Friday, October 23, 2015

Moving Forward

Hard to believe that racing season is over.  We've been having a freakishly warm fall and it feels like summer hasn't ended and I should be training for something.  I am still training with my coach, I like her workouts and I think I lost too much triathlon specific fitness when I was on my own during last year's off season.  But I've been uncharacteristically  tired, more fatigue than the workouts should be causing.  Heart Rate Variability numbers are holding steady at 'o.k. but not great'.  The prime suspect is that I've stopped taking the birth control pills I was taking for endometriosis and aside from having to adjust to that, the pills were controlling some of my other less fun middle aged lady symptoms that I know no one wants to hear about so we'll leave it at that.  I see the doctor in another couple of weeks.  I'm timing giving up the pills with the appointment so that if I get really sick again like I did last time I tried to stop them then she can see the symptoms and hopefully help.  So far things are mostly going reasonably well but last time it took me until week 4 to get sick and I'm only finishing up week 3.

Some fall color up at Caribou Ranch west of Boulder

I've been trying to work out a long term goal so that I have some motivation to keep up with the off seadon training and so far the best I can come up with is the 2017 ITU Off-Road World Championships in Penticton which is in British Columbia in Canada.  It's not as big a deal as going to Xterra Worlds in Maui but BC appeals to me a lot more than Hawaii and I could drive, take the dogs and Jonny, and it wouldn't cost nearly as much.  Except for all the zillions of fees that USAT charges and I'd have to go with the USAT team.  That part I don't like.  Also the race is 2 years away.  Next year it's in Australia which is waaay too far.  And probably the same problem of icky sticky hot like Maui, let's not even get into the $$$.  On the one hand it gives me 2 years to prepare.  On the other hand it gives me 2 years to get older.  It's on my radar anyway.  And of course there's always the goal of Maui if I could get the money and desire together. 

More Caribou Ranch

I had a few experiments this summer.  Continued on with the Eat ALL the Fat and Very Few Carbs through summer training and it mostly worked great.  Hardest part was remembering to eat and getting in enough calories.  I had some days with bouts of dizziness on standing up if I wasn't mindful to get in enough food but these were easily fixed by eating once I noticed the dizziness.  Heat and hydration may have played a factor as well, hard to say.  I was also experimenting with some intermittent fasting and by that I mean skipping breakfast or delaying it some days and doing morning workouts fasted.  Results were mixed on this and depended on training load and how much I'd had to eat the day(s) before.  Some mornings I had early morning swim practice at the Rez (6:15-7:40 or so) then a run immediately afterwards and some of those runs were tough but food might not have been the issue.  For some reason running after swimming is hard.  For now I've settled on having breakfast mid-morning on most days with the odd day of fasting until lunch. 

The Blood Moon as seen from my neighborhood

I had my yearly physical exam mostly so I could get the blood work which the doctor initially didn't want to order since it always comes up good.  But I pleaded a case and she put in an order for me.  After 1 1/2 years of eating ALL the fat my blood work is still really good.  LDL which is allegedly the bad cholesterol was 70 mg/dL and normal is 80-100.  HDL, the good cholesterol, was 81 with normal being 40-85, up from 68 last year.  Of course we could have the discussion of cholesterol is not even that great of a predictor of heart disease, if you really want to know if you're at risk you should just pony up for a calcium scan.  It's tempting but, meh, I'd have to drive to a Denver suburb and endure some radiation plus the money.  Maybe some day.  The best news was TSH or thyroid stimulating hormone was 1.49 uIU/mL with normal being .465-4.68.  You want this to be low and it was down from 1.74 last year.  I was so hoping for less than 1.5 so yay for that.  I often wonder about my thyroid function and TSH is not the best test, there are better tests but in the absence of symptoms or very many symptoms I'm not going to bother about it. 

Last gasps of fall color at Rocky Mountain National Park

One of my other experiments was giving up caffeine sometime mid-summer or so.  This was in impromptu experiment, my stomach was queasy one morning so I skipped the caffeine for a few mornings and noticed that I felt much better.  Stomach felt better in general and I was sleeping longer and so much more deeply, having freaky vivid technicolor dreams, very cool.  I don't miss it at all though I do have it occasionally if I'm out with Jonny and he stops for it.  I think it's been almost a month since my last cup.  I think it's also helped with that thyroid number.  Adrenal fatigue is a concern for middle aged female athletes and caffeine stresses out the adrenals which then messes with the thyroid so it's not a bad thing to be rid of for now.

