2013 Year In Review

Last year my goals were:

  1. Break 21 in the 5K
  2. Complete a Half Ironman
  3. Start a blog and average a post a week.

I got the 5K result I wanted and also set PRs in the following events. I did not PR in the marathon because I decided to take a break from that distance in 2013.

Distance Old PR New PR
5K 21:25 20:43
5 Mile 36:08 35:03
10K 45:37 44:01
Half Marathon 1:40:03 1:37:24
Sprint Triathlon 1:13:55 1:11:43
Olympic Triathlon 2:44:57 2:36:31

I completed my Half Ironman in 5:49:42, which was under my goal of 6 hours. I think in the future I would be capable of 5:30, if I am better about getting long rides in.

I ended the year with… 51 blog posts. I thought about throwing something together during the waning moments of the year to reach 52, but I had other things going on and also needed some mental downtime. So, the Type-B side of my personality won that battle.

I have received so many positive things from having this blog. Something that I did not foresee was an opportunity to write three articles for the local publication Tailwinds. It was a thrill to see my name in print and be paid for my words. I am pretty small potatoes in the blogosphere view-wise, but I have met some DSC00506great people and received from really nice messages from readers. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that the thoughts that I push out into cyberspace have helped or inspired people in some way. For the record, my most popular post by far was Becoming A Body Pump Instructor. I am glad that Les Mills classes are so popular. 

I also logged all of my workouts last year for the first time ever. I think I owe my PRs to that 25 minutes of yoga 🙂 The bike mileage may look a bit off, but that’s because I log a lot of my cycle time teaching classes indoors.

2013Totals

For this new year, I only have one solid goal so far: to run a marathon in under 3:30 (I am training for 3:25, but I’d be happy with 3:30). A couple months after that is my typical spring A Race, the Tucson 5000, where I’d love to break 20 minutes in the 5K. Based on past marathon recovery experience, however, I won’t stress about it. As for the fall, I am not sure yet. Take another crack at a Half Ironman? Try to break 2:30 in an Olympic triathlon? My 10K PR is also a bit of an outlier, so maybe I will look for a flat destination race.

Here’s to a fit, fast, and healthy 2014!

Songs That Go the Distance

It’s that time of the marathon training schedule when the long runs are starting to show up. Even though I am doing the Hanson’s Plan and my long runs top out at 16 miles, that’s still about two and a half hours of me and the pavement. For shorter and faster workouts, I like energetic music, but when I’m going long, my tastes change. It’s all about smoothness, and for lack of a better word, flow. Some of it is darnright mellow. Here are some of the songs that I lose myself in.

I have been getting into trance music lately and think it’s great for running. This song travels through a lot of different sounds and moods. The introduction makes me feel like something grand is about to happen.

Hypnotic instrumental opener that draws me into a mental place where everything is about the here and now. And that everything sounds better, looks brighter, and feels… better.

Trancy instrumental that makes me feel like the world is wide open and there for my taking.

One more trance selection. Nice, quick, light cadence, it sounds like running on the road. As the vocals and guitar work their way in and the song progresses, my feet may still be on the ground but my spirit soars through the air.

Throwback to my high school tastes. This song has smooth and flowing by the bucketload. I imagine I am gliding over the road without a care in the world.

Super mellow and introspective. And great for when I do my long runs in the dark.

Oh, now that I’m talking about the dark, I have to mention this song. More trance! Those synthy parts just make me want to move.

So smooth and no one does guitar like Pink Floyd. And aren’t all of us runners just a bunch of earth-bound misfits?

Sometimes you just have to get literal. Hey, it’s what we do every time we head out the door 🙂 I could only find the live version on Youtube. For the album version, go here.

Do you like to run with music? Do you tailor your playlist based on the type of workout? What are some of your favorites?

Rockland County 5-Mile Turkey Trot

After a full year of racing, I had decided that November would be a recovery month of sorts before ramping up training for my March marathon. I was still teaching classes and getting the odd swim and bike ride in, but I had knocked my weekly mileage down to 20 and wasn’t doing speedwork. Still, I couldn’t go cold turkey when it came to races, especially on Thanksgiving 😉 When I knew I was going to spend the holiday in New York, I scoured the internet for Turkey Trots and found one in nearby Rockland County.

