Friday, June 26, 2009

Race Report: 2009 US Women's Tri Series

Event: Sprint Triathlon
Swim: 750 meters
Bike: 14.1 miles
Run: 3.1 mile (5K)
Date: 6/14/09
Location: Naperville, IL

Pre Race
I cried as I pulled out of the driveway. First time I've ever left Baby Bear to do something for myself. I know it's good and healthy and the way things ought to be and I didn't think it would bother me. I had no idea it would make me cry. But I soon got over it and went on my merry way.

Pulling into my hotel after hitting a nicely empty packet pick-up 20 minutes before it closed, I noticed the sign said "Welcome DucKon." Which my husband had recently been talking about because we had friends in attendance - I just had no idea it was in the same hotel. A quick phone call and a couple of texts later, I had dinner plans with some non-tri friends. Awesome.

The coolest part was that my hilarious friend Marianne dragged me around to her friends at the con, introducing me as "my friend Michelle who's doing the triathlon." Like it was my last name. And they all seemed So. Impressed. She made me feel like a rock star. I guess it takes a convention of (in my friend's words) "overweight sci-fi geeks" for me to come off as athletic. But I don't care - I heart my sci-fi geeks. I AM a sci-fi geek - just not convention-attending caliber. It was a wonderfully bizarre feeling to be surrounded by my peeps from two completely different worlds - one in which my athletic aspirations are almost comical, and one in which I seemed to be some sort of athletic goddess.

Didn't even flinch when I scheduled the wake-up call for 4:20 am. Thanks to Baby Bear, dark o'clock no longer holds any fear. Was ready to fall asleep by 8:30, but there was a Singing Tesla Coils show starting at 9 in the hotel parking lot. And who wants to be the chick who blew off the Singing Tesla Coils? So I went down long enough to get the gist before I turned in.

Singing Tesla Coils. Totally worth staying up an extra hour.

Race Morning
My stomach was unhappy from the moment I woke up and I couldn't choke down one bite of my ritual bagel. I forced myself to nibble Shot Blocks and sip Recharge all morning. Eventually I managed to get down half a Clif Bar. I was very worried about having enough gas in the tank to get through two hours of racing, but was more worried about throwing up so I didn't force it. In retrospect I'd been a bit off all week, so maybe it was just a virusy thing.

Arranged to meet my friend Aimee in transition because we were in the same wave again. This is where we met in 2005, and we've kept in touch ever since. She's as sweet and wonderful and - in spite of being out of the sport for 4 years due to major health problems - as ridiculously fit as ever.

We meet again in Wave 17

Also managed to see tri blogger MommyMeepa as she went zooming past to set up her transition. As luck would have it, we were also in the same wave this year. Turns out when you get older and the age groups get smaller, there's a much better chance of being in a wave with your friends. Another great reason to stay in the game.

Between the nervous peeing and the upset tummy, I got an outdoor potty reminder why I haven't worn the one piece tri suit in four years. But it does stay put under the wetsuit, so the jury is still out on whether or not I'll race in it again.

There's a large percentage of first-timers at this event, and while chatting in line for the loo more than one asked me for advice. I told them the one thing I wish someone had told me before my first race - be sure to smile for the photographers. This got a lot of laughs, so hopefully I managed to ease up some first race jitters for a few sweet women.

Thanks to a couple of practice runs and a handy-dandy grocery bag, the wetsuit went on without incident.

Aimee rocked her racing bikini in spite of the frigid water.

Found Meeps at the last minute before our wave was called down to the water and she grabbed a camera from her family on the sideline to catch this shot...

Me and Meeps - between us we've lost a hundred pounds so far. Go us!

Quite possibly the most unflattering picture of someone in a wetsuit ever taken. At least I've got something to post on the fridge to stave off those mid-summer ice cream cravings.

This is also the point at which I realized I'd put my goggles over my cap instead of under, but it was too late to do anything about it. Thankfully it was fine.

Race morning they announced the water had warmed up slightly from the dire mid 60s predictions the race directed had emailed the week before. But my gym pool is kept in the mid 80s for arthritic retirees, so as far as I'm concerned 71 degree water is borderline brutal. I stuck with the wetsuit plan, and was very glad I did.

