Category Archives: travel

Time for some house arrest

As usual, I am reporting in with a crazy-outta-control-post about my life at the moment. The last few months were quite certainly a blast, but am I ever glad they’re over! I made a map of my travel as of late, with the red heart being where home is (although I think my heart is elsewhere most of the time). After looking at this map, I am not quite sure how I survived these last several weeks. People who travel a lot for work: you have my sympathy.

August brought me some travelage to Colorado, where I paced my friend Andrea in the Leadville 100 (and also got altitude sickness) and then hung out with Baberaham in his soon-to-be-new-city of Fort Collins. That was a nice and relaxing trip, minus the puking at 11oooft. Once I got back, my parents drove to St Louis to visit and brought their dog, and we enjoyed a nice quiet weekend in St Louis.

September started with a quick trip to Michigan for my cousin’s wedding. While I was in the mitten, I recruited my dad to tag along to help volunteer at the Rev3 Cedar Point race on Sunday. The wedding was a blast, and Sunday was a huge Rev3 party. I was the volunteer coordinator for the wetsuit strippers and the run special needs bags. Although helping out at races is way more difficult than actually doing the race itself, I always have such a blast and come back feeling like I’ve accomplished something amazing.

Special thanks to the wetsuit stripping extraordinaires from Lifestyle Fitness in metro-Detroit!

After Cedar Point, I had a few days before leaving on an extended work trip, with a quick detour to hang out with some of my Mega Tough teammies in northern California. Unfortunately, the cat I adopted in May got seriously ill the night before I was supposed to leave, and I had to take him to the ER. I missed my flight because I was carting him around STL for second opinions and echocardiograms and EKGs, to find out my poor lil’ guy has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart). Had this happened 24hrs later, I would have been gone and my cat lady would have found him dead on my living room floor. I was relieved to find out that heart disease in cats is treatable, but I was stressed to the max and my bank accounts were depleted. So, if anyone is interested in adopting a special-needs cat, let me know. Jazzy is super cool, and his meds are getting ironed out… he needs pills twice a day but hopefully won’t need anymore ER visits again.

How can you say no to this cute face?

Eventually, thanks to some really truly amazing people who helped me out with Jasper, I did get to leave for California and met up with my girls as our race was starting in San Francisco. The plan was to race the Ragnar Relay Napa Valley as an ultra team. The execution of such plan failed, as we were pummeled one after the other with trials and tribulations, eventually ending in us pulling the plug after each of us completed our first of three legs. We chalked it up to our fun levels (which were negative from the beginning) and our safety (which was terrorist threat level RED), and we cruised back to Berkeley for some real sleep, real running, and real girl-time fun. I was disappointed with this Ragnar, for a lot of different reasons, because we’ve always had so much fun and success at these events. Oh, well- guess its time for our Mega Tough ladies to take our running shoes elsewhere (trail relay, anyone?).

On Saturday, we slept in and then headed to Mount Tam for some seriously awesome trail time. Aside from rolling my ankle really bad after about 2hrs, I had an absolute blast and we got the much needed girl bonding time that we were not getting in the Ragnar van. And, we got to wear our super-rad shirts that Margot made for us. Score!

Bringing MHz to Napa Valley

After my quick 24ish hours in NoCal, I headed to San Diego for a conference, and then hung out at UCSD in LaJolla for a few days learning some techniques for my research. It was fun and educational, and I am supergeeked about this collaboration!
But my trip didn’t end there. After San Diego, I flew to Marquette and Baberaham picked me up. Some of our grad school friends were getting married in Wausau, so I stayed in Houghton for a day or two and then we drove with friends to the Land of Beer and Cheese for one of the best weddings of the decade.

I was glad to finally head home after so much traveling and stress, mostly because I wanted to see my kitty and just have some downtime. Fortunately, while I was gone, I have some super-excellent-friends that took care of my special-needs guy and gave him so much attention. I don’t know what I’d do without them.
Downtime didn’t really happen, although I got a nice long ride in on my Scott Plasma before I put it up for sale. About a week later, I headed to Anderson, South Carolina for Rev3‘s last race of the season. I was helping with the run course, and my job on race day was making sure that the Rev3 HalfRev run course was solid and safe. There’s lots I’ve learned from triathlon racing about pacing, nutrition, and tapering, but I still have lots to learn about triathlon staffing. My nutrition for race day included potato chips and candy bars around 4pm, which is terrible because I had gone two weeks without any processed food. Oh, well. A calorie is a calorie.
 
