Monday, February 07, 2022

More Oura Ring and a Setback

I was feeling pretty fit and feisty these days, was even starting to formulate some formal-ish goals for the summer. Then I tripped on my morning dog walk. I'm not even sure what happened, I was admiring the beautiful scenery and next thing I knew my chin and head were hitting the slick rock. I tripped/twisted my ankle/fell going down a small, rocky drop off on the slick rock. Just wasn't paying good enough attention I guess, maybe Ruby pulled me a bit, I dunno. Mostly superficial bumps and bruises and of course I fell on some cactus so that wasn't fun but unfortunately I twisted my ankle to the point of needing to be on crutches.

Also my posterior tibial tendonitis has been flaring up here and there over the past few weeks as it is wont to do and I think this is the reason why I can't bare weight on the foot at all. I'm not sure how I hike the mile or so uphill on uneven slick rock to get back to the car but now everything is so swollen and seized up that I have to resort to crutches. I have this possibly delusional idea that I'll wake up and be fine tomorrow morning but we'll see. I twisted the other ankle and fell while hiking a few days ago and that recovered no problem and taking a day off seems to be 'working' for the posterior tibial crap show. I did all the PT and exercises and night boot for this 5 years ago and it really never got all that much better. So when it flares up I take a day off and that usually does the trick. I had been doing calf raises for it and some foam rolling but I'm not consistent enough with it. Such a beautiful day today too, I was having big debates about what the day would hold on the way to the dog walk trail, was maybe even going to get my ass up to Dolores for some fat biking but instead here I am, on the stupid computer, finally getting back to the blog.

The Oura ring has been interesting. Good in some ways, frustrating in others. There are days when I wake up and I'm not sure if I'm feeling up for some training and the ring is not sure either. It'll say, 'Listen to your body'. Well, I don't need a damn expensive ring to tell me something so inanely obvious. OTOH, there are days like yesterday where I felt tired and unmotivated but also felt like maybe I was being lazy and I really should get my ass out the door. And the ring showed that my overnight recovery wasn't great and yeah, you probably should take it easy.

The app breaks down the Readiness Score so you can see where your recovery is lacking.

The red flag here is lowest overnight resting heart rate. Apparently this is a big measure of how recovered you are. The chart below shows that it went up from 52 the night before to 54 and apparently this is a large enough jump to be of concern. Previous Day Activity is also in red and this is one of my annoyances with the app, I'll get to that later.

The ring also measures overnight HRV (heart rate variability). You want this number to be high.

My average overnight HRV since I got the ring is 29 and I like to see it up in the 30's at bare minimum so 20 is pretty low for me. So this day, which was yesterday, turned into a rest day of sorts (I still did a half hour of weight lifting) which is a bummer because today is also now a rest day and who knows how many more days.

I was planning on going back to the pool in March because I think by then Omicron will have run its course but maybe I'll go back sooner. Haven't been in the pool since August so it won't be pretty. But it's better than nothing. Our case rates were still pretty high on Friday but they were declining slightly so we're likely on the downturn. Probably is o.k. anyway, I'm probably being over cautious. Or maybe making excuses for not going back to the poo because it won't be pretty. Also I really prefer to be outside and the weather has been so nice, hate to be inside when it's so sunny outside.

The sleep data from the ring is pretty cool but the accuracy is questionable. The Deep Sleep is supposed to be fairly accurate, the REM sleep not so much. The overall amount of sleep, waking and falling asleep times, seem pretty accurate. The newest version of the ring, Gen 3, which is the one I have, was released before a lot of the software for the new and improved features was ready and this includes the sleep algorithms so despite having all the new sensors and gizmos and whatnot, the software is still old school and no word from Oura on when the updates will happen.

I always get dinged for Latency which is the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep. The problem is I do take 20 minutes or so to fall asleep but I don't turn my light off and stop moving until I feel myself drifting off so the ring can't tell I've been in bed. This is a common complaint and a stupid metric.

 Graph of the sleep stages. 

My main beef with the ring is the way it tracks Activity. It gives you a daily goal, which is good, previously I'd shoot for 10,000 steps a day in addition to whatever other training I do and this seemed very random and often not realistic if I'd had a long, strenuous bike ride where steps aren't counted. My beef is that it gives you your goal in calories which is the most useless metric ever on the face of the earth. Even more confusing is that it will tell you throughout the day how many miles you have to walk to reach your calorie goal and often I'll have 30 calories left to reach my goal and it will tell me I have to walk 1.3 miles. To burn 30 calories. But it will give me credit for the 30 calories once I've walked what seems like a reasonable amount, it doesn't REALLY make me walk the 1.3 miles. To add to the confusion it will tell me how many steps I've taken and it will take into account my biking and other exercise but not in a necessarily consistent or logical way. I've tried to figure out the equivalence between steps and calories and I promise you it's not consistent. The big problem though is that the amount of activity is assigns me per day is way too low, it must be based on my body weight/height or something because the maximum amount never changes and it goes down to a ridiculously low amount on rest days. If I exceed it too much for too many days in a row I get dinged on my Readiness Score for not taking enough easy days. So I take my Readiness Scores with huge grains of salt and go mostly by overnight Heart Rate and HRV metrics. Which leads the ring to leave me daily passive/aggressive messages of you really need to sit on your ass today. I think this thing is designed for more sedentary people or something, which is fine but there should be some way to work around it. Maybe there's a setting somewhere and I need to dig a little deeper. Fun with technology.