I loved the extra buoyancy, and in the future I'm sure I'll love how it improves my position in the water. But I was so busy not being able to breathe I was almost irritated at how well my legs stayed up. Pre-race wetsuit swim practice plans A, B and C had gotten nixed, so this was my first time. Not that I was all that worried about it, but it would have been nice to know that it's hard to breathe with the tourniquet running bra under the wetsuit. Combine that with water cold enough to take my breath away every time I tried to put my face in it, and I wasn't having the best time of my life.

But. I stayed calm and kept moving and never freaked out or flipped on my back. My time wasn't good, but still a PR by a few seconds. Chatted with Meeps a bit until I had to give up talking to focus on breathing, because I knew I wouldn't be able to put my face in and swim right until I got my breath under control. I wasn't one bit scared - I mean, look at this gorgeous swim venu -but it was still very comforting to know a friend was close by.

Centennial Beach, Naperville, IL

I got a big reminder of how friendly this race is as I got close enough to the finish to stand up in the water and remembered to start undoing my wetsuit. The women to my left saw me feeling around for the zipper pull, stopped her race and offered to help unzip me! I have no idea how I'm going to handle the transition to co-ed racing, because women's events really rock.

No, wait... THIS is the most unflattering wetsuit picture ever taken.


I took it easy and walked T1 because my foot always seizes up when I'm barefoot, especially after taking weight off of it for a while. I left the arch brace in transition because I didn't want it to get sandy and be useless the rest of the day. I was a little concerned about my first wetsuit exit, but it was uneventful.

This was my first event since I started riding my bike with A) any idea how to use gears the way they were meant to be, and B) a cadence goal. Since I started training to a cadence I've been enjoying rides more in general, but this was great! My legs never got that awful dead, burny feeling. I passed people. Me! Passing people! I more or less kept my cadence in the 80s. And except for a few little uphill grades and a healthy headwind to boot, I stayed almost entirely in the big ring. That was a major accomplishment for me and I was all kinds of happy about it. And then there was the gorgeous day and the friendly people. I'd have had to try awfully hard to have a bad time on that bike ride.


Partway through the second loop I looked at my time and thought I might PR this leg by a good 10 minutes, but the headwind on the return portion had other plans. I still had fun, felt great and managed my effort well, so I can't complain about a 4:30 PR.

My bad foot really doesn't like walking in bike shoes on a good day, plus it was seizing up after being non-weight-bearing for nearly an hour. So I got over the side of the bike chute as soon as I could and pulled off the shoes. Other than the limping, T2 went the way T2 should go. Even remembered to send husband the text I'd promised to let him know I was starting the run.

Got the best surprise ever about 50 yards after the run start - Wonderful Husband was waiting with Baby Bear! So I got hugs and kisses before getting to work finishing the last leg.

They changed the beginning of the run route this year, apparently because the rich people didn't like their street being closed off on race day. But they re-routed through a lovely shady park, so except for the part where a good bit of the first half mile is a gradual uphill, I love the new route.

The fabulous new portion of the run course

Wasn't able to maintain a jog for very long, but got back to it whenever it felt good. And it felt good a lot more than I expected. Got a good dose of 'you're almost there' syndrome from a well-intentioned but moronic spectator who lived near the beginning of the route. As we came out of the park and rejoined the course on the street, she was on the corner shouting 'The first mile's done! Only two more to go!" to all the racers. Since this was a new route for the course, I totally believed her. I was looking at my watch and thinking "Wow! I totally rocked that first mile!" That really should've been my first clue - since when do I pull off a 10 minute mile?! Clearly the morning's calorie deficiency impacted my sanity.

Of course, the Mile 1 marker was nearly half a mile down the street. But that's a minor thing - I should know better by now than to listen to the 'you're almost there' crowd anyway. Lesson re-learned.

Chatted with some nice women, cheered for the ones who passed me, jogged as much as I could. The weather was so nice I got brave and for the first time did not carry my own fluids on the run. I sipped water at the mile 1 and 1.5 aid stations and was feeling good. But the day was getting warmer and I started craving the mile 2 aid station sooner than I'd have liked. I'm glad I learned I can pull it off on a mild day, but will plan to go back to carrying a run bottle until I'm considerably faster between water stops.