After I got back from South Carolina, Baberaham put me on house arrest, and I am super geeked to not be traveling again until at least Thanksgiving (maybe Christmas?). I’m also in the process of trying to find a new place to live that has cheaper rent so I can save up some money for our wedding next fall.
I am so geeked to be in STL for a while. Last night, I enjoyed some cyclocross at Queeny Park, and both Baberaham and my TMT girl, Jess, are coming to spend some time here (Jess is doing the Rock and Roll Half Marathon next weekend).
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I guess it was time to take a break

February started with a bang. Actually, it started with rain, winds, ice, and snow. The snow wasn’t fun snow. It was the snow that has the texture of sugar, abrasive and hellacious. It’s the snow that you loathe if you’re a Nordic skier looking for the perfect wax. In Missouri, I have learned, the winters can be cruel. Not that I don’t know what winters are like. I have lived in the mountains, I’ve lived in the Yoop, I’ve seen- I’ve experienced- winters. But I’ve never experienced a real Missouri winter before. At first, I thought everyone was so full of sh*t. Really? A “midwest” winter? I mean, I grew up on Lake Erie, I went swimming in Lake Superior in December… and you’re telling me its cold and nasty in MO? Pshahhh….

But I bit my tongue. I nodded and grinned when people would say such things. And then, hell froze over. Literally…

Winters in Missouri are like a bipolar boyfriend who has never sought treatment. One day, it’s 60F and sunny. The next? It’s 30 and raining. Then the rain is freezing to the ground, the temperature keeps dropping, the winds keep picking up… and your car ends up with an inch-thick sheet of ice on it. Forget driving. Unless your car is equipped with ice skates, you ain’t going anywhere.  And on the first of February, this is exactly what happened. It started with some rain, some wind, and the temperatures dropped. The next day, the entire town was covered in ice, schools were canceled, the city of St Louis shut down, and everyone was in panic mode. Granted, I didn’t think we needed to buy out the toilet paper and bottled water at Schnucks (that might have been going a little far), but closing schools seemed entirely reasonable.

Luckily, I got to experience the entire week of lackluster road clearing and icy sidewalks before heading south. By the time the weekend came around, the temperatures were already rising and the roads were clear. I didn’t care, I was excited to leave if just for a week.

So. Where did I go? Here’s a hint:

What do tropical rainforests, deep-fried everything, and really awesome people have in common? …

Give up?

Each can be found in Puerto Rico.

I have never been to the Caribbean before this past week, and luckily the weather was tame and… gorgeous. I usually hate hot, humid places. But it wasn’t too hot. There was always a nice breeze from the Trade Winds, and the scenery was phenomenal.

The people were incredibly friendly, especially our driver George. But that’s the Puerto Rican way, I think. How can you not be happy if all you do is stuff outside?

Luckily, I wasn’t completely engulfed by the Puerto Rican lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong, I ate fried food (fried plantains came with everything…) and I laid in the sun a little too long, leaving my skin the color of lobster. But I did get in a few decent runs. I did some “swimming”- that included diving under and over waves, and body surfed. I hiked in El Yunque National Forest, and I even did some kayaking (granted, it was an eco-tour to see the bioluminescent bay… but I count it nonetheless).


I made it back to Missouri this morning, and I think I brought the nice weather back with me. I really can’t complain – as soon as I got back to my apartment, I grabbed my bike and headed out for a few hours in 60 degree and sunny weather. I feel refreshed, I feel ready to tackle work again, and I am feeling more motivated to train and get back into a schedule. I am also motivated to eat well again, get back into the routine of preparing healthy meals that don’t involve greasy plantains… although I have to admit- the Mofongo was quite delicious.

 

The Post-"A"-Race Triathlete's Binge: Foodie Edition

I feel very fortunate to have completed my 2010 “A” race, the Rev3 FullRev at Cedar Point, before taking on all of the traveling craziness of interviewing for a post-doc position. Not because traveling is stressful (even though it is), but because my diet gets wrecked when I travel. Of course, my warm-up to this foodie binge was a trip to Madison, Wisconsin, where I ventured to for an interview around the time I was beginning to taper. Of course, I had to hit up Bluephies and the Silly Yak Bakery, which meant plenty of delicious gluten-free goodies that filled my comfort food quota.

Then, my trip to Cedar Point meant pre-race ice cream, and post race whatever-the-eff-I-wanted.

But now, I have no concerns about upcoming races (my next isn’t for another four weeks) or how I’ll feel for workout #2 in a few hours (because there isn’t one). One thing I am concerned about is the number of calories I take in when I don’t have anything to plan on. Does that sound good? Then I will probably eat it. And, one thing I’ve noticed since traveling for interviews this week is that whenever anyone talks about how awesome their locale is and why I should live there, it always gets directed at food.

“We have great restaurants!”

“The international food is to die for!”

“You can have practically any food you want any time you want it.”

Pretty sure this isn’t a good thing.

You see, in Houghton, there are basically three restaurants I go to on a regular basis. One is a Tex-Mex place that has fast service close to campus, but its close to campus… and I like to avoid that place when I can. The other is a pizza place that makes a mean gluten-free crust, but its expensive. And the third is the slowest service you could ever imagine with mediocre American food. Needless to say, I don’t go out that often.

But if I have variety, I gotta try it out.

