Friday, December 07, 2007

Birthday Reflections

Well, I haven't been blogging much lately, but that has to do with lots of fun adventures and not a lot of training on my mind. While it can get very frustrating gain back a couple pounds and think that you're not 'doing enough' because you're not training 12 hours/week, it's also really REALLY nice to just relax.


Who says you can't exercise on vacation? Hiking about 15 miles outside of Ensenada...

Relax as in...
-not wearing a watch
-not checking email
-spending time with friends and family
-drinking two glasses of wine and not feeling guilty
-indulging from time to time (in moderation, of course!)
-not be neurotic about oversleeping or missing a workout
-taking time to do 'other' things on my to-do list that got put aside during tri season
-doing more yoga

Why is this so important to me? One thing that yoga has taught me over the past year is how important it is to quiet the mind. I think for many of us, our minds are constantly going at 150 mph. I know mine does. I'm always thinking, whether it's about what to make for dinner, what my workouts are going to be, what I've got to do over the next week, etc. etc. During my yoga practice, I work really hard (not always successful , but I try) to try and just quiet my mind.

One thing a fantastic yoga instructor once said that has really helped me out was:
"You know how your mind leaps from one thing to the next? You have one thought after another. Instead of just trying to silence those thoughts, try to focus on the space between thoughts, and staying there, in that space."

It's really hard to do, but it gives me a place to start.

What does relaxation and calming the mind have to do with birthday reflections? Well, my friend Devon is really introspective in her race reports, and writes a lot about how much of a mental experience her races are (she does ultra-distance running). I believe this too, and know how powerful our minds can be, not just in a race, but in our training and in our everyday lives.

As I turn a year older, I am inclined to want to focus a little more on my mental strength and nurture it. While I know I still have a young body, I can still sense things that have changed since I was, say, 24. No, I'm not complaining! Older people tend to want to say "ah, whatever! You're still young!" Yes, but while I'm young, why not make changes now that will keep me stronger for a longer time? As the body changes and recovery doesn't come as quick as it used to, it becomes increasingly more important for us to remain strong mentally and do what we need to do to take care of our bodies.

I picked up a great book called Yoga Anatomy and it describes many of the common yoga positions and illustrates which muscles are primarily and secondarily used, as well as which organs are affected in some of the sitting poses. It's a really interesting glimpse of what yoga can truly do for our bodies as well as our minds.

No, this isn't a big push for yoga! I just think that over the next year, I'd like to spend more time with yoga and make it a more prominent part of my training, even if I have to sacrifice a few more things to create time for it. It's become such a relaxing and helpful part of my week, and I think I'm ready to commit to it more than once a week.

For my Thanksgiving Day workout, instead of doing a bike ride, I met up with my friends Anna & David and we went to a yoga session where we did 108 Sun Salutations!!! Talk about SORE HAMSTRINGS - I was sore for about 4 days. That's a reason right there to do more yoga. :)

Finally, my 28th year is going to bring a lot of things to my plate. I need to be mentally ready to handle it for all of the goals I have. I am about to start planning my year in the next few weeks and come January, it's going to be time to TAKE OFF!!

Goals include:
-making a true year-plan for training and races (this means picking out all of my races NOW and sticking to that list)
-qualifying for Clearwater 70.3 Championships
-doing the Terrible Two in under 16 hours
-training smart and not overtraining
-staying mentally tough
-not getting burned out

That's a preliminary list. Note, those are all athletic goals and don't include professional and personal goals. I try to keep this blog mainly about triathlon, since that IS the subject. :)

Am I excited about turning another year older? HELL YES! I say, live it up and don't look back! Happy Birthday to me!!


Relaxing in L.A. with my sister!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fall Update

What have I been up to lately? Drinking more wine, that's for sure!!
It was nice to take some time off the ol' blog. I'm ready to resume contact with the blog world, kind of in the same way I'm ready to resume working out on a more regular basis and being more conscious about what it is I'm doing in those workouts.

Still, it sure was nice to take some time off and relax for a couple of months. I got a bit edgy about it all and had those occasional bouts of thinking "oh my god, I'm turning into a sloth. I'm SO LAZY." But since I've done it before, I was able to keep it pretty in check and know that even if I put a couple of pounds on, even if my running slowed a bit, even if my swimming slowed a LOT - it would all be okay. Taking 3 days off in a row a couple of weeks ago was just a weird thing for me to do but when I went out on a bike ride I ended up feeling really great. I figure I might as well enjoy the rest now because in another month and a half, I'll be prepping for this: http://www.ironmancalifornia.com/.

So what have I been up to? Hmmm, lots actually...

On October 20, Lee, Pat, David and I did Foxy's Fall Century. That was a lot of fun, in spite of my not having ridden much since the Big Kahuna. It was 107 miles, about 4000 feet of climbing (or something like that) and 6 hours with a LOT of wind. The beautiful thing about the ride was that the first 20 miles were FREE - i.e. we got into a LONG train with 4 tandems who just pulled us the whole way. It was absolutely fantastic and made those first 20 miles seem effortless.


















After that, it was us against the wind into Fairfield, and it seemed to really suck up a lot of energy from all of us. Lunch was at mile 62 and I was just so happy to get off my bike. I was hurting by then. Still, we pressed on into the hills and it was a nice change. Miles 80-95 were tough and 95-107 were the toughest. We all broke apart for about the last 15 miles and came in on our own. Still, it remains one of my favorite centuries, perhaps because it's such a great way to end the year and the weather is generally pretty good.

On October 27, we had the first annual "Custer Cup Challenge Time Trial" (CCCTT) in Sonoma, CA. There were 15 of us who came out to have some fun with this 19.8-mile course with more climbing and turns than a real time trial would EVER have. That was half the fun, of course. Pics can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/strejo/sets/72157603174928659/. I came in 9th, with a time of 59:59 - just shy of an hour, which was what I was going for. I brought my Cervelo P2 out to play that day and it was great to use it one last time this year. I was so bummed that Dave, Jim and Tim all beat me by less than a minute, but it gave me something to shoot for next year. We
celebrated our success and our fun with breakfast afterward. It really was a great time!

The biggest surprise on the course was Mr. Fitness Journal himself standing at the top of the hill snapping photos of us as we crested the top. We had all been bummed that he wasn't showing up to participate in the ride, so it was great to see him out there, even if it wasn't in FJ gear riding with the rest of us. The next big surprise was the emails he sent out that followed - he made up a "magazine cover" for EACH of us and called it "Chris's Big Idea." He is so incredible and so creative! Mine looked like this:















Gotta love the "Swimsuit Issue" line. :)




November 3 - The first YMCA Spinning Instructor-led ride from SF to Tiburon and around to Corte Madera and back around to Mill Valley, Sausalito and SF. Otherwise known as "The Paradise Loop." This was a 46 mile ride and there were 3 YMCA Spinning Instructors, 4 spinning students from the YMCA, 3 Lombardi Sports Triathlon Team members, 5 Wine Country Velo cyclists, and a partridge in a....oh wait, never mind - that's next month. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, one of those rare days in the Bay Area where there wasn't a drop of fog, the temperature was just perfect and the sun was shining brilliantly even as we met up at 7:30 a.m. It turned out to be about a 3 hour ride but that was due to a lot of the City congestion we encountered, especially on the way back in. It was great to have such a big group riding together, and we really hammered it through certain parts.

I was thoroughly impressed by one of my students who NEVER rides outside and was really keeping up with the rest of us just fine, and totally kicked my butt up over one of the last big hills. I told him he should ride more often! The members who joined had a blast and were excited about doing it again. We're looking at Dec 8, though that's the day after my birthday so um...I don't know how excited I'll be about getting up early for a bike ride. My birthday just happens to fall on a Friday this year, which is even more reason to live it up. :)























Since then, I traveled to Minneapolis for work. I visited the Edina YMCA and took a yoga class there. It was incredible! I was totally sore the next day, which was a good thing. I also went for a beautiful jog through the Minnesota Valley National Refuge the day I got there (last Thursday). I left at 3:30 p.m. and as I was returning an hour later, it was absolutely freezing. I didn't expect the temperature to drop so significantly in that hour, especially before it got dark. Still, it was a nice jog and I saw a hawk fly above me across the meadow, which was neat.

And here I am...slow as a slug in swimming. I went last night for the 1.5 hour workout and my arms were killing me near the end. The funny thing is that I've done some lifting and yoga over the past couple of months, so it's not like my arms suddenly atrophied. However, when you're not swimming on a regular basis, no matter what else you're doing, you're going to slow down. So, I endured that, willing to swim more often over the next few weeks if I can. Wine Country Velo is having our last big hurrah this weekend, finishing with a picnic up at Sugarloaf State Park. I'm looking forward to that, though right now I can barely walk!

