Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Race Recap - IronGirl Sprint Webster


Sometimes, races sneak up on you.  As I wrote in my post before vacation, the Irongirl Sprint triathlon in Webster two weekends ago was one of those sneaky races.  Side note for concerned citizens, I did find my best goggles, but not in time for this race....

The mantra, "work hard, play hard" seems to have been chosen for me lately.  Just as I was working seemingless endless hours before this race and my trip to Lake Placid, I have slammed back into the workweek with the force of a train hitting concrete.  Long hours in the office, followed by a quick tuck in for the kids and more hours at the computer for my class and odd jobs until late into the night.  I've now also come down with the same stomach bug that my daughter got at IMLP.  (So forgive me if this is even less coherant than usual).  The chances of me getting any training in any time soon seems to be dwindling...

That might be okay though, if my result of IronGirl are any indicator.  I did, in fact, crush the race.  After hardly any workouts in the week before.  After almost forgetting about it.  After resolving to just have a good time and do the best I could on that day.  Let's hope Cranberry Oly at the end of August will be similar...

I'm getting ahead of myself.  Rewind back a few months, when my good friend Legos asked me to race this sprint with her.  This would be her first triathlon, and after being a spectator at Title 9 last fall (best sherpa friend!) she was interested.  Of course I was going to be there with her!  Title 9 was also an all-women's race.  Truthfully, I don't usually go into the "girl power" type athletic events, but I have to admit that IG had a great vibe.  Women of all shapes, sizes, and ages being awesome.  That is a powerful thing.  Plus, after being swam over by ever male age grouper there was at New England Trifest, I was ok with being closer to the middle of field based on my gender alone.

Webster is close to where I live, so it was a short drive and an early morning to get there and get set up.  This is the largest race I've done so far, with over 500 participants.  So many, in fact, that athelete check-in was mandatory the day before or the Friday before the race.  I went on Friday to get my race packet and bracelet, which I then got to sport the rest of the weekend.  I also had to park about a mile away from the race venue, and then ride my bike with my gear to the start.  I followed another woman that knew where she was going, but didn't pay enough attention (that becomes important later).

Race bling.
At least it's pretty
I got set up and had plenty of time to wander around.  I am chronically early.  Legos was coming down with her husband, who gets the credit for all these lovely race photos.  The morning was unseasonably cool (we love using the phrase "polar vortex" now), however the water was above 78 degrees, so wetsuits were not permitted if you times were to count toward rankings.  It was really crazy how much warmer the water was than the air.  So much that after a half an hour of standing in my tri kit on the cold beach, the start of my wave was a relief.  I usually like to warm up in the water, but it was so cold that I decided against it so I wouldn't be both cold AND wet while waiting for the race start.

Swim course at Lake Chaubunagungamaug.  Really.  That's it's name.

The Swim: 1/3 Mile in 13:01

I was just a touch nervous about the swim.  My last couple of open water swims with no wetsuit hadn't felt great.  My back was still tight and painful.  But I had no great troubles on the swim leg, and came out of the water firmly in the middle of my wave.  My wave was the first half of my age group (split alphabetically), so I felt like I was in good shape.  In reality, my time was a bit slower than I'd like, which I attribute to swinging a little too wide around the buoys and other swimmers.  I think I was still a bit shy after the pummeling I took at NE Trifest, which slowed me down just a bit.  Two days after the race I checked my paces in the pool just to be sure - right on target.  So I must have simple taken the long way around.

Running to T1
Transition is so much easier without a wetsuit.  2:58, with a decent run from the beach.  'Nuff said.

The Bike: 45:59 (15.7 mph)

The bike course was rolling hills (maybe one big hill) over 12 miles around the lake.  I felt great.  Two people total passed me, only one of which was in my age group.  I passed nearly 100 other riders.  I do not have delusions of being a super biker, but it is my strongest sport of the three, and I will admit that it did feel good to pick that many people off.  T2 was also quick and smooth at 2:26.

