Sunday, September 29, 2013

Coeur d' Fundo 2014

A little over a month ago, I remember cruising over Lake CDA in a similar ferry so I could swim back across the lake in the CDA Crossing 2.4 mile swim. That day presented us with beautiful clear, sunny skies, but water that roughened us up a bit. Yesterday, the lake looked unmistakably angry: whitecaps as far as the eye could see. Yet I had no intention of swimming across the lake. Instead, I found out the minute I stepped off the ferry in Harrison that I'd be swimming around the lake--on my bike. Bryan and I had originally intended to ride the Gran fondo of 108 miles, contending for a medal that signified we'd completed more than a ride, but a race against the clock. However, the fact that we'd just come off a long triathlon season, Bryan had just returned from a business trip to Boston with a cold, and the weather was striving to chase everyone back home, we opted to ride the Centro route instead. We figured 47 miles would provide us with enough of a workout to make our time worthwhile.

Off the ferry, we started out on the Trail of the Coeur d' Alenes for Plummer and then turned north toward CDA. Riding the highway back felt fantastic. If the falling rain hadn't already soaked us to the skin, then commuters did a heck of a job splashing us with standing water from the roadway. It felt comical, really. To think I paid 90 bucks to drive all the way to CDA and ride in such conditions for shits and giggles: I must be stupid.

We rode back into CDA, embellished with road grime, snot, and spit all over our faces and clothes. The finisher announcer seemed more excited about our entrance than we did. Bryan and I rode side-by-side down the finisher's chute, and the announcer--despite his attempt to encourage us to make a competition out of our finish--could not convince us to sprint any more. We'd already ridden our butts off to make a longish ride "short."

Soaked to the skin, we headed into the Plaza shops to eat our post-race brat, potatoes, and pastry. We began to shiver and waited...and waited...and waited for our dry clothes we'd dropped off in Harrison to arrive. After about an hour, we shuffled to the truck and took advantage of Bryan's heater to warm up. Another hour had passed with us sitting in the truck, finally recovered in warmth. Bryan stepped out into the drizzle and wind to retrieve our bikes. Figuring our clothes had likely arrived by 2 hours, Bryan dropped me off at the entrance to the Plaza shops. I raced by three security guards in a sports bra and bare feet, weaved through others enjoying beer and food at Oktoberfest, grabbed our bags, and met Bryan again as he circled around with the truck. Done!

We missed out on the beer and the conversation afterward, yet we had done our best to enjoy a day filled with extenuating circumstances. I hope to have the chance to race either the Medio or Gran distances next year. May the day supply sunshine and warmer temperatures!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

My second attempt at Vegas World Championships 70.3

For the better part of this summer, I tried to capitalize on the heat by doing as much running and cycling as I could in the middle of the day. My coworkers and patients thought it ridiculous when I wandered off out in the 90+ degrees for a run over my lunch break. When my coach encouraged me to do my midweek long/tempo runs in the heat of the day, I started to question myself, too. I remember dreading the end of my long day at work, knowing I had to start home but stop near Mead High School first so I could run.

I rode during the hottest parts of the day, too. Having the extra wind against my face certainly helped, but the sun is hard to ignore as it penetrates my skin.

All for a decent race in Las Vegas for the World Championships. I swore I would not succumb to and cripple in the heat like I did last year. I hoped my experience would help me find the finish line in a little better shape. This year, I did.

Bryan and I arrived on Thursday, which gave me a little more time to prepare mentally. As luck would have it, Las Vegas was experiencing some kind of a storm system that provided increased cloud cover and thunderstorms in the afternoon. The only real rain we encountered, however, fell on Saturday when we dropped my bike off in T1. Rain in Vegas? 
Photo by Bryan Rowe. Transition area Saturday afternoon.
Race day morning the clouds had opened a little wider, and we walked through a downpour as I made my way to transition to load up my bike with nutrition. Never did I think I'd see rain like this here. It felt great: wet, but warm. Yet I couldn't help but wonder what this would mean for the roadways. I'd never really raced in conditions like this. Exactly how hard could I safely push it on the downhills? Especially with standing water in the roadways. Does hydroplaning happen on a bike? 

Lake Las Vegas Resort. 
Just like last year, I found myself in one of the last swim waves to start. Bryan and me waited on the bridge that overlooks the swim start. Puddles of water surrounded us as the roof appeared to have some leaks. When it was finally time to stop watching other competitors start with their waves and begin to don my BlueSeventy swim skin, I could feel the nerves begin to swell in my gut. With his last few words of encouragement, Bryan saw me off as I walked down to my wave of yellow swim caps. Volunteers herded us down to the murky, cloudy, smelly water, and I assumed my position on the far right side of my wave near the red buoy. The gun sounded, and I swam hard to fight for someone else's toes on which to hang for the entire swim.

Race morning. Overcast and raining!
I found the ramp to the exit of the swim in just over 36 minutes (still, slower than what I wanted even for a non-wetsuit swim). It took me a little over 4 minutes to run around to the other side of the lake, find my transition spot, and then run all the way up out of transition to the road. It's a ridiculous transition. Nonetheless, I made it out and onto the wet roadways. I hadn't ridden more than 2 miles and I'd already passed about $600 worth of sunglasses dropped in the road.

