A really good week and more on the horizon!

My mom has allergies, had them bad as a child, and then they came back and got her in her 30s & 40s just as bad or worse. Rachelle has allergies, and has had them all her life. For me, this is all a new experience, so waking up every day not being able to breathe out my nose and remembering to take my medicine, plus the worry of having an asthma issue (attack seems like a strong word for the reactions I’ve had) while training. So, I’m very thankful that the medicine seems to be doing it’s job so far.

We’ve had an easy week of training; I think Dr. Pain wants to make sure I’m healthy so she can throw my first 3 hour ride of the year and other “tortures” at me next week. Our hardest workout of the week so far was a 20 mile hilly ride yesterday, which actually went really well. We weren’t pushing the pace much, just climbing through the heat and humidity. I stayed in front of Rach on all the climbs until the worst local climb, the one that sent me into my first asthma “attack” a few weeks ago. Yesterday, no such physical malady occurred, just the typical bonk at the end of 20 miles with just one bottle (my 2nd bottle holder doesn’t fit the new bike, so I need to buy another). There’s something about the steepness of it that just gets me. I’ve made it through more than once, but yesterday it took me a short break to get my breathing back under control before I could get going. Either way, it was a successful ride, and a great springboard into next weeks training. A lot of confidence gained from 20 miles climbing in the heat.

I’ve also had some real luck this week; I won bike jerseys in 2 separate contests. Last Sunday, I won a Tour of California prize pack in a twitter contest; it includes a couple of other smaller pieces, but the big part is a bike jersey. I’m not yet sure if this will be a piece to display or wear, but either way it will be awesome. Then on Tuesday I won a Facebook contest put on by Bike Nashbar as part of their tie in to the Giro d’Italia. They’ve been doing trivia contests, the answers to which I would not have known without the prize (a copy of the book “Maglia Rosa” all about the Giro) from a contest I won last year during the Tour de France, writing twitter recaps of TdF stages. The 2nd jersey should be one I can wear, as I was allowed to choose an appropriate size. And then in the middle of writing this, my Team Fight kit came in the mail today. the top was too small but the replacement size is on the way. I’ll definitely be training in style this year.

Next week, Rach and I will be visiting my parents; my niece graduates high school next weekend, and we’ll be there for the party. We’re also hitting Columbus next week to see old friends and ride a couple of our favorite places. We’re also starting to ramp up our training distance, albeit on flatter roads of the midwest. Plus Monday is my birthday and I’ll have something cool to write about on Monday for sure so keep your eyes peeled for that.

 

Race Report: Washington Triathlon Weekend Sprint

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that my pre-race ritual post of defining my goals for the day was absent from last weeks posts. With the recent EIA diagnosis, and having only one week back closer to training at full volume or capability, and still not being able to breathe out of my nose most of the time, I figured the best thing I could do was not put any extra pressure on myself and just take the day as it came.

We stayed at a hotel just minutes from the venue, and aside from the fact that the bed was hard, our neighbors were mostly scary, light came in around the curtains all night, and I was afraid we’d find the car up on blocks when we woke up in the morning, we’d definitely stay there again. Ok, no. (The hotel was the only bad part of the trip, more about the non-race parts tomorrow when Rach has her pictures uploaded).

Setup at the event was well organized and easy. Because race signups were below the maximum field size (70 out of 200), there was tons of room to spread out, so Rach and I had a whole bike rack to ourselves. There’s nothing better than a transition area where you’re not sitting on top of someone else just to get ready. The goodie bag was pretty nice, with a couple GU samples, a pair of wicking sock, and the race t-shirt among other goodies. Body marked and race numbered, we got ourselves together, visited with a cute puppy, and headed over to the race start.

All set up and ready to go!

The swim: Unlike previous races, I decided long before start I wasn’t going to try to push myself in the swim. I usually try to start at a decent pace and work my way up from there; this time it was not casual but I didn’t want to go beyond a middle exertion because I was 800 meter from my inhaler and though I’d taken my prerequisite puffs prior to starting, I was still nervous. I did ok, not my best swim, but it wasn’t really supposed to be my best swim. I definitely lost a little time in the middle because I didn’t take the best line between the 1st and 2nd turn buoys, and I need more practice open water in my wetsuit (frankly, I still feel like I’m a better swimmer without it, even if I have to work a little more to stay properly afloat). The Eleonore Rocks team leadership was kind enough to secure a donation of Blue Seventy goggles (pink, of course!) that worked REALLY well in the swim. I was able to see better than I have in a long time for open water (which means i probably need to replace my goggles more often as well).

Time: 24:49

Transition 1: I got to transition feeling pretty good, and figured I’d be on the bike in a jiffy (yes, I still say that). Then I saw Rach’s bike standing there. I always expect her to be out of the water before me, especially when she says before the race “I’m going to start 3 minutes behind you but I’ll pass you on the swim” and I know I’m going intentionally slower than normal. While I was getting ready I took more time than I should looking to see if she was coming, and on top of that, a volunteer noticed Rach’s chain had come off, so I took the time to fix it for her as she wouldn’t have noticed it before she went to get on the bike. I need to just focus on my race, but it’s not the person I am to just go on without thinking about how she’s doing. Hopefully, she’ll go first in the next race we do together.

Time: 5:05

Bike: When you suck at something, it’s easy to take doing poorly at it. Like when I have a bad run, I’m usually “well, I ran, it sucked, big surprise”. But on the bike, going less than what I want frustrates me, even when I had no expectations set. I had the 6th worst bike split of the day on Sunday, and that’s not good enough. it wasn’t exactly terrible; on a flat but pretty windy course, I averaged 16.2 MPH, but in places where I’d normally hammer the pedals, I was coasting to keep my breath in check. It was a combination of the asthma and still getting my volume back on the bike after almost a month of not being right. It felt really good to have miles up near 20 MPH, but I just couldn’t sustain as I wanted to.

Time: 47:43

T2: This was good. I need new shoes, and to put zip laces on them, but otherwise, 2 minutes to be off the bike and out of transition was pretty good.

Time: 1:56

Run: My legs were fairly cooked from the windy bike, and I had only run twice since the diagnosis, and this is the worst part of every race for me. But for some reason I felt a little better than expected, and even jogged about a mile of the 5k, though some of it was more shuffle than jog. Either way, for not much volume of running, I had a surprisingly consistant 14:30 pace, and only slowed crossing he small bridge at beginning and end of the race. I even managed to run the last 10th of a mile, and felt much happier to show a little improvement here over my past few races.

Time: 45:03

Total: 2:04:39

Place: 2nd Clydesdale

Your 2012 Washington Sprint Clydesdale podium

Wait, what? 2nd Clydesdale? A podium finish? Were there only 2 Clydesdales? Nope, when I checked the start list on friday, there were 4. So we had one DNS or DNF, and I managed to beat someone. I guess the guy who didn’t finish or didn’t start, I beat him too. Plus it gave me a chance to show off my full line of Eleonore Rocks gear. “What is it each of you are holding? Are those the awards?” Why yes, yes they are. They gave the clydesdale podium lunchboxes with the race logo on them. That’s right, they gave clydesdales a place to put more food. Seriously, they gave them out to all the podium finishers but I still think it’s funny.

In the end, I really was elated with the way this race went. I got through a full race without my lungs seizing up on me, and I had a fairly decent bike (boy does the new bike feel fast, like it’s ready to fly any time I’m on it). Plus Rach had a really good day, 1 step off the podium in 4th. We had a lot of fun, and although the course wasn’t really anything special, it was a fun race and I’d do it again.

Big success and the thunder rolls

It’s hard to believe it’s been a month since I started feeling something was wrong when I could breathe the way I should during workouts. I can’t believe how much of a difference having the right diagnosis and medications are making in my ability to train. I swam 1600 yards last monday and again yesterday, the same workout (200 wu, 8 x 50 hard @ 15 seconds, 200 easy, 8 x 75 even pace @ 15 seconds, 200 cd). Last nights swim was 12 minutes faster than the week before. That broke out to 10 minutes less time spent recovering between intervals, and 2 minutes of reduced swim time. Last week I couldn’t do 50 yard without a full minute recovery. This week, I only rested for more than 15 seconds between intervals on the last 400s and after each of the interval sets. So much better, and I know I can do more.

What does suck is coming off a victory like that to get shut down by thunderstorms. I’m on deadline at work, which means my 8 to 5 has to be focused entirely on work, no time for training. And just after dinner when we went to get ready to train, a thunderstorm hit wiping out our training period for the day. I definitely need to get a trainer at some point, but at least this time I can just swap the climbing ride to tomorrows off day. maybe I can even get in the ride before work (though with my breathing issues sleep still isnt great because my mask only does so much when my nose is clogged).

We’re all set for our race this weekend, and this trip, Stanley gets to come with us! We’re staying at a pet friendly hotel and we’ll only be leaving him alone for a few hours, so we can take him out in the morning and then crate him for the duration of the race. It’s going to be interesting to see how he does on a longer car ride than just driving around town.

NEW BIKE! NEW KIT! Health update and more!

Now that the world has settled back down here for the most part, I’m returning to my regular blogging schedule (4-5 times a week). I’ve been busy as all get out, and while that won’t change the hectic activity is starting to feel routine.

First, after some confusion and delays, my bike was FINALLY ready Friday night. Well, ready if you count an inability to shift the front derailleur pretty much at all as ready (which I don’t, so I took it back Sunday morning to get it fixed). Performance screwed the pooch on the build (ordered wrong parts, didn’t call when it wasn’t ready on time), but made up for it through good customer service in resolving my issues (at least the issues with the bike. The other ones can only be solved with electroshock therapy and a cattle prod).

When we pulled into the driveway, there it was: the box with my new kit in it. I was sooo excited that even though it was late, I HAD to get it all out, put it on and go for a ride.

ER couldn't have gotten a bigger advertisement on a billboard

I’m truly amazed by the quality of all the gear I got. I now own 3 different models of Rudy Project helmets! The CEP compression socks are a bit hidden in this shot, but they’re on and as awesome as everything else we got. Plus as you can see in this pic, the tri top actually fits, which I was really worried about considering KSwiss calls it a 2x. I’ve ridden 3 times now, and the Kswiss tri shorts are the BEST I’ve ever worn. I so should have ordered a 2nd pair. It’s funny, because I was worried about all the gear fitting and the only thing that’s too small is the sweatshirt, which is the one thing I was SURE would fit LOL.

Of course, the real highlight for me, the bike geek, was finally getting to ride my dream bike. The Talon is one of the bikes I’ve lusted after for the past 2 years, and while the airfoil and 4000 were the first Kestrels I wanted, I knew in the end this is the bike I’d get. I’m just so happy this years model is blue. And she already has a name. Kestrels are a type of falcon and the name comes from a french word. So when choosing the name of the bike, I decided it would be a french name, Le Chasseur. Kestrels are hunters, and as I’m hunting for a better, faster, stronger, thinner and healthier me, it seemed like the perfect name.

Le Chasseur is ready for her closeup

While I’ve been super happy to be on the new ride, my health has certainly limited me. I’ve been lucky in my life in terms of health; a few broken fingers and toes as a kid, and a bad salivary gland I had to have removed as an adult are the sum of my major health problems to date. That was until about mid april when every time the road would start pointing up or I’d try to crank hard through a flat, my breath would run away from me, and I couldn’t catch it without drastically reducing my effort. After a couple of doctor visits I’ve gone from no daily medicines to 3 daily medicines. The diagnosis is that I have allergies, and in combination between my training and said allergies I’ve developed exercise-induced asthma.

The good news is that I am feeling better since getting on the meds, and hopefully as summer kills all these damn plants, my body will start feeling more it’s normal self. The bad news is that I may have to temper my expectations for the sprint this weekend, because even during short-ish rides, like the 8 miler I did today; the top end of my speed is filled with way more pain and difficulty breathing than it usually is. I’m going to train hard this week hoping I’m teaching my body that I’m not dying when my symptoms flare up and I can get through it.

With all that out of the way, I want to revisit the cruise a minute for a point I didn’t get a chance to make the other day. One thing I saw that floored me in Mexico, Honduras, and Belize, is just how poor the average folks in each of those countries are. People whose income in our country is below the poverty line would be living quite well in any of these countries. When we visited Isla Roatan, Honduras, our guide told us the annual average income for a person living on the island is around $3,000 US. That’s less than Rach and I spent in our 9 days on vacation. It definitely reminded me that the problems inside our country aren’t the only ones we should be thinking about. I’m so thankful to be part of the Eleonore Rocks & Team Fight organizations and to be able to give back to such worthwhile endeavors, but I also now realize I’m still not doing enough to help others who have less than I do.

Finally, Rach finished uploading all the pictures from the trip, and I wanted to share the photo I was most excited out. This is Rach and I with Bob Crippen: HE WENT TO OUTER SPACE. Ok, earth orbit space, but still, an astronaut. So cool!

Bob Crippen on the left.

Race Report: Tour de Caribbean

2 weeks is the longest I’ve ever been away from the blog, but I wanted to make sure everything had sunk in before I started posting about the cruise. Instead of the Tour de Caribbean, maybe I should have called it the Caribbean Time Trial, because in essence that’s what it was, a race against time. There were so many wondrous things to do and see in just 9 days, that I knew it would be over long before I wanted it to be.

We started our trip (after an 11 hour drive and picking up our travelling companions at the Orlando airport) at Downtown Disney for dinner and exploration. Sadly the “Build your own Lightsaber” station did not measure up to my level of scrutiny, so I passed. But the Earl of Sandwich was a place we couldn’t pass on, and I had maybe the best sandwich roll I’ve ever had that night. (excellent food was a trend for this trip).

The next morning we started our day at the Canaveral National Seashore focusing on a visit to the wildlife preserve there. Dan and I make it a point on every trip not centered in Las Vegas that we visit a national park that has a stamp to collect. Rachelle has a “passport” half-full of them by now. Although our usual stops do not involve angry reptile predators that would gladly eat us given the opportunity that we get out of the car to get CLOSER to for pictures.

This guy was resting about 15 feet from the truck

After the National Seashore it was time to go board our boat. When I say boat. it sounds funny to me because it is a MASSIVE OCEANLINER. It holds, when full, around 7 thousand people between crew and guests. We were only a few hundred shy of full, but other than during a few times when everyone wanted to do the same things (comedy shows, the evacuation drill) you never felt like it was that many. I likened it to an office building turned on its side and set afloat, but with 4,000 people wanting to party instead of work, and the other 2,000 folks were there to host. It reminded me very much of summer camp, but instead of cabins or tents, you had this thing to return to each day:

We called Cabin 8240 home for 7 days

During our sailing days which amounted to about 3 days out of the 7 in total time, we enjoyed the casino (when I say enjoyed, I mean donated. Worst losing streak I’ve had in a long time) and the events the crew put on to keep us entertained when we were in the midst of the ocean. These activities are what really reminded me of summer camp, especially as I felt like BMOC for part of the week because Dan and I kept winning at the trivia contests. Let me tell you that 2 of these trophies now sit aside Rachelle’s NCAA national runner up trophy, as they’re at least THAT important.

This was the first of MANY 24k Piece of Ship on a stick we took home

The food both a sail and ashore was incredible (I gained about 5 pounds last week, and for one time in my life do not regret it at all); I tried the following: frog legs, shark firecracker rolls, conch rolls, escargot, caviar, and local bean and rice dishes along with chicken in some amazing sauce. This is very adventurous eating for me, but when it comes down to it, the dishes that I loved the most look like this:

The greatest macaroni and cheese on earth

 

It’s the time off the boat that will stick with me the longest though; there’s simply so much to tell that I don’t think I can do it all justice. Our band of adventurers took 2nd in an “Amazing Race” style exploration of Cozumel Mexico,  and we would have won if we would have all been able to run faster at the end. We were in last til the halfway point, then jumped to first because I figured out a clue faster than the rest of the teams, but wound up getting passed by smaller teams whose members could all still run by that point in a very hot day.

Im not angry, just hot, hungry, and tired

From Cozumel, it was time to head on to Belize and Caye Caulker which is where we had our big snorkel day. Dan and I had been having a discussion the night before wondering how many people on average don’t make it through the whole cruise. We soon saw firsthand that it does happen, as a 74 year old woman has some sort of panic/exertion/claustrophobic attack at the finish of our snorkel on the reef and had to be hauled on to the boat by the crew, after which we made a mad dash unplanned stop back at Caye Caulker (where we later had an amazing lunch) to get the woman organized medical attention. Rachelle helped a bit on the boat, but the crew of our small snorkel boat was prepared for this type of experience and I think did a fantastic job. She and her daughter flew to the mainland and were not on the cruise ship when we left port that night. Once the lady was taken care of, we went to the highlight of the day, a visit to shark/ray alley where I TOUCHED LIVE SHARKS AND DID NOT DIE. Even better, I wasn’t afraid (ok, they were nurse sharks, but still sharks) and it was an amazing experience, and I’m confident I’ve beaten my phobia.

I touched both of these sharks and they chose not to eat me

I’ve had a long standing rule not to display any pictures of myself shirtless on the blog but this one time, I’m breaking that rule. He’s what I look like completely free of stress having faced and fear and come through the other side stronger and happier.

When we went back for lunch, I stopped to get our fearless foursome some Gatorade at the local store after seeing a couple of folks on the boat beginning to succumb to the heat. When I stopped at the shop, I saw they were renting cruiser bikes and could not resist the chance to ride a bike in another country. Especially at the $3/hour rental rate.

I rode a bike on an island!

 

After Belize it was time for Rachelle’s favorite part of the cruise; a visit to Isla Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras that had an animal preserve that features Capuchin monkeys, which we got to hold and pet. I am positive Rachelle didn’t even look that happy on our wedding day. (Rach hasn’t finished up loading the pictures yet, so I’ll post them later). Our last excursion was a visit to Mayan ruins. I successfully left without triggering the end of the world (at least as far as I can tell).

The last day on the boat, we did all sorts of fun stuff including a couple of trips through the waterslides. Let me just say, climbing to the top of a boat to ride on waterslides hundreds of feet above the water in 60 MPH winds was quite the rush.

A lot more daunting on top of a boat

The fun didn’t end when we disembarked on Saturday. After a quick car hiccup (a drained battery due to a bad door sensor), we took a tour of the Kennedy Space Center including the Vehicle Assembly Building. We just missed a rocket launch the day before, and 2 shuttles were in for service in buildings we couldn’t visit. We celebrated Cinqo de Mayo with a pizza dinner and the next morning saw a Spanish fort in St. Augustine for one last national park stamp before parting company with Dan and Susan. I also got to see the St. Augustine lighthouse, so I can add another of the great lighthouses to my list.

I’m already back in training with just a week and a half until the Washington Sprint. I’m slowly feeling better, and can’t wait to pick up my new bike on Friday.