The Run: 3 miles in 27:18 (9:06 pace)

Here's the part where you'll all start to laugh at me.  As I started the run, I decided that I was winning.  Okay, maybe not winning, but close to the top of my age group.  After all, Lego's husband had told me as I came out of the water that I was fast, and I had only lost a single person in my AG on the bike.  That's not bad!  If triathlon is primarily mental, I decided it couldn't hurt to convince myself that I was in the lead.  Giggle.  I am never in the lead.....

Anyway, it seemed to work, because the run leg of this race is the fastest I've ever ran a 5k.  I can't even blame a short course, because my watch agreed.  It was cool, it's wasn't very hilly, but still a 9:06 pace is much faster than anything I've ever run before.  It felt great.  I lost a few women in my age group (no longer winning), but in the chute another woman tried to pass me and I sprinted, leaving her behind.  I wasn't going to drop another slot in the rankings!

I ended up being 22 out of 86 in my AG.  I'm not sure exactly where those other 21 women were - I didn't see most of them! - but I'm still very happy with how I did.  It feels gratifying that, after a year of training, I could do well in a sprint without too much trouble.
The verdict
Legos is a Triathlete!!!
Perspective is a curious thing.  I'm writing this recap after watching IMLP.  There's no way to watch an IM and not feel small.  To feel humbled.

Just as I'm questioning my abilities as an athlete, I'm also questioning the pointfulness of this blog.  I'm struggling to keep perspective that a year ago I couldn't run a single mile.  To remember how far I've come.  I don't see myself as doing anything particularly noteworthy or inspirational, especially compared to others.  With work being so heavy, with my family responsibilities, I'm going to have to make some decisions.  Decisions about training, about maintaining this blog, and about what is next for me.  My last triathlon of the season is in three weeks, and I can't help but worry that I will not be ready.  I am feeling exceptionally unready for large chunks of my life responsibilities.  I've already had to shut down our bakery business this year.  There just isn't time for everything....

So stay tuned (or don't).  Once I sort it out I'll let you know....

Have you ever done a race with very little prep?  How did it go?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

IM Lake Placid - Spectator's Recap

This is going to be a hard post to write for many reasons.  First, it is very difficult to put into words such an intense, emotional experience as an Ironman race.  Also, the story of IMLP belongs to its athletes – the thousands of amazing men and women who competed.  This year’s Ironman Lake Placid saw weather conditions that were completely unprecedented to the IM series.  Every single participant battled conditions that no one should ever have to, in a race that already defies the limit of human endurance.  I do not claim to own the experience of IMLP, but insofar as I can tell it, this is my perspective as someone who watched it….

Lake Placid from Whiteface

As many of my readers know, I turned our family vacation into an Adirondack trek in order to cheer on my coach and longtime friend Anthony at IMLP.  I knew several other people racing from the VMPS team on a more casual basis.  I packed up the kids and spent Wednesday in Lake George, and rolled into Lake Placid on Thursday, after some tubing, hiking, and general milling around with the kids.  Anthony and his wife Kristin stayed Thursday night with us at our rental cabin in Bloomingdale, which is about 30 minutes north of LP.

My girl helps Kristin hike

At the top!

Anthony teaches the kids about wheels
Friday we were all about keeping Anthony’s mind off of the upcoming race.  Not the easiest task given the magnitude of what was coming.  Plus the athletes were out in force – all along the highways we saw literally hundreds of people riding their bikes (and not just toodling – really pushing) and running.  Apparently tapering means different things to different people!  So we took them hiking at Baker Mountain – a less than 2 mile out and back hike near Saranac Lake that has some of the nicest views in the area, and a trail that is appropriate for small feet.  I didn’t know that Anthony and Kristin were new hikers – my little girl very sweetly (if ill-advisedly) held Kristin’s hand for most of the walk up.  We had some nice quiet moments, enjoyed the views, and laughed at the kids scooting down on their bums, after figuring out that many of the smooth glacial rocks on the trail could be “slides”.
She is small but fierce
 Then it was time to brace and head into town for Anthony’s athlete meeting and registration.  Town was PACKED.  Parking was nearly nonexistent – two days before the race!  Anthony went off to his meeting and my kids parked themselves firmly on the giant inflatable bouncy slide that a vendor at the expo had inflated.  Seriously- it may take 10-16 hours to finish an Ironman, but my kids were ready to spend that much time on that blessed slide….