For example, I had bacon, eggs, and potatoes at a diner near my hotel this morning, because that is my favorite breakfast and I have to compare it to the MUB score of awesomeness*. For lunch, I was treated to an Indian buffet (which was awesome, by the way). Buffets are always bad news bears, because as a grad student, I feel like I have to get my money’s worth; and as an athlete coming off from race week, I feel like I can still eat a dinosaur. Needless to say, I was stuffed.

But not too stuffed to turn down FroYo. St Louis is hot, and FroYo is not. Take some mango tart fro-yo and add some fresh fruit and shazam! you’ve got an awesome air conditioner.

And did someone say pizza? Pi Pizzeria in Central West End is amazing, the service is phenomenal, and they even have gluten free pizza. Guess what? It’s awesome. I ordered the Central West End pizza, not just because I was in CWE, but also because it was made with goat cheese and arugula. I love arugula. And, just when I thought I was too full, the server handed over the dessert menu, and *gasp!* there was Askinosie chocolate ice cream on the menu. And *double gasp!* its better than my homemade chocolate ice cream. Of course it was, because Askinosie is to.die.for.

Here’s hoping for some nutritious salads tomorrow?

I am eating like I just raced an Ironman yesterday, and I need to slow my role before I become a rollie-pollie. But, I also need to “absorb the culture”- so one more day of this foolish behavior shouldn’t hurt!

*I love MUB breakfast… when Andrea makes it.

Chisago Lakes Triathlon 2010- Race Report

I decided to race Chisago again this year, somewhat on a whim.

My race schedule originally had penciled in my first ultra, the Voyageur 50mile trail race, near Duluth, Minnesota for this weekend, but my lack of long runs at mid-June and early season illness had me grabbing for the eraser. Instead of running myself into the ground, I decided to pull out of Voyageur and look for something else. Luckily, it was the exact same time that my teammate, Sharpie, emailed me asking what I thought about the Chisago Tri. She wanted to know if it would be worth it for her to travel from Colorado to race it, and with the idea that she’d be heading to the midwest, I decided to put my chips in the triathlon bucket instead.

The more I thought about it, the happier I was with my decision. The race last year was flat, fast, and a great primer for the FullRev at Cedar Point in September. I could test out my new 54 in a race setting, master my nutrition, and get in another long race on my new-ish bike. So with some back-and-forth with Sharpie, I signed up (race week registration was only ~$115 after fees) and reserved a room at the same seedy motel I stayed at last year.

I wanted to get to the Twin Cities area by noon so I could meet my friend Leiah for lunch, but I didn’t end up leaving Houghton until a little after 9, and so I stopped and had lunch at a diner in Spooner. Unfortunately, I was a little worried that the hashbrowns were not 100% gluten free, so I scraped around on the plate, ate four pieces of bacon, and headed back on my way. I got to TC a little after 2, and Leiah was at the Red Bull Flugtag, so instead of meeting her for lunch, I headed over there for dinner of kabobs on the grill. In the interim, I watched an episode of Scrubs (downtime) and ran a few miles to get the junk out.

My pre-race meal was light and full of veggies, but I was careful not to eat too much. I had caprese salad and a few skewers worth of peppers, tomatoes, and mushrooms, and then picked up some ice cream on the way back to the motel. I was on the hunt for some Panda Puffs, but I was hardpressed to find them, so I grabbed a box of Smore’ables and decided to go with those and a packet of almond butter for breakfast. I tried to get into bed by 10pm CST, but by the time I had everything laid out and packed up, it was after 1030. I set the alarms for 445am and woke up every few hours thinking my three alarms weren’t working. Ughhh…

Smore’ables were a good breakfast, and I wanted to keep eating them because they tasted so good. I held back though, packed up my stuff and filled my aero bottle with water, 2 tablets of Kola Nuun, and EFS (fruit punch). I noticed that I only brought one of the two straws (daaaang) and couldn’t do anything about it then, so I filled up the largest volume of the two compartment system and headed to the race.

I didn’t ask to be in the elite wave, but since I entered my time from last year’s race, they squeaked me in to wave 2. It was nice, I had a great spot in transition and a clear path to my bike for both transitions.

Pre-Race Transition

I saw my teammate before the race, and a friend from college who started racing triathlon when he started graduate school in Illinois. I felt relaxed, carefree, and I tried to not have any “must do” expectations. Being placed in wave 2 meant that I got to head out first, and they bumped our race time up because of the delay on the first wave. I thought the swim would again be a little short this year, but I couldn’t see that farthest two buoys and by the time I made it around the last one I felt the distance. It’s amazing how slow time goes when I am swimming, how a half hour in the water feels like an hour on the bike. I found a set of feet, then lost them. Found feet. They were going too slow, so I moved on. Found another set, but they were going to zig-zagged. Eventually I was just swimming by myself. The waves behind me started to catch up, and I felt like I was swimming zig-zagged too. Eventually I got to shore in what felt like an hour, but my watch said 36:40. Nice.

