Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hood to Coast Relay

Starts at Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood. Ends at Seaside, 197 miles away. 12 runners and two vans per team, 1250 total teams, a separate walking event, 20,000+ competitors, and lots of Port-a-Johns.

Jeez, I really need a new hobby.

The Sandy (Oregon) Safeway, site of the first van exchange, is an absolute mob scene. I look for (and find) Kim, the woman who hosted me at the Lake Stevens Ironman. I promise her more beer after this disaster is finished.

Runners began from the mountain in waves at 3:30am amid a nice hail/lightning storm. And the road downhill was recently paved. So by 5pm, the new asphalt was smokin' hot.

Fun, fun, fun...

We rented a monster van for the trip. 4 bench seats plus bucket seats for driver and passenger. Lots of room to lie down. We also had two drivers. Some teams had an SUV and no dedicated driver. Must be hard to concentrate on the wheel when you've got 15 miles in your legs and no sleep.

Or maybe I just need to be pampered.

The first 3 legs are side roads, very little shade, with the mercury pushing 90. Lots of rolling hills, too. I see Kim and get my whole van to cheer for her; she looks perplexed until she recognizes the culprit. Yes, I'm a sneaky SOB.

Now we hit the Springwater Trail, a paved path thru southeast Portland. As the sun drops, the humidity rises. I need to revisit the psychometric charts, the ones that plot temperature vs relative humidity. It feels like we're wearing a wet fur coat out here.

I get warmed up by trotting around the exchange parking lot. "Uh oh," I mutter. "What's wrong?" our driver asks. I grin and say, "I feel fast."

The handoff at 9:30, now it's really dark. The Trail has no lights, just the bobbing ones that each runner wears. I start way faster than I wanted to, but we ain't playin' here. After a few miles, we're on the trail that parallels the Willamette River into downtown Portland. Again, no lights. And really humid, but at least it's hot.

That's called 'irony,' people.

Booking along on the ragged edge, and that Marquam Bridge sure isn't getting closer. Near the end, there are 4 people running together. Since I don't know our next runner by sight, it'll be worse than a Nascar pit stop jam if I don't break free. So I hit the gas and pass them, arriving in the exchange zone solo. I see Van 1's leader jumping up and down in the dark and pointing to the next runner. Done.

15 roadkills. That's the # of runners I passed, though each one cost me portions of important internal organs. Good news: I was no one else's kill. See if I can keep that up. But that leg, about 6.4 miles, was basically a personal best for 10k. Great. And stupid: I have 2 more legs to go, and on no sleep.


Our first legs are done. Come to find out that the other van, instead of sitting and waiting for us, passed the time by enjoying dinner and aperitifs at the Deschutes Brewpub in the Pearl District. Nice touch!

Drive up to St. Helens and the fairgrounds. Nice mile-long procession of vans trying to get into the parking area. Oy vey. And we're directed to park adjacent to the runner's exchange, complete with its prerequisite hooting and hollering. We net about 90 minutes of sleep, all fitful. Up at 0230, collect the teammates who vanished into the mist with their sleeping bags, and get ready to roll.

Our first van arrives. They're looking a bit peaked, having now been up for almost 24 hours. It takes them another hour to drive to the next sleep area, so they get maybe 60 minutes of down time.

Repeat: new hobby needed.

At the next exchange; COFFEE!!   Bless you, my son.

Two sections of gravel road at 4am, out in Nowheresville. One of our women gets harrassed by a couple of locals in a pickup, but she flexes her muscles and scares them off.

My second leg approaches; I'm stiff and feeling clunky. Warm-up jog helps. I start slower, then pick it up after 10 minutes. I kill 4 more people, but can't get to the fifth. Legs won't maintain a faster pace. So I surge for 200 yards, then recover, then repeat several times. Now I'm on him, but he takes off with the exchange in sight. I let him go; a sprint now means more lactic means crying on the last leg.

No one passed by. That's 19 kills for me, none for them. Even though I had to have been slower this time, I wasn't. About 7:50 pace, following the first leg's 8:00.

