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Saturday, July 28, 2012


On Wednesday, we rode part of the RAGBRAI (Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) route.  We donned our bikes at 5:40 am in Ames and rode north to Story City where we picked up the official RAGBRAI route.  At the start of the day, the temperatures weren't too bad...yet.  We refilled our water bottles in Story City and then set off for the 6 mile ride to Roland.  In Roland we stopped for some breakfast.  I had a very yummy breakfast burrito in the air conditioned community center.  We filled up our water bottles and road the 6 miles to McCallsburg.  We decided not to stop in McCallsburg as it was only about 5 more miles to Zearing.  We did stop in Zearing and refilled our water bottles before cycling the next 8 miles to St. Anthony.  We did have some tough headwinds during this stretch, but we pushed on.  We did not stop in St. Anthony, but pushed on for about 3 miles to Clemons.  We did stop in Clemons to refill our water bottles as the last stretch would be 16.5 miles.  The temperatures were increasing, so we were trying to get into our final destination, Marshalltown, before noon.  We did stop along the way to Marshalltown to get a frozen snickers and a free icy at a local vendor.  We also stopped at Beekman's Ice Cream for those who can tolerate lactose to enjoy a tasty treat and enjoy the breeze in the shade.  We then finished our trek into Marshalltown with some rolling hills and some windy stretches, but overall had a great ride with great friends!!

Great friends after a great day of cycling in Iowa!!

Harassing the hubby while he loaded the bikes in Marshalltown.

Total Distance: 71 miles
Ambient Air Temperature: 100 degrees Fahrenheit
Heat Index Temperature: 108 degrees Fahrenheit
Winds: South/South West 13-18 mph

Friday, July 27, 2012

Overcoming Obstacles

Sunday, July 22 I completed my 4th 1/2 Ironman Distance event at the Chisago Lakes triathlon...1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run.  Each race is filled with new experiences and challenges...this race was no exception!!

I woke up mentally focused and ready to have a great race and have fun!!  I had my race bag already loaded and decided to put air in my tires before leaving the hotel.  The rear tire inflated like a champ, but the front tire was not cooperating...obstacle #1.  I decided to hold off on doing anything more with it until I got down to the race site hoping there would be bike support who would be more knowledgable regarding the Presta valve stems in my race wheels.

After loading up our gear and bikes, we headed down to the race site.  We had to park about a 1/4 mile from the race site location, so we wanted to make sure we had everything we needed for the day with us.  We got into transition, I set up my transition area and then took my bike to the bike support area.  The bike support crew said I would have to completely deflate my front wheel and then inflate it again to get the pressure up to about 105 pounds.  With only 2 hours before the race, this is not a good idea.  They did say that I had enough pressure in the tube and should have no problems with it on the bike leg during the race.  I then went to get my body marking before heading back into transition with my bike.  As I was returning to transition, I was stung by a wasp on my right ankle...obstacle #2.  OUCH!!!  Off to the med tent I went.  Med support asked if I was allergic...I have NO idea...I've never been stung by a wasp before. They cleaned it up and sent me on my way.  I have been stung by many mosquitoes and a bee a time or two, but the pain that comes with a wasp sting lingers for days!!

I had plenty of time before the start of the race, so I decided to take my bike for a spin to make sure everything was working properly and to know which gear I should be upon leaving transition after the swim.  My cadence sensor was not working on my computer...obstacle #3...back to bike support I went.  This time, they were unable to help me...Oh well...I've gone without cadence before and I'll do it again.  I put my bike back in transition and did one last check over my transition area before heading down to the swim start.  OH CRAP...I forgot the water for my bike bottle in the car...obstacle #4.  Easy husband and I were sipping on water bottles, so I used both of them to fill my water bottle on the bike.

