9 Days Until Harvest Moon!

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This is the part of the game where I check the weather every day.

And where I resign myself to the fact that no, I probably can’t do any magical workout combination in the next few days that’s going to make a big difference on race day.

Also where I start running through lists of things not to forget (HELMET! CYCLING GLOVES! WETSUIT!)

There’s also the risk of minor injuries that could end up being disastrous. Yesterday a pair of shoes I’ve had forever gave me a blister on my heel for some reason. So now it’s it’s the same flats I’ve been wearing all summer until race day.

And it’s very possible that the day’s going to go great! And it’s possible the day’s not going to go great. But there’s not much I can do at this point except wait for it to happen.

Rattlesnake Triathlon – Odds and Ends

There are always a million little details from any race that I want to remember but that would make the race recap nine million pages long. In roughly chronological order:

I chatted with a guy before the swim who was really nervous about the swim. This was his first Olympic distance, and he was worried because he was one of the only people not wearing a wetsuit. He was so nice, and I saw him after I finished, shook his hand, and was delighted that his race went well.

The Elites got in the water before any of us, and then…several of them went completely off course. It’s not very kind to make fun, but I think it was nice for all us amateurs on the shore to feel a little less intimidated.

At one point in the swim I kept getting boxed in by two swimmers. I couldn’t quite get around them and finally I just came up for air and tread water for a moment to let them get ahead of me. A volunteer on a paddle board called to me, “Do you need help?”

“No, I’m just waiting for the damn traffic to clear.”

I reiterate: the swim felt somehow very narrow and crowded. It wasn’t unbearable but there was a lot more contact than I am used to.

As we were packing up I realized that my goggles and swim cap somehow went missing. Blargh! Those were my favorite goggles, and they were really nice swim caps (for free race swim caps).

The woman parked next to me in transition said she hadn’t seen the wetsuit strippers or the buckets to rinse off feet. I saw both, so maybe she was just going too fast. There are some advantages to being a little slower, I suppose. She also said she really had to pee but planned to wait after the bike was over. I wonder how that decision played out.

Oh! And I opened a portapotty to see a dude peeing AGAIN. Guys, seriously. I know it’s a race but you do have time to lock the door.

As I headed out on the bike, I passed a woman who looked quite old. She was actually the only person I passed on the whole bike ride, and she ended up passing me back towards the end of the race. Oh, well.

As I was headed down a long scary downhill part I got really freaked out and slowed way down. A woman on the other side of the road, in the middle of a long hard uphill climb, shouted out to me, “Keep pedaling, number 238! You can do it!” I frigging love triathletes. They are the nicest people. It amazes me that someone in the hardest part of the route would toss out encouragement to someone on (ostensibly) the easiest part.

As I turned back into the park a volunteer commented to me, “It’s really nice to see someone smiling for a change! Everyone looks so sad.”  That makes me sad. I guess most folks probably put their Serious Race Face on when they’re pushing hard, but isn’t smiling and thanking volunteers an essential part of the day?

When I came back into transition from the bike I couldn’t mentally deal with re-racking my bike so I just sort of parked it off to the side. That doesn’t break any rules that I know of.

I used the runkeeper app on my phone to prompt me to run and walk on 5/1 minute intervals. The GPS on this thing kind of sucks, though, so it kept reading out really ridiculous average paces because it thought I had gone like 13 miles instead of 6. I don’t know why but I found this embarrassing and I kept trying to muffle the sound.

I came up on a guy who was clearly struggling on the run at about mile 3 (out of 6.2). He said, “There better be a timing mat at the turnaround or else I would have just turned around and cut the course a long time ago!”  He looked sad. People who are at the back of the pack are either just cruising along being happy and not caring (like me, maybe 5%) or they’re having a bad day and they are pissed.

I had to pee really badly on the run but didn’t see a portapotty until mile 5. Bathroom location is really something I need to add to my race recon.

It was really fun knowing other people who were racing. My friend Megan was there and my neighbor Meg was racing as well. The longer I live in Denver, the smaller it gets, and it feels like you really can’t turn around without bumping into someone you know.

The finisher’s medal was a bottle opener with a rattlesnake on it (cool) hung on a dog chain (ehhn). What can I say, I like my finisher’s medals. I can’t hang this on the wall because it doesn’t look like a medal.

And my pictures came out kinda cute! I usually find official race pictures to be extremely unflattering but these are pretty okay!

I think that’s all I have to say about that. Twelve days until Harvest Moon. Ack!