Only two weeks since my half ironman, when I cut 78 minutes from last year's time. And last year, it took me 6 weeks for my body and head to recover. This time around, I know I'm not quite in sync, but I can't tell by the times I'm putting down. I'll say it again, diet is huge. The right fuel let me work harder and recover faster.

Traffic becomes horrendous in northwestern Oregon. Narrow roads and lots of vehicles. Our other van's last runner goes chugging past. This is a problem; he is going to hand off the baton to someone who is currently sitting in our van. So Superwoman jumps out, runs the last mile to the exchange, forcibly pushes people out of the PortaJohn line (well, gently), and then begins her journey.

Final leg. I'm ready for this to be done. Really, really stiff now. Legs want no part of another 5 miles.

Tough beans, pal. You signed up for this. You even paid good money!

Here comes Jen, sprinting home after 8 miles uphill. Nice job. I start with a mile on dirt, slightly up, then it's a two mile plunge into town. The van passes and asks how I'm doing. Good, I say, see you at the finish. They take off, and I devour a half dozen more folks.

Then it happens.

Clomp, clomp, clomp. It gets louder and louder. Some guy comes flying past. Absolutely flying. There's no way in hell I can match him.

First roadkill. I hang my head in shame. Then I realize my vanquir has no 5 o'clock shadow after 30 hours out here. He probably can't even vote.

I deservedly give myself a mulligan.

2 flat miles in town, and now I'm on fumes. But there's more kills to do. Try the surge again and it works. Get another couple before making the turn onto the Promenade. And the finish line should be right there.

Except it isn't. No, the tents are about a half mile down the beach. You cannot be serious! (thank you, John McEnroe).

A quick look behind: the lady I followed for a mile and then passed is not hanging close. I should send her a nice fruit basket. A couple more people ahead; what the hell, it's time to finish. But now a calf muscle is suddenly making noise, more with each step. Since I don't have anymore races this year, I don't care.

19 more kills, so my record is 38-1. Not shabby. Disclaimer; if I had been one of the first six runners, I'd have been dead meat for many.

Stumble across the timing mat and stop my watch: 7:50 minute pace once more. The reason for these nice times on a set of 46-year-old legs is due to an extraordinarily vicious massage therapist who makes endurance races seem like a picnic compared to 60 minutes on her table. How she inflicts such pain while smiling seems unlawful, but she keeps the wheels rolling. Many thanks, JJB.

Unbelievable: people were actually complaining about the weather and the lack of water along the course. Uh, you sign up for a Northern Hemisphere race in August and the heat is a surprise? Have some foresight, people!

Or study Darwin.

One woman complained that "for $110, I expect to be taken care of."  Fine, go to a spa. But don't enter an all-night relay and expect it to be no more strenuous than a trip to Whole Foods.

I remember a guy on the radio, circa 2002, complaining about high gas prices after he bought a Suburban. He was asked, "didn't you plan for this?" His retort: "This is America! We don't have to plan!!" 

This is why I drink.

Next morning at the Lazy Susan in Cannon Beach for breakfast. A woman dining upstairs is nearly crying as she descends to the ground floor. "You did the first leg, didn't you?" we ask. She nods, "way too fast leaving Timberline." Murder on the quads.

Hood to Coast is addicting. Next fix in 12 months.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ironman Lake Stevens 70.3

Pal Sean signed us up for this race 10 months ago.

Tip: never sign up for arduous activities while relaxing on the beach in Hawaii, as Sean was. But it sounded like a good idea at the time.

As with any Campbell event, this one was filled with screw-ups. Like the water bottles and Accelerade I left behind, 7 hours away. I was frantically working thru my checklist before departure while Zoe was dancing and singing around the house. Finally I asked her for 3 minutes of quiet so I could concentrate on the list.

It would have been more helpful if I had actually put those water bottles on the list in the first place. Oh well, easily replaceable on the fly. The main items were the bike, bike shoes, and wetsuit. Everything else is minor, sort of.

Drive to Seattle, meet Sean in Everett: he drove 14 hrs from his home in SF, and had pre-booked a massage to work out the stiffness. Smart.