First bits of snow dusting up at Winter Park

And still some color at Winter Park

The most recent experiment is with flat pedals on my bike.  This has been awesome, LOVE my flat pedals.  It took me a very very long time to swallow the Kool Aid of clipless pedal way back in the day and for those that don't know what those are, basically a pedal with a gizmo on it that you clip into with bike shoes that have a special matching cleat.  This means that you're attached to the bike unless you twist your foot just the right way to release the cleat.

Clipless pedals.  The silver part is the thing you clip into.  I know it makes no sense that they're called 'clipless' and then you refer to being 'clipped in' but 'clipless' refers to the old school toe clips.

Supposedly you generate more power by being able to pull up on the pedal as well as push down.  But this is controversial and there is no solid proof of this.  In fact there seems to be some evidence against it.  Wish I had known that all those years ago.

And by being attached to the bike you risk not being able to unclip in time if you fall.  This has happened to me several times, happens to pretty much everyone.  I also don't like having my knee and foot locked into one position.  So when I read an Xterra pro recommending flat pedals to someone as a way of improving skills and pedal stroke I was all over it.  Pulled out some of my old school zillion year old flat pedals, put on a pair of running shoes and I was off.  SO MUCH FUN!  I was sold immediately and ponied up the $$$ for some new school flat pedals.

The silver bits are studs that grip into special shoes with grippy rubber.  You can wear whatever shoes you want but I love my grippy rubber shoes.  These pedals have more surface area than my old school pedals as well which helps a lot with keeping your foot from slipping off.  I love the freedom from the bike and feel so much more confident on descents and even some techy uphills where I formerly would have unclipped.  I also love being able to switch my foot position around which takes stress off my knee and allows me to place my foot so the are where I had surgery is not taking the brunt of the force as it was with the clipless.  There's even a guy who has written a manifesto about the flat pedals.  He is maybe more passionate than I am but I'm pretty excited with this experiment.  I've been on a half dozen or so rides now and it's early days to say if I'm faster but the flats sure are a lot of fun.  I may switch back and forth so I don't completely lose the muscle memory for the clipless but maybe not.

I gave up the idea of going to UKI Nationals.  21 1/2 hours is too much driving.  But we continue to practice with our training partner.  Strummy is still going strong and loves it.  I signed up for DOCNA trials in Nov. and Dec. because that's all there is except for AKC and NADAC and I'm not doing those.  Hopefully Strum will be able to do USDAA in January.  So far he's showing no signs of slowing down.

Boulder Rez - Strummy votes it 'Best Place to Run Your Buns Off'.

Phew, that's all for now.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Xterra Nationals 2015


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

It's that time of year again - Xterra Nationals!  I love this race, look forward to it all year.

I also look forward to pre-riding the course because it's that awesome.  We drove in on Tuesday but couldn't hit the trails until Friday because of . . . rain?  In Ogden in September?  Really?  And snow??!!  Yes it snowed on the high peaks, including Snowbasin, on Wednesday.  This is what it looked like in Ogden when the rain sort of cleared for half an hour or so.

Thankfully we had a groovy place to stay.  The host hotel no longer allowed dogs so I found some people renting out the bottom part of their house.  A very interesting home.  Zen Gardens I think they called it.

I kid you not.  This place cost about the same as the cheapo hotel near the highway interchange when you added in all their outrageous dog fees.  No dog fees at the Zen House.

Lola enjoying her fancy accommodations.  Strummer was not so zen because of flies that kept getting in.  He's terrified of flies.  And the smoke detector.  That went off every time we used the shower.  The house was old and had some quirks but still so much better than a generic hotel.  Because how many generic hotels have chandeliers in the living room?  Or a living room?

We were in the best part of town, right next to the mountains rather than the highway.  So many nice trails just a couple of blocks away that we couldn't go on due to rain.

Thankfully the rain let up on Thursday but the trails were too muddy to ride, race officials asked us to stay off and thankfully people did.  So we went to Antelope Island instead.  Where we saw lots of buffalo but not much antelope.

It's a great place to go when you can't pre-ride for Nationals.  Wish I had thought to bring the bikes with.

Finally on Friday the trails were dry and the sun was back so we could pre-ride but I didn't want to do too much the day before the race so I only rode the Sardine Peak loop, a little over 8 miles.  I went nice and easy, stopping for lots of pictures and moments of whimsy.  And a gigantic bull moose.  No pix of that guy.

Race day was about as perfect as it gets.  Dramatic views on the drive back from dropping my stuff up at the second transition area up at Snowbasin.  There are 2 transition areas about 20-25 minutes apart so it's a lot of driving on race morning.

