Sunday, June 29, 2014

Brandon's 1st Tri Q&A

Posted by Brandon

I completed my first triathlon, so I’m entering the blog world.  Here are the questions I’ve most frequently heard, both leading up to and following the California Sprint Triathlon in Pleasanton yesterday…

Are you going to drown?  I’ve swum 6 times in open water, so somewhat surprisingly, I avoided drowning completely.  I finished the half-mile swim somewhere in the middle of the green-swimcapped pack of 30-39 year-olds that I started in, and I didn’t feel like I was going to die at any given point.  I got into a rhythm, and tried to forget that Shadow Cliffs Lake had E Coli levels that didn’t meet state standards earlier that week.  I’m counting this getting out alive as a big accomplishment, considering the “are you going to drown?” question was asked by my mother 3 separate times, based on her knowledge of my childhood swimming ability.   

That's me, on the left

Are you ready for the swim now?  I felt pretty ready heading into it.  I swam in Aquatic Park twice in the past week, and felt better with sighting.  My initial open water swim attempts involved turning 90 degrees in the span of about 4 strokes, and getting nauseous in the water.  While practicing, I grabbed a thermal cap and ear plugs (cured the nausea) and was told to only look out of the water by an inch or two (helped the sighting), so I ended up feeling pretty set.

Hey, Husky Man!  I’m husky too!!  Ok, this isn’t a question, but this is what the transition man yelled at the sight of this jersey: 
Visit to make your own

I appreciate that Triathlons have a Clydesdale division, but “husky” is the label that has stuck since college to describe my particular physique.  A friend got these jerseys custom made a few weeks ago, so I’m sufficiently prepped for bike riding and Halloween in the near future. 

This is me starting out on the bike leg

How fast are you biking?  A friend asked me a week before, and I somewhat arbitrarily named 18 mph as a goal.  I ended up at 17.75, so I’m ok with this as my first competitive biking.  I didn’t exactly know how to pace myself over a short bike race, but felt pretty good about passing a handful of people that had swam faster than I.  Of course, a fair number of folks passed me, too.  The nice part about triathlons I didn’t know heading in: everyone gets marked with their age on their calf.  So it was nice to know the ages of everyone passing me….good job to the 60 year-old that flew past me at one point. 

How did the run go?  I got off the bike, and felt pretty good.  1.4 miles into the 5K, though, I slammed into a steep hill.  My pace plummeted at that point, but I kept it going and felt fine with my 9:20 average.  During the run, there were a lot more comments from other runners – “good job” and “keep it going” and “you f**king got this” – than I’m accustomed to during running races.  I liked this part of the tri and was happy to join in on the trend in between heavy breathing.

Me saying "woot" while passing Chen

Can I come watch?  I’m pretty sure my sister asked this to come see if I would pass out, but I appreciated it nonetheless.  She brought my nephew out to cheer, and was joined by Chen, Rachel and Sandi.  Thanks for coming.  All photos here are courtesy of Chen and facebook.  

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

My First* Masters Swim

Posted by Katie

Today Matt and I went to a Masters Swim Class (are you supposed to call it a “class” or is it a session? or a workout? Apologizes for not knowing the terminology… #newbie).

Technically this is not my first “Masters” so let me start with a description of the prior three. The first one I did was with Sandi at her gym. The coach split us into a fast and slow group (somehow Sandi and I got into the fast group) and I remember doing 100’s with five of us circle swimming. The problem with doing 100’s in a circle with fast people is well… you better move it or you end up in someone’s way. I think we ended up in this group mostly because we looked like we knew what we were doing… swim suits, cap from a sprint tri*, etc.

*Note: wearing a race cap can accidentally give others the impression that you know how to swim when in fact your greatest strength is the frog stroke (ie the breast stroke without going under water… lol)

The most hilarious part of this experience was after the workout. I remember Sandi and I asking the coach if he had any tips for stroke form etc. and his response was:

“Not really… just you know… get back into swim shape”

As if we were good at swimming once and had somehow gotten lazy or fallen off the bandwagon. Little did he know I was actually at that time in the best swim shape of my life thus far (ie I had started swimming a few months prior and had just done a sprint tri sort of successfully). Of course had we given the coach more information about our backgrounds he could of tailored his advice better, but we got a huge kick out of it…

Fast forward to this year, Matt and I tried a local Masters swim twice but were disappointed to find that it was basically a lap swim. No one talked to each other, there was a board with a workout (if you asked the lifeguard for it) but everyone did their own thing and no coaching to speak of.

So today we decided to try a different location that seemed to have a more serious coached Master’s program (ie their brochure looked pretty serious… sold!). The coach was really nice and welcoming, she took in a little of our swimming history, seeded us in lanes, and explained today’s workouts (intermediate ~2800 or advanced ~3500-4000). I got the ultimate distinction of the “bucket lane” ie lane #1 with a ladder that is huge and no one ever wants (coach’s words) and Matt ended up with some super fast guys in the advanced area which might have been a mistake (his words). For me the bucket lane was actually quite enjoyable, easy viewing of the clock and plenty of space!