The race was about an hour from where we were staying and I needed to pick up my packet on race day, so the alarm went off before six. A big thanks to Ted for waking up early with me and handling the driving. The roads were quiet and it was nice watching the sky shift from dark to light. I got a kick out of some of the local businesses we passed: there was a dentist named Zitofsky (would have been a great name for a dermatologist) and the law offices of Hood, Hood, and Hood.

DSC00446

I think the camera was kind of sleepy too…

It was 25 degrees outside, which is cold but manageable for this warm weather girl. But add some wind and ugh… I got my packet and went immediately back to the car. When it was time to leave my warm sanctuary I was grateful for each and every one of the layers I had put on that morning. The announcer told us that this was the coldest it had ever been for this race. Even so, there is always that one guy wearing a tank top and shorts…

I had looked at previous year’s results and knew that I was fully capable of bringing home an age group award. On the other hand, I had strained my calf a week and a half before, and had only done one easy walk/run since. The muscle felt good, but I did not want to push too hard and mess up my upcoming marathon training. I also wasn’t sure how much Easy November had affected my fitness, so my main goal was simply to enjoy running outside in a new place.

DSC00447

At least the New Yawkahs were bundled up too.

DSC00450

Fun hats!

I started toward the front, but it still took a little while for me to cross the start line. There were icy patches on the road and I slowed down to navigate the large ones and hurdled the smaller ones. I knew that there were hills in the early miles, and did my best to keep an even effort, even though it meant I got passed by more than a few folks on the way up. My mental DJ blasted The Black Eyes Peas’ Pump It. Even though the wind sliced through my clothing, I ended up taking my hat off after a couple of miles. Around mile three, we were treated to a view of the sparkling lake. Now that’s something that I don’t normally get to see. Even though it was cold, the sky was a beautiful blue. It was a nice reprieve from the dismal and gray weather we had been seeing, but simply thinking about gray skies brought the song California Dreaming to mind.

DSC00462

My arm warmers were damp with sweat even as the frosty air bit my cheeks. I focused on the sensations I felt and reveled in being alive, which brought this blast from the past into my head. I knew that my mile splits were probably short of what I would need to place, but I was glad to be running pain free. The final straightway was right smack into the wind. I felt like a football player pushing an invisible tackling dummy. Still, I was feeling good enough at the end that I picked up the pace a bit and passed a couple of people.

DSC00468

I grabbed a banana and bagel and found Ted. We decided to not wait around for the awards. I ended up placing fourth in my age group and missed third by just over a minute. My pace for this race (7:35) was slightly slower than the half marathon I had run a few weeks ago (7:27). I was a little disappointed, but in the spirit of the day, I mostly thankful to be healthy and to spend the rest of the day in warmer places.

DSC00471

Runners are BANANAS!

Race data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/411141192

Hanging Out!

A brief departure from health and fitness posts…

When I was young, my secret superpower wish was that I could fly – or be invisible. I was a shy kid and while I knew everyone could see me, I sometimes felt invisible, and feeling left out stung. And then there were the times where I just wanted to be left alone. While I still can be shy sometimes around new people, especially if they seem standoffish, it’s nothing like it used to be. That means that these days flying would win hands down. The freedom of movement. Being above it all. The ability to visit hard to reach places. The views!

Since I wasn’t born on the planet krypton and haven’t stumbled upon any magic lamps, I figured hang gliding would be the next best thing. I never followed up on the desire, though. Then one day I was sifting through my emails and found a Groupon for a tandem glide and decided to go for it.

The glider would be pulled along by a plane before being let loose and I would get about fifteen minutes of flying time. Right before it was time to take off, I was hit with a sense of dread. No, not the fear of crashing; I was afraid I would vomit! My family is renowned for our weak stomachs. I asked the pilot if anyone had ever thrown up on him and he said “No, but if you have to, lean to the right.”

Image

I wedged in to my suspended cocoon and we were quickly aloft. I felt a hint of nausea, but it wasn’t bad. Air travel affects me much worse. The noise from the plane engine was pretty loud, but it was amazing to be in the air. Then we were cut loose and I basked in the peaceful silence. I even got to steer for a bit, leaning into turns. Giddy delight!

DSC03457

All too soon I was earthbound again. I can’t say that I gained a new perspective on life or anything like that, but it was a wonderful experience and it was very cool to turn one of my “Somedays…” into a “Today!”