Less than half a mile from the finish I started to get really weepy. This was the first time I was going to cross a finish line with my son waiting at the other end. I love that he will never know a time in his life that triathlon wasn't a part of mine. I love that he only gets to know the happy, healthy me.

Feeling great and happy to be alive!

Wonderful Husband, Baby Bear and our (former triathlete) friend Ki were waiting for me just before the chute. They were pushing me away and yelling at me to go finish, but I didn't care about my time and gave them all a big sweaty hug and kiss before moving on. I'm used to doing these alone and it means the world to me when my friends and family make it.

Triathlon number 5 is on the books!

Post Race
We were on the way back to the finish line when I thought to get a family picture. This was right before he lost it completely and we had to make the call to head home.

I'd assumed I would wait to see Meepa's big finish, but Bear was at his limit. A 90 minute drive and sitting around in crowds for hours is a lot to ask of an 18 month old. I felt really bad for not being able to stay for her, but she's got kids and knows what it's like when their needs have to come first. We managed to catch up on the phone while I was driving home.

Obligatory Epiphany
I went into this race knowing it was all about fun. I wasn't nervous or afraid. In fact, until I started to great really excited two days before, I was starting to wonder if I was going to feel anything at all, and that bothered me a great deal. I was going into it on 0 - 3 workouts a week... and there were a lot more zeros than threes in the last year. So, I knew I had nothing like a big PR to look forward to. But I was worried it meant I was losing my love for the sport.

I couldn't put my finger on it until I read one of Pharmie's recent race reports and she nailed it. So I'm going to blatantly plagiarize her (except for the part where she did a HIM) - I realized I'm no longer afraid of the distance.

I'm happy that means I've achieved a baseline fitness level that allows me to knock out a sprint just for kicks. But I also get that it means that I'm not pushing myself hard enough, and it's time to find the fear again.

It's time for me to get my act together, work out my foot problem and pick an Oly. The lack of a wetsuit used to be an issue, but I no longer have that excuse. I had originally decided not to pursue an Oly until I could break 2 hours on a sprint, but I'm obviously not pushing myself hard enough for sprints any more and need to rethink that milestone.

I'm realistic about the chronic plantar fasciitis, so I get the Oly will probably have to be next year. But even saying "next year" sends a shiver up my spine, so it's a good place to start...

Results Swim (750m): 21:43 (30 second course PR)
T1: 8:03
Bike (14.1 mile): 55:42 (4:30 min course PR)
T2: 5:17
Run (5K): 51:00 (5:42 min course PR)

Total: 2:21:43 (22:28 min course PR)

Age group: 350/356
Overall: 1643/1705

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Secret Formula

After a year of chronic pain that just kept getting worse, I think I've found the secret formula to resolve my plantar fasciitis.




The velcro arch support wasn't supportive enough, and was too bulky to wear with shoes. The stretchy bandage version is fabulous. The pain relief from the moment I put it on is almost too good to be true. But it's just a pain mitigation measure - it doesn't seem to address the source of the problem.

So I finally caved to conventional plantar fasciitis treatment wisdom and dropped $110 on a pair of Birkenstocks. Birkestock Florida in a high arch, to be specific.

Oh. My. GAWD. My foot felt so much better just trying them on I wore them out of the store.

In just 3 weeks of owning them - and wearing them almost exclusively, just about every minute of the day - my PF pain has diminished dramatically.

So dramatically, in fact, that yesterday I was able to wear a cute pair of strappy sandals for a few hours at a business thing with no pain. The foot was somewhat sore later in the day, but nothing like it has been.

I did see my doctor, and he told me to stick with wearing only super arch-supportive shoes (i.e. my Birks and running shoes with inserts) for the forseeable future. He actually recommended I give up all my other shoes permanently, but, well, we know THAT'S not going to happen. But I am officially a Birkenstock convert and have decided to give up all my flip-flops. (Except for the ones I wear in the locker room. A girl's gotta have standards.)