I gathered up my wetsuit, goggles and swim cap and headed down to the beach.  After struggling with my wetsuit to get into it (the air temperature was too warm to be struggling to get into neoprene, but the water temperature was suitable for struggle continued), I conducted a prerace swim, which felt really good.  At this point, the nerves started to build...what is going on?!?!?!?  I haven't had nerves before a race in quite a while..."YOU ARE STRONG!!  YOU WILL HAVE A GREAT RACE!!  YOU WILL HAVE FUN!!"  I repeated this over and over to myself...mental fortitude and motivation!!

As the horn blew for our wave to enter the water, there were a lot of people around it is going to be that type of in the water...I can play this game!!  I felt like I swam really well despite a little trouble siting on the way back into the beach.  Overall my swim was strong and I finished the swim in 43:33.  Not my best, but I'll take it!!

When I got to my bike, I had a pretty fluid transition from the swim to the onto the open road!! cadence sensor is working...I don't have to go without cadence after all!!  I knew it was going to be a hot day and proper hydration and electrolyte intake would be key, so I immediately took my salt tablets...obstacle #5...stomach cramps.  UGH!!  I should have taken in some nutrition first and not taken my salt tablets on an empty stomach...I am NOT going to let this get me down!!  "YOU ARE STRONG!!  YOU WILL HAVE A GREAT RACE!!  YOU WILL HAVE FUN!!"  Once the stomach cramps hit, I started to drink more water to dilute those salt tablets in my stomach.  I would need this with the hot weather conditions we were experiencing.  As I approached mile 20 on the bike, I had nearly consumed all of my water and was looking forward to replenishing my water at the first water station just ahead...obstacle #6...they were out of water.  YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!  "YOU ARE STRONG!!  YOU WILL HAVE A GREAT RACE!!  YOU WILL HAVE FUN!!"  Problem solving mode...there were many water bottles that had been thrown on the side of the road with some water still in them...yes other athletes have drank off of them, but it is water and there is no way I can ride 36 more miles in this heat (did I mention it was a hot day...ambient air temperature was 92 degrees Fahrenheit and full sun) without water.  So I stopped on the side of the road and refilled my water bottle with a few of the partially full water bottles.  I kept moving forward and was having fun!!  I continued to drink my water since there would be another water stop at mile 32.  On the way to this second water station there were a couple of really fun descents, which also made for some rather challenging ascents...part of the fun of cycling are both the ups and downs :)  As I approached the second water station, I heard the volunteers stating that they were out of water...obstacle #7.  UNBELIEVABLE!!  I was nowhere near the back of the pack, so this was very poor planning on the part of the event director!!  I again stopped on the side of the road and refilled my water bottle using some of the water bottles that were partially full and had been thrown by previous athletes.  I was shocked to see that more people were not taking advantage of this and were completely passing by the water altogether.  "YOU ARE STRONG!!  YOU WILL HAVE A GREAT RACE!!  YOU WILL HAVE FUN!!"  I pushed on and got back to transition in 3:22:29, which I was pretty happy with.  

After a rather quick transition (2:07) I went out on the run.  I felt really strong off the bike and knew that I would do what it took to continue to have a great race.  At about mile 5 I started to feel the effects of chaffing...EVERYWHERE I had clothing...obstacle #8.  I was chaffing in places that one should NOT chaff!!  That burning sensation was rather uncomfortable, so I decided to try a run/walk method...the burning sensation was present whether I was running or walking, but with the heat and full sun, I decided to continue with this method.  I was feeling really good...other than the chaffing.  "YOU ARE STRONG!!  YOU WILL HAVE A GREAT RACE!!  YOU WILL HAVE FUN!!"

The clock time was from the start of the event.  I was in wave 4, so there was an 8 minute delay between the clock and my timing chip.

I came across the finish line in 6:32:44, which was a 3 minute personal record (PR)!!  I was VERY PROUD and HAPPY with my MENTAL TOUGHNESS and RACE EXECUTION for the day...the PR was just icing on the cake!!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Child Within

This coming Sunday I will be competing in the Chisago Lakes 1/2 Ironman distance triathlon.  In preparing for this event, I have asked myself the following question:

"Why do I race?"  After all, I can swim, bike and run without having to actually race...don't I?!?!?!?!

