a lot then to keep on riding, for me anyway.

In all it was 17.7 miles in 2 hours, 45 minutes.  This is about the same distance and a little higher elevation than Nationals but not nearly as much climbing.  Still some good practice on a fun trail.  Will have to try to go back in the fall.  I noticed lots of aspen stands, I'll bet they're beautiful when the leaves are changing.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Lake Isabelle

Played hooky on Monday and took Strum up to the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area for a magical day of hiking up to Lake Isabelle and points beyond.

Lake Isabelle.  I never tire of that view.

The hike up to the lake is pretty easy, it's only 2 miles with not quite 400' of elevation gain.  The only hard part is that the lake is at 10,868' so the air is a bit thin but that mostly doesn't bother me.  It takes a little under an hour to get to the lake.

Strum doesn't seem to mind either.

After a snack and some moments of whimsy at the lake we continued up towards Pawnee Pass.  My goal wasn't the pass itself but rather an alpine bench at 11,800' that flattens out just below the start of the steep rocky ascent to the pass.  It's maybe another 2-2 1/4 miles and another hour or so of hiking.

After you leave the lake you climb through a beautiful area of wildflowers and a some small falls and streams.

Collie flower.

After many stream crossings the trail gets steeper, rockier and more exposed.  There are a series of steep rocky switchbacks with sharp drop-offs in places.  I'm fine as long as I don't look down and Strummer doesn't try to pull me down the side of the mountain in search of pika poop.

We ran into an angry marmot on one of the switchbacks.  He had some loud, harsh words for us, so loud he hurt my ears.  I'm not sure if he was chasing us out of his territory or voicing his opinion on USDAA's 22" weave poles.

There are lots of nice views as you huff your way up the steep switchbacks.

Almost there.

Phew, we made it.  Hiking up to 11,800' is serious business.

Some views from the bench.

The pointy cone to the left of the glacier is Navajo Peak.  Don't know the name of any others.

We stopped for some water and more moments of whimsy then headed back down.  After Lake Isabelle we had the trail to ourselves on the way up and only ran into 2-3 people on the way down.  It got more crowded from Lake Isabelle back to the car but still not too bad, especially compared to the weekend which is a mob scene at that time of day.

All in all a fantabulous day.  And to top it off I came home and called the city about a $580 bill I received for failure to file city taxes even though I don't owe city taxes and never received a form from the city.  Somehow this is a $500 fine plus a $50 penalty plus $30 interest.  I'm not sure what the difference is between a fine and a penalty or how I can owe interest on money I don't owe.  But I was having many heart attacks and aneurisms when I opened that envelope over the weekend.  In the end when I called they told me all I had to do was write on the letter that I don't owe taxes and mail it back and I don't have to pay anything.  SUCH a big sigh of relief and my heart rate returned to normal.  I asked them where to get a form to file in the future and they said the city sends them out at the end of the year and they had no explanation as to why I never received one.  Sheesh.  Anyway, that was icing on the cake of a perfect day.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Itchy and Scratchy Show, Part 2

After the Great Lice Panic of 2009 I've taken a more casual approach when the dogs start scratching.  Looking back I can't help wondering if the dogs simply had dry skin or seasonal allergies or something equally benign since I never did find any lice and that maybe I could have possibly over reacted.  Just a teensy little bit.

So when the dogs started scratching I didn't think much of it.  Cody wasn't scratching at all and Strum only a little.  Lola was the itchy one but she's goes through periods of scratching probably due to dry skin, allergies, who knows what.  Except this time I did find out what and the answer was fleas.  First I found the flea dirt on them and thought it was just dirt but when I found it on all 3 dogs I became suspicious.  And then after a few days on constantly digging through their fur I found a flea.  On each dog.  Can I panic now?

Fleas on dogs in Colorado are pretty rare.  Except somehow this year when we're having the worst possible conditions for fleas, ie bakingly hot, 95+ up to triple digit heat and single digit humidity, we're having one of the worst flea seasons ever.  I had no idea until the critters set up a flea market on my pack.  I guess the mild winter trumps the hot, dry summer when it comes to fleas.

Anway, I was ready to take a blow torch to the whole house, SO GROSS to actually see fleas and to think their eggs and larvae are everywhere.  So once again I washed all the bed covers, vacuumed everywhere even though I'd vacuumed the night before, lamented how many beds these dogs have - SO spoiled.  I wasn't sure what to do about the dogs.  Would the flea/tick shampoo from 3 years ago still work?  Is that stuff even effective in the first place?  Those heavy duty topical pesticides (Frontline, Advantix, etc.) make me nervous.  Very Nervous.  Someone on the internet suggested that simply using regular dog shampoo was enough to shut down the flea circus and since I always listen to the internet and I follow advice that I like to hear  that's exactly what I did.  Jonny helped with the dog wrangling and it wasn't pretty but we somehow managed to get all 3 hooligans bathed without incident.  Well, at least without major incident.  Just. 

Anybody who's dealt with fleas knows how this turns out and of course it ends the next morning with itching and scratching and fresh flea dirt and, yes, visible fleas.  Still.  So the natural response is to go to the other extreme of chemical warfare and I found myself at Petsmart bright and early, blinking into the fluorescents and asking the sales woman at the front entrance door if she could direct me to the flea killing aisle.  Because somehow I missed the gigantic display of flea annihilation staring me in the face right when I walked through the door. Because, hello, worst flea season ever.  I settled on the K9 Advantix II weapon of mass destruction because it seemed to do the most of all the chemicals and I say if you're going to use poison you may as well pick the one that sounds the most bad ass.

