Sunday, June 22, 2014

Lookout Mountain Triathlon 2014

Lookout Mountain Triathlon
525 yard pool swim, 10 mile bike (10.37 by cyclometer in 2012, 10.56 by MapMyRide), 3.1 mile run
7600' elevation, 837' elevation gain on the bike, steepest climb is an average 4% grade for 1.32 miles

Another perfect day for racing.  Cloudy and overcast with a little breeze but not too cold.  Doesn't get any better, especially in summer.  And of course the sun came out a bit after the finish for foods and awards.

Transition area was crowded by the time I arrived at just past 7:00 a.m.  The race had started at around 6:30 a.m.  I didn't start my swim until 8:30.  Such are the logistics of a pool swim.

Best part of the race was spending the day with some friends from masters, one whom I had convinced to race and another whom I'd met once or twice and a nice lady.  We were spanning all 3 age groups from 50-64.

It's a low key race with lots of beginners.  The race announcer was hassling people as they left transition, saying things like, 'Geez dude, how old is that bike???!!!  Time to get a new one'.  He was also playing loads of good 80s' music.  For once I didn't have to suffer through Bruce Springsteen which I guess is also 80's music but so bad, such a bad cliche to play 'Born to Run' at a race.  And no Queen/We Will Rock You either!  Yay!  So I started the race in a good mood.


My good mood ended with the swim.  I swam a 9:30 pace for 525 yards last year and the race organizer lady puts me in a lane with a guy who swims a 6:30 and a woman who is also way faster than me.  They're from Kansas and claim they will be slower which of course they will but not that much slower.  The third woman is more my pace, shooting for 10:00 minutes.  I was hoping for a lane with 3 people faster than me so I could go last and go my own pace.  It takes me a while to warm up and there's nowhere really to warm up so I know I'll start slower and pick up speed.  Which is exactly what happens so the woman behind me, who starts out fast, has to pass me.  And I end up stuck behind her for almost the rest of the race.  I should have passed her back but then she'd by drafting off of me and we'd spend the whole swim going back and forth so I just swam behind her and enjoyed the draft.  Meanwhile we had to stop twice to let the speedy guy pass us, my goggles fell off which has never happened, and once again I lost count of my laps and the woman minding our lane did not signal the last lap for me, probably because she lost track of it all as well with all the lapping going on.  So I turned to do another lap and nearly ran into the woman behind me who I'd passed after stopping for the other guy and who was trying to exit the pool in the lane I turned into.  Which was confusing anyway but the whole thing was a big mess and as a result my swim time was not so fabulous, 10:17 compared to 10:25 the year before when I'd done an extra 50 yards.  Oh well.  On to the next.

Bike - 10 miles advertised, probably more like 10.5 according to other measuring sources

I borrowed Jonny's road bike this year and supposedly it's around 4 lbs lighter than mine which is a big deal in the road bike world.  I didn't ride it a whole lot before the race, about an hour total if that which is typically not advisable for a race but I'm almost as much a stranger to my own road bike so I figured what the heck.  I'd forgotten to ask my coach to add in some road rides so all bike training has been mountain biking.  Which is fine because this course is all about the climbing and descending with little to no flat bits.  And it's FUN.  Short hard climbs, fun fast descents.  This year it feels easy, maybe because of the fancy bike but probably a bit because of the training.  In any case I have a blast on the bike, even end up passing some super fit looking guys including my super fast lane swim mate.  As I pass I say, 'Good job' and he laughs a bit and says, 'Way to make me look bad.'  But I think it's awesome that someone from Kansas would attempt such a race at 7600'.

I also ended up passing a guy back and forth near the end of the race, I'd fly past on the downhills and he'd catch me on the climbs.  I wasn't thinking about him beyond trying not to hit him or cut him off when I passed but at the end of the race he came up to be and said he'd enjoyed racing me which made me laugh because I hadn't thought of it that way at all.  I was racing the clock, hoping to break 45 minutes.  I didn't have a cyclometer but when I hit the final climb to the transition area I knew where I was and figured I could do it if I pushed hard up last hill.  And I did, finishing in 44:25, over 4 mins. faster than last year's 48:11 and placed 3/11 in my age group.  So very happy with that even if it might have been partly due to a lighter bike.  On the other side though his bike has a harder gearing than mine so I had to push some harder gears up those steep hills which takes a bit more strength than my bike so I was pleased I was able to handle the hills with the harder gears.