This bike course reminds me so much of St. George's. It is compromised of many medium-length hills of moderate grade. After a significant climb out of T1, you enter Lake Mead National Park. I felt great as I passed plenty of people on my way out and then upon turning around back toward Henderson. It turns out you can go pretty fast even on wet roads (thankfully those without any tight corners), and I don't think I hydroplaned.

By mile 37 of my bike ride, the rain began to dissipate and the sun found its way through the clouds. Sure enough, Las Vegas wasn't going to let me get through this race without suffering from some of its notorious heat first. I could feel the sun start to warm my skin, and by the time I found myself running down the first hill of the run course, I could feel myself begin to sweat. Time for ice!

My goal for the run was to never stop running. I had a goal pace in mind and was able to stick to it until mile 3 when, what felt like every muscle in my legs, began to cramp and seize up. I started to walk into the aid station and took down some coke and water. Upon beginning to run again, I realized my legs had settled down and I was back to attempting to maintain my pace. Bryan had told me I'd moved up from 29th out of the water to 17th off the bike in my division. I wondered how many spots I could move up on the run.

By the second lap of the three-loop run, I could begin to feel my pace slow. I willed myself to keep running no matter how much it hurt. Before long, I had reached the final mile of descent to the finish line. Once across, I couldn't help but feel a sense of relief that I'd never have to race this course again. The 96 degrees I experienced on the run didn't compare to last year's 106 degrees, but it was enough to convince me I don't need to come back for a third go-around.

I found Bryan past all the athlete support tents, who told me I'd passed 5 more girls to finish 12th in my division. I felt most pleased with the fact that I'd shaved off 26 minutes from my time last year.

A season is done; a year's hard work of training completed. Upon returning home, I sought out Melinda at Elements Therapeutic Massage for a work over. Now, it's time to make the best use of my offseason!

Post race recovery: Pool side and dessert!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Training weekend in Whistler, B.C.

This post comes a few weeks late, but because I'm racing the World Championships 70.3 tomorrow, I figured I better get after this post before it's too late. So, let me tell you about my training weekend in Whistler, BC!

After a long day at work on Wednesday, August 21st, Bryan and me continued well into the day and night to arrive up in Whistler, BC at approximately 2:30am Thursday morning. We could only enjoy the scenery up until Penticton, at which point the darkness began to overtake us with about 4 more hours to go. Crossing the border proved somewhat of a minor fiasco. The officer asked us to drive around "back" to have our backgrounds checked. I only had three states to list off of prior residency in the last 18 years. Bryan, on the other hand, couldn't even remember them all. What proved worse is, apparently, another Bryan Rowe exists with a DUI on his driving record. It wasn't until Bryan provided his social security number that the officer let us go after about a 30-minute delay.

We woke up the next day feeling incredibly sluggish. We rode the first out-and-back of the bike course and felt nothing but admiration for a place ensconced in trees and embellished with streams and rivers. To surround ourselves with Ironman athletes, yet not feel the pressure of an impending race made for quite a "vacation." We could enjoy our surroundings, yet feel motivated to make this weekend a training weekend, too.

Friday, we swam in Alta Lake, the location of the two-loop swim course. We swam later in the afternoon, which meant we enjoyed choppy waters and threatening storm clouds. It made for a slower swim, but I felt blessed to have the buoys already set out to follow around the lake. Locals warned us of the risk for swimmer's itch, but I knew after setting foot in the water that it felt far too cold. It reminded me more of Lake CDA's water temperature than it did my usual training hole, Bear Lake. You'll notice the mountains in the backdrop in the picture below. I couldn't quite enjoy the views while swimming, but taking the time to do so when we finished felt well worth our time.

Saturday, we rode part of the second out-and-back of the bike course toward Pemberton. We had initially intended to ride the whole thing, but I must have felt anxious to get back to Whistler. Flying down all those hills (I should say, one BIG hill) meant we had at least an hour worth of climbing to get us back home. In the end, we missed riding the only flat section of the course, the portion they call the meadows. Upon turning toward home, we realized we didn't just have a hill to climb, but a headwind to push through as well. I'm hoping these kinds of winds only crop up later in the day, as it was well into the afternoon by this point.

Race morning, Bryan and I woke up at about 3:30am to head down to the Run Special Needs Bag drop off at T2. We didn't get to see all our TriFusion teammates, though we did have a chance to wish Ben Greenfield well as he headed off to the swim start. It felt very rewarding to have the opportunity to smile at every athlete who handed me his or her bag and offer calm reassurance to faces filled with incredible anxiety.

After our two-hour rotation, Bryan and me headed out on our long run to tour the longer portion of the run course. By the time we made it out toward the Sea-to-Sky highway, athletes had already found their bikes and were riding out the first part of the bike course. We loved the run course. You get a little bit of everything: running through town, through the woods, and along several lakes. It's likely the run course that helped us solidify our decisions to sign up for next year.

This may be how we feel about what next year's training is going to require. Yet again, one must not ignore those mountains!