Palomar Mountain

June 14, 2008

This past weekend was the last big weekend of training before Ironman, and I wanted to make it a good one! Instructions on my training plan read long ride with 2.5 hours of tempo on rolling hills to long climbs—find something that simulates the course. The IM France course is nothing if it’s not hilly; after the first 10k, it heads straight into over an hours worth of steady climb. Hilly is not actually the right word–it’s more like mountainous. Rolling hills and our usual climbs were not going to suffice. There was only one ride that was going to make me feel like I was out on that IM France course, and that was Palomar–all 5500 ft of it. After a failed attempt to talk my riding partners into it (it’s ok, guys, you’re forgiven. . .), I split off and headed inland.

Possibly the hardest part of climbing Palomar is getting there. Forget about the hills along the way that usually counted for our long climbs, the heat because you’re heading straight inland, and the cattle grates perfectly positioned in the shade so that you don’t see them until the last split second. Forget about them, because the really harry part about Palomar is the narrow casino lined road that brings you to the base of the South Grade. Between the large buses hauling packs of gamblers to the casinos, and–even scarier–the cars leaving the casino parking lots mid morning, driven by people whom you suspect probably SHOULD be riding one of those large buses, it is a dicey stretch.

But, finally, I arrive at the bottom. After a quick (longer than Bree’s 45 second sushi stop last week, but as fast by my standards) stop at the store to refill water bottles, I was ready to face the challenge. Someone told me once that Chris Horner’s record is 52 minutes, so I knew I had well over an hour of climbing in store. Up and up and up. The road stretched on forever, steadily upwards with lots of switchbacks. I settled into a good rhythm, feeling the burn and accepting the pain of the climb. Pretending I was on the Ironman race course, I pictured the crazy French spectators and their chants: “Allez, allez, allez!!”. I pass the 3,000 ft marker, still feeling good and strong, HR in the right zone. I keep climbing. It starts getting hard, and somewhere along the way, I convince myself that I must have missed the 4,000 ft marker. . .only to see it about 5 minutes later. Argh!! The day’s workout is just as much mental as physical, I remind myself, and refocus on keeping the pedals turning. Finally, finally, I see the 5,000 ft marker, and know that the end is (almost) within sight.

I am rewarded with amazing views as well as an awesome technical descent. . .and some Hot Tamales, my favorite candy, from the corner store down below.

As my friend, Greg—a pro bike racer for the last 50 years (ok, not quite, but close) and who rides more miles in SD each year than I likely will in my entire lifetime—put it, “I remember each and every one of my Palomar rides”. Now I have one more Palomar memory to add to the bank: )



June 3, 2008

This weekend in Boise I chalked up the first, and hopefully last, DNF of my triathlon career.    I also may have set some sort of record for the earliest drop out in a race, since the problem came about 10 strokes into the swim. . .apparently, this is about as far as I’m comfortable swimming at race pace without oxygen, which was the scenario I found myself in on Sunday in the snow-melt filled Lucky Peak reservoir.     

All week we had been hearing reports of how cold the water would be.  I’d heard everything from 47 degrees, and speculation that race organizers would change it to a duathlon, to an “almost 60” at the pre-race meeting.  The real water temp was probably somewhere in between. I knew it would be chilly, but was more worried about being cold on the bike than any impact it might have on the swim. 

Yet, within a few seconds of the start cannon, I was stopped dead in the water, head up, gasping for air that wouldn’t come–it was as though I had an elephant on my chest and bronchioles superglued shut.  My lungs simply would not expand.  Trying again, I put my head down and attempted to swim.  Three strokes later, same thing.  After what seemed like an eternity of hyperventilating, while treading water in place, and surrounded by an army of concerned sea kayakers, I got things under control and set out after the pack.   “Even with a bad swim, I can make something out of this,” I reasoned.  No dice.  Every two minutes or so, I’d experience a repeat occurence, prompting the kayaker (who at this point had become my personal escort as I limped around the course) to ask if I wanted a ride into shore.   

The only thing keeping me in the frigid water was the knowledge that I probably wouldn’t be allowed to get my bike if I accepted a ride.  Besides, my appendages were all frozen by this point, anyway.  I finished the swim, but handed in my chip.  Although I’m used to racing from behind, Lance Armstrong would have had a hard time making up this defecit.  With an Ironman on the horizon, I knew the best thing I could do at this point was to make a good training day of it, which I accomplished with a hard bike ride, followed by my own 2.5 hour run back out along the bike course to cheer on the other competitors. 