Kids play in the snow in town
 We eventually tore the kids away from the slide and met up with another high school friend, Jen, and her husband, Brian.  Dinner and ice cream were had, more time on the slide with Jen’s girls, and we went our separate ways.  My and Jen’s families back to our rental cabin, and Anthony and Kristin to their bed and breakfast.

Swim technique is important

Ready to cheer
Saturday, after a five mile long run (me), our families toured Whiteface and the Olympic ski jump complex, while Anthony and Kristin rested up for the race.  We got to see the demonstration team at the ski jump complex – my son was thrilled to learn that the athletes were in their early teens.  He is now resolved to become a freestyle ski jumper.  Gymnastics and skiing – check.  At five years old he is already a more confident skier than I am….  God help his mommy! 

The swim start

Here goes nothin
Race morning I woke at 4:30.  Brian, who is an amazing photographer in addition to an ER doctor, and I had decided to meet Kristin and Anthony’s dad at the swim start to watch the race begin.  We drove to a spot outside of town and parked, taking the shuttle the rest of the way into Lake Placid.  We navigated the crowds of people to find Kristin at the far side of the beach at Mirror lake.  We got there just in time to see Anthony before he left to join the rest of the athletes on the shore. 
Clouds over Mirror Lake

IMLP was a time trial start, which means that the athletes “seeded” themselves according to projected swim time.  As a competitive swimmer, Anthony was planning on being one of the first in the water.  In retrospect, this was going to be an incredibly fortunate decision for him…

Coming out of the water on the first lap
Once the pros left, the age groupers were let go.  The emotion of the start of an IM is incredible.  The tension of thousands of wetsuited bodies in green and pink caps waiting.  The national anthem.  To say nothing of the gathering clouds above Mirror Lake.
Bike out
Rain rain go away
We estimated Anthony’s swim time at between 30 to 35 minutes for the first lap.  Athletes had to actually exit the water and run through the arches to get back in the water for the second loop.  We started watching every person in a sleeveless wetsuit come through, trying to see him.  People in wetsuits all look alike.  And we were at least 200 yards away.  Not easy.  But luckily Anthony remembered to turn and wave, which I saw and started screaming.  Brian used his telephoto lens to get a great picture.  Of course Anthony didn’t know we saw him, but we were happy to know he was on track!

Once he was back in the water, we navigated to the bike out to wait for him.  Shortly after we set up a good spot, the skies opened up.  We were on a steep downhill, and it was pouring.  Athletes were coming out riding their brakes, or worse, NOT as they came out of transition.  As Anthony passed us we all shouted warnings to please be careful!
After seeing him go by, we all decided to take shelter and get some coffee at a nearby gas station.  In the randomness that is the universe, I ended up standing in line next to Tara from Family Sport Life!  She looked just about as stressed about the rain as we felt, but kindly offered her tent to us for the day.  I was never able to find it (for reasons I’ll soon explain), but am very grateful for her generosity, and I’m sure under different circumstances my kids would have loved meeting the A-team!
Me and Tara from Family Sport Life
Brian and I had to go back to the cabin and pick up our families to bring back into the race later in the day, so at that point we decided to head out.  But given the conditions, we thought that Ant could use a pick-me-up and Kristin could use a status update, so we decided to try to make it to the turn at mile 40 and surprise him.  I had calculated that intersection (incorrectly) as mile 29, so we thought we had an hour to make a drive that the GPS said would take about 55 minutes.  In a torrential thunderstorm.  Tense.  Brian asked me, “How fast can you safely drive in this weather?”  I thought, “More safely than these people can ride their bikes….”

What are you doing here?
On the way I did make out the mental math and check the map and we did have time.  We made it to the corner with plenty of leeway, with the pros just starting to come through.  We asked the police officers stationed there if anyone had come through bloodied up – they said no.  Thank goodness. 
Trying to spot athletes on the bike isn’t that much easier than in wetsuits, even with their multicolored tri kits.  We saw several look-alikes before Anthony’s red and white tri kit and black helmet showed up.  I started yelling his name and he saw me – the look on his face was priceless!  It was clearly, “What the he** are you doing here???”.   After the race he asked me how I got there.  I told him I ran – the fatigue of the IM such that he actually believed me for a second before saying “Hey wait…….”