So far at the beginning of this 70.3 training cycle my swims have been right around 1,000 so a workout of 2,800 was almost a 300% increase but of course I wanted to prove that I could hang with the big kids… so to speak.

My swim workouts lately:
Warmup: 300
5x100 Freestyle
Warmdown: 200

Total workout: 900

Wednesday Master’s Swim Workout:
Warmup: 400
200 free time trail
100 EZ free
2x200 Free time+20
100 EZ Free
3x200 Free time+20
100 EZ Free
2x200 Free time+20
100 EZ Free
200 free time trail (try to beat 1st 200 time)
50 EZ Free
6x50 Drills (6 dolphin kicks, 2 fly strokes, repeat)
8x25 sprint Fly
Warmdown: 200

Total workout: 3250?! (I cut a few corners, so my actual workout was 2900)

The coach had a couple helpful pointers about my stroke and the freestyle portion actually went okay. I could definitely feel myself getting tired and slower but I survived it. Then…the drills. Dolphin kicks were kind of okay, but the fly strokes were a mess. I was actually really hoping that the guy in the lane next to me would start doing fly first so I could observe and try to copy. Unfortunately he must have skipped that stuff (maybe a fellow triathlete?) so I had to make it up on my own. Then it was time for the 8x25 “sprint” fly. Full disclosure, I have no idea how to do the butterfly stroke… but I think it looks super cool when other people do it. Of course, just as I was about to try the coach walked over to my lane so the pressure was on. I think if I had attempted this at the beginning of the workout it might have gone a little better, but here at the end with a 300% increase of a day it was pretty ugly. My biggest problem was keeping my head up (to try to get air/not drown) and thus making it super hard to fling my arms forward because they were still half underwater. I could barely make it halfway down the length so “sprinting” was replaced with “surviving”. The coach had some kind pointers for this too and was nice enough not to tell me I looked like a drowning whale (which is how it felt).

Overall it was a success but WOW… I have never swam that far or been this tired after a swim. Immediately after I treated myself with a giant smoothie (sorry no picture... it was consumed too fast!).

Monday, June 23, 2014

Race Report: Monte Rio - "Lessons of a Newbie" (sorry this is so late)

I must apologize for the long-winded recap of my pre-race training and race day experience.  Hopefully, it will help me and fellow amateur triathletes better prepare for future races.

Two weeks prior to my first attempt at a tri, I had a strong and promising week of training. While I had skimped on the biking, I hit running and swimming pretty hard. Instead of a detailed recap, here’s a quick summary of the week:

Monday:              First (ever) open water swim
Tuesday:              Morning Barre Class + evening track workout
Wednesday:      Morning run + evening Master’s Swim Class
Thursday:            Fast Tempo Run
Friday:                  Morning run + evening 1 mile continuous swim
Saturday:             15 mile run with crazy head wind
Sunday:                Second open water swim and 4 mile run

It was a great week and Will made us this awesome dinner on Sunday. Why? Because he loves me and because we both knew I had a rough week ahead.

Macaroni and cheese with sauteed  brussel sprouts and carrots
The following week (prior to the tri) started out okay, but went downhill FAST. Brief recap:
Monday:              10 hour work day  + 7 mile run
Tuesday:              10 hour work day  + track workout
Wednesday:      13 hour work day  – no workout
Thursday:            3 mile run + 14 hour workday
Friday:                  4 mile run + 14 hour workday

I should clarify that my work days were spent standing in the field in either a flame retardant jump suit or in 90+ degree weather (no shade).  To top it off I was also wearing steel toed work boots and a hard hat…safety first!

It may have been hot, but at least I had a great view while I worked.
After the excessively long work week, I really wanted to go home and relax…but instead, I had my first triathlon EVER ahead of me. So I drove the 1+ hour drive from Morgan Hill back to home, loaded the car quickly (hoping I had everything I needed in my pre-packed race bag) and rode with Will and Colt (our dog) up to Monte Rio. Fortunately, Rachel and Travers are super understanding and did not seem too annoyed with us for showing up at 11 pm.

Thanks to Rachel, we stayed at a prime location for the event. We had a nice private deck area, an outdoor kitchen and fire place and private access to the Russian River. The best part was that we were only about 2 to 3 blocks from the packet pickup/expo/transition area/race start!

The only downside to our location was that I could not escape the race; there was no pretending that this was just a relaxing weekend with great friends.

Monte Rio is a beautiful little town with super laid back and friendly people. Saturday morning (the morning before the race), we had breakfast at this local (dog-friendly J) place with outdoor seating that had an outdoor cooktop/grill/hot rod and dog park…awesome! Our breakfasts were buttery and delicious! So good, in fact, that Will wanted to stay until he became hungry again (he made the mistake of facing the grill and watched the chef make a ginormous breakfast burrito). Will even joked about ordering a breakfast burrito to put in his bike cage instead of water :p.

