Posted by: Leslie | December 18, 2010

The Ironman…

Hey Everyone,

Sorry it’s taken me sooooo long to get this up. I told you from the start that I’m not a diary person, so there you go…this is my race report, written just a day after so it still has that “new” feeling to it.  Since then I have been well rested, feeling great, and planning Ironman #2 for February 2013 in New Zealand! Happy Reading!

Reader’s Digest Version – I AM AN IRONMAN!!! It’s still pretty surreal and all of a sudden it seems like that 20 hour day just whizzed by! Happy to say that most things actually went pretty well considering the conditions, especially on the bike.  Starting to feel the soreness – should have listened to Coach B and taken that ice bath but I was just too cold… (Epilogue – I was only sore for one day!!)

The long version…

Up at 4 to eat a little breakfast (my usual of Kashi Go Lean Crunch, banana and vanilla soy milk) and a little coffee. OH NO – the soy milk has frozen SOLID in the hotel fridge! Quick warm up in the sink full of warm water and that disaster averted.  Mixed nutrition bottles for the day and got the gear on. Out the door at ten to 5 to head over to the venue. Actually slept pretty well all week including the night before, but my friend Pete was right – woke up at 3:59 before the alarm was to go off at 4, LOL.

Ran around like a headless chicken dropping gear bags, adding to gear bags, taking stuff out of gear bags…putting useless reflective tape on clothing that would be gone before the first mile of the run (you didn’t miss anything Jamie!).  Gear prep for Ironman is complicated – I highly recommend a full tutorial for  first timers. Dropped my timing chip getting my wetsuit out and had a mild panic before I found it next to the dog poop next to Phil’s feet…classic.

Sipped on energy drink during the hour or so before the race, got air in the tires, wet suited up, found a few AK peeps to say hello to, peed again of course! But mostly tried to zen out. Stay calm on the swim and all will be well! Had two gels and lined up with the rest of the salmon to get in the water.  Interestingly this was the calmest I have ever been before the start of a race, especially considering it was my first mass start and first where I had to jump off a dock into the water (SCUBA training helped with that!). I’ve been really working on positive thinking and visualizations of race day, and that really helped. I also felt really confident that my training with Beaker (my amazing coach!) would get me there.  Jumped in the water with my new goggles (same as I’ve always used, just a new pair since the others have been chronically fogging lately…) and seeded myself towards the back but tried to get up fairly close to the start line. I think I was about 30 m back but I’m not good at judging distances in the water.  Was very happy that I had a totally calm and smooth swim start, even though the water was a chilly 61 degrees and there were 2000 people in it! Got going pretty well without the usual “settling down” time, so I actually thought I was going to meet my swim goal of 90-100 minutes.  But I realized very quickly that my wetsuit has become too big (thanks Beaker!) and I pretty much had cold water streaming down my back for the entire swim. The cold definitely took some extra energy and must have slowed me down, but when I tried to take a few resting breaks my legs would cramp up so I just said to myself, you have plenty of time, the only way out of this water is to put your head down and swim to the steps.  Not too much kicking or carnage around me – seemed to have some pretty clear water even though I wasn’t actually last! Although there was one rather large woman with dreads and no swim cap who bowled me over – we would meet again! Got out of the exit fine, hit the strippers and then the shivering started. Saw my time of 1:54 or so and thought – get warm so you can ride well.  Spent almost 10 minutes (I think…) in the warming tent, and as soon as I felt like I could move without shivering I got out of there (without my wetsuit…).  Had two volunteers help me change because I still couldn’t feel my feet or use my hands very well. Hit the porta potty (after feeling “that feeling” for half the swim…that was fun!) and got out on the bike feeling pretty good. Total T1 was over 16 minutes…blech.

Once I got out on the bike I took a hit of gel and a few sips of Sustained Energy and was on my way.  But no!!! What the HELL is that tick, tick, ticking noise?? Oh it’s my computer sensor hitting the magnet every time the wheel goes around. So a quick stop to fix that (two actually…) and away we go.  Pretty sure the computer wasn’t really working properly as my distance and the race distance marker signs kept getting further and further off.  Time for a new bike computer me thinks! Felt really strong and confident on the first outbound leg, felt my feet again after the first 5 or so miles, averaging about 17 mph but trying to keep it mellow on coach’s orders.  But then I hit the first turnaround and the epic wind began. And I mean Queen K blow you off your bike kind of wind.  Seriously??  All of a sudden I’m pushing like hell to hold 12 mph, and the shoulder and neck pain that has been a bugger kicked in in full gear.  But wait, there’s more! Then the RAIN came! SERIOUSLY??? I don’t think it actually hailed as some people claimed, but it was sure sideways driving pelting nasty rain. So now I’m cold again…great…never occurred to me to bring arm warmers or a jacket to ARIZONA! But it didn’t last too long and then I was done with the first loop. Wildlife report – 2 dead coyotes, almost ran over a preying mantis, and almost took out a pro with a little water bottle related swerve when he was passing me – sorry number 53 whoever you are! After loop 1 I think I shouted to my husband “This SUCKS!”  Had to stop 3 times to slather on butter – will someone PLEASE make a seemless bike short!?!? Also already a little worried about making the bike cutoff as I was doing mental calculations of speed and time and miles left to go.