I did some plyometrics yesterday morning after my track run and I am SO SORE!!! One of the things I'm really resolving to do is more of those. I think they will really benefit my running and cycling, if I can just be consistent and do them about 2x/week.

I've tried to think more about my goals for next year. Of course, qualifying for Clearwater. But on a smaller scale, making little improvements. I want to really learn more about the training process and write about it as I learn so that it sticks with me. As I start my fourth year of triathlon next year, I want to train smarter than ever. I notice that with each year, it seems to become of increasing importance to really pay attention to the small details that go into training and tweak them just a little. Things I'm concerned with include:

-Nutrition is something I need to focus more on.
-Getting my bike fit just right.
-Adhering to a training schedule.
-Taking time to rest properly and not do 124 mile bike rides 8 days before my A race (sorry, John!).
-Knowing when not to ride with the group because it doesn't work well with my plan.

2008 will be here before we know it. Time to get crackin'!!

Enjoying the beauty of fall in Sonoma County...

Monday, October 01, 2007

Post-season thoughts

Now that the endorphins have died down, I’ve had some time to reflect on this race and the year.

Overall, I made some really significant gains. My swim times improved as a result of my hard work on my form. My running has REALLY improved and I credit this to finally getting orthotics. Once I had them for my shoes, I was really able to start putting more distance runs into my training without worrying about injury. I’d like to get my half marathon time down to 1:45 if I can. I’m still on cloud 12 for the fact that I finished the run in 1:50 and paced 8:25/mile.

And then there’s the bike. I was somewhat disappointed by my bike time at Big Kahuna. I really thought I should’ve gone faster. I will say I felt better when Michellie Jones HERSELF said she found the bike course “challenging.” (On a side note, I asked to shake her hand and I congratulated her on her amazing season. Then I had nothing left to say. She is INCREDIBLE!)

I know that the Labor Day ride was a factor in my slowness. However, there remains a weakness of mine in cycling: hills. I think by the end of the bike course those rollers had really added up! Granted, I’m no slow poke up the hills. But I’m not as fast as I could be and it’s just time for me to spend these winter months getting in some good quality hill repeats.

It’s also going to be a winter full of bike adjustments. I think there’s some fine tuning that needs to happen with the new bike to really get my position optimal for power output.

So now what? I’m going to do a 5K Turkey Trot with my sister in November – she’s just getting started in the running world. Maybe a couple of other 10Ks. I have a couple of century rides this month (Konocti Century & Foxy’s Fall Century – both highly recommended). I’d like to do some cross country skiing this winter to maintain my endurance and strength. More yoga. Shed a few more pounds (in winter – very challenging!).

Next year: The season will start early, with the California 70.3 in March. There are so many things I’d like to do, like my first double century, some bike racing and some Olympic races I’ve never done before. However, my ultimate and main goal is to have a fantastic race at the California 70.3 to qualify for Clearwater; PR at Vineman and race Clearwater in November.

We’ll see what happens!

More Big Kahuna photos

These photos are courtesy of Mike DeAsis, very devoted Lombardi Triathlon Team member and "Tri-Sherpa." He is faithfully there at every race supporting us, handing us nutrition, supplying us with things we forgot, lending us gear and taking fantastic photos. Mike, thank you so much for all your help this season!

I love these photos he took because for once, I ended a race supremely happy and ecstatic and I think the photos really display my excitement. I felt great, but the smile was really from being so happy that I was finishing so strong and in 5:10!
























I just can't get over the smile on my face during the finish! I was SO HAPPY!!!























This was one of those "YES!" moments. :)



























































































Me and my Tiki God :)















Me and the other two age-group finishers, one of whom I've connected with post-race. Go Jocelyn (the woman in pink) - she also took 1st in her A.G. at the Santa Cruz Sentinel a couple of weeks later!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Big Kahuna Race Report

What an incredible day. It’s been a week and it still feels like yesterday. I had my personal best half-Ironman time by 14 minutes. I certainly couldn’t have imagined a better way to end the season.

The stats:

Swim: 32:44 (1:33/100 yd)
T1: 5:11 (1/4 mile run from beach to transition, hence longer T1)
Bike: 2:40:41 (20.91 mph)
T2: 1:31
Run:1:50:29 (8:26/mile)

Place in AG: 3 (or 4?)/68 (I was awarded 3rd on race day but as of now results have me at 4th...I'm assuming I really was 4th and they made a mistake...whoops!)
Place overall: 174/820

Pre-race jitters:

I was incredibly worried/paranoid about using John M.’s Zipp wheels. What if I flatted? Was it worth the Zipps? In any case, I knew I was taking a chance but I decided it was worth it.

I arrive and it’s the usual scene. The more I do this, the more I realize how important it is to fight my social urges and keep the chatting to a minimum. Excessive chatter gets my nerves flying high and inhibits my ability to focus on what I have ahead of me. I find this especially true for longer races, where I have more to visualize.

Set things up. See a few friends. Head down to the beach with teammates Matt and Andrew from Lombardi Sports.

The sky is gray and shrouded in fog. The water looks very uninviting, and I feel the inner child in me wanting to whine and protest: I DON’T WANNA!. *brrrrrrrr* I know what I have to do. I have to get in and try it first.

Ice on my arms. I gasp for breath. Oh my, that is some COLD water. I try to put my face in but it takes my breath away before I can completely submerge myself. Just have to dive my head in and come back up. Another few minutes and I’m ready to head back to the beach to wait for the race to start.

Swim:
7:10 a.m. sharp! The 29 & under women run into the water, similar to Santa Barbara. It’s mass chaos and as I enter the water, it’s still just as cold, but this doesn’t feel quite so bad as before. My breathing is still short and I spend the first 200 yards breathing only to my right. Again, I can feel my anxiety level ready to shoot up at any moment and cause me to start hyperventilating. Thoughts of past ocean starts haunt me and I briefly remember that first year where I would think “I can’t do this. I just can’t do this.”

Yet…my anxiety level never reaches hyperventilation/ready-to-quit levels. Instead I find myself calm, very confident in my ability. I stay the course and get to the first buoy, where it finally begins to thin out and I can just focus on my stroke and not watching for feet in my face.

The rest of the swim goes beautifully. I sight well and don’t depend on others’ sighting abilities. I know I’m good at this. Before I know it, the beach is getting closer and it’s time to begin the real part of the journey! “About time,” I think, as I begin to feel cold all over and chills are running through my body.

T1:

I exit the water: 32 minutes! Fantastic! This transition involves a 0.25 mile run from the beach over to the transition zone. I hit a steady pace and trot back. Getting the wetsuit off never seems to get any easier. Grab the bike and bike stuff. GO.







Bike:

I find my bike legs relatively quickly. Sort of. I realize around mile 10 that this is likely going to be a long ride. That 124 mile bike ride I was so proud of a week ago? Perhaps not so smart, looking back on it! My legs feel heavy. I wish I had a bike computer so I could stay on top of my cadence and speed better – if I could monitor and make sure my cadence was above 90 I could make sure my legs would stay fresh for the ride and run.

I’m still passing people, but just finding it difficult to find my comfort zone. I find the right gear and keep the legs moving in smooth circles. However, this is NOT the flat road I envisioned as I read race reports about the Big Kahuna. I had read about how this was one of the fastest half-IMs around and how ‘easy’ the bike is. Ha!

The bike course essentially takes you out of Santa Cruz and you head north on Highway 1 about 28 miles and then you turn around and go back. Highway 1, for any non-California readers, is ROLLING! NOT FLAT! There are also a fair number of ‘false flats’ as well, where the road looks flat but it isn’t.

In any case, I vow to hit mile 28 under 1:20. I try to keep up the pace, remember to ingest my nutrition every 15 minutes (alternate Clif Shot Block and a piece of Clif Bar – Apricot flavor) and just stay focused on my breathing and not letting my legs slow down. The rollers begin to add up and I think back to Cristi’s mantra about being smoothly pulled up a fishing line; spin smoothly up the rollers, Sarah!

Bike turnaround, mile 28: 1:21. DAMMIT! I’m going way too slow. I realize it’s time to get serious. Something else strikes me right about now: low-lying fog still grays the sky above me and it’s been chilly for the last hour. My legs are only just NOW starting to feel warmed up!

So, legs warmed up and intent to have a negative bike split (i.e. have the way back be faster than the way out), off I go. I’m serious now and there is absolutely no way I can allow myself to have a bike time of anything longer than 2:40. It would be a disgrace to my new bike, the Zipp wheels and me!

