Thursday, August 15, 2013

Unfinished Business - Cycle to the Sun Race Recap

An auspicious start!
It's taken me a few days, ahem, awhile, to wind down from all the excitement of this race.  With as crazy as my schedule has been since the beginning of June, I feel like I passed through the month in some kind of surreal haze.

I trained hard for this race since the first part of March.  Then, before I knew it, it was the last week, then it was the last workout, then it was Race Day!  As much as I felt ready for the climb, I did miss a few workouts, including one key day when Vanessa and I were supposed to do the entire route.  With that in the back of my mind, I approached race day in much the same way I approach a dentist appointment: I try not to think about it too much until it's time to go.

That's not to say that I wasn't excited or looking forward to it - I was.  The smartest thing I did was take the day off before the race - I had the day to settle down, relax, then get ramped up again when my coach, Michelle, and her family arrived.  She had decided to come over a do the race, and so did Nalani and Kurt, two of her friends/athletes from Oahu.  Michelle's husband Scott turned out to be race sherpa/cheering section extraordinaire along with her charming daughter, Moana, who was a kick in the pants!

After a good pre-race dinner, Michelle and I had a chance to talk (actually, we chatted A LOT about SBR-training-rehab-nutrition-paleo-goatcheese-tequila-coffee-wine-food-cycling-climbingthatbigfreakinhill-etc. all throughout the weekend...I was so excited to have another athlete around I probably wore the woman out!).  Anyway, she gave me some great advice - she told me that I was more than physically capable of doing this race, gave me some race pointers, then told me the most important thing of all.  That my mind would play tricks on me at some point and not to let it - that was the difference between F (finishing) and DNF (did not finish).  I did not realize how important that piece of advice was until later.

Kind of like getting your corsage pinned on at prom. LOL.
We parked a couple miles away from the start to avoid the crowds and so we could get a little bit of a warm up.  We lucked out on the weather - light breeze, clear skies, perhaps a sprinkle or two of rain, but that was all we expected.

There were 175 riders gathered at the start, ready to go, and we didn't wait long before we were OFF!

Michelle leading us to the start.
The first 5 minutes kind of threw me off a little bit.  I could not get my left foot clipped in - I fumbled and fumbled and it kept slipping.  It just would not engage.  I smacked my foot against the pedal in frustration and heard a tinkling noise - I think I had a rock in my cleat - then finally my shoe clipped in.  I had a few minutes of panic wondering if I had a broken pedal or cleat and how the hell was I going to climb this mountain with one shoe off?  Thankfully, everything worked out and I set into the business of starting the climb.

Not clipped in yet!
When I first signed up for this race, I would joke with my family that it was "only 36 miles."  But that 36 miles is. no. joke.

My plan was to pace myself early.  I was content to let others pass me and be closer to the back of the pack in the beginning.  I hoped to finish in 5:30 and needed some energy in reserve.  It was hard enough to keep my HR down with all the excitement, much less jump on it too early in the game.  I wanted to get to the start of Crater Road in under two hours, then 1:30 to the ranger station and 1:30 to the summit.

I managed to get to Crater Road in 1:48, so I felt pretty good with the time.  Nutrition and hydration seemed to be spot on as well.  There are a couple of fun little downhill breaks in the first section before Crater Road, but that's pretty much it.  Crater Road is where the serious climbing begins and this turned out to be the hardest part of the race for me.

This section starts in the last residential section on the mountain.  The climbs are steep, and once you pass the zipline area, you are in wide open range area.  By this time, the riders are pretty much strung out along the entire race route, sometimes in smaller packs, but mostly you are on your own while you pass (or get passed by) an occasional rider.  The switchbacks are relentless.  It's a real mind game because you can clearly see up the side of the mountain, and even see the summit, but you are still hours away from reaching the top.  You think you are making good progress, then you look up and see what appears to be 1,000 more switchbacks to go, with riders in their colorful jerseys along every stretch.  Kind of like the zig-zag of tiny lights on a cartoon Christmas tree.  After a while, I just stopped looking anywhere but the road ahead/under me.  You just keep pushing.