Loop 2 was slower  – the mental demons never really kicked in but there were definitely moments of frustration as I watched my average speed plummet and knew that I would not make my goal of a 7 hour bike.  I need to start setting my timer for nutrition – it’s so easy for me to forget when I’m so focused on riding and found myself a little low on blood sugar a couple of times. But had a hit of gel and a couple of aid station bananas and was fine.  Decided to hit the porta potty – nice big blue one!! Open the door to find three little Mexican kids, very cute, playing in there!  SERIOUSLY??? So much for that!  Loop 3 was a lot better, the wind seemed to die down a bit on the return leg, and I made the bike cutoff by about 15 minutes – yikes!  Was very relieved to learn at 5:08 that the cutoff was 5:30 not 5:00!! A big shout out here to Brian Richardson for being there as I was riding in and shouting to me that Beaker had texted I only needed 14:30’s on the run if I had a quick transition.  Bike time was right at 8 hours…no buffer for the run! But had a T2 under 5 minutes so that was good.

Felt really pretty good getting out on the run and ran (ok, jogged…) the first 4 or so miles. Had my usual lower back spasm-y

One of the best days of my life!

feeling, so popped two enduralytes and it resolved pretty quickly. Then things started to feel pretty fatigued, and I was trying to calculate times for the 14:30’s since I still don’t have a watch that shows pace. Definitely fixing that soon too! Merry Christmas to me!  Fell into a fairly strategic regime of jog-walk and constantly recalculating how much I had to try to run in order to make the cutoff. Lots of self talk – Cornick, if you want to be an Ironman you HAVE to run. It’s only pain and it isn’t even that bad! Actually felt pretty strong other than legs just being super fatigued off the bike. Nutrition was right on target – a Perpetuem Solid or hit of gel alternating every 3 or so miles, water at the aid stations. Tried coke once – not a good plan! Blech! Took chicken broth a couple of times just for the salty taste but water was really the ticket.  No stomach trouble at all! VERY glad I bought the long sleeved jersey at the Expo – would have been cold without it, but with it I was toasty and warm!  Very pretty evening to run, lots of fun talking to other runners and pushing each other on, and the aid stations and volunteers were AWESOME! They never even ran out of anything! Finally got to see Phil and Dad on the second loop at one of the aid stations – that was nice! And saw a few AK peeps that cheered me on – just keep jogging!!

At about 10 miles to go saw lightening in the distance and thought OMG they’d better not cancel the rest of this thing when I’m so freaking close! At about 7 miles to go one of the sag carts came by and the official asked me if this was my last loop. When I said yes he said, good job see you at the finish line. That felt AWESOME and was the last little kick I needed to keep pushing and run as much as I possibly could.  Played the run to the next lamp post game, kept recalculating my times, and as I hit the last aid station and an official there said let her go, she’ll make it it really started to sink in that I was going to DO this and the last 1.5 miles were tough but sheer bliss.  Strategically walked a little more so that I could have a strong finish, then ran – REALLY ran – SPRINTED!! – the last 200 meters in total exhilaration and joy and laughter. The crowd was amazing and I felt like such a winner! I was so giddy and in the moment and sprinting across with my arms in the air that I almost knocked Chrissie Wellington  – the World Champion who had finished earlier that day with a WORLD RECORD – right over! She hugged me with that amazing smile of hers and I said OMG I love you so much, thank you for being here (what a dork, LOL).  Serious icing on an amazing cake! And then I was being shepherded to get my medal and my shirt and cap and get my finish photo taken. My darling husband handed me my Recoverite bottle and had already put all of my gear in the car so after a quick call to Coach B we headed back to the hotel.  Dad stayed all the way to the finish too, which was AWESOME.

I wimped out on the ice bath (yes, I am starting to regret that, but I was still pretty cold) and took a warm bath and fell into bed. Well, after reading the 120 messages on my phone between the tri club and Facebook! You guys are AWESOME! And I totally felt the love the whole race and it really kept me going during the toughest moments. Finish time – 16:40:55 and I am so thrilled. It wasn’t the time I was pushing for (was hoping to break 15 hours), but given the conditions I am very content with that. I’m also very happy that every moment of the day was a really deep mental experience for me – I stayed true to my plan to be in the moment and revel in my first IM, I finished strong and feeling good, and I will never ever forget it. And I’m so happy that even in the toughest moments I never gave up. This is an incredible experience, and I know I will want to do it again…someday! 😉

Thanks again for being such great peeps!

Posted by: Leslie | July 21, 2010

Vineman or bust…and it was…

Hello Dear (and few) Readers,

Sorry for the long silence.  In short, I’m not much of a blogger as I don’t feel like I have all that much to say, and I’ve never been good at keeping a journal, so it’ shard for me to write daily.  But here is the latest…

Den is FINISHED! So if I ever actually get home I have a great workspace now and will theoretically publish my butt off…stay tuned.

On the tri front, here is the post-mortem on the Vineman Ironman 70.3 race from this past weekend in wine country.

In the days leading up to the race I came down with a nasty cold (I blame Macca and the tri camp in the rain…) so was not 100% going in, but I really thought I would be enough mended to have a decent race. But alas, it was not to be.

I had an inkling that it was not going to be the best day when as we were checking tire pressure unloading the bikes from the van to set up before the race,  my stem broke off and let all the air out of my front tire. I did have a spare tube, however, and Bruce to the rescue with his great tire changing skills. But wait! There’s more! The stem on the spare tube was too short and we could not connect it to the pump! ARGH!  But I knew there would be bike folks in T1, so we got everything together and walked down the hill.  The bike guys were great, had the right tube and got me all fixed up. Of course at that point it was literally 10 minutes to the start of my wave and I didn’t even have a spot in the racks yet! Thankfully a very nice volunteer helped me squeeze in, I got all set up, did the gel and inhaler bit, and ran down to the water just in time to get myself a decent spot for the start. Thank GOD you can pee in a wetsuit, let me tell you!