Although I didn’t necessarily need to travel all the way to Boise for this sort of training day, I appreciated the opportunity to get to know so many friendly Boisians and other athletes–including my awesome homestay family–the Markleys, as well as Jody, Tom, and Bart, Dan, Poppa Regensburg, Joe, and many others.  Congrats to all of you who DID manage to brave the cold water! 

After a little research, here are a few tips on cold water swimming:

1.  Do whatever you can to warm up your core temp before getting in the water.  A pre-race jog and/or warm clothes.

2.  Neoprene caps.  These are more thermal than double capping, but that also helps (a little).

3.  Ear plugs and vaseline on the back of hands and other exposed surfaces (feet & face)

3.  Get in gradually, if possible.  The cold water shock symptoms (hyperventilation, increased blood pressure) improves after 3-5 minutes, so use the warm up.

4.  Relax.  Anticipate some shortness of breath at first, If it continues to happen during a race, try some backstroke. 

5.  Acclimation does occur, so swim in water of similar temperatures when possible.

If your bored, a little more info on cold water shock. . .It’s from a kayaking magazine, but still interesting.

Good Times in the Vines

May 6, 2008

This weekend was the Lake Berryessa Half Ironman in Napa Valley, a low key alternative to Wildflower, and perfect for an early season fitness check. More significantly, it was also my first long distance race in a year to the day after last year’s forced hiatus. For me, this event was to serve as a chance to shake off the cobwebs, feel the distance again, and celebrate the fact that I was at the starting line of a race—something I was only dreaming about a few months ago! Was it good to be back? I don’t think you could have wiped the smile off my face if you tried: )

The day started off pretty perfectly. A calm lake and wetsuit swim set my mind at ease, and I felt a balance of nervous excitement as we entered the water. After the usual jostling, I found some feet and settled into a good rhythm for the two loop swim. . .perhaps too good. Rounding one of the buoys on the second loop, I lost the feet I was following, but sighting some more yellow caps ahead, followed their line. Suddenly, I’d caught the pack of what can only be described as “struggling swimmers” and realized these were people completing their first loop—NO!! lifting my head, I realized that the exit ramp was behind me. . .I had started my third loop! Doing a quick 180, I sprinted for the dock in an attempt to minimize the consequences of my “bonus yardage”. Once back on shore, Andy did his best to cheer me on, but judging from his expression, I was sure that any hopes he had ever entertained of a successful The Amazing Race partnership had just been erased.

Although frustrated with my lack of navigational skills, I settled into a good rhythm on the bike and quickly caught two of the three girls I knew were ahead of me. The ensuing miles ticked by quickly, and I was able to focus on gathering heart rate data (after 7 years, I’ve finally given in), nutrition (1.5 blueberry Clif bars, a vanilla Clif shot, and some Luna sports drink), and picking off the guys ahead of me (one of whom mentioned: “I’ve really got to pee, and it’s REALLY pissing me off!!”. . .Umm, OK.) This course was no joke, and on the final climb back into transition, my legs were definitely talking to me.

Entering transition, I was re-energized as I saw Christine Fletcher, the first place female, heading out on the run. I did a quick mental replay of my conversation with Coach Paul, the Clif notes of which were: “This is not a race to take chances”, “You’re not really racing the last 10 k of the run” and “I’d like you to negative split it”. Although the heart rate and energy were fine, it seemed I’d left my legs in San Diego. I dialed it back a bit for the first lap—which was not to say I was going easy—I was hurting and the absolute lack of flat ground wasn’t making it any easier! The “fake it till ‘ya make it” approach was in full effect, though, and by the second loop I was feeling good and pushing the pace, giving it what I had. On the day, my effort was good enough for 2nd place, an awesome workout on a beautiful but challenging course, and lots of confidence that things are on the right track!

The only thing left to do was a little post race wine tasting.

Welcome to Miami

April 16, 2008

After a great month of training in Australia, I had a quick 3 day turn around in San Diego before heading off to Miami for the Nautica South Beach Triathlon. Although it was a first year event, it couldn’t have gone more smoothly. It was an awesome event; everyone had a great time and a lot of money was raised for the St. Jude’s Research hospital. This race was a different experience for me, because instead of doing the whole thing, I was the cyclist on a relay team. But not just any relay team–4 time Olympic swimmer Dara Torres led us out with a blistering swim and fellow K-Swiss athlete, tennis star Anna Kournikova sealed our first place relay placing with a stellar run.

