Tri something new

B is normally a reluctant runner, competing because his dad and I registered him for some race or another. But last night at core class, he spotted a flyer for a youth triathlon on June 8 and asked if he could sign up.

When we got home, we looked up the race online. It’s a kids’ event held in a neighborhood not too far from us. In his age group, the swim is 200 meters, the bike is 5.7 miles, and the run is 1.2 miles. I asked him to download all the rules and policies, read them, and decide whether he could meet all the requirements. Registering ten days out meant a hefty price tag ($55 plus a $10 one-day USAT permit) so I wanted to make sure he really wanted to commit to this race.

He’s capable at all three triathlon skills. Especially running. When he read that it’s only 1.2 miles, he scoffed. After all, he’s signed up for his second half-marathon this summer. But I wondered a bit about the swim. He’s a good open-water swimmer and spends many summer days at the lake, beach, and pool, but he’s never done swim team or raced in any kind of formal way. Plus, their instructions say that because the swim is eight lengths but their pool is only six lanes, swimmers would “go up and back on lanes two and three and snake the swim,” which sounded a bit confusing for a first-timer.

The map helped though.

Another issue is the bike–he has a BMX bike that he rides allllll over the neighborhood, and he’s a competent cyclist. But it’s not exactly a triathlon-friendly road bike. It doesn’t seem to bother him, so I hope that his confidence in his riding skills trumps any sort of comparisons he might make when he gets out there.

I’ve always found the idea of triathlon transitions to be somewhat complicated, but I think that because it’s a kids’ race, they will have a lot of people around to help the kids manage everything. If not, well, he will get some experience figuring things out for himself, I guess!

I thought about volunteering–they still need help, and volunteers get a discount on registration–but in the end I decided to focus on supporting him on his first triathlon. One that he suggested on his own.

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Between the raindrops

Texas has been in a significant drought for the past two years, so rain is kind of a novelty. Thus we were surprised by raindrops on the windshield as we drove to the lake.

The weather is a fickle mistress around here. Even when parts of Central Texas flooded recently, others got zilcho. Our little lake is the latter–it’s been more than two years since any significant precipitation filled it up, and most docks have been out of the water for a while.

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Our dock is not terribly useful these days

But apparently it had rained a couple of inches the day before we got up here, because we drove around puddles of water all along the road leading to the lake. Our arrival corresponded with a burst of rain, and the temperature dropped about ten degrees, so I was glad I’d brought my running stuff. I’ve run out here before–the caliche road makes a pretty nice three-mile loop around the lake, and there’s not a lot of traffic to contend with this time of year. Just the sound of mooing cows and rain clouds looming in the distance.

Mid-afternoon, there was a break in the rain, so I headed out. About a quarter-mile into it, I had to pick my way across a section of road that was completely under water.

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Water hazard

I managed to make it across without getting my feet wet–I kind of tiptoed over some rocks off to the right. Honestly, I didn’t mind, because this meant water was flowing into the lake again.

From here, the road veered away from the lake for a half-mile or so. No houses, just the occasional passing truck, four-wheeler pulling a boat trailer, or in one case, a guy driving a front loader.

And then I got to civilization again, in the form of one family playing croquet on their lawn and another trying to fish off possibly the only dock still in the water.

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Halfway around

The trees shading the road along the stretch behind the dam made me temporarily forget I was in Texas. It felt cooler, deserted. Only tire tracks in the mud hinted at the existence of other people out here.

I turned onto the main road, headed back to the house. It started drizzling again, but I finished 3.1 miles without getting totally doused. Which is good, because the purple dye in my hair was still kind of fresh and might have made a mess of my yellow shirt.

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Purple rain?

I’ve been kind of bored running the same couple of routes lately, so getting out and seeing some different scenery was a pleasant change. And I managed to fit in my run between two rainstorms, so I guess karma was on my side. Must be the purple rain hair.

The sky, a bruise, and other grey things

Gravity is one of those concepts I don’t think much about, one way or the other. But earlier this week, the unfortunate combination of tall shoes and those lego-like bumps on sidewalks reminded me the hard way. I have always mistrusted those bumps when I’m running; now I put them in the same category as stepping on actual Legos in the middle of the night, or eating the wrong thing before a race. Dangerous.

Disaster

Haiku: Sidewalk bumps, tall shoes. What do you think happened next? Hope no one saw that.

The road rash on my palms faded pretty quickly, but I still have a bruise the size of the Ace of Clubs just below my right knee and a scrape along the top of my left foot.

Tuesday I ran the three-mile neighborhood loop, and I managed to stay upright for the duration. Thursday I came through core class largely unscathed, aside from the usual pain inflicted by Coach Robyn.