Of course, at this point I had had no warm up, no time to find my zen, and bang we’re off. So it took me even longer than usual to settle down and get my breathing under control, which, combined with the cold, made for a less than fabulous first bit of the swim.  And just when I was getting in the groove the water level got super low so that every follow through of the stroke was basically crawling along the bottom! I tried to just swim past it and did ok, but all these people were getting up and WALKING through the turnaround – very weird. I did stand up a walk a few steps just to rest but the rocks hurt and it was much slower than just adjusting my stroke. The first half of the swim definitely felt longer against the current but wasn’t too bad, and as we started to get passed by the younger waves behind us (reverse age group start – very odd) I tried to draft a la’ what we learned in Macca camp. Did ok at that for about 10 seconds at a time before being dropped by these youngsters, but hey I’ll take whatever I can get! After the turnaround the swim flew by going with the current and before I knew it I was out of the water and headed to the bike! Just over 51′ – not my best effort, not what I was hoping for, but a couple of minutes off my first 70.3 so can’t complain.

T1 went pretty smoothly – went barefoot on the bike for the first time in a race and that was HEAVEN! Can’t believe I’ve fussed with socks on wet feet all this time! About 3.5 minutes and I was on my way. Ran the bike up that first little hill as advised – good plan! Able to hop on pretty quickly at the top and get going on the first 5 miles of flat.

Took about 10 min to warm up from being wet (it was foggy and cool) but was never really “cold” so that was fine. Also took about that long to get my breath back from transition – I really need to work on that. Almost MISSED the hard right turn down the little hill to go under the road but saved it, and then was on my way. Overall I think I had a pretty great bike. It was a gorgeous course, lots of rollers, and I worked a lot on practicing my bike handling skills on the descents, working the gears to keep my cadence up, and monitoring my average speed. I was shooting for 17 mph average based on what I have been doing in training ~20 mph in Z1).  It was awesome to get to that and hold it for most of the bike.  I was also working on getting out of the saddle more on the tops of the tough climbs, and that felt pretty good too! Felt a little like Alberto dancing on the pedals for a couple of them! But the hills in the last 10 miles were epic, I was definitely fatiguing from being sick and was now feeling more like Cavendish – getting dropped like a stone! A fair bit of the course was also pretty rough (thank goodness for the scrunchy sponge in the aero bottle – no more splashing!) and I think I had a bit of a death grip on the handle bars for part of it – hands got pretty cramped and had that weird loss of grip strength the whole night after the race.  It was hilarious to see all the bike bottles and even cages and other bits that had clearly been shaken off by the vibrations! I swear I don’t know HOW they ride those cobbles in Paris-Nice! Thankfully no maniacal wildlife on this bike so that was a nice change!  Just psycho young guys with disk wheels really cutting in on the passes.

By the last several miles through town I could tell I was crashing and was not feeling good about the impending run, but kept pushing. Really had to work to keep the shoulders down etc, and feeling very tight and crampy there too.  BUT!! In the end had a PR on the bike for the 70.3 distance by about 20 minutes – 3:33! Again, not quite what I was hoping for, but considering being sick really can’t complain. Not to mention arriving in one piece, which could not be said for several other cyclists. TONS of flats, at least one crashed on a descent and broke his collar bone and two others were hit VERY badly by cars on the in-town section. Even one of the cops at one of the intersections got taken out by a car, which left the intersection unmanned! Very scary – so much for Vineman being welcomed by the community in Windsor!

The end of the bike was where it all went to hell.  I literally collapsed on the grass after crossing the timing mat, absolutely wiped out and figuring I wouldn’t even try to run at that point.  Felt like I laid there forever. Got up to rack my bike and figure out where to turn in my timing chip when  I saw my friend Maureen, who is a MUCH better swimmer and cyclist than I am, just in T2! That meant that even though she beat me by 10 minutes on the swim I had caught her on the bike, which felt AWESOME, so I said to myself, suck it up buttercup and get your butt out there and run! I had caught and passed her on the bike once (turned out she had her chain come off – so much for my vastly improved fitness) but she had caught me again on one of the hills so never figured I’d catch her again, but there she was!

Well!  My body said honey I don’t f-ing think so and after several failed attempts at anything resembling running for about 20 minutes I decided it was time to listen to my body, not risk getting even more sick, and call it a day. Disappointing to say the least, especially being there with Bruce and Maureen, but I actually really felt calm and ok about it because I just knew that it was the right thing. I sure wasn’t going to walk for 13 miles in the 95 degree sun knowing that my IM training would be ramping soon, and because I knew I COULD do a 70.3 it didn’t seem as awful, especially knowing that I had done well on the bike.  My T2 ended up being over 9 minutes, but I don’t really count that because for most of it was just deciding what to do so was hardly rushing. So I turned in my timing chip, got some Recoverite, food and a massage and waited for my buddies to cross the line. Bruce smoked it in 6:15 and Maureen did awesome at 7:15. Very excited for both of them!

I do wonder about my nutrition being a factor.  I finished most of my Sustained Energy in both bottles and had a couple of hits of gel, but there was definitely more left than I had planned. I also forgot to take any Enduralytes at the start of the run because I was just trying to get one foot in front of the other, but I suppose that could have been a factor. But I didn’t really feel like I was bonking from lack of nutrition but just physical exhaustion. Also wondering if maybe I pushed a little TOO hard on the bike, will have to chat with Coach Beaker about all that. But for the most part I think that if I had not been sick I would have been good to go on the run and if not completely met my goal of breaking 7 hours would have come very close!