In the meantime Ruby is helping me with my unintended rest day.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Oura Ring - First Impressions - and Booster Update

I woke up this morning to 3 degrees/feels like -7 (Fahrenheit) and all animals were alive and seemingly o.k. We ended up having only a dusting of snow but thankfully a ton of rain but not so thankfully it had frozen before turning to snow so conditions yesterday were a bit treacherous. Lily, one of my mama cows, decided to play head butt games with the other mama just as the sun was going down and the temperature really dropping last night and she ended up walking around lifting one foot because of the cold snow on her feet, just like the dogs do. Except unlike the dogs I had no idea what to do for her. Eventually she went in her dry loafing shed but was soon back out in the snow again. Worrying but she's big and has a mind of her own. She seemed fine before I went to bed and she seems fine today. Angus cows are so very hardy. As are the chickens who weathered everything o.k. 

I was bracing for a poor reaction to my booster shot. I had bad, long term dizziness/fatigue/brain fog from the first two shots. Even though it's Moderna so just a half dose for the booster, Jonny had a worse reaction to his booster than he did to his original doses. Just one extra day, but still, I certainly wasn't expecting it to go well for me. So far, it's been something of a nothing burger. No fatigue, dizziness, or brain fog. I didn't even have a day of feverish symptoms. My temperature went up to 99 degrees at its worst and this wasn't enough to give me any sort of noticeable symptoms other than being a bit warmer than usual which was fine with this cold snap.

My Oura Ring, Gen. 3, arrived November 18th so I have a couple few weeks of data now. Overall initial impression is that I'm really pleased with it. It picked up on my vaccine symptoms right away and suggested I turn on 'Rest Mode' if I'm feeling under the weather. The triggers were an elevated overnight resting heart rate, decrease in heart rate variability (HRV) and a 2 degree increase in average body temperature. It also showed an elevated respiration rate though I'm not terribly familiar with that metric and it's significance. HRV in particular was super low (high is better) and is what you'd expect if you were ill so I was pleased the ring had picked that up. Physically I felt fine and if I'd been left to my own devices probably would have tried to start training again which is why I suspect I had such a poor reaction the first go around because getting back to training was exactly what I did. This time around I decided to treat the booster like a race that would require both tapering and recovery. So I've had four days so far of mostly rest with just walking. I had the shot on a Tuesday and Wednesday morning's walk felt a bit difficult and slow, felt like my heart rate was too easily elevated. But Thursday felt fine. Yesterday I couldn't walk much more than a mile because conditions were treacherous, ie icy sidewalks with a mix of pavement and ice which is often the worse combination. Today things should melt off and hopefully I can go a bit farther.

The only noticeable symptoms were the standard dull pain/ache at the injection site, and this was very minimal, and swollen lymph nodes under my armpit. It was a bit sore for a day or so but the swelling was huge, like the size of an avocado. Yesterday the swelling went down to about half an avocado and remains at 1/4-1/2 an avocado today but no soreness to speak of. I was hoping to ease back to training with light weight lifting but I'm not sure about this with the swelling. On the other hand, Professor Google says this swelling could last for weeks or months and I can't take that long off. So today I'm introducing some mobility stuff and in the next few days I'll introduce super light weights and longer sessions. Hopefully the movement will help the nodes drain. I also remember when I got my Kangoo Jump Boots and was taking classes that used them, the instructor said the jumping was good for lymph node drainage. I thought this sounded hokey but I'm going to bust them out and give it a try. We'll put this bit of wives tale/hokery to the test.

Today my biomarkers are improved, I turned off Rest Mode and Oura has assigned me some reasonable amount of activity for today. But HRV is still low at 22 and I'd like to see it more in the 30s. Just for laughs I checked HRV with my Garmin and it was 100 which is the highest and worst possible score on Garmin's scale (Garmin uses a scale where a higher score is worse). So today still needs to be easy. I'm going to continue to use the Oura ring to monitor and guide recovery so hopefully I won't end up in that bad fatigue/dizzy place.


A couple more days have gone by, today is Tuesday or one week post injection, and still no ill effects from the booster. The swelling in my lymph node has gone down considerably and can best be described as some puffiness. I can see my armpit again and neither the lymph node nor injection site are sore or tender to the touch. No dizziness, fatigue, brain fog. So happy with this.

On Sunday the 'Readiness' on my Oura app said this:

Which seems a bit passive aggressive. Why not just tell me, 'You've had enough rest lady, get off the couch and move your lazy ass!'. The sun was shining so I went up to Boggy Draw for some snowshoeing. Word on the street was that there was a foot of fresh powder and when I got up there, conditions did not disappoint.

I was out for around 2 miles and 1 1/4 hours. I kept my heart rate nice and low, around 110 bpm, kept the pace nice and slow and stopped for photos and moments of whimsy. It felt so good to be back outside and moving through the world again. I'd been walking every day for the past 5 days but hadn't done much else. This was just the right amount of activity because I had an excellent night's sleep and woke up to this 'Readiness' score on Monday morning:

I was planning on no running for another week but the sun was shining and it was perfect running weather yesterday, Monday, so I hit the trails. I kept my heart rate to an average of 118 bpm so I was super slow and my Garmin watch wasn't pleased with this pace. I went for around 50 minutes, 2.75 miles, SO slow. But I felt great afterwards, exactly what I was hoping for. I'm hoping that if I keep my heart rate nice and low for the next week or so that I won't trigger a vaccine reaction. 