After breakfast, Rachel and I took our bikes out to see how they rode and to make sure no pre-race adjustments were needed. We went for a relatively slow two-mile ride from the resort and then turned back. My legs were TIRED and sore from the crazy work week of standing in the sun for hours on end; this was NOT how I wanted to feel the day before our race. So when Rachel asked me if I was ready to turn back, I was all over the suggestion. So we were about a quarter of a mile into our ride back to the resort when I got a flat. I took off the tire and tube and tried to put a new tube on (tried is the key word here). Meanwhile, Rachel had made it back to the resort before she realized I wasn’t with her. She doubled back to help and we struggled with the tire for a while before a friendly biker stopped to help us (this was not the first time we have needed help from fellow cyclists). My bike computer clocked the tire change at 29+ minutes, and that’s when I told myself that I would just bail out of the race if I got a flat in the middle of the bike.

I was super discouraged by the way that my legs felt and the failed tube change (I pinched the tube and Will had to re-do it for me), so I decided a short shake out run might help.  In preparing for my run, I realized that I had misplaced my Garmin and I began to panic. I have never felt more unprepared mentally, physically and emotionally for a race in my life. After searching for 20 to 30 minutes, I was totally relieved to find my watch (in a bag that I am sure I checked 5 times). So I set out for a short 1.5 mile shake out run. I felt much better when I got back, showered quickly and then we headed out to the Sonoma coast for lunch.

We had lunch in Jenner - it was so beautiful with cool temperatures that it almost made me forget about the race ahead.

After lunch, it was time to get serious about the tri. The four of us headed over to the check-in and expo to pick up our race packets. Unsure of how secure the facilities would be, we planned on making two trips, the first to get our packets and the second to set up our bikes.  After our second trip over, we walked down to the swim start and transition area. Initially the transition path followed along a rough road that turned into a finely-graded sand with angular gravel (A.K.A. bad news for the feet). Rachel and Travers waded in the water while Will and I scoped out the surroundings.  All I kept thinking was how on earth am I going to make it up to the bike transition without shoes?

Swim entry, exit and transition.
After a few minutes we headed back to the resort to relax by the river before dinner. On our way back, I made the best 7 dollar investment ever …on a cheap pair of sunglasses (since I had forgotten mine in the Friday night frenzy). Hanging out by the river was great! We saw a river otter snacking on crayfish and then we saw race officials set up the buoys for the upcoming event. The start line had been moved closer to where we were staying due to shallow river waters (in fact the start buoy was right behind the resort).
The rest of the day flew by and (thankfully) I passed out early.


I was up and moving just before 6 AM. I took Colt out to do his thing while I assessed the weather conditions. When I came in, I ate a bagel with peanut butter with a banana and washed it down with as much water as I could. Rachel was up with me eating a bowl of lucky charms while Travers was just getting up and Will was trying to get as much rest as possible.  Then we started packing our gear and planning out our nutrition for the bike and run. 

We decided we should go to the transition area to set up our gear and then come back to put on our wetsuits before the race start. Before we left, Rachel gave me some helpful tips about undoing the Velcro on my bike shoes and loosening up my laces to minimize my transition time. She also added that since this was my first tri I should try to have fun and not stress about the transition.  I let her words sink in and started to feel a little bit better and then kept telling myself not to panic during the swim.

With my gear lined up under my rear bike tire in the order in which I would need them, I was ready to go back and put on my wetsuit. I should mention that “my” gear included a pair of my husband’s (Will’s) running socks and the pair of sunglasses I bought the day before.

Thanks to Will, my mindset took a turn for the positive when we were putting on our wetsuits.  As I stood struggling to pull my wetsuit up over my legs without tearing it, Will sat on the futon and casually pulled his up to his knees before he realized he was still wearing basketball shorts over his jammers.  We all got a good laugh out of his self-proclaimed “rookie mistake.” I tried to body glide every body part that might potentially chaff and lathered on sunscreen before pulling up my wetsuit.

Finally, we were ready to head over to the race start. The guys (Will and Travers) went straight to the start line. Rachel and I went to the transition area to drop off last minute additions to our gear. We slowly walked down to the start of the swim.  As we walked I adjusted my goggle straps and tried them on- they were dirty and foggy. I frantically tried to wipe them clean as we traversed the unfriendly terrain. We were about 2/3 of the way there, when we decided that we would be much better off if we used sandals in the transition, so we turned back and grabbed our sandals and headed back to the start. We left our sandals at the very end of the carpeted section and walked along the carpeted aisle to the start. By that time, the race officials had directed the purple caps (i.e. under 34 year old men) to walk over the mat and through the water to the start line. We were told to wait on shore until we were directed into the water.  Meanwhile there were several green caps (a.k.a. men from the wave behind us) warming up in the water…frustrating. 

At the direction of the race officials, we made our way over the mat and through the shallow water toward the starting line. At this point even the rocks on the river bottom were hurting my feet and to my surprise I was looking forward to the swim. Rachel went to the front of the line with the other strong swimmers and I was content to hang back. The race official started us off with a verbal countdown from 5 to 1, and the race began.