I fly over the rollers on the way back, still with heavy legs, but determined mentally to push through them. Go, go GO!!!!!

I pass a woman in my age group who I figure must be one of the front runners, as I passed a large handful of women on the way out and haven’t seen any of my rivals since. I can tell she’s a good cyclist and I decide not to pay attention at this point to where she is in relation to me. I must stay focused on MY goal and let the rest happen.

She and I play some leapfrog over the last 15 miles. Around mile 46 I pass her for good. I bring it home and I’m determined to have that faster split time. More rollers, my legs are screaming. Almost home!

T2:

I round the corner into transition and get ready to shift my focus to running and bringing out the many visualizations I’d done of the run. My split: 1:18 – perfect!! I felt much better about the second half of the bike than the first, though still kind of annoyed with myself for not saving that long bike ride I’d done for another day (after the race). I would love to get my T2 down to 1 minute but alas, still came in around 1:30. Oh well. Off I go – 13.1 miles to go!

Run:

I run out of transition with my bike gloves on and smile. Whoops! Luckily I know Mike D. will be there in a little bit and I can hand off my gloves to him. I see him with his camera and after he sets it down I gratefully smile at him and say “Mike, can you take these?” We do the hand off and I know I’m really off. This is IT!

During this first mile I think about my goal. Based on how I feel and what I did at Santa Barbara, I decide to aim for an 8:15 pace. It’s rather lofty given that at Vineman I paced 9:02/mile. I’m strong. I’m committed. This is the last race. In Matt’s words, “don’t save a thing. It’s your last race of the season. Give it everything you have.”

The woman from my age group who I passed on last part of the bike floats by me. “Nice job,” she says. “You too! Keep it up!” I enthusiastically reply.

1st mile was a 7:33 and 2nd mile was a 7:45. Not bad at all! Miles 3, 4, 5 go by and I stay on 8:00 miles. Mile 6 is a bit tough and my legs start to get heavy. Just past mile 7 my legs threaten to break down. I’m not really sure what to do. They just feel like they can’t keep going. My stomach begins to feel upset. My breathing starts to get shallow and slightly labored. “Don’t stop, Sarah.”

I know I don’t want to stop but for the first time in this entire race, my momentum comes to a screeching halt. I’m not sure if I can keep running. I might have to walk. I need new legs and I need them now. I look ahead and send out a cry for help. I silently call upon the triathlon gods and pray to them to refresh my legs and help me through this last 6 miles of the season. This is it! Please!

Aid station coming up. I take some water and walk through. I want to keep walking but I know I can’t. The trail dips down and then there’s a sizable hill to go back up. I slow my pace down and shuffle up the hill, ever so slowly. A woman from my age group passes me and I helplessly watch her glide by. “Focus on yourself,” I tell myself. How can I worry about others when I need to be worrying about myself?

I breathe deeply and approach the top of the hill. My stride begins to lengthen a little at first, then a little more. My breathing becomes normal and my stomach settles back down. Legs are going to be okay! Mile 8 I hit my stride again and I pick up the pace. By mile 10 I’m feeling fantastic and I pass the woman who passed me during my low moment. In the last two half-IMs, mile 10 had been the tough point for me, where I had to really dig deep and muster up the energy to finish decently. Here, though, I feel like a new person. I’m pacing 8:05s and have no intention of slowing down.

Mile 11: I pass a guy that’s been in front of me since mile 2 but always stayed within my view – it feels so great! Mile 12: I pass one more woman from my age group and as I pass her a big smile spreads across my face. This is IT. I feel AWESOME. I can see the beach as I come down the road and around the corner. It’s all I can do not to sprint (my body really won’t let me sprint at this point). I’m ecstatic.

The sun is shining brightly as I make my way onto the beach. There’s a large crowd of spectators lining the long sandy chute. In fact, I can’t see the finish line but I’m so happy that I don’t care. I’m enjoying the journey. People yell “you’re almost there!” and I smile and say “but where’s the finish line? I can’t see it!” They all point me home. The endorphins are rushing through me and each step I take is effortless and full of spring. I’m here and as I see the clock and the finish line, I realize that I’m going to finish in 5:10 – even better than I could’ve ever hoped.
I step through the finish line, arms raised for the first time. I feel amazing and I can’t wipe the smile off my face. What a race!! What a day! I can leave Santa Cruz on a high note and a feeling of contentment that I was able to come back and replace bad memories with good ones. It doesn’t get much better than this.

I just want to thank EVERYBODY for all of the support you've given me. There is no doubt in my mind that all of the fantastic words of encouragement and enthusiasm in addition to all of the challenging bike rides really do help me when I'm out there and digging deep. The new bike...let me just say...one word: AWESOME. Oh and AMAZING. I also am confident that not only did I go faster on it, but the different position I was in really saved my hamstrings for the run and it really enabled me to go faster on the run right out of transition.

It's been a great season.





My tiki god I got for my age group "win" :)

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Last Race: BIG KAHUNA

In 10 minutes I'm getting ready to hit the hay. Tomorrow is my last race of the season. I'm half SO RELIEVED and half SO nervous!

Relieved because:
-I don't have to train so many hours every week for the next couple months
-I don't necessarily need to really watch what I'm drinking as much (though now that I've fallen out of the habit of having a glass of wine every night, I don't know that I'll really go back to it.)
-My body can rest for a month
-If I feel, on any given day, like going for a swim, or doing a run, I can. There is no training schedule to dictate what I do on what day, or how intensely or for how long I should be going.
-I can focus on some other things in my life that I need to focus on.

Nervous because:
-It's my last race! I want to do well! I want to EXCEED my expectations! I want to come in around 5 hours!
-I'm riding my new bike with some borrowed Zipp 808 wheels, courtesy of John M (THANK YOU JOHN M.!!!). While this is a GOOD thing because they go FAST, it's scary because they're tubular tires, and if I have a flat, I'm pretty much done. Let's just keep our fingers crossed that doesn't happen. The last time I was in Santa Cruz for a race was almost exactly 2 years ago for the Santa Cruz Sentinel. I had three flats because of a small piece of glass I couldn't find while I changed the tube. I ended up being the last one out there, had a CHP drive me back to transition after the 3rd flat, and was so disheartened I DNF'd because I just didn't have it in me to run a 10K at that point. I'm back to Santa Cruz to change the negative feelings I have whenever I think of racing down here!! It's going to be allllllllllllll good.
I must admit...the wheels sure do make it look even sexier!!!! :)

-I'm also a little nervous about how cold the water is. I brought my thermal cap just in case.

I guess that's all for now. I keep a quote at my desk that says:

"You can't do better than your best."

So, I'm going out there and I'm going to do my best tomorrow. I'm going to practice my positive thoughts, listen to Bolero and visualize my race, and know that I'm just going to get out there and truly enjoy every moment of this last race. In the end, I just want to have a good time - that's what it's all about.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The longest ride of my life: 124 miles

Pat, Lee, me and David at the top of the Geysers at mile 60


The date: Monday, September 3, 2007

The plan:
Me, David, Pat and Lee were to meet in Windsor, CA at 6:15 a.m. and leave around 6:30 a.m. to ride 124 miles. The ride included heading north to Cloverdale, riding up through the Geysers, down the other side to Geyserville, into Healdsburg via Old Redwood Hwy and back to Windsor, then out Eastside Road to Sebastopol, into Graton, up Graton Rd. to Occidental, out Bohemian Hwy to Monte Rio, then catching Hwy 116/River Rd. back through Guerneville and all the way back to Windsor.

The report:
It's difficult to describe what was easily one of the most memorable and best rides of my life. Again, my deepest thanks to Anna for being there with that awesome lunch. She's a lifesaver!

I called my mom to let her know we finished and came out okay and then I said, without any hesitation:

"I can say that I have never loved any athletic activity so much in all my life. I fall more in love with this sport every time I ride."


It's really true. Yesterday's epic ride, in spite of the tough moments, was no different and it also makes me appreciate the fantastic group that we are. I'm being all sentimental and everything but it really heartens me to see the way we watch out for each other, help each other when we need it, and motivate each other with insults and props alike. Not only that, in spite of being occasional whiners, this group is NOT A BUNCH OF WIMPS! We challenge each other and ourselves with long rides, tough hills and great pace lines. Then we get better and do it some more. The common bond is a love of the sport and through that bond we've shared many laughs and good times that make the sport that much more fun.

So...now that I'm done waxing poetic about how cool we all are...let's talk about the ride!