I texted Kristin that he was ok and pacing perfectly – even a little ahead of his target.  She texted back that she was relieved but what did I know about them dropping the second loop of the swim??  Surveying Facebook and the web, we found out that thousands of athletes were redirected out of the water after the first swim loop because of the thunder and lightning.  We’d later learn that not all athletes even got to finish the first loop, instead they were redirected and made to run an extra mile into T1.  I can’t even imagine the disorientation and disappointment of being pulled out of the water – especially where it was the slower (and that is of course a relative description, not a judgment) swimmers affected.  My heart ached for the athletes I knew that were likely in that group. 
Brian and I went back to the cabin to collect the rest of our crew.  Jen’s family decided to go do some tourist things to kill time before aiming to be back in town for 2:00 pm – the start of Anthony’s run.  My family was about to do the same – I had actually texted Kristin our plan – when we saw that my daughter was asleep.  My fearless, spunky daughter, who gave up naps at 2 years old, who had quite literally ran up a mountain the day before, was asleep at 11:00 am.  Uh oh.  She had also gotten carsick the day before on the way home from Lake Placid, so I was concerned.  After letting her sleep for 45 minutes, she woke and we asked her what she wanted to do.  Stay with daddy?  Or come to the race and go home if she got tired again?  She chose the latter.

Coming out of T2
Back in the car, back on the shuttle, and a mad-dash back to the run out where Kristin and Anthony’s dad had secured a spot in the ever-increasing crowd.  We had our signs ready, my little guy on my shoulders.  Anthony came out just about on schedule.  He kissed Kristin and said he was a bit shaky off the bike.  He looked in good spirits (he is always incredibly positive).  I walked my kids over to the playground next to Mirror Lake, just in time for the skies to open up again.  The kids were NOT amused.  Having to wait in a crowd for a long time to get rained on just as you get to the fun part is no good.   Luckily the VMPS tent was set up right near the playground.  I ran them over and rapidly explained that I was a friend of XYZ team member and could I PLEASE put my kids under the tent?  They not only gave my kids chairs, but cowbells, goldfish crackers, and Capri-sun juice boxes.  Kid heaven.  I was so grateful.
After the cloudburst passed, we took the kids over the beach, where they could play in the sand, if not go in the water.  Anthony’s 3 mile split came in on my IM tracker, and a text from Kristin.  His time was pretty far off projected.  Something was wrong.
Mile 12 - still smiling
I went back over to Kristin and waited.  The course is such that athletes come through town at mile 12, mile 14, and then not again until the finish.  We had a long time to wait.  Moreover, just around the time that Anthony’s 8 mile splits came in – also way off, I got a text from my husband.  My daughter was “headed downhill” and could I bring something to perk her up?  Torn between waiting for my coach and helping my little girl, I ducked into the gas station and bought an entire box of freeze pops –left some with Jen and Kristin for them and Jen’s girls, and ran with the rest through the crowds to the beach.  Volunteers were forming human barricades to cross the race courses – you had to wait sometimes minutes for a gap in the athletes in order to cross.  There were 3 such crossings between me and my family.  I did make it though.  I got to the playground and saw my husband with our daughter in his lap, helping her drink a dose of kids Tylenol.  She didn’t want a popsicle.  He said he was taking her home.  Ok.  I felt guilty but decided to wait in town.
Mad dash back to Kristin to wait for Anthony.  And wait.  Kristin was upset.  I was upset.  I got a text from my husband that my daughter started throwing up second after I left her.  I felt like the worst mom on the planet.  I wanted Anthony to be ok, my daughter to be ok.  We waited.
We finally spotted Anthony walking up the hill.  He was pale, but smiling.  He said he was taking it easy, but in good spirits and being safe.  He promised Kristin to never do this (an Ironman) again. We all witnessed.   A short wait to see him again at Mile 14. 
Food and drink seemed like the only course of action at that point, so Kristin, Jen’s family, Anthony’s dad and I all went to an Italian place to wait for the finish and for dinner.  Wine seemed like a good idea, and I told Kristin I wasn’t drinking alone.  Everyone agreed she and I needed it…  We did.  It helped, a little.  We charged our phones, and checked Facebook for more status updates.  Some of the athletes I knew were having a lot of trouble.  I worried.  We got the final word on the swim finish – everyone could keep their time from the first lap, but the second lap and T1 wouldn’t count towards anyone’s finish.