My nemesis the run.  Was hoping for a faster time, any amount faster than last year after being so much slower at Lory in May.  I've been working so hard on my run, it's frustrating to end up slower in a race.  But this race was held at the same time last year unlike Lory so finally I'm comparing apples to apples.

I start off plodding along, trying to get my breath back, feeling the all too familiar cramps coming on.  Not bad but there in the background.  I ignore them and plod on, up a steep hill, stopping to walk for a few steps here and there in hopes of getting my wind back but it makes no difference so I go back to running.  Such a short run, can't waste any time.  It gets better but not a whole lot better.  But it seems to be going by fast.  I'm going up the steep hill through the subdivision before I know it and then it's almost all down hill.  I pick up the pace on the downhills but my breathing is keeping me in check more than I'd like.  I pass my friends on their way up the hill and they're looking good.  I also pass some girls in their 20's who are yacking away to each other, moving at a casual pace and oblivious to the fact that they're in a race.  So weird to me.  I'm not super competitive but if I pay and entry fee and you slap a bib on my chest I'm going to race as hard as I can.  But whatever.  It's they're race to run as they want.

Their voices disappear behind me and I hit the final short hill to the finish.  A guy holding a GoPro  passes me and says, 'Smile for the GoPro'.  I smile and wave and I don't mind that he's filming me but I imagine someone somewhere out there does.  The internets and availability of cheap video cameras have created some interesting privacy issues.

Meanwhile I hear those girls again behind me and the heck I'm letting them beat me to the finish.  I don't have a whole lot in my but I push with what little I have and cross the line out of earshot of them.  And I have to stand for a moment and support myself on the finish gate railing or I'm going to pass out.  I see a guy looking concerned but thankfully I don't black out and in a minute or so I'm fine.  The run was slower than last year by 49 seconds but my overall time is 1:33:40, 3 minutes 33 seconds faster than last year.  I'll take it.  Excited about that, especially given the swim debacle.

Transition times were fast, 1st in age group for both T1 and T2 and high in the rankings overall and for women.  I end up 5th out of 11 in my age group which is super competitive this year.  If I'd been in my old 45-49 age group I would have ended up in 3rd on the podium.  Funny to think that 50-54 would be more competitive.

My friend ends up winning her age group so we stay to get her award.  Some very amazing athletes in the older age groups.

Overall a fun race and a great day in the mountains.  Doesn't get any better than that.

Final Stats

525 yard swim:

10:17/1:58/100 yards, much confusion in lane, goggles fell off, started to do extra lap  (Last year did 575, 9:31 mins. pro-rated, 1:49/100 yards pace (10:25 for 575 yards)

                            83/219 overall (men and women) (86/206 overall in 2012)
                            39/115 women
                            4/11 age group (2/14 age group in 2012)

Dash from pool to transition:  34 sec (46 sec. in 2012)

T1:  1:17 (1:10 in 2012)

        31/219 overall
        6/115 women
        1/11 age group

Bike:  10 miles advertised, 10.37 by cyclometer (in 2011), 10.61 by gmaps pedometer

44:25 (48:41 mins. in 2012)

82/219 (129/206 overall in 2012)
22/115 women
3/11 age group (9/14 age group in 2012)

T2:  1:05 (1:04 in 2012)

        18/219 age group
        4/115 women

        1/11 age group (1/14 in age group in 2012)

3.1 mile Run:

35:59 mins., 11:36 min/mile
(35:10 mins., 11:21 min/mile in 2012)

161/219 overall (147/206in 2012)
74/115 women
7/11 age group (9/14 age group in 2012)


1:33: 40 hours
(1:37:13 hours in 2012)

94/219 overall (127/206 in 2012)
33/115 women (50/113 women in 2012)
5/11 age group (5/14 age group in 2012)

Results do not include DNF's if there were any.

