Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Whither the Vagabond?

We've been moving.  Our old apartment complex changed owners, and the new owners don't seem as dedicated to maintenance of older buildings.  The buildings had always had a few quirks, but we faced a few recent problems.  Like mice.  And sewage coming up through the bathtub.

Four or five months of scrubbing sewage out of my bathtub so I could use it in the morning was way too much.  When the rent increased, and the manager refused to offer any sort of compromise, we decided to move.  We netted an awesome place in a highrise, with TWO bathrooms (ooooo, what an upgrade!) and a gym on site.  Just one problem...

We decided to move without movers.

Never, never again.  We both look like we have been cage-fighting.

After all this is over, I plan to take my bike to a new bike shop and get myself a nice fitting.  The Gearhead (my brother-in-law, who is a pretty neat person and a bike mechanic for fun and profit) is having fits that my stem may be too short.  So it's time for a third opinion.  But in the meantime... I am looking forward to spending three or four days at home, organizing a new house, taking long showers in the sewage-free tub, locking myself into the bathroom where no boys or kitties can walk in on me, and basking in the 10th floor breeze.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Race Report: Part 4- The Run- "Go, Team Ben!"

Those of you who have been reading the blog might have picked up that I am a reluctant runner.  As a kid, I played soccer.  I played defense.  I sprinted, or I stood still.  I was not and have never been a run-without-stopping sort.

It was only in August that I really worked up to being able to move for 6.2  miles without stopping in a motion that could be considered a run (if you are loose with the definition).  But I'd only done that a few times.

My coaches were very strict about the taper.  I was terrified.

I started off slow with a Clif Shot (I love you, Clif Bar company) and Clif Shot Bloks.  I never actually ate the Shot, and only worked through 4 of the Shot Bloks.  (That is how I know that I ate well on the bike.)   I started slow and easy like I'd been coached.  And this is where I must send a huge shout-out to Wendy, my new friend from TNT.  She kept telling me to plan the run and run my plan.  People were taking off all around me.  I was getting left in the dust, losing all the places I had gained on the bike.  But my plan was to start off very slow.  I had found that I didn't really get my run legs until about a mile in.

So I jogged very slow.  I mean, vvveerryy sslloowwllyy.  At the first aid station, I grabbed my water, and now I must praise race volunteers.  They are awesome people.  They offer you what they have as if they are inviting you to experience salvation.  "Water! Water!"  "Powerade!  You want Powerade!"  "Gu Chomps!  Getcher Gu Chomps!"  In other words, "Salvation, honey!  Come and worship!  I give you the waters of life!  Amen!"  You may laugh at me, but this is how you know that I have truly adopted Virginia as my home state.  The volunteers shouted, "Water! Powerade! Y'all want water!"  and I replied, "Thank you, baby!"  Once, I yelled, "Thank you, honey babe!" to the volunteer who said, "Here's some water, sugar!"  If I'd had a hand fan, I'd have fluttered it.  I love Southerners.

If you are doing a first time Olympic distance Tri, or if you are doing a tri for someone else, advertise the fact.

I wrote Ben's name on my jersey, and people all over the route were screaming, "GO TEAM BEN!" I wish Ben could have heard all these people screaming his name like he were some sort of rock star.

I also wrote "1st Tri" on my jersey.  That is a genius idea.  People would run up behind me and say, "Good job, first timer!"  One guy yelled, "Awesome pace!  You're great!"  Another ran with me for a few minutes and we chatted about doing our first tri and how we felt.

In some places, TNT people were running in two directions at once as we looped an out-and-back section of the run.  People held their hands up for high-fives.  They'd yell, "GO TEAM!" and more often, "GO TEAM BEN!" "GO, BEN!"

But the best moment?  After the last aid station... I'd been holding my slow pace all along, and some people were blowing up on the course- just losing the strength.  I found I had a bit more in me.  I increased speed a bit.  I gained a few places.  And soon, there was this awesome cheering section yelling, "ALMOST THERE!  ALL DOWNHILL!"

And I rounded a corner, and there it was.  "YAY! FINISH LINE!" I yelled.  The spectators heard me, and a few people took up a cheer of "FINISH LINE! FINISH LINE!"

And then I was over, and someone was giving me a medal and M was taking pictures.

We called Ben and Sarah, who had braved the rain and the cold and come out, with a fuzzy head (Ben) and on crutches (Sarah).

Runners need to have mantras.  I totally borrowed one that my Running Priest friend lent me- "Relax. Power. Glide." as my main mantra.  That really works, you should try it.  But under my cap's brim was my second mantra for the toughest sections.