This morning the Oura ring suggested that my recovery was going well but since I'd done 'a lot' yesterday maybe I could take it easy today if I wanted. So wishy washy. These daily messages make me laugh whether they're supposed to or not. Anyway, today will be getting back to weight lifting. I did about 10 minutes of light weights yesterday and some of it was fine, some a little twinge-y. My injection side arm apparently wasn't back to 100%. We'll see how it goes today. 

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

New Farm Baby

My cow Lucy was due to have her calf on Thanksgiving but I threw the blinds open at dawn the Saturday morning before and this little nugget was running around.

She was born sometime during the night or early morning and it was cold, probably high teens. That Saturday was cloudy and in the 50s, not too bad but not great due to the lack of sun. And rather than stay with mom, she kept crawling under the electric wire to bed down in a ditch. I kept checking on her and she always felt warm. That night at dusk Jonny carried her out of a ditch to be with mom. The following morning I found her by herself in a ditch again, a layer of frost on her back. But when I went to lift her up, or rather just get her to stand up, she was toasty warm. I coaxed her back under the fence to be with mom. After another escape that morning we decided to put up some sheep netting type fence rather than rely on the wire since even two rows wasn't keeping her in. A couple weeks later and this has worked a treat. It's just a nuisance to set up compared to posts and wire and I don't have enough for a really large paddock. We've transitioned now to a bigger paddock with a mix of sheep netting and wire/posts with triple wire. So far it's working. She much larger now.

I don't have many photos, black cows are so hard. I try and it sucks so I get discouraged.

Proud mom Lucy and baby


I also don't like to interfere with mom and baby too much in those early days. The baby is actually not fearful but mom gets stressed out. The baby actually gets more fearful of people as she gets older. But this little bug is pretty confident, this morning she was going to take on a buck with some decent antlers all by herself. Mom and the others came in for back up thankfully and the buck took off into the neighbor's pasture. It was a bit sketchy for a few tense moments since the buck had an injured rear leg and I wasn't sure it could jump but thankfully it mustered enough adrenaline to get over. It was a bit too much Wild Kingdom for first thing in the morning.

She needs a name. And more photos. And video. She has hilarious running fits, charging around the pasture and kicking up her heels. Unfortunately she only predictably does it at dusk when the lighting isn't fabulous. Part of the reason this post is so delayed is because I wanted to get more better photos but clearly it wasn't happening. And after much debate I finally decided to go ahead with a booster shot which I got just a few hours ago so chances are I'm going to be out of commission for some time.

As an aside, I had really wanted to have the needle aspirated if I was going to get a booster and this is something that isn't typically done in the U.S. This is done to ensure that the needle hasn't gone into a vein and requires a simple pull back on the needle plunger to make sure there's no blood. It takes a matter of a second but the CDC doesn't call for it. The risk of hitting a vein is low, 1 in 1000, but it's still a risk and may be responsible for some of the more serious vaccine reactions we're seeing emerging. There's no down side to it, the only problem is finding a practitioner who will do it, especially if you're in the U.S. Jonny got his booster at a mobile vaccine bus unit and they refused to do it. So I called the local hospital clinic and asked very very nicely if they would do it for me. And the pharmacist agreed to do it! The one small advantage of living in a small rural town with major vaccine hesitancy, exploding case rates, and statewide hospital capacity nearly at its breaking point. I had to wait a bit because the first person that came to give me my vaccine had never aspirated a needle before and wasn't at all comfortable trying. But the pharmacist, busy as she was, made time to come in and do it for me. She also had never done it before but she was comfortable trying and managed beautifully, in fact I never even felt the needle go in. She apologized for making me wait and I thanked her profusely for doing it for me. Here's a video about needle aspiration for those who are interested. Again, the risk of hitting a vein is very very small but an aspiration takes no time at all and carries even smaller risk so why not do it? Better safe than sorry, especially when there's no downside.

We're supposed to get snow on Thursday night, how much remains up for debate. Weather Channel says 1"-3", a local weather forecaster says more like 6"-8". In general the Weather Channel is more accurate but we'll see. The real worry is that the high for Friday is 27 degrees, going down to 3 degrees overnight. The calf has mostly experienced the 50s, today I think is the first day in the 40's. She seems pretty hardy though. We had one day of rain and 50's right before dark when she was only a few days old and she was out there running around in it all hyper crazy pants like it was the best day of her life. She has a loafing shed and the rest of the herd to keep her warm so I'm hoping she'll be o.k. And that I'm not too debilitated with vaccine reaction to deal with it. 

I've had my Oura ring now for a couple few weeks and some interesting date from it, more on that to come.

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

Why I Oura

I had my first COVID test last Thursday. I was 70 percent sure I didn't have it but I'd had a bad bout of dizziness on Tuesday that included me toppling over sideways with crazy vertigo when I bent down to tie my shoes in the morning. I also had terrible HRV numbers per my Garmin which indicated something was up and I hadn't been training that hard. By Thursday the dizziness was barely there but my HRV number was up at 100 on Garmin's scale of 0 to 100 with 100 being the worst (typically the higher the HRV number the better but Garmin does things in reverse). Anyway, dizziness was one of the long term side effects I'd had from the vaccine and while I didn't have any other of the side effects I'd previously experienced (fatigue, brain fog, irritability) it was possible I had a nearly asymptomatic case and I wanted to rule it out. And if I had it I obviously wanted to know. COVID is running rampant in my county as well as in Colorado in general, we were 5th worse state in the country the other night. By Friday the dizziness was gone and HRV was at 53, or 'moderate stress', and I was 90 percent sure it wasn't COVID. I got my results that night and confirmed I was negative. 