Technology housecleaning

I have spent the fast few days getting my technology house in order, and it’s a good feeling. Freeing up disk space, adding levels of security. And in sorting out old  photos I found these from when I worked at home and used this sweet white iMac.

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Awesome stuff that got done:

1. Added two step verification to my gmail

Have you read the crazy story of Mat Honan’s Epic Hacking? It is worth a read, but here’s the reader’s digest version:

A writer for wired had his twitter hacked, gmail account wiped, and his iPhone and MacBook remotely wiped. No fancy hacking, really. The culprits exploited the fact that Apple and Amazon have complementary security settings. That is, what one displays freely, the other asks as a security question.

So he got access to the Amazon account by verifying just the account owner name, email, and address (ridiculously easy to get) and that allowed him to see the last four of his billing credit card number. They called Apple, validated the account with the last four of the credit card, and they gave him a temporary password over the phone. His Apple email was his backup for his gmail, so they had a temporary password sent there and ta da. Off to the races.

If you haven’t already, you should turn on Gmail’s Two Step Verification. If you try to log into a google account from a new computer, it will send a code to your phone, and you have to enter that code to proceed. take maybe five minutes to set up. It’s not annoying at all, I promise. Do it. Do it now.

2. Deleted pictures off my phone that are already imported into iPhoto

Photos were taking up three gigs of space on my eight gig phone. I did an import to make sure I had everything in iPhoto and then used Image Capture to delete the photos off of my phone. It’s weird that there’s not a better way to manage this through iPhoto or iTunes.

3. Took the old white iMac into the Genius Bar for some love

Since I don’t work from home anymore, the white iMac is just an extra computer. Chris and I each have laptops so this guy just functions as the TV, basically.

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But a few weeks ago it stopped recognizing its own hard drive. Lame. Finally made an appointment at the Apple store and discovered it just essentially lost its file structure. The fix was free and only took 20 minutes. I could go on (and on and on) about how awesome Apple is.

The odd side effect to this was that Chris and I ended up at the mall on Saturday night. And we were hungry and had time to kill because we got there way ahead of our appointment. I would like to think this is how anyone ends up eating at the California Pizza Kitchen at the mall, but I don’t think that’s the case. I’m not generally a fan of TGI-Chili-bee’s restaurants, but I ate my $12, 1,200 calorie salad and I liked it. So, whatever.

4. Migrated all my tumblr posts over here to wordpress

I like it so far. It was scary easy to port everything over, and the import respected most of the settings on my old posts. Tumblr just gave me too many headaches. But now I’m here and it’s kind of nice.

I also cleaned out my gmail inbox a bit (down from 180 messages to about 50), deleted some iPhone backups that were eating up a ton of space of my hard drive, and upgraded my OS to Mountain Lion. Fun fact according to The Guy at the Apple Store: Apple has used names that all mean the same thing for its OS releases. I think it was Puma, Jaguar and Mountain Lion? I forget, but three of them are all the same animal. The more you know, y’all!

Motivation, where art thou?

What I should be doing today:

Swimming, cycling, running, even  some other cross training, pretty much anything to get my heart rate up.

What I’m doing instead:

Internet! And I ate a bowl of ice cream. And I gave my dog some good pets.

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I got to this point last summer too: I’m totally and utterly 100% out of motivation. I don’t really want to do anything. There’s a gym bag packed next to my feet, but I’m playing around on my computer. Clearing out old photos off of my phone. I moved all my tumblr posts over to wordpress. Thinking about how I have some work stuff I want to get done this weekend. Lalala.

Okay. I’m getting up and leaving…now. For real. 15 days until Harvest Moon!

Rattlesnake Olympic Triathlon – Race Recap

I finished an Olympic distance triathlon in 2011, but it was kind of a disaster and I was in tears by the end. I set a goal for myself to finish an Olympic in 2012 with a big smile on my face, and I picked the Rattlesnake Triathlon at the Aurora Reservoir to get the job done.

I was up early Saturday morning! (I love Saturday races and prefer them times ten million to Sunday races.) We left around 5 am, when it was still dark. Sipped a smoothie and a little gatorade in the car. Ate a peanut butter sandwich.

This is my 5 am face.

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We got to the Aurora Reservoir around 6. I was happy that parking was so close to transition.  The sun was just rising, and everyone was hanging out by the water taking pictures of the pretty sunrise.

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Packet pickup was easy enough and then I went in to set up transition. For some reason setting up transition always reminds me of moving into a new dorm room. I guess because it feels so important that you set everything up just so, but it’s still just a tiny patch of the world for all your junk. Since Chris wasn’t racing, he wasn’t allowed into the transition area, so I picked a spot near the rail. So, you know, we could hang out through the bars. Like he was dating someone in prison.

I think I was literally in the worst corner of the transition area (farthest from the bike out) but at least it wasn’t crowded. Plus it was on the edge, so little chance I’d get lost on my way back.

Another sexy facial expression.

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Once everything was set up, we headed down to the water. It was such a luxury to be able to carry my hoodie, sunscreen, and flip flops to the edge of the reservoir but then to be able to hand them off to Chris. (Usually we do the same races, but he injured his back, so he didn’t do this one.)

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The water could not have felt more perfect. It was like exactly the same temperature as the air or something. I normally take a while to acclimate to the water. It’s usually really hard for me to put my face in and I need a long time to warm up. This was just…hop in, start swimming, no big deal. I guess this is the one perk we get from the hottest summer ever, because the Aurora reservoir is notoriously cold.

The swim was a time trial start. They let someone into the water every three or four seconds. The order was elites first, then  women then men, oldest to youngest. This put me about half way through the line. I was happy about that because the last time trial start I did I was almost the last person in the water and I ended up standing around in the sun in my wetsuit forever.

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Big wave and smile to Chris before getting in. Swimming is my favorite leg of a triathlon, so I’m always feeling awesome at this point. The gal right in front of me is actually my next door neighbor! So we are neighbors at home and at this race.

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Hi, I’m Mel! I’m ready for swimming, thank you!

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One more turn around to wave and smile. I really only do races because I love smiling and waving to cameras, and the famous actress gig didn’t work out.

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There was a rope along the first 3/4 of the swim, and I felt like I could move along pretty quickly since I didn’t have to sight at all, just kept looking at the rope to my right. That part was pretty sweet. The downside was that because people were trying to stick pretty close to the rope, the swim felt more congested than I have experienced before. I got kicked and punched more than normal. I usually describe open water swims as feeling more like bumper cars than anything else. You bump up against another swimmer and then you both sort of drift away from each other. Not for this swim. Someone would bump into me and then keep stroking their arms into my back and head.

 

 

Coming out from the first lap.

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Headed into the second lap.

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The second lap finished on another part of the shore. I tried to really swim as fast as I could, but in the last quarter I had to sight, too. It’s funny; I think I practice open water swimming a lot. Probably more than most casual triathletes, but no matter how much time I spend swimming even strokes in Bowles Reservoir, I always feel a little bit like a flopping, flailing mess in a race.

Coming out of the water, looking at my watch.

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Never stop waving and smiling!!

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I came out of the water feeling great! I got a tiny side stitch half way through the swim, but I knew my swim was the best I could do, and I was having a great time. This is also the part of the race where I was around the most people. With my pace, I’m not generally surrounded by a lot of other racers during the bike or the run, so I like having company.

I would like some major authenticity points for posting these extremely unflattering photos of volunteers helping to strip off my wetsuit.  I think I probably could have gotten it off faster myself, but wetsuit strippers are just…I don’t know. They are such a funny and amazing thing, I just can’t pass them up. When else does anything like this ever happen to you?

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Ran up to transition. It felt like the swim finish was about 9 million miles away from the swim finish. It took me about three minutes to get there. I’m generally a pretty modest girl, so running in shorts and a sports bra is my least favorite part of a triathlon.

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Got to transition. Put on my shirt, cycling gloves, helmet, sunglasses, sunscreen, and shoes and socks. Please note the man leaning over here, trying to get his cycling jersey on.

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So, Chris is taking these photos, standing just on the other side of the partition/barricade outlining the transition area. This guy ended up asking him for help pulling his jersey down because, dudes, it’s really hard to pull down your shirt when you’re all wet.

The yellow flags here are the bike out. I had really positioned myself poorly with a ton of stuff to maneuver through on my way out, but oh well. I left the “good” spots for people who cared about time.

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Off to the bike! SMILE! And WAVE!

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The bike is consistently the toughest part of a triathlon for me. Too bad since it’s the longest part.

The course started out on this really bumpy road within the park. I think it’s called chip seal? It didn’t feel good, and since I’m basically terrified of flying off my bike at any moment, I didn’t not enjoy all the bouncing. I felt a lot better once we got on Quincy Road. But though the road was much smoother, there was basically zero flat road on this bike course. Look at this elevation profile! It was all terrifying steep downhills and excruciating uphills.

Even though I have ridden this road several times to practice, it was still tough. And very shortly I was feeling pretty lonely on the course. I sang some songs (Can you pay my hills, can’t pay my telephone hills, can’t pay my auto-mo-hills, then maybe baby we can chill!) and gave myself little pep talks (“Mel! You are going to go up this hill! You are going to keep pedaling! And you are going to friggin ROCK this!”)

The last few miles were tough both because they were uphill but also because I couldn’t remember exactly how long the course was. Iwas like…23? 24? 26? I couldn’t remember the total mileage so I wasn’t sure how long I had left.

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Through the magic of race recaps, I come back into transition after just a few lines of text! But it was really two hours.

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The bike was long, and it was hard. I was happy to be done, and I was happy to be running. Of the three legs of a triathlon the run is just the most simple. There’s not really any special equipment, you’re not jostling amongst other people. You just run.

I was happy there was an aid station at each mile marker. I grabbed some water and Gatorade at each one, and it was nice to break up the six miles into six short chunks.

I used my phone’s RunKeeper app to prompt me to run/walk on 5/1 minute intervals. I can do anything for five minutes if I know I get a walk break. There were a few times when I heard the beep for the walk break and I couldn’t help but exclaim “Oh thank god.” It was hot. I was kind of by myself for the last three miles. I had to pee, and I was getting sunburned, despite applying sunscreen before the race and at both transitions. There is just not shade out there, and it’s draining.

The way the path snakes around the reservoir, it looked like you were very close to the finish line when you still had more than a mile to go. That was such a bummer.

But as I approached the finish line there were these young girls in pink with pom poms. I don’t know if they were local high school cheerleaders or what, but they made me so happy. And come to find out, Chris had enlisted their help along with the spectators and volunteers at the finish line. He told them my name and asked for a little extra cheering and spectator love.

I was so confused as I approached the finish and heard people yelling “GO MEL! Bring it home to a strong finish, Mel! You can do it, Mel!” I teared up a little and ran as fast as I could to the finish line. I felt so good, and knew I had done my very best.  I gave someone a high five and did my best to smile and get a good finish line photo for the race photographer.

I gave Chris a huge hug, raised my eyebrows a little at the medal (a bottle opener on a chain) and devoured some of the awesome post-race food. I ate a bagel with cheese, mini carrots, grapes, and watermelon. I was super impressed by the fresh produce, not something you see at every race.

Overall I felt great about this race. I had fun, I worked hard, and I felt like I did my best. I would definitely recommend it (if you love hills on the bike) and I’m a little tempted to sign up to do it again next summer and see if I can beat my time, or do the “Back to Back” option. There’s an Olympic on Saturday plus a Sprint on Sunday. One summer I will do both. Maybe. Probably. (Definitely.)

Obligatory pre race day post about goals – 2012 Rattlesnake Triathlon

At the beginning of the year I set some goals for myself. One of them was “Race the same Olympic triathlon I crashed and burned at in 2011, except this time not have my race go off the rails.” Reader’s Digest version: At my last Olympic Triathlon I had a pretty good swim, then bike disaster (you’re not supposed to have to kick your derailleur in order to shift gears) and I was defeated and drained by the time I got to the run and in tears at the finish line.

The way scheduling worked out, I won’t be doing the Boulder Sunset Olympic again, but I am signed up for the Rattlesnake Olympic Triathlon tomorrow.

I’m almost guaranteed a PR, so that’s nice I suppose, but I’ve given up on time goals. The plan for tomorrow:

  •         Take advantage of the rope line on the swim course and swim my little heart out without having to worry about sighting for the most part.
  •         Not be a huge scaredy cat on the downhill part of the bike and play it smart on the uphills: low gear and spin, spin, spin!
  •         Stick to a Run 5/walk 1 plan on the run.
  •         Finish feeling like I could have definitely doubled up on the bike and the run!

I’m pumped to do this race a few weeks before my 70.3. It’s the same reservoir, similar bike course, and similar run course (but only half the bike and run of course). I’m hoping it gives me a huge confidence boost and some peace of mind headed into Harvest Moon.

Weather tomorrow looks amazing. After disgusting heat all summer, Denver is finally cooling off. High in the low 80s? 60s and 70s during the race? But thanks to the hot summer the water is about 73°, as warm as that reservoir gets.

And they just repaved a lot of the roads on the bike course.

Seriously. Could not ask for anything better.