About half-way up this section I started to feel kind of sick.  I was still doing well with hydration and nutrition (I had 4 Amrita Bars, 2 Justin's packets and a banana with me).  I had one bottle of coconut water and one bottle of plain water.  Usually around a couple of hours in the coconut water tastes wonderful.  Today I couldn't get it down.  I could still eat, though, so I tried to eat a little more and drink more plain water.  That seemed to get me over the hump.  (Special thanks to Jeffrey from South Maui Bicycles for having water on his truck at this point - I would have been one bottle down and I needed all the water I could carry).

Finally, this section was done and I was at the aid station before the ranger station.  This is where our special cheering section was waiting!  Scott and Moana and my mother-in-law were there - Scott with extra nutrition, my jacket and snacks.  I was so happy to see them because I knew Michelle and Nalani were way ahead (if not already finished by then) and they waited for us - it was awesome.  It felt good to stop for a minute, but I didn't want to stop for long.  It was getting colder and looked like rain, so I pulled on my leg warmers and pulled up my arm warmers, and had my jacket tied around my waist for later in case it rained.  And it did, not long after that, and I was thankful AGAIN for having it (and for Scott - so we didn't have to haul all the extra gear with us up the initial climbs).

I knew once I hit the ranger station I had about an hour and a half to go, but the climbs start to flatten out a bit here and you get a little bit of a break - but not much.

About half way from the ranger station to the summit I was completely alone.  At this point my head started to really play games with me, and I started to get a little frustrated because this was about the time the finishers were starting to come down the hill.  In their cars.  I stopped thinking about it and just got down to business so I could finish.  I was grouchy.  At this point I was wishing I had brought an espresso Hammer gel - could have really used a little push right now.  Thankfully I was starting to feel better so I stopped at one point and ate my banana - DAMN!  That was the best tasting banana I've ever had in my life!  I think what I really needed at this point - now at about 8,500 ft. - was a good hit of sugar.  And a funny thing...right where I was stopped on this tiny little turnout of road, I looked down and there was a shiny penny.  I took that as a sign that everything was going to be just fine.  I just needed to finish.

It's the last 1,500 ft - you see the observatory and you see the summit and you think you are almost there, but you are not even close.  So while I was deep in self conversation at this point and talking myself through this last section, I hear someone coming up behind me, breathing hard.  "Kurt, is that you?" I call out.  Then I hear, in a booming voice with a Spanish accent, "NO, IT'S BORRACIO!!"  It was hilarious and I almost laughed out loud - it was kind of like a cartoon voice with trumpets blaring right along.  DUN DUN DUNNNNNNN!!!!!

And Borracio (I'm guessing at the spelling here!) starts to talk.  OMG, this is hard.  Are we almost there?  Have you ever done this before?  Gone all the way to the top?  OMG I'm DYING.  This is SO HARD.  My legs are killing me.  Etc.  Etc.  At first I was pissed.  I was having a hard enough time myself, I didn't need to listen to someone else's agony too.  But then we started chatting. Supporting each other, talking each other along.
My finish line photo!

It was great.  We were going to make it.  Borracio became an angel, helping me get to the top and finish this race.  His chatter helped me take my mind off anything but just getting to the top.

Soon, we were rounding the bend to the lower parking lot.  You feel like you are done at this point - you made it - time to celebrate, right?  Bwaahahahahaha.... not so fast.  The rangers wave you to the right because you have to go. to. the. summit.  And guess what?  It's like some cruel joke they save for last - this incredible, steep climb that curves around so you never see the end.  It just keeps curving and curving and curving around like some insane circular staircase.  About half way up I had to stop.  I had "a moment."  And unbeknownst to me, Michelle, Nalani, Scott, Moana and my mother-in-law were in the observation area (which is enclosed and out of the weather) watching my little melodrama unfold.  But I gathered myself, got back on my bike, and pushed the last few hundred yards to the the TOP!  AND I WAS DONE!!!

Kurt was just a few seconds behind me, then that was it.  I think Kurt and I were the last two "official" finishers - the cut-off was 6 hours 30 minutes.

Kurt and me - RELIEF!!