Monday, June 16, 2014

ALL the Vegetables and a Bit of Meat

Is it weird that I'm excited to go to the doctor for my yearly general check-up?  Well, not so much the check-up itself but rather the blood work.  I wanted to see the results of my last 4 months of nutritional experiments.  Last February I started cutting out wheat, grains, and all other extraneous carbs from my diet and increased the healthy fats and at the start of May I increased the vegetables.  These days I'm all about the vegetables.  Lots and lots of vegetables.  Vegetables with my vegetables.  Covered in lots of lovely fat.  Healthy fats of course.  Cream sauces, sprinkles of cheese, eggs, olive oil, coconut oil, butter.   Mmmmmmm butter.  ALL the butter.  I've also managed to introduce some fish into my diet - wild caught salmon and some shrimp and scallops.  Even had some red meat for the first time in 30 years.  That took some bravery because I'd read that you lose your ability to digest red meat after several years of giving it up and indeed I had gotten sick once from a 'friend' inviting me to dinner and feeding me ground beef in the lasagna without telling me.  Even though he knew I was a vegetarian.  Thankfully I figured it out pretty quickly and didn't eat too much but my boyfriend, also a vegetarian, gobbled loads of it down and was sick as a dog, throwing up all night.  And I have another vegetarian friend who gets sick to the point of throwing up if he has meat.  So I was hesitant.  It's taken me years to work up the nerve.

Last week the local grocery had grass fed sirloin on sale for $6.99 a lb, about half the cost of wild caught salmon on sale, and I finally felt good about taking the plunge.  I bought 5 oz and cut it in half for my first try.  Fasted until lunch so I was good and hungry and looked up how to cook sirloin on the internets.  Good old internets.  Did some re-framing about how healthy this stuff is for me and how I'm going to feel good after eating it.  Mixed it in with a nice big salad so the majority of food was something I felt comfortable with.  And it actually tasted sort of, kind of good.  When I was done I put it out of my mind so I wouldn't mentally make myself sick.  And I was totally fine.  Phew!  The second piece a few days later did cause a little bit of G.I. issues but nothing too serious.  Yay!  I didn't have the red meat until after my blood work so it didn't effect the results.

Anyway, back to the lab work.  I was expecting to see triglycerides go down from last year and they did, from 61 mg/dL to 42 mg/dL, a huge improvement (normal range is 35-135), very happy about that.  Having low triglycerides is a very very very good thing.  Was a little concerned that bad cholesterol (LDL) would go up which they did by 2 points but they went up to 68 mg/dL which is still 2 points below the normal range of 70-100 mg/dL.  And non-high density lipoprotein actually went down from 78 to 76 mg/dL which is also well below the normal range of 90-129.  HDL (good cholesterol) remained the same at 68 mg/dL with normal being 40-95.  Overall LDL/HDL risk stayed the same at 0.4 with normal being 0.2-1.0.  The point being that lots of healthy fats, even saturated animal fats which I mostly have in the form of dairy (eggs, butter, cheese, cream, full fat yogurt, sour cream) do not necessarily give you high cholesterol as long as you eat keep the carbs low and don't eat processed food/sugar and eat lots of vegetables.  IOW, lots of plants, plenty of good healthy fats, little to no processed food, sugar or grains, healthy whole foods that don't come out of a box works pretty well.  At least for me.  Of course we're all experiments of one but this result does fit with much of the current research.

All other blood work was pretty awesome as well-protein, creatinine, hemoglobin, glucose (74 mg/dL with 70-100 being normal).  Vitamin D was 59.9 ng/mL with 30-100 being normal.  Thank you Colorado sunshine.  My weight is good too, 118.6 lbs at 5'-4 1/4" (about what I weighed when I was on the track team in high school) puts my BMI at 20.2 with normal being 18.5-25.9.  I won't bore the internets with any more details than that.