Driving back from Snowbasin to Pineview Reservoir where the race starts

It was hat and mittens weather while waiting for race start until the sun finally hit the transition area.  Other than that conditions were perfect.  Water was 64 degrees and I'd guess it was low 60's for the run, maybe even high 50's?  With a little breeze at times.  It was perfect.

Swim went off without a hitch despite the much larger crowd than last year.  Except someone snagged me with a super long, super sharp nail and put a good gash in my finger.  Given the chaos I guess I'm happy that's the worst that happened.  I managed to negotiate the crowds without getting too hung up except at the very start.  Drafted a bit here and there.  Ended up about a minute faster than last year though you never know how accurately the course is set from year to year.  Garmin had it a little long at 1842 yards (should have been 1640).  It's possible I swam off course but 200 yards?  I felt like I swam close to the buoys and my Garmin map showed me on course as well. 

Bike course was crowded.  So crowded.  There were 323 people compared to last year's 266 in the championship race.  Not sure about the citizens' races but those seemed way more crowded as well and they were causing the most congestion and passing issues for me.  Everybody was polite this year, no issues with rudeness but I feel like I lost a lot of time/energy/momentum having to slow down to either pass or let someone pass.  But the course was beautiful as usual.

Photos taken during pre-ride, some by Jonny who rode the whole course

Sardine Peak photos from my pre-ride

Looking down on Pineview Reservoir where we start our swim

The run was my best and fastest at Nationals, 4 minutes faster than last year.  Not bad for a trail 10K. I ran the whole thing except 2 super steep hills.  Usually I end up walking a good deal of it, especially miles 4 and 5.  Though I ended up saving the most time on the downhill sections.  This summer I finally discovered the solution to the side cramps I get when I run downhill so I did the whole race without any cramps. 

The mile splits where I ran instead of power walked were actually slightly slower (15-30 seconds) but I was going off of my Garmin and I noticed that Xterra's mile markers didn't match my Garmin so that could easily account for the discrepancy from last year.  Will be interesting to wear the Garmin again next year and compare apples to apples.  I've been working so hard on my running, was happy to finally see some improvement.  It was cooler this year for the run so that could have played a part.  I never got that overheated fatigue feeling that I think is what causes me to walk.  More run practice over the winter, maybe I'll finally be a runner again.

Strummer waiting for me on the run course.  He about pulled Jonny's arm off when I ran past and didn't stop.

He got plenty of snugs at the finish line though.  You can watch on the video montage.  Because who doesn't love a good montage?

Overall I was pleased with my race and so happy to be able to go to Nationals.  I was talking to a guy in the transition area after the race and he was disappointed with his placement.  He felt he'd put in a good effort but didn't get the placement he was hoping for.  He was an older guy, maybe my age group or one away.  And all I could think was how happy I was that I could even go and that I have the health and strength to finish such a race.  Placements are nice but . . . really I'm happy enough to be strong enough to be out there competing and enjoying the day.  I know so many people who struggle with health issues, chronic pain and general lack of fitness and mobility, people who struggle to get through everyday life never mind go climbing up mountains.  People who would love to be able to afford to train for and attend such a race.  I felt so lucky, I feel so lucky.  And I hope I have the same opportunity to go next year.

Final Stats

Swim:  34:00 swimming time/1842 yards, 1:51/100 yards (35:07, 2:08/100 yd. last year if 1500m)
             258/323 overall (188/266 last year), 58/86 women (84/110 last year), 6/11 age group
             (3/7 last year) 

Run Up Ramp to T1:  1:44 mins. (1:16 last year)

T1:  3:10 (4/11 age group)

Bike:  2:47:38/17.65 miles/6.32 mph (2:42:00/6.71 mph last year)  294/323 overall (240/266 last
           year), 88/96 women (73/86 last year), 9/11 age group (5/7 last year)

T2:  1:53 (1:51 last year) (5/11 age group)

Run:  1:26:08 for 5.87 miles/ 13:40 min/mile per Xterra, 14:40 min/mile actual  (1:30:16/14:27
          min/mile last year)  290/342 overall (249/266 last year), 85/96 women (73 or 77/86 last year),
          9/11 age group (6/7 last year)

    Run Splits:

    Mile 1:  17:24
    Mile 2:  12:47
   (Miles 1 and 2:  32:26 last year, 30:11 this year)
    Mile 3:  15:57 (16:30 last year)
    Mile 4:  15:49 (15:16 last year)
    Mile 5:  14:32  (14:17 last year)
    Mile 5.87:  9:39 (12:01 last year)

Final Time:  4:54:33 (4:53:31 last year),  286/323 overall (243/266 last year),  84/96 women
                    (75/86 last year), 9/11 age group (6/7 last year)