I am happy I finished.  This race is billed as one of the toughest road races in the world, so I feel a little badass for finishing.  Are there a few things I would have done differently?  Yes.  I don't think I had my nutrition really dialed in.  I think if I ate more early on I would not have had the mental battles I had later in the ride.  I also think that if I had more time to train I could shave a decent amount of minutes off my time.  It would be VERY beneficial to do some serious strength training in the gym in conjunction with the bike time.

Will I do it again?  I don't know.  My goal time was 5:30 and I finished about 6:19.  There is room for improvement.  Then again, this may just end up being a bucket list "one and done" and I'd be OK with that too.

Special thanks to Michelle and Simmons Endurance Coaching for putting together a training plan that got me to the top; to Kurt and Nalani (and Michelle) for making it a team effort and so much fun; to my riding buddy and partner in crime, Vanessa, for sticking it out through all the training sessions up the hill (and doing those mind-numbing hill repeats!) and being a kick-ass rider; to Jeffrey for being my own personal support crew and race course mechanic - at least I felt like you were there only for me!; to Scott and Moana for providing first-class sherpa support and cheerleading section; South Maui Bicycles for keeping my bike in stellar shape; and my husband and family for putting up with long weekend training rides, keeping me fed, and being my #1 fans.  LOVE YOU GUYS!!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Reflections in the Pool

I got back in the pool today.  Our beloved Sakamoto Pool, which is right across the street from work (I know, how awesome is that?!), finally reopened after being closed for well over a year.

This particular pool is a special place for me since it's the one in which I really learned how to swim (thanks to Rebecca - I will never forget that!).  You know, when you actually put your face in the water rather than thrashing around like a long-armed puppy.  It was those first few lessons that really got me to the start line of my first triathlon.

Now that it has reopened, it's summer, and I'm done with Cycle to the Sun, I need to get back on a more regular training schedule, even though I have no races on the calendar right now.  This means maintaining my hard earned bike fitness, rehabbing my stupid left foot, getting back in the gym for weight training, and spending a couple of times in the pool each week.  And for me, right now, that means Monday and Friday at lunch.

I was excited about today - got my bag together, made sure I had all my fun pool stuff (including my Simmons BSC top (thanks, Michelle!) - nothing like a like sparkle to get you motivated!).  I was going to walk over, but my foot is still bitching so, yes, I drove across the street at lunch time and got right in.

I didn't do anything hard or fast.  Just 200 swim, 200 kick, 200 pull x 2, then finished with 300 swim for a tidy 1500.  Easy pace.  It felt good.  It was long course, too, which I like so much better.

At one point during my last 300 as I was approaching the turn in the shallow end I felt the sun shining on my back.  I thought, right then, how lucky I was to be in the pool at that moment, when everything felt right.

I hope I have more of those moments.

(I'm still finishing my Cycle to the Sun race report - coming soon.)

Monday, June 3, 2013

(By My)self Motivation

A view of the water and Molokai from somewhere in Napili - sweet backdrop for a ride!
A five-hour Zone 2 ride was on the books for Saturday.  A nice break (thanks, coach!) from all of the strength work trainer rides and climbing done over the past few weeks getting ready for Cycle to the Sun at the end of the month.  The only bummer - no one to ride with - but I was looking forward to it anyway.  The honeymoon is not yet over for the bike!

I got a later start than usual and was on the road by 9:45 headed to Paia.  I had mapped out my ride the night before so I had a plan for about 85 miles, which would take me across a lot of the island on a (mostly) flat route.

The trades were already picking up so I had a little bit of a headwind out to Paia, but nothing too harsh.  I turned around and headed back toward town, around the harbor and up to Waiehu - by then I was one hour in and things were going well!  I cruised across the base of the West Maui's toward Lahaina and tackled the Pali - it's not that big of a deal, but I've never ridden it by myself.  I'm a firm believer in safety in numbers and this stretch of road can be a little sketchy at times.  I just prayed everyone was paying attention.

I hit Oluwalu at about 2~ in, so I stopped to refill water and have a snack (mmmm....Amrita bars!) at the general store.  This is the first time I've ever taken my bike into a store - felt a little silly, but it was getting HOT and no one seemed to mind.  Back on the road, through Lahaina (where I veered off for a pit stop and took my bike into the bathroom with me - I have it on good authority that I'm not the only cyclist who does this!) and out to Napili.  As soon as I got back out on the road, my Garmin died.  Not enough charge.  D'oh!