The best race wife ever
After dinner we headed over to the finish.  The finish is on the Olympic speed skating Oval, with transition in the middle.  We got a spot at the railing with a good view of the turn, so we’d have plenty of time to see him coming.  We cheered for the finishers coming in.  Some looked great.  Some looked horrible – ashen and pale.  Limping or stumbling or walking.  Dazed.  It was scary.  We wouldn’t get another phone update on Anthony until after he finished, since the IM tracker was updating about 30 minutes behind. 

Finally we saw him running into the stadium.  He almost didn’t see us, but he came over and kissed Kristin again and loped to the finish line.  We heard “Anthony Bagnetto you are an Ironman!!!”

You are an Ironman!!!
We didn’t stick around too long after the finish.  Just long enough to hug him and tell him he was amazing.  We were exhausted, and Jen’s girls, who were still there, were hours past bedtime.  I wanted to check on my girl, even though Daddy had texted me she was sleeping.  We had all originally wanted to go out to dinner and come back at 10 to see the 10-midnight finishers – the energy is supposed to be fantastic, but sadly no one was in the shape to do so.  Kristin took her Ironman home for some rest, and we went back to the cabin.  I’d wake at 2:00 am that night to check the tracker and see that everyone I knew that raced, even the ones having the worst time of it, did in fact finish.  Despite everything that happened.

Anthony asked me at the end, “So what do you think, little client?”  I think watching IMLP was beyond amazing.  Beyond stressful.  Knowing how much these athletes put into their training, to see it all come together the day of, or to fall apart the day of, is powerful.  I’ve seen pictures of people who didn’t make the cutoff walking up the hill to finish anyway.  I am awed at what people can endure.  I truly hope that every single person who raced IMLP fully realizes how amazing they are and is proud of their accomplishment.  I doubt that a single person had the race go “according to plan”.  That makes it that much more incredible.
To answer the question before anyone asks, no…. I do not aspire to do an Ironman at this time.  As much as I deeply respect the commitment and guts of those that do, I don’t think it would fit well into my life as it is right now.  Anthony did threaten to sign me up the day after…. Hopefully he was too tired to follow through….
Congratulations to all the athletes of IMLP, and to their support crews.  It was an incredible day – this is my story.  But you know there are thousands more.  That’s what makes these events so amazing – everyone had their own story, their own challenges overcome, and their own triumphs.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Twas the Night before Irongirl...

... when all through my house....

EDITED 2014 Webster Banner
Oh screw it.  I'm not a blessed poet.  So I have the Irongirl series sprint tri tomorrow morning.  A fact that I've been trying hard to ignore for a number of reasons.  I've been feeling extra run down lately - for reasons I can't explain I've not had anything approaching my usual energy level and training volume this week.  I've been telling my coach I'm tapering for IMLP with him (solidarity!!)

In the midst of a couple of short runs and some yoga, which is the sum total of my active endeavors over the last 6 days, I have been working.  And working, and working, and working.  I have saddle sores from my computer chair (just kidding), and a very stuff upper back and neck from staring at a computer screen (not at all kidding).

This morning started with a very telling trio of activities.  After being woken up too early by the kids, I was drinking my coffee, using the TENS unit to try to loosen my back, and ready a book on time management.  Fix brain, fix muscles, fix life.  Ha!