I don't think this will be my typical long-winded race/ride report. I would like it to be, but there's just so much you can say about what happened in 7 hours and 40 minutes that it would go on forever. Instead, I've touched on some of the highlights, elaborating specifically on the Geysers:

-We meet at 6:15. The guys are all layered up like it's 40 degrees outside. It's really a balmy 58. What a bunch of wimps! Pat is convinced to lose his vest. I've got shorts, sleeveless jersey and arm warmers. David is still bundled up, then asks me "Is that all you're wearing?" "Yeah!" I answer back, in a tone that implies the idea that wearing anything more is just ridiculous. "Awwww man!" David responds. David is then convinced to "man up" and lose some clothing. The term "man up" was used multiple times throughout the day. :)

-First 40 miles somewhat uneventful. Beautiful morning, we ride through much of the Vineman course, Lee threatens to turn left onto Sweetwater and we say "go ahead!" We did them in exactly 2 hours - just what Pat predicted.

-The Geysers begins: starts off very smoothly and gentle with some up, flat and down and we ride together as a group, reveling in the sunshine, the beauty of the canyon alongside us, the serenity of the car-less road and just how happy we are to be spending our Monday like this.

Next section: We begin to split apart as the terrain has changed to sweeping uphill. Still gentle, but no flats or downhill - it just continues up. I maintain a steady cadence and just focus on using as little energy as possible and keeping a steady rhythm. With no iPod, it's me left to imagining I'm in spin class and just focused on my breathing and my pedal stroke. Rather meditative, actually! Between my focus and the beauty around me, I really feel fantastic and am so happy to be there, in that moment, taking in so much around me. The sun is bright but there are lots of shade spots that I go in and out of.

The #$&^*# Section: I'm lifted out of my happy, meditation state when I look up ahead and see the road get steeper. There's a house on my left with some folks out front. I wave to them and smile. Just past their house, the road splits: Geysers to the left, and who knows what to the right. I hear Pat say "take a right, Sarah." Pat and David are waiting at the turn. As I ride up to them, I notice I'm feeling parched and I only have one water bottle left. I could use more. Lee is fairly close behind me and as he rides up, I said "you know...not sure how you guys are on water but I think before we climb more (we had 10 more miles of STEEP climbing to go) I'm going to ask those folks if we can get some water. Everybody decided it was a good idea and the locals were happy to oblige. Water bottles full, we were ready to begin the ascent.

Now...I've mentioned climbing Sweetwater. Couple sections that are weave-worthy. Well...as we made the left-turn, I looked up and heard David say exactly what went through my mind: "uh oh." This grade was nothing to laugh at. While everybody was being vocal about it, I decided I just had to hunker down and focus. Use my breath. Use my strength. I can make it. This is steep but I KNOW I can spin this. Silently I pass by David and Pat and just continue to breathe and pedal. It's working! I'm almost there! AWESOME!

Awesome until...I get to 'the top' and turn right and see...there's more. Of the same. "Sh**" I think to myself. So much for spinning to the top. I couldn't hold that type of cadence if this would continue. David and Pat pass me. Soon after, Lee passes me. I just have to focus on getting through this as best I possibly can. I pedal more...the hill keeps going. Slow cadence, slow speed and it takes everything I have to just keep moving up this hill. "YOU CAN DO IT, SARAH!" Lee and I remain close together but somehow David and Pat are, as Lee put it, mountain goats. I weave a few times to give my legs a break. This is harder than anything I've ever done! Wishing I had that triple ring but grateful I have a 27 at least on my compact crank.

On it goes...Lee later called it "relentless" and I think that is the most apt term that describes the "*@#$*^ Section" of the Geysers.

Finally, we hit some flat. "THANK GOD!" I yell. We ride along the ridge of the mountain and as I turn around, my breath gets taken away. It is one of the most beautiful sights I've EVER seen in my LIFE. THIS is why it was worth it (and the descent). Northern Sonoma County, all there before me. I felt like I was on top of the world. "Look, Lee! Behind you!! WOW!!" I felt like a giddy kid who just can't stop being excited. It was gorgeous.

On we rode, then we had a SUPER SWEET descent that Lee almost crashed on. Thankfully, he didn't. I wished I had a computer on my new bike so I could see how fast I was going. It was fast enough to catch David and Pat. :)

We regrouped and did a bit more climbing, but nothing so bad as what was now behind us. This time, we had something besides a great view to look forward to: Anna and her picnic! I looked up the short hill ahead of me and there was their car, trunk open, food waiting. We all sped up and shouts of joy could be heard from everybody. "WOW!" "AWESOME!" Again - giddy like little schoolchildren. David remembered to put his camera in the car so courtesy of David, we had a couple good pics from the top of the Geysers!

We stopped for about 30 minutes to savor the company, food and views from on top of the world. It was a perfect resting stop at 4 hours into our epic ride. After that, we packed our snacks and headed down, down down the Geysers on what is one of the most beautiful descents I've ever been on. It ranks with the perfect day we rode down Oakville Grade and the entire Napa Valley was spread before me with no clouds or fog. Just...spectacular. Makes you appreciate where you live and having the ability to enjoy something so special.


Miles 60-80: Geyserville->Healdsburg->Windsor
Pat is a real cruel person to have had us go back into Windsor at mile 80. I have to admit, I was getting tired. However, it wasn't so much my desire to stop cycling as I noticed I was beginning to feel very dehydrated. My Accelerade was warm and I had no water. I had no desire to eat anything. My body just felt tired and my legs didn't seem to have a lot of power. I could feel my body getting close to overheating and I was caked in salt from all the sweat.

I mentioned I might consider ending the ride early, but as Lee mentioned, we have great cycling partners. Partners that won't let you quit!!! I know if somebody was really sick, we'd react differently. But they knew I had it in me and I later appreciated them for not letting me give in. No DNF!

We turned right onto Eastside Rd. in Windsor and it was there that I said "okay this is fine, but I'm really going to need some water." I knew I was dehydrated.

Miles 80-95: Windsor -> Graton -> Occidental
Windsor to Graton was tough but I got my 2nd (or was it 3rd, or 4th) wind. We had a couple hills that I just decided to power over because I just wanted to get them done. My legs burned as I did so but I was just happy to get through them. As we crossed 116 on Graton Rd., we noticed Lee was way behind us. What happened?

He rejoined us and we kept riding to Graton. Once at the Graton store, Lee then said "my seat rail broke." However, being the stud he is, he decided to just live with it. I must admit, I was impressed. I chugged down as much water as I could in Graton and refilled my bottles with water. Onward!

Graton Rd. into Occidental was where I cracked. That hill was a major BI**CH!!!! I don't think I've ever taken that road into Occidental or if I have, it's been awhile. I think I've come up the other way FROM Occidental...of course, never remembered what this climb would be like. I can summarize it by saying that every time I would think/hope it would flatten out, it would curve and then keep going up. Every ounce of energy I had was being used in climbing up this hill, and as I would get to a corner I would think "PLEASE, PLEASE be done." Nope.

Finally, as I rounded a corner and saw the hill continue to go upward, I nearly lost it. Nearing tears, I yelled at the top of my lungs, "GOD DAM**T!!!" I couldn't do it. Just done. I had nothing left. My legs were spent and I couldn't climb. I just couldn't. But...I had to.

I made a circle and David, who was initially behind me, rode past and said "are you okay?" "I will be" I said. As I made my circle I regrouped, took a deep breath, and kept climbing.

Miles 95->124 Occidental -> Monte Rio -> Guerneville -> Windsor
We regrouped at the bottom of Graton Rd. Turned right onto Bohemian Hwy and I decided I'd worked my @$ off for this descent and I was going to take it. Stupid wind slowed me down, but I stayed in my tuck and made it my mission to get down this hill as fast as I could. I rode to Monte Rio by myself so that I could collect my thoughts and be ready for the last 20 miles. I knew I was emotional because of the dehydration and the exhaustion from the heat (it had been in the low 90s all afternoon). I didn't want to just 'suffer' the last 20. I really wanted to enjoy them and continue to be happy to be doing what I was doing.

We regrouped in Monte Rio and rode a paceline that Pat pulled the whole way back to the hill on River Road. Nice job, Pat! I brought up the rear and ensured Lee was sticking with us. It was rather nice to finish on River Road that way, as a group. I was in a happy place again, and tried to think about all the emotions I'd been through and what I liked and disliked about the ride. I enjoyed being in our paceline, riding past all the tourists and drivers, proud of what we'd done together.