The cause of the dizziness was likely due to dehydration. Monday night I experimented with going in the sauna then having a hot shower right before bed to see if it would help improve my deep sleep. I'd started tracking my sleep a few weeks ago with my Garmin watch and was consistently getting poor numbers for deep sleep. Garmin suggested a hot bath before bed and the sauna seemed a good substitute since water is precious here in the high desert. I normally tolerate the sauna but I also normally use it after my workouts and before dinner. I drink a bunch of water and eat right afterwards. But I didn't want to drink too much right before bed so I had some water but probably not enough. Still it seemed like an extreme response that lasted all day and I'd had a similar instance of vertigo on Sat. or Sun. when I'd bent over to get clothes out of the dryer. With COVID ruled out, I'm assuming it's a dehydration/electrolyte issue. This is a tricky issue to solve and one I'm constantly working on. Drinking too much water dilutes electrolytes and makes me bloated. Drinking too little and I'm dizzy. So I've upped the water a bit and taking electrolytes when I remember. I had an ancient bottle of Endurolytes from years ago when I passed out in the Chipotle and there's no expiration date on it so I'm assuming it's o.k. It seems to have helped, it's now a week later and I feel o.k. I salt my food plenty but this can dilute potassium so I've been hitting up the avocados and looking for other good sources.

As far as the sleep tracking goes, I'm not sure how accurate my Garmin watch is, especially for tracking deep sleep. The watch is made more for triathlon training and the steps/sleep/etc. stuff was added as an afterthought. But the process of tracking has made me interested in my sleep so I finally broke down and bought and Oura ring. Usually when I want something frivolous like this I'll wait several months and see if I still want it. It's now been several years and I'm still interested in sleep and also having a hopefully more accurate device to measure HRV. Sometimes the way I'm feeling agrees with Garmin's HRV measurement and sometimes it's way off. The Oura ring also tracks body temperature and that combined with HRV can give a good early warning about coming down with something, COVID or otherwise. It's also a good way to guide my training which I'm going to be shifting back to more of a health focus and less of a race/performance focus. I may be done with racing, we'll see. I found the tapering/recovery time for these past two races to be very annoying and disruptive. 

I ordered the Oura ring on October 9th and unwittingly entered into something of a controversy. I was told a 'sizing kit' would be shipped on October 18th. They send a bunch of plastic rings of various sizes so you can wear them and see how they fit throughout the day. Then on October 18th they said it would be October 26th because of global supply chain shortages blah blah blah. THEN on October 26th they said they were upgrading me to their soon to be released Generation 3 ring and giving me a free lifetime Oura 'membership'. I thought well, o.k., fine, and didn't think much of it. I figured all the delays were because they had been intending to release this new ring all along and for some reason didn't want to just say that. 

The reason I'd chosen the Oura ring over the Whoop strap, another popular tracking device, is that the Oura ring didn't have any kind of fee to access your data. The Whoop strap is free but it's $30 a month or something to be able to use the app to get your data. And I really really hate this whole subscription business. I preferred the one time fee for the ring. As it turns out, Oura has switched to a subscription model as well, charging $6 a month to access your data on top of a hefty price tag for the ring itself. Anybody with an old ring can upgrade to the new one within a couple few weeks and have a free lifetime subscription. Also anybody like me who'd ordered a ring before they'd announced the launch of the new ring was grandfathered in to the free lifetime subscription. Lucky for me but not so much for their loyal customers who maybe bought a ring just 6 months ago and aren't ready to shell out the $$$ for a new one so soon. But if they don't upgrade right away, they lose the option of the free subscription. Also sucks for new customers because these subscription fees are predatory. Much anger and boycotting of this company on the interwebs. And I kind of feel like a scab but yeah, I'm not cancelling my order. Though I do hate that the world seems to be moving towards theses types of fees. 'You'll own nothing and like it'. Yeah. No.I don't care about this stuff that badly.

But it'll be interesting to see the results of the Oura ring, especially as compared to the Garmin. I have some ideas for sleep improvement, will be interesting to see if they have any effect. My ring ships Nov. 15th. In theory. Can't wait to see what other drama might happen with this company in the meantime. Or if I'm even ever going to receive a ring. In the meantime no more before bed sauna sessions and I'll be hitting up the avocados.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Xterra USA Championships Sprint Version

This race took place on Saturday, September 25 and I decided to enter it very last minute. I had all but written off nationals this year because of my late start back to swimming due in large part to my difficulties with vaccine side effects. And I'm not speaking out against the vaccine here, if I had it to do again I would. I'm very bored with this discussion (and I'm guessing you are too) and not interested in pursuing it here. Anyway, I had long ago decided not to train for this race but about a week and a half before the race I saw a Facebook post advertising Xterra USA Championship Duathlon races. I thought this was a strange addition but it turned out that Pineview Reservoir was suffering a hazardous algae bloom and was unsafe for swimming so the race had shifted from triathlons to duathlons. I was still in no shape to take on the full course, again I hadn't focused on training for it this summer, but I felt like I was in decent enough shape to complete the sprint distance. Normally the sprint race doesn't interest me because it includes all the worst parts of the full course and misses out the best parts, in particular the climb and descent of Sardine Peak. But this year the races would start and finish at Snowbasin Resort since there was no reason to start at the lower elevation down at Pineview due to no swim. This meant the race would be much simpler with only 1 transition zone and the bike would no longer be point to point with a big elevation gain, thus would be more fun. And most importantly the sprint race would include Sardine Peak! I texted my friend to see if she was going and not only was she going but she had a condo with a spare bedroom and another super nice woman who I'd met a couple times was also going and staying at the condo. Which was in a nice scenic small rural town near Snowbasin as opposed to the 'big' city of Ogden. This sealed the deal and I packed up All The Crap and headed to Utah.