Packet pickup was last night at a sports store about a half hour away.  Irongirl is such a large race that you must pick up your packet the Friday night or Saturday before the race.  Oy.  We took the opportunity to take the kids hiking in Purgatory Chasm, a local state park with some very cool rock scrambling.
Hiking = crosstraining
Then this morning we were out at the local botanical garden hunting butterflies.... 
A Mourning Cloak butterfly sunning itself

The general theme is that I've not been focused on this race.  I've been focused on getting work wrapped up in time for our Lake Placid trip in 4 days.  I've been focused on setting up the next 3 weeks of my course (lectures, midterms exam, announcements) to deploy in carefully scheduled time points, without any interaction mandatory on my part.  I've been trying to wrap up my other odd jobs, and am learning that is really, really hard to do all this while planning a vacation, packing, and trying to feed and entertain the small ones.
So it's really no surprise that tomorrow's race has been an afterthought.  "I have a race sandwiched between breakfast and a kids birthday party in the afternoon.  I need to test out that tent... hmm must update training peaks... and where did my goggles go??"
No - seriously.  My goggles are missing.  Any of my training partners reading this... if I've loaned you anything or trained with you please check your bags.  I have spares for tomorrow, but still.  Where are my goggles?!?!?!
Transition set out (before the wetsuit announcements).
Even kitty wouldn't pose like usual :(
I haven't really be respecting this race.  A sprint, and an all women's sprint at that (I get a little overly cynical about girl-power events).  It seems, well.... short.  Which really isn't the right attitude to have.  Already the race gods are starting to frown on me, first by stealing my favorite goggles, and now by the announcement tonight that the race is no longer wetsuit legal.  Or rather, I could wear on it I wanted to be relegated to my own special wetsuit-wearing age group wave and not be eligible for any awards.  The latter's not a big risk with a field of 550 athletes, but nobody puts Baby in a special pansy wetsuit wave.  So.. off I swim without the benefit of extra floatation.  I'm non-thrilled about this, as this past weekend's practice swim with Gypsy was a little rough.
Tomorrow morning has the makings.  Of what?  Well, in discussion with my coach....

We've decided that the only thing to do is to go out and completely crush this race. 

Punky feelings, sore back, wetsuits be damned.  Bring it on.  I dare you.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

TriTalk Tuesday - Race Day Fueling

Happy Tuesday to everyone!  Cynthia at You Signed Up for What?, Courtney at The Trigirl Chronicles and I are continuing last week's theme of delicious #trichat with this week's theme - what to eat during (and before and after) a big race. 

Advanced planners - next week's topic will be paying homage to our support crew for their long hard work putting up with us and all our laundry.  Supporting a Triathlete!

Race day fueling is very personal.  There are hundreds of specialty products out there - GUs, Gatorade, Hammergels, Shokbloks... the list goes on.  I'm sure that you could ask a hundred different athletes their nutritional strategies and get 100 different answers.  There are some common themes though:

  • Don't try anything new on race day (this includes nutrition)
  • Take in calories every 45 minutes to an hour, if doing anything longer than a sprint
  • Hydrate hydrate hydrate.  Best place to do this in a triathlon is on the bike leg, so practice getting your waterbottle in and out easily!
  • Eat a good sized breakfast of carbs a couple of hours before the start - don't race on a full stomach.

The details are mostly personal preference.  I will share what I have found works best for me.  My racing nutrition has been a results of huge trial and error (including some epic bonks during longer races)

Leading up to the race:  I don't carbo-load, in particular.  I have tried it in the past, even eliminating whole grains and vegetables to reduce fiber (as my tummy can be problematic on the run.  Pun intended).  That strategy left me with too few calories in over the course of the taper, and my blood sugar unstable.  Now I eat my regular diet of whole grains, fruits and veggies, and proteins leading up to a race, focusing on keep my blood sugar levels from oscillating too much.  I do, however, have my traditional pre-race dinner of tuna casserole the night before (or 2 nights before) the race.

Why tuna casserole?  Two reasons - it was a childhood staple and comfort food that even my older brother could make for dinners, so it's a bit nostalgic and helps my race jitters.  Also, champion triathlete Chrissy Wellington says in her memoir "A Life Without Limits" that her go-to race meal is also... tuna pasta.  I'm guessing she doesn't mean the cream-of-mushroom soup kind with the breadcrumbs on top, per se, but if it's good enough for Chrissy it's good enough for me!  (Chrissy's book is a great summer read, by the way.  Very well written and inspiring.)