The answer:
I grew up swimming in Lake Okoboji nearly every day (during the summer months of course...Iowa winters aren't really conducive to outdoor swimming) and LOVE the freedom swimming provides!!  There is a lot of time to be in one's own head when swimming, but this is when I can focus on my swim stroke, mental training and improving my swim times when I have speed work thrown in the workout.

I began riding a bicycle when I was a kid and though I ride much differently now than I did when I was younger, I still LOVE the feeling of the "open road" and the wind blowing in my face.  I love the opportunity to get to ride with other people and push myself to new levels.  I also enjoy those solitary moments when I get to visualize a race where I am on the top of my game and having the time of my life!!

I started running shortly after I learned to walk.  I have to admit that I haven't always been a long distance runner...this has developed as I have gotten older, and with age has come the realization of just how much I LOVE to run!!  I love the social aspect when I run with a group and at times I love the solitude and opportunity to be in my own head when I am on a solo run.

Triathlon encompasses all of the activities...swimming, cycling and running...all of which I learned to do as a child.  Activities I loved then and continue to love now.  Racing triathlon provides me with a reason to go out the door and train, an opportunity to combine the activities that I LOVE into one event and the opportunity to problem solve as each unique race provides me with new and different challenges.

So despite the challenges that the upcoming Chisago Lakes 1/2 Ironman distance triathlon will provide this Sunday, I am VERY EXCITED to get another opportunity to combine the activities that I LOVE into a RACE!!  I am racing for the child that I still have inside me!!

"Somewhere behind the athlete you've become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked for her."

Mia Hamm

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Iowa Games Triathlon...Mental Preparation Needed!!

Last Sunday I participated in the Iowa Games Triathlon...triathlon #2 of the season.  The race went fairly well considering the inconsistent training I've had lately with our recent vacation.  I did not have much confidence in my physical training, mental training or race performance going into this race.  Due to my lack of mental preparation and physical training, I went into this race with zero nerves and zero motivation to push myself.  I think this lack of mental motivation and confidence in my training definitely negatively affected my race performance.

The swim started with a lot of people who did not seed themselves properly on the swim and as a result, it was the roughest swim I think I have ever swam.  There was a LOT of physical contact and I swam over many people who should have started out toward the back of the pack.  The water temperature was near 86 degrees Fahrenheit, which was WAY TOO WARM for swimming. 

After exiting the water I felt overheated due to the warm water temperatures, but I had a very smooth transition to the bike.  I consumed a lot of my water before even leaving the transition area and heading out on the three loop bike course.  Upon leaving the transition area, I noticed the battery on my bike computer had died and I would have to go with how I felt...I have definitely felt better.  I consumed all of my water before the end of the second loop on the bike...I definitely could have benefited from a water stop along the bike...good thing this was a short race!!  I started to feel my shorts chaffing in areas that should not chaff and mentally started to lose my focus...not that I had a whole lot to start with.  As the ride continued, I continued to lose focus and just wanted to get off the bike. 

The transition to the run went well, but shortly after starting the run, I ended up with side stitches on my left side and struggled with a severe case of "lack of confidence."  When I started the run I thought I could break 1:30:00 for my finish time...that didn't happen.  I ended up finishing with a time of 1:31:24.  If I would have been more motivated, confident and mentally prepared, I could have broken that 1:30:00 mark...

Mental I come!!

I have this book and will be utilizing it for my mental preparation!!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Adventures in Yellowstone

After our adventures in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, we decided to stop off at Yellowstone National Park on our way back to Iowa.  We had never been to Yellowstone before and are very glad we went!!