So.... I guess.... yay for clunky sandals that make my legs look fat?!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Race Report - Cliff Notes Version

Had a blast. Finished feeling great. Wetsuit worthy every penny. Foot unhappy. Got too much sun. Life is good.

Swim (750m): 21:43 (30 second course PR)
T1: 8:03 (what can I say - limping on bad foot & first wetsuit exit)
Bike (14.1 mile): 55:42 (4:30 min course PR)
T2: 5:17 (still limping!)
Run (5K): 51:00 (5:42 min course PR)

Total: 2:21:43 (22:28 min course PR)

Real report to follow once I get all the pictures.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Eat Your Heart Out Shamu

I'm not sayin' it's pretty, but the wetsuit fiiiiitttsss!!!!

I was pleased that the hips went on a bit easier than I'd feared. Not that I could squeeze one extra pound into it, but it went over the hips without too much drama, so that was all good.

I do have to say, without my trusty tourniquet Enelle smashing the girls back a good few inches, I'm not sure it would have zipped all the way up. But it did. And I always always always wear an Enelle for races, so that's all good.

Next step - finding someone who's not at the Cubs game to watch Bear while I take it for a test swim.

Pix to follow...

(and for any of my curvy girls who might be looking at wetsuits as well... I'm 5'2" and currently weigh 218. I wear size 18/20 pants, 14/16 top and 40G bra. The wetsuit is a Blue Seventy Reaction, size Women's Large Athena.)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Great Customer Service

Was super disappointed today to get a notification my wetsuit order was canceled. Called customer service to find out why and was told they found a defect in the suit (a large rip) when they were packing it up. (Bonus points for them catching it and not screwing me over by sending it anyway.)

It was the last one in stock, hence the not just sending another.

The customer service rep at Wetsuit Wearhouse was polite, professional and extremely helpful. He apologized profusely for them missing the step where they're supposed to call me about the order problem. Then he spent 15 minutes on the phone with me trying to solve the problem.

He wanted to help me get a comparable suit, but he let me know I probably wouldn't be happy with another brand because most base their designs on a male figure. Blue Seventy is apparently the only company out there cutting suits for girls with hips and chests.

The managed to be polite and sympathetic while acknowledging the fact that my wetsuit options are limited. This impressed me because I've heard some horror stories about women in my position being openly insulted by wetsuit salesmen.

He said I was on the right track looking at sleeveless if I have broad shoulders and a big chest, but the problem was there was nothing comparable to the suit that was out of stock for me to get instead.

So he knocked a big honkin' chunk off the price of the full sleeve suit to bring it closer to what I'd planned to pay for the sleeveless, and overnighted it to me.

I feel more like an athlete just looking at this picture.

I can't remember the last time I got anything close to this kind of customer service. They've pretty much won me over as a customer forever.

I should have it in my hands by 3:00 tomorrow afternoon - plenty of time to do a proper try-on and, if it's a good fit, to sneak in a quick open water test over at my buddy's lake.

Life is good. Now here's hoping this gentleman's efforts were not in vain and the darn thing fits!!

Routine Reverence

And now we pause for a moment to salute The Ceremonial Printing of the Race Checklist.

Dot xls, of course.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Turbo Boost

Yesterday I realized my faaahbulously painted toes (OPI's My Big Break) were an exact perfect match for my berry purple Speedo.

CLEARLY. That is why I felt so good in the water and dropped my pace by 15 sec/100 yds.

Now I just have to figure out what nail color will turbo boost my royal blue tri suit for this weekend. Because that will totally make up for my complete lack of training, right!?

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

How Dumb Would This Be?

We were just notified by the race officials that the water temp this weekend is predicted to be in the 60s and wetsuits are recommended. On account of they don't want us dying from hypothermia and stuff.

Here's the thing... this is a beginner-friendly sprint race in a glorified swimming pool (tiny quarry "lake"). The water is traditionally close to 80. Few of the 2400+ participants have wetsuits and I'm betting none of the 1000+ first timers have them.

And y'all know I sure as hell don't have one.

So how stupid would it be to order one today to wear this weekend?