On race day itself, my standard breakfast is a banana and English muffin with natural peanut bitter.  Sometimes adding Greek yogurt as well.  My goal with breakfast is to get a good amount of slow-burning protein into my system a couple of hours beforehand, so it has some time to digest.  I know that many athletes race on only carbs because they are easier to digest - for all the reasons I talked about last week, this doesn't work for me.

About 30 minutes before the start of the race, I'll have one last carb/protein balanced snack, like a Pocketfuel pouch or granola bar.  On the bike I'll take in a GU every 45 minutes or so.  I'm not a huge fan of GU, but they are one of the easiest things to consume while in motion, and I've had ok success with them.  As I said above, hydrate like mad on the bike, especially if it's hot.  Then on the run (or on stand-alone running races), this is my go-to fuel: 

I kid you not.  I've tried a lot of different things, and peanut M&Ms work great for me.  It's (again) the combination of sugar and protein.  Plus, they are dirt cheap, which in this heavy expensive triathlete world, is a great thing!  I eat a fun-sized package (8 M&Ms) every four miles, religiously.  When I ran my most recent half-marathon in Raleigh, I even squeezed in some extra at mile 11 - nothing wrong with starting to space your snacks closer the longer you've been at it!
The only tough part is keeping the kids out of my M&M stash....

Of course, the one item I really can't live without is Nuun.  Electrolyte tabs in lots of yummy flavors, but with no calories.  I drink at least one bottle of Nuun for each workout, and on hot days or long workouts I'll both start and end a workout or race with it.  After our most recent Oly, Gypsy and I were driving back from the race with killer headaches that we couldn't figure out, since we were both drinking (plain) water like fishes.  Once we realized we were low on salt and chugged 2 tablets worth of Nuun each, we were all better!

What is your favorite race fuel??  Are you a GU junky or a whole foods aficionado?

In other news, it's been a while since I've done any kind of product review.  What would people like to see me review here?  Fellow bloggers - any suggestions on new stuff that needs attention?  Let me know in comments!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Weekend Recap - Rodents of Unusual Size

Yep - this is my view.  All day.  Monday morning is here again, and it's isn't pretty.  Actually, it IS pretty cute... as kitty goes from sleeping on my feet, to batting at my knees, to pacing back and forth in front of my work screen.  I'm lucky to be working from home today (we have a car in the shop).  After another banner weekend and very little sleep I'm not much fit for human company.  At least, of the professional kind...

It was a big weekend in the Cupcake Tri household.  On Saturday, I woke early and biked up to Gypsy's house.  It is a good thing that I love Gypsy as my very best tri training buddy, because although she lives only just under 5 miles away, she is up one very big hill and down one equally big hill to get to her house.  Living at the bottom of said hill, there is literally no way to leave her house that doesn't involve your quads burning.  So there's that. 

We tried a new adventure - packing up our swim gear in backpacks and biking to a new swimming spot.  I opted for the lighter approach with no wetsuit, since swimming has been feeling a bit "off" for me lately.  I've not had a pool session in several months, and the "cheating" aspect of the wetsuit buoyancy has somewhat impaired my swimming ability (or lack thereof).  Gypsy, however, in terror of the possibility of anything "critter" touching her biked with a full poofy school backpack with wetsuit in tow.

Around the 15 mile mark (for me), we reached out new watering hole.  I locked our bikes onto a tree and we shimmied into our swim stuff.  Really, I was wearing a tri suit, so I jumped in the water escaping the hordes of bloodthirsty mosquitos while Gypsy pulled her wetsuit.

Our new (to us) pond was lovely.  Clear and picturesque, with several enticing islands in the middle... if we could only swim that far.  That proved to be my downfall, as I was correct.  Without a wetsuit, I don't swim so good.  Gypsy is naturally a much stronger swimmer, being a competitive swimmer in her youth.  She is great about pacing me.  She tried to show me some recovery strokes (I don't really know how to do breast stroke or anything else).  I gamely did my best but my bum and legs were sinking and I was sucking wind.  Around the time I decided to kick it in and turn around, Gypsy spied a beaver lodge a good 1/2 mile away.

