Saturday, August 31, 2013

Without Limits 1.2 Mile Open Water Swim 2013

It was a beautiful morning for a race out at the Boulder Rez.

In all honesty I could have rolled over in bed and forgot all about it.  This past week of recovery was long and annoying and unproductive on many fronts and filled with fatigue and twitchy legs and a screamingly painful calf cramp in the middle of the night and more fatigue and ennui.  But 2 weeks ago before my Xterra I convinced a masters swimming friend to do the race.  She was disappointed that the Bare Bones swim was cancelled so I told her about this one, that I did it last year and it was chip timed and really well organized and that I had had a lot of fun.  We've been swimming together at masters, pacing each other, and we'd agreed to swim together at the Bare Bones so when that fell through we agreed to swim together at this race.

However this week was not so great and as race day approached I was not feeling the love.  So tired.  So uninterested.  I swam twice at the Rez and once at masters already during the week because swimming has turned out to be excellent for recovery.  Swimming was about all I felt like doing all week.  But Jonny convinced me to go on a quick 1 hour trail ride up at Betasso on Friday night and this lifted my spirits a lot.  Not enough to greet the 5:45 alarm with enthusiasm but enough to at least get me grumpily out of bed.

But once I get to the Rez and see the beautiful sunrise I feel a lot better and I'm ready to race.  I start out in my sleeveless wetsuit then decide to change to the full.  I was a little warm during the race but not too bad and I was glad for it while waiting for the race to start.  Air temp. is probably 65-66 but the sun is behind some clouds and there is a little breeze while we wait for the race to start.  Water temp. is supposedly 69 degrees but it feels more like low 70's.  The thin cloud cover burns off while we're swimming and I'm plenty warm but not warm enough that I'm overheating.

The race is supposed to be chip timed and I didn't even notice that they didn't give me a chip when I checked in.  I meet up with my friend and she points it out.  I don't bring a watch because I couldn't find my old watch and don't want to risk ruining my new one in the water.  And I think who needs it with the chip timing?

My goal for the race is a pace of 1:50-1:55/100 yards.  This is the pace I hope to have a Nationals and today I want to see what it feels like.  Last year my pace was 2:05/100 yards which was slow for me back then but I was recovering from Xterra Lory the weekend before.  This year I'm recovering from Xterra Buffalo Creek, a much longer race, the weekend before so I'm not sure how ambitious this goal is.  The plan is to get a long warm up in so I can start on the fast side but it turns out I'm only able to get a shortish warm-up in and then there's a lot of standing around before the start so I'm not very warmed up at the start.

There's a 2.4 mile distance and a 1.2 mile distance and they let the 2.4 milers go 5 minutes before us 1.2 milers.  The course is one big 1.2 mile loop.  Because there's no chip timing it's a mass start and there are 82 people in my group, not a lot at all for a mass start.  Nationals will have over 200.  Nonetheless we start near the back.  Neither of us is itching to get kicked in the head at a practice race with our big goal races coming up.  I count off about 35 seconds from when the starting horn blows to when we start swimming.  I do it so I can subtract it off at the end and figure out my swimming pace which is the purpose of the race.

We start off together and are able to swim side by side for a while.  The crowd is not big at all and it's spread out so much that I hardly have to dodge anybody at the start.  I start off on the slower side, letting my heart rate work it's way up.  After a couple few minutes I pick up the pace and I feel fine.  About a third of the way through the race I lose track of my friend and I figure she's drafting behind me.  I keep my focus on the pace since I want to push the pace for both of us.  About half way through I find myself starting to close the gap on some people so I pick up the pace and soon I'm passing people left and right.  I continue to pass them all the way to the finish and as I come up to the finish line I'm neck and neck with someone.  The water becomes too shallow to swim and I charge through on foot to the finish arch.  It seems almost every race someone beats me by a second or two at the swim exit and I'm determined to be first of the pack this time.  And for once I finally am.  Feels good to have a strong finish.

My friend is not behind me so I hang out at the finish to cheer her in.  She comes in about 4 minutes behind me and she's mad.  She missed a buoy and swam a good distance before a kayaker sent her back to the buoy she missed.  She had been on my feet most of the way but got turned around in a clot of people at the turn buoy.  Then to top it off she cuts her toe on some glass and it's a pretty deep gash.  And of course all the sand clumps in the wound.  It takes me a while but I finally locate the ambulance/medics and it's a good 1/4-1/2 mile from the beach.  She rinses the wound out with her water bottle and I walk her to her car.  She insists she can drive so I let her go.  Thankfully she's o.k., no stitches but she does end up going to Urgent Care.  $300 to clean a wound.  I was horrified.  But she's worried about infection and doesn't want to miss the race she's trained for all summer so I don't blame her.

Final Stats

My final time is 36:59 (gun time) or 36:24 if I subtract the 35 seconds that I lost due to waiting to start near the end.  This is a pace of 1:43/100 yards and over 7 minutes faster than last year's time!  I can hardly believe it, this is probably the fastest pace I've ever swum in a race this distance and while still in recovery mode.  So happy I hauled my butt out of bed this a.m.  It was a hard effort to be sure, probably harder than what I want to exert during Nationals but it tells me that a pace of 1:50/100 yards is totally realistic.

Water temp. approx. 70-71 degrees, air temp. mid to upper 60's

1.2 miles/2112 yards

36:59 gun time, 36:24 swimming time (1:43/100 yards pace)  [44:05 (2:05/100 yards pace) last year]

3/10 Age Group

24/58 women

37/82 overall

Monday, August 26, 2013

Xterra Buffalo Creek 2013

Xterra Buffalo Creek
1500 meter swim
22 mile bike
5 mile run
8000' elevation

This is a fun but long race.  It went dormant for a few years because the owner of the private lake went bankrupt when the economy tanked and I'm not entirely clear about what happened after that - the Forest Service took over the lake and didn't want to mess around with having a race was one story I heard but I dunno.  Anyway, this is its first year back after several years hiatus and I was very excited when it was announced last year.  I did the short course version of this race in 2007 and I had a blast.  This year there was no short course option and even if there was I would have gone for the longer version.