We went over to Lake Stevens for  packet pickup; this was my first 'Ironman' brand event, and it was clearly a polished show. Very well organized. Then we rode our bikes over the run course; Sean noted the hill at 5 and 10 miles, figuring that people would be starting the run too hard and putting themselves in the hurt locker on the incline.

Sean gave me some electrolyte replacement mix to try; not wanted to experiment during the race, I drank the stuff on our recon ride. Then I got massively sick; had nothing to do with the half-pound of bacon I had for breakfast. Post-script: Sean, I found your stuff in my car afterward. Seems I used some other drink mix, not yours. No harm, no foul.

Bike course recon: the hill profile looked challenging but not brutal, with the hardest climbs appearing to be in the first 15 miles and repeated on the second lap. We're driving along, and the road is climbing, but it's really nothing dramatic. We're getting pumped, the profile I found was from MapMyRide, and we figured someone used a weak GPS to get inaccurate data. Sweet.

I'm driving along, looking at the (flat) landscape and congratulating ourselves on picking the right race, when Sean says...

 "Oh crap."

I look up. And up, and up. "Hey, it's really steep," I say, "but at least it's long."

Then we come to another couple of rollers that will cause more problems. New strategy; Don't empty it all on the second lap; those hills will sap the legs prior tot the run, and we both want to finish strong.

Now we head over to my home stay; volunteers offered to take in wayward triathletes as a hospitality gesture. Since we were staying 40 miles south in Seattle and the race begins at 0630, it made sense to stay nearby. Kim, my host, is an avid runner and a heckuva good cook. That pasta hit the spot.

What we noticed as we drove up was the cacophony from across the street. Seems that dad and son are both drummers, using their garage as a studio. Of course they are. Sean and I look at each other and burst out laughing. How could this not be happening?

Race day; we're setting up at 0530. 1200 or so competitors, and the area is very well laid-out.

Then it's time to swim. The buoys are all roped together and the anchors are connected by a rope about 5 feet down. It's the perfect runway to follow, and everyone is fighting for position above the rope for 1.2 miles. I make the turn at halfway, and somehow do a 270 degree turn around the buoy, not a 90. Then it's back on track, and I'm actually picking people off on the back nine. Jeez, I feel like a real swimmer!

Swim Goal        Actual        Improvement over last year
    38:00            39:46                    5:00

Top half of my age group on the swim. That has NEVER happened before. Thanks much, Coach Bob and Coach Marti.

On the bike, I pick up a red card infraction. Really? For drafting? On an uphill? I need to speak to my attorney.

We were right. The rollers are leg-zappers. It hurts.

Bike Goal        Actual        Improvement over last year
   3:25               3:20                   35 min

Michelle, those Honey Stinger bars you sold me were really good. No bonk, no stomach problems. Thanks! And no problems with the mounting/dismounting with shoes on the pedals; I was afraid of taking a header. 4 minutes total in transitions, much faster than last year.

The run started a bit too fast, so I pulled it back and settled in. Sean was flying when we passed in opposite directions at his 5 mile point, looking good. Then I see him at about 9 miles, walking and white as a ghost and not sweating. He thinks he might have to drop out; now I know it's serious, because he never does that. Later he said he probably didn't eat enough. So hard to get it right. When I saw my wife and family, I told them to give him a big shout-out; hopefully that will help.

Sean, at left, hanging tough and gutting it out

On the sidewalk, I see Kim from our local tri club; her husband Frank is competing. She spots me and gives the verbal equivalent of much cowbell. Kim, thanks, I needed the boost. And I'm glad your voice carries!

Meanwhile, during the run I drink about 20 oz. of flat coke and plenty of disgusting coffee-flavored gels that just happen to have lots of caffeine. I'm worried about upsetting my stomach, but I'm more worried about running out of gas.

It starts to hurt. I reconsider my idea of ever trying a full Ironman, but I'm sure I'll change my mind in a week or so.

One mile at a time. When I can't see out that far, I try to get thru the next half-mile, then 100 yards, then 10 steps. Wash, rinse, repeat. Hey Bretagne, remember my constant leg cramps last year? This time, nothing. Just a few hammy twitches, but no work stoppage.