At first I felt okay in the water. It takes me a while to warm up so I knew the first section of the swim would be slow going. I tried to relax as much as possible but as the orange caps around me swam closer to me, passed me or collided with me I began to panic. It seemed like it took me forever to get to buoys one, two and three, but eventually I began to relax and feel more comfortable in the water. To my surprise, I was still swimming near other swimmers in my age group. I had expected everyone to pass me early on in the race. Somewhere around buoy 9 the water was too shallow to swim and we all had to walk until it deepened. I grew confident at this point that I would actually finish the swim as buoy 10 was just a little further. As I passed buoy 10, I heard someone say “how many buoys are there?” I looked ahead and realized that the swimmers were not turning around, instead they were continuing onward. Thus, I experienced panic attack number 2 compounded by the aggressive green caps that were determined to swim through whatever or whoever was in their way. Finally I reached three buoys in a row indicating the turn-around. At that point I said to myself, “Okay, you are half way there; just get through this and get out of the water and on your bike.”

Now that I was officially warmed up, the way back seemed to go by a lot faster than the way out. There were a couple of shallow points where I was forced to wade through the water on the way back to the transition; however none were as long or as arduous as the stretch between the starting line and the transition mat at the water’s edge.  That stretch really took a lot out of my legs and I was worried that it would take away from the bike and the run.

Finally, I was out of the water and running along the carpeted aisle to my sandals. I slipped them on and tried my best to smile and wave at the spectators nearby. I ran up the hill towards the bikes when one of my sandals fell off. I bent down picked it up and saw a fellow (male) triathlete next to me struggling over the rocks. Inspired by his determination, I carried my sandal instead of putting it back on (half because I didn’t want to bend over and also because I thought if he can do it, then I can do it too). 

I was so excited to have the swim behind me and to get on my bike.  The excitement was short-lived; as I ran into the bike transition area I recognized my husband’s bike and began to panic. I have been training with Will for several years and I am acutely aware of his capabilities. Will is certainly a faster runner and swimmer than me.  Given the fact that he had a full 5 minute head start on me in the swim, he should have been on his bike by the time I got to mine. So I started to change as my imagination and fears went wild. As I was frantically pulling my bike shirt over my head and considering returning to the water, I heard the familiar voice I know and love say “Hi Sandi, have fun out there.” If you didn’t put two and two together, it was Will wishing me luck as he took off. Apparently, he was sitting down devouring a Cliff bar as I was freaking out. Now that I knew he was okay, it was time to get down to business. I had a mental check list going: 1) turn on bike computer, 2) put on gloves, helmet and shades, 3) slip on bike shoes and 4) grab the bike and GO. If you are reading this carefully, you may notice I skipped Velcroing my shoes…that happened as I was walking my bike down the aisle.

I could feel the adrenaline take over as I was running through transition towards the bike chute. I have dreams of running and jumping on my bike one day like I have seen the professionals do…today was not that day. I carefully climbed on and clipped in and started my bike computer.  Some fellow bikers caught me and passed me early on and asked where the no passing zone was. Being passed early on made me a little worried that the bike would not go as well as I hoped, but I decided not to fret and let Rachel’s advice replay in my head, “Do NOT go out too fast on the bike too soon.”  It did not take me long to warm up and start passing people (including some of the people that passed me early on in the ride). I was about 3 miles into the ride when I caught site of Will. I figured it would be fun to catch up to him check in and ride side by side for a bit.  I was bit too ambitious and not only rode straight passed him but also startled him along the way.

The bike course was awesome…probably my favorite part of the tri overall. With the exception of the curving stretch on an isolated road which made me question whether or not I took a wrong turn. My goal on the bike was to ride comfortably fast and fuel enough for the run ahead. At about 10 miles in, I decided I should have a Honey Stinger Waffle (super tasty).  Of course I started eating it right around the time I met up with other bikers near a fairly sharp right turn, up a hill, with a timid slow moving car near us. It was too risky to ride with one hand so I held the waffle half in and half out of my mouth as I maneuvered the turn…I definitely inhaled some of the waffle but it worked out okay.

The route took us all out to the town of Jenner where we would turn back for the final stretch.  I started to wonder if I would ever see Rachel during the ride. A few miles before the turn, I saw her heading back to the transition. I was super excited to see how well she was doing so I saluted her. Why a salute…I have no idea or explanationJ. Just before the turn around I came upon the aid station on the bike course. Having only one cage with a bottle of water, the Gatorade seemed like an awesome idea, but I still wanted my water. So I took a bottle, drank some and then wondered what I should do with it. I struggled to put it in the back of my jersey and finally managed to stow it away just before the sharp turn around. Finally, I was on my way back to the transition and I was starting to look forward to the run ahead.  I passed Will once more going the opposite way as he approached the turn around.

I was warned that I would be disqualified if I did not dismount my bike before I got the transition area so that’s what I focused on when I got closer. Well that, taking a GU, and reviewing my mental checklist before the run.   I dismounted too soon and held up the people behind me a bit, but at least none of us were DQed, right?  I tried to run my bike back to my transition spot, but I think trotting is more like it.