Once I passed Ka'anapali, I hit the tradewinds that wrap around the west side head-on.  It was HOT and that's when the mental chatter began.  I told myself I could turn around at Kahana, but then I got to Kahana and kept going (really missing my buddies, POG and V, by then - POG usually pulls us through this section when the wind gets tough).  By the time I turned around at Napili, I had convinced myself that I was going to stop at McDonald's and get a vanilla cone and a Coke!  After all, I deserved it!  It was HOT, mid-day and it was going to taste AMAZING!  (If you know me at all you know this is crazy talk!)

I passed the Kahana McDonald's because I was on a downhill stretch, telling myself I would stop in Lahaina and spending the next few miles trying to figure out how I was going to manage this on my bike.  Would I go IN with my bike?  Drive-thru?  As I passed Ka'anapali I ran over a bit of tree debris in the shoulder, then THUMP, THUMP, THUMP.  Something was stuck in my tire.  The bike shop was up ahead and if I needed anything I could stop there.  I caught a red light just after, and as soon as I tried to take off - ha ha (insert sound from Simpson's kid here) - flat front tire.  Nice little kiawe thorn about the size of a thumbtack - the bane of cyclists on Maui.

This is the second ever flat tire I've gotten, and the first one I had to change by myself so I was a little panicked at first, but I set to it and was done in about 10 minutes.  NICE!  I stopped at West Maui Cycles and they were awesome - checked to make sure I did it right (because I still had a ways to go before I got home), checked my air pressure, then picked up a spare tube and C02 because I only carry one spare.

After this, McDonald's was completely forgotten.  Nutrition wise everything went rather well - I had water, diluted coconut water, salt stick caps, Amrita bars, a couple of Justin's almond butter packets and a banana for backup.  Right near the end, with about 12 miles to go I really got tired of anything sweet - I think I'll throw in some salted macadamia nuts for next time - they would have been perfect.

I battled the last of the headwinds after I came back over the pali.  I had to take it slower than usual over the pali because the crosswinds coming down through the canyons and ravines were fierce and I almost lost it a couple of times.  I guessed the trade I hit head-on on the last few miles were in the 30mph range.  Slow. Going.

I'm proud of myself for doing it, but after the flat, the stops, and the headwinds I was out there for 7.5 hours.  That's a long freakin' time, midday, in Hawaii, near summer.  And I have the burn lines to prove it (even though I was wearing sunscreen):

Next time I need to bring sunscreen to reapply if I'm going to be out for so long - planned or otherwise.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Gluten-Free Liars, Fakers and Cheats

I am going on a rant here, so bear with me (or not), but something is really starting to piss me off and I want to talk about it.

It started with THIS POST, "Will Everyone Please Eat Gluten? Please..." by Elissa Strauss.

And then THIS ARTICLE came out via Runners World on Twitter.

Now let me preface my rant by saying that I have tremendous respect and compassion for people who have dietary restrictions for medical/health reasons (life-threatening allergy, celiac, lactose-intolerant, gluten-sensitive, etc.).  I am sensitive to the needs of my guests and, when entertaining, will prepare foods that are healthy and I know that they can enjoy without fear, and this extends to my vegan/vegetarian friends as well.  The last thing I want to happen to any of my friends or family is to go home sick from a meal because I know the tremendous vigilance it takes when you suffer from something like this.

I also respect an individual's right to exclude certain foods from their own diet/nutrition/eating plan when it is simply their choice.  And this is an equally tough battle because anyone who makes specific nutrition choices, to some degree or another, has encountered the family member/friend/total stranger who says, "Come on, just one piece/slice/drink/bite of XYZ won't hurt you," when, quite frankly, you know it can/will derail your efforts to keep XYZ off your plate.