The view from the condo in Eden wasn't too shabby.


The drive to Eden though, wow, I didn't realize what I was signing up for. I was envisioning a quiet, rural 6 1/2 hour drive, much better than the terrible drive on I-80 that I had to take from Boulder in previous years. But this drive was awful from 1/2 hour before I got to Moab all the way to Eden. The worst was a 72 mile stretch of 5 lane interstate that went from south of Provo through Salt Lake City to Ogden. I haven't been in traffic like that for decades and for the past 3 years I've been toodling along on empty country roads and mountain highways with Jonny doing the lion's share of the driving. I had to grit my teeth, channel my inner Chicagoan from many decades and lifetimes ago, and hope for the best. It was terrifying. I had initially planned on starting back home after the race on Saturday afternoon so I could hike with a friend in Moab on Sunday but I scrapped that plan and decided to leave at first light on Sunday morning when the highway would hopefully be somewhat quieter. This was a great choice, the drive back was no problem. If I ever do this again I may go a longer route through Park City and check out the trails there for a day or two on the way in and avoid that corridor entirely. Or something because nothing is worth going through that horror fest again.

The race was on a Saturday and I arrived Wednesday night so pre-riding Thursday was a bit close to race day. I've done the course many times but never in the opposite direction so I definitely wanted to pre-ride. Plus it's such a beautiful trail, one of my all time favorites, I love to pre-ride so I can go at an easy pace and enjoy it. And of course stop for photos and moments of whimsy.

Bonus points if you can spot the praying mantis.

How it started.

Poor Pineview Reservoir. So low. This plus the hot summer is probably the reason for the algal bloom.

I stopped to snap the above photo and was chatting with a hiker who had recently moved from Boston when none other than a woman I know from Durango - the woman who had organized the Lake Nighthorse triathlon, came riding by with a friend. I ended up flying downhill on the their wheels in a riot of autumn color so there are no photos of the descent but wow, so fun.

At the bottom I parted ways since she didn't want to ride too far so close to the race. I continued on to do the whole sprint course because why not. I wasn't shooting for a podium finish, just wanted to have a decent race and I couldn't resist the fall colors, beautiful day and fun trail.

The course continues downhill for a while and the only tricky part is a wooden staircase that normally we have to descend and it's no problem but now we would have to climb it since the course went in reverse. I made it halfway up then decided to walk the rest. It's super short and it was easier to walk.

Eventually the course dumps out onto Old Snowbasin Road which heads back up to the ski resort. It's a long boring exposed climb, I thought it would never end but I think it was only a couple of miles. And just when you think you're back at transition, you're directed onto more singletrack for a little mile loop or so of extra fun in the woods. People were complaining about this last gratuitous section but I actually enjoyed it. More time in the pretty fall colors and it wasn't too terribly steep, just a few punchy climbs that weren't too bad. Of course I was only doing the sprint distance so it's easy for me to say.

Friday was a rest day and normally I go to Antelope Island but because I was staying an hour and a half or so away and I couldn't bear the thought of going back through the city I decided to just pick up my packet at Snowbasin and have a quiet day. It feels like a waste of a day after driving so far and having all the pretty trails around but that's the reality of racing.

Race morning was so much easier than usual. A 23 minute drive up to Snowbasin, set up transition for my bike and that was it.


The sprint started a half hour later than the last wave of the full course so I saw off my friends who were doing the full course then had a lot of waiting around. I chatted with a young-ish guy next to me in transition who was doing the race in honor of his father who had passed away several years ago. Some years ago they had done the race together so now it's an annual tradition for him. He doesn't even have a mountain bike and was racing on a rented bike. Props to him, it's a tough course to do without training specifically for it.

The sprint race was supposed to be a 1.5 mile, 12 mile bike then 3.1 mile run. I was in the very last wave with all the 50+ and relay folks. I knew the first run started on a super steep hill same as the old course so my strategy was to start off power hiking because it'd be really easy to blow up on that first hill. During the regular race I'm pretty spent and coming off the bike so I pretty much have to walk most of it anyway. So when the gun went off I started very conservatively, ie slowly, and watched the race take off ahead of me. I was literally one of the last few people on the course, not a great feeling but I stuck to my plan. I was surprised to find myself able to run up most of the hill and it didn't seem as steep as I remembered it. Because fresh legs. The run turned out to be long at 1.91 miles by my Garmin with an elevation gain of 344 feet. I finished in 27:59 which isn't too bad given the steepness and my intentionally slower pace. Snowbasin is at 6400' elevation and I live at 6300' so that wasn't too much of an issue.

I was hoping for quick transitions and I was mostly pretty good with T1 except for a very stupid mistake of using my regular hydration pack which has a waist and chest strap and is stupid heavy. Plus I found out later I had forgotten to remove my heavy camera. Doh. And I had to take extra time to fasten the waist and chest straps. T1 ended up being 1:31 but didn't include the time for strap fastening since I didn't realize until I'd left transition. 