Capture3

Tri For Acts of Kindness

The Tri for Acts of Kindness is one of the few pure charity races that I know of in my 1260887_4735832454093_1547911403_n hometown. Every cent made from the race goes directly back into the Shyann Kindness Project, where volunteers distribute gifts at low-income schools and discuss what it means to be kind. The race is held at La Mariposa, where I teach RPM and do my swim workouts, so I feel like I have a home field advantage (eh, not really, but I am used to the extremely shallow pool). I also appreciate any race my travel distance is less than what I will be covering on the course.

The swim is about as short as you will find in a triathlon: a scant 300 yards. As we all lined up according to number, I was happy to see that I would be sharing a lane with my friends Trisha and Gilbert. Things were running a bit behind, so we had a chance to catch up and talk about future race plans. When it was our turn to head to a lane, we launched into a “Who should swim first?” discussion. I ended up starting between Trisha and Gilbert.

1209081_4735831574071_721953256_n1239731_4735830934055_1835599587_n

Swim:
5:05 | 300 yards | 01m 41s / 100 yards
Age Group: 3/18
Overall: 35/182
http://connect.garmin.com/activity/376219885

The water was a bit chilly, so I eased in. I went fairly hard because it was such a short swim, but I also felt pretty tired. Some days are just rough. Gilbert ended up passing me quickly, but he’s bad at counting laps (he freely admits this) and didn’t want to get too far ahead. He ended up waiting for me to finish to make sure he had gotten all of his laps in.

I ripped my cap, goggles, and ear plugs off as I ran to transition. I ended up dropping a plug and decided to leave it there. Because this was a hilly course, I wore my regular helmet because I didn’t know how much I’d be in the aero bars. I ran out of transition holding my bike in the air because I had heard of people getting tire punctures from weeds in the grass and I figured better safe than flat.

Bike:
40:07 | 12.5 miles | 18.7 MPH
Age Group: 2/18
Overall: 12/182
http://connect.garmin.com/activity/376219889

The early part of the bike course is really cracked and bumpy. I looked down at my Cateye and noticed that it was displaying miles per hour, but not cadence, which is the reverse of what it has been doing. A few miles in, I dipped down to drink from my aero-bar mounted bottle and it wasn’t there. I found it in the transition area after the race – it had gotten knocked off when I unracked my bike. I was glad that this was just a sprint and figured that I would probably be alright. Still, it was a warm day and dry mouth is no fun.

There were quite a few hills on the course, but I did a pretty good job of staying in the aero bars. I will use the aero helmet next time. My mental DJ was in a mellow mood and the song “Come Together” went through my head. I heard a rattling sound each time I shifted to my small chain ring and the middle gears, so I spent most of the bike leg in the large ring*. There weren’t  a lot of people on the bike course, which made for a much more enjoyable ride. At the turnaround, the more upbeat song “Perfect Day” was now in my head. My legs were feeling affected by the the large gear pedaling.

Run:
23:51 | 3.1 miles | 7:41 minutes/mile
Age Group: 1/20
Overall: 8/182
http://connect.garmin.com/activity/376219905

Gilbert was just ahead of me as I started on the run, but he quickly pulled away. My legs had no oomph. Maybe it was because of the bike, or the heat, or that this was a B race that I wasn’t tapered for. The hills also sapped my energy. It was an out and back, and I counted three women ahead of me on the run. With the staggered starts I didn’t know how far ahead of me they really were, but it’s always good to have targets during a race.

After the turnaround it was mostly downhill, and I was thankful for that. As I turned off the main road and headed back to La Mariposa, there was a blond woman in my sights. My mantra became blond blond blond blond, which morphed into blond Bond blond Bond and led to a vision of Daniel Craig. I ended up passing her. When I knew I was approaching the finish line and sped up, but I couldn’t see it because it was tucked around the bend.Being able to see the finish line really helps to motivate me, but alas…

I ended up passing three people on the run. A man with a Scottish accent who finished just behind me told me that he had been trying to catch me and that I “looked like a runner.” I took that as a compliment.

After the race, I went to the results table, entered my number, and got a nifty receipt printout of my time and splits. I had never seen that at a race before. Then I headed to the resort section of the club and picked up the included breakfast. Yum!

1231240_4735830054033_978586301_nI stayed around for the award ceremony and found out that the only female who beat me was also in my age group (I was 9th overall). They didn’t give special prizes for the overall winners, so I ended up getting a 2nd place medal. It was made out of an old bicycle chain, which I thought was thrifty, creative, and environmentally friendly.