I began following a Paleo diet over two years ago as a test for athletic performance.  I quickly discovered that it was a lifestyle that worked for me.  I lost 20 lbs, leaned up, felt amazing and had energy through the roof.  Because I chose to avoid grains, legumes, dairy, processed foods, sugar, soy, etc., however, I always knew that I could have dairy or cake or cookies and it wasn't going to be life threatening.  That doesn't mean that I think any of those things are good for me, which is why I choose not to eat them for the most part. I choose not to eat grains/gluten because I feel better when I don't - and for good reason.  Grains are essentially indigestible and they bind to other good nutrients in your food and prevent them from being absorbed.  Grains cause gut inflammation in most people - and if most people stopped eating grains/gluten they'd probably be amazed at how much better they felt.  I choose not to, not because it's trendy, but because it's healthy for MOST people.

Pardon me, but the writer in the first post I mentioned comes off as a whiny spoiled brat.  I get her point, I truly do, but she's going to have to come to grips with the fact that she has to make some hard choices.  If you have celiac you may not be able to eat out at most restaurants.  You may have to prepare most of your meals at home.  And if you feel that your life/health is in jeopardy, don't eat at a restaurant that doesn't take you seriously. Vote with your dollar and support the restaurants that do.

And, yes, there are Gluten-Free Liars, Fakers and Cheats out there.  You find these individuals in every type of "diet" - vegan, vegetarian, Paleo, gluten-free, macrobiotic, etc.  They are the ones thrive on drama and who will go into a restaurant and drive the servers crazy, make a huge scene at family dinners, or dinner parties with friends.  "I can't/won't eat THAT" they say, or they want to make substitutions, omissions or deletions from every dish they order. Yes, they are assholes, but thankfully they are mostly few and far between.

Don't be THAT guy/girl.  Do your homework.  Go on line and review the menu for a restaurant in advance to see if there are dishes you can eat that don't require extraordinary measures on the part of of the kitchen/chef.  Call ahead and ask if they can accommodate you.  Many times, they are happy to do so.  Be kind to the server when you do go and be patient.  And LEAVE A HEALTHY TIP.  They will be happy to have you return.

And just a short note on the second Runners World post - first of all a study of 37 people is really not conclusive of ANYTHING.  I tried to look up who funded this "study" but it was not available on the website (perhaps the wheat council?).  They are basically trying to say people are probably sensitive to FODMAPs and not gluten, but ironically, they include wheat in the FODMAPs list.  They also say if you omit grains from your diet and you don't need to, you'll suffer from nutritional imbalances.  WHAT?  Grains are one of the most nutrient-poor foods on the planet - you do not need grains for nutrients or fiber.  

Do yourself a favor, ditch the grains, processed and fast foods, and sugar - fill the void with whole foods like vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds.  Meat if you are inclined.  Your gut with thank you for it.  It may seem "trendy" now, but just wait - someday it will be the norm and those with celiac will thank us for supporting the movement.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Maui Stage Race Recap

Maui Stage Race

Since I'm not doing very much any running these days, I'm spending a lot of time on my bike training for Cycle to the Sun.  I've always enjoyed competing in running and triathlon events, so I thought I should sign up for the Maui Stage Race.  My stepbrother is a very talented bike racer in Southern California, and even though I am nowhere near that level of rider, I still thought this event would be a good experience even though I had no clue what was involved.

Sunrise on Day 1 - we lucked out with perfect conditions!
The two-day race consisted of a time trial and criterium on Saturday, followed by a road race on Sunday.  With a Century and several other events under my belt, along with the more intense training I've been doing the last two months, I went into this event feeling pretty confident in my abilities and fitness level.  I didn't place any real expectations on myself because I had no experience with the TT or crit, I just went in with a positive attitude, ready to ride.

Time Trial
This was pretty cool.  I knew the course well because I frequently ride the Central Maui area, but I never did any practice runs of the specific loop leading up to the race.  The riders lined up and went off in one-minute increments.  I chatted with Jeffrey from South Maui Bicycles just before we lined up, and (showing my total and complete inexperience here!) asked him if it was OK to pass the other riders.  I knew you couldn't draft, but wasn't sure about passing - he told me the idea was to pass as many riders as you could and not let anyone pass you.  OK - good goal!