It's my longest race of the season and leading up to it I had mixed feelings.  Still feeling a bit apathetic about things like this but I can't afford to be too apathetic because I need the points if I want to go to Nationals.  As long as I get some points I'll stay in the top 10 and qualify but the start list shows 17 people and points only go to 15th place.  It looks like a competitive field too.  I don't know the people but all but 4 are in faster waves than me.  Way faster waves.  I'm in wave 6 of 7 and lots of these folks are in waves 1 and 2, the fastest.  It's likely not everyone will show up and I know at least one person isn't going but it's also possible for someone to buy a slot in since the race allows transfers.  I have no idea if I'm faster or close to any of the people in my wave.  And I can't worry about stuff like that since I have no control over it.  All I can do is show up and do my best and muster up as much motivation as I can and hope for some points after the dust clears.

It's my longest drive as well, 1 hour 38 minutes/71.8 miles and a good deal of it is mountain driving in the dark.  When I drove up in 2007 an elk crossed the road in front of me and there were some Border Collies on the highway.  Thankfully no critters dash in front of me this year.  I'm surprised by the drive on the dirt road between the highway and Wellington Lake.  I remember it took a while, about 25 minutes or so for 8 miles, but I'm surprised by how steep and twisty and uppy/downy it is.  It's also a bit dry and loose and washboard-y in places.  A bit unnerving for 6 a.m.  It's not really all that bad, it's just that I'm not expecting it.  I'm thinking maybe I would have been better off camping.  There are campsites right at the lake next to transition. 

I get up there at 6:29 a.m. and get one of the last parking spaces close to transition.  And I realize I'm so happy I'm not camping.  It's cold.  See your breath cold.  Hats and fleece vests cold.  You can see how folks are dressed in transition and this is after the sun started coming up.

That cloudy splotch on the photo is because my lens is worn or scratched or something.  I've tried cleaning it but it's a cheapo point and shoot that's been worked hard and is at the end of its days.  I ponied up the money for a replacement, same brand, similar model, same cheapo price point but I don't want to bring a brand new camera to a triathlon, leave it in transition to possible get trampled, etc. so these last few photos have that bit of cloudiness.

More transition.  I didn't take many photos.

This one came out o.k.  I couldn't resist the moon.

View of the swim from transition.

Swim:  1500 meters/1640 yards

The water is very low so we have to wade through a bunch of ankle sucking mud to get to waist deep water.  Not such a big deal at the start but it adds about 30 seconds to my swim time when I have to wade back out of it at the end of the swim.

The water is supposed to be 71 degrees but there's no way.  It feels more like 65.  If I'm lucky.  I warm up for a bit but not really long.  I get used to the cold, swim for a bit and feel myself getting colder so I decided to get out and wait in the sun for my wave.  Air temp. is probably in the low 60's with some nice bright sunshine and I warm up quickly enough with the sun beating down on my black wetsuit.  These are almost identical conditions to the swim start at nationals last year so it's great practice.

I'm in wave 6 of 7 and it's a 2 lap swim so there are other waves starting their second lap before I start my first.  The waves are small but only 3 minutes apart so there's a bit of congestion on the first stretch of the swim.  I'm in too slow of a swim wave but in a good wave for my biking ability which is more important so I have to suck it up on the swim and try to make my way through the washing machine.  At first I'm happy for the drafting but soon I realize I need to push my way through the pack because it's too slow of a pace.  It takes a couple few hundred yards but eventually I make my way through and start passing people from the other waves. 

Lap 2 is much less crowded, I'm able to draft a bit but for the most part I try to swim as fast as I can and avoid the people who are having a hard day.  At first I can't believe how winded I feel but then I realize, duh, it's 8000', of course I'm winded.  I had one of my worst swim freak outs ever when I first did this race so I empathized with the various people who were struggling.  I even came up on a guy from the 1st wave.  Thankfully I feel fine this time, no worries, focusing on my stroke and trying to go fast but not too crazy because it's a long race and a long day.  But I'm playing around with pacing to see how pushing myself in the swim affects the rest of my race.

I stop swimming at around 33 minutes which is an appallingly slow for me 2:01/100 yards pace.  I know not to get too wound up about the swim.  It's hard to say if the course is marked accurately, how straight I swam, etc.  And there's the elevation and the fact that this is race #3 in 4 weeks. My time for  at the Stroke-n-Stride last week was 32:08 which is only a minute off, easily accounted for with the elevation.  I hit the beach at 33:35 and the run up the beach to transition takes 1:46.


I struggle with my wetsuit for the first time in ages and end up cramping my calf a bit by straining it trying to get out.  I have bigger gloves but still it takes an eternity to get them on.  I'm going to be irritated if I miss a placement and going to nationals over these stupid gloves.  But it's a 22 miles bike ride in the dirt and I really want gloves.  I'm out of T1 in 2:32 which is about 50-60 seconds too slow for me.

Mountain Bike:  22 miles

I love the trails at Buffalo Creek and this is a beautiful course.  I ride through forests that open up to beautiful views.  It's a mixture of single track and double track and since it's one big loop there isn't much congestion on the trail at all and passing is mostly easy enough.

Note:  I took these photos last May when I pre-rode the course.  I don't stop to take photos during races.

The trails were not typically this flat.  There were some good climbs, especially at the start.

Nice views.  Not that I had much time to admire them.

The climb through the burn zone up Gashouse Gulch is steep and sandy.

The bike starts out with some flat-ish bits as you work your way to a steep downhill on a rutted dirt road.  I decide to eat a gel right away because my stomach feels o.k. and I'm not sure how long it will be before another good opportunity arises.  It's a long day and getting enough calories is important.  But very quickly I realize this is a mistake.  My stomach isn't as settled as I think and usually I wait a bit after the swim for this very reason.  My stomach goes all sore and crampy even though I'm going downhill.  I go down this road conservatively.  It's very steep and rutted in places and a woman went down in front of me last time I did this race.  The race director warns us that conditions are bad on this road due to a rain storm on Thursday but it's not nearly as bad as I remember it from 2007.  I never got back up to pre-ride this section of the course but I'm fine on the road.  Glad I didn't waste a trip up just to ride that road.

After a few miles the climbing starts and my stomach protests.  I ride as hard as I can but there's not much I can do.  I get passed by 4 people in my age group in the first 5-10 minutes of the climb but there's nothing I can do.  I can only focus on my own race and what I can do in the moment.  I'm sure my stomach will settle eventually, I just have to breathe and be patient and take my mind elsewhere.