As always, I learned a lot doing this race to apply next time, so it’s always a good experience just for that. I’m still not aero, but definitely feel like my bike handling skills are improving.  Will get a new fit after I get back from Kona in August, and I think a new narrower saddle is in order. Looking forward to two weeks on the Queen K and Arizona here I come!

Thanks to all my friends and family who are so supportive, especially my amazing and fabulous husband who is there 150% no matter how the race turns out. Babe, you make it all worth it and I love you.

That’s all for now – will write more when I get into that new den and get to doing some actual sabbatical work! Tri on peeps! 😉

Posted by: Leslie | June 19, 2010

This run went to the dogs…literally!

One of the great balancing acts of my life is when the hubby is out of town – fitting in my own workouts with making sure that the dogs get their exercise and play time.  In a perfect world, they would jog along with me, off the leash, without being distracted by every poop and pee smell on the path. Alas, we are not quite there yet.

So normally I do my runs in the morning, on the treadmill no matter the weather, because I feel guilty if I go running outside without them – seriously the theatrics are spectacular.  But today I put off my run until the afternoon in order to reap the benefits of a pre-run ART treatment.  I got home at about 4:00 – the usual frisbee time.  I didn’t have time to do BOTH – frisbee AND run – because packing for the fishing weekend in Seward was (and is) still on the agenda.  I did my Z3 bit on the treadmill, watching the sad little puppy eyes pleading “Mommy, why oh why aren’t you playing with us?”

And then I did it…I hopped off of the treadmill, donned their leashes (single leash with a y-thingy connected to each dog) and off we went for the 50′ Z1.  I offer you the play by play…

Remo, the heeler, ears back, ready to run full out, dragging Max (who is 9) and Mommy down the road, as I try to yank only a little to pull him back to heel and not fall over…

Max is a little slower, poor little man is being pulled along, collar almost coming off, and I am trying to find the best leash hand – left or right – does it matter when they are weaving to and fro?

Max’s collar comes all the way off…this is ok at first until Max starts being distracted by the P&P smells and so Remo, still on the leash, keeps whipping me around…back on the leash with you…

Various machinations of leash, no leash, half leash, leash attached to waist, leash in hand…you get the idea…

Finally they tire enough to settle into a rhythm for most of the run, then Max really starts to tire, so one dog off leash, one dog on, and that is actually quite useful on the hills…

Last mile, both dogs off the leash and they are POOPED! As I hear the clickety clackety of the their unclipped nails (long story – I do it when I can…) I think to myself, ok, this could be good. They need a little work, I need a good belt to attach individual leashes to, and these dogs will run with the Mommy! And then I won’t even have to do their nails – they will just get filed down by the asphalt! Excellent!

We get back home, and we all plop down for a rest, and I am covered with puppy kisses (ok, I’m salty, but I’m convinced it’s because they are saying thank you mommy thank you can we do it again can we can we huh??).

Bring on the summer, baby, we are staying outside!

Happy running peeps!!!

Posted by: Leslie | June 13, 2010

Running with the dead…and the living…

Today I ran the Alaska Run for Women, a 5 mile timed run to raise money for breast cancer.  I ran in memory of my mom, who died of lung cancer when I was 16.  She was an amazing woman, my constant inspiration, and I miss her every day.

It was an amazing day for me for many reasons, and I could write a lot about a lot of things. I could write about the newly discovered compression socks that helped me run pain and numbness free, I could talk about the PR, I could talk about generally feeling great on the run and finishing strong.  All those things are true.

But I want to talk about Kathryn.  There were 7100 women signed up for the run, so it was a cattle call feel waiting in our group (I was hopeful in the 10 min mile area) for the run to start.  Several of us ladies were chatting, and K mentioned that she had just undergone chemo a year ago, and signed up for the run on a whim.  She was not confident in her ability to even finish, let alone run 5 miles.  She joked about her absent breasts, and we kidded about Princess Sarah and all things Alaska.  I tried to give her what pointers I could, and she was eager if not a little nervous.  We wished each other a good run and off we went! I was hopeful for her, but didn’t really figure I would see her again, and was thinking that I would wait for her at the finish line, no matter how long it took.

About a half mile in I spotted her just in front of me, running!! I called out great job and that she was kicking my ass.  She demured, and I caught up to her.  She said she liked my pace, and would I mind if she ran behind me, promising not to bother me.  Of course I told her to drop right in and she did.  The sound of her foot falls were rhythmic behind me, but I could also sense her apprehension.  Suddenly I felt inspired and in a way obligated – I was going to get this lovely woman across that finish line right with me, and we were going to run the whole way.  Of course part of me was absolutely terrified that she would collapse and then wouldn’t I feel terrible.  I didn’t think too much about her for about a mile or so, then just called out “You still with me Kathryn?” and she said she was, and…this is the start of the amazing part…that she was thankful to have such a strong runner with such a great steady pace to run with!  Me??? A great runner??? I laughed and told her that nobody had ever called me THAT before and that she was really inspiring me.  We kept at it, good steady pace, I was checking my watch and it seemed like we were under an 11 min mile.  Mind you, my initial goal for the run was to not walk any hills and to finish under an hour. Needless to say I am not the fastest runner, but I try hard.