I went out strong and kept pressure on the pedals.  It's amazing the distance a rider can make with a one minute lead - I didn't see the rider who was just before me at all - I only passed one of the juniors at about the half-way point.  I would periodically check behind me but I never saw any riders approaching, so I felt pretty good and kept pushing just a little bit harder - not getting complacent and my coach warned me not to do.  I wore my Garmin but never looked at it the entire time - just tried to stay focused on how I was feeling and pushing the pedals.  Then BAM - not long after the third turn, the rider behind me passed me.  I picked up the pace and tried to keep her in my sights, but she had an extra gear I did not have at that point.  And right at that area of the course the climb began and I started losing speed.  That's when I got passed two more times. As hard as I tried to keep up with them, the continued to pull away.

There was about 10 minutes left to go and that's when I remembered what my coach said, "The last 10 minutes should REALLY HURT."  So I dug down, tried to rally, and then pushed as hard as I could after the fourth and final turn for the last stretch to the finish line and finished in 47:09.  I was really hoping to come in between 42-45 minutes, but I really lost my speed after the third turn.

Not long after I got home, I got an email with the results (amazing to get it so quickly!).  I told my husband I got 8th place - then giggled and said, "Well, 8th out of 8."  Even though I was in last place I was still OK with it because the overall times were fairly close together.  My optimism was still in check.  I ate breakfast, had a brief nap, then had lunch.  Before long it was time to head back down for the criterium.

Again, first time.  Ever.  This was a closed-course race on about a 1/4 mile loop.  The start/finish line was at a fairly level point, then the course gently sloped downhill to the first turn and continued mostly flat into the second turn where you hit a slight incline to the third turn, then into a light headwind along the flat to the finish.

The women, children and men 60+ lined up at the start.  I picked an inside spot in the second row, thinking that I would be able to get up near the front (a key position, I was told).  A Cat 1 racer was going to be our "pace man" and get things rolling.  The idea was that no one would "attack" in the first 10 minutes, simply build some momentum and get the riders settled in.

My starting-line philosophy did not work.  After the first lap I ended up in the rear 3rd of the pack with about 3 riders behind me. I mistakenly assumed that people would ride toward the inside of the course, but really they rode the outside then cut into the corners (you could have a serious accident if you came up on the inside and got squeezed out!).  If you weren't tight to the group and able to keep up after the second turn into the uphill, you were really screwed when you hit the head wind.

Into the 2nd and 3rd laps, I realized exactly what my coach said: being at the rear of the pack you were at the mercy of the braking of the front riders into the turns. I felt fine handling myself in the turns and could have gone a lot faster, but I spent the next couple of laps trying to move up the line and the other riders were having none of it. I also realized that this was the "first 10 minutes" and I already felt like I was maxing out/redlining - it was a huge effort to catch up/keep up and each lap left me further and further behind.

I think I was into the 6th or 7th lap that I decided to DNF. I felt like I was burning the candle at both ends and it was either finish this and have nothing left for the road race, which is the event I was most looking forward to.

I realized that I am not a sprinter/racer in this sense. These riders are really amazing! And one of the really cool things about bowing out was that I got to watch Kimberly (who has the same coach as I do) really kick some ass! She looked like a pro out there - she was working with this 17 yr old phenom - Tyler - and they dominated the race - and this was her first crit.  Amazing.

Road Race
This was a familiar course for me.  I ride it frequently in training - it's my own back yard.  I knew it was a tough course, though, with some good climbing in the beginning and at the end.  Despite the lasting sting of the DNF from the day before, I again felt pretty confident with this stage of the race.

I was cool (57f), clear and beautiful in the morning, with no wind.  It was a seeded start, so everyone lined up appropriately.

We were off...then before we made the turn to Kekaulike and the start of the climb the pack was gone and there were just a few of us stragglers at the back. I ended up leading our little pack up the climb, then the men passed me on the downhill, but they had their weight to help them go. HOWEVER - HOLY SHI*T - I can't believe I hit almost 40mph going down the hill at one point! I LOVE THE DOWNHILLS! I was clear, dry and virtually no cars, which was wonderful.