Swim: 37:13, 1:55/100m pace

T1 was a little slower than I wanted, mostly because I couldn’t get my wetsuit off my timing chip. I was glad that I had safety pinned the chip on, but damn was I pissed when my wetsuit wouldn’t roll over it. I yanked and yanked and eventually got it free. Slipped into the shoes and helmet, and ran out.

T1: 1:29

It wasn’t until I started on the bike that I noticed that A) the compartment I filled with fluid on my aero bottle was not the compartment that the straw was in and B) the straw holes were different sizes between the two, and I just so happened to have the larger diameter straw with me. So I had to stick the straw inside the bottle and get onto my pursuit bars with my face right next to my bars in order to drink. That was pretty crappy. So anytime I wanted to take a drink, my neck would crane downward and I felt like at any moment I would hit a bump and poke my eye out with the huge ass straw. Not only that, but I could only get a few sips at a time, which made my usual “drink as much as you want to on the bike” plan go out the window.

About five miles in, I was getting caught by some packs. Girls hugging other girls’ wheels. Men zipping by at mach 3. I realized most of them were from the sprint race, and at the sprint turnoff, even though it was fairly obvious, I was a little confused and almost turned the wrong way because so many of the athletes were going that way. Once the sprinters turned off, I tried to get into a rhythm, but I couldn’t knock the woman who was riding by me when a guy would go past only to slow down on the slight inclines. Eventually, I thought I dropped her, because I put the hammer down for about three miles. But then I got to an incline, and wanted to save my legs. I tried to get into my smaller chain ring, and I felt all my power disappear. I dropped my chain. No. no no no. Everyone went zipping past me, one guy asked if I needed help, but I was able to throw it back on quickly. Stopping on the uphill didn’t help, though, but I caught back up to drafter-girl by the end of it and cruised on by.

I was on my own for a while. I was afraid of dropping my chain again, so I tried to stay in the 54 as much as I could. In fact, so much so that at one point I was hammering so hard up a hill that I thought I might snap my chain. Ugh. Ok, just downshift, even if you have to stop and fix the chain, it will still probably be faster than this! Transition was smooth.

The bumps started getting to me too. Every ten feet, the concrete was cracked every ten feet or so, and every crack was just wide enough to send me jarring forward and backward. There were dozens of miles of cracks. Bump bump bump, and soon I noticed that my right elbow pad was moving. Soon, my elbow pad was no longer supporting my weight, and I was supporting the weight of my body through my shoulders instead of my elbows. I wasn’t sipping on my EFS as often as I wanted to be, and I was thirsty but I was out of water. And I was alone, so I was losing focus fast. This sucks, I thought. Maybe I should just stop now, maybe these are signs I shouldn’t be racing today. My legs felt like lead and I was scared about the run. How can I run fast after staying in my 54 on all these hills? I’m going to have to run fast if I want to maintain any sort of respect, because this bike split sure as heck isn’t going to be my proudest triathlon moment. I was feeling sorry for myself.

But then I rethought that idea.

These kinds of things have never happened to me before in a race. Races, for me, have always been practically flawless. My nutrition has always been spot-on. My fit has always been great. I’ve never had a flat, dropped a chain, or anything like that. I’ve always felt good, strong, fluid. And I was feeling good, too, just a little beat up. So what if I was having issues? So what if I was stupid and didn’t check my bottle beforehand? So what if the new chain ring, for the first time, dropped my chain in a race? These are things that I experienced now, the hard way, in race where it matters. But these minor little set backs were not enough to ruin my day. Heck no. Get tough, I told myself. Just deal with it. And don’t let it happen again.

So I cranked on. I hammered the downhills and calculated my time. Ok, just keep this pace, and you’ll be where you need to be. I was shooting for 21.5mph average, but that was for last year’s course, which was flat as a pancake.  This year’s course was not. After re-evaluating the course and catastrophes, I decided that I wanted to be under 2:45. I was starting to bonk, and then I rallied home around mile 49, when a group passed me. It sort of woke me up. And fired me up, too, because Drafter-girl was back and hugging the wheel of another drafter guy. Drafter guy was doing all sorts of stupid things, like passing on the right, blocking me in, speeding up to get by me only to slow down once he was there. He wouldn’t let go of the guy’s wheel in front of him (a Peace Coffee racer who I’d see later on the run). I took a mental note of Drafter Guy’s number, and I got around him and the drafter pack he was with. Peace Coffee racer let me squeak ahead of him because he noticed I was boxed in, and he kept trying to drop the drafters but to no avail. No way in heck was I going to let them draft off me… but then the drafters finally overtook me and rode the peleton all the way back to transition. In hindsight, since there were no penalties given, I could have just squeaked in behind these packs and dropped my time a good 5-10 minutes, but that is something I would have had to live with, knowing, and I am too proud (which is probably a fault under these circumstances).

Bike: 2:44:33, 20.4 mph pace

T2 was much faster. In and out, perfect transition spot and flawless transition. I didn’t need anything, just my Fastwitches, number and visor. Off I went.