I was, and still am not, happy about using poison.  But FLEAS, people.  I cannot have parasites in my house or on my dogs.  Poor Cody, I worry about him the most with the harsh chemicals but he looks the worst of everybody.  Big flakes of skin in his fur this morning and clumps of hair coming out despite the bath and zillions of brushing yesterday.  And I'd brushed him out the night before the bath.  I also noticed a patch of bare skin on his back after the bath and I'm hoping it's from the fleas and that he doesn't also have mange.  But let's cross that panic attack when we come to it and go with the easy answer of fleas for now.  And the poor guy can't scratch, I guess his rear legs are too weak or it's uncomfortable for him or something because when he gets itchy he starts pacing around the house rather than scratching which is why I never noticed the fleas on him in the first place.  So I dosed him with flea killing juice and hopefully he doesn't have a seizure or some other bad reaction.

Supposedly this stuff kills the fleas in 12 hours.  Two hours later Lola is still scratching so I guess we'll see by tonight.  This stuff also supposedly helps to kill the larvae in the environment so hopefully I won't have to buy more chemicals for the house and yard.  In the meantime I see a lot of vacuuming and laundry in my future.  Now if only I could stop myself from feeling itchy.

Who you calling Fleabag?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Xterra Indian Peaks Pre-RIde

Went up to Eldora on Sunday for the group pre-ride.  It's the only opportunity to legally ride the course since it's on private land and the owners are selfish about letting people on the trails in the summer.  Though people go up there anyway and the crowd for the pre-ride was about half what it was last year.

At first I felt better about things than last year.  I was able to mostly keep up with the main pack, or at least keep them in sight whereas last year I was at the very back of the group.  However last year I had done a race the day before and had very tired legs.  By the last few climbs though I was struggling, falling further behind though thankfully not all the way to the back of the pack.  Still, seemed like I was struggling on hills I had ridden during the race last year though maybe I'm mis-remembering.  Also a front blew through at the end of the ride bringing humidity that I'm not at all used to.  Not midwest type of humidity but still enough that I was sweating profusely and struggling up those last few steep climbs.  The elevation (over 900') was bothering me way more than normal as well but I suspect this had to due with the humidity as well.  It's also challenging riding in a big group like that with varying ability levels.  You also lose momentum and the sense of flow of the trail because you're constantly stopping to let the group catch up.  So I'm optimistic that things will go better on race day.

I took a few photos but couldn't stop to take the photos I wanted to due to being in the group.

The start of the bike, up the road that goes under the ski lifts.  It's way steeper than it looks.

Some random bit of trail near the start. 

Waiting near the snow making pond.  Also fairly near the start.

Pretty sure this was after the steep climb up the rocky Rising Sun trail.

Fatty Mills, which is the only really super technical singletrack trail, was still unride-able for me in a couple places but luckily it's only for a few steps to get over some steep rooty drop-offs.  I did get the realization that if I stay to the right of the ditch at the bottom that I should be able to ride it the whole way down.  A tree blocks your way if you stay on the left.

The only other downhill I'm still struggling a bit with is a steep, fast descent down a trail called Twin Twisted Tree or something like that.  It's more like a dirt, gravelly road than a trail and it's very loose and rutted.  I lost a lot of time to other people flying past me on the pre-ride, folks who I was well ahead of on the other descents.  It'll cost me some time since we do the loop twice but it's not worth bombing down that thing.

The race director guessed that the water temp. was around 65 degrees though he hadn't actually measured it.  If so this would be great, the warmest it's ever been for the times I've done this race.  Two more weeks to get in some intervals and then some rest.  I had a tougher recovery than I thought I would last week from Mountain Champs so this week it's time to get back to business.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

On the Fence About USDAA Nationals

Trying to decide if I want to enter Steeplechase and, provisionally, Grand Prix and if I should try for that last leg of Grand Prix.  I'll enter Team for sure since I committed to my team last winter.  It'll be fun and I'm looking forward to it.  However, the other classes?  The 22" weave poles are throwing me for a loop.  Plus the stubborn, non-customer friendly attitude of USDAA creeping back.  Gives me an icky sort of feeling.  Also a sort of feeling of do I really need to give zillions of $$$ to this organization for the privilege of exposing him to those ridiculous weave poles?

Perhaps 2" doesn't seem like a lot to some people, maybe people with little dogs or slow dogs or less driven dogs, sensible steady eddies.  But if you have a big, fast, driven, crazy off his head pony of a dog with a very long back and no sense of self-preservation then that 2" is huge.  And also maybe you care a lot more about your dog than you do about competitive excellence or ribbons or USDAA Nationals or how crazy other people think you're being over 2".  I get a little twitchy when people try to tell me I'm being silly over the health of my dog, especially when they have absolutely no experience training and trialing the type of dog I have.  Maybe I can think of a zillion other things I can spend that entry fee money on other than an organization who doesn't care about me or my dog and can't even give anybody the simple courtesy of an explanation for their whacked decisions.  And isn't it the job of the company providing the service or product to prove that their product is safe to the consumer rather than the other way around?  In other words, if anybody should be providing scientific peer reviewed studies it should be USDAA to prove those 22" weaves are safe for all kinds of dogs rather than competitors/costumers trying to prove them unsafe.

If I decide not to enter Steeplechase and Grand Prix that's a $112-$157 ding to USDAA's pocket ($45 for Steeple, $47 for the remaining local Grand Prixs, $20 for the warm-up run and $45 for Grand Prix at Nat's if I get the GP Q).  Or I could enter Steeple and the warm-up run and still cost them $47-$92.  I could put that money towards another day or 2 in UT before XTERRA Nat's. so I could pre-ride the course and have a day or two to relax after the long drive.  Plus a full day less of USDAA Nat's. if I don't do anything but Team.  If I do the other events it's a minimum of 4 days, would push up to 5 if we made Team finals.  Poor Strum, his brain will fry with all that.  Never mind my brain.  Never mind all that driving back and forth even if it is only 40 minutes.

Right now I'm leaning towards Team only, it feels like the best option.  So glad I'm not traveling to this event and have the flexibility to change my mind up to the last minute.  Hope that whatever mysterious reason USDAA has for its 22" weave poles is worth a potential $157.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Blue Lake

Quick hike up to Blue Lake today at over 11,000 ft. to escape the heat. 