"Suck it up for Sarah."

Throughout all of this, Sarah has been an incredible teammate for me, and (duh, of course!) for Ben.  I know she was my cheerleader in some tough moments, like the day I achieved my fundraising minimum and she called me screaming with excitement.  When I was emotionally drained and physically beaten, she's got the real humanity that keeps the world turning.  By that, I don't mean that she's a saint who is cheerfully bearing all the burdens of being the wife of a cancer patient.  She is not taking this cancer cheerfully, and she is not letting it get away with anything! She gets mad, frustrated, angry, upset.  She's so incredibly REAL with all of this, and the sheer REAL-ness makes her all that much more beloved, to me.  So, Sarah... this tri was done in honor of Ben, my honored teammate.  But at the end of the day, you were also my teammate- part 2 of Team Ben, in the 2010 Nation's Tri.  Without your relentless support, I know I would never have gotten this far... yes, even when you didn't know you were being supportive!

1..2..3.. GO TEAM BEN!

Finisher's Medal!  And my first Team in Training pin.  

Friday, September 17, 2010

Race Report: Part 3- The Bike

As I ran toward the transition area, I felt about as calm as I'd felt in the whole race preparation.  I guess I'm a fairly strong climber- I regularly pass people on the climbs when I ride.  Don't ask me how I achieved that.  DC is a very flat course.  It would be wet, which made me nervous.  Remember the Crash?  I crashed on a day very like Sunday- rain off and on, standing water, wet roads.  But still... BIKE RIDE!

I met Coach Rick, and he handed off my cochlear.  He hovered wanting to be helpful, but knowing that the rule of tri forbid too much help.  I stripped my wetsuit, and pulled on my helmet, my arm warmers, my socks and shoes, and this time, I remembered my gloves.  I was all suited up.  I pulled my bike free.  Coach Rick was done for the day, and I was off to the bike course.  In just a few minutes, I was on the bike, and cruising.

They say to start slow, so I did.  I guess I have a lot of leg strength, because very soon, I was passing people.  It's such a flat course that I could easily take my hands off the bike to start eating and drinking.  I had my clif bar and my shot bloks and my gatorade... full-on bike picnic.

It was one of the most enjoyable rides in the rain I've ever had.  I paced strong and fast (my splits showed I held a pace of 17.5 for this part of the course, and moved up about 300 places in the field- in other words, I passed a lot of people.)  The TT machines would blow by me like I was standing still- I'd hear their distinctive chatter well before I'd hear the rider's shout of "ON YOUR LEFT".

Soon, I discovered one of the fun things with the non-competitive section.  Where I was in the race, none of us were going to be age group podium contenders.  We were first timers, regular gals, or just people seeking a personal best.  I passed and was passed by a certain group of people.  Finally, one other girl and I started yelling, "Hi!  Passing you again!" at each other.  Once I yelled, "Let's trade places again!"

I was SO glad to have ZERO flats after this Summer Of Flats.  Whew!

We rode up the Rock Creek Parkway, into Maryland.  We did a hairpin turn and rocketed back to DC.  In a few places, the race volunteers slowed us down like we were NASCAR drivers (usually, for a road hazard or especially sharp turn).

And the cool thing about going with Team in Training?  There were over 750 of us, so that's a LOT of people in purple tri suits.  It's incredibly awesome to be rocketing along and to see some guy rocketing back on the return leg, also decked out in TNT purple.  (I think we look hot in purple spandex.  Call me vain, but there's a lot of easy-on-the-eyes triathletes.  I might keep racing just for the eye candy.)  And again and again, I'd hear a call...


And all too soon, it was over.  I was back into the crowd, clipping out of my pedals, and getting ready for my nemesis...

The Run.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Race Report: Part 2- The Swim

