Sunday, August 23, 2009

XTERRA Portland Race Report

After about a month of shlumping around and not wanting to do anything, I decided I needed to get back into the racing routine. I got a new coach, a new bike (the pink bike is moving on), and a new race focus. First up: XTERRA Portland.

I have family just south of Portland that were more than happy to put me up for a couple days, so I packed up the trusty old Corolla, and drove up to Pleasanton on Wednesday night for my Thursday morning departure. I figured getting past most of the potential Bay Area traffic spots would make my morning a little shinier. It did. Thursday morning I re-packed the car, picked up a breakfast burrito, water, and Diet Dr. Pepper, and hit the road.

The drive wasn't bad, I got to work on my car singing in a big way. Snapped pictures of Mount Shasta as I drove by, and kept my front seat stocked with a variety of car food. My friend Katy from Fresno was taking a road trip to Seattle and was about six hours ahead of me, so it was kind of fun to see where she was in relation to me (via FB status, of course). I stopped in Eugene to visit my friend Andy and to stretch my legs for about half an hour. I had my first run in with the "Oregon is full-service" gas stations, and made it my aunt Mike and Mary's house in time for a late-ish dinner.

Friday I hung out with my uncle (who very accurately compared himself to Shrek, he's a freaking giant), visited with my grandparents who I hadn't seen in years, saw my other aunt Mary Della who was going in for back surgery while I was racing, and went to (Mike's) Mary's vet hospital, where I was forced to play with a Corgi puppy, watch a Mastiff get X-rayed, and assist in a Poodle's ultrasound. Terrible stuff, I tell you!

Saturday morning I got all geared up and drove to the race venue. It was being held at a lake south-west of Portland, and my mapquest directions were two pages long, so I was nervous about getting there in time. For some reason Mapquest had me avoid all major roadways and take farm roads, which was pretty, but a little weird. All went smoothly and I ended up getting there way too early. Oh well!

Once the race people got check-in set up I picked up my packet and set up my transition, then sat around a bunch. I ran into one of my customers and his girlfriend who were racing, so at least I knew someone. They introduced me to a girl that moved from the Bay Area to Portland last year and had just done an Ironman, and we compared "I have literally only swam/biked/run XX times since the race" stories. She was nice.

The pre-race meeting was interesting. This was the first time an XTERRA had been put on in the Portland area, so the race organizers were definitely hoping they did things right. The website didn't say if wetsuits were allowed. The race director informed us that the water was warm enough that the pros were not allowed to wear suits, and age groupers were REQUIRED to wear suits, per USA Triathlon rules. People freaked out. Some baggy swim trunk-clad hillbilly guy started screaming at the race director. Someone eventually informed the race director that the actual USAT rule was that suits were optional, so Mr. Swim Trunks could relax.

When the race director described the bike course he said "at one point you will come to a sign saying 'Bridge is out' and an arrow pointing to a detour toward the left. You are going right. Mandatory dismount, cross the bridge, and scale the cliff on the other side."

Hmmmmm....that's different.

The swim: 1000 meters

Nothing terribly eventful here. The beach start was spread out enough that there wasn't much traffic, and things went pretty smoothly. I got out of the water feeling surprisingly good considering my lack of swim training lately. There was one weird spot getting out of the water where the regular dirt stopped and the beach started that required stepping up a 3 foot embankment. It was slippery when I got to it, and apparently as more people used it, it got so slick that people were falling on their faces and coming into transition covered in mud.

T1 took way too long.

The bike: supposed to be 25k

OMG, it was freaking gorgeous! We started out on the road, heading counter-clockwise around the lake, and dropped into some singletrack that took us back in a clockwise direction. I saw one girl in my age group go by me on the road section, and dropped into the singletrack behind another girl in my AG. I stayed on her wheel through the section. When we got spit back out on the road, I think she was a little freaked out as we had seen a guy that destroyed his front wheel, and the course was super twisty and rooty and technical (and awesome!)