1186865_4735829934030_108947002_n1239622_4735830094034_768329840_n

*I took my bike to the shop, and it turned out it was a case of cockpit error. The bike was fine, I just needed to trim the gear lever on the big ring depending on the sprocket I was using. At least I knew what to do for the next race.

Push-up Challenge Recap

Last month, I attempted a thirty-day push-up challenge. It started with five push-ups and ended with fifty, following a two day on, one day off schedule. I missed two days, but I was able to catch up by using the off day. Five varieties of push-ups were involved. I was able to complete all of the reps, although I always had to drop down to my knees after two diamond push-ups.

It was a fun challenge and easy to fit into a busy schedule. It only took me 3:11 to complete all fifty push-ups. At the end of the month, I re-tested myself to see how many standard push-ups I could do before failure. I went from being able to do 29 before the challenge to 33 after. I had been hoping for larger gains, but that’s still a 13.8% improvement. I think the biggest thing I took away from the challenge is that it’s not too hard to fit a little extra strength work in and I plan on doing so.

Image

Hotshots Run To Remember (and unofficial reverse duathlon)

During the summer, 19 Arizona firefighters tragically lost their lives fighting the Yarnell Fire, and the Hotshots Run To Remember And Never Forget was created to honor their memory and raise funds for their families. It’s modeled after the Dipsea Race, where runners are started at different times based on age and gender so the faster runners chase the (theoretically, at least) slower ones. The first runners get a 25-minute head start and subsequent groups start at 1-minute intervals. My station in life garnered me an 8-minute advantage. The first 19 finishers would be awarded with numbered T-shirts, and the first to cross the line would receive a beautiful fireman’s axe.

I really needed to get some bike miles in for my upcoming Half Ironman, and because the road to the race has wide bike lanes and few lights, I decided to pedal there. I figured the ride would take me about an hour, so I set my alarm for 4:40. It was still dark when I left, but I had just bought a sweet 500-lumen lamp and was ready for it. The air was thick with humidity.

Going was slow, and I blamed sluggish morning legs. The sky turned a gray-blue as I rode and it was very peaceful. I had packed my running shoes and clothes in a drawstring backpack and it kept shifting to the side, which was a little annoying. There were a couple of stranded bikers on the side of the road a few miles from the park. They asked if I had a spare CO2 cartridge and a patch. This was not their first flat of the day and they had run out. Fortunately, I was able to help and that made me feel extra good about my decision to bike to the race. It took me 1:12:51 to reach the race site (http://connect.garmin.com/activity/372050073), but I still had time to get my number, change into my running clothes and shoes, and suck down a Clif Shot.

9740064736_cbafafb9fa_b

I would be starting at the same time as my friend Amy. Both of us were treating this race as a training run. Then I noticed that she had some Mace attached to her hydration vest. She said it was in case she ran into any hostile critters, but I think she might have been planning to take out the competition…  🙂 The race director kept calling for the different start groups, and most of them were pretty small until it was our turn.

From the start, it felt like I was left in the dust. Enough time had passed since my ride that I didn’t have the rubber-legged feeling I get during a triathlon, but I was definitely feeling its effect. On the plus side, it was still cloudy and there was a nice, refreshing rain. The early part of the race was paved but hilly. There was a working ranch nearby, and the scent of horse hung in the air. The first two miles were run at about 8 minutes a piece, and I was happy with that. Amy was long gone, though. As I ran by one woman she said, “I go to your Body Pump class.” I didn’t recognize her, but it was a fairly large class and it seemed like a lot of the faces change from week to week. It’s silly, but I felt like since I was the instructor that I should be faster.

The staggered start made the passing situation interesting: I was able to pass some people easily and other people were dropping me like a hot potato. My mental DJ was in a cultural mood and had selected Triumphal March from Verdi’s opera Aida for this morning’s festivities.

9738420081_e1fcb101fb_b

Soon it was trail time. I had worn my Saucony Mirages because they were the most stable shoes I owned, but they weren’t really suited for trail running. Parts of the trail were fairly smooth, but in other places several rocks jutted out of the ground. I hit a few of them awkwardly and my ankles yipped but didn’t buckle. I soaked in the surroundings. The musky scent of skunk lingered in the air. In some places, the dirt was a beautiful red color. The skies brought Newton Faulkner’s song “Clouds” to mind.