Once I was back in my spot, I began my mental checklist for the run: 1) turn on Garmin and acquire satellites, 2) hang bike 3) remove helmet, gloves and bike shoes, and 4) put on and tie running shoes.  Check, check, check and check…and I was off on my run! The legs did not feel as good as I was anticipating, in fact they felt like Jello and my form was, well, lacking (my knees were knocking and I felt super slow). I was surprised to see my first mile was sub 7:40 and decided I would maintain the effort assuming (hoping) that I would warm up and feel more comfortable in the miles ahead.

For the most part, I was running with ladies and then I was passed by a middle-aged man. I thought he was going to pull ahead, but it seemed like he was going my pace. After the first water stop, he asked me what the pace was. I was happy to report that we were running sub 7:40s, and I guess he decided he liked the sound of that and stuck with me. Between miles 2 and 3, I saw Travers running back to the finish. I was so excited to see how confident and strong he looked so I said a quick hello and gave him a quick cheer. My fellow runner asked me if I was running with a team and I was more than happy to explain I was there competing with friends. Shortly after, I spotted Rachel who was also on her way back to finish.  Although the run felt hard at that time, I thought I was running downhill and should cheer Rachel on as she ran uphill. Again my newly found running buddy asked me if I was running with a team, so again I explained that I was there with friends.  J

The worst part of the run by far was the turn around, which was right in the direct sun.  It felt great to get back in the shade to finish up the second half. I had to laugh at myself when I felt the miles get slightly easier on the way back, meaning I was actually running uphill when I cheered for Rachel. I had less than 3 miles to go and I needed to keep up the positive attitude. I was hoping to see Will before I got back to the finish – I got my wish and yelled out “I love you!” and quickly explained (before the guy next to me could ask me again about racing with a team) that the man in the red jersey was not only my buddy, but also my husband. The run started getting harder, but soon enough, I had one mile to go (GO TIME). Although my new running buddy tried to stick with me I had to finish my own race. I saw the bridge ahead leading to the all-too-familiar transition area, and new the end was near. Imagine my surprise when I saw the runners ahead of me make a sharp left AROUND the transition and up a steep hill on the far side…WTF?!?!  Time to sprint and git ‘er done!

It was so awesome to have Travers and Rachel cheer for me as I ran up the hill and across the finish line. In addition, they gave me the best cold cup of water I have ever tasted when I was done! Of course we gave Will the same VIP treatment when he finished too J.

What an amazing day and race. Somehow I managed to finish my first Olympic tri in 2:49! 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

My first time as a pacer

Posted by Rachel

This morning Sandi and I paced the 1:45 group for the See Jane Run half marathon. I was actually a little bit anxious about this because I read somewhere on the internet that you’re supposed to pace a group that is about 15 min slower than your PR. Needless to say, 1:45 is NOT 15 min slower than my PR... it’s 7 minutes slower, on a good day (which today was not). Plus, during tri training I have such inconsistent runs with no rhyme or reason. On Tuesday, I did 4 (2x2) sub-7:15 miles and my recovery miles were 8:00, and the whole run felt as if I were running in low gravity. Fast forward to today, 8:00 miles felt like DEATH. Not only did they feel like death, but I had to hide it from the people in the pace group, because in my experience your pacers aren’t supposed to be dying in the race.

 Some very difficult "8:00 miles" with goal time success!

Besides my run not feeling great, we pretty much nailed it on paper (I am really proud of this, knowing we didn’t ruin anyone’s race). The results have us in at 1:45:00, and our splits were consistent. Our running club told us to run 7:57s, even though I checked the math 3x and I knew we should be running 8’s. We decided to do what they said, thinking maybe they wanted us to account for the Garmin effect. So we aimed for about 7:54 on the Garmins thinking we’d actually come in pretty far (~30-50 sec) under 1:45. Then, it turned out around mile 8 the mile markers started getting farther apart and the course was about 0.1 miles too long*, and all the “math” worked out in the end.  Chen, despite her claims in her post yesterday that she would be behind, of course came in ahead of 1:45. Afterward, she and Sandi ran an extra 3 miles to fulfill some marathon training goals while I laid on the beach :)
(* this is not official, it was concluded based on our 3 Garmins reading 13.26, 13.27, and 13.31).

 3 extra miles after the race? Yeah... no thanks!

I would definitely consider being a pacer again. I got my “long” run over with on a closed scenic course and hopefully helped some people with their race. One of the girls in our group ran a 1:44 and her old PR was 1:53, which was so awesome to watch. Other than the pace feeling way harder than it should have and hitting Sandi with the pacer sign no fewer than 10 times, it was an overall success!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Life changes, and a ride of firsts

Posted by Chen

I didn’t mean to go nearly a month without posting, but several life changes precluded me from doing so: 

One, I left my job at the beginning of June, ending my career in consulting. A bittersweet move, but I’m excited to work in industry after working solely in professional services for my entire adult life to-date (minus that misguided detour into and right back out of grad school). More relevant to this blog, this meant that I had to give back my beloved solid state Lenovo to my former employer, leaving me computer-less for my 1.5 weeks of funemployment (I did try to order myself a personal Lenovo, but Fedex managed to lose it in transit, and I gave up and cancelled the order). Since I’m the worst phone-typer on this planet, this meant that blogging was, for all intents and purposes, impossible.