We continued heading clockwise around the lake, riding short road sections and dropping into the trees. It was seriously the best singletrack I have ridden. There were bridge crossings, short steep climbs, mud, trees, meadows, and awesome descents. I stopped to check on one lady who had crashed and cut her knee open, and was afraid another guy was hurt, but turned out to be picking and eating blackberries mid-race. I picked off another girl in my AG, but knew the super fast girl was still up there. As far as I knew I was still on the podium!

Way at the end of the bike leg (which was at least two miles longer than it was supposed to be) we came to the bridge detour. What used to be a bridge with a railing (just like one I had earlier crashed into with my hip) was just two 2x6 planks covered with wire for traction over a stream. I shouldered my bike and walked across, only to be faced with a wall of dirt. About 15 feet above where I was standing was where we were supposed to continue on our way. I didn't see a way up...WTF? I let a guy who was behind me go in front and watched him shoulder his bike with one arm and pull himself up the wall using tiny foot holes and a rope that was hanging from a tree at the top. Holy crap! I hauled myself up, thanking my lack of self-control for having a light bike and laughing with the girl that was behind me. Shortly thereafter, we arrived in transition once again.

T2 was faster than the first one, but still slow.

The run: originally 4.35 miles, extended to 5.5 miles on race morning.

The run sucked for a couple of reasons. I didn't eat enough on the bike so I was pretty cooked by the time I got to the run. The course was two loops that started with singletrack, had a long section on the road, and hooked back onto the dirt that was made treacherous with lumps of grass and rocks and bees. I didn't get hurt or stung, but I had no energy and walked more than I would like to admit. I got passed by one girl in my AG that I know was behind me, and saw the speedy girl finishing her second lap as I was out on my first.

I crossed the line, changed, got in line for the free BBQ and waited for the awards. They must have had someone protest or something and I waited for an hour and a half to hear my AG results and never did. I packed back up and went to my uncle's house to shower and eat some more. We spent more time with my grandparents, and all went to bed early.

Sunday morning we went out to breakfast to celebrate my uncle's birthday, and I got back in the car and headed south. As usual, my post-race traffic tolerance level was lacking, and I subjected a few people to some whiney phone calls (sorry guys). When I was almost back to Pleasanton a Subaru pulled up next to me with a waving arm hanging out the window. It was Katy!!! Apparently her road trip included a stop in Pleasanton as well, but it was super random!

When the results were finally posted I found out that I got 4th in my AG out of 11 starters (10 finishers). Considering this was my new fast age group and my lack of training, I'm very happy with the result!

All in all it was an awesome trip that I will definitely try to do again next year!

Next weekend: XTERRA Lake Tahoe!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

My awesome Iron-sign!


A cute little old lady helped me get situated for the run, and didn't even bat an eye as I smeared Bodyglide on various sensitive areas. She had obviously been around the athletes all day! I donned my race belt, a long-sleeved top, shoes, socks, and a hat, and hit the road.

Holy gimpy, I was not moving fast. Within a couple miles I had nasty heartburn again any time I ran, so I ran/walked to keep things from getting to the point of vomiting. I'm not good at only puking once, and I was afraid that if I started I wouldn't be able to stop. Enter the power-walker.

It took forever. It was raining, and windy, and cold. I stopped to pee about a billion times. At first I was doing the civilized thing and getting undressed in the bathrooms, but after a while I decided that was a waste of time and just peed through my shorts. It was raining any way. Coming back in from my first loop someone gave me a space blanket, which I wore like a super-stylish silver cape. The Coke and pretzels and cookies went down well. The broth did not, something about the broth smell mixed with the styrofoam smell was no bueno. I saw my dad and brother a little before the half way point. It had been a while since I had eaten and I burst into tears, telling my dad I was SURE my foot was broken (because absolutely everything hurt at this point, my feet especially). He told me he understood, but he really didn't think it was broken, and he thought I should eat something. Of course I told him I was NOT hungry!!! Then I went and ate a bunch. At one of the aid stations I was ambushed by a mother/daughter volunteer team, who removed my poncho, cut a hole in it for my head, and put it and another plastic poncho over my head. They used my race belt to strap it all down, and sent me on my way with a hand-full of cookies.

The next time I saw my dad I was all smiles, and walking fast enough that they couldn't easily catch up with me. They might think I'm bi-polar.