This morning I got up and ran five miles: 1.25 out to the middle school, ten laps around the track, and 1.25 miles back. I listened to a Stuff You Should Know podcast and tried not to lose count of the laps. It was overcast and humid–I think I sweat out every drop of water in my body. My ponytail is about a foot long, and by the time I got home, the whole thing was soaking wet. Yowza. It started to drizzle on me as I got to my driveway. Thank goodness I didn’t slip and fall–I don’t need any more bruises.

Planning ahead

Yeah, I’m kind of a planner, and I’m a sucker for an early-bird discount. Can you guess where I’m going with this?

Yep, three distance races already on the calendar for 6-10 months out.

In my defense, the ATM has always sold out immediately, so there’s no deciding in September, Hey let’s do that one! Last year, registration opened at midnight and the race was full by about nine in the morning. This year, for reasons I don’t understand and worried about from the beginning, organizers moved it to 10am Eastern time. I wondered if they were prepared for 30,000 people trying to register simultaneously, rather than getting some of them out of the way overnight.

I used to wait in line for concert tickets. Now it’s race registrations.

But 10am EDT is 9am for me, so around 8:45 I opened up the ATM page and started following the links to register. I thought maybe I could start entering information and be ready to go when it opened. But it let me go through the whole registration process, and by 8:50 I had my confirmation number. The ticker on the page announced that more than 12,000 people had already registered! I texted K to give her a heads-up to try it early too, and she was able to register before her 10am meeting. We did a little celebration dance–a perfect antidote to our nostalgia over Cleveland–and waited to hear J’s fate. She and a coworker were in charge of registering a large group, and somewhere in the middle of setting up the teams, the ATM site crashed.

Yep, thirty minutes into official registration, and their site crashed. The ATM’s Facebook page went crazy with complaints. J and her co-worker shooed people away. “Go away with that work nonsense–we have important things to do here!!!” Around 10:30, with 19,000 registrants already signed up, they finally got in. Phew. This race was an amazing experience last year, and I can’t wait to do it again, the Three Musketeers reunited!

I have no sells-out-quickly excuse for my other two early-bird registrations. I got discounts for both races, though, which saved me about $50 total. That’ll pay for another race, undoubtedly. ūüėČ

Training–with purpose–starts in two weeks.

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Do you register for races way in advance?

Have you ever scrambled to get into a race that sells out quickly?

Race nostalgia

This time last  year, I was in Ohio with two amazing friends for the Cleveland Half Marathon. The second half of the race was, erm, a challenge for me, but the weekend as a whole was as perfect as it could get.

2013

2013

Fast forward a year later: K moved out of the city and is planning a different half marathon at the end of May, and J is currently wearing a boot in an attempt to heal her Achilles tendon without surgery. I ran eight races from January to early May, and I’m taking a break before jumping back into training the first week of June. The three of us have tentative plans to race together later this fall, but the Cleveland half didn’t make the calendar this year. Until last week, when K decided to run the 10K as a tune-up for her next race. But this time, she’d have to go at it alone.

I felt my first twinge of jealously when she texted me from the expo. She’d taken a picture in front of the welcome sign–the same place we’d taken one together last year. And we spent the afternoon obsessing over planning race pace, strategy, and iPod playlists, just like last year. Except today I was in my living room at home and the conversation was via text while I looked at course maps and did a lot of reminiscing about last year’s race. When she asked me for three songs to add to her playlist, one of my choices was Maroon 5’s “Love Somebody” because I remember it was the first song my iPod played at the start of last year’s race. Later, she started to doubt herself and wanted to sandbag her goal time, and I had to settle for sending encouraging texts. Typing in ALL CAPS doesn’t have the same effect as an in-person pep talk,¬† but it was the best I could do.

I didn’t envy her early start time though, and with the time difference she was practically done with the race when I woke up halfway across the country. But after she finished scored a huge PR, she texted me some more pictures that really made me wish I was there to celebrate her¬† I smashed my unicorns-and-rainbows goal finish. Total race jealousy!

Today’s nostalgic shirt

So I put on last year’s race shirt and texted her a zillion questions about her race. How’d the playlist work? Were short sleeves okay? Was the course better this year, with the Lorain-Carnegie bridge at the beginning? I ran out of ways to tell her how freaking proud I am of her, and I even got an I told you so! in there too. I checked out her Garmin data–negative splits!–and made her send me a picture of her medal. I figured if I couldn’t be there, at least I could live vicariously through her.

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K’s 2014 pictures

Some races, I can take or leave. Doing them year after year isn’t so important. But there are a couple of events that are so well-done, or I run them with great friends, or the scenery is so fantastic, that missing a year makes me regretful. Turns out, Cleveland is one of those races. Perhaps I’ll go back next year after all.