Stop looking down at the ground
Pick it out of the clouds
No one’s gonna put you down
Just let it out let it out

With the staggered starts, some obviously faster runners came up behind me, and because it was a single-file trail, I had to step to the side and let them pass. It was an interesting challenge to constantly keep adjusting my pace and foot placement, but I am a road racer at heart. I didn’t want to run too fast and risk a fall. The silly, egotistical side of me wished that I had a sign on my back that said “Hey! You do realize I rode my bike here, don’t you?”

A little after the six-mile mark, there was a dramatic steep and rocky climb, and I did something that I don’t think I’ve done in a race since I was in junior high: walk. Post-race reconnaissance revealed that I wasn’t the only one. When I finally reached the top, there was less than a mile remaining. I heard footfalls behind me and this time the Body Pump lady passed. At this point, I was feeling confined by the trail and wishing for an open stretch of road where I could just run the pace I felt like running. It was trail until the end, though, so there was no finishing kick. I ended up finishing 30th taking the handicap start into account and 29th based on raw time. Amy was 16th, and my friends Keith (3) and Steve (10) also finished in the top 19.

Run data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/372050091

9740085302_2a0cc892f3_b

I ate a banana and a Honey Stinger Waffle to fuel up for the ride home. I hadn’t tried the vanilla flavor before and it was outstanding. I hung around for a while and actually started to feel chilly. In Tucson. In September. The ride home was enjoyable and much quicker (http://connect.garmin.com/activity/372050102). It was still cool and there were some large, beautiful white flowers on the side of the road that I hadn’t noticed in the dark. All in all, it was a great morning. While I wasn’t fast, I got a heck of a workout and probably saved a gallon of gas.

Falling short

Training for a marathon involves months of preparation, hours of sweat, and seemingly endless miles, all to be laid on the line in an event that lasts a few hours. Last December, I had the goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. I needed a 3:40, and felt that I was capable of 3:30, based on my 1:40:03 half marathon time and the McMillan calculator. I was trained, tapered, and ready to run. The race did not go as well as planned. I had persistent intestinal issues the morning of, which led to an unplanned detour into the desert. I wasn’t able to hit the speeds that I wanted, even though I felt like I gave it my best that morning. Fortunately, I still managed to BQ with a time of 3:38:41. With the new, tighter standards, I was pretty sure that it would be enough and I wanted to take a year off from marathons anyway.

After the bombings, I knew anecdotally that there was an increased interest in running the 2014 race and wondered if I would make it in. Still, I was committed to my goal of completing a Half Ironman in the fall and didn’t think I could do that and PR in a marathon. Extra slots were opened up for the race, but yes, more people were registering. I submitted my registration, waited a week and a half, and learned that the cut-off was 1:38 under qualifying time. I was 19 seconds too slow. All that preparation. So close. So far. After I got the news, I thought about my desert potty break. If it hadn’t been for that, I’d be looking up airline tickets right now.

Life doesn’t coddle. Sometimes, what you bring to the table isn’t enough. Sometimes your goals are thwarted by things beyond your control (although I think that I will skip the artichoke hearts the night before a race). In reality, all we can control is our preparation, our attitude, and our behavior in the moment. If something is worth it, we will press on, even when faced with setbacks and the very real possibility that we may fall short. Again.

There are endless quotes and songs about focusing on the journey, not the destination (including one from a fully-clothed Miley Cyrus). That’s where the time is spent, the tears are shed – the growth happens. It’s where we learn about ourselves. Finding strength, tenacity, and yes, weakness. There may come a time to shelve certain dreams, but that doesn’t have to lead to despair. After all, Johnny Depp originally sought to make it as a rock star.

In the grand scheme of things, I know that missing out on a race is not a huge deal, and I plan to make like Joe Dirt and keep on keepin’ on. I have already signed up for the Phoenix Marathon in an attempt to better my qualifying time. After a break from marathoning, I am looking forward to ramping up the miles and going long again. Me, Boston, and 2015? There’s only one way to find out. Happy Training.

Saguaro National Park Labor Day Race

After a long, hot summer break, the Southern Arizona Roadrunners racing season resumes with the popular Saguaro National Park Labor Day run. The course is a paved 8-mile loop with a big, honking hill smack dab in the middle. Beautiful and challenging, it’s one of my favorite places to run and bike. With the combination of heat and humidity, the weather can be brutal this time of year. I had run an easy four-miler the day before, and it was nasty.

My PR at this race was 1:07:09, set two years ago. I missed it last year to run the Disneyland Half Marathon. My goal was to go under 1:05.