"Is that a beaver lodge??"  Me:  "Yeah...."  Gypsy: "Do they bite???"  Me: "Yes, their favorite food is human flesh...."  Her: "Oh my god I'm leaving!  They can get you because I'm so much faster!"  Gypsy sprints to the swim out, leaving me in the middle of the lake. 

But only for a little bit.  She stopped and waited for me, and I learned that once again, my sarcasm isn't always totally appreciated.  Funny about training with someone - after a while you know eachother so well there's not much territory that doesn't get hauled over - including teasing.  Gypsy is usually painfully tactful about her stronger swimming and running abilities, so her blatant abandonment of me to flesh eating aquatic rodents was that much more humorous....  I decided to NOT share with her that we'd seen a 4 foot beaver crossing the road on our way to the local hiking mountain just last week....

Once safely on land and neither drowned or devoured, the plan was to bike back home.  We ended up taking a wrong turn (my fault), so rounded out the bike ride at about 25 miles total.  It was Gypsy's little's birthday party in the afternoon, so we both switched back to Mommy mode to get all small things ready....

Sunday morning I had to myself.  Rather, I had an hour to myself, and I decided to get a benchmark run in.  It's been a few weeks since my cortisone shot.  I've been running mostly intervals of jogging and walking, but have recently started spacing them out a bit more, and I wanted to see what I was capable of.  My town doesn't really "do" flat, as you'd like for a perfect time trial, so I went to the rail trail - the closest thing we have to a flat space.  It's actually a gentle grade - down and up.  I had meant to do about 2 miles downhill, 2 uphill (back) and then 2 miles down again (turning around), but I got distracted by an extension of the trail. I ended up running 3 miles down at a paces near the 9:30s, and back up at paces above 10.  Alas, I finished the 6.2 in 1:03:42.  Not the sub-hour I was hoping for.  But I did treat myself to an account at and started listening to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  I am a huge bookworm, and I've been waiting for this title to come in to the library for literally months.  No more - now I get to listen while I run!  Or drive, or whatever.

On the non-training fornt, I've had some small successes as well.  I was all worked up by my post about strawberry cupcakes last week, but rather than making cupcakes (not healthy), at my friend Hummingbird's suggestion I spun the craving into some whole wheat almond strawberry muffins.  My kitchen helpers contributed to their creation, and they fed the family all weekend.  I used this recipe, substituting Greek yogurt for the milk (more protein) and frozen strawberries for the fresh.  Next time I make them I'll cut the sugar even more as they were a bit sweet.
Little Yoda helps out

Beans 'n' greens, plus baby carrots from our garden
I also made dinner both nights, using some vegetable from our garden (the first of the carrots), some peas.... overnight Little Yoda's cherry tomato plants have gone from tiny to Godzilla sized proportions.  I need a good solid afternoon just to try to reign them in somehow, and separate the cucumbers out of them as well.  Which will likely not happen..... anyway cooking and actually putting into place a meal plan for the coming week always feels like a victory.
In the afternoon yesterday we met Legos and her gang at a local state park for swimming and kayaking.  We had hoped to get in an open water swim practice, as Legos is doing her first sprint triathlon, the IronGirl, this coming weekend, but it was too windy and wavy and the part of the park that it was allowed in was closed.  So we did regular swimming with the kids and kayaked around.  My little guy learned to paddle and is actually pretty good for a 5 year old.  I think I see kid kayaks joining our fleet in the very near future....
Little Dude paddles the Jedi into the sand

Practicing setting up our tents in the side yard
Next week, if I can survive the massive piles of work between me and then (oh and that little sprint tri I have going....) the family is travelling to Lake Placid for a few days.  My coach is racing IMLP and I decided to take the opportunity to gather together a bunch of our friends and call it a high school reunion.  There's the promise of lots of hiking, rafting(?) and other outdoor adventures with the littles, so camping and hiking training continues on! 

I truly feel like I could use one weekend for the kids and their stuff, one weekend for my big training workouts, one weekend to catch up on house stuff (like the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes), and one weekend to catch up on work.  Maybe even a day to relax....

But none of that is occurring, so.... how was your weekend?  Any tomato tips?  Favorite recipes?  Because I'm gonna need them!