Mt. Toll and Blue Lake

Was so nice to get out of the heat down in town.  Cool temps, a nice breeze, ahhh...

We left Strummer home this time.  I thought it would be too hot for him up there and the trail is very steep and rocky.  Last time we were up there we saw a moose, no such luck this time.  I guess that's what we get for leaving our good luck charm behind.

This is why I don't feel the need to travel anymore.  Why get on a plane or sit in the car for days when I can have all this for just a 50 minute drive from home?

It's even nicer earlier in the season when there's more snow on the mountains but this is the first I've gotten up there this year.  Will have to make more of an effort to get those high country hikes in.  The short season will be over before I blink.

Don't know what these flowers are but I liked them.

Gotta admire anything that's bad ass enough to survive up on the alpine tundra.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Host Hotel and USDAA Shenanigans

Maybe this is obvious and most people already do this but I found out it pays to check on the regular rate of a 'host' hotel for an event.  Xterra Nationals has a 'special' rate of $99/night with the Marriott in Ogden but I got a rate of $89 by booking through the Marriott's site and not putting in the special Xterra code.  So anybody going to USDAA Nationals might want to check other booking options before going with a 'special' host rate.  I wonder if the hotels figure people will automatically book through the special rate link or with the special code and assume it's the cheapest rate?  Or maybe I just got lucky with a cheaper rate somehow since I booked so far in advance.

The other scam was the website trying to tell me, 'quick, hurry up and book, only 3 rooms left at this price'.  I refuse to believe that a 257 room hotel has only 3 cheap rooms left over 2 months out in September, which is low season.  Xterra Nationals is a big race but I doubt that that many people are as neurotic as I am about planning and have booked their room in July.

In other completely unrelated news it seems USDAA will be using 22" weave poles at Nationals.  Because . . . ummmm . . .  they like pissing off their customers??  Lots and lots of irritated people ranting on USDAA's Facebook page.  And their response is basically, 'Screw you all,' without so much as an explanation.  And then they delete the post and the 42 comments altogether as well as maybe half a dozen other posts about the weave poles.  I guess because they can?  Maybe if they stick their fingers in their ears and sing, 'La la la,' we'll all just shut up and go away.  After handing over our money of course.  I'm not sure which is more angry making, the 22" weave poles or the, 'We'll do whatever we want dammit because we're USDAA and who cares what you all think,' attitude.  It seems that lately they've been having an improvement in their customer relations but they still have a long way to go. 

My old school backyard weave poles are around 21" and I almost never use them any more for that reason but I've pulled them out recently due to the hot weather and Strum's continuing issues in trials with getting entries.  My backyard is shady so we can do a quick few reps here and there throughout the day.  But in general most months I practice on the 24" weaves at the practice field and all trials these days have 24" poles so I don't know what USDAA is thinking.  Do they think the tighter spacing looks better for the crowd?  And if so, why do they care more about the crowd than the hundreds of handlers, and even more importantly, hundreds of dogs?  In the meantime they're offering no explanation so all we can do is speculate.

Edited to add:  It looks like USDAA did not delete the Facebook posts.  I just suck at Facebook and couldn't find them at first but I see them now.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Xterra Mountain Champs

Xterra Beaver Creek - Mountain Champs
Swim:  1440 meters/1574 yards, 7400' elevation
Bike:  15.5 miles, 3600' of climbing, 7400'-9350' elevation 
Run:  5.75 miles, 1300' of climbing, 8100'-8707' elevation
See course elevation maps here.

"Oh my good friend
let's start something
then throw it all out to the wind.
How many mountains 
will we conquer?
We'll never know 'til we begin.
Oh oooooh, begin."

-All quotes in this post by the Bouncing Souls from 'Ship in a Bottle'

This was such a perfect song, I had it in my head all day.  From the Bouncing Souls new lp called 'Comet'.  It sounds even better with the drums and bass but this acoustic version was all I could find that had good sound/video quality.

In short, this race was stupid steep and stupid hard.

Don't let the bedbugs bite
 My initial plan was to spend the night in Beaver Creek and have a leisurely race morning setting up the multiple transitions for this point to point race but I found out last minute that the hotel I booked had bedbugs.   The next cheapest hotel I could find also had bedbugs.  The only hotel I could find that was halfway affordable and did not have people ranting on the internet about parasites was $160 plus zillions of tax plus a 'resort fee' of $5.75 because ski resort towns can pretty much do what they want and this pushed me over the amount I was willing to spend on a night's lodging.

So I slept in my own bed and blinked awake at 4:08 a.m., 2 minutes before my alarm, and was on the road by 4:20 for the 2 1/4 hour drive through the mountains, awake as can be with no supplemental caffeine.  I made the mistake of watching of video of Elicia Calhoun explaining her ordeal with 'highway hypnosis' and her ensuing crash so I was extra paranoid about staying alert especially since it was so early but I cranked up the punk rock and was fine.  I made it to Beaver Creek without having to scrape any wildlife off my bumper.  Don't really think the early wake up call effected my race and I had plenty of time to pick up my numbers and set up all my gear.  In fact I was there early and got some reasonably good spots in transition.

T1 in Avon down by the lake.

It was a very scenic race, set in the ski resort of Beaver Creek which is just down the road from Vail and arguably even more snooty.  They're motto is, 'Not exactly roughing it.'

This is mountain champs so the body markers have fancy rubber stamps rather than hand writing your number.

I caused a bit of controversy because the number was marked on my upper arm before I put on my tri-suit and when I put it on I realized the sleeves completely covered the number.  So I went back to body marking and asked the nice volunteer to mark my lower arm instead.  'Oh I can't do that', she told me gravely, 'we were told specifically not to mark below the elbow or they won't be able to see the number when you come in.'  She tells me she'll have to check with someone about this.  I point out that you can't see the number anyway due to the sleeves and since it's getting a little chaotic with other racers waiting in line she decides to throw caution to the wind and mark my lower arm.  By the time I took my wetsuit off the number was illegible and mostly rubbed off.  Not sure what they need these numbers for either since I have a number plate on my bike and another number plate on me for the run.  Nonetheless I may have to splurge on a sleeveless tri-suit or tri-top to avoid future controversies.  I noticed I was pretty much the only one at the race sporting sleeves.  Apparently this is not very fashion forward.

Oh my teacher
what should I believe in?
And how will I stay strong?
How many misfortunes
will we conquer?
How will I carry on?
Oh oooh, carry on.

Swim - 1440 meters/1574 yards

The swim was billed as a mile but I stood on the shore of the tiny lake puzzling over the course.  The laps looked too small for us to be doing only 2, but 3 laps looked too much.  There was supposed to be a pre-race briefing but none ever occured and I was suddenly confused about how many laps we're doing.  Thankfully I noticed a guy on the beach wearing a jacket that said, 'Official' in big letters on the back so I figured he must know his stuff.  I sheepishly asked him how many laps we're doing and he said, 'two' and I said o.k. but they don't look very big.  And he said, 'Well, we'll see what you think about that once you start swimming.'  Then I explained that I meant it doesn't look like it adds up to a mile and he said, 'Oh that was a mistake, the course is only 1440 meters.'  Ah, o.k. then.  Xterra events, even Mountain Champs, are pretty laid back.  The bike course changed on Thursday and the time for keeping transition open?  That kept changing by the minute.  It closes at 8:00, no 8:15, no 8:20, ah heck, we'll close it for 10 minutes for the sprint racers then open it back up for the full course folks.  I could have easily slept in another 1/2 hour and still got all my stuff set up but I guess it was just as well to be able to do it without rushing about in the crowd.

Part of the swim course.

The lake is small and there were only 4 race waves going off at 2 minute intervals so it was a bit like swimming in a washing machine.  Almost all the races I've done in the past few years have had lots of small waves set off 7-10 minutes apart or a time trial type start so I wasn't used to swimming in such a mass of people.  I was fine up to the first buoy but shortly after turning the corner I started to get a little freaked out with the sight of all the other people up ahead of me.  I was fine with the people right near me but somehow the sight of all the people ahead was rattling me.  I had a brief thought of finishing the first lap and calling it a day but all I could think about was how much I hate driving and no way I was wasting that 2 1/4 hour drive through the mountains at 4:30 a.m. on nothing.  Plus nationals is a mass start, several hundred people in the water all at once so if I want to race at Nat's. I have to get used to navigating through a crowd.  So I banished all thoughts of bailing and got back to business.

About 3/4 of the way through the first lap I found some feet to draft off of, a big guy from the Clydesdale division, and it was awesome for a while but then he started to zig zag off course and as it turned out I was faster than him anyway so it was time to move on.  Near the end of the swim I felt someone from my wave pull up next to me and we were swimming stroke for stroke for a while but then she started swimming off course and I made it out of the water ahead of her.  Swim was a little on the slow side, 1:56/100 yard pace but it felt really good.  I think I lost time due to having to sight so much and navigating through all the people. Was fun though to have people to 'race' and draft off of in the swim.  Normally I'm mostly off on my own.

With every peak and valley
With every white knuckled fist
With everything I've lost and learned
I won't let go of this grip

Bike - 15.5 miles, 3600' of climbing, 7400'-9350' elevation

The bike course was 97% non-technical, smooth single track, double track, dirt fire roads and even some paved roads.  The only technical part, aside from a couple of ditches, was a trail called the 'Corkscrew' that was a steep descent with tight switchbacks one on top of the other made even more challenging due to the dry conditions Colorado has been having.  The dirt was so loose and even deep in places, almost like sand, making the descent a bit dicey in places.  I think I rode a good portion of it but I did get off in places where the trail was too steep coming off a switchback and the dirt looked too loose.  I almost think it was faster to run down on some places.

But not to fear, this was still a challenging course due to the extreme steepness and length of the climbs.  Stupid steep.  Stupid hard.  Right at the start of the bike 2 women from my age group passed me.  The field for Mountain Champs is very competitive.  To give you an idea, Wendy Ingraham, a former pro/triathlon icon who finished every Ironman she ever did in the top 10, and she did a lot, finished 5th in my age group (45-49).  So I was surprised there were even 2 women behind me.  But I figured they were it, I was probably last in my age group.  I was resigned to that before I started and my goals for the race were not based on placements.

About 15 minutes into the bike I passed a woman who was struggling on the steep switchbacks.  But she quickly caught back up to me and jokingly asked if I minded her drafting off of me.  When you're biking up a dirt trail at 4.5 mph there's little advantage to drafting.  She was from the age group below me so not in competition for placement points.  We swapped places many times on the eternal climb up the hill and it was nice to have someone to race with.  She dropped me on the final steepy steep climb up a paved road to highest point and end of the longest climb.

However I eventually caught up to her at the end of a long downhill portion and then as soon as we hit an uphill she dropped me again.  And so it went, I'd catch her on the downhills, she'd pass me on the hills.  I finally passed her on the Corkscrew trail and remained ahead for the rest of the bike.

I was tired for the last half of the bike.  I'd made the mistake of trying to ride every single climb at the start no matter how steep which was not a great strategy.  For some reason I was fine with walking up the steepy steeps on Curt Gowdy but somehow had it in my head I had to ride everything at this race.  After redlining several times so badly that I had to stop and catch my breath I realized my error and started walking the really steep bits.  There weren't all that many places I had to come off and this saved me a lot of exhaustion down the line but the mistakes at the start had taken their toll.

I also made the mistake of not eating enough.  300 calories for a 2 1/2 hour ride is not nearly enough.  I had an extra gel bottle, just never bothered to reach for it.  Eating on a mountain bike on trails is way more challenging than a road bike.

Pre-riding the course would have helped, there were downhill sections I'm sure I would have ridden faster had I known what they were like ahead of time.  The trails were pretty but there are plenty just as nice and nicer that are way closer to me so it was hard to justify the time, gas and driving just for a race where I was likely to end up in last place anyway.

With every storm we weather
I would never miss.
I won't give up, I won't let go
I'm going down with the ship.

Run - 5.75 miles, 1300' of climbing, 8100'-8707'

T2 took way longer than it should have, mostly because I was tired and loopy and not thinking straight.  I probably wasted a good 40 seconds trying to find my shoes and puzzling over how to rack my bike in the sea of bikes that were already racked.  Point to point races are new to me but again, that's what we'll have at Nationals so it was good to see what it's like.

I saw the woman I'd been riding with come into T2 just as I was leaving and nobody else was in sight behind her.  I figured she'd catch me pretty quick on the run since running is my weakest sport these days.  But I felt o.k., almost good when I started the run.  It felt like I was going faster than my normal post bike shuffle.

Once again there were steep hills but this time I remembered to power walk them rather than try to run them.  Though I doubt I could have run them anyway.  One of my goals was to have some improvement in my run so I put every effort I could into going as fast as I could.  Once again, knowing the course would have been helpful but oh well.  I won't have this luxury at Nationals either.

The woman did eventually catch up to me though it took longer than I thought it would.  She passed me on the long uphill climb and once again I passed her on the long downhill.  'Go get 'em', she said to me and I passed her.  I said, 'we can swap on the uphill and downhills', knowing we had another big climb and figuring she'd catch up to me.  I flew down the hill pretty fast, it was steep and a dirt road so nothing technical to worry about.  I took itty bitty steps and turned my feet over quick as I could.  I even passed up a guy who was running downhill in an odd sort of fashion.  But apparently the effort was greater than I realized because I started getting a side stitch.  I slowed a bit and focused on nice deep breaths.

By the time I hit the second and final big uphill climb the side stitch was nearly gone but I'd had to slow so much that I heard the woman behind me again.  Except when I turned around to ask her if she wanted to pass I realized it was a different woman.  She declined at first which I thought was weird but eventually she passed and it turned out she was from my age group!  I couldn't believe there was someone behind me the whole time.  Just goes to show you should never assume anything.  I managed to keep up with her and eventually passed her back, I think on an uphill.  It felt like she was fading behind me and I was putting some distance on her.  But I was starting to feel tired and woozy/bonky with the effort.  I managed to get half a gel down and some water at an aid station and it helped a bit but was a case of too little too late.  The woman wasn't nearly as far behind as I thought and with 3/4 of a mile to go she passed me.  I managed to keep her in sight until the top of the last hill.  Once she hit the downhill she took off hell bent for the finish and I simply couldn't keep up, even on the downhill.  Very quickly she was out of sight.  I could hardly believe it, my one chance at not finishing last in my age group evaporating into the ether with only 3/4 of a mile to go after all those hours.  But I was spent, nothing left in the tank, at least not for such a distance.

In fact at one point I was feeling enough dizzy/bonky that I had to remind myself of the goal of finishing.  No point going all that way to collapse so close to the finish line.  I suppose weighing on my mind was video I'd seen a couple days ago of Melanie McQuaid being carried off the course at Xterra World Championships just 50 yards from the finish line and a first place finish.  Obviously this was an absurd notion, I was nowhere near that level of degradation but nonetheless it's hard to shake those images of people collapsing and crawling across the finish line or having to be carried off.  I'll never care enough about beating other people to push myself to that point, or at least I hope I won't, but sometimes it's hard to stay rational when you've been exerting yourself for well over 4 hours.

But I did remember my goal of having a good run so I kept at it fast as I could go in the state I was in.  I started catching up with a guy so I focused on closing the gap as much as I could but there was only maybe 1/2 a mile left if that and he was too far away.  I couldn't quite catch him but it was good to have someone to chase to the finish.

In the end the woman in my age group beat me by 1 minute, 41 seconds and I can't help but wonder where on the bike or even the swim that I could have made that up.  Don't think I could have pushed much more on the run.  It's not that I wasn't pushing myself throughout the day but I'm sure somewhere I had an extra 1 minute, 41 seconds.  Ah well.  I did end up coming in 31 seconds ahead of the woman in the other age group that I'd been trading spots with all day.  Her name sounded familiar and sure enough it turns out she's raced Lory the past couple of years and had beat me by about 20 minutes so it seems I've improved some since last year.

My run ended up being 13:13 min/mile, a big improvement over the 16:26 min/mile pace I had at Curt Gowdy but it's hard to compare courses like that.  Other competitors in my age group that did both races had improvements of 1-2 mins/mile at Beaver Creek.  Still, it felt like an improvement.  And for the first time in I don't know how many years my overall placement in the run was better than my placement on the bike.  Run and bike placements among women only were the same.

I was guessing I'd finish the race in 4:30 but had a stretch goal of 4:00 and ended up finishing in 4:20 so I was pleased with that.

The post race food was non-existent for vegetarians.  All they had was hot dogs and hamburgers.  I tried to make a sandwich from the tomato and processed cheese slices and one piece of lettuce they had left but processed cheese is so vile, I could only manage a few bites.  Thankfully I had food in the car but unfortunately my car was down the mountain by the start.  I watched a bit of the awards but as soon as I stopped feeling dizzy I was out of there.  If they ever make me ruler of the world I promise to ban Queen and in particular 'We are the Champions' from all sporting events.  They played that song after announcing each age group winner.  I wanted to claw my eardrums out.  Queen were a lame ass band 35 years ago and they sure haven't gotten any better with time unless you're a wannabe hipster and think maybe they're ironic or something.  Except that, no, they're such a cliche and so bad, they're beyond irony.  Anyway I had to get out of there before I clawed my eardrums out or the eardrums of the lame ass DJ who thought he was being cute.  They played this at DOCNA Champs too.  The horrible cliche of this song seems to span all sports.

Weather was perfect, a little sun for the swim then clouded over for the rest of the race, cool, high 60's, maybe hit 70.  It started thundering during the run and we got a few drops but that was it for rain.  Of course until I had to ride my bike the 3 miles back down the mountain to my car down in Avon.  They not only made us park down by the swim start but they also made us put all our swim gear/T1 stuff into a plastic garbage bag and they hauled it up the mountain to the finish line so we had to carry it back down the mountain again as well as our running and bike gear.  I should have left a backpack at T2 to carry everything but I noticed most people didn't so I figured I'd manage the garbage bag.  This was not a great plan.  Especially when the skies opened up with 2 miles left to my car.  Trying to keep the giant wetsuit/etc. filled garbage bag from flying into my front wheel while braking with the same hand going down the steep, wet mountain road in a downpour with tourists flying up and down in cars was perhaps one of the bigger challenges of the day.  Then the fun of navigating the various roundabouts on a bike.  Those ski/tourist towns love their roundabouts and Avon is filled with them.  Somehow I made it to the car unscathed.

Had to drive through some downpours in the mountains on the way home but made it without incident.  Was SO tired though.  I had been planning to drive halfway back from Utah right after Nationals, get a hotel then drive the rest of the way the next day but even just 2 hours was challenging.  I may spend the night in Utah and do the whole 7 1/2 hour drive the next day.

So overall my lessons from this race for Nationals are:

1.  More food during race.  Need to work out better nutrition strategy.

2.  Put shoes in a more obvious place in T2 or leave a brightly colored towel sticking out from under them, some kind of marker.  Was so hard to find them in the sea of bikes even though I thought I had a good idea of where they were.  Also maybe arrange with my neighbor which way our bikes will rack.  I arrived at my shoes yesterday to find my neighbor's bike racked the same direction I needed to go.  I wasted time trying to squeeze my bike in.

3.  Maybe I can pre-ride just a part of the bike course the day before, maybe find some strategic downhill section or something.  Will have to find someone who's ridden it before who can help with that.

4.  Assume there is always someone behind me in my age group.  No letting up just because the competition isn't in sight at the moment.

5.  Walk the steepy steep hills on the bike, no redlining for climb after climb.  Same goes for the run.

Going forward I'm going to keep up with the running intervals/hill repeats.  Same for the bike and do more long, sustained climbs.  Don't need to focus too much on technical skills but would be good to keep up with them, they do help on the downhill.

Don't know if I'd do this race again.  Very pretty course but kind of a hassle and so stupid steep, stupid hard.  But we'll see how I feel next year when my quads have stopped throbbing.


Swim (1440 meters/1574 yards):  30:34 mins. (1:56/100 yards), 8/11 in age group, 60/79 women, 225/273 overall

T1:  2:39 (wore socks and gloves, struggled a bit with gloves, wetsuit came off easily)

Mountain Bike (15.5 miles):  2:12:45 (hours:mins:secs), 5.5 mph, 11/11 age group, 75/79 women, 265/273 overall

T2:  2:14  (had trouble finding shoes and racking bike)

Trail Run (5.75 miles):  1:16:06, 13:13/mile, 11/11 age group, 75/79 women, 256/273 overall

Finish:  4:20:37, 11/11 age group, 73/78 women, 257/273 overall

Note:  The following is of interest only to me.  There are inconsistencies within the placements and overall number of participants on the posted results.  For example, the bike only results have me at a different placement than the overall results show as my placement on the bike.  Overall number of participants varies between the different results.  For overall placements I went with the results shown on the overall results page.  For place in women I went with individual results since overall results don't show this.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Gearing up for Xterra Beaver Creek Mountain Champs

Up until this week I've been ambivalent about this race.  I entered it so that I could get enough points to qualify for Xterra Nationals which admittedly is a stupid reason to enter a race.  And when I found out I probably wouldn't need the points I lost what little enthusiasm I had.  But it has provided the motivation to train for a race of hard climbing and it's also very similar to the type of course we'll have for Nationals.  In fact, it seems tougher in that it has more feet of elevation of climbing and is at a higher elevation and the distances are only slightly shorter.

To compare:


Mountain Champs:  15.5 miles, 3600' of climbing, 7400' - 9350'

(click for bigger)

Nationals:  17.7 miles, 3400' of climbing, 4900' - 7300'

No elevation map.


Mountain Champs:  5.75 miles, 1300' of climbing, 8100' - 8707'

Nationals:  6.1 miles, 700' of climbing, 6400' - ? (don't know the highest point but max. of 7100')
No elevation map.

The run at Mountain Champs has almost twice the climbing at an elevation 2000' higher than the course at Nationals and is only .35 of a mile shorter.  The bike at Mountain Champs has 200' more of climbing and starts at an elevation that's 100' higher than the highest point at Nationals and is 2.2 miles shorter.  I don't think either course is terribly technical, certainly not as technical as Curt Gowdy, but I'm sure there will be the odd challenging bit here and there.  I didn't go up to pre-ride the course, didn't feel like making the drive to Beaver Creek and spending the money on gas to ride at a ski resort.

I did however splurge on a hotel room.  I was going to drive up on race morning but it's a 2 1/4 hour drive mostly through the mountains and I didn't feel like waking up at 3:30-4:00 and playing Deer Roulette on dark mountain roads at 4:30 a.m.  Somehow this seemed like a false economy and I was able to find a room for $80, not bad for tony Beaver Creek.  The race is very fussy, you pick up your race number at one location, set up your run gear (T2) at another location then go 3 miles down the mountain to set up your bike gear (T1) at a third location.  And of course the maps they provide of all these locations are crap, one was illegible and had south pointing up which only added to the confusion.  I was stressing too much over all the preparations and once I got the hotel I heaved a huge sigh of relief and realized this could be a fun race weekend.  Turns out some of the pros are giving talks the day before so I'll have something to do after picking up my packet and you can even swim in the lake if you like though I probably won't.  I'm not worried about the swim.

So I'm finally looking forward to the race and I decided to give it a proper taper rather than training through the week.  My strategy is to keep a solid, steady pace and not to redline too much if I can help it especially up that 5 mile, 2000' climb at the start of the bike.  Getting up that climb with enough legs left to do the rest of the race will be the key to a good day especially since that climb could easily take 1/4 of the time to complete the full race.  Long steady climbs like this used to be my thing then the bad knees happened and I stopped doing the big all day bike climbs.  Will be interesting to see how I feel about the climbing on race day.  And if I can tackle this course in July then Nationals in September will be easy.  Sure it will.

Weather forecast for race day is 70 degrees with a 40% chance of thunderstorms but they don't say if it's the typical afternoon thunderstorms or if they might start earlier.  It's only Wednesday though so the forecast can and most likely will change, hopefully for the better on the rain front but I like the high of 70 degrees.  Racing at altitude is challenging but the cooler temps. make up for it.

In completely unrelated news I had some real live agility practice this morning.  Joy invited me out to the barn where she practices and we finally have some civilized weather.  We just worked short sequences, jumps and weaves with the jumps at those shallow USDAA angles to each other.  Fun but challenging.  I'm so out of practice.  Hopefully this nice weather will hang around so I can get some more practice in.  Strum looked so happy to be running and stretching his legs.  He's been surviving mostly on long, hot leash walks.  Too hot to take him running and I haven't been hiking in the high country in a while.  Think I'll plan something for next week since I'll be recovering from my race anyway.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Airing My Dirty Laundry

I wore all these clothes today for my bike/run workout.  Talk about a high maintenance sport.

Part of the reason for the clothes-splosion is because Holy Pacific Northwest Batman, today's bike ride up Left Hand and James Canyons looked like the opening scenes from Twin Peaks.  Cloudy, cold, damp and clammy is normally my least favorite kind of weather, I like my bluebird skies and Vitamin D sunshine and rainbows flying out of everybody's asses because they're so goddamn happy all the time in the happy sunshine.  But after the past month of no rain and 95+ degree heat and single digit humidity causing the whole Front Range to catch fire, today was a welcome change.  Anyway, I was so soaked in sweat from the humidity after a measly 2 hour, 20 minute bike ride that I had to change clothes before my run or face the consequences of some serious chafing.  Good thing I have my own washer/dryer and don't have to go to the laundromat.

We had a lot of rain last night and there was a lot of mud/rocks/debris that had washed onto the road in both Left Hand and James Canyons.  In fact Left Hand was closed for a time yesterday.  They cleaned it up enough for cars to easily clear the mess but there were some challenging sections for those of us on the skinny tires of a road bike.  Still was a magical ride in the mist, everything smelling so lush and green and the creek roaring with water.  Even a few remaining impromptu waterfalls coming down the sides of the canyon walls.  

Somebody is not so excited about the rain/thunderstorms.

Not sure why he thought this would help nor why he thinks frantically digging in the bathtub will help but he's always been one to think outside the box so who knows?

This week's training was low volume but high intensity.  Seems like I spent the week dodging thunderstorms so I decided to make up for the lack of hours with more intervals.  Two run workouts of hill intervals and a bike workout that was supposed to be intervals but turned into more of a fartlek type session due the trail.  Few of the uphill climbs lasted as long as the planned 4 minute interval so I decided to ride really hard every time I hit an uphill and recover on the downhill since it seemed there was more short uppy - downy type hills.  There were a couple of climbs lasting way more than 4 minutes so I rode as hard as I could until I needed to recover then rode hard again.  Thunder chased me off the mountain sooner than I was hoping but that hour of hard, red in the face riding had my quads trembly by the time I got back to the car.

Was hoping to do the weekly Stroke-n-Stride (swim/run) race out at the Boulder Rez on Thursday night but the race started at 6:00 p.m. and at 5:20 it was thundering with hard rain coming down so I didn't want to go out there and risk losing my entry if they cancelled the race.  Of course it did clear up in time and the race went on but there was no way of knowing until the last minute.  So I lost a day of training because I didn't want to do anything else during the day before a race.  Also lost a day of training dur to the agility trial/Smoky McBarbecue poor air quality day.

Legs are tired from the shock to the system of the harder workouts but I'll need to keep up with training for at least a few more days so I can rest near the end of the week for the Mountain Champs. on Saturday.  Feeling more prepared than I did last week but still wish I had another couple of weeks to get more climbing in.  How do these races sneak up on me like that?  It's not a goal race but it's long and hard and lots and lots of climbing so I'll need fresh legs if I hope to finish before they disassemble the finish line.

I keep having these thoughts that it would be so much easier to go to DOCNA Champs only 40 minutes away rather than the hassle and expense of a 7 1/2 hour drive to Utah for Xterra Nationals.  It seemed like a good idea at the time but the reality of that road trip is starting to sink in.  I was whining about the hassle and the drive to Joy after explaining to her all the races I entered and training I've been doing to qualify and she seemed a bit incredulous that I'd even consider not going.  'You have to go', she told me, so when I start fretting over the details and hassle of the trip I keep hearing her words.  I do have to go and it means I need to start setting up my training schedule for it now so it doesn't sneak up on me.  Stupid high maintenance hobbies.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Fun on the Fourth

What better way to celebrate the 4th of July then with a one day, tournament only USDAA trial?  The trial was at Denver Dog Sports, a newish indoor facility that I'd never been to.  It's very near the site for USDAA Nationals and I was thinking it they were smart they'd rent it out to people looking to get in some last minute practice and sure enough they are.  It's a great place, the surface is fantastic, some kind of super soft, spongy rubber with excellent traction.  I was a bit concerned that it would be beastly hot inside since the arena was cooled with swamp coolers rather than air conditioning but it wasn't that bad inside considering the 97 degree temperature outside.  And if you were smart enough to crate next to the ginormous swamp cooler then it was plenty cool.  The rest of the building was air conditioned so there was a place to escape if the heat was too much but I was mostly o.k. with it.

Our runs were o.k., I had a few handling bobbles in Steeplechase that cost us a Q and run in the Finals by .27 secs.  The heart breaking thing about that was that they posted the results for the 22" class and we were listed as a Q but then they posted updated results and our Q disappeared.  Unfortunately they had to combine us with the 26" dogs because there were so few of them.

Our Grand Prix run was really fun, a great dogwalk, but unfortunately some mistakes at the wretched weave poles cost us our needed Q for Nat's.  Was an easy entry too and was a shame to waste a run with a perfect dogwalk but oh well.  Still it was a fun course, much more what I think a Grand Prix course should be like than the weird ones we'd been getting recently.

In general I seemed to be struggling with the weird jump angles that you get in USDAA.  I also managed to bungle an opening with a serpentine in it that was almost identical to an opening that we had in Steeplechase back in May and I handled it nicely back then.  I need more practice for sure and I felt unprepared going into the trial.  Due to the heat I don't think we'd practiced at all since the USDAA trial 3 weeks ago.  Maybe once.  It's been so hot, in the 90's at least for the past few weeks.  Not great weather for dog activities.  Didn't even buy a monthly pass to the practice field last month and haven't been out yet this month.

Can't find my course maps but thanks to Joy I do have video.  Plus special bonus music for the holiday.

USDAA July 4 2012 from colliebrains on Vimeo.

There is one silver lining to all the wildfires and that is the statewide ban on fireworks.  SO nice not to have to deal with shaking, drooling dogs.  The stupid thing is that Boulder always has a ban on fireworks apart from the commercial show the city puts on but it doesn't stop people.  But for some reason, maybe the threat of a $1000 fine, people didn't set them off this year and hopefully will respect the ban for the following weeks.  There are some years we had people shooting them off every night well into August.

You also don't have to spend money/effort on throwing a barbecue because if the wind is blowing just right and the smoke from fires in Wyoming blows your way and you're lucky enough to have a temperature inversion and temps. in the high 90's it feels like you're sitting around the campfire all the time.  The smoke/smog yesterday was something special.  Another reason I was glad to be inside at a trial.  I did not go out for my planned bike ride when I got home and didn't feel the least bit bad about it.

Thankfully the smoke hasn't been that bad for most of the duration of the fires.  We get a bad spell here and there but for the most part I haven't had to restrict my training or activities.  And it looks like the monsoon is finally here and we're going to start getting our evening thunderstorms and much needed RAIN.  Supposed to start tomorrow.  We'll see if those weather folks know their stuff.

 Trial Stats

No Q's or titles.

Dogwalks:  1/1 (100%) 

A-frames:  3/3 (100%)

Weave entries:  0/2 (0%)   missed the entry the first time then popped out after the entry the second time, got it on the third try

Knocked bars:  None!  Yay for fancy rubber matting.

Teeters:  1/1 (100%), but it was naughty/iffy

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Higher and Higher

Wasn't exactly feeling all that recovered from last week's race but I'm already started to obsess over my next race and by Saturday I knew I had to suck it up and get back out there for something beyond easy recovery training.  The School Bus Trail is not in the West Mag closure area and there's a way to access it also without going into the closure area if you know how.  My next race is the Xterra Mountain Championships in Beaver Creek, just outside of Vail, and that race is all about the climbing.  And not just climbing but climbing at a high elevation.  The bike ranges from 7425' to 9456' so I decided I'd better hit the high country at least once this weekend.  Plus, so hot in town, not quite as bad up at 9000'.  This trail felt so much steeper than 900' in 3.25 miles though to be fair I rode more than that.  Not sure where on the trail this map is measured from.  In all I rode 11 miles in 2 hours, 5 minutes, the portion up School Bus taking about 50 minutes from the start of the trail at the road to the top which I suspect is farther than the 3.25 miles shown on this map and measured from a different starting point.  I think I was around 5 minutes faster than a few weeks ago.  Didn't feel as hard anyway.

School Bus Trail

The bike portion of my race has a climb of 2000' in 5 miles and an overall elevation gain of 3600' in 15.5 miles.  The good news is that I don't think the trails are all that technical but I'm not sure I'll make it up there to pre-ride the course.  The run has a total elevation gain of 1300' in 5.75 miles and consists of 2 climbs separated by a downhill section.  The biggest of the climbs is around 607' in 2 miles.  So today I went up to Heil Ranch which isn't all that high but I didn't feel like driving and it's only 12 minutes or so away and provides a climb of 822' in 2.5 miles, just a bit steeper than my race.

Somehow the trail didn't feel as steep as it usually does but this could have been due to the snail's pace I was running thanks to the over 90 degree heat.  I was in the woods and there was occasional cloud cover but still, a hot day for a nearly 2 hour run.

I went a bit farther than this, linking up to Wild Turkey via Ponderosa Loop and turning around after I'd run for an hour.  I'm guessing it was maybe 6 - 6.5 miles in 1 hour, 52 minutes.

Not sure how this bodes for my race in 2 weeks but not much I can do about it at this point.  Most people pick Mountain Championships and Nationals for their 'A' races but I'm not feeling the love for this race being an important one for me, mostly because of the timing.  I've decided to look at it as another nice hard training day in preparation for Xterra Indian Peaks three weeks later.  Since I've already done that race and have a point of comparison I can try for some better times, especially on the run.

So the next 5 weeks leading up to Xterra Indian Peaks will see bike intervals, run intervals and as much hills as I can shake a stick at.

Poor dogs, it's too hot for them to do very much.  I'll have to pull out the hose and the weave poles so at least we have some kind of practice before Wednesday.  I found out the site isn't air conditioned, just swamp coolers so that could get interesting.  Don't know why I thought it was air conditioned.  I think I'd almost rather be outside but I guess we'll see what it's like and it's only Grand Prix and Steeplechase so hopefully won't be too long of a day.  Have a hilly bike ride scheduled for after the trial and Jonny laughed pretty hard when he saw that but I'm on a mission here so I'm determined.  But I do have some wiggle room in the training schedule if I end up too tired.  Hmmm, who's idea was all these races?