We made the turn and hit the rolling climbs and that's when I really started to eat and drink more - the road is wide and straight so its a bit easier to do. I wasn't too hot or too cold or to hungry, but I just didn't have any legs! Pretty soon I was by myself and that's when a lot of self-talking began.

You have to pass the finish line on the way out to the winery which is kind of demoralizing, because then I got to see exactly how many people had already finished, but I kept on going and again enjoyed the descent into Ulupalakua. I turned around at the winery, and that's when I realized that there was only one other person behind me. I just kept on going and pushing the pedals, then pretty soon he caught me and passed me, but was never too far ahead.

One insight I had was that it did seem a little bit easier/shorter the climb out of Ulupalakua than the last two times I've done it, so I think that was a good sign.  At one point I thought of this BLOG POST I read last week and kicked myself up a notch because what I was doing wasn't even close to what Andrew went through in his race.

The last 10-15' the motorcycle was following me which quite frankly totally sucks.  But I kept my composure and actually said thank you and blew a kiss at him after I crossed the finish line (which I hope he didn't find weird or offensive!), which they promptly tore down shortly after got there.

The post-race party was great - they had a guy with a portable pizza oven from Outrigger Pizza, a beautiful salad, lots of beer (of which I didn't partake because I was so tired I probably would have passed out - AND it was 9:30 in the morning, after all), water and massage, which was wonderful.  I've never been able to get a post-race massage at any event, and these women were truly magical!  I actually felt pretty light on my feet as I headed home.

In Retrospect
After talking to my coach, family and friends, I realized that I was an orange in a basket of apples and unfairly comparing myself to this group of very dedicated riders.  I knew it too, deep down inside, but I'm usually solid front of MOP in running and triathlon.  I've NEVER been last and I've never had a DNF in any athletic event and neither one of those things feel very good.  I'm a solid believer that good training will pay off in good racing - and it will in cycling, but just in a different way and perhaps after some more time in the saddle.

That's not to say that I've never had a bad race, or that every race turns out exactly the way I planned or expected, because I have and they don't.  But I certainly plan to make sure that I lessen the odds of it ever happening again!

I want to say a special thank you to a few people who were at the right place at the right time and helped me stay motivated and positive throughout the weekend:
  • Dana - thanks for being there after the crit and allowing me to vent a little bit!  I very much enjoyed our conversation and would like to do it again some time.  I can't wait to hear how Honolulu goes for you...good luck!
  • Debbie - it was such a surprise to see you at the finish line of the road race, and I have to say you were instrumental in preventing me from having a total meltdown by keeping me busy with conversation.  I hope you have a great time on your upcoming ride in the Alps!
  • Jeffrey - Thanks for rooting me along the way - and for your support after the road race.  As tough as it was I had a great time overall and you helped me keep some things in their proper perspective.
And to my coach - who is amazing - and who I never thought had ever come in last in a race. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Amrita Bar Review

Thanks to the world that is Twitter, I have discovered a lot of new things.  One of the most important to my current training and racing nutrition, though, is the amazing Amrita endurance bar.


I can't remember who started it, but someone tweeted about Amrita (perhaps @ZenTriathlon?), who was then followed by @CaratunkGirl, then @Tristachelete...all raving about how wonderful they were and what chaos ensued when they ran out.  Always in search of a REAL FOOD fueling option, I decided to check them out (the bars, not the athletes!).

As a Paleo endurance athlete, I've always been on the lookout for a convenience food for training and racing that was made from real food.  More recently I've concentrated on becoming more fat-adapted and gave up commercial sports drinks, bars and gels (virtually all of which are NOT Paleo) in favor of coconut oil, almond butter, some fruit, coconut water and salt stick caps.  I still needed something with a little more carbs to sprinkle throughout long rides and training sessions, and Amrita Bars fit the bill!

I LOVE the fact that these bars are dairy, gluten and soy free.  I also LOVE that they are Plant-Based Nutrition (a nod to ultra-endurance athlete and vegan Rich Roll for making me more aware of the benefits of a plant-based diet) and suitable for vegan or raw athletes as well.  The protein comes from raw sprouted brown rice protein and there is a tiny bit of agave in there, but in some Paleo/Primal camps these can be acceptable.  And really, if that's the worst thing in these bars, what's there to worry about?