We started checking in more frequently – little hill coming, lean in and we eat hills for breakfast (thanks M), and now we recover, don’t forget to stop at the aid stations and take a few sips and then get back on it.  We bobbed and weaved among the throngs of women of all ages, sizes, some walking, some running, and she never left my heel.  The footfalls were still right there but the apprehension was melting away as we ticked off the miles.  At mile 3 we started feeling even more energized – only 2 miles to go and still feeling strong.  At mile 4 we picked up the pace.  As we rounded the track to the finishing chute we picked it up a little more, and I said “You take this one Kathryn” and we sprinted across the finish, the daughter, running for her dead mother, crossing just behind the survivor who so embodied that mother’s spirit.  She thanked me for showing her what her body could still do  and there was a long sweaty and ecstatic hug.

In the throng of the finishers we went our separate ways, and I didn’t get to see her again before I left. But in 53 minutes and 54 seconds I made a friend for life.  It will take me a few days to look her up, but Anchorage is a small town, and I know that I will see her again, this woman who beat the beast and came out the other side with grace and humor and amazing strength.  I was changed for the better today and I will always be grateful to K for that. And from now on I think I will run a little faster, a little longer, a little stronger, remembering the sound of those foot falls behind me.

Posted by: Leslie | June 8, 2010

Never too old to learn…

This past Saturday I raced in the Rev3 Quassy Olympic distance triathlon in Middlebury, CT with my dear friend, M.  She was the one who got me started in this nonsense back in 2007, and then had the good sense to move away before I became obsessed.  We’ve been email training buddies ever since, and she’s been uber supportive of my efforts in the last two years. I adore her. And now I want to smack her – she SMOKED me on the swim and came in 2nd in her age group (which is OLDER than mine, which just adds to the shame…).

This was a tough course, and unfortunately not a great race for me.  After a week of gorgeous weather leading up to race day, it was raining on race morning.  Normally I put anti-fog in my nice dry goggles while setting up my transition, but they were wet on race morning and I had a great swim with them the day before so I skipped it.  Got in the water as our wave started feeling calm and confident, and had the calmest most evenly paced swim start ever (this has been an issue I have been working on…) so I was looking forward to a great swim and hopefully breaking the 40 min mark for the first time.  It was not to be…the goggles fogged completely within the first few minutes of the swim and I was done for.  Managed to struggle to the first turn buoy by sighting through the bottom of the lenses, but was already frustrated and expending too much energy.  After I got around the first turn I decided to grab the kayak so that I could take the goggles off and try to resolve it and get a ten second rest.  Well, that didn’t work…the kayak man (I love you whoever you were, and THANK YOU!!!) said he would be my line and just to sight off of his bow the rest of the swim.  I honestly don’t know if I could have finished the swim without him. I literally could not see a thing – sighting was completely impossible. I couldn’t even see the GINORMOUS Muscle Milk inflatable at the finish! So I finished the swim with his help, and now have even more respect and admiration for blind people who compete in these sorts of events with the aid of a sighted person – it was incredibly humbling and very disconcerting to have to rely on a stranger to bring me in safely, and to not be able to look in front of me to see how far I had left to swim.  Needless to say, however, my time suffered for it…44 min. Ack. And I used too much energy so my T1 was fully a minute longer than usual. Sigh…And M? She swam that course in 32 min! ARE YOU KIDDING ME???? On her FIRST open water swim and first Olympic? What an animal! And I hate her…no I love her…no, I hate her………

The bike course was KILLER!!!! SERIOUS hills (I shamed my Cervelo…did not save a gear for the last 100m or so of the worst hill and had to walk her, I am so sorry, I will make it up to you on the Queen K in July), exciting descents – got my baby to 40 mph, woo hoo (maybe that will take away some of the shame…)!!!! The bike took longer than I would have liked because of the tough course, but would have been pretty good if I had not been SNEEZING most of the time! I am totally allergic to CT…not great for one’s aerobic endurance!  Not to mention basically ending up covered in snot…nice…So overall my bike time was long, but only about a minute back of M, so that was ok.

T2 was longer than I would have liked – had to blow my nose…but I was feeling pretty good off the bike, I worked my nutrition on the bike really well and had plenty of juice left for the run…

Got going on the run and my legs felt really good – I was very excited because running is not my strongest event and I’ve been working really hard on it.  Felt pretty strong for the first mile and was looking forward to a strong finish, even though I knew the run course had a couple of tough hills too.  After the first mile got to a downhill and OMG BACK SPASM!!!! CRAP! It is so frustrating to have some “mechanical” failure that has nothing to do with my fitness thwart my great run.  But I worked to run through it and keep going…got to the first uphill and OMG BOTH feet went completely NUMB to the ankle!!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? Well that had happened on the right foot a couple of days before (this is a new thing…not diggin’ it AT ALL) and it had gone away eventually, so again, tried to push through.  The back spasm seemed to be settling down, grabbed a chunk of banana and some sports drink at the aid station and hoped for the best. Of course, by this time I’m walking, which I really did not want to do. And still going uphill…by the time I got to the downhill I was starting to wonder if pushing through with the numbness was even a good idea – maybe I was doing some sort of damage – not to mention it was making my calves really tight and everything just felt like crap.  But then I hit the downhill and the feeling started to come back! CRAZY! So then I’m thinking that everything is going to be ok, right?   HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! Silly girl!!! As soon as I hit the next uphill…yep. you guessed it, NUMB AGAIN!  And we walk…downhill, feeling comes back, and we jog…you get the picture. By mile 4 or so I was really feeling rough and called my hubby for a pep talk (did I mention that he was back in AK so it was 6:30 am? Poor guy…but that’s what he gets for insisting that I take my phone, right?).  OMG what a whiny woman I became on that phone – it was pretty pitiful. But he did what he was supposed to do and said that I could do 2 miles in my sleep, just get on it. That really helped, lovely man, and I started to run again, it was pretty flat for a while so things were feeling ok, one last hill to walk up and OMG the course PHOTOGRAPHER is at the top of the hill. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? Of course you CANNOT be walking for your photo so I sucked it up and jogged the last part of the hill and then lo and behold there was the turn to the finish! Somehow I found the legs to run hard to the finish and made a strong showing across the line. 1:24:02 on the run, only 4 minutes slower than M, who is a MUCH better runner than I. Oh, and did I mention the sneezing? That was on the run too…