We had one last hill to tackle and that would be it. It was on River Road, and once we got over it, we'd be home free! Slusser Rd. would be coming up on the left and that was our home stretch. The hill was tough but I managed. We regrouped on the other side and turned left onto Slusser together.

The rest of the way back, we discussed the ride. We looked out across the valley and saw the Geysers - they looked so far away and so high! "We were up THERE THIS MORNING!!!" I said. It was quite a feat and I was so proud of us! David and I talked about how the prospect of even DRIVING 120 miles doesn't seem fun...but yet...to have ridden it...was fantastic.

The next day: final thoughts
Would I do it again? Absolutely. Would I go for 150? Heck yes!
HOWEVER: I don't want to plan another one for a weekend where there's a heat wave. I'm SO happy we did it and I have no regrets. But if we do our own long-@$$ ride without refueling stations, we can't do it on a day when your own water begins to taste nasty because it's HOT water in your water bottle. My other advice is to have real food packed as well. Clif bars and Clif shot blocks begin to really get old after about 80 miles. And they mess your stomach up after awhile, too.

THANK YOU PAT, DAVID AND LEE!!! I had a great time and it really is one of the best rides ever.

Onward!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Race Report: Santa Barbara Triathlon

For those who want the quick 'n dirty version, here you go. Scroll down for the full read:

Place: 13/33 in my AG

Swim: 30:50 (1:45/100 yd)
T1: 2:54
Bike: 2:00:15 (16.9 mph)
T2: 1:56
Run: 1:20:31 (8:03 min/mile)

Swim was good, run was good, what happened on the bike? Well, I thought the worst was over after last weekend when my handlebars started falling off (on the new sled!) during the Tour of Napa Valley. Nope, this time one of the screws that holds the back wheel in alignment and keeps it from rubbing against the cutout in the frame had come out and began to cause the wheel to rub against the frame. I actually muscled through most of the ride (slowed down nonetheless) until I had about a 10 minute delay trying to fix it when it was really bad. Made the best of this craziness by saying I would have the best run ever and was determined to run 8 min miles. So I did. :)

Thanks everybody, for the support and the inquiries today. :) I really appreciate all of the support!

Luly - THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for driving! Great job with your race and congrats on feeling so great during the whole thing.

I had so much fun in SB with Heather and Luly!!
*********************************************************
Full Report follows below...

13/33 was...well...much less than I expected.
Jim's theory was right...the bike...incredibly unSarah-like...glad my bike buddies me so well! Indeed, something went wrong but on the flip side...to manage 17 mph with your rear wheel rubbing against the cutout in your frame (Brian's words from last weekend still haunt me: "LOOK AT THE CLEARANCE ON THAT THING! IT'S SO CLOSE!") and not notice it really until the end...well I'm a lot stronger than I ever realized.

Pre-race - everything seems great. Excited. Water - cold. Very cold. Have to pee but I'll go when I swim.

Swim: Running start. Woo hoo! Put myself at the front and stay there. Damn I'm swimming fast! Still have to pee! Can't pee! Maybe if I stop moving my legs for a moment...nope. Oh well, keep swimming. Water not so cold once I actually got into it. Getting close to buoy to turn into beach. Passing LOTS of people. Sweet! Okay, but I have to pee. Go now. Finally...ahhh...warm! Hee hee he. Anyway....

T1: AWESOME! 30 MINUTES! Sure, could be a tad faster but in the open ocean - I'll take it. I think it's faster than last year for sure. Here we go - just me and my sweet ride! I CAN'T WAIT!!! Stupid wetsuit...can't...get...it..
.off...arrrgh! Finally...shoes on. Helmet. Spare tube. Sunglasses. Gloves not going on...fingers won't bend...okay.

Bike: Off we go. WHOOOOOOOOSH blowing past people. Me and my Cervelo everybody, now you see us, now you don't. Legs feeling a little heavy. Just spin it out, Sarah. Spin. Right leg muscle that connects to groin is kind of sore. Ugh. Keep moving! HR feels high. Deep breaths. Hitting some bumps in the road, and my bike makes a different noise than the old one did. Still, everything seems fine.

First little hill...spin up it. Still breathing hard and not feeling like I'm going as fast as I should be. Ugh. God, come ON LEGS, START TO WORK!!! Maybe winning that 12K run last weekend wasn't the best idea.Whatever.

Hill comes and goes, try to take it away on the flat. But...this doesn't feel flat. It LOOKS flat. Still feel like...kind of heavy. WHY DOESN'T THIS FEEL LIKE SILVERADO TRAIL DID LAST WEEKEND?

I'm stronger than this. WTF? Still, mostly passing people on the flats. But I feel like I should be passing more people.

Second hill. Bigger this time. I remember this one. Stand up. RRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!! Loud screech noise comes from my bike. WTF? Sit down, pedal, stand up...RRRRRRRR!! Sh**. Don't tell me it's the rear wheel. Hop off my bike. Some dude yells "You're okay, the hill's just steep!" I think to myself "Thanks for the help, but I'm not wondering if my tire is flat, buddy." Spin the back wheel. While it doesn't come to a stop, I can see that there is a very slight rub between the tire and the cutout in the frame. Well isn't this nice?

30 precious seconds have gone by and so have a number of riders. Make a decision. Spin it again. Not bad. It's not slowing the wheel down very much at all. I'm strong. I'll deal. Get back on and go.

I ride up the hill, down the hill, descend like the speedy descender I am, and pass the next 20 miles or so with no problems, except that I just can't help but know that I could be going faster if it weren't for that wheel creating some friction against the frame. *sigh* Oh well. I'm still determined to come in around 1:45. I've lost some time but I can still salvage this.

About 5 miles to go, last big hill. This one's the longest. It gets steep so I stand up. That loud screeching noise? This time it's loud and more like fingernails down a chalkboard: RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR! *shiver* Sit down. Spin it out. Still - RRRRRRRR! Even sitting down? GOD DAM***T!!! People around me shudder. I attempt to just muscle through it. RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

Ewww, I can't do this. Man. It's SO loud. People around me cringe just as much as I do. How can I climb this with the wheel doing this? Geez. Get off the bike again. Across the way I hear "you okay?" I look across the street and it's some dude with his hat backwards sitting at a driveway. If it's SAG support...this could be good.

Sure enough, dude is from Hazards, the local bike store that is helping out with SAG support in the race. "It sounds like your brakes" he says. "Don't I wish!" I exclaim. "It's the rear wheel rubbing against the frame."

He doesn't have his tools with him but we fiddle. Minutes pass. So do more riders.

I attempt to get on and go back up the hill twice (second time some @$$hole is yelling at me to get out of his way as my wheel continues to shriek loudly...as you may or may not know, I don't take that kind of garbage and I gave him a mouthful back). No luck.

Dude starts to take my wheel off and sees the culprit: one of the screws that holds the wheel so perfectly in place is missing! "I don't think we can fix this. You need that screw," he says. Three big letters appear in my head: D N F. "We can give you a ride back."

"No! Maybe if we pull the wheel out enough and tighten it really tight - that might work!" I say quickly, not letting the lump in my throat get any worse. No DNF! NO!

"Yeah but your frame is carbon and I don't want to crack your frame," Dude says.

"Let's just try." So we do. We pull it out almost to the point the wheel is coming out of the frame sockets and make it really, really tight. Spin the wheel. SWEET! It works!

I look at my watch. Oh, lordy. Another 10 minutes or so, all lost. But I'm SO happy to get back in it. I give Dude my biggest smile and tell him just how grateful I am. "Thanks so much, man. You SAVED MY RACE!" I hop on and off I go.

Between the rest my legs just got and not having anything in the wheel's way - I zoom away. Up, up up the hill, down and back into the flats. Going so fast I make a wrong turn! Ride about 50 yards and say "this isn't the way to go! I want to go the other way!" I laugh and turn around. Just isn't my day on the bike, is it?

As I re-focus on my finishing the bike, I smile. I mean, since when I could I actually laugh at something like this? But whatever! Yeah, had an awesome swim. Just didn't have my day today on this bike. Better here than Big Kahuna. Let's learn these lessons now.

Zooming back home, I wish there WERE another 20 miles. My legs feel fast and so does my bike; suddenly I remember what it felt like to ride last weekend in Napa. Dang! Time to focus on the run, though. Not sure about my nutrition on the bike. Could've been better but I think it's enough.

T2: Up you go, bike! Running shoes on! 1 Clif Shot Block down! Helmet down and grab the hat. I'm out of the gate!

Run: Let's turn lemons into lemonade. Dam**t, this is going to be my best run ever. 8 MINUTE MILES, SARAH! ALL THE WAY, GIRL!