In fact, K-swiss pretty much dominated the event, with Chris Lieto and Ben Collins going one, two in the men’s pro race and Leanda Cave winning the women’s. With no run leg to worry about, I was able to really push it & my bike split was the fastest of the day, proving that I wasn’t just hanging out at the beach ALL month in OZ!

Dumbing it down. . .

March 18, 2008

Why fly half a world away for a training camp, when San Diego, the “triathlon mecca” is home base?  There is no shortage of fast training partners in San Diego, and unlike my Canadian teammates, I didn’t really need to escape the cold weather. . .Even though we DID have a pretty rainy winter, it’s hard to complain about the So Cal 50 degree “cold snaps” with a straight face.   In addition to some much needed swim technique help from Coach Paul, one of the biggest benefits of being here at camp, is the simplicity of it all.


Today, for example, was a 5k swim at 5:30, followed by breakfast and a nap.  Then a 5 hour bike ride, 40 minute run. Snack.  Ice bath. Eat Dinner.  Bed.  A fair bit of training, but not much else–no added stress.  While we’re here, our only obligations are the two (or sometimes three or four) workouts for the day.  The pool is a four minute cycle away, we ride our bikes to the grocery store, and when they are so far away, it’s easy to pretend that the usual demands of school, work, or that thing called life don’t exist.  Our extracurricular activities so far this trip have consisted of massage, naps, movie night on the couch, and a weekly trip to the farmer’s market.  Oh, went to a bbq last Friday. . .I think we were home by 8:00! 


We train, we eat, we sleep, and beyond that, the rest of the time is left for relaxing—usually spent either elbowing Eileen for our turn on the dial up connection or cooking (which, if it’s left to me, is sure to be burnt).  The most glamorous lifestyle, it’s not, but with the training we’ve been doing, there’s not much energy left over!  It’s a pretty simple, dumbed-down version of life at home, where it is easy to get caught up in both the “have to’s” and the have-to’s of life.  Here, we’re able to focus on the things like ice baths, massage, getting off our feet after workouts, and naps.  Guilt free selfishness, I’m calling it. 


With all this “focus”, I’ll definitely be ready for a night out when I get home!. . . After all, the start of my real race season is still a few months away, but in the meantime, a stress free and low key month of solid training has been just the thing.  Tomorrow the fun starts at 4:45 with a warm up run before the early morning swim.  Ouch.

Lucky Girl. . .

March 17, 2008

 28.5 hours.  My biggest week in nearly a year!  As someone who loves the volume, there was a time when this would’ve seemed like a pretty standard week in the office.  For the majority of last year, though, I had a completely different perspective.   I wasn’t training anywhere close to 30 hours a week–in fact, I wasn’t really doing anything that would constitute as training.  Not because I didn’t want to. . mentally, .there was nothing I wanted more, but physically, I was completely cooked.  In the course of a few weeks, I downward spiraled from peak Ironman fitness to literally not being able to run ten minutes.  I went from an ‘up before dawn and train more than I sleep’ schedule to barely being able to maintain the activity level of a 70 year old, sister Madonna Buder, non withstanding.  In short, it was ugly.    


Setbacks are an accepted part of any sport.  They give us a chance to reflect, and almost always make us better athletes in the long run.  I had the opportunity for a lot of reflection last year—a solid 10 month’s worth of reflection, frustration, blood tests, and doctor’s visits.   There was never a definite diagnosis, but adrenal fatigue/failure, glandular disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, parasympathetic overtraining syndrome were some of the unfulfilling labels doctors came up with–none of which had a short term fix.  Long term rest and management were the suggested treatment—a less than ideal solution for an ironman athlete!  After talking to lots of other athletes, I found a few that had gone through the exact same science fiction-like experience:  6 to 18 months of severe fatigue, seemingly unexplained by other medical maladies and unresponsive to days, weeks, or even a few months rest.


Mid-December, the clouds of the preceding 10 months lifted, and health and energy steadily returned.  With a few months of good training on the books, I am optimistic that the lessons I learned last year, while quite frustrating and sometimes painful, will serve me well in the upcoming seasons.  Just a few months ago, I was only dreaming of the workouts we’ve done in the two weeks since I’ve been here n Australia.   Now, I’m back to living them.