After I saw them I got to the long, lonely part of the run, which runs alongside the lake. There are fewer spectators there, and it felt like forever. Just as it started to get dark I saw a guy walking past me in the opposite direction that looked a lot like Elliott. I was confused, as I was sure he would have been done by then. I turned around looked again, and he was wearing cargo shorts and carrying car keys, and was walking with a healthy limp - it WAS him! I called his name and he hobbled over, very happy to see me. Apparently my family and my friends weren't communicating well, so no one knew my dad had just seen me. Elliott had driven out to the turn around point to look for me. New boy had been tracking me online and it had been a long time since any updates were posted, so he was calling people in a panic. Elliott called him to say that he had found me, we talked for a bit, I told him Ironman was stupid, all while I continued my power walk/hobble. Once I reached the turn around and was headed toward the finish (albeit about 5 miles away) Elliott left me in the dark so he could pick up his wife and meet me at the finish. I fell in with a group of people that were walking and jogging, and stayed with them for about a mile before I decided they were going too slow. I was given glow sticks to wear because it was dark. They set off my plastic attire quite nicely.

About a mile from the finish, in the twisty little neighborhood, my brother found me. He and my dad had figured I would be there soon, so he started at the finish and started walking the course backward to come in with me. I apologized for keeping him out there ALL day, and he told me to shut-up, and that he was proud of me. It was awesome. He convinced me to run down to the finish. I did, until the huge blister I had been brewing exploded between my big and next-biggest toe and I almost fell down. Scared the crap out of my brother!

I re-evaluated my running-to-the-finish plan and only ran the last block. Someone suggested I take all the plastic off. I was too lazy. In retrospect, I would have had much better pictures had I listened.

The finish chute was AMAZING. It was 11pm and there were still hundreds of people sitting in the bleachers, cheering for the finishers. The noise was overwhelming. People were hanging over the sides, reaching out to high-five, and going nuts. So unbelievably awesome.

Once I crossed the line, a woman escorted to the chip removal, medal giving, and picture taking stations. I removed my plastic for that picture. Elliott and his wife, Greg and his family, and my family were all there to watch me finish. So cool. Elliott took me to the massage tent where they had a heater(!) and pizza. The massage sucked and my stomach couldn't handle the pizza, but it was good to get off my feel for a minute.

I about froze when I came out of the heated tent and made my brother give me his jacket. Poor kid. He and I went to get my bags and bike while my dad got the car. I got a painfully violent case of the hiccups while we drove to the house.

My room was upstairs. So not cool. I took a shower and climbed in bed, only to sleep like crap because moving hurt. I woke up at 6 am. Elliott was already up. Ironman does weird things to sleep. We packed up and picked up various bits and pieces, went to the awards because Elliott had done a 9:42 which was good for third in his AG and a Kona slot. I dropped off my rental car, tried to figure out a way to use my rolly suitcase for locomotion through the airport, and got on my first plane. The guy next to me was creepy, but I fell asleep before we took off. When we were leaving the plane he told me to go first (to stare at my ass? I don't know), I told him it would take forever.
Him: Wow, you're really limping! *sarcastically* What, did you do the Ironman or something? *sneer*
Me: Yes.
Him: Oh! *looks like he realizes he's an ass* Holy crap!


I limped around the Seattle airport and ate crappy airport food until my next flight. New boy was picking me up from the airport, which I was excited about. I hobbled off the plane and hit the bathroom, finally making it out to where he was waiting, WITH A SIGN! No one has ever made me a sign! It was a good one too! I'll have to post it for you.

He was disappointed I took so long getting off the plane because he wanted to embarrass me in front of a bunch of people. Ha! Too bad for him, all the people were gone!

The next day at work, while Elliott and I compared how swollen our bodies and feet were, flowers and balloons were delivered to the shop. From new boy. While he was there.

He gets soooooo many brownie points.

Later a second bouquet showed up from my dad and step mom. I love my people.


It seems I have finally made it out of my Iron-funk and the race it starting to be a good experience in my mind. There are so many things I can do better next time. I'm going to work on getting fast before I try to go that long again though.

The rest of this year will be XTERRA and half irons, and next year will probably be the same.

Coming soon, XTERRA Portland race report!

Woo hoo! The computer didn't crash!


Seems I need to get on this whole Iron-race blogging thing, as I raced again last weekend and have another next weekend. Oopsie!

Hopefully my computer will refrain from crashing long enough to get through the rest of the race!

Ok, so it's all windy and grey, and I'm about to go for a bike ride. I took off, willing myself to calm down and settle in, since it was going to be a long day. I really didn't want to be racing to make the cut-offs, and all my on-the-bike math made that seem pretty unlikely, barring total disaster.

I was disheartened to note that the first little hill came up before I was warmed up, but it let me see lots of the run course, and where special needs was. I had thought about putting a vest on before the start of the bike leg, or putting one in my special needs bag, but decided against it at the last minute. Fairly early on in the ride I discovered that I had mixed too much Perpetuem powder in my bottles, making them too thick to drink easily, and giving me heart burn every time I drank them (I'm sure the lake water and being in the aero position didn't help matters much). This put a bit of a kink in my nutrition plans, but I figured I would take in as much as I could, and use the aid stations to get extra calories along the way. A little ways past special needs I heard a metallic clank and saw something fly off my bike, which turned out to be my CO2 cartridges. I stopped and got them, as having to beg supplies in the event of a flat would not be good.

Mentally the first loop was definitely easier, as I had done the half distance before, and breaking it into a 56 mile chunk was much less daunting. Everything was all happy and shiny, until I got to the hills. Greg had made the hills sound like a bit of a pain in the ass, and one of my customers had said they were no big deal, one descent got you enough momentum to get over the next climb without much additional work. I had chosen to believe my customer. Unfortunately, Greg was right. The climbs were all pretty short, but some were a little steep for my liking, and they were definitely not close together enough to allow for coasting. Suck-tastic. Fortunately, there were lots of spectators and signs and pretty things to look at, so I was able to distract myself a little bit. Someone had put little signs that said "Legs of Zeus" on all the especially ugly climbs, so I had an idea of what was coming next.

After what seemed like forever, I made it out of the hilly parts, and headed back into town. The wind was picking up more and more, and I was definitely getting cold, so I refrained from stopping to pee or stretch or anything, in fear of having a hypothermia repeat. I rolled through town, where the thousands of people make you feel like a rock star, and headed back out towards the special needs stop. There were a couple of Hammer Bars in my back that totally had my name on them. The volunteers were awesome, and had my bag ready when I pulled over, but I opted to sit on the ground for a bit and scarf down my snacks. The pavement was warm-ish, and my legs appreciated the break. I had also packed a more dilute bottle of Perpetuem in special needs, which might have been the best-tasting thing ever, right at that moment.

The downside to stopping for that long was I cooled down, and once I got going again I was freaking freezing. There was no bathroom at the special needs station, and the next aid station was a couple miles down the rode, so the next goal was just to make it there. I was so cold I cried a little, fearing I would get hypothermic again. Happily, I did not. I pulled over at the bathroom and a medic girl held my bike while I waddled over to the porta-potty. There was no wind in there. It was a happy place (except for the obvious toilet stuff), and I stayed in there for probably a bit longer than was necessary. When I came out the medic girl looked all concerned, and had one of her medic guys with her. They seemed to think I was puking in there. It took a few minutes to convince them I was ok, just cold.

Miles 65 through about 95 were the hardest for me mentally. I was tired and it was a big jump from half way to all the way there. The wind was worse, making descending in my aero bars super scary, and the hilly section of the course felt like it was deserted. I knew I wasn't in last or anything, but with that few people around it felt like it. I walked a little section of one of the Zeus hills. I didn't want to feel anymore burn. The hilly section felt a little shorter the second time around, and the specators were getting drunker, so there was a little bit of entertainment.

The last few miles were fun, with all the spectators, and the knowledge that I was almost done. I rolled into the bike with plenty of time before the cut-off, handed my bike to the guy taking bikes, and hobbled over to the changing tent just as it started to rain.