Time Magazine just published a cover story called, 'Ending the War on Fat', and the cover features a plea to, 'Eat Butter'.  And while I'm happy that we're finally having a national discussion about the wrong-headed vilification of healthy fats I also worry that Americans will miss the point without the equally important message about the harm of processed foods, grains, sugar, etc.  You can't eat lots of fat and lots of carbs and sugar and processed food.  The message here is not to start spreading loads of butter on your oversized blueberry muffin.  Or to start chopping loads of bacon into your pancake batter.  It's important to take the wide view when looking at nutrition.  What does your total diet look like?  And if you look at the diets of the current leading voices in nutrition - not typical doctors and registered dieticians but folks who are on the front lines of actually helping people.  Folks who've healed themselves with nutrition.  Whether they're promoting paleo or low carb/high fat or ketosis or even veganism the common theme is loads of vegetables with healthy fats thrown in (and supplements if you're vegan).  The bulk of the meal is veggies and the meats and/or fats are the side dish.  I laughed hearing one paleo guy saying his diet was 70% vegan while discussing with a vegan friend the big similarities between their diets.  I don't fall into any particular camp, I'm all about whatever foods and percentages of macro-nutrients work for a particular individual.  Quibbling over the details as many in these camps do is pointless in the face of the huge health crisis the world faces (and this problem is global).  Hopefully the Time article will have people re-thinking and overhauling their diets or at least becoming interested and looking into the research and experimenting for themselves.  After all everybody deserves to feel so good that they look forward to their yearly physical.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Death or Lory - Xterra Lory 2014

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

Don't mean to sound overdramatic, I just can't resist a Clash lyric when it runs through my head.

It's a cloudy, foggy start to the morning and an interesting early morning drive up to Fort Collins through the foggy soup.  I arrive at 6:09, 10 minutes earlier than last year and yet I end up with an even worse parking spot about 1/4 mile from transition.  The race is sold out and already it's busy and crowded, a theme for the race this year.  The sun is supposed to come out by 7:00 a.m. but transition looks like this at 7:00 a.m-ish.

I'm not overly concerned but with the water so cold (supposedly 64 degrees but there are pockets of warmer and colder) it would be nice for the sun to be shining to take the edge off.  The water at Horsetooth is the highest it's been in maybe ten years.

I did manage 2 open water swims in the Boulder Rez before the race and the first swim was also cold, 65 degrees but also with pockets of cold, so I've had a small opportunity to acclimate to the cold water and get used to open water swimming again.  The first Rez swim took me about 7-8 minutes to get used to the cold and get rid of any worried feelings but after that I did a solid 1200 yards and had no problem at all on the second swim though the water wasn't cold at all (68 degrees and sun shining).  I'm concerned about the cold but not letting myself get worked up about it.  Nothing I can do about it and the swim is short.  It's impossible not to remember the panic attack I had at this race many years ago but I push it to the back of my mind and remind myself of all the successful, fun swims I've had here.

I pull up my pants leg to put on my sunscreen and am greeted by this sight.

There will be blood.

A freshly bleeding wound before the race starts and I don't even know how I got it.  Again, not much I can do.  Wash it off a bit with some water and try not to think about the possible bugs I might pick up in Horsetooth is about all I can do.

Swim - 880 yards

I get in the freezing water to warm up and acclimate as soon as the first wave goes off.  Thankfully the sun is finally starting to break through the clouds and the fog is burning off.  I dive under water and as soon as my face hits the freezing cold I decide 'screw this noise, I'm out of here, this is twelve ways to crazy, what ever possessed me?'  But after a minute or so I calm down and get a little used to it.  I set off swimming and I'm totally calm.  Freakishly calm.  Don't know why but I'll take it.  I swim about 5-6 minutes or so and get out.  It's another 15 minutes until my wave starts and if I stay in that long I'll start shivering.  So I run up and down a short hill, soaking up the sun as it starts to warm up.  I get in again with 8 minutes to go, do another 4-5 minutes of warm-up, trying to kick hard and go fast to get my heart rate up.  Still freakishly calm.

And then we're off.  And as per usual the crowd goes flying away from me.  And as per usual I work my way up, passing the people who are now freaking out and backstroking/breast stroking.  Swim training has been going well as as I swim I work on some the stroke technique things I've been working on.  The turn-around buoy seems farther this year and it almost certainly is due to the high water.  For once the course is probably close to the advertised distance.

After I turn the buoy I get boxed in by a guy kind of flailing in front of me and someone to my side.  The guy in front is hard to pass because he's zig-zagging in an unpredictable fashion and because if I pass on his left I risk running into oncoming traffic from the other direction.  So I hang out for a while enjoying the draft but soon realize this is much too slow a pace and I squeeze in front of the guy on my right.  I don't realize how much they're holding me back until I break free of them and quickly pull away.  I need to do more open water races this summer to learn some better tactics, get a better idea of my race pace, learn how to pass, etc.