My Goal: 8 minute miles and pick off as many people as possible. Use your strength. Use your breath. Go, go GO!

I start out quickly - 1st mile: 7:32. Nice, but doubt I'll hold that. Let's go more reasonable. 8 minutes. 2nd mile: 8:30. Too slow. 3rd mile has a hill, so if I can hold 8:30 on that, I'm good. Stop at each aid station and take some Gatorade.

I feel strong and well-hydrated. I can do this. I WILL DO THIS!

The rest is somewhat, err...uneventful. With each step I breeze by more people. Each stride is a powerful push, and I run with a proud posture. No slumps. By mile 8, I've passed about 6 or 7 women in my age group. Pace with a guy from L.A. Tri for the last two miles and we sprint down the chute together. High five! "Nice pace!" I say. "Thanks for pushing me," he says. Teamwork!

Sure enough, running pace: 8:03. I really did it! Fastest 10 mile run in a race!

Final thoughts: So, wasn't my day on the bike. Not my fault in any way. Later heard from a fellow Lombardi teammate whose wife has a P3 and her rear wheel locked up so bad one time it stopped the bike and she went flying. In the way that Chris and David felt lucky last weekend, so did I. It could've been far worse.

I'll get the bike straightened out. Good to know about this now. In the meantime, what a race I had! Awesome swim - 3 minutes better than last year! Awesome run - 3 minutes better than last year! I basically said "I'm doing this" and I did it. I really believe in the power of our minds and positive thought. If you say you can, you will. It's really that simple.

I got a 6 pack of beer for the guys at Hazards. If it weren't for them, there would've been a big ol' DNF next to my name instead of a 13/33.

In the end - I had an awesome time in a beautiful place, pushed myself as much as I could and learned more about myself. I still won.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Santa Barbara...12K Angel Island...Tour of Napa Valley...

They go by faster than I can write about them. I'm having so many incredible experiences this summer. Before I know it the Big Kahuna will be here - my final triathlon of the season. I have so much going on 'up there' and just not enough time right now to get it all out.

A lot of people focus on the results, but the more I do this, the more I cherish the entire experience. Forget the results. If I do well and I earn a ribbon here and there, well then yay for me. The bottom line is that whatever place I come in, if I can sincerely say that I was present in the experience, that I sincerely pushed my limits, that I learned something new for next time, and that I discovered more about my strengths and more importantly, my weaknesses, then I've won my race.

I'm not going to say much more other than making it clear that I didn't place at Santa Barbara and I'm totally fine with that. Sure, I was hoping to go reclaim a spot on that podium but it didn't happen due to reasons beyond my control. I sure turned lemons into lemonade, though...

...I promise to write more this evening. I'll get it all down here - REALLY!

Parting words for now: I love this sport and I'm only getting better at it. :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

News Update #1: I GOT A NEW BIKE.

I have so much to say I don't know where to begin, so I'll take it one news update at a time.

Let's review the facts: I was ready for a new bike after Vineman. As one can see from the pictures, it's not a horrible bike. Good carbon frame, great wheels. Just...too big for me and not a time trial setup. The combination of those two things made for what I now believe was a loss of energy/power transfer in a major way.

As I mentioned in my race report, I realized that with all the time, money and effort I put into triathlon, there's no reason I shouldn't have a bike that a) fits me right and b) is made to bring out my full potential. Cycling is, after all, my best event. I should have a great bike.

So, I talked with a few people, namely John M. He suggested the Cervélo P2 Carbon. It's nearly as good as the P3 Carbon but for less $$. I did a little research and decided it really looked like a fantastic bike. I e-mailed Robbie at Lombardi Sports. He had a P2C in a 54. That was good news. Taking a deep breath, I wrote the words "Let's do it." and clicked "Send."

Two weeks ago, I received an e-mail from Robbie saying the new sled was going to be ready for pick-up the following week. We arranged for Monday. I went into the store excited and giddy. I couldn't wait to see it.

Sitting on some chairs in the bike department, I heard Mike K.'s voice from around the corner. "Hey Sarah T." "HEY, MIKE K.! MY OLD FRIEND! LONG TIME NO SEE!" I cheerfully yelled back. I turned my head to greet him and there it was: a beautiful blue-and-white Cervélo P2 Carbon Time Trial bike, all set to go. Except this one had bows on it, like a present!

"Why the ribbons?" I inquired.

"Robbie, do you want to tell her?" Mike K. said.

Robbie responded: "Well Sarah, we had agreed on a set of components based on your budget; but John M. decided to take things a step further and rounded up some folks from Lombardi and from your bike group to chip in so that we could upgrade your components. It was really a way of saying 'Thank You' for everything you do for this team."

My jaw dropped. I was speechless. Humbled. I could feel that lump in my throat. I don't cry! My eyes began to get a little wet. Mike K. cracked a joke that suspended any more forthcoming tears. I smiled. I managed to eke out a "Wow." I smiled more. "I mean...wow. I just...REALLY? YOU GUYS DID THAT? HE DID THAT?" I was afraid I might choke up again but Mike K. was there again with another snappy joke.

He began taking pictures of me with my new bike. What an awesome surprise to an already great day!

Once the initial shock was over, we began to play with the positioning of the aerobars.

Finally, I had to get back to work but Mike was going to bring it over to M2 where he has his Human Performance Lab so that we could put it on a trainer and mess with the positioning more.

Later that week I indeed went over and got a better feel for the new toy...errr...bike. It was fantastic! We switched out the cassette in the back for a more hill-friendly setup and changed the tires. I was ready to bring it out to play on Sunday (8/19)- The Tour of Napa Valley!

News Update #3 (#2 is the Angel Island 12K Race Report from 8/18) will be the Tour of Napa Valley report where I talk about falling in love with cycling all over again. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Vineman Race Report (pictures posted!)

Pre-Race:
Nervous. Jittery. Thoughts of my taper haunt me. "I still can't get it right." I had just read the token Triathlete Magazine that was in the race packet and there was an article on that Tricky Taper I wrote about a few months ago. (Apparently a lot of people wonder about that Tricky Taper because when I started paying attention to how people found my site, many stumble upon it after Googling "Triathlon Taper.")

"Dammit, Sarah!" I felt all wrong. Felt like I'd rested too much. But at this point, what was I doing crying about it? It's like knowing you have a test the next morning and haven't studied enough. Pulling an all-nighter at this point isn't going to help. I've put my time, energy, emotion and effort in over the last several months and now it's time to GO GET IT!

I reviewed my mantras:
1) Courtesy of Cristi: "Imagine yourself on the fishing line of a Japanese fisherman, being pulled up over those hills painlessly and smoothly."
2) Courtesy of the late Klaus Barth: "You have no idea what the human body can do."
3) Courtesy of Matt: "You're going to have your best race ever."

I had my nutrition plan for the bike: Starting with a Clif Shot Block at 15 minutes in, then alternate every 15 minutes between a piece of a Clif Bar and Shot Block.

I had my swim plan in check. The only true question mark in my mind was the run. I just never know what's going to happen, and until I was set with orthotics, would rather be slightly undertrained than run too much and be out for the rest of the season with injury.

This was my first A Race this season and I felt really ready.

Swim:
The gun goes off. I am calm and there has never been a race in the last three years where I have ever been this serene. I fight my way in the beginning with a Zen I've never experienced. Simply breathing when I can, I make my way through the mob and before I know it, I am swimming quickly and am able to breathe every 3 strokes. I continue to make progress on realizing that I don't love open water swimming as much as I used to. I note this and move on. My focus is here and now and I want to push myself just enough to go quickly but not so much to lose any extra energy. We're at the turnaround. "19 MINUTES?!" Shit. I'm going much slower than I thought. Wow. Then I realize that it's longer on the way out AND I was fighting a current (tiny, but still a current nonetheless). Phew. Now it's on. I start pulling through the water quickly and begin to reach people from two waves before me. I can tell I'm in the front of my wave - obviously not the fastest, but still up there. The wine barrels approach and the voices begin to get louder. I think about what's next and what my plan is. Go!

T1:
I zoom past people and approach what is probably the most anxiety-laden part of this journey: getting my wetsuit off. It always feels like it takes YEARS. As usual, I'm feeling dizzy and trying to step on my suit to pull my leg out. Ugh! I inhale deeply. Calm! One thing at a time.

Wetsuit off, socks on. Shoes. Gloves ("should I put them on once I'm on the bike? No. Now."). Race belt. Sunglasses. Helmet. Throw my crap in the bag and run down the aisle to hand it off to Pat and Matt. Smile and run back for my bike. It's time to RIDE, FOLKS!