The Nation's Tri has so many athletes that we start in waves.  I.e., the super-fast people (the "elites") go first, followed by the military cadets, followed by the various age groups and gender.  I am a female 30-34 age group competitor.  We were given very hot and sexy dark green swim caps.  I am well aware that my (slightly panicked) mother would have far preferred I'd been given a glow-in-the-dark, flashing cap.  She had some fears of my drowning and dying a wet and silty death in the Potomac.
I stood at the exit chute just long enough to watch the really fast guys come out of the water.  The first few men flew by, having swum for just over 17 minutes.  (That's super fast.)  They ran by at top speed, and I saw the first problem of a triathlon:  I'd never practiced running in bare feet.  
And then I realized: I'd be running in bare feet THROUGH WASHINGTON DC.  
I wear flip flops in hotel showers, I'm so germ-o-phobic and worried about slipping.  To be barefoot... in a city... all together now:  EWWWWW!  
Please tell me how brave I was to take off my flip flops and give them to my coach.  Along with my cochlear.  
I got in line with the other F 30-34s.  Then I kicked my mother out of line.  And then I turned the other way and kicked my husband out of line.  "M, I love you, but you're in my zone!"  Then I talked to the other athletes and wondered what the h-e-hockey-sticks I'd gotten into. 
Soon, we were leaping in the Potomac.  Yes, the swim takes place in the Potomac.  It's not as filthy as I would have guessed, but it does leave one with a fine, silty brown dirt all over you.  (Sorry about your washcloths, Hilton hotel.  You were great!)  
The swim went well- I know I'm a slow swimmer, so I positioned myself at the back of my age group and let the fast people take off.  I started into my stroke.  I've begun to realize that, in open water, it takes me about 200 meters to settle in and get my breathing going, so I just took the time relax and not freak out.  Now that I've cut the neck of my wetsuit, I can breathe SO much easier, and I don't freak out nearly as much.  Whew.  Wish I'd know about that earlier in the summer, when I'd panic because I couldn't breathe.  I should write to that teammate who gave me the wetsuit tip.  
My biggest mistake:  I got lost.  As I rounded the 600 meter buoy, I kept up my stroke and breathing and pacing and suddenly I swam into a herd of people all swimming directly at me.  I stopped dead in the water.  I looked up.  I looked around.  I was totally, completely disoriented.  I saw buoys.  I saw 500 meters.  I saw 400 meters.  I was supposed to be at 700 meters.  Finally, I realized I'd gotten turned completely around.  Disheartened, I swam back to 500 and started that section over.  I kicked myself for about 100 meters, then decided I'd blown that part and I could let it ruin the race or I could make the best of it.  I had pushed myself pretty far back in my age group... but I could only move up, right? 
I figure, with that error, I actually swam about 1700 meters instead of 1500.  Meaning I was the first person in the whole race to get that far. I WIN! 
Winning rocks. 
I concentrated on keeping my body positioned well in the water, and worked on my kick.  Considering I started the summer not even knowing how to do a proper stroke, I think I've come a long way.  Around 900 meters, everything clicked.  (Well, maybe my arm stroke wasn't quite bent right...) I got the full-leg kick going.  I felt my arms pulling down on the water.  And suddenly, I was passing people.  I hit a buoy full on, I was sighting so well.  I swam past about a bunch of people and suddenly, I saw myself matching some guy on my right.  He and I swam stroke for stroke the last hundred meters or so, and then I was clambering up the ramp.  I walked a few steps to reorient myself, and suddenly, I broke into a jog.  
I was running barefoot through a misting tent and over the asphalt of Washington, DC.  
People were cheering on either side of the chute.  
The bike ride was coming up- the part of the event I was made for.  Bring it on, baby.  

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How did you set up your Transition, O Master Triathlete?

Well, O Loyal Reader... since you asked-

While I like the suggestion of standing stock still and crying "Oh, my God, Oh, my God", instead, I huddled on the bus for a while, and then decided to pull up my big-girl wetsuit and saunter outside.

Thankfully, the worst of the rain had passed, and the sky was starting to lighten.

I had two towels: the first was a gaudy, purple-and-white beach towel which I chose for the garish colors.  I figured it'd be easy to spot in a HUGE, crowded transition area.  I lay this down, and arranged my gear for the bike on the top left half, and my gear for the run on the top right half.

A TNT friend suggested we bring several plastic garbage bags: this suggestion saved me, this day.  I had draped my bike with the plastic the night before, so my bike was mostly dry.  I decided to sacrifice my handlebars to the rain and keep my seat and seatbag dry with a gallon size freezer bag, and I draped my towel and gear with the plastic garbage bag.

When I got back from the swim, the rain was over, and I pulled the garbage bag off to have a perfectly dry transition area.

This means I started the ride with dry socks and shoes.

However, because it was soaking, my socks quickly became soaked.  And when I changed to the run, I was feeling hyper, and I did not change into my dry socks.  Even though I had a dry towel.  So I ran with dry running shoes and soaking wet socks.

When I took my shoes off later, I had blisters between several toes, and two huge blisters forming underneath my big toes, right near the foot.  The between-toe blisters had already popped and run raw.

This is why it was good that I had spare, plain water in a jug to wash my feet.  I washed and dried them before putting on the socks, and this STILL happened.  Can you imagine what would have happened if I'd just stuck them in shoes, straight out of the Potomac?


Aren't you glad you asked?  Oh, wait, is that too much oversharing?  Dang, my bike-crazy brother-in-law never has this much trouble with the oversharing.  But he did laugh at my toe socks, which I was wearing out to dinner, because it was easier than individually bandaging every toe.

Toe socks might be the most awesome invention ever.  I might go buy 6 more pairs and wear them every day of the week.  Even if people laugh at me.

Race Report: Part One- Setting up in the Rain

So, I am now home and ready to present to you a Race Report.

Want pictures?  I don't have any just yet- but if you go to The Nation's Tri, my bib number is 4525.  You can look up my splits, and I think you can also look up pictures.

Anyway:  let's start with Setting Up Transition.

I set my iPhone's alarm... a wake-up call... and the alarm clock.  I get a little nervous about missing early deadlines.  I was already awake when I was startled by M's Kill-Bill style maneuvar on the alarm clock.  See, since I'm deaf, I don't hear the alarm clock.  I rely on M for that sort of thing.  And I sort of didn't tell him I'd set the clocks for 4:15AM.  Let's just say the man was somewhat startled.  Hi, sweetie.  Sorry, sweetie...

Shortly after 5, I was at the transition area.  It was many thousands of square feet- an area for over 7,000 athletes.  I had racked my bike the day before and now headed towards it to take off the plastic bag cover and set up my transition area.  The announcer, however, had other plans.  No sooner than I had plopped my bag down on the muddy wet grass, he started in with his forecasts of a band of rain moving through.  My coach guided me through the tradition of getting a timing chip.  By the time I'd gotten back, my warm up pants were getting wet and I was getting cold, and the steady drizzle was getting heavier.  Soon, I'd be wet through and very, very cold.

It is now time for my Brilliant Genius Idea.

Being that I was cold, I needed to warm up.  All my warm clothes (arm warmers, tights) were designed to keep you warm while being wet.  However, the announcer also mentioned it was a wetsuit legal race.

I had a full wetsuit in my bag.

Wetsuits are designed to get wet, and to keep one warm.

Wetsuits are also a b*tch to put on when you are already wet.  They are easiest to put on when you, and they, are dry.

See where I'm going here?  While I was still dry-ish, and while it was dry, and before the heavy rain came in, I pulled on that wetsuit.  In less than a minute, I was still wet, but warm.  People all around me also started putting on their suits.

Meanwhile, the announcer mentioned a band of electrical activity coming in.  As the thunder started to roll, the organizers moved the buses over to the transition, and my coach grabbed me and all but marched me on to the bus.  He promised I'd have time to set up my area, but he had an aversion to me dying in a lightning storm.

He's all heart, Coach Rick.  Coach Rick rocks, actually.  Coach Rick had a special band to hold my cochlear for me, and gave me tips like "put a thing of water next to the bike so you can wash your feet off."

With many others, we huddled on the bus and watched the rain pour.  Finally, at 6:50, I insisted on going out to set up my area.  The race organizers pushed the race start back 20 minutes to give us all some extra time to set up.  You see, transition closes before the race starts, so everyone has to be DONE and OUT.  But I got it done- the bike was set up.  I had my towel laid down with my bike shoes, run shoes, and the associated gear.  The right food was in the various pouches.  I had extra socks.

Don't we all love extra socks?

Before I knew it, I was waiting in a line for the porta-pottie that was about a mile long.

A distant drum beat rolled in from the river.  The National Anthem played.  And suddenly, a shot rang out.

Game on.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Good bye, Bike!

My bike, it is gone.  It is not here with me.  I said good bye to it this morning, stripped it of its bento box, seat bag, and computer, and gave it up.

Let's not freak out right now.

One of the bonuses is that TNT will ship our bikes for us so that we don't need to worry about them.  I planned to drive my bike on my racks, being a control freak.  But then I started thinking about parking garages.

I have roof racks.  Parking garages and roof racks don't work.

I decided to send my bike with all my teammates, the "easy" way, on the truck.

Here it goes!

As I got home, I found myself repacking my bags and I found a little valve cover, and thought, "Oh, I should see if my bike needs one."  I came down and had palpitations because my bike wasn't there.

It is on a truck, going down South.  I hope it is making friends, getting to know the other bikes, sharing, and getting its tight spots massaged.

This also means that it's all really happening.

Good Lord.  Time to go repack my transition bag again.  The nerves started already.  At least I get to make a check list.

In other news, my family did a big, cool thing.  My paternal grandfather and maternal great-grandmother both died of lymphoma.  My family decided to sponsor me to the tune of a "corporate donation" which is $1,000 which goes to fight blood cancers.  Lymphoma, meet the Bagioni family, and then some.  You had no idea what you got yourself into when you decided to take us on.  (Imagine more than 20 Italians and Portuguese people cracking their knuckles.  Yeah, we're like that.)

PS- yes, we did just publish the family name (hey, family, let me know if it freaks you out,                   and I'll do some photoshop blurring for you).  

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Three Weekends of Fun

Has posting seemed a little sparse?  Well, we *are* in taper right now, meaning we aren't supposed to do big workouts.  I'm freaking out a little.  I'm actually freaking out a lot.  Despite my coach's and teammates reassurance that I'm ready, I feel totally un-ready.

I feel puny.

I feel squashy.

I feel like anti-triathlete.

This past weekend, however, included some of the most awesome camping I've gotten to do.  I've been backpacking in some gorgeous locations, and I've returned to some favorite car camping campgrounds a few times, and I've gone beach-cabin-dwelling with both family and friends, and I think that every once in a while everyone needs the Perfect Vacation:

No cell signal.  No email.  Forgot our books.  (Also forgot my knitting).  No bikes.  Nothing to do but play games like dominoes and Flat Busted and cards, hang out with friends, and relax.  I wish I could have camped a few extra days.

Best part: (other than seeing my best friends)- we called the Park Service on a really obnoxious RV that had set up a TV outdoors with a satellite.  Fine if that's your thing, but my problem was their really loud, obnoxious generator.  The campground had generator quiet hours, and this thing had been rip roaring far past quiet hours.

E picks up her phone and reports them.  Five minutes later, the park police show up and the generator was off.

They knew it was us, though.  We were sitting around, each with a beer bottle, knitting and playing games.  Next thing we know, WE had the Park Police at OUR site, making sure we were all legal.  (It was a wet campground.)

Oh, the passive aggression.  I love humanity.

OK- one more day of work tomorrow, and then it's tri time.  I'm starting to pack my transition bag.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Beating the Demons

So, after the Big Crash in which I wiped out on wet railroad tracks and broke my dominant hand so severely that I wasn't out of the splint until Thanksgiving (and still have nerve damage today), I was feeling a bit beat by the road.

This weekend, it has been one year since the Big Crash.  So I returned to Vermont (this time, with M) to ride the ride again.

It was about as different as it could be.  I ran into Brian, the really nice guy who was tailing me on a mountain bike and who helped called SAG.  I think he also pulled my bike off the road.  His wife is also an M, and she's also doing TNT- she's a marathoner!

The weather was GORGEOUS- clean, clear, a little breezy, cool.  Basically, the sort of riding weather cyclists sell souls for.

The HydeAway Inn and the owner Margaret were the same as ever- perfect, gracious, cheerful Vermont hospitality.  I don't know how many years I will be able to make the Mad River Ride, but she operates in ski season too, and Margaret and her Inn will always have my business.  They ROCK! (And make a good breakfast).

My only goal: ride past the crash point and to the next rest stop afterwards.

I rode the first 40 pretty strong.  Then psyched myself out for the next ten.  Then I saw them:

As I approached, I got off and walked across.  (Karmic balance, you know.)  And got back on and road to 60 miles where I stopped and ate a few peanut butter sandwiches.  The picture above was taken by M.  He really wanted a picture with me in it, but I didn't realize I was over 45 minutes ahead of my estimated time.  He arrived at the tracks just after 11.  I thought I'd be there between 11:15 and 11:30.  I breezed by just after 10:30, by our estimates.

At 60 miles, I rested well, but was beginning to worry- I'd been plagued by some slow shifting, and it was getting worse.  I knew I had at least 20 miles left in me, but if the shifting didn't ease up, I might have trouble. At 70 miles, my gears locked up completely, stranding me in a high gear- i.e., totally improper for climbing hills!  Riding should be fun, and climbing on the big ring in a high gear is not fun. It's painful, and this isn't the event that I need to put my energy into.

At 80-something I saw M's car.  I searched him out knowing he had to be in a nearby espresso-serving joint.  He got me ice cream.  The man knows me.  And nothing beats the SAG wagon when it's your own Beetle.

Update: the culprit was a stretched cable.  The bike is in for its pre-tri tuneup now!