T2: 54.5 seconds

I was a little pissed about the bike, because my bike was my best leg in triathlon last year, and I was certainly not representing. But I think the resurgence of people toward the end of the bike made my head go a little fuzzy. The mechanical, the aerobars, the hydration issues- It was all water under the bridge. I had my strength ahead of me, the leg of the race that I’ve been working on this season.

The run started great. I felt great. I tried to hold back a little because 13.1 miles is a long way to go. So I sipped some EFS liquid shot that I still had in my jersey and settled into a rhythm. I heard someone talking incessantly behind me, and I wanted to yell “Just shut up and run harder!” but then I reconsidered. Run your race, I’d tell myself. Be smart. Eventually a guy left his chatterbox and passed me, but I stayed focused on keeping consistent and fluid. I ended up getting matched by another guy, who settled into the pace with me. I noticed he was the same guy I saw on the bike, the draft dodger in the Peace Coffee kit. I was happy to see him, and we settled into a nice stride together. His Garmin beeped every mile, but I didn’t ask about our pace and just hit my lap button when I crossed the race marked miles. We ticked away the miles, and he confessed that he was shooting for 7:50s. Although that was slower than I knew I wanted to go, I held my ground and didn’t let him influence my pace.

The miles cranked by, and when I got to around mile 2 I saw the men’s leader, Dave Thompson. I ran through aid stations, I didn’t do any run-walking, and I would drop my Peace Coffee buddy because of that, only for him to catch back up after a few hundred yards. I knew the course, and I knew what to expect; it was almost as if I had ran it the weekend before, it felt so familiar. I stayed calm and tried to use mile 5 as a rest mile, but that didn’t work. I saw the women’s leader when I got to around mile 5 or so, and my teammate, Carole, when I got a little further. I gave her a high five and she gave me a huge adrenaline boost. I hit the gravel loop and focused on my form. I felt light, almost too good, considering how I didn’t feel quite so awesome on the bike. I kept it steady and eventually lost my running friend. I kept picking people off, wondering when (and if) I was going to blow up, but I kept refilling my flask and sipping on water. I wanted a pop so bad by the time I hit mile 8. I could taste the sugar, the carbonation, I wanted it. And truthfully, knowing that there might be some at the finish helped get me there. I put my head down and noticed a familiar number ahead of me, a tall, stocky guy run-walking his way in. Same number as Drafter Guy. I blew by him without saying a word (usually I at least mumble a “good job” or a “hiya hiya yip yip yip”). I passed my friend Owen on his way out and I new I was close. Weaving through the neighborhoods, I could hear the announcer over the speakers and I just upped the anty. I pushed it, all the way in, feeling good and strong. I found another gear. I didn’t even feel like collapsing at the finish, which probably meant that I didn’t go hard enough, but I was happy with my time (sub 5hrs) and knew it was a great effort (only six minutes slower than last year). Considering the bike course was accurate distance (last year my bike computer had it at 54.5miles), and was more challenging as well (last year = flat as), and that the swim course was likely more accurate at this year’s race, I’ll take it!

My splits:
1- 7:10, 2- 6:59, 3- 7:35, 4- 7:32, 5- 7:33, 6- 7:11, 7- 7:19, 8- 6:57, 9- 7:22, 10- 7:28, 11- 7:20, 12- 7:20, 13- 6:51

Run: 1:34, 3rd fastest run of the day

Finish time: 4:58
1st AG, 12th overall.

My friend Leiah showed up when I finished and we hung out and chatted while I waited for the awards. It’s always nice to be able to see friends when I travel to races! It’s become somewhat of a habit for me to have reunions with friends at races, but I hope they don’t mind, because just as much as I loooove to race, I absolutely LOVE to see and visit with my friends 🙂

Carole ended up finishing 5th, which was in the money, and her friend Jackie won the whole shebang (an age group triathlete that was in the Top 10 at IMStGeorge this year).

I can’t believe how cool it was to have Carole there. Having traveled all the way to Minnesota from Colorado, for what I thought of (at least last year) as a podunk race, was really rad. To have another green machine out there with me on the course was motivating and I truly believe it helped me find another gear on the run. And, with two Trakkers athletes on the podium, I’d say we had a pretty damn good day!

I thought I would inevitably hit disaster with a bonk because of the stupid mistake with the aero bottle, but I never did. The EFS and Nuun worked great in keeping me balanced and tuned. And, yes, they did taste great together. There’s something so rewarding about a slightly-fizzy sports drink when I’m out riding in the heat.

My neck, on the other hand, is not impressed with my poor decision to not double check my bottle before leaving home. I feel like someone put a vice grip around my scapula. Doh.

Shake it up

or: Shake and bake.

or: Shake it like a Polaroid pick-chaaah.

or: I’m shaking things up a bit.

I was supposed to do my first (real) ultra this weekend.

I was supposed to train with long runs (think- 6-7hours) and lots of food and lots of rest.

I was supposed to step it up.

But I didn’t.

Maybe I shouldn’t say it like that. No one was forcing me to run the Voyageur 50mile on the Superior Hiking Trail. No one twisted my arm to register online and mail in the check. I did it on my own.