Bike:
I pedal quickly up the slope and turn to the right with a smile. Yes! This is going to be AWESOME!

The course is fresh in my mind from last weekend. I rip down River Road, and feel my riding legs getting warmed up. Before I know it, it's time to turn down to Westside Road and the ride is really going to begin. I breeze past that spot from last year and pay it some homage, briefly reminiscing when I had to pull over to fix my bike seat that had come loose and was falling off, thoroughly bummed that I could see cyclist after cyclist zoom past me; I smile and move on. This is a new year. This is now.

I'm passing people left and right when suddenly, somebody passes me. It's a female. She's got a "28" written on her calf. A challenge! My cadence picks up. I remain just outside of her draft zone behind her. Finally, as I decide I'd like to speed up, I pass her. I stay ahead for a little while, until we hit a couple of nice-sized rollers. She passes me. Again, I stay behind for a little while. Then I make my move and go up ahead. I stay here for awhile until we hit the big hill on Westside Road (by 'big' I simply mean "the biggest one" - not a bad hill by any means, but bigger than the rollers we'd been riding). While I'm a decent climber, I know she's stronger. As she passes by me, I smile at her genuinely, simply to acknowledge that we're about the same speed and hey, too bad we can't team up - we'd be a great pair. However, she looks straight ahead, neither acknowledging me or smiling. Oh well! I'm having an awesome time, and while I would love to be beating her, I must remind myself that this is MY race and for all I know, she could be an amazing runner, and then I'm screwed. I'm not racing the field, I'm racing myself in hopes that the standards I've set will put me above a fair amount of the competition.

I pass her on the downhill, as I know I can descend with full confidence and full speed. It's an easy descent with no surprise turns. Eventually she passes me again and I pay her little mind. I'm in my element now; focusing on my cadence, the power in my legs and just how incredibly happy I am to be here. I'm smiling and it's all I can do not to simply yell out "YES! I LOVE THIS SPORT! I LOVE THIS COUNTY! I LOVE THIS ROAD!" All around me are beautiful green vineyards and rolling hills; the fog has all but burned off and it's turning out to be a gorgeous day in Sonoma County. I feel so lucky to ride this all the time.

Much of the rest of the ride goes like this. I ride between 20-22 mph, maintaining a cadence of 90 or higher, and I savor the beauty that surrounds me. I never get tired of this scenery. Ever.

Suddenly, about 30 miles into my ride, I have a realization. I am being passed by very few people; they tend to be the men in their late 30s/early 40s on super nice tri bikes with sweet wheels. A couple of very talented women. But in all, I am passing a LOT of people. I'm working hard to be this fast. If I had a tri bike instead of a road bike, I have a very good feeling I would be going faster for the same amount of effort I'm putting out. I used to revel in the fact that I would always pass so many people on their tricked out tri bikes while I was on my good ol' Trek Carbon road bike. Now I'm thinking that perhaps it's time I finally own up to the fact that with all the time, energy and money I devote to preparing for race day, I may as well have equipment that will let me perform at my best. Note to self: Time to buy a tri bike.

The ride continues. I make it to the top of Chalk Hill and yell out a loud "YESSSSS!!!." I just kept repeating my mantras to myself. Imagined being pulled up, up, up the hill smoothly, my legs making perfectly smooth, fast circles. It worked! Some guy says "do you know how much farther?" Enthusiastically I answer "oh, only about 10 more miles!" I enjoy the descent, tucking in as much as I can and ripping down the hill.

Before I know it, I'm riding past the cemetery and about to turn right onto the road that will take me to Windsor High School, where my running shoes and hat await me. Just before I turn right, however, I spot a familiar jersey. I look at the leg. Sure enough, there she is - the woman I had encountered only 8 miles into our ride. I pass her, knowing full well that she will likely pass me on the run, but damn! It sure feels good for now!!! I savor my moment and continue on, hearing the cheers of T2 get louder. Runners begin to appear, starting their 13 mile journey. Here I am!

T2
I look at my watch. Damn! I DID IT! I DID THE COURSE IN UNDER 2:45!! That was my GOAL! I'm at 2:44 for the bike. This puts me at 3:21 overall. I begin to crunch numbers in my head as I run toward my spot to rack my bike. My goal is to do this run in 1:55. If I can really do that, I will not only come in under 5:30, not only come in under 5:25, but I COULD DO SUB-5:20!!! I am thrilled at this prospect. Rack the bike. I count about 10 other bikes in transition. Wow. That is SO AWESOME. :D Off I go...

Oh the thrill of just beginning the run!!

Run
This first 1/4 mile is always the toughest. Legs one in front of the other. Keep moving. Don't stop, whatever you do. As Devo says: "GO FORWARD! MOVE AHEAD! IT'S NOT TOO LATE!" I see Pat yelling words of encouragement. I smile and take it in. Mike D. is there with his camera, and as I approach, he pulls out a bag of ice cubes and hands it to me. Thanks, Mike. I begin popping ice. Mmmm.

I follow my rule of walking through each aid station to get Gatorade and pour water over my head. The temperature has risen. It's 11:15 a.m. and already in the mid 80s (F). The wonderful thing is that my nutrition on the bike worked. I don't feel dehydrated; I feel strong; I don't feel bloated or full. Success!

Around mile 4 I realize I can just take in water at the next few aid stations. My stomach tells me it's had enough electrolytes for now and if I keep drinking this stuff, I'll get full.

I also notice at this time that my back is beginning to stiffen up. It's angry with me that I haven't ridden more lately in my clip-on aerobars. Instead of simply hoping it won't cramp up, I draw in some slow, deep breaths and focus on being as strong as I can be. I allow each breath to carve some space in between every single vertebrae. I use the oxygen to soothe my muscles and allow them to relax. I exhale slowly, drawing out every bit of carbon dioxide I can. It works. I continue to run.

Suddenly, I'm reaching the last aid station before LaCrema Winery (the turnaround point that is mile 6). I know I must still be with it because I instantly recognize one of the volunteers from freshman year of college. I search my brain for her name and it comes to me. As I take some water, I say "Melissa. (she looks at me.) It's Sarah Trejo." I smile and wave as I float past and while it takes a second to register with her, she yells out to me "Oh my gosh! Wow! Good job!"

Reaching La Crema is a happy sight. The misters are on in full force and I happily trot through them, skipping the aid station and knowing I'll catch it on the way back. As I make my way around the ponds, I think about many things. I think about how strong I am. I think about how DAMN GOOD I feel. I'm still pacing below a 9 min/mile; slower than when I started, but still on track to do 1:55 or so. I smile and yell "YES!" This isn't just for me. This is for Klaus Barth, whom I wish I could've contacted before he lost his battle with a GBM so that I could have brought him further into the community of people I work with. I send a thought his way and silently thank him for continuing to be such an inspiration to me, and push on. "You have no idea what the human body can do."

Damn straight! I am going to go KICK SOME BUTT! Just as I'm ready to rev my engine, I realize that I still have 6.5 more miles to run and that picking up my pace by a large degree might not be the smartest move. What's smart is using my enthusiasm to keep on keepin' on and remain steady and strong.

About two miles later, I am feeling more fatigued. The temperature is now in the low 90s. I've been running for about 1:15. My legs aren't so springy; in fact, they're feeling quite heavy. Damn!

Pat has been out riding the course and between his encouragement and occasionally seeing friends and teammates running the course, I manage to keep my spirits high. I smile as I see them and tell them all I'm feeling great. Around mile 10, however, Pat can see that I'm beginning to fade. I'm pulling 9 min miles now.

THREE MILES! THAT'S IT! It's 12 laps on a track. THAT'S IT. TWELVE.

My back is threatening to cramp again. Back to my yoga breathing. I'm wishing I would've done more plyometrics. Wishing I would've run more. Wishing this would be over.

I'm so strong. You can do this. 2 more miles. TWO.

I try to pick up my pace with only two miles left, but I just can't. Pat has helped me out but now I know it's all on me to finish this. I've given up on finishing under 5:20. However, looking at my watch, I make it my personal vow to come in under 5:25. I CAN DO THIS. Yes.
I wasn't feeling quite so springy at this point...

One more mile to go. I'm coming down the line of houses and about to turn left onto Windsor Road, where the high school is. The voices are getting louder. My calves are threatening to cramp. NO! Back is stiff. Deep breaths. This is it, Sarah. Give it everything. Run until you can't.

People begin to clap and yell "you're almost there!" I know I am, but it still feels like ages away. The finish line seemed closer when I was back at mile 6. Everything hurts, but it's not going to stop me from making this time.