The bike was super fun. SO much more fun than the old course. The opposite direction of Sardine Peak is way more fun and is the preferred direction that the locals ride. The descent after Sardine is also super fun. I passed some people on the climb and also on the descent. Only one guy from my wave passed me because I'd started out so far behind on the run. The climb up Old Snowbasin Road didn't seem as long as it did during the pre-ride and there were more people around me since the full course dumps onto that road as well. So I had some folks I could try to pace off of. The last little bit through the woods was fun as well. I finished the 12.1 miles in 2:04:44.

T2 went mostly o.k. I took some extra time to grab a bag of ice from a small cooler pack to stuff in my shirt. This was a good choice and saved me from overheating on the run. T2 was 1:52.

Run 2 started up the same horrible hill and this time I had to walk most of it. Run 1 doesn't do the whole hill and turned off but Run 2 followed the old course run to the top and it's steep and horrible and stupid. The worst part of the whole race. Except for another stupid steep hill from the full course that goes up an exposed gravel road. I had forgotten about that hill and was dismayed when I saw it. It's all the worst parts of the full course run and one of the reasons I've never done the sprint race. The view is gorgeous though. I filled my head with 'Krank' by KMFDM and grunted up the hill at a walk.

There were 4 people registered in my age group and I hadn't passed any of them. I wasn't focused at all on the other people but near the end of the run I kept changing places with a 20 something year old woman. It was a nuisance passing back and forth on the narrow single track so as soon as I hit the long downhill to the finish line I picked up the pace a bit to get her out of my hair. I was doing fine until about a third of a mile or so from the finish line and then I started getting my dizzy thing. I did my best to not fall which is challenging because the trail is so steep it's more like controlled falling then running. I made it to the finish line and with a second or so to go the woman charged in front of me over the finish line. Which is actually pretty obnoxious. I still finished ahead of her because she'd started several waves and 5 minutes or so ahead of me so it's not like it was a true sprint to the finish. And I had no idea she was behind me. Anyway.

I wandered around the finish area in a dazed state. They weren't posting results anywhere, you had to scan this thingy with your phone.

And my phone was way down in the transition area. So I limped my sore ass down there, got my phone, limped back and still couldn't figure out the stupid results. The announcer said the awards ceremony was happening on the 'back patio'. I finally remembered where that was and by the time I got back there they were just finishing up. I finally found my individual results and saw I had 2nd place. I tried to get my award but they wouldn't give it to me, told me I had to wait around. Which I had to do anyway since I wanted to see my friends who were still out on the full course. I grabbed some food and waited until finally I saw one of the top women who run Xterra. She's super nice and I knew if I asked her she'd happily give me my award, which she did, no problem. I did get an obligatory but rather sad looking podium photo. Because how many times do you end up on the podium at a national event, even if it is only the sprint?

Also this may be the end of my Xterra racing 'career'. More on that later. A little hardware is always fun.

The results here are mostly per my Garmin because the official results never accounted for the wave start. So my Run 1 time and final finish time are incorrect since I started about 5 minutes after the first wave.

Final Stats:

1.91 miles run/12.16 miles bike/3.26 miles run

Run 1: 28:01

T1: 1:31

Bike:  2:04:44

T2:  1:52

Run 2:  56:53

Total: Around 3:31 something

Placements, except for age group, are all screwed up because the timing company never corrected for the wave starts and I don't care about it enough to try to figure it out.

This report is so late in part because I had issues trying to get my photos off of my phone and onto my computer. Also because of my Hillbilly Internet it takes a bit longer to upload photos. I have a lot more to write about and so many fall photos. I'm not sure I have the patience to upload them all here but I'll try to get to some as well as other things I want to write about.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Lake Nighthorse Triathlon

This was the inaugural running of the Lake Nighthorse Triathlon in Durango. I decided to enter because I thought maybe it would motivate me. To do what, I don't know. I did work on my swimming more than I probably would have. And did some running off the bike. 

I'm not big into road biking so I didn't really practice that beyond making sure my 30 year old road bike worked. Which it only sort of does. The rear shifter has a problem of sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. It's had this problem for at least 2 decades but I rarely ride the bike so I forget about it until I try to ride it and oh yeah, stupid rear shifter doesn't work. I took it to the shop many lifetimes ago to have it repaired and the guy in the shop said it's an endemic problem with those types of shifters, the only thing you can do is shoot degreaser into a little hole in the shifter and voila, it works. And as long as I remember to do this, it works. Except this time I couldn't find the little hole to shoot the degreaser in and I figured I had just imagined said hole and instead shot the degreaser into the shifter as best I could. And this worked but intermittently. The day before the race I couldn't get it to work until suddenly I could. I stayed overnight with some friends in Durango the night before the race and by the time I got to my friends' place an hour away it wasn't working anymore. My friend came out to help and when I explained the situation he laughed and said he'd had the exact same shifters and the exact same problem and used the exact same trick. I didn't even think to ask him about the location of the little hole because I still thought I was imagining it. I got it to work anyway and hoped for the best. But of course on race morning it didn't work. And didn't work and didn't work and didn't work. For the first time in the past 2-3 weeks I couldn't get it to work at all. Finally after an hour or so of fiddling and swearing it was nearly time to head down to the water for the race start when I finally spotted the little hole. It was for real after all, you have to squeeze the brake lever just so and look in at just the right angle and it's totally obvious. I squirted the degreaser in the hole and voila. 

Nothing like a last minute panic about whether or not your bike will work. But not a bad place to spend the morning.