And I’m not really stepping aside, I’m still stepping up. I am just stepping up a different ladder.

There is a big difference in focusing on triathlon and focusing on ultra running. It’s true that cycling can help my endurance, and that cycling and swimming offer a great break from the impact of running but maintain my cardiovascular fitness.

But if I want to be good at triathlon, I need to focus on triathlon.

And I’ve been making excuses to not focus on triathlon. I was sick with some sort of China Funk/Whooping Cough/UP Death Flu in May, right after Rev3 Knox, and pulled out of the American Triple T. And I was recovering and traveling and recovering in June. and I was wedding-ing and traveling and sleeping it off in July.

And I stopped moving for a day and faced it: I am not ready for this type of 50 miler. The Superior Hiking Trail is hard. Rocky. Hilly. Unforgiving. And I have been training on roads, snowmobile trails, and two-wheeled machines. So I threw in the towel on my first ultra and reeled in another beast: Chisago Lake Tri.

I did this race last year, and had a blast. It’s a short drive (6hrs) and I know the course. It’s a fairly big race (1000 athletes?) and a fast course. Its competitive but not too competitive, and I have a benchmark. Plus, the bike course is flat, so it will be a great tune-up for the Full Rev at Cedar Point.

And I am trying something new. I am not going to focus on my previous best time or try to beat my swim or my bike or my run time (or all three). I am going to go into it with the same mentality as I did last year, just to try and race the race, do the best I can do on that day, and hope for the best race I can give. I am going to test my ability to let all things go and not actually hold something in the back of my head like: “Why are you just NOW getting on the bike when last year you were out of the water in 34 minutes?” or “This pace isn’t going to get you off the bike in 2.5hours like laaast year.”

Instead, I am going to ask myself questions, like:

“Are you having fun?”

And if the answer is no, I am going to shake it up some more. Carole will be there, too, so maybe I can moon her. Maybe that will be my goal…

What I've been doing for 10 days away from Blogland

I admit it. It’s been a while. It’s been a whirlwind, ridiculous, awesome (and busy) ten days. There’ve been weddings, races, weekends, and wine.

The craziness began with an 11hour drive and a wedding downstate. Baberaham stood up in his great friend’s wedding. We were able to enjoy some time with his family and some drives in his dad’s 1954 TF MG.

The wedding was outdoors at a camp/resort near Fenton, Michigan. The weather was perfect, the bride looked beautiful, and the bride and groom came out to some Dio (Holy Diver to be exact). B looked absolutely handsome in his tuxedo. The only downside was that I accidentally turned off the fuel pump off while trying to turn on the heat (stinkin’ unlabeled toggle switches under the dash!).

After the wedding, B and I headed up north. He dropped me off in Marquette for our girls’ getaway at the Blueberry Ridge Bed and Breakfast. With Marg’s upcoming wedding and ever-piling-stress, the gals from Team Mega Tough thought it would be a good idea to haul her away for a few nights of wine and cheese and chick time. We had delicious breakfasts, awesome runs, and excellent chats. We even did some blueberry picking and took a trip to Grand Island for a long run.

After the girls’ getaway, it was back to Houghton for some work (me) and some wedding preparations.

With bridal showers and barbecues, I was a little less than ready for the 10mile race I do every July- the Hancock Canal Run. My training hasn’t been stellar as of late, and I have been sore, slow, and unhappy. I wasn’t planning on any specific pace, holding onto the hope for a 7:15 (which I was second-guessing and self-doubting all the way up to the morning of). Luckily, Jess was there and stuck it out with me, and we cruised through the first 8 miles at a super-steady 6:50 pace. Sweeeet. I finished in the low 1:09’s, with Jess just a few seconds in front of me, and I was ecstatic to have hit a Canal Run personal record and to not just squeak under the 70min mark. I definitely wasn’t expecting a PR, but I was happy to grab it. I ended up third in my AG with Jess taking 2nd.

After the race, we showered and got our awards, and then headed up to the Jam Pot for some sweets. It was soon time to head to the park for Marg’s wedding, and I was the family photography organizer. Being the bossy gal that I am, we got through the photos without a hitch and started the ceremony on time! Woot.

With TMT in full effect, we rocked out the night with some great food, great friends, and great dancing. I couldn’t have asked for a better week, and I saw so many people and got to catch up with some amazing friends that I haven’t seen in a while (and some that I have). It’s amazing to me how flawless reunions can be, and we’re already planning our next one.

To and fro

In case you haven’t caught on yet, I really like riding my bike. Although I don’t think I could ever like it “too much”- I definitely have spent more money/thoughts/time with my bike than the average joe (but not the average triathlete- some of those suckers spend five times as much as I have on their bikes… and still get pwnd on the uphills).

Anyway, I digress. The point of this post is to discuss how to get to-and-fro, with the bike. Whether its rubber-side-down or in a box, having your bike with you where you’re going is important. For example, in early June, I traveled to Middlebury, Connecticut for the Rev3Quassy race. It might have been a little challenging (and slow) to not have my bike when I got there.