Recoverite into my water bottle and off to the massage table!!

So, not my best race, but a few key lessons learned.

1. NEVER EVER EVER skip the anti fog!!!!

2. Do more outside hill work on the bike

3. Do more outside hill work on the run

4. Work harder in swim drills and never assume that you will be the first-timer who is 6 years older than you…

5. I am a tough cookie – two years ago I quit my first open water race near the end of the swim because I was struggling with my breathing. Now I know that I will cross that finish line if I have to crawl across it straight to the med tent. That’s pretty cool for the girl who was always afraid of everything.  Not a bad lesson at 45.

Posted by: Leslie | June 1, 2010

Excited for my race!

Tomorrow I get up at 4 am to catch a flight to Chicago (THANK YOU upgrade) and then on to Hartford, CT to race the Quassy Rev3 Olympic Tri.  This is not an A-race for me, it’s just for fun.  And I feel more excited for this race than for any other race I’ve done so far. Why you ask? So many reasons!

First, I get to see my very very dear friend, M.  She was the one who got me to “tri” for the very first time in the 2007 Gold Nugget. Yes,  she is directly responsible for the creation of this obsessive monster AND THEN SHE MOVED!!  So it’s been two years since I’ve seen her and I am SOOO excited to be racing with her next weekend!

Second, I am feeling very strong and even maybe just a little bit faster heading into this race. I’ve been working really hard on both my training and my nutrition, and am looking forward to a good hard race and hopefully another PR for this distance.

Finally, I’m just excited to be excited about everything I’ve learned about myself in the last year that I have really been focused on triathlon.  My mind is stronger than I ever gave it credit for, my BODY is stronger than I ever gave it credit for, and my life is fuller and richer and happier than I ever thought it could be (ok, that has more to do with my husband, but triathlon is definitely a part too).

I’ve learned that setting bars high for ourselves and challenging what we think we can do is just as important in our 40’s (and beyond I suspect) as it is in our 20’s. And leaping over those bars feels even better now!

See you at the races!!

Posted by: Leslie | May 29, 2010

Train baby train!

Today was an awesome tri-bbatical day!  Hard training, good eating, hubby home, and generally feeling strong and ready for my race! This is what I’m hoping this tri-bbatical will be all about.

The puppies sweetly let me sleep until after 6, got up and had my coffee and an english muffin with honey, made my lunch, and hopped on the treadmill.  OK, I know, it’s been in the 70’s here and it’s insane that I didn’t run outside. So is the next dilemma of the tri-bbatical.  Doing the very specific zone training AND enjoying the benefits of training outside, without also having to deal with doggy disappointment.

If I take BOTH dogs on the leash, well that’s just a disaster. Both dogs OFF the leash is better, but still distracting because even though they are great off leash I still worry about them getting hit by a car and so am not focused enough on my own workout.  Perfection would be to take one dog every other run, but I’m afraid that would result in too much doggy angst…so I am on the treadmill…at least there is cycling to watch on DVR and my IPod.

In any case, had a really tough but satisfying Z2 run today. I’m still fighting some lingering upper respiratory thing and will be very happy when I finally get to see asthma guy June 15 – stay tuned for that! Am wishing and hoping for a magic shot…

After the run had a nice shower and smoothie (best recovery drink ever – recipe below) then drove into town, ate my lunch while checking a few emails, and then a great cold water lake swim.  I think this was my best non-race lake swim ever! This time last year I couldn’t put my face into Little Campbell Lake (think Creature From the Black Lagoon but cold…) without hyperventilating. Today I got right in and swam almost the whole length of the lake without a hitch! OMG – this race is going to be GREAT!  Nevermind the vertigo at the turnaround – WTF??? – put my head back down and swam back and it went away. Bizarre… Point being, I am feeling so ready for the race I have coming up in a week, and am so excited!

After the swim went for acupuncture (oh yeah!, love the needles!!) came home, hung out with the hubby for a bit (he’s been out of town for two weeks so it’s great to have him home) cooked steaks and zucchini on the grill, homemade guacamole (yes, I make the best ever, recipe below) and a Mayan caramel truffle for dessert. I am going to sleep GREAT tonight!!

I’m really looking forward to this year of train baby train – stay tuned for how I figure out how to fit any of that WRITING in…hmmm…

Smoothie – serves 2 unless you’re super greedy…

1 c. organic vanilla soy milk

1 c. Nancy’s (it’s the best) lowfat plain yogurt

2T fine ground flax seed or flax oil

2T liquid glucosamine (optional)

10g glutamine (optional)

5 g creatine (optional)

1 scoop 100% pure Hammer whey protein powder

1 heaping t good cinnamon (yummy and helps control sugar cravings)

1 medium banana

10 frozen large strawberries

Blend until smooth and yummo!! Consume within 1 hour after a good hard workout!