Otherwise the race went off without a hitch. The water was beautiful, maybe 68-69 degrees, sunny blue skies, not too warm or cold. I ended up drafting off a guy early on. He was sighting perfectly, way better than I was doing on my own so I let him tow me in nearly the whole way. In the final few hundred yard it felt like he was slowing down or I wanted to go faster and I tried to pass but ended up going more or less his speed so I fell back again and let him bring me in. 

When I got out of the water I was disappointed to see my time was 20:30 minutes. I'd done a few time trials at the pool and had come in just under 18 minutes. At worst I was expecting 19 minutes or so because swimming in open water can be slower than the pool depending on conditions. I was mad at myself for drafting and not trying to go faster but also figured I'd saved a bit of energy for the rest of the course. What I didn't notice is that the course was way long. It was supposed to be 750 meter or 820 yards but it came in at 950 yards according to my Garmin. Checking on Strava, other folks had come in at 936 yards, 974 yards, so the course was definitely long. If I go by my Garmin my pace ended up being 2:10/100 yard which is faster than the 2:12/100 yd pace I'd pulled off in the pool. So yay for drafting, slightly faster pace at much less effort.

But I didn't realize all this until after I got home and uploaded my Garmin. During the race I was irritated with myself and then I couldn't get out of the arms of my wetsuit, a problem I never have. Because usually I use Body Glide to help the wetsuit slide on and off more easily. I'd put a bunch on my legs but skipped my arms because the Body Glide can also clog your pores and make sweating more difficult. I was more concerned with overheating than I was with the wetsuit so I didn't put any on my arms. I knew I'd take my wetsuit off at the water because it was a long, steep run up to the transition area from the lake. I figured the suit would come right off since I was right out of the water. And I was wrong. If I'd taken it off in the water it probably would have been fine. In hindsight I should have gone with Body Glide and just run in the suit since I could pull the arms off while I was running. How many years have I been doing this?

The bike was 12.5 miles with some very steep hills. I managed much better on my touring road bike than I had on Jonny's bike during the pre-ride. It was still hard but manageable. In fact I seemed to be keeping up with a pack for most of the climbing. But as soon as the grade evened out and then went downhill they were gone. I'm just not used to road riding on the flat or on downhills. I did reach 39.5 mph at one point so I was trying.

The course was open to traffic but the traffic was not nearly as bad as it had been at noon on a Wednesday. And the stretch of road that I thought had no shoulder/bike lane did actually have a decent shoulder, there was just a section of about 1/3 of a mile that didn't have shoulder. If I'd gone just a wee bit farther on my pre-ride I would have realized this. It's still a dangerous situation with cars swerving to avoid cyclists on both sides of the road. Thankfully it was only an issue with one car for me and that car managed it with no problem.

At the end of the bike I misunderstood where the dismount line was and started getting off too early. I realized my mistake, got back on and rode to the correct place but this allowed someone to pass me right at the last second heading into transition, which was already kind of obnoxious but then the guy dropped his bike on the ground right in front of me to take his chip off and give it to his relay partner. I yelled at him, 'Dude, you can't just drop your bike on the ground' but he was oblivious or didn't care and I had to maneuver around him and his bike. I had spent a bit of time practicing transitions too. So funny that I thought that that was where I'd make up some time.

The run actually went pretty well. The course was gorgeous, the aqua blue lake to one side, mountains to the other and the bright yellow rabbit brush going crazy everywhere. The course was on a gravel road closed to traffic, not as good as dirt but better than concrete. 

Photos from the Durango Triathlon Club, credit to photographer

I used the old ice cubes in the panty hose bags trick to stay cool. I had one in my hat and stuffed the other in my sports bra.The temps. weren't too bad, maybe mid to high 70's by the run, but I build up heat during races, especially during the run and this worked great. No dizziness or nausea. The run was just a 5k but very hilly.

All in all a fun day. I'd had a lot of ambivalence about going. I wasn't super well trained for it but certainly in decent enough shape to muddle through. Road biking isn't my best thing but this was actually kind of fun for a one off. The road bike went back in the grain shed when I got home. Hopefully if I ever try this foolishness again I'll remember where the stupid shifter hole is.

I do have some shenanigans planned for this weekend, more on that later.

Final Results. I was actually 47/56 overall, not sure why this says 19/61. Everything else looks reasonable.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Summer Trudges On

Not much to write about for the past few weeks. We were hit with the most fantastical round of monsoon moisture that went on for several weeks. Such a relief given the drought and poor irrigation season. My pastures are actually looking really good, considering. But it's meant that I've stayed out of the high country because the storms are dangerous, especially up there. We even had a bolt of lightning hit the ground in the pasture about 50 feet or so from the cow loafing shed and maybe another 40 feet to the house. Scary. And I've actually been sort of kind of training for my upcoming triathlon in Durango and that doesn't involve high country hiking. But I'll get back at it, especially when fall hits.

In general the smoke from the western wildfires hasn't impacted us here too badly but of course the one weekend I had a bike race and people down to visit/ride was the worst air quality so far this summer. I bailed on the race and riding with my friends, the AQI was around 170-180. And the Sleeping Ute looked like this.

Which is to say you couldn't see it at all. No way was I going to exert myself in that soup. My general rule of thumb for exerting myself in wildfire smoke is an AQI less than 70 and decent visibility of the surrounding mountains (Mesa Verde, Sleeping Ute, etc.). We're in uncharted territory with this, I can't find any good research/science about what is actually a safe level of smoke or the long term effects of exertion in wildfire smoke, so I'm taking no chances. So far this rule of thumb has worked well, I've not had any instances of coughing, wheezing, etc. after workouts since moving out here. I have had workouts in Boulder where I thought the smoke level was o.k. but I had a sore throat afterwards so I've sort of figured out what works for me. 

Last week saw clear skies and I headed to Lake Nighthorse in Durango to get in some open water swimming and check out the triathlon bike course. I tried swimming in McPhee a month or so ago and it was so low. Some places were deep enough but I'd be swimming along and scrape my hand along the bottom or suddenly notice a pile of dirt or rocks in front of me that normally would be submerged. It was a bit difficult to navigate, I had to keep looking up to see what might appear in front of me. Which I guess is good practice for sighting buoys but was a nuisance in reality.

Poor McPhee

This is what it normally looks like.


Lake Nighthorse is beautiful. Nobody draws on it for irrigation so it was plenty full.


I ran into a guy who was also there to swim and he showed me where I could swim. There was a line of buoys all the way across to the other side of the lake and he said it was about 3/4 mile which seemed a bit ambitious for my first real long distance swim of the season. And I wanted to have something left to ride the bike course. I almost made it to the other side but decided to turn around after 1000 yards. It was a good decision because the bike course ended up being way more difficult and terrifying than I was expecting. About 9 miles or so is on a road with a bike lane but the remaining 3 1/2 are on a road with no bike lane or shoulder. And there was a lot of traffic. I actually turned around on the no shoulder road after maybe a quarter of a mile because it was just too scary. I hate riding in traffic as it is but a busy road with no shoulder is a deal breaker. I was a bit confused about whether or not the road would be open to traffic during the race and I finally just got confirmation from the race director that it will be. I asked him if the road will be busy on a Saturday morning but haven't received a reply. It's an out and back course so cars will be swerving from both sides of the road to avoid cyclists making it even more dangerous. So I may sleep in on race day, we'll see. There's also the possibility of a bad smoke day. 

I didn't check out the run course but another guy I met in the parking lot described it to me and it doesn't sound too crazy.

I'm going to continue training because that's the fun part but I dunno, I'll see how I feel about that bike course on race day.

Yesterday I did another 750 meter time trial and my time was 33 seconds improved over my time from 3 weeks ago and still way slow. But that's where I'm at right now, at least I felt confident in the open water and the 750 meter distance seems easy enough. The 2000 meters at Lake Nighthorse felt good too though my pace was so very slow. It is what it is with only 3 months of swimming after a year and a half off. I suppose I'm thankful it isn't worse.

After yesterday's time trial I met some friends to go riding and we started off with a long, steep climb on the road that goes to the trailhead parking lot. The race has a lot of climbing, more steeper climbing than I was anticipating, so I wanted to get some steep climbing in. It was almost 1:00 so the heat of the day and no shade and by the time I got to the parking lot half an hour later I was too dizzy and nauseous to go any further. We stood talking in the shade for a bit so I had a chance to cool down a bit before the steep, twisty descent back to town. They carried on with a big epic ride that was probably too much for me even if I'd driven to the parking lot. I haven't felt that bad in a while, I'm done with the heat of summer. Probably need some more rest days too. Yesterday was supposed to be a recovery day and it ended up being anything but. I feel like the bulk of 'training' is behind me at this point, just need to get a couple rides in on the road bike to make sure the bike is o.k. mechanically. It's 27 years old and the shifters are kinda sketchy. At least I remember the hack to get them working. 

Race director just emailed me back and said he has a friend up in the subdivision that the course goes through and the friend saw several cars going 90 on that narrow, shoulderless road. Ugh! I'll see how I feel about this on race day. I guess I can always turn around on the bike course and go back to Lake Nighthorse for more swimming.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

More Mountain Adventures

I bought an e-bike last fall so that I could access some of the high country trails more easily. Many of them require driving on high clearance, scary jeep roads that I wouldn't want to drive on even if I had a high clearance vehicle. Which I don't. Riding a bike on them is no problemo except in some cases I'd be so tired by the time I got to the trailhead that I wouldn't be able to hike very far. Even with the e-bike access is sometimes difficult and time consuming. Getting to the trailhead for the particular part of the Colorado Trail shown in the photos below took about an hour. It was well worth it though. Ah the San Juans.

And then there was this hike up to Sharkstooth. The Columbine! I couldn't capture it. The marmots and pikas were sassy as always but my marmot photo was disappointing.

The Durango Triathlon Club is hosting a sprint triathlon in September and it's a different course than the one I did 2 years ago, this time with an open water swim rather than a pool swim. It seems like a very reasonable goal and I'll likely sign up for it. Xterra Nationals is 2 weeks after that and is an atrociously unrealistic goal and yet . . . Somehow I found myself looking up lodging in Ogden this afternoon. In between shopping for bull semen. Swimming is going much better than expected. I'm still depressingly slow but showing some improvement. I tried on the wetsuits today and despite Jonny wanting to film it for a possible viral YouTube video I did manage to get both of them on (full suit and sleeveless). I'll head up to McPhee for an open water swim in the next few days and maybe over to Durango to swim with the triathlon club at the place where the race will be. I'll see how that goes and then mayyybe sign up for at least the sprint. Then I think of all the hassle that entails, especially driving to and staying in Ogden, and I lose all motivation. Never mind how freaking hard that race is compared to the shape I'm in. But where I'm sitting and typing right now is very hot and I'm a bit cranky and hating summer so maybe once I cool off a bit I'll feel a little more motivated.