Bike transport options:

Check your bike:

Fly Southwest, WestJet, or AirCanada— Southwest just seems to love everyone under the sun. They only charge $50 to check a bike, and they allow two checked bags for free. Practically every airline charges a fee to check a box that is oversized (eg. one that holds a bike), and some charge more than others. Slowtwitch has a great forum feed that discusses airline fees, and you can check it out here.

My favorite: “Not Good: United”- which is the only airline I can fly without having to drive 100miles. My other options (with the 100mile drive)? The “The WORSE: Delta”. So it goes in the UP.

When you check your bike– remember the importance of properly stowing the bike. You spent HOW much money on that thing? I’d hate for it to get dinged up and damaged by the ground crew. Some sweet bike bags and boxes can be found here. Depending on the bike and its size, it should be stored a particular way. For example, my Scott Plasma Contessa has a seat mast (read: cannot adjust seat height without permanently altering geometry) and an integrated fork. So, I need to be careful about how I stow my bike.

Some more tips? When you’re checking your bike, avoid any containment that screams “BIKE”. Since many airlines have bike policies, if they find out you are checking a bike they’ll be sure to charge you. American Airlines has a special policy of charging at least $100 on top of the normal baggage charges if you check a bike. So, try to be as subtle as you can. And even though it looks cool, avoid putting huge labels all over your bike box that might implicate you…

Unfortunately- not everyone can fly SW or any of the cool airlines that don’t charge an arm and a leg for checking a bike (myself included). Unless I drive to a bigger city that’s >7hours away, I am looking at spending at least $150 each way (plus any extra charges that the airline might decide I owe) to take my bike with me on the plane. And since my checked bag full of clothes didn’t make it to Connecticut when I arrived, there’s the risk that the bike might not make it either.

So what are some other options?

FedEx it– I got my local bike shop to disassemble my bike and put it in its original box with the wheels and everything, and then I sent it via FedEx to Bicycle Works, the bike shop in Connecticut right by the race location. FedEx is sweet, because stuff moves even on the weekends, and I could track my bike and I knew where it was practically all the time. It was also very convenient because the bike was assembled by Bicycle Works when it arrived (and it got tuned up, too) before I even got to town, and after the race I just dropped it off and they literally took care of everything for me. It did cost a little more money than I wanted to spend ($75 to send it from Michigan to CT, $100 to have Bicycle Works receive, assemble, and disassemble it, and $110 for them to ship it back to me) but it was still cheaper than checking it on the plane (I flew United).

TriBikeTransport I’ve never used them, because I don’t live anywhere near where a drop off would be, but dang, do I wish I did. Here’s how it works: Drop your bike off at one of the Partner Bike Shops by the drop-off date for your race (listed on their website here) and they get your bike to your race site three days before the event. They even bring it to the athlete village. Depending on the race and where you are traveling from, it can cost anywhere between $290 and $340USD with $1000 value insured (you can get additional insurance for $6/$1000value). Without having to disassemble your bike, go back to the airport later to pick it up because it didn’t make the connecting flight, or worry about it going missing off a UPS truck, you can have that much more peace-of-mind as you prepare for your big race. Again, a downside of this service is that if you don’t have a TBT anywhere near you, well- you’re S.O.L. Another downside? They don’t do a huge amount of races, mostly just M-Dot ones. But, in 2011, they will be transporting to Lavaman in Hawaii, Wildflower, and Escape from Alcatraz.

My favorite means of transporting my bike?

My trusty steed, the Chevy HHR. This 2009 station wagon can fit my bike in the back without even taking the wheels off, and the bike is protected from the weather and bugs on the drive. I even took this bad boy all the way to Knoxville from the UP, which was a much longer drive than I ever wish to do for a race again (22hours). If you’ve traveled with your bike to a race, though, you know how convenient it is to have a car that has enough room so that you don’t have to worry about whether-or-not your bike will fit. Is it bad that one of the major reasons I bought a car last summer what because I wanted to have a means for transporting my bike to and fro? … Nah.

What other ways do you transport your bike?

What we do for our professions

I really don’t like feet. I think they are ugly (at least mine are), and I have foot envy of some ladies who wear cute sandals with their long, slender toes, moisturized heels, and bony ankles.

My feet are not pretty. They haven’t been pretty since … I don’t know if they ever were. Take post-Quassy:

I’ve got a hole in my toe, my three of the five nails are going to pop off, and I have this weird bruise under my big toenail that doesn’t hurt but doesn’t look pretty.

But I can’t just accept this. I mean, I could… but only if I stay hidden in my office/lab with socks and wornout running shoes to cover them.