2 ripe medium avocados mashed but still chunky

1 ripe roma tomato, chopped

1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped FINE (keep seeds if you like more heat)

1/2 small red onion finely chopped

juice of 1 small lime (keeps it bright and green – yummy)

handful cilantro finely chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, pressed

S&P to taste

Serve fresh with blue corn chips – yummo!!

This is just going to be a GREAT summer!!!!

Posted by: Leslie | May 28, 2010

Dance Baby Dance!

One of my goals for this time away from “the job” is to think about what I want to be when I grow up.  No, I actually don’t have that completetly figured out.

When I was a youngster I had two competing fantasies of my grown up life – marine biologist (check!) and actor…specifically musical theater star.  Clearly that one hasn’t quite come to fruition! It rears its ugly head every year when I watch the award shows, and I sigh the sigh of I wonder what if…

Last night it totally got me – I watched Nine alone in my living room on DVD.

I have now nearly memorized the choreography and lyrics for Cinema Italiano, and yes, frankly, I’ve still got it!

Now let me be clear, I have no delusions of suddenly pursuing this fantasy at 45…but I think I will find myself a jazz class and let my pelvis thrust! How this fits into triathlon training I have no idea…I’ll let you know…but I do know that it brings me lots of joy to dance, baby dance, so dance I must!

Posted by: Leslie | May 27, 2010


Today I faced down a dilemma that will be a daunting daily exercise in self discipline – train first, blog second.  Permit me to explain. I am a morning person (much to the chagrin of my husband).  When I got up this morning, I thought, ooohhh, I can blog while I drink my coffee!!  Only problem, there’s not really anything to report at 6 am unless I go a day behind, at which point I will have forgotten most of what I likely want to say…hmmm.  And of course, I train best when I train in the morning (this is likely to be a problem when I have multiple 2 hour plus workouts to train for the IM, but I’ll think about that tomorrow…).  Who knew that there were so many time management issues when one takes a year OFF of one’s regular work gig! This is so confusing!

Today, however, was a great day!  I resisted the urge to blog and jumped on the treadmill for my Zone 3 run.  I suppose this bears some explanation too…ah, the Zones!

I work with an amazing coach (insert shameless plug for Peak Center AK) who drains my blood and makes me breathe through a torture device (see photo) in order to very accurately measure and track my aerobic and anaerobic training thresholds. It’s freakin’ amazing!  Ironically this is what I do to seals and sea lions to measure their diving performance – who knew?

Zone 1 is the happy place – slow, aerobic, most of the training time (thank GOD!)

Zone 2 is pushing into the top of the aerobic threshold (I think I have this right…coach??) and is the race pace for short distances (sprint, and if I’m lucky Olympic distance races)

Zone 3 is the unhappy place…anaerobic, nasty, painful, has thwarted me UTTERLY…UNTIL LAST WEEK BABY!!  After MONTHS of failing like a big dog the last two Z3 workouts I have SMASHED…well, ok, I suffered totally until I thought I was going to die and then I had to walk before moving into my Z1 part of the workout, but I FINISHED it!

It’s amazing how great it feels to conquer a workout that has given me nightmares (literally) for so long!

After that I went into town and had a yummy lunch of Thai yellow curry chicken with a pal (who is leaving soon, sniff sniff) and then we went wine shopping! Came home and played with the puppsters and am spending the rest of the evening with Keith Olberman, Rachel Maddow, and the DVD of Nine.

Tri-bbatical doesn’t get much better than this!

May 22, 2010

I can’t decide what is the “official” first day of my sabbatical – not a good start.  Was it the last day of classes?  No, that was followed by a week of torturous grading.  Was it the end of the torturous week of grading?  No, I still had meetings to attend the following week.  How to decide…if you were to ask my Dean she would say that my sabbatical starts July 1 when my contract rolls over (and the year of half pay begins…).  But in reality it’s up to me when to “start” my sabbatical.  Hence, the subtitle of this blog.

Although I think many of my friends and colleagues would be surprised at this, I suck at self discipline.  The only thing motivating me to write this first entry is that I am on an airplane (headed to Thousand Oaks, CA to watch Stage 8 of the Tour of CA – more on that later) and I have finished reading my Triathlete magazine (more on that later too…) and have nothing else to do.  Well, I have lots of things I SHOULD do but I forgot the connecting cord for my hard drive to the laptop.  Sigh…so much for getting the writing started.  But I digress…I will do that a lot.

So, I have now decided that my sabbatical – my tri-bbatical – starts NOW! May 22, 2010 at 14:57 ADT.

Ah, where to begin…let’s go back to “I suck at self discipline.”  By way of example, I am now almost a week late on a manuscript review, and who knows how late on a book review.  In fairness, I tried to download the manuscript at the airport this morning, but the wireless wasn’t working.  Never mind that I could (should) have downloaded it a week ago, or last night, or even before I left the house this morning.

Despite this personal failing, I have managed to complete (in a very timely fashion I might add) both a Master’s and a Ph.D., and have successfully published all of the chapters from both (well, except the review paper, but that’s another story that requires a modicum of alcohol).  I have not, however, published anything from my post-doc (going on seven years post…) or any of my subsequent research (no, Kel’s paper doesn’t count – she wrote it).  Goal 1 of this sabbatical – catch up on the publishing.  I can easily blame this (most of us academics who teach at small private liberal arts universities without tenure do) on a heavy teaching and advising load.  But let’s face it – there’s summer.