There's a guy with a prosthetic leg.  And a woman with no forearm. How the hell did she swim? Suddenly, I don't hurt so much anymore.

Down the last hill. Gather myself. Look fore and aft; plenty of room between me and the next runners, so I do what comes naturally. Speed up, fist in the air, a hootin' and a hollerin'.
My Tim Robbins/Shawshank imitation

Of course, there's an uphill at the end. Thanks a lot, Mr. Race Director.

Run Goal    Actual     Improvement over last year
   2:00           2:02                32 min

Overall: 59th in age group out of 98. Last yr, I was 38 out of 39. And my overall time dropped 78 minutes.  I'll take it.

Dinner included a vodka martini, as if I'll need help sleeping.

Game, set, match. Later that night, it hurts. Bad. Or good.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

You know you're a triathlete when...

Someone asks how old you are, and you say "30-34."

You go for a 5 km cool-down run after a 5 km race just so that you can call it a training session.

You need a picture for a job application and you only have race pictures.

You use excess race T-shirts to clean your bike.

You take more showers in a locker room than at home.

6:30 am is “sleeping in.”

You can't change the oil in your car but you can completely rebuild your bike in 45 minutes.

You spend more $ on training and racing clothes then work clothes.

You've been stung be a bee inside your mouth but continued your workout because "my split times won’t go down by themselves."

When asked to mow the lawn in 90 degree heat, you say that it’s too hot to do that (and you mean it) and then an hour later you go on a century ride because it’s so nice out. 

You consider Clif Bars as one of the four food groups.

You like wearing shorts or swimming the day after a race because your race #'s are still prominently displayed on your calves.

You have absolutely no idea what to do with yourself on your off day.

You are walking along a street and you signal left.

You feel a sudden urge to spit while running but suddely realize you are indoors on a treadmill... at the gym.

Everything you eat is all natural, but none of your clothes are.

The airline wants to charge you for overweight baggage so the first thing you toss are your work clothes. You can always get new work clothes...but good training outfits are worth their weight in gold

When driving over a bridge or past a body of water, your first thought is, "I could swim that".

Sometimes you have to slap your doctor...

A good friend was getting back into shape with a hilly 7-mile run thru Shevlin Park. This was easily his longest run this year, and he was grinding it out.

Halfway up  a long hill, he felt a sharp pain in his calf. Not incapacitating, just significant. Of course, he did what we all would do; kept running.

Next couple of weeks, the pain wouldn't subside, so he finally went to a doctor.

MD (spoken verbatim): "It might be a blood clot, so we need to do an ultrasound."


A guy doing a long-ish run that he wasn't in shape for, on uneven dirt trails, in the heat, up a hill, and the first reaction is to check for a blood clot?!?

No wonder our health care costs are prohibitive.

The ultrasound resolved nothing, except raising everyone's insurance costs and providing the doctor with funds for another boat payment.

So Shawn goes to a physical therapist, who discovers (gasp!) a spasming muscle. Ya think? Meanwhile, $1100 from the insurance company to the doctor.

I swear, there are times that homicide should be legal. Like for doctors who run up the bill without legitimate justification. PT should be the first course of action, not the second, unless there's a bone sticking out or something.

Another friend began having major foot problems after working out like a bandit for 4-5 months. She posted on FB and asked for advice. Everyone and their mother screamed "plantar fascitis" and "see my doctor" and "your foot is falling off."

I swear, this is really why I drink.

Somehow I resisted the temptation to post on her FB wall that all these people were idiots. Instead, I sent her a msg directly: Ice, Ice, baby. 20 minutes on, 20 off, all day. Get absolutely psycho about it, and take ibuprofen like candy. If it doesn't improve after 3 days, THEN consider medical intervention.

It worked. Not a surprise, to me anyway.

80% of physical ailments when a person is exercising are simple strains due to overwork. These problems can feel severe, but it's just a clump of inflammation that is very effectively and cheaply treated with RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation).

And KISS; keep it simple, s*******.