I originally ordered a small package of Pineapple Chia, Mango Coconut, and the Chocolate Maca Recovery bars.  At first I thought the taste of the pineapple chia was a bit odd, but it has come to be one of my favorites.  The mango coconut is divine.  My coach is getting on me about fueling enough during longer rides, so I will usually break up two bars (one of each flavor for variety) and put the pieces in a ziploc in my bento box to grab easily (I am not coordinated enough to open a packaged bar mid-ride...seriously).  They are satisfying and sit well on my stomach.  Back them up with a little coconut water and you have a great nutrition option!

Last weekend, I went to grab a bar for a ride and they were all gone.  Now I know what the fuss is about.  They very quickly became my go-to fuel, and I about had a fit when I ran out.  So I ordered 36 this time - 12 each of the Cranberry Raisin, Apple Cinnamon, and my new fave, Pineapple Chia.  Mango coconut will make it back into the rotation next time.  Amrita offers a sample pack as well - so if you are on the fence or don't know what flavor to get, start with the sampler and go from there.

A couple of words on their customer service - freaking amazing.  Orders are processed at lightning speed, and they ship via Priority Mail which means I will get my order in Hawaii in just a few days (THANK YOU FOR THAT AMRITA- shipping to Hawaii is almost always a nightmare or ridiculously expensive - I really appreciate that you use USPS Priority).

Now...cost.  Yes, these are a little bit more expensive than your average endurance bar or fuel, but it is worth every penny.  It's REAL FOOD, folks, and REALLY GOOD.  Since I'm not buying other sports drinks or gels I feel like the cost evens out.  And you want to put quality food in your body - not something you cannot pronounce or makes you feel like crap.

Get some and see for yourself!  AMRITA HEALTH FOODS

Amrita Health Foods did not supply any products or request this review.  I am just a very happy customer and want to help them get the word out.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Cycle to the Sun...

...and other new developments!

So what does any self-respecting triathlete do when she gets shut out of the two 70.3's she wanted to race in 2013?  Signs up for one of the toughest road bike races out there!  I'm so excited!

So excited, in fact, that I even got myself a coach. Although I've had reasonable success coaching myself through three triathlons and countless running races, cycling is still a relatively new sport to me.  And over the last few years it has always been in the back of my mind that I could probably do a LOT better if I had someone who really knew what they were doing taking charge of my training.

For CTS, there was no other option in my mind.  Training for a standard road race or triathlon to finish is fairly straight forward.  If you have some reasonable knowledge of endurance sports, are fairly self-motivated and can follow directions, there are thousands of "canned" plans that will take you through your races.  In triathlon training, I'd pick a plan then basically follow the "hours" recommended for each discipline.  I didn't really do (OK, I did zero) interval training, outside of swim sessions with my masters group.  I just S/B/R'd and hoped for the best.

Where it gets dicey is when you are going to be climbing straight up a mountain for several hours with a 10,000ft+ elevation gain.   And I knew I couldn't do it alone.  So far I think having a coach is AWESOME, and here's why it's working for me:
  • It eliminates a lot of trial and error - I have a relatively short training window (the ride is June 29) so I need to maximize my training time and do the sessions that are going to get me up that hill (and I really know very little about the mechanics of a cycling training program).
  • It's HUGE to have my workouts planned for me - I don't have to think about it...just do it.
  • Although I've used a Garmin for a couple of years now, it was really for amusement purposes only and to get a guideline on time, distance and heart rate.  Now it provides useful information for my coach and guidelines for me to consider during workouts.
The big thing, though, is that it made me realize, almost from the beginning, that I never pushed myself hard enough in workouts before.  She is making me work HARD (and sometimes I swear during interval sessions), but I get off my bike every time with a sense of accomplishment.  I'm feeling stronger and stronger all the time.

I have two goals for this race right now:
  • The "A" goal - finish in around 5 hours.
  • The "B" goal - not to finish last.

I'll share more of my thoughts on having a coach in future posts, including why I picked mine.  If you want to get to know her, check out Simmons Endurance Coaching.

More soon!