I see Matt on his bike as I turn into the front high school parking lot and head toward the rear. He's yelling at me "good job! Keep going!" I hope he's not telling me to go faster. Is that what he's saying? He keeps yelling at me but god, I just need to focus. I can't listen to anybody right now but my body and I need to just focus on what I'm doing right here. I don't want to use any energy to speak and tell him to please be quiet, so I simply look his way and raise my finger to my lips in a "shhhhhh" fashion, and smile. I hope he knows I'm not mad, just need to focus.

There's the chute. OH GOD, IT'S SO FAR AWAY. There's the green pole. There it is. I can sprint that far. Yes, I can.

No...there's a green pole...and then a purple...and another green...shit. The finish line is so far back. My legs are screaming at me. My body is tired. I'm spent. Only a few more steps.

I look at my watch. 5:24 and counting. I can do this. I AM DOING IT!

I sprint through the finish line and it's all I can do not to collapse. My legs don't want to work anymore. They've had it. I search aimlessly for people I know. I don't find anybody. I begin walking toward a tent with shade so I can lie down, and then I see Jim, his wife Christina and kids. Oh what a welcome sight to see them! They even picked me up a sandwich and Coke. I immediately grab the Coke and lie down on the ground. I don't want to move. I just want to lie.

About 20 minutes later, when we were going to head over to Pat's for the BBQ, Matt tried to help me up and my legs gave out! They were toast!

All that aside, it was an amazing race. I reached my goals. I followed my mantras. I used my breath. I used my strength. I've never felt so strong in any race up to this point and I can say with 110% that even in the toughest moments, I truly enjoyed myself and I'm so proud of what I accomplished.

I really had a wonderful time. I love this sport.

Swim: 35:14 (though I think they got this slightly off; I think the swim was 34:40 something and the T1 was just over 3, but whatever)
T1: 2:37
Bike: 2:44:35
T2: 2:36
Run: 1:59:36

overall: 5:24:39 | 19th in 25-29 AG | 80th overall in women

In retrospect, I need to believe more in my taper. I think I did it better than I have before, though I know I can use some improvement. I will experiment a little more in the next few weeks and see what happens with my last two races. I'm going to try keeping the number of hours the same (as I have in taper - less hours than a build phase of training) but directing some of those toward some higher-intensity sessions as opposed to more aerobic sessions.

Eventually, I will get it. Santa Barbara and Big Kahuna, here I come!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Recovery/The Ride this weekend

Yes, I'm working on the race report from Vineman!! Should be finished today or tomorrow!

In the meantime...a little recap of how "well" I recovered in time for this past weekend's ride:

Woke up just a tad late, but had things packed to go so I was okay on that. Somehow, though, I just didn't wake up with the pep I usually do (and in general, I don't really wake up late). Spinning class was tough on Friday and I realized that I either need to vote for our rides to be on Sunday or find another evening to teach.

Backtracking -
My recovery last week seemed to go alright; on Monday I couldn't sit down without using every muscle in my arms to lower myself, because my legs still could not function. Monday evening I took Anna's advice and just lied on the floor with my legs up against my bed, meditating and I actually fell asleep!!! I was probably asleep for about 30 minutes before I woke up with my legs still up in the air. :) It must've done some good though, because Tuesday I was remarkably improved. Still a bit touchy in the quads, but overall much better. By Wed morning spin class, I had my pep back. I think that's when I sent the e-mail out about the group ride - clearly, I was feeling ready to get back into things. Took Thursday off again, and Friday evening I taught spinning and then went to the Giants game.

Back to Saturday. Showed up, voted we head east instead of west (where the fog would grow even thicker) and was ready to roll. Funny thing happened - we got harassed by a CHP officer IN WINDSOR because we were riding two abreast instead of in a single line. At 6:40 a.m., you would think it would be no big deal, but he honked at us and then turned around up ahead as if he was going to pull us over. Shouldn't he be patrolling the HIGHWAY or in a donut shop?

Anyway, on we went down Shiloh Road and made our way over to Chalk Hill. Chalk Hill felt fine, but afterward I began to wonder how pleasant this ride was going to be for me. My legs began to feel a little sticky/heavy. Because I had voted for a fast ride initially, I didn't want anybody else to slow down on account of my slow-@$$.

As we rode along 128 toward Calistoga, I looked down at my computer. 14mph? Are you kidding me? "WTF IS WRONG WITH ME?" I mused. Seriously, I knew my legs felt heavy, but I didn't think it was THIS bad.

What I did not realize however, is that 128 has a very deceptive slight (SLIGHT) grade. It LOOKS flat. However, as we sped back upon the return at 22 mph, I felt validated. Even so, I knew I was riding slowly and it just wasn't my day, period. Climbing up the hill to descend into Calistoga felt okay, and I just focused on watching John Murphy spin in front of me so that I had something to follow. "Try to spin his cadence" I told myself. While I couldn't get my legs going quite that fast, it helped to have something to shoot for.

Stopped in Calistoga and turned around, not before having a dude in his truck with a road bike in the back stop us. Pat said "Can we help you?" Dude says "well...I'm looking for a place to ride and you guys look like you might know where to go." We gave him some ideas (I love being an expert on such a beautiful place!) and took off back in the direction we came from.

A photo from the Calistoga area...looks like winter time but still beautiful!

Again, I just didn't have my legs responding well. I decided to just make it back to the best of my ability. El Falco was of course, right there with a lecture on how I probably hadn't rested properly and that was why I was feeling so dead. Thanks.

We took turns pulling and managed some decent speeds, nothing of course compared to what the other four were doing, but I was just happy to be noticing that my slow speed on the way out was due in part to having a slight grade in the road.

Approaching the turn onto Chalk Hill Rd, we saw the other guys pulled over. It looked like Pat and John were inspecting their bikes. David immediately said "I think we need to have a replay for Sarah and Matt." Huh? We learned that John and Pat had crashed into each other in a very silly way. Thankfully neither seemed to be hurt TOO bad, though Pat had landed on his tailbone and John had gotten a little bit of road rash on his arm. Ouch! Additionally, Pat's new wheel was out of true, but not so bad it was hitting the brake caliper.

Onward on 128 - we decided to head back through Healdsburg where it was flatter and we could go faster. Or shall I say, THEY could go faster. Actually, we stayed together pretty much after that. Had some nice pacelines were we held 21-22 mph. I always think it's funny how, when you're 3rd or 4th in the paceline you think "oh cool, this is EASY! Awesome!"

Then...you move into 2nd. Now, that can still sometimes go okay, but I was behind The Sleeper. Sure enough, he began to slowly edge away from me. Having a paceline edge away, no matter what position you're in, is something to the effect of losing your grip on a rope you're holding onto for dear life. You see it slipping and desperately begin to pedal harder to get back on the wheel in front of you. "NO!" I yelled. Still inching away...my speed going down to 20..."OH NO!!!" I yelled again. "Pedal harder, Sarah. Faster."

Thankfully, The Sleeper is a nice guy and looked back, only to see my desperate attempts to reconnect the line. He slowed down so I could jump back on. *Phew* My legs were really not in the mood for this.

Lucky for me, John Muphy ended up taking the lead and I never had to pull. I would've really been toast! Being 2nd was hard work as it was! I am so amazed at the difference between 2nd and 3rd position in the pace line...

The rest of the ride was pretty chill. El Falco was starting to peter out and I decided I'd had my good tempo pushes, and I was content to just spin lightly with him back to coffee. MMMMM, coffee. I could just smell it those last 5 miles...coffee...so good...

Pat ended up staying with us too as his tailbone wasn't feeling so nice. The three of us took a slightly alternate route to beat the other 3 guys back. :)

We got back to Cafe Noto for coffee (SO GOOD) and breakfast burritos. I'm in agreement with Pat & Jim - truly some great laughs afterward and hopefully some new Lombardi Tri Team recruits!

AND...an upcoming new nickname for Mr. Murphy. David was christened with his new nickname "The Sleeper," in honor of his funny quips that come out when least expected and his swiftness that also emerges when least expected. Congrats, David. :)

All in all: 3:10 ride time, 55 miles. 1:15 coffee and breakfast burrito time, LOTS of laughs.

My foreshadowing about recovery was not for naught: I mentioned it because not only was I absolutely exhausted Saturday night, but a couple hours after waking up Sunday morning, I took a two-hour nap from 10-12. Then, later on that afternoon, I took another two hour nap from 5-7. Finally, falling asleep by 10:30 last night, I didn't wake up until 7:30 this morning.

WOW. Guess I wasn't as recovered as I thought. Hopefully this week will be better...