Two, I was funemployed. While I had all sorts of grand plans to be productive and visit all sorts of interesting places around the city in the middle of the day, it turns out I’m REALLY good at being lazy instead. Aside from the occasional swim/bike/run or dinner plans, I essentially didn’t move from our couch for hours at a time. I am now a self-proclaimed expert on all HGTV shows, and I now also know that I will never be able to purchase real estate in the Bay Area thanks to some depressing Trulia research.

Wine-tasting during funemployment in Napa. Not a bad life.

Three, I started a new job this past Monday, which kept me pretty preoccupied all week. Again, more relevant to this blog, my new employer operates on Macs. I am seriously Mac illiterate, so figuring out how to create documents efficiently has been frustrating at best. Where are my ‘Home’ and ‘End’ keys? Why doesn’t F4 repeat my previous action? Does the ‘control’ key on a Mac do ANYthing??? Le sigh…

Anyway, I’ve finally found myself with a window of time to blog again, so here we are. Earlier this morning, Brandon and I went on a bike ride with Brandon’s former coworker, Michael. We started in Twin Peaks in SF and navigated over to the Presidio and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge to do a loop in Tiburon before coming back. It was a ride of firsts for several reasons:

  1. We covered over 46 miles, marking my very first ride totaling over 40 miles. I mostly felt OK, minus the butt pain. Yes, that still persists. Wearing tri shorts probably didn’t help matters, but I figure I need to get used to them somehow.
  2. It was my first time biking in Marin. No major issues there, just a first. Some great scenery and some solid climbs that were far more enjoyable than that beast of a hill in Tahoe last weekend.
  3. It was my first time crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on a bike. I used to run over the bridge for most of my long runs, and even that was hyper annoying with all of the tourists. Biking while clipped in through narrow corridors with hoards of people who were even less capable on their bikes than I am (I really didn’t think that was possible) was, um, frightening.
  4. While we were on some flat stretches on a protected trail away from traffic, I experimented with my hand positions, moving from my normal position into ‘the drops’ (thanks for the proper terminology, Rach) and also onto the horizontal bars towards the center. I practiced biking one-handed and even practiced reaching down towards my water bottle while in this horizontal-bar-position, which was downright monumental for me. Before you get too excited, I didn’t actually take the water bottle out of its holder – please. I just got used to where it was. Baby steps, people. Anyway, this is significant because prior to today, I didn't ever move out of my normal position and only let go with my left hand to quickly signal and go right back to gripping my handles with all my might. Progress.
  5. After we finished up, Brandon and I went on a quick 2.2-mile run, marking our first brick workout that included a relatively significant ride. My legs felt like, well, bricks, but overall, it went down OK.

After showering and eating a quick snack, we headed over to AT&T ballpark, where my company was throwing a free concert for all employees as part of its 'give back' week. While we arrived too late to see Colbie Caillat and The Foo Fighters, we got there just in time to see… wait for it…

USHER!!! He is an amazing live performer and an even more amazing dancer.

You can’t really see him on the screen, but I swear he was there.

Now, I’m resting up in preparation for the See Jane Run half marathon tomorrow morning, which Sandi and Rachel will be pacing. I will be in the back, hanging on for dear life. Wish us luck! 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Another Tahoe Recap

Posted by Katie

Rachel wrote a great summary about our Tahoe training weekend but I am going to give you another one, quite simply because Tahoe is one of my favorite places on earth!!

In the winter months (December through April) Matt and I come up to Tahoe as many weekends as we can to ski. I won’t say too much about how awesome the skiing is here because I am sure I will have a few (or many) blog posts about that in the winter J We have also come up to Tahoe a bunch in the summer/fall to bike, hike or camp.

This trip definitely solidified my (crazy) decision to register for the Ironman 70.3 Lake Tahoe. For me the most important requirement was to feel excited about the race. My rational was if you are going to sign yourself up for 70.3 miles and 6-7+ hours of grueling effort, you better be really excited about it! Tahoe does that for me. Driving up late Friday night I couldn’t help but feel giddy and excited. The incredible mountains, dense pine trees, exposed granite faces, and crystal clear lakes… ahhh… yep this is my kind of heaven. What better place for my first 70.3? I also like the idea of REALLY earning it on one of the hardest 70.3 courses there is (no WAY would I ever do the Ironman 140.6 Lake Tahoe… now THAT is just crazy). The two biggest challenges of this course are the elevation that it all takes place (~6,200’) and the giant hill on the bike course so this weekend we got a taste of both.

Matt and I have done a lot of biking up in Tahoe and always really enjoy it. We have done the full loop around the lake (72 miles) twice. The first year we started in North Lake and did the loop in two days with an overnight in South Lake to break it up. The next year we did it all in one day, only stopping in South Lake for lunch. So I am pretty familiar with how tough the cycling can be around here (read: hilly) and was bracing myself for the 70.3 course to be similarly hard. I am really glad that a group of us did the loop portion of the ride (36.7 miles) and that the house we were staying at was right on the course, making logistics easy (thanks Sandi!). The unexpected super nice part of the course is the slight downhill from the lake all the way to Truckee. We flew in this section, averaging 19mph for 10+ miles (this might be a personal record). I attribute 50% of this great average speed to my expert drafting skills. Matt and I were practically riding a tandem bike I was drafting so much on the flats. Of course this strategy will not help at all in any triathalon where drafting is illegal… but it sure felt nice on Saturday to save energy for the big hill (thanks Matt!).
Notice those lovely miles between 5 and 25! That giant hill is hard to ignore though.