I have also been competing in triathlons for the past three years, and have now successfully completed three Olympic distance and one Half Ironman distance races, and am steadily moving to the middle of the pack.  Goal 2 of this TRI-bbatical (hence the catchy title to this blog) – successfully complete (preferably in a decent time) a full Ironman (scheduled for Nov of this year).

So you see, the two goals that I have set (for the first half at least) of this tri-bbatical require strong self discipline and the ability to set, work diligently towards, and complete a series of goals on self-imposed deadlines.  And I suck at self discipline.  Goal 3 of this tri-bbatical – become proficient at self discipline!  How the hell does THAT happen???  At this point I’m honestly not sure, but I’m willing to give it a go.  I’m hoping that you, dear readers (she writes as she hears crickets chirping…or is that engine noise?) will help me in this effort.  That you will help me stay on track, keep me honest, and frankly shame me into compliance with this plan so that the “self discipline” is the end product as much as the means to the end.

I think I will start with my “to-do” list – my list of goals and milestones for this personal journey.


  1. Obtain as many autographs as possible without looking completely stupid at the Tour of CA tomorrow
  2. Remodel den into something that will make me believe that I can be productive working at home when all I want to do is watch the Food Network and cook and snuggle with the pups
  3. Complete all of the rest of my workouts for the month of May (except the swim that I will inevitably miss tomorrow because I forgot to bring goggles…guess I could buy some).  Is it still a “Z1 bike” if it’s done on some cheesy stationary bike at the hotel? I think so…


  1. PR at the Quassy Rev3 Olympic Tri June 5
  2. Beat M at the Quassy Rev3 Olympic Tri June 5 (she created this monster, the least she can do is succumb!)
  3. Enter and organize all of the data for the Weddell seal dive paper by the end of the month
  4. Put together a bang up presentation for the Edmonton SCB conference – requires substantial reading on marine spatial planning…
  5. Complete all of my workouts, especially the Z3 runs


  1. Give a bang up presentation at the Edmonton SCB conference
  2. PR at the Vineman 70.3 Tri July 18
  3. Beat M at the Vineman (see #2 above…)
  4. Write first draft of Weddell seal paper (with or without SJT…)
  5. Check in with GG on HER publications…
  6. Complete all of my workouts, especially getting comfy in the aero bars before the Vineman

Wow, this is starting to look more like work than tri-bbatical…so what is the purpose of a sabbatical anyway?  Most academics would say “time to do more research!”  “get caught up on papers!”  “write grants!”  Others would say it’s time to reflect, recharge the batteries, focus on personal and family goals rather than just professional ones.  I’m struggling with this…they are paying me after all, even if it is only 50% of not very damned much in the first place.

Thankfully I don’t have to think about that right now (she says channeling her inner Scarlet O’Hara and noticing that lack of self discipline and procrastination must be highly correlated).  Next stop – Tour of CA baby!  One glorious day of cycling groupie-dom and absolutely NO WORK (well, maybe I’ll download that manuscript tonight when I get to my hotel, and I will do my bike workout tomorrow (see #3 above in May…).  I might even swim if I can find some goggles…hey, maybe I CAN do this self discipline thing after all!  Ha! Relax honey. It’s only Day 1…

Day 2…not really, but this seemed like it should be a new entry. I’m new to this blogging thing and I’m afraid that if I just ramble on forever all the things I’m thinking about this whole sabbatical thing I will drive you all to scratch your eyes out…

I’m asked frequently “where are you going for your sabbatical?”  Um, home?  Am I missing an opportunity by not “going” somewhere for my sabbatical?  I don’t think so…I think I am giddy that I will now have as much time as I need every day to train – the workouts are going to get much longer and I swear I don’t know how people with 8-5 jobs and kids and all of that ever train for a full IM.  I think I am also giddy that I can now spend hours poring (pouring?) through athlete cookbooks, planning weeks of healthy yummy meals, shopping early in the morning when the store is quiet and I can peruse the aisles with deliberation, reading labels and asking to taste the cheese.  And then I can spend time in the kitchen, Max and Remo (the puppy kids – more on them later) laying hopefully at the edge of the kitchen for some tasty morsel to fly their way.  I will be my own version of Julia Child (hopefully a little more svelte with all the training), greeting my handsome hubby with a drink every evening and asking him to test taste the latest incarnation of quinoa and grass finished beef and local seasonal whatever – bon appetit!  Poor guy – he has no idea what he’s in for!

May 25 – I guess this is technically Day 4?

Today felt very sabbatically – I know, not a word, but this is my blog so deal.  I got up at the usual time (5:30-6) because the dogs really don’t care that I’m supposed to get to sleep IN now…but it was good. Coffee, email and Facebook, a little banking online, booked plane tickets for Vineman…never felt rushed. Wow, that feels amazing.  Did my bike workout – a very good Zone 2 – showered, did a little laundry, errands, and even a little work.  The thing that was the revelation was that I felt like I had permission to do the things I wanted to do rather than the things I needed to do.  I know that will not be the case every day of this journey, but it was a nice way to start.

In more frustrating news, I was very excited to head to Lowe’s to start the den remodel fantasy – and they have now STOPPED CARRYING the bookshelves I had planned on for the last TWO years. Seriously??? This will require some adjusting, but now I get to give myself permission to hit the furniture stores! Oh how I wish we had Crate and Barrel in Alaska…