We arrived in the park on Tuesday, got situated in our cabin at Mammoth Hot Springs (north entrance) and went to the local restaurant for a wonderful smoked trout spinach salad.  When leaving the restaurant, there were wild bison grazing and resting right next to the hotel.  It is amazing to see how tame these "wild" animals truly are!!

Our cabin in Mammoth Hot Springs

Bison sleeping next to the hotel
On Wednesday morning, we took a tour of the park.  We woke up at 4 am mountain time, ate some breakfast and drove to the south end of the park where Old Faithful was.  We wanted to see the "eruption" before the rest of the tourists started to infiltrate the area.  We arrived shortly before 6 am and must have just missed the previous "eruption," because there was water running away from the geyser location.  We walked around Old Faithful and toured Old Faithful Lodge (BEAUTIFUL architecture) waiting for the next eruption.  At about 7:46, Old Faithful "erupted" and we had some gorgeous views!!

The hubby and me at Old Faithful

After visiting Old Faithful, we took a hike to Morning Glory Pool and passed some beautiful views along the way.  Morning Glory Pool used to be a brilliant sapphire blue color.  Over the years, people have thrown pennies and trash into it blocking its vent causing the pool to change colors.

Flowing stream through Yellowstone
Morning Glory Pool

Once we finished our hike, we got back in the car and continued circling the park.  We stopped off at Lake Yellowstone next.  We put our hand in the lake to compare temperatures to that of Lake Coeur d'Alene...there is no comparison...Lake Yellowstone had to be around 40-45 degrees Fahrenheit and Lake Coeur d'Alene was about 59 degrees on race morning.  Good thing that the swim was not in Lake Yellowstone!!

Lake Yellowstone
After visiting Lake Yellowstone, we got back in the car and drove to the Mud Volcanoes.  These were rather unique.  Instead of water bubbling up from the ground, there were pockets of mud bubbling up from the ground.  I've never seen anything like it!!

Mud Volcanoes
Next we went to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone with spectacular views of the canyon and beautiful water falls.

We ended up stopping at Tower Falls on our way back to the cabin, but it was so crowded I didn't take any pictures.  It was great to get back to the cabin as we had been gone for nearly 10 hours and were exhausted from the sight seeing and tourists at all the stops we made.

On Thursday, we got up and ran about 4 miles around Mammoth Hot Springs.  It was just over 2 miles straight up the mountain and then came straight back down.  This was a challenge at nearly 7000 feet elevation!!  After our run, we decided to give the bikes a go...

The start of our climb back up the mountain

We rode down a gravel road 4 miles into Gardiner, MT with a descent of 1500 feet over that 4 mile trip.  The descent wasn't the problem...I knew we were going to have to climb back up to our cabin after eating lunch in town.  And climb we did...Oh boy was this tough!!  I have done Ironman, but this 4 mile climb seemed to be much more challenging...maybe it was because it was a steep climb (1500 feet over 4 miles)...maybe it was because it was on gravel...or maybe it was because it was at almost 7000 feet elevation!!  Somewhere in the first 2 miles I wiped out on my bike when my back tire got caught on some loose gravel and went out from under me.  Nothing major, but I do have a scraped up leg and a bruise the size and shape of my saddle on my inner thigh :)

Right after my wipe out...looks much worse now.
At about the halfway point, I stopped to take a picture looking back down to the road and stream from where we is a long way down. You need to really zoom in to see the road and stream...I knew I wouldn't be able to get a view from the top of the mountain down since Mammoth Hot Springs and our cabin are on the opposite side of the mountain. 

At about mile 2 of the climb looking back down to the road and stream where we started from.
There were a lot of switch backs and curves to get us to the top of the mountain, but with a few stops here and there (mostly to catch our breath and let the heart rate come back down), we finally made it to the top!!  Who's idea was that ride anyway?!?!?!?!?  What a trip...both the bike ride and Yellowstone itself!!  We had a great trip with lots of new adventures!!