The mountain on the course was hard as expected, and long… really long. At one point we got to a green sign which I thought was the sign I had seen the night before on the drive marking the top of the pass... unfortunately it was a green passing zone ahead sign… rough. Getting to the top felt great. I was proud of myself for biking the whole time and spending an occasional minute in my second to lowest gear. Given this course preview I think my strategy will be to take it easy on the very first section (and small hill) and then put in a solid (but not crazy) effort on the flat/downhill section, survive the hill, and then get back to Squaw in one piece.

In the afternoon on Saturday we did some Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP for short) which is really fun. Slower than I thought, certainly less efficient than kayaking, but definitely fun to cruise (slowly) around the lake. We also did a little random swimming and the water was not actually that cold (in a wetsuit).

The next morning a few of us decided to swim again. This time the lake was FREEZING. I mean knock your breath away freezing. I think the difference in temperature had three contributing factors 1) it was earlier in the day 2) we were more on an east facing section of beach instead of south, and 3) the water was deeper. Definitely good practice, and it was also a little choppy (though not nearly as choppy as it was for Matt and Rachel’s swim home the day before). Overall the best part of swimming in Lake Tahoe is how clear and clean the water is. 

After we left the house Sunday, Matt and I decided to hit up one of our favorite trail running spots in Tahoe Donner. Kona, our dog, LOVES trail running so we took him along too. The trails in the secret place that we go (I am not even going to say where it is because if a bunch of people showed up it would ruin it) are mostly unmarked dirt roads or single track trails with not too much elevation change. Originally I had planned to do 5-6 miles but after running a bit that plan quickly turned into 4. I could definitely feel the effects of a hard training weekend, but running (or more accurately run/walking) on those trails is just so pretty it is hard to feel bad. In all 4 miles we saw 4 other people, two mountain bikers, and a couple walking with their dog, also named Kona… what are the odds?
Trail run in Tahoe!
After the run we stopped at Wild Cherry’s my favorite Truckee coffee shop and cafĂ© (notice I have a lot of favorite places up here). I got my usual, large cold brewed iced coffee and the cranberry breakfast sandwich on a bagel… mmm so good! We decided it still felt wrong to be leaving Tahoe at 1pm, so we stopped by The Backcountry, a ski shop across from Wild Cherries and Matt ended up getting a great off season deal on some touring ski boots that he has been wanting for a long time.
Delicious post run lunch.

In case you were wondering what our favorite sport is... just checkout that giant smile. New ski boots!!!
 All in all a super great weekend, looking forward to more adventures (and more training) this summer!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Triathlon training in Tahoe

Posted by Rachel

This weekend I spent a good chunk of the weekend training for a race I'm not participating in- Tahoe 70.3. That's ok though, since I am registered for the (inaugural) Oakland Tri, an Olympic distance race on 8/31 that still requires training in all 3 sports. Plus it wasn't all business- there were plenty of shenanigans thrown in there as well. Since this a training blog that is not dedicated exclusively to training, I'll talk about both.

We arrived Friday night to beautiful weather and scenery. I've been to Tahoe a few times (one other time in the summer) but I don't remember appreciating it this much. We grabbed some dinner and played some games at the rental house.

Travers and me at dinner with Lake Tahoe in the background

The next morning we did part of the 70.3 bike course (~37 miles of it). The course was really scenic and I enjoyed the ride quite a bit (disclaimer: this may be because I know I don't have to race it). It was a pretty fast course minus one giant beast of a hill about 4 miles long... which makes it not such a fast course after all. But it was a great ride, and then it was time for the beach.

Bike ride with a scenic backdrop

We spent the afternoon doing a variety of activities such as stand-up paddle-boarding, open water swimming, and pretending to be a whale breaching. 
If anyone from the xterra marketing department reads this blog, we will sell you this photo for a small fee

A group of us had driven to the beach, but fellow blogger Matt and I decided to swim back to the rental house. Luckily, we procrastinated just enough until the wind really picked up and the water was choppy as hell. I swallowed quite a bit of Lake Tahoe, which I rank above swallowing the San Francisco bay, so I suppose that was a good place to practice. My hands were so cold that the fingers on my left hand would not stay together (almost like there were springs between them), reducing the efficiency of my stroke by about 30%* and making the swim that much harder. When we finally got back toward the house, the beach we came in on was covered in the world's slipperiest rocks ever. I had to backwards crab walk to the dock while shivering to death and laughing hysterically at the situation. This whole swim (which was only ~1.3 miles) and the subsequent deliriousness reminded me that I have a lot of work to do in cold open water if I want to survive Alcatraz.