Since I am at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Summer Bioengineering conference this week in Naples, I can’t wear wornout running shoes all the time (although, according to some of the gentlemen, I could still wear socks, even with sandals). I am also in the process of looking for a post-doc position, prepping for my first podium talk, and of course (more importantly?)- spending time by the pool. So, I bought my first bottle of nail polish since high school, and dolled up my toes:

Sure, I still have a long way to go before my feet are pretty. But, this simple red nail polish covers up a good majority of the bad and the ugly. Now for working on that tan…

Naples skyline at night

More weekend recap

Here’s the weekend in photos:

Since my bag was a no-show for the first 12 hours, I went to KMart to buy shorts and a tank so I could go for a run on Thursday.

Jenn and I cruised around the 'Burys for a bit, climbing some hills and cruising some downhills. So glad she brought her bike along on the train!

Jenn and I enjoyed some food while we cruised the bike course. I got hungry just driving those hills!

Hi Jenn!

The new Trakkers devices are looking sweet, and they are now waterproof too. This little guy fit in my jersey's back pocket and I forgot about it.

The green and pink Trakkers visors were everywhere. Kids, adults, it seemed like everyone was wearing one this weekend. Word is getting 'round about how rad Trakkers is!

Rev3 does it right.

Megan meets New England

This morning started early, with an alarm clock buzzing at 4:15am, not that I wasn’t already awake on and off the whole night. Nerves? Probably. Excitement? Most definitely. After trying quietly to eat cereal, with no avail, and then heading back to Houghton to grab the Rev3 Quassy athlete guide, directions, and receipts for my plane ticket and rental car, I nudged Baberaham to the car (or rather, he muled my Big-Ass-Bag to the car while I brushed my teeth) and we were off to CMX.

The flights were uneventful. O’Hare is not all its cracked up to be, if its cracked up to be anything, but the shuttle services via bus outside from terminal B to terminal C were frequent and I didn’t feel any anxiety during my 30 minute layover. The longer flight to Bradley was even less eventful, and I tried to snag a row of empty seats but my stomach only handled the turbulance in the back of the flying bus for about ten minutes. Arriving in Windsor Locks, I found out (via paging from the United baggage rep) that my checked item didn’t make it with me on the same flight. It was going to get placed on the next one, though. So I decided to cruise around Windsor Locks and grab a bite to eat, but it was hard to find anywhere good so I settled on a deli in an industrial area where I was the only woman that wasn’t working (and the place was packed). Made me feel like I was back at Tech…

Anyway, I called the United rep and she notified me that the bag was placed on the next flight to Bradley from Chicago but that it was delayed, and the estimated time of arrival went from 1:30 to nearly 3pm. I decided to let the delivery guy handle it and rolled onward to get my rental car and head to the Burys to get my bike (Middlebury) and check into my hotel (Woodbury). Luckily, these were tucked in the magical shoe-hole of my Saucony messenger bag:

The bike was ready to go when I got there, and apparently it had been the first to arrive for the weekend. SWEET. Yay for FedEx, and keeping it moving all weekend. And holy wah, does Bicycle Works in Middlebury rock. They not only assembled my bike but gave it a tune up and plan to ship it back for me. That means they’ll just let me drop it off on Sunday after the race (since they are open special post-race hours on Sunday, when they are normally closed) and I can just fah-gedda-bot-it.  It probably, financially, didn’t save me a whole heckuva lot of money to ship it, but it quite possibly saved me a bunch of stress. Can you imagine if my bike AND my checked bag hadn’t been here when I got here? I might be more on panic mode (even though my bike shoes are in the bag that is MIA).

So I left Bicycle Works and not more than a mile down the road, it started to rain. Ok, it wasn’t really rain. It was more like big blobs of water pattering my windscreen. But then the periodic fall of blobs turned into a torrential downpour, and I had a hard time seeing the center line. I don’t know why, but it made me smile. No, it made me giddy. MAN, how cool would this be if I were biking right now? Can you hydroplane on a time-trial bike? Can you see if its raining so hard and you have sunglasses on? I couldn’t help but think of how panicked other racers might get if it started to rain like that, and how many hands would be on the brakes. I’m not saying I wouldn’t be on the brakes… but there’s something about Racer-Meg that just zones in and stops whining and nixes any and all Sally-speak. So I thought that, if it does rain, I’d be totally alright with it. Especially since torrential downpours usually last about ten to fifteen minutes, or five miles, whichever you prefer.

The Curtis House Inn is pretty rad, and reminds me of that cozy-New-England hotel I’ve seen on TV shows like Rescue Me. It’s totally old fashioned, and the room I’m in has a sink – and I have a communal bathroom. The floor is wood, the beds have canopies, and the wall paper is different in every room. Since the room I reserved (with a king sized bed) was all messy – I know this because the rooms that are not occupied are left with their doors open so that the air can flow through the building – I went with a two-twin-bed room, which in hindsight is probably better anyway. I pick up my friend, Jenn, tomorrow from the trian station in New Haven, and she’s also bringing her bike. We are going to have a cozy and fun time !

Anyway, now I am just sitting in the Curtis House Inn, waiting for my B.A.B. to arrive so I can run. Otherwise I will be running in this: