Thursday, May 28, 2009

Deuces Wild Triathlon Festival

In times like this, my body is speechlessly pissed it got my brain for a partner. But deep down inside, it also likes the challenge.

And so coachubby and I are driving to Show Low, Arizona, tomorrow to participate in the Deuces Wild 1/2 ironman triathlon (DeuceMan), then follow it up with the Deuces Wild XTERRA on Sunday--just 5 days after riding 300 miles in less than 40 hours, massacring my quads and any ounce of focus my brain had left.

Smart? Probably not.
Fun? Definitely.
Plus, I'll get to see some of my favorite people (Xterra buddies) as well as two more of my favorite people (my parents) throughout the weekend.

The true test of just how much my quads can take, and how far I can go without inhaling caffeine in any form, will be under way at 6:30am on Saturday.

If you're in AZ, come cheer! The weather calls for highs in the mid-70s. Fabulous.

See you out there!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Heartbreak Double Century--Have You Thanked Your Lungs Today?

Most cyclists like to give thanks to their quads and bum for getting them through 15,000+ feet of climbing in 200 miles of straight riding.

I propose we give these body parts their due respect, but not at the expense of an even more important, often overlooked participant in these types of ultra excursions: the lungs. (OK, and the heart, in unison.)

Upon completing the Planet Ultra Heartbreak Double Century this past Saturday, Coachubby, Robyn and I sounded like chronic smokers. Our lungs had had it with us, and wanted a break. But with no inhalers, and no way to massage the little airbags, they had to continue their air-transfer duties while inflamed and fatigued.

Whoda thunk a non-asthmatic athlete could reach a point where her lungs began to rebel? Breathing too much is not something most people worry about...unless they're SCUBA diving.

But our lungs were happy to make the sacrifice to allow the rest of our bodies to ride 200 mmiles of peaceful, beautiful, rolling back country roads with clean air, little traffic, and the most blessedly perfect weather a cyclist could ask for.

Unlike riding on PCH in LA, which induces heart palpitations every few minutes when some arrogant psycho in a Hummer drives into the shoulder, there was only one heart-stopping shoulder intruder on this ride: a ginormous rattle snake.

Thankfully he made his suicidal appearance on a big downhill, so his presence was felt for only a second as we descended right by at 20+ mph.

Well-spaced, well-stocked aid stations with friendly volunteers were also much appreciated. However this event is run in conjunction with the Heartbreak century ride, which starts from the double's 50-mile aid station and ends at the same place, 150 miles into the double (the course is like a lolly pop with the Heartbreak hundred as the sucker part, and the extra 100 as the stem.)

When we arrived back at the hundred's home base, the century riders had consumed all of the coke. Coachubby, upon realizing this travesty, literally looked like someone had punched him in the gut and told him his bike was ugly.

Thankfully the last aid station had the most spunky, helpful volunteers I've ever seen at an aid station in any race-- Nancy Baisch and Karla Johnston--who literally ran out from behind their table of goodies to grab our water bottles and fill them with whatever we wanted.

Coachubby chose Mountain Dew.

In an effort to give my heart and kidneys somewhat of a break, I attempted to not use any caffeine or Advil for the entire ride, but caved at 30 miles left, eating a beloved Chocolate Mint Gu and downing 2 Advil--my big toes felt like they were severing themselves off.

Robyn, ever the climber and amazing ultracyclist, forged ahead after I told her at mile 50, where she'd been waiting for my slow bum for quite a while, not to let me hold her back any more. Coachubby, on the other hand, is married to me. He had to stick by my side.

We triumphantly rolled in just after 8pm, just at the end of twilight, successfully riding without the need for any serious lighting, save for a blinky and a mini head light.

Robyn whooped us by a good 40 minutes.

I highly recommend this double to anyone considering one. Don't let the "15,000 feet of elevation gain!" make you think it's impossible. I'll gladly trade the stress of traffic and urban riding for hilly, barely trafficked terrain. It's also nice to change up your position going up and down. Our first double, Camino Real in Irvine, led us down the freaking 5 freeway and was relatively flat for very long, painful stretches. Palmdale is just as easy to get to from Los Angeles, as long as you don't leave on the Friday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend.

Do the Heartbreak Double Century! Just be prepared to be yelled at if you drop off your bike light for the race directors to take to the 150 mile point, then don't pick it up because you're making good time. They haven't figured out how to get it back to you politely.

And don't get lost. They're not too keen on coming to find you either, even if your wife calls them while she's desperately searching for you.

Ride on!

P.S. And if you're really crazy, you'll jump back on your bike for another hilly 100 miles the next day, then remain unable to move for two more days...and counting.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Should Triathlon Companies be Held to Lower Standards During the Recession?

After hearing many triathletes, particularly Xterra participants, express their frustration at the cancellation of races and changes made to race dates long after athletes had already gotten airfare, I wondered: are we allowing companies some slack due to the economy? Should we?

Xterra 29er recently posted this grievance about XTERRA racing this year:

I want to love you but you make it hard when:
  1. You cut a bunch of races from the 2008 to the 2009 season
  2. You list races for 2009 and then cancel them
  3. You list races for 2009 and then change their dates
WTF? Just found out that XTERRA Lock 4 back in Nashville has been moved from July 12 to July 18. No big deal unless you already planned your summer, bought tickets, and had gotten psyched about going back home on a different weekend.

Eric commented on my blog that he's "seriously bummed about no Xterra races in SoCal. I'll probably do only two total races this year and not make it to USA Champs or World'd like I wantd to. :("

Getting angry at companies like Xterra for canceling races and changing dates late in the game is tricky, since Xterra franchises its events to independent race organizations. It seems like the parent company lending its name does not have much control over what happens to our favorite races when the economy goes south.

What do you think? Should we just roll with it and expect some faulty race scheduling, or should we hold companies like Xterra to the high race production standards they've set for themselves in years past? Link

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Tacky Move--Etape Caledonia Sabotaged by Grumpy Old Man

And you thought Hummer-loving Americans were the fiercest cycling haters in the world...

If you're an American who spends most of your time fantasizing about riding in France or Italy, you might've overlooked the Etape Caledonia, an apparently very famous charity ride Scotland. The 81-mile ride, put on by IMG events, raises money for Macmillan Cancer Support and hosted about 3,500 riders this past Sunday.

It's special claim to fame is its closed course--a change from most centuries, where open roads create traffic anxiety that detracts from the scenery.

Like in a cartoon, a cycling saboteur threw thousands of carpet tacks over large stretches of the course, forcing event coordinators to halt the ride for over an hour to get the roads swept while hundreds of competitors pried tacks out of their flat tires.

Who would do such a thing? What sparks such a hatred of the two-wheeled contraption that allows grown men to shamelessly don neon spandex when mounted on top of it?

According to, the man was none other than 62-year old Alex Grosset, the chairman of the Rannoch and Tummel Community Council.

One can only speculate about his motives at this point. However, he's not old enough to claim old-man insanity--the disease that also allows little old men to grab womens' behinds without reprimand.

On the bright side, the Etape Caledonia couldn't have asked for better media coverage. Now every cyclist in the world knows about it. As proof, registration for the 2010 ride is filling up 6 times faster than at this point last year.

Mr. Grosset must be shoving tacks under his fingernails right now--his plan to ruin the race backfired royally.

Monday, May 18, 2009

You Know You're a Triathlete When...Ladies' Edition!

  1. You weigh 15 lbs more than you did at your senior prom, but the bra you wore then is too big.
  2. You seriously consider asking your doctor if you can stick mole skin and/or duct tape on your bum to prevent chafing while cycling.
  3. Your body during high-volume training--tired, muscle crampy, irritable, and fish-like memory--mirrors that of someone with a serious thyroid problem. But you're doing it to yourself.
  4. Your bike seat has spent way more crotch time with you than your boyfriend probably ever will.
  5. The number of men you can date based on the following single factor is so far reduced, it'll be a miracle to find just one man meeting your expectations: he must eat more than you do.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Clear! Athletes and Arrhythmias Part Deux

When I walked into the cardiologist's office Wednesday afternoon, I might as well have had a hand growing out of my face--the stares I got for being the only person under 70 in the room were intense. Even the check-in ladies seemed curious as to why I was there.

I could feel my heart beating funny from the anxiety of waiting for a diagnosis.

I was quickly led back down a dreary hall to a patient room that must've been fashionably decorated in the 60s. Maybe that's why all the 70-year olds like that office.

Then the Dr. came in, looked over all of my test results--the electrocardiogram, the Holter monitor, bloodwork--and said exactly what I heard 4 years ago: You have PVCs. Don't worry, they won't do anything to you. They're really just annoying more than anything. If you pass out, come and see me again.

Then he gave me a treadmill stress test to be sure.

Lying down, my heart beat funny. PVCs strewn all over. Standing up, it beat funny. But once I started walking, it beat perfectly. In fact, the Dr. had to ramp up the mph and incline higher than the test stated to in order to get my heart rate to 166. I ran straight up a mechanical mountain at 6mph for what seemed like an eternity until he was satisfied, all the while watching my heart beat beautifully.

Then, when I sat down again, the PVCs returned.

In conclusion: I am the human equivalent of the bus in the 1994 Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock classic, Speed. I can't slow down, or I will blow up. Or rather I'll feel like someone locked a 6 year-old in my ribcage for a time out, who then starts kicking to to be released, particularly when I would like to sleep.

Also in conclusion: Internet research is hardly a good thing to do when waiting for a heart diagnosis. I now know all of the evil forms arrhythmias can take, and all of the procedures done to try to keep them in check.

In particular, I freaked myself out reading about Greg Welch, who had to retire from triathlon immediately after finding out he had ventricular tachycardia.

A second opinion is in order, as the cardiologist did not fully grasp, I believe, exactly what training for an ultracycling event entails. My primary Dr., Dr. Ironman, does.

Also also in conclusion: It is impossible to fake your own brain out. I've been trying. If it freaks out or stresses for some reason, I try to cut off the info from reaching my heart, but so far the effort has been unsuccessful. I now have a truly important reason to meditate and try to achieve zen, besides trying not to blow up at people when they do stupid things.

Also x 3 in conclusion: Hallelujah! A huge thanks to God, who will be watching while I do my most monstrous long ride yet this weekend. I will be paying way more attention to fluid, electrolyte, and caffeine intake, and trying to get a lot of sleep the night before and after...heck, all of the time!

See you in the Santa Monicas!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Coachubby Qualifies for Worlds and Kicks Xterra Malibu Creek Trail Run Butt

In happy news, Coachubby qualified for the 2009 Xterra World Championships with his superfast Xterra West Cup race a week ago. Congratulations to the most deserving and bestest coachubby in the world, who miraculously achieved this greatness on the sketchiest hard tail bike seen in transition. (Pic from Xterra USA 2007...Yes, I sometimes have a black lobster for a husband.)

Then, this past Saturday morning, he finished 9th male overall, and 1st in his age group at the Xterra Malibu Creek 22K Trail Run, thus kicking enough ass for the entire family, making up for my Dr. -recommended couch potatoness.

Treadmill stress test tomorrow--screw fractured sesamoids, I'm gonna run! Yippee!

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Disheartening Discovery--Athletes and Arrhythmias

I got up at 4am today to ride 80 miles.

I wish I could say I did it out of a passion for ultra training.

But I did it because I was hooked up to a Holter Monitor.

The little device, which tracks the wearer's heart rhythms for 24 hours straight, was scheduled to shut off at exactly 10:16am this morning, and I wanted to make sure it had a good record of what my heart does when I'm riding long...even though 80 miles is less than half of what I had planned to ride tomorrow with my ultracycling best buddy, and personal ass-kicker, Robyn.

Imagine getting a call from your doctor at 6:30pm on a Monday, during which he tells you that structurally, your heart is rad (as confirmed by an echocardiogram taken a week earlier), but electrically, your heart's cardiograph looks like a Mexican jumping bean.

Doc: When's your race?

ME: The bike race? July. But I have a double century coming up, and a half-ironman, an Xterra, and a long ride Saturday--

Doc: I want you to cut back on exercise until we figure this out. Your echo didn't look good.

ME: What's a cutback? Like, I had a 12 hour ride planned for Saturday. So, um... only ride 10?

Doc: Like don't move.



Me: No. Way. You're joking, right?

Doc: No more than an hour a day. Not too hard. I want you to get a Holter Monitor and see a specialist in heart rhythms.

Then I heard his kids in the background and knew I couldn't grill him much longer.

ME: Um...ok.

I hung up. I couldn't talk anymore anyway, my throat was already swelling up and I was crying in a busy Vons parking lot. I think I'm one of very few Americans who cries then they're limited to 1 hour of low-level exercise per day.

I had asked my Dr., Dr. Ironman (name has been changed to maintain easy Dr. access), to listen to my heart when I went in to have him diagnose my fractured foot, knowing el heart-o beat funny sometimes, and I was becoming a little paranoid about it with advancing age and subsequent growing sense of my own mortality.

It did beat funny.

He took an EKG. It beat funny there, too.

So I went in for an echocardiogram, basically an ultrasound of the heart, and stared at my baby as she made strong swooshing noises and beat her own very unique rhythm.

"You see that--that's how it's supposed to look," said the tech as she pointed out a singular string of four perfect beats.

"I'm trying!" I said. The rest of the time it was totally spastic.

And so, having essentially failed one-half of the echocardiogram test--the beating part (A+ for structure!)--I agreed to look like an X-men mutant for 24 hours with electrodes all over my chest, and a monitor attached to my hip.

"You can do whatever you normally do with this on, just don't take a shower," said the tech as she stuck the electrodes on me.

"Really? How much exercise?"

"Whatever you want," she said.

"I exercise a lot more than most people...maybe you should check about that."

She went to ask my doctor what to do with me.

"Whatever you normally do," she said upon return.

And so I found myself up at 4am, climbing onto the Silver Bullet in a race against the clock to get in 80 miles before the monitor shut itself off.

The thing is, I've been through this before, 4 years ago as a senior in college. The results? I have PVCs, but they go away with exercise.

At that point, however, I had never dreamed I could ride my bike for 12+ hours straight. According to Wikipedia, PVCs are exacerbated by: adrenaline, caffeine, electrolyte imbalance, anxiety, physiological stress, and dehydration.

Boy did I become obsessed with the right sport for my heart's health!

If it all turns out to be a bad case of PVCs caused by the above, I guarantee I'll be riding with a Camelbak full of Gatorade every long ride from now on!

Let's hope Race Across Oregon can still be in my future!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Diabetic Endurance Athletes Article Out in This Month's Competitor Magazine!

Turn to page 70 to read the article by yours truly.
Turns out my arse-kicking by Team Type 1 was not totally in vain. :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The "Ironman Trophy"...Seriously?

Last year, Ironman made itself an easy target for ridicule by releasing "Ironman, the Scent." Scent of what?, athletes wondered, Pee and sweat?

Now the brand has licensed its name to The Ironman Trophy, a $700 (yes, $700!) m-dot styled hunk of bronze reminiscent of the plastic m-dot trophies age-group podium finishers receive.


Aren't the race t-shirt and hat--symbols of the achievement included in the race fee--enough? These are things in which an Ironman can parade around, silently screaming about his achievement to fellow gym rats, grocery shoppers, etc...

Is a 16-lb (yes, 16 lbs!) trophy on a mantle, typically a sign of top 5 placement, really necessary? Is it perhaps even uber dorky? (Particularly considering it cost more than the entire race?)

Why not frame your Ironman race number, writing your finishing time and placement on it, as an even cooler-looking acknowledgment of achievement? Or shell out $50 for your finisher photo. Those are pretty nice, and show the athlete in action, verifying he/she did, in fact, cross the finish line.

Kudos to "The Ironman Trophy" for valiantly entering America's never-ending quest to create things people don't need....and to deplete our, um, ever shrinking bronze reserves.

On the bright side, when an Ironman finally decides he no longer needs to visualize his past accomplishments through corporate logos, "The Ironman Trophy" can be placed out of sight--something that can't be done with an m-dot tattoo.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Xterra West Cup Championships--Like Riding on the Moon

With pretty much every Xterra race convenient to Los Angeles canceled this year due to the evil economy (Temecula, Snow Valley, Castaic...hasn't been on for a few years), the rise of the Xterra West Cup Championship at Lake Las Vegas was a godsend for off-road triathlon junkies.

And, judging by the turn out, it was also a godsend for off-road triathlon junkies across the country vying for a slot to the Xterra World Championships. The turn out was phenomenal--"the Caveman" Conrad Stoltz, Melanie McQuaid, Josiah Middaugh, & Shonny Vanlandingham were there, among a ton of other rad racers.

When Mr. Xterra '07, Will Kelsay, came up to Coachubby and me after preriding the course, he exclaimed, "Oh, it's so shady, and there's tons of single track!"

I looked at the completely barren hills around us. It looked like we were on the moon.

Will is a joker.

It's anyone's guess how long this race, put on by Sunset Racing, will last, as it was held on a scraped-off development site no doubt stalled in progress by the economy. There was no natural plant life, no nothing. Just dirt, and rudimentary roads that made up the bike and run courses.

I loved it, as the lack of much single track meant there wouldn't be too many slow-swimming dudes rudely yelling at me to get out of their way as they tried to get back with the pack on the bike. There was plenty of passing room on most of the course--and the dudes got a head start. There were wave starts at this Xterra, because the man-made beach at the Loews Resort (the host hotel) was dinky, and couldn't have supported all of the racers diving in at once.

I loved the wave starts, too; the ladies' wave was small, so I was never poked--not once!--during the swim. An Xterra first. (The Temecula swim, I recall, was particularly cutthroat.)

Then, the run. Oh sorrow. Terrible sorrow.

I didn't even put my running shoes into transition, knowing I'd want to run for it if they were there, and in doing so, set back the healing of my dumbass sesamoid bone.

I came in off of the bike, walked over to the timing people, gave them my chip, then hopped on Qeee, my mountain bike, and took her for one more loop of the bike course, while everyone else ran straight up and down a mountain--twice. In the middle of the day, under relentless sun.

I probably have a warped sense of how awesome the race was due to my not having run, but I loved the whole thing. Minus the very depressing dropping out part.

How many races have you ever started knowing you weren't going to finish? I'd say it definitely made me take my time racing to enjoy everything, rather than go for it. Not a bad way to enjoy a Saturday. It's just not any way to get a medal either. Or really push myself on the bike.

Lake Las Vegas is a strange place. It's a man-made oasis in the middle of the desert. And while it's gorgeous, and opulent, it's hard not to cringe at the complete non-eco friendliness / unsustainability of it all. (This coming from a Phoenician!) While Coachubby and I lounged on a bed on the hotel patio, I got a blast of air conditioning every 10 seconds from the roofed open-area of the hotel. No walls, 80+ degrees outside, and the air conditioning was what? Cooling the patio? Not cool.

If you want to forgo the opulent hotel, there's camping at Lake Mead for $10. Coachubby and I did that. It was very romantic, and very quiet. Until ridiculous winds (think 30mph +) came in around 9pm, when we went to bed, and continued to lash at our tent all night long. Sleep never came. Visions of lifting off like in the Wizard of Oz did, though.

And somehow, sand flew in through the windows. A veritable dust storm that somehow penetrated our tent. I woke up covered in sand, and had a nice microdermabrasion session around 1am, free of charge, courtesy of Lake Mead State Park.

If this race happens again next year, DO IT! The race organizers were super friendly. As always, Xterra people are helpful, kind, and crazy--a good mix. And the setting is equal parts gorgeous and strange, lush and lunar--all a 5 hour drive from LA.

Race on, Xterra people!

PS. Coachubby got 2nd in his age group, a freakin' awesome accomplishment made even more freakin' awesome if you have seen his bike--an old hardtail Klein. His handling skills are off the charts!