Near the top of a long steep climb, maybe 30-40 minutes into the race yet another person from my age group passes me.  My stomach is still queasy and there's nothing I can do.  Eventually though after about an hour my stomach finally settles.  The trail turns from a steady climb to a mixture of climbs and descents.  I know I've got a good long downhill coming up so I risk some more gel and this time it settles in o.k.  I have to risk the cramping because I know I'll be in trouble in such a long race if I don't get calories in.

I'm on my own for the long descent down Baldy.  It's dry and loose so I'm watching my speed but it's a good sort of trail for me to go fast downhill so I push it as much as I'm comfortable.  There are lots of straight sections and the turns aren't too tight.  Eventually I see someone up ahead of me.  I figure the chance is slim to none that it's someone from my age group but I chase the person nonetheless.  Eventually we start the steep, sandy, loose climb through the burn area of Gashouse Gulch and I catch the person.  And she's from my age group, I think someone who passed me earlier.  I can't believe it.  I know that as long as I beat one person from my age group I have a good chance of finishing in the points.  So I use this as motivation for myself and push myself up the steep climb.  I don't hear her behind me and I don't catch any glances of her on the switchbacks as I make my way up. 

At the top I pass a guy on the short flat-ish part at the top then go bombing down a dirt road fast as I can.  Then I hit the steep steep climb up the rutted dirt road because what goes down must come up and thankfully I'm not talking about my gel.  I do manage to keep one more gel down, can't even remember where I ate it.  Anyway, this hill is brutal and goes on forever and I end up riding with a woman and 2 other guys.  It's nice to have other people to mentally pull you up so I'm happy for them.  Eventually they all get off and walk but I stay on my bike.  I'm not a whole lot faster and the woman catches me at the top.  But there's no sign of the woman from my age group.

There's a bit of a downhill back to transition and I come in just behind the woman I was riding with.  We're racked next to each other and I beat her out of transition but she catches me very quickly on the run.

When I'm trying to figure out a goal for my bike pace I tell Jonny I think I can do it in 3 hours.  He says no, I can do it in 2 1/2 hours.  I decide 2:40 is a reasonable goal, 2:30 is a super stretch I'd be thrilled goal.  I end up splitting the difference finishing the bike in 2:34:58.  Very happy with that.


T2 goes much more smoothly.  No wetsuit to worry about and I'm not loopy from the swim, gloves come off quickly.  Out of there in 1:05, fastest time in my age group.

Run:  5 miles

No photos of the run, I never checked it out beforehand and it's longer than the course I did 6 years ago.  I only vaguely remember the course, I know it's a steep climb to a waterfall, a steep descent and then?  According to the race director's pre-race talk it's downhill from the 3 mile mark.  I'm having trouble with a side cramp, the one that's plagued me all summer, and it's slowing me down.  I'm not sure what kind of lead I have.  I can't see or hear anyone behind me but I have no idea what kind of a lead I have.  I'm so used to people blowing past me on the run or passing me at the very end.  All I can do is go as fast as I can.  I know the cramp will go away so I put my mind elsewhere and work my way up the hill.  I power hike in some super steep places.

The climb isn't too long especially compared to Lory and soon I'm headed back downhill.  There are some more climbs but nothing too terrible.  There is a long-ish climb that I'm not expecting after the 3 mile mark.  Race director must have forgotten about that one.  But after that it is mostly downhill.  The trail goes around the lake and is mostly in the woods but every once in a while a view of the lake opens up and I have a rough idea of how much is left by where I am around the lake.

Every once in a while I turn and look behind me and I never see anybody.  Nonetheless I keep going fast as I can.  My cramp settles down and I pick up the pace a bit for the last 2 miles or so.  I pass a couple of guys but never see or hear anybody behind me.  I'm so happy when I cross the finish line especially since I'm fairly certain I got my points for nationals.

I was hoping for a run time under an hour but wasn't sure how realistic that was.  I finish the run in 55:53.  SO excited about that.  11:11 min/mile for a trail run at 8000'?!  Yes, very very excited.

I was guessing a finish time around 4:15.  A super stretch goal would be 4:00.  I finish in 4:09, happy enough with that especially considering the elevation, all the racing I've been doing and the length of the race.

They have one of the cool gizmos that spits out your results at the finish line but it only give me my time, not my placement.  They have a sheet of results posted but it only goes up to finishers with a time of 3:40 or faster.  At that point there were 7 finishers in my age group.  I guess that from the amount of people that passed me that I probably finished in 8th or 9th place, plenty of points to keep me in the top 10.   So so happy about that.

Overall a good race, perfect weather conditions yet again.  It was a cool enough day, temps. in the mid-60's I'd guess, maybe up to 68.  Plenty of sun so I wasn't cold on the bike and a bit of cloud cover for the last couple of miles of the run.  Perfect.  Beautiful course.  Love Buffalo Creek.  Pleased with all my results except maybe the swim.  So happy with my run.

No food other than the dregs at the bottom of the potato chip bags and some very nasty looking grocery store cookies.  Don't know if there was food at some point but if there was it was long gone by the time I got there.  Didn't hang around very long afterwards.

Final Stats

Swim:  1500 meters/1640 yards, about 33 mins. swimming time (2:01/100 yards)/35 secs. wading through mud and 1:46 dash up the beach for official time of 35:21

T1: 2:32

Mountain Bike:  22 miles, 2:34:58/8.5 mph

T2:  1:05

Trail Run:  5 miles, 55:53/11.11 min./mile 
Total:  4:09:46 

177/211 Overall 
44/57 Women 
9/10 Age Group 

Swim:  6/10 Age Group, 133/211 Overall

T1:  6/10 Age Group, 107/211 Overall

Bike:  9/10 Age Group, 198/211 Overall

T2:  1/10 Age Group, 58/211 Overall

Run:  10/10 Age Group, 192/211 Overall

Sunday, August 25, 2013


I competed at the Xterra Buffalo Creek off-road triathlon yesterday, my last race of the qualifying season for Xterra Nationals.  I'll write up a race report next week but in short I came in 9th place in my age group which was good enough to move me into 7th place overall for the season which qualifies me for Nationals.  It was a nail biter for me up until yesterday so I was very happy and relieved when I saw my placement.  It was a long day out there in the thin mountain air (8000' + elevation), 4 hours 9 minutes, but it was a beautiful course and perfect weather.

Now I have to rest up and get training for Nationals in 4 weeks.  So excited to be going back to Utah this year and happy I pulled it off with only 3 races.

Photo from the t.v. coverage from last year.  I rented the online on demand video since they never showed it on t.v. in the Denver area and was surprised to see a short bit of footage of me on the bike.  Cheap thrill.

A few days of active rest (ie light training) then I need to hit those hills.  Nationals is all about the hills and I'm eager to take some time off my bike and run times from last year.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Somebody Had Fun at DOCNA this Weekend

Somebody actually said to me, 'That's the very definition of a crazy Border Collie'.  And I wasn't even coming off the agility field, I was cooling him down with the hose.  Strummer loves hoses.  I think they might be his favorite thing ever.  Loves them more than food and agility.  It was hot this weekend so he got plenty of hose time.  Stinker even went charging out of the ring to the hose at the end of his run.  I was not amused and he did not get to play that time.  Hard to believe he's 8 1/2 years old.

Whee Ha!

About the last thing I need sandwiched between  all my races is an agility trial on a hot August weekend.  But our last trial was at the beginning of July and our next wasn't going to be until Labor Day and I get too rusty if I go that long without competing.  In fact, 6 weeks was already clearly too long and I was plenty rusty.  And Strummer was plenty off his head despite the heat.

I only entered 2 classes each day in the morning so we could avoid the worst of the heat.  I ended up adding a Jumpers run on Sunday because we were there anyway and Strummer loves those wide open Jumpers courses even if I'm bored out of my brains with the pinwheels, serps and generally boring DOCNA Jumpers courses.  I decided to try an ambitious forward send out to a jump so I could get into position for a blind cross and he pulled off.  Oh well, it's good information about his commitment point at the moment.  And I did get the blind in no problem.

On the good side he got 2/3 of his dogwalks and a Q and 1st place in Strategic Time Gamble which is 10 Gamblers Q's and finishes off some title or another I think as well as the Gamblers part of his MEX.  Only needs 4 standard runs to finish off his MEX and we didn't get any this weekend.  Missed his dogwalk on Saturday and popped the weaves, knocked a bar and had a spectacular teeter fly-off on Sunday.  Didn't think it was possible to NQ the impossibly easy courses but we found plenty of ways.

Most if not all of the weave pole entries were coming out of tunnels and Strum blew all but one.  Sheesh.  And 2 naughty teeters.  Double sheesh.  Because I've got weaves, teeter and dogwalk/table plank set up in the back yard and we've been practicing several times a day all week.  He was nailing some difficult weave entries and finally starting to have some super nice teeters.  Trouble is my yard is too small to get any kind of speed going and this makes all the difference in obstacle performance for Strummer.  I tried to go to the field first thing in the morning before it got too hot twice last week but other people were there or showed up right after me both times so I left without getting any practice in.  Even came back after 50 minutes and one lady was still there drilling her poor dog in the heat and another lady had shown up so we went swimming at the Rez instead.  Guess I'll have to wait until cooler weather so I can go during the day and avoid the crowds.

While Strum had a grand old time I was on the 'meh' side all weekend.  Courses weren't very exciting (trying to put that as politely as I can) and I wasn't all that motivated.  We've been having an awesomely cool summer, unseasonably cool temps. in the 60's and 70's and of course the one weekend I enter an outdoor trial the temps. shoot up to the low 90's so I was a bit foggy in the heat.  The one good thing was that I ran in 3 classes, worked 2 classes and was done by 10:45 a.m. on Sunday.  Was done by 1:00 or so on Saturday.  Didn't sign up for the afternoon runs because I knew there was a chance it would be hot or there'd be early afternoon thunderstorms. 

I guess he had at least one good teeter.

I think I must have been cueing the weaves here.

Hopefully I can get out to the practice field at some point before our USDAA trial over Labor Day weekend.  I predict a lot of tunnel to weave pole exercises in our future.  I'll think I'll be a lot more motivated by then as well, signed up for Masters Challenge Standard and 2 Snooker and Jumpers courses, my favorites.  And it's on the springy, rubbery turf stuff that Strum did well on last year so that will be fun.  Regionals will be at the same place in May so it's good to get some practice on it even if it's months and months away.

Big thanks to whoever the nice lady is that took these photos.  I met her at a trial a few months ago but I forget her name.  She takes photos at trials for fun and posts them to Facebook.  I love them all, especially the A-frame.  Was glad to see he had a good solid teeter too.  For some reason I thought they were all iffy.

Can't be bothered with the stats.  In short, got only 1 weave entry, missed all the others and popped out during his Standard run.  2/3 dogwalks.  Naughty fly-off teeters.  Got all his A-frames.  1 knocked bar.  No off courses except for the gamble portion of the Traditional Gamble. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Fun at the Stroke-n-Stride

1500 meter swim/5 k run
Boulder Reservoir

I'm recovering from Race #2 of Race-O-Rama 2013 season of 3 races in 4 weeks so I know the perfect training strategy - enter another race!  Makes perfect sense.  But I can't let summer go by without doing a Stroke-n-Stride out at the Boulder Rez and the last one is next Thursday which would be even stupider seeing as I have my longest regular season Xterra race on the following Saturday.  So tonight was it.  Also, I wanted to get a hard run workout in this week and it's hard to push myself when I'm recovering.  If I put money down for a race I know I'll push myself.  Also, the swim is 1500 meters, the same as my upcoming Xterra and close to the mile swim at nationals so I can work on pacing.  When I go to the Rez for morning masters workouts I typically swim 3000 meters straight, sometimes 2000 but pretty much never 1500 so it's good to see what that distance feels like in a race situation.  So Onward Ho with Race-o-Rama 2013.

Things started off a little iffy with a small storm front blowing through.  If there's thunder or lightning they shut the beach and make everyone get out of the water for 30 minutes.  Race start is at 6:00 p.m. and almost right after I buy my entry at 5:00 there's lightning.  It's not a proper storm, just some stray clouds blowing over but there's the occasional rumble of thunder and lightning all the way until 5:30.  Then thankfully it stops so we're on schedule for the 6:00 start.

Please to go away

However the lifeguards at the Rez won't let us have a warm-up.  A bunch of us get in the water a ways from the start line so we can at least swim to the start.  It's not the warm-up I was hoping for but it's good practice for those times when you can't get in a good warm-up at a race.  Water temp. was supposedly 70 degrees in the morning and now is supposedly 77 degrees.  I'm worried at first because I've got my full wetsuit on but there's no way the water is 77 and I'm glad for the full suit.

We line up for the start and the race director tells us that if we hear a siren we'll have to get out right away.  This sounds like it could be dangerous if everyone turns around and starts swimming every which way for shore.  The start goes off and I throw myself into the crowd.  If I can get used to swimming in a group I can take advantage of drafting in the group start at nationals.  It's a typical washing machine scenario at the start, arms flailing, people going all over the place.  But there are only 87 people so after a few minutes I have a little space to swim.  Then I hear sort of a siren sound but no one else is turning around so I keep going as well but I start sighting more to keep an eye on the crowd.  Eventually I figure out it's probably the start horn for the shorter course athletes.

By the first buoy of the first 750 meter lap I latch onto the feet of someone swimming my pace.  It's a guy with a nice strong kick and he's swimming straight so I follow along catching a nice draft.  But after the turn back to shore at the third buoy he starts swimming too far off course and I lose sight of him.  I'm on my own for the rest of the first lap.

There's a short beach run to get back to the start for the second lap and this year I run it more aggressively than last.  I want to prove to myself that I can get back in the water with my heart rate up a bit.  A woman in a pink cap gets out of the water with me and passes me on the run part but when we get back in she's not that far ahead of me.  I catch up and try to pass but realize she's swimming about my pace so I fall in behind her and draft.  She doesn't have a strong of a kick and she's not swimming as straight as the other guy so I lose her now and then but I manage a nice draft until the final turn.  About half way to shore I decide to pick up the pace and pass her.  For a while it seems that I've lost her but when I get to shore I see someone with a pink cap on my heels.  But when I stand up to get out of the water I realize it's a guy and someone who swims in my lane at masters.  At the beginning of summer he was a bit faster than me but today he ends up beating me out of the water by only 2 seconds.

Transition area is very informal.  Just throw your stuff down where ever and hope you can remember where you put it.

Thankfully I spot my stuff right away (had trouble finding it last year) and I have a mostly quick transition.  I didn't think to bring a race belt so I have to pin my number to my shirt on the fly but no big deal.  My masters lane mate takes almost twice the time I take in transition.  He catches me on the run but it takes him over 6 minutes and about 3/4 of a mile.  It's no matter anyway, I'm running my own race and going by perceived heart rate.  I don't like to mess with the gizmos when I race but I practice with a heart rate monitor so I have an idea of what a particular heart rate feels like.  My strategy is to run as hard as I can since it's a flat, fast course.  And about 3/4 of a mile into it I remember how much I hate 5 k's and running on the flat.  It's mostly a dirt trail with some paved roads at the start and finish but still, hardly the fun of trail running.  This is so not my thing.  Nonetheless I have done some track work this past spring with boot camp and I've even done some fartlek running out at the Rez after early morning masters swims. 

I'm thinking my last timed mile on the track was 10 minutes or so, horrible slow, so I'm shocked when my first mile split clicks in at 9:25.  I have a random goal of breaking 30 mins. for the 5 k but I until this first split I have no idea how realistic that is especially since I'm not exactly recovered from Xterra Lory on Saturday.  So excited to see a split in the 9's.  If I can keep up the pace I'll easily break 30 mins.

So I keep at it, breathing very heavy  but keeping it controlled.  Sometimes I think that my way of running fast is to start breathing fast so instead I calm down my breathing and pick up the pace.  I find myself running in bursts of speed and recovery.  Soon I can see the turn around point - it's an out and back course - and my split is 9:26.  Again, excited to see I'm holding my pace.  Last year I was running 10 minute miles so I'm very happy.  After the turn around I hear some feet behind me and I pick up the pace until they become fainter.  I ease off to recover and as they become louder I pick up the pace again.  I can feel myself starting to tire but I want to stay strong until the end.  It seems someone is always passing me at the end of the race and though I can't control other people I'm determined to keep up my pace this time.  When I hit the paved road with about 1/2 mile to go it feels like the feet are right behind me so I pick up the pace even more and see how long I can hold it.  There's a nice downhill and I pick up a bit more speed.  I hit mile 3 in 9:11, the fastest split yet, and I don't hear the feet behind me at all.  That last .1 mile takes 49 seconds and the feet never catch me and I hit my goal of a sub-30 5k in 28:49.  Very very happy with that.  This is not a fast time for a 5k by any means but it's a milestone for me, especially on tired legs.

There's a cool gizmo at the finish that you can type your bib number into and it spits out a receipt with your results.  So cool.  I'm a sucker for stuff like that and I'm happy that I don't have to wait around for my results.  My final time is 1:03:11 which is 3 minutes, 19 seconds faster than last year.  My run is 1:41 faster which doesn't sound like much but is a big improvement for me especially since I don't train for that type of run.  Feeling optimistic for Xterra Buffalo Creek in a week and a half.  Will get in a few more short, hard workouts and then next week I'll rest up.  Meanwhile I have an agility trial this weekend but only 2 runs per day and it's a small trial so I should be able to get some training in in the afternoons.

I have 2 more swim races at the Rez, one is the Bare Bones next Wednesday night put on by my masters group and the other is a 1.2 mile swim on Aug. 31st put on by the Without Limits folks who also do the Stroke-n-Strides and 2 of my Xterras.  Thought I was going to miss that last race because I also have an agility trial but I didn't sign up for Saturday's runs so turns out I can do it after all.  Hopefully I can pick up the pace a bit, I know I can swim faster than 1:58 and while I don't want to go too crazy on the swim at my Xterra's I'm sure I can go a bit faster and these upcoming races should help convince me of that.

Final Stats

Total:  1:03:11  (Last year 1:06:30)

Swim:  33:08 including beach run, 32:08 pure swimming (1:58/100 yards),  (Last year 34:13 including beach run, 32:59 pure swimming time (2:01/100 yards))

Lap 1:  15:53 mins./1:56 per 100 yards,   (Last year 16:38)
Beach Run: 1:00 guesstimate  (Last year 1:14)
Lap 2: 16:16 mins/ 1:59 per 100 yards  (Last year 16:21)

Transition:  1:16  mins.  (Last year 1:46)

Run: 28:49 mins. (Last year 30:33 (9:52 min./mile))

Mile 1:  9:25  (Last year 10:02)

Mile 2:  9:26  (Last year 10:05)

Mile 3:  9:11  (Last year 9:32)

Mile 0.1:  49 seconds  (Last year 54 secs.)

6/8 age group
23/40 female
64/87 overall

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Xterra Lory 2013

Xterra Lory
1/2 mile swim, 12.2 mile bike, 4.8 mile run
6500' elevation, Lory State Park, Fort Collins area

Despite a rough week I had a very good race.  I'd been feeling somewhat apathetic leading up to the race and even race morning I lacked my normal enthusiasm but once the gun went off I had no trouble focusing on my race and putting all my effort into it.  I think after a week of grieving I was happy to have something else to focus on and put my energy into.

Once again I had perfect race day conditions, mid-60's and sunny for the swim and temps. only went up to the high 60's/low 70s for the run with the ever so slight occasional breeze.  That's 3 out of 3 races so far this summer with about the best conditions I could hope for.  Lory in mid-August can be brutally hot, temps. in the mid-90's and no shade to speak of anywhere on the course so I was very lucky to have an unseasonably cool day.

Obligatory transition area photo.

I'm impressed with the handwriting skills of the girl who body marked me.  Looks even better than those letter stamps that they use at Nationals.  She spots my bike, an ancient Santa Cruz Juliana named after the legendary Juliana (Juli) Furtado, the godmother of women's mountain biking from back in the early 90's, and says, 'My friend has that bike and I can't figure it out why it says Juliana on it'.  I explain that it's named after Juli Furtado and get a polite but blank stare.  Sigh.  Makes me feel old.

I know, I'm bored waiting for the race to start so why not take a picture of my calf?  Got there at 6:19 a.m. in hopes of getting a good parking spot but still end up a ways from transition.  Was there at 6:18 last year and got a great spot near transition.   Anyway, race doesn't start until 8:00 so I have a lot of waiting around after getting my gear set up.  The race announcer is funny this year, reminds me of the commentator in Best in Show, and he has a running commentary going until the transition area closes.  He's a mountain biker and unfamiliar with triathlons and is surprised by how fancy the cars are compared to what you get at a mountain bike race.  Yeah, triathlon is not a sport for the meek of wallet though you don't have to spend a lot of money.  Triathletes love their fancy gear though, that's for sure, and the sport definitely attracts the horsey set.

Swim:  880 yards

Water temp. is 72 degrees and I opt for my full wetsuit rather than the sleeveless.  I'm glad for my choice because it's a little chilly waiting in the water for my wave to start.  I do a nice long warm-up including some builds, ie starting out slowly and building up in speed to race pace.  It's such a short swim, I want to be able to start out on the fast side, something I don't normally do.  I feel like I have some good swim fitness built up that I don't tap into during races so with this short race I want to break my 1:50-1:55/100 yards typical race pace.

I'm in wave 5 of 7 based on swim time and mountain bike pace rather than age group so most of us should be swimming at a similar pace.  Everybody else lines up way to the right of the buoys, I'm on my own lined up right with them.  I notice this a lot in races, don't know what the strategy is but I'm happy to have a straight shot and plenty of open water.

The gun goes off and though I feel like I'm going at a peppy pace everybody leaves me in the dust.  What the . . .?  But after a few minutes I start catching up to the crowd and passing people.  The course is a simple out and back and the turn around comes so quickly I can hardly believe it.  Once I'm headed back to shore I spot some groups of swimmers and try to catch  up so I can draft.  As it turns out, most are going too slow and I pass them and go on to the next.  I finally find a pair of feet with about 1/4 of the swim to go and the person is swimming straight so I follow them into the finish.  Out of the water in 15:01 (1:42/100 yards!).  SO happy with that.  This is slower than last year by about 21 seconds but the swim seemed short last year probably due to the water levels being so low and I'm sure this year was a faster swim for me.


Mostly goes smoothly except for my gloves again.  They're too tight a fit for trying to get on during a race when my hands are wet.  I've got a looser pair that I'll use for my next race.  Not sure why I'm even wearing gloves for this race, don't think I usually do, guess it's force of habit.  I take time to put on socks as well, got terrible blisters on my arches going sockless here a few years ago and could barely walk for a week.  I think the fine loose dirt gets in my shoes and wreaks havoc despite a million layers of Body Glide and Aquaphor.

Bike:  12.2 miles (12.6 by my cyclometer 2 years in a row)

I have a loose goal of 1:10 for the bike which is over a 9 minute improvement from last year.  Not sure how realistic this is, I was actually slower last year than the year before on the bike.  I'm surprisingly focused this year though and I'm in a good wave for my abilities so I always have people in my sights to chase.  There are years where by the second lap I've been out there on my own and it's harder to keep focus and speed when you have no one to ride with.

Passing is not such a problem either this year.  I do have people from the faster waves catching me on their second lap but the race is smaller this year and I'm evenly matched with my wave mates so I don't have too many of them passing me.  I do end up passing people from the slower waves but most everybody is good about it this year and I only have to stop or lose momentum once.  One big lummox of a guy collides into me because he has to pass me at a spot that isn't great for passing on an uphill and he doesn't quite have the strength to do it quickly so he sort of falls into me but thankfully I don't fall over, just have to stop and put a foot down and start on the uphill from a stop but everybody else is good about it.

The hills don't feel nearly as steep this year but I'm still losing time on the tight turns slowing way down before going into them.  This is a super fast course if you're good at taking tight turns at speed, something I don't normally practice all that much.  Will have to add that to my 'skills to work on' list.

There are two tight, kind of steep and rocky switchbacks on the course and this year there are medics at both of them warning people.  Someone got hurt on one of those switchbacks last year, I saw her lying off the trail as the medic was hiking up to get to her, so I guess this year they weren't taking chances.  I rode them no problem on the pre-ride and I have to slow down and put a foot out for balance but I manage them during the race as well.  The medic guy says, 'Good job' both times and I have to laugh because it isn't pretty either time but I'm happy enough to make it around even if it isn't graceful.

I finish my first lap in about 55 minutes, right on track for my 1:10 goal except I'm not sure if both laps are the same distance.  All I can do is ride as hard as I can and again I'm losing time on the turns, not something I can do much about on the day.  As I finish my second lap I realize I'm not quite going to make it but I can see I'm going to be close so I hit the pedals hard and drive for transition fast as I can while still handling the turns.