The rest of the swim is uneventful except for a kayaker who comes over and yells at some of us to move away from the buoys to avoid oncoming traffic.  But nobody seems to be in sight and I'm not far from the finish so I don't understand what it's about.  I move a little but not too much, don't want to be too far off course for no reason.  My pace feels slow-ish but the cold water seems to be restricting my movement a bit.  I finish in 17:47/2:01 per 100 yards, slow for me but I'm mostly relieved I made it through feeling calm and confident.  It's not a spectacular swim but a good start to my season especially given the cold and lack of open water practice.


I'm hoping for a big improvement in my bike this year partly due to training and partly due to my new bike with bigger wheels and disk brakes.  Especially the disk brakes.  My time last year was 1:12 and I'm hoping to break an hour but not sure if that's realistic given how early in the season it is.  I decide to ride as hard as I can and hope for some improvement.

The course is so crowded this year and as soon as I hit the single track I'm swept up in the crowd of fast people going out on their second lap.  On the one hand it's kind of exciting trying to keep up with them and I know I'm going faster on the downhill than I normally would.  On the other hand I'm still not as fast and lots of people have to pass me.  I pass a couple of people from my age group right away and that makes me feel good.  My age group is huge this year, 17-18 people or so are registered which is crazy for the 50-54 age group in Xterra.  Maybe even unprecedented for almost any Xterra race.

The first lap goes by quickly and when I reach the start of the second loop my speed is 11.1 mph, a full 1 mph faster than last year and I'm thrilled with that though can't quite do the math on a possible finishing time.  However after a bit I can feel myself slowing down.  Now I'm caught up behind people from later waves starting their first lap and they're not as confident so it's harder to pass them.  I don't want to freak out the newbies so I get held up a bit.  Most people are pretty good with the passing issue in this race but it seems like there's always one hot head.  This year it's a guy from a faster wave who comes up behind just before one of the few kind of, sort of technical places.  There are some tight s-curves then a switchback and this guy's being impatient and I don't want him on my tail through this section so I actually stop and pull off the trail to let him since there are no good places coming up.  Technically we don't have to do this, it's up to the person behind to wait until there's a good spot, but I can tell this guy is a jerk.  As he goes to pass me he doesn't slow down enough or something and he falls off his bike even though he has the whole trail to himself.  He gets up all angry and at this point a crowd of 5-6 riders comes up behind him.  He gets back on in front of them all (and of course I now have to wait even longer for the train of people to pass).  He then proceeds to go over his handlebars at the switchback.  More loud angry words.  Stupid thing is he was so close to the bike finish.  A little patience would have gone a long way here.

Anyway, I can feel my quads losing power on the second lap but I still keep going hard as I can.  I finish the bike in 1:11:03, a bit over a minute faster than last year.  Not the huge improvement I was hoping for but still faster than last year and it is early in the season so I'll take it.  And the bike was still pretty fun despite the congestion.


I'm hoping for the biggest improvement here.  I've been working with a coach, diligently following the program and pushing myself with my running.  Not a lot of volume but lots of intervals.  Lots and lots of intervals.  Short but sweet.  Well, maybe sweet isn't the word.  But I've been working on it and I'm hoping to at least break 1 hour this year (last year I missed breaking and hour by 33 seconds).  But it's early season and I didn't have a very long taper for this race so it's hard to say.

I start out on the run feeling good, like I'm moving pretty well.  It's a gradual uphill for about 1/3-1/2 a mile or so then it's a steep climb up the side of a steep hill for another 1 3/4 miles or so.  I'm doing o.k. at the start of the steep part but after a few minutes I feel like I'm not going as fast as last year.  Even the run course is crowded this year and I have lots of people wanting to pass and each time someone passes it breaks my rhythm and focus a bit more.  I passed 3 people in my age group on the bike and 2 people quickly pass me back in the first mile or two of the run.  Which would be fine if I felt like I was running as fast as last year but somehow I feel slower.  My brain tells my feet to turn over faster but my quads are tired now and they don't want to oblige.  It's a long slog to the top.