(*This is an estimated number)

After some grilling and games that evening and a morning run + breakfast burrito the next day, it was time to head home. As a random side note, running was definitely the activity in which I could feel the effects of the altitude the most. All in all, it was a great weekend and I'm excited to come back up for volunteering at IM & 70.3 Tahoe in September.

You didn't think that training was the only thing we did there, did you?

Next up: a few weeks of hard training, including my first experience as a pacer this weekend at the See Jane Run half marathon!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Will's Perspective of the Triathalon

Posted by Will

You all probably noticed a while back that I retired from Triathalons from the Bio page. Well after some thought it occurred to me that saying that was a little bit like saying Paris Hilton retired from a job. I figured that in order to claim that I was retiring from the sport, I would first have to participate at least once. So after Sandi registered me for the Vineman – Monte Rio (without asking if I wanted to do it…ie: Sandi’ing) I decided play along and give the triathlon a tri (or “try” for those of you who don’t like homophones).

This was an incredibly insightful learning experience for me, and even though I had a pretty good time, it affirms my decision to leave the triathloning to others for now. So I’m going to break my report down into the three sports. My only disclaimer is that while my critiques may seem pretty harsh, I did have a pretty good time and in no way regret participating.

Swimming (or Aqua-Battle-Royale): Just like Rachel, I also took 22 minutes for the swim…plus I added another 18 minutes, but who’s counting? This is my weakest sport and since my first open water swim was about a week ago, my expectations were pretty low. The low water level and abundance of algae were a challenge, but the biggest challenge was fighting off the savages I was “swimming” with. There is no etiquette to swim racing (at least not in the 34 and under wave). I have been running for about over 10 years and have never seen anyone close-fist punch a runner during a race. Not only is this normal in swimming, but you get to continue punching the person in front of you until THEY move out of the way. The other strange part about the swim is how they structure the wave start. There is little-to-no correlation between age and gender and swimming speed, so why are the waves organized by age and gender? Of the first 50 swimmers, only 12 were men under 35 (and not the first 12 either). There were just as many women under 35 (including our Master Swimmer, Rachel!) in the top 50 swimmers. And, probably more shocking, there were 10 men over age 50 in that group (which was the LAST wave). Both the female under 35 and men over 50 waves had a higher percentage of swimmers in the top 50 than the men under 35. I’ll stop the rant here, but triathlon organizers should consider setting the waves up by projected swim time, not age and gender.

Biking: I would say that I am average at biking, but it is definitely not one of my strengths. My race plan and execution was probably a little conservative on the bike which is reflected in my average speed of a whopping 16.5 mph. I wanted to conserve some fuel for the run and take in a little of the scenery, so from that standpoint it was a huge success. The bike course was almost tailor made for me. It was pretty flat, had a lot of shade, and riding out towards the coast meant cooler temperatures. I was able to see everyone on the bike which was a highlight except when Sandi “reverse-ghosted” me. What’s that you ask? Well, Chen created this thing called “ghosting out” which is when she fades back from her running partner without them realizing it. A “reverse ghost” is the opposite…like when Sandi silently sneaks up on you and then shouts “Hey Iberg” really loud. I might have pee’d a little, but can’t confirm or deny as that entire region was numb due to the fact everything was wet and cold.

Running: Finally!! I don’t think I passed anyone in the swim and the amount of people I passed on the bike was somewhere in the single digits. Finally, I was able to pass some people. I wish the run would have been longer, but since I was well into the 2nd hour when I started the run, it is probably better for me that it wasn’t any longer. Just like the bike course, the run was flat and shaded almost the entire way. My conclusion is that the running portion of a triathlon is more of a mental game that a physical one. I observed two populations of triathlete; those that were runners first and those that weren’t. I witnessed a large group of people that flew by me on the bike, and then walked the 10k (without any obvious signs of injury). I’m assuming this population is mostly people who didn’t enter the world of triathlons via running. They probably love to bike and swim and then just “get though” the run. Anyway, the other population (which I believe everyone on this blog is part of) is those that converted from running to triathlons. For this group, the run is a mental game of making sure the pace doesn’t get out of hand. After a hard swim/death match and a hard bike ride, I laced up the running shoes and hobbled out of the transition zone. Everything felt tired and heavy as if I was running up a steep hill...then until I looked at my Garmin and it said 7:34! Most runners are pretty good at knowing what pace they are capable of maintaining for a certain number of miles, so managing a huge gap between how fast you feel like you are running and how fast you are actually running can be difficult. I don’t know why, but for some reason legs still want to go fast after a hard ride. Regardless, a runner knows this isn’t sustainable so the rest of the run becomes a mental game of trying to connect how the body feels with what pace your watch says you are running. I only partially succeeded at this game since my pace dropped about 40 seconds per mile by the end of the run.

All-in-all the weekend was a great success! Both Rachel and Travers had huge PRs, Sandi finished 10th in her division (behind Rachel’s 8th place finish), and I survived an activity I was trying to avoid. Now I can officially say that I am retiring from the sport, however something is telling me I’ll be back. Maybe I’ll be the Brett Favre of amateur triathlons.