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Have you had race nostalgia or envy, when others are doing a race you’re not?

What is your can’t-miss race?

And check out K’s¬†pre-race post and her¬†race report at Thirteen Point One–Done!

Chafing solution?

Since I started half-marathon training in the summer of 2012, I have used a Garmin GPS watch. I’m mostly a word person, but in two circumstances, I’m kind of a data geek. One is college football stats, and the other is my running data: distance, pace, calories, time. I’m slow, but I still like the numbers.

Forerunner 405cx with the original strap

My first Garmin was the Forerunner 405cx with the original heart rate strap. But by the end of a few long runs, including my first half marathon, that stupid plastic strap had left a horizontal stripe about 3-4″ long across my chest, right under the bottom band of my sports bra. Heat and sweat seemed to make it worse–a problem in this climate!

Evidently it’s not just me–lots of people described the same problem on this Runner’s World discussion thread. I tried many of their suggestions: Body Glide, tightening the strap, all of that stuff. I still ended up with what someone on this thread called a “Garmin scar,” which describes it more accurately than calling it a rash or skin irritation.

I don’t know why I persisted with it. I am not into structured heart rate training, but I am OCD¬†I like knowing how many calories I burned on those long runs. It’s satisfying to know, quantitatively, the details of my hours-long effort. ¬†And how many post-run tacos I could reasonably consume.

Forerunner 220 with the softer premium strap

So when I upgraded to the Forerunner 220 earlier this year, I bought the new premium strap to go along with it. This one is mostly cloth, with a small plastic segment holding two electrodes that connect to the snap-on transmitter. I was hopeful that the softer material would be kinder to my skin.

Of course, I started using it during what was the coldest, weirdest winter I can remember. The first few weeks I had it, temps were in the 20s and 30s for my long runs, so sweat and heat weren’t a factor. But for the Austin Half Marathon in February, the weather was humid and warm the day of the race, and I learned the hard way that even with Body Glide, the new strap didn’t solve the chafing problem.

Because I’m hard-headed persistent, I continued wearing¬†the strap. Maybe I thought I’d toughen up the skin, like building up a callus, or maybe I thought this time I’d used enough¬†Body Glide. On shorter runs, it didn’t particularly bother me, but after every long run I ended up with that angry stripe.

There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead

Then a few weeks ago, I noticed that according to the graph, my heart rate appeared to plummet over the course of the run. It looked like¬†I’d been mostly dead all day. And it wasn’t just one run, one race. On pretty much any run longer than an hour, the strap quit transmitting my heart rate to the monitor. I didn’t know whether the strap was defective or if something else was going on, but since I’d only had it a few months I emailed Garmin to see what I should do.

The customer service rep who emailed me back offered a list of suggestions, many of which I’d already tried. But one of them sounded interesting: turn the strap around so the transmitter was at the back. That hadn’t occurred to me before, primarily because I didn’t expect it to work unless it was, you know, actually near my heart.

I experimented with it¬†on a short run last night, and the results were promising. It felt comfortable and didn’t chafe, and the subsequent graph¬†showed a living, exercising person again. We’ll see what happens on my next long run–I’m shooting for six miles this weekend–before I render a verdict about both the chafing and the transmitting. But so far, so good.

Obstacles

The other day my friend Genevieve’s Facebook post said: “And in typical Spring weather fashion – drought, drought, holy $&?! we are going to get hail and flash flooding, drought, drought.”¬† Apparently during the “holy $&?!” portion of the week,¬† it rained 1.25 inches in about half an hour–providing nearly 1/3 of our year-to-date rainfall totals–and the storm knocked down a bunch of trees along the Brushy Creek trail. This added a degree of difficulty to my five-mile run this morning.

Normally this trail is not an obstacle course

Normally this trail is not an obstacle course

I started at the YMCA and went out past the Sports Park, turning around at 2.5 miles. A couple of places, trees had fallen onto the path; in others, I could duck under the branches. Cyclists faced a bit of a challenge though! I encountered several other sections in which workers had already broken up fallen trees and moved them off the trail for later removal. The creek was flowing, but now that we’re surely back to “drought drought” it won’t stay that way for long.

I was slow this morning, and I can’t blame much of it on the fallen trees. But I guess I should get used to running in the heat again.

Speaking of summer running, I’ve decided what my next move will be, training-wise. Starting June 3rd, I’ll be joining a 5K/10K speed group. In August it will switch to a half-marathon group, which will be perfect because I’m hoping to run the Army Ten-Miler again in October, and maybe a winter half (or two).

So that gives me a month to completely lose all the fitness I’ve built since last September. ūüėČ