I realized I'd be breaking several rules...
- buying a suit without trying it on
- wearing a suit first time in a race
- spending money I (technically can but) shouldn't

But that hypothermia is such a bitch!

Here's what the voices in my head are saying about the rule breaking:
- If it doesn't fit I can always return it (or worst case, resell on ebay or craigslist)
- I have read the forums and begged for advice from other curvy girls to learn there are a bare handful of options I can even think about ordering, so it's not like I'm shooting in the dark.
- Most places I've talked to don't have the size I'd need to try on anyway, so I'd probably be stuck ordering online regardless.
- This race doesn't matter. With my foot problems, I shouldn't even be doing it. It's like an extra long workout with a few thousand of my closest girlfriends. So who cares if wearing a wetsuit for the first time messes with my swim a bit?
- I just landed a project last night that will cover the cost.

So, seriously. How dumb would I be?

(In other news... snuck in a swim first thing this morning and averaged 3:11/100 yd pace. I know it's slow overall, but that's a 14 second/100 yd improvement over my last workout!)

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Number One Sign It's Been Too Long

I was being all proactive and stuff today and since I haven't actually worn my tri suit in 4 years, I decided to try it on just to make sure it was still in good shape for next week's race.

What I learned was that I weigh 16 lbs less now and it fits better than ever.


Even backwards.

Friday, June 05, 2009


I finally found a use for that ridiculous insulated bag the hospital passes out as a "gift for nursing mothers" from The Makers of Enfamil...

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

It Really Can Happen To Anyone

PT Chris called today to let me know about (her family friend) Dave Scott's car vs. bike incident.

Holy cow. If the Ironest Ironman of all is vulnerable, what chance does clutzy old can-barely-clip-in-without-falling-over me stand against traffic?

As if I wasn't paranoid enough about riding my bike off the path!

(Warm healing thoughts going out to World Champ Dave Scott and his various broken bones...)

Evil Cross Training

I was supposed to go for a bike ride Sunday. It was GOR. GEOUS.

But it was also the best chance I'd had with all the rain lately to tackle the monstrosity that is my landscaping bed. The grass has encroached 18" in some places, and there are weeds taller than my lilacs. I basically let it go last year - The Year of the Clinging Screaming Baby With All The Screaming - and it's become an embarrassment in a neighborhood of folks so anal about their lawns one neighbor even just had his yard re-sodded to eliminate the dandelions.

I pretty much hate gardening and take a 'however long it takes me to fill one lawn bag with weeds' approach to things (which given the state of things is about 6 minutes).

But I discovered the bottom few inches of mulch (which I'm pretty good at keeping fresh) has - as it should - decomposed into lovely earth full of fat, sassy worms. Which the encroaching grass is having a party with.

So my 10 minutes of weeding before my bike ride turned into 90 minutes of tearing out massive blocks of what's basically sod. Except with weeds and crabgrass. For every handful of grass I tried to pull out, the mulch came up - with varying degrees of resistance - in a 3 inch thick mat, courtesy of the weed blanket.

I pulled grass and weeds in massive mats until my quads were trembling and I got dizzy. Then I spent some time working on installing the retaining wall base because I could sit. (I got in all of 4 bricks out of what will probably be 90, but it's a start.)

I thought I'd put a wall in a few years from now, when money was less of an issue and I could do cosmetic things. Now I need it to be my Maginot Line against the encroaching grass so in future summers I can actually go on my bike rides.

It's worth noting for illustrative purposes that all this effort barely made a dent in the appearance of my poor neglected planting bed.

My legs were so blown at that point I had trouble walking into the house. I thought I'd rest a bit then hit the bike, but I never really recovered and spent the rest of the day assuaging my guilt and OCD by trying to finish small inside projects.

Two days later my hamstrings are still singing the blues - which I find odd considering it was my quads that gave out on me Sunday. I'm irritated at myself for missing the bike ride so soon before the race I haven't trained for. But I'm also oddly proud, because it doesn't just mean I worked hella hard, it means my concerted efforts to remind myself to lift/pull with my legs worked, and that dorky diligence saved my back from untold misery.