One of the new bridges that was re-built after the fire

I finish the bike in 1:12:14, a bit off my goal but 7:30 minutes faster than last year.  Very happy with that.


Smooth and uneventful, just the way I like it.  Tied for fastest in my age group.  I forget to take off one glove but no big deal, I take it off while running and shove it into a pocket in my tri-suit.


There's a big hill to climb with no shade or water stations so I usually carry water but this year I feel like it's cool enough-high 60's, low 70'-that I'll be o.k.  I've been doing hill repeats in the heat to prepare and it's a bit of a risk but I'm willing to take it to avoid carrying any extra weight up that hill.  It's a good choice.  I'm close to the top of the climb before I feel like I need water and I don't really need it, it would be nice but I can do without.

The climb is about 1 3/4 miles and steep but I run the whole thing this year.  This is the sign at the start of the steep trail for the run course.  It's a bit over dramatic if you ask me but I guess it's good that they warn people since it's so different from the other bike trails in the park.

Hard to convey the steepness in photos.

I push my way up the hill with 'Spanish Reds' by Banner Pilot setting a nice rhythm.  Up and up and up.  I keep saying to myself, 'I wonder what will happen if I go a wee bit faster?' and turn my feet over a little quicker.  So many times you come around the corner and think this must be the last switchback but it never is until finally it is.

When you hit this rocky bit

and see this trail carved into the hillside to your left you know you're almost there.  The top is right around the corner to the left.

And you're rewarded with some nice views of Horsetooth Reservoir.

 Another view from the top.

Whee, time for the downhill.  It's steepy steep with lots and lots of tight switchbacks and rocks. 

I stumble on some of the rocky sections but I don't fall.

As I make my way down the switchbacks I can see people catching up to me, a few of them women and I'm not sure if any of them are in my age group.  One is too old but the others?  I can't tell.  I realize I have to pick up the pace so I switch songs to 'Blister in the Sun' which has got to be the most perfect song ever for running fast down a steep hill.  I pick up the pace, turn my feet over a bit quicker.  I don't want to take my eyes off the trail to look behind me but from what I can see in my peripheral vision when I come around the switchbacks it feels like I'm losing all of the women but one.

Finally the trail evens out of bit and the downhill becomes more gradual and there's an aid station.  I dump cup after cup of water over my head, down the back and front of my tri-suit and one of the awesome volunteers helps and dumps another cup over my head.  I take off as the people behind me come into the aid station.  I pick up the pace to put as much distance between us as I can.  In the meantime I'm pushing to catch up to another woman.  I'm not sure if she's in my age group but it's good to have someone up ahead to push for.  Meanwhile one of the women behind me finally catches me but thankfully she's not from my age group.  She says something about the yellow cows (Yellow Jerseys) on my socks, something about the guys on my ankles pushing me on and at first I misunderstand and think there's a group of people behind me but when I turn around no one else is there.  I'm gaining on the other woman ahead of me and she alternates between running and walking and finally I catch her.  She's not in my age group but it was good to have someone to chase and I'm nearly off the trail and to the short run on the road that takes me to the finish line.  As I come around the final turn to the home stretch I pick up the pace as fast as I can go, passing a guy who gives me some encouragement and I give him a wave as well.  I remember losing a placement by 5 seconds in that race earlier this season and don't want to take anything for granted so I push to the finish line with all I have even though no one else is around.  It's a challenge when the waves aren't based on age group and you aren't racing head to head.  I passed one person in my age group on the bike but that's the only person from my age group that I saw the whole race.

Also, my goal was to break 2 hours 30 minutes and at some point on the run I could see I wouldn't do it but I also knew I'd be close so I push to the finish line wondering if breakfast is going to make a re-appearance but thankfully I cross before it does and my time is 2:32:02.  So excited about that, over 14 minutes faster than last year.  My goal for the run was to break and hour and I ended up finishing the run in 1:00:32, again a bit short but almost 6 minutes faster than last year and 1:15 mins/mile faster, a huge improvement for me.

I check my results when I come in and I'm in 4th place in my age group but this is only after the bike.  In the end I end up in 5th place, missing out on 4th by a mere 43 seconds.  27 of those seconds were lost in transition in T1 - stupid gloves.  Oh well.  I'll get 51 points towards Nationals rather than 56, shouldn't mean the difference between going and not going.  I end up with way more points than I thought I would considering there were 14 people on the start list so I'm not complaining.  Feeling much better now about qualifying.  It will be close but as long as I get some points in my last race I should stay in the top 10 and qualify.

Finally this race has some veggie offerings at the post race festivities so I hang around and munch on a veggie burrito and some chips, watching the finishers go sliding down the giant inflatable Slip-n-Slide to the vile brown pit of doom at the end.

Photo from 2 years ago.

This year there's a gap between the finish line and the Slip-n-Slide so I slip between it and avoid the thing altogether.  The race announcer even makes a joke about getting a staph infection from the Slip-n-Slide.  Finally somebody else has noticed how gross it is.  I like this guy more and more as the day goes on.

It's nice to be able to hang around for a bit, usually I leave right away because they don't have veggie food.  Kudos to the race directors for finally providing some veggie grub.

Couldn't ask for a better day - perfect weather, beautiful race course, big improvements in the swim, bike and run and overall time.  Looking forward to Xterra Buffalo Creek in 2 weeks.  Phew, better rest up.

Final Stats

Swim:  880 yards, 15:01 swimming (1:42/100 yards)/1:22 dash up the beach for official time 16:23 (last year 14:40 mins. swimming, 2:07 dash up from beach for official time of 16:47-swim was short)

T1: 1:54  (last year, 1:56)

Mountain Bike:  12.2 miles (12.6 by my cyclometer), 1:12:14/10.1 mph (last year 12.6 miles by my cyclometer, 1:19:44:48 hrs./9.2 mph)

T2:  1:02 (last year, 1:05)

Trail Run:  4.8 miles, 1:00:32/12:07 min./mile  (last year, 1:06:25 hrs./13:22 min./miles)
               Mile Splits:
               Mile 1:  11:40  (all uphill) (15:09 last year)
               Mile 2:  16:00  (all uphill) (16:24 last year)
               Mile 3:  12:26  (mix of uphill, flat and downhill) (13:08 last year)
               Mile 4:  10:02  (all downhill) (10:44 last year)
               Mile 4.8:  10:22  (mostly downhill, some slight uphill and flat-ish) (11:19 last year)

Total:  2:32:02  (last year, 2:46:19)

148/206 Overall  (last year, 218/271 Overall)
30/59 Women  (last year, 48/98 Women)
5/7 Age Group  (last year, 6/10 Age Group)

Swim:  2/7 Age Group, 116/206 Overall

T1:  3/7 Age Group

Bike:  5/7 Age Group, 141/206 Overall

T2:  1/7 Age Group

Run:  4/7 Age Group, 152/206 Overall

Wednesday, August 07, 2013


The last of the bridges at Lory was finally repaired and the full bike course for the Xterra race next weekend opened for riding on Saturday.  I went up first thing in the morning to check out the course and see if anything had changed due to the fire and new bridges.  The place was full of other triathletes doing the same.  Was funny seeing so many people there, usually the trails are pretty quiet, even on a weekend.

The course seemed largely unchanged though I have to admit I was in a bit of a distracted haze.  I'd gotten a call from my aunt the night before that my grandmother in Chicago was not doing well and that I should probably come in if I want to see her.  My aunt who's also from out of state planned on coming in on Monday so I also booked a flight on Monday.  So I was distracted with being upset over my grandmother and also fretting over the trip.  I don't like traveling under the best of circumstances but a last minute trip adds a whole new dimension of stress.  And I couldn't get a flight back until Friday so I would be stuck there longer than I wanted to be.  With all the planning and worrying running through my head I can't say as my head was all that much on my race.

I also ran most of the run course and was surprised to find that the steepy steep hills that I sometimes have to walk didn't seem all that bad.  Not sure if it's because I'm in better shape or if it's because my legs weren't tired from riding hard during the bike portion of the race.  I took a bunch of photos that I'll probably save for my race report but here's a few for now.

This fire damage is probably from the High Park Fire last year rather than the fire from March.

If you squint you can see the cyclists at the top of the ridge.  Gives you an idea of the climb involved.  And that's not even near the top.

View of Horsetooth Reservoir from nearly the top of the run course.

After the run I got back to the car half expecting a phone call with bad news but there were no messages so I felt a little encouraged.  And when my aunt called on Saturday night it sounded like my grandmother was doing o.k., not great but no worry about her not lasting until Monday at least.  And then she called me a couple of hours later to say she had taken a downturn and wasn't likely to make it through the night.  And she didn't.  I felt awful that I never made it back in time.  But I'd be lying if I didn't admit to a big relief at not having to make the last minute trip.  All I can do is console myself that I did the best I could with the information I had. 

I'll go back when my family in Chicago decides on a date for the 'memorial' for her.  They won't have a formal funeral or anything, just a gathering at someone's house but that's how my family rolls.  In the meantime I still plan on racing on Saturday.  Not sure how much my head will be in it and I'm fine with that.  I remember having a race the day after my grandfather passed away and I remember it being weird.  My grandmother raised me so I've lost both a mother and a grandmother in one fell swoop so I can't worry too much about a race.  However much I'm able to give to it on race day will be o.k.

In the meantime I took a nice hike with Strummer on Monday to honor her memory.  I was initially planning to go the high country but the weather was looking iffy and I couldn't be bothered with an hour of driving when there was a perfectly nice trail a mere 9 minutes away.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Not Sure What Those Folks Over at USDAA are Smoking

It's taken USDAA a billion and one years to evaluate and make changes to their aggressive jump height designations and their final solution is a baffling one at best.  If you're a big dog over 21", still sucks to be you, you're jumping a whopping 5" over your shoulder height.  If you're a small dog still sucks to be you, no 8" class was was added.  They did add 2 more jump heights though because apparently the day isn't long enough and maybe they're taking kick backs from chiropractors.

If your dog is 10" - 17 1/2", lucky you, the most you jump over your shoulder height is 2".  However go over 17 1/2" and now you're jumping a whopping 4 1/2" over your shoulder height.  And again, the 21"ers are still jumping 5" over their shoulder height.  Clearly no one at USDAA is aware of the concept of height to weight ratios, how they effect the impact on the dog when he lands and how they go up exponentially with the size of the dog.  If anything it's the big dogs that should be getting the break!  This is why NADAC eliminated the 24" class and while I don't agree with that decision at least they're aware of and acknowledge the extra challenge the majority of big dogs face.

Also having jump heights at 2" increments for 4 jump heights waters down the competition.   In this area the 12" and 16" classes are already tiny.  I checked 2 recent trials with entries on the large side and there were 2-3 dogs in the 12" class and 5 dogs in the 16" class for Masters Standard and 1 dog in 12", 5 dogs in 16" for Grand Prix.  So now those 6-8 dogs are spread between 3 jump heights.  Great for getting GP byes but not so great for the backs of the jump setters and the length of the day.

And speaking of the length of the day, the most baffling change of all is the addition of the table to  Gamblers and 'other' classes, whatever that means.  While most people were hoping at least for a positionless table and some were dreaming large for the elimination of the table, USDAA has gone the opposite way and added the table to an already long class.  The one bit of good news is that I think addition of the table to Gamblers, and the 'other' classes, is optional.  And what judge in their right mind would add a hugely unpopular obstacle that adds a whole bunch of time and hassle to the class?  I don't think that judge would get invited back by very many clubs, that's for sure.  And who is going to waste 5 full seconds on the table in Gamblers, even if you have a good fast table?  This is good for people who want to train the table, ie if the dog has table issues you can get the dog on the table then take him out of the ring to reward.  It's also good for loitering before the gamble if you end up with a few extra seconds before the horn blows.

But seriously, what are they smoking over there at USDAA?  Why are they so clueless about how to run a business?  Give your customers what they want, duh.  Marketing 101.  And how did they manage to take so many zillions of years to 'study' their jump heights and come up with such a bizarre solution that seems to cause more problems that it solves?  Especially when the solution is easy and obvious - match the heights that AKC/DOCNA, etc. use.  Nobody needs a 'study' and a bunch of colorful graphs that are impossible to read to tell you that.  We don't care about stupid graphs or quaint, arbitrary notions about 'dogs shouldn't jump under their shoulder height', we care about what we see with our dogs week in and week out.  Dogs either jump 2" over or 2" under their shoulder height, easy peasy.  Or if you're going to have jump heights at 2" increments then have them for everybody.  And make sure you give coupons for the chiropractor away with those worker coupons for the jump setters.