And when I finally get to the downhill I can't quite get my legs moving as fast as last year.  I've got a bit of a cramp which is never helpful but somehow I can't get the downhill to work for me this year.  And in fact the all downhill mile is a whopping 1:48 min. slower than last year (oddly the all uphill climb is 47 seconds faster, the only mile that's faster despite feeling slower).  My legs are feeling pretty beat for the last 2 miles despite the mostly downhill course.  I make it to the end of the singletrack with about 1/3 of a mile to go until the finish and a woman from my age group passes me.  And the worst part is that she doesn't even look like she's going fast.  But she's going faster than me and try as I might I can't catch her back up.  She ends up beating me by 31 seconds.  But at least I have someone to chase to the finish even if she is too far ahead to catch and I pick up the pace with whatever last little bit of strength my legs can muster.  I finish the run in 1:06:44, well off what I was hoping for.

Final time is 2:39:20, over 7 minutes slower than last year.  Not what I was hoping for or expecting but it is so early in the season and I didn't have a nice long taper since this isn't an 'A' race.  Hard to compare times to a race that's normally held in August.  Next race is in 3 weeks in Golden, a little sprint road tri that I'm doing for fun and to keep me going with racing since I have no Xterras in June.

Some interesting stats - there were 327 people in the race this year and only 206 last year which explains all the extra crowding on the course.  There were 59 women last year and 116 this year, almost double the amount.  There were 5 women in the 50-54 age group last year and 15 this year.  The woman who won my age group (50-54) came in 10th overall of the women, 5 of whom were pros so she was 5th overall of the age group women.  The top 3 age group women were all in the 40-44 age group.  There were only 11 seconds separating the top 3 women in the 45-49 age group.

Aside from the cold water, race conditions were about as perfect as they get.  Sunny but not hot, maybe high 60's for the run with a little breeze to keep things cool.  Bike trails were tacky, easily the best I've ever seen them on race day.  The race was crowded but people were mostly good about it.  My coach was there to cheer me and some of her other clients on.  It was fun to have somebody there.  And I met a couple few other women from my age group which was fun.  The big take home lessons?  I need more run training, I need more of a taper after a hard training block if I want to do really well, it's not fair to compare times from a race run in May to a race run in August.

For more pictures from the race course that I took on my pre-ride last year, click here.

Final Stats

Swim:  880 yards, water temp. 64 degrees but felt colder in places, 17:47 swimming (2:01/100 yards)/1:22 dash up the beach for official time 18:30 (last year 15:01 mins. swimming, 1:22 dash up from beach for official time of 16:23-swim was short)

T1: 1:59  (last year, 1:54) Didn't wear gloves this year but did have swim socks to deal with.

Mountain Bike:  12.2 miles, 1:11:03/10.3 mph (last year 12.6 miles by my cyclometer, 1:12:14 hrs./10.1 mph)

T2:  1:02 (last year, 1:02)   How freaky is that?

Trail Run:  4.8 miles, 1:06:44/13:54 min./mile  (last year, 1:00:32 hrs./12:07 min./miles)
               Mile Splits:
               Mile 1:  14:07  (all uphill) (11:40 last year)
               Mile 2:  15:13  (all uphill) (16:00 last year)
               Mile 3:  13:11  (mix of uphill, flat and downhill) (12:26 last year)
               Mile 4:  12:48  (all downhill) (10:02 last year)
               Mile 4.8:  11:25  (mostly downhill, some slight uphill and flat-ish) (10:22 last year)

Total:  2:39:20  (last year, 2:32:02)

254/327 Overall  (last year, 148/206 Overall)
78/116 Women  (last year, 30/59 Women)
10/15 Age Group  (last year, 5/7 Age Group)

Swim:  10/15  (last year, 2/7 Age Group, 116/206 Overall)

T1:  5/15  (last year, 3/7 Age Group)

Bike:  8/15  (last year, 5/7 Age Group, 141/206 Overall)

T2:  2/15  (last year, 1/7 Age Group)

Run:  13/15  (last year, 4/7 Age Group, 152/206 Overall) 

(Placements include DNF's)