March 13, 2008


Yesterday we topped off a heavy week of training with a LifeSport group Iyegar yoga session.  It was a much needed recovery workout after a pretty intense week, which included lots more swimming than I’ve done in a while—or ever, come to think of it!  Four 5k masters swims, two 90’ open water swims, two bonus technique pool sessions, not to mention a little race called the “Splash and Dash” rounded out the swim training for the week.  By the way, this race was FAR less innocuous than it sounds.  For one thing, a 600m swim, 3k run twice through is short enough to be incredibly painful; for another thing, there is no such thing as a low key Aussie race!  Former Olympians, Olympic hopefuls, ITU World record holders, and surf lifesaving specialists (this is a huge sport in Australia) were all in attendance.  It was an incredible race, super hard workout, and quite exciting to see our teammates Brent McMahon (1st overall) and Lisa Mensink (2nd female) kick some serious *ss .  


But, back to the yoga. I’ve taken my share of yoga classes, but never one like this.  For one thing, most of the crew had never been to yoga.   I’m no yogi, but there are a few rules of yoga protocol that I think are probably pretty standard—no shoes in the studio, no talking during class, that sort of thing. . .I think we broke all of them when we rolled into the studio on our bikes, and then spent the entire hour in stitches over either our own or our neighbors lack of flexibility.  Fortunately, the instructor handled it like a true Aussie–meaning she took it all in stride–although we were reminded more than once that “yoga is restorative, and can best be absorbed when we are quiet”.  Pretty sure that’s yogi speak for “SHUT UP!”.


Tomorrow is another big day—5:30 AM open water swim (it is light out, but just barely) with focus on surf entry and exit, and 8 x 1 mile on the track.  Fortunately, all the hard work will be rewarded tonight with a massage from Toby, the reportedly very cute live in masseuse/chef for Laura and Greg Bennet, who we’ve borrowed for a few massage sessions each week while we’re here.

It’s All Starting to Make Sense. . .

March 8, 2008

I’ve only been here three days, but I am definitely starting to understand why those Aussies are such ridiculous swimmers.  After two of the longest and hardest master’s workouts of my life, and an insane “open water swim” (which involved at least as much time practicing those oxygen-debt inducing swim starts and sprinting up and down the beach as it did actual swimming), the puzzle pieces are all starting to fall into place. 

It’s hard work, but that is why I am here, and combined with some great technique coaching from the coaches on deck, I know it can only make me faster.  Besides, we’re in the water for our first session at 5:30 AM most days, so at least part of the day’s suffering is all over before breakfast: )

Plus, it is all made easier by the fact that we are essentially living in paradise.  The weather is perfectly warm and sunny, but not ridiculously hot.  There is great bike riding on rolling country roads just a few miles out of town, and a park full of running trails bordered on one side by amazing views of the ocean.  Not to mention my inspirational training partners.  It’s going to be a great month!

Drumroll, please. . .

March 6, 2008

Finally a real blog post.  I know, I know, a blog is meant to be updated more than once every few months!  Thanks to all of you who–sometimes gently, sometimes not–sent me email reminders on this: )   

It seems that whether it’s starting a blog, changing eating habits, beginning a workout program, or buying into a new training method, initiating new behavior is difficult.  Converting contemplation to action requires a POA (plan of action); just having a vague idea that you want to change usually isn’t enough. 

After a rough year last year–more on that later, I promise–I knew that I needed to make some changes in regards to training and racing.  After nearly 10 months of a forced break (. . .no, I wasn’t pregnant, though that seems to be quite fashionable these days), I am thrilled to be back to training, with a full race schedule slated on the calendar, and most importantly, a more specific POA.  

One of the biggest changes I knew I needed to make this year was taking on a coach–if for no other reason than to protect me from myself.  Being objective about rest is difficult for all of us type A personalities, and, let’s be honest–that pretty much includes everyone reading this!  Fortunately for me, I met Paul Regensburg from Lifesport while watching from the sidelines in Hawaii this year.  At that point I was just easing back into some very easy training, and Coach Paul has been instrumental over the last few months in keeping me on track with lots of challenging workouts, while avoiding the “too much, too soon” pitfalls that are so easy for “our type” to succumb to: )

And, sooo, that’s how I came to find myself in Australia for a month long hard core swim focus training camp with some of the stud triathletes Lifesport coaches, including my housemates for the month, Kim Loeffler, Bree Wee, and Eileen Castillo.  “Real World Oz”, we’re calling it.  It is sure to be an adventure, and despite the slooowww dial up connection, I promise to keep you all updated.  Thanks for reading!


Happy New Year

January 5, 2008

 Happy 2008!  A new year, a new blog. . .this is my attempt to keep you all updated.  Thanks for reading!  Check back soon for updates.