DSC00360

The day dawned cloudy, if not cool, and I took that as a good sign. The desert was beautiful in the early morning light. My husband came to watch, and he dropped me off by the entrance and then went to find a parking space (expect a long walk to the start if you ever do this race). I picked up my number, chatted with some friends, had my Clif Shot, and then it was time to take care of business. No, not race: hit the port-o-potty. The lines were long, and I kept looking at my watch and the people ahead of me, performing mental calc. It would be close. My adrenaline was pumping. It was almost race time, but they hadn’t sung the national anthem yet. It was finally my turn, and if this portion of the race had been timed, I think I would have done very well. I dashed to the starting line with a few minutes to spare. It was pretty packed, so I couldn’t get as close to the front as I wanted, but I wasn’t too far back.

DSC00361

People were tightly clustered, so the initial pace was kind of slow. Shortly after the start, there’s a steep downhill and I had to hold myself back because of the crowds. I passed a lot of people early on – I had been farther back than I thought. I ran by my friend Melody and she cheered for me and then told her friend, “I used to beat her.” A light, refreshing rain fell. This was by far the best weather I had ever experienced at this race. I hit the first mile at 7:15, which I felt really good about. I passed my Ragnar teammate Tim, but he blazed by me back shortly after, never to be seen again (he ended up beating me by almost five minutes).

Things had thinned out enough that I was able to run my own pace comfortably now. The next two miles splits were 6:55 and 7:16. Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” ran through my head. But Fonda ain’t got a motor in the back of her Honda. But I do, and I was ready to use it. Motor, motor, I got a motor… A strong crosswind blew as I headed up the hill and I felt like it might push me into the cactus. A few local high school cross country teams dressed up as super heroes manned the different water stations. The next two miles were covered in 8:05 and 9:22. Just a wee climb. “Flesh and Bone” by the Killers was in my head now. And what are you made of? Flesh and Bone! And sweat. Vats of it. My shorts were soggy by this point.

1176183_10151576586941196_1820450161_n

After the five-mile mark, it’s mostly downhill. Barring catastrophe, I would easily beat 1:05. My friend Craig, who is training for a 100-miler, was volunteering and cheered for me. He had done a 30-miler the day before, and today’s mileage was running to and from the water station. There are so many supportive people in our local running community who love to come out to races when they aren’t participating just to encourage others and help out.

There was a girl up ahead that I had my eyes on, and people kept cheering “Go, Diane!” I didn’t make the connection that it was Diane, one of my local running heroes, until after the race. The cloud cover surrendered to the sun during the last mile. I tried to focus on keeping my footsteps light and quick and ignore the increasingly nasty sensations coursing through my body. Diane pulled farther and farther away. The final mile has a lot of twists and ups and downs, so I was constantly changing gears. I made the final turn toward the finish line and knew that I had run a 1:02-something, so I was thrilled. It gave me hope that maybe one of these years, I could possibly break an hour.

Results:

1:02:02 (7:45 / mile)
Age Group: 2 / 75
Overall: 81 / 764

Race data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/369508499

Easy Peasy Lemmon Squeezy

“Have you ridden Mt. Lemmon?” If you’re a cyclist in Tucson, you will be asked. I had always answered with a resounding “No.” The challenge of going up intrigued me. Coming down, not so much. I was a skittish biker. A Cautious Carla. A white-knuckled brake squeezer. A girl who got so frustrated with herself that the phrase “poopy puppy” would spring to mind during rides. But even puppies mature, and after about two years of riding, I decided it was time to squeeze the Lemmon.

The Tucson Tri Girls have a yearly summer tradition of going a little further up the mountain every week until the whole (or half) climb is conquered. My cyclist friend Rafael was also game to join me, so I decided it was as good a time to try as any. I had missed the first few rides, and the goal for that weekend was Milepost 17.

I met Rafael at a school parking lot and we rode to Milepost 0. We checked in and got smiley stickers for our helmets (people who collected a sticker from each ride would get a special memento at the end of the series). There are certainly steeper climbs around town, but Mt. Lemmon provides a long, mostly steady incline with a few downhills. There are also a few sharper climbs mixed in. I started at a moderate, even effort and quickly shifted down to my granny gear. To my surprise, we passed a quite a few people on our way up. Rafael (who was riding a fixed-gear bike!) had to turn around early to go to work, so I continued on my own. Locally-headquartered Tri Sports was parked halfway up, and they provided hydration and snacks. I topped off my water bottle and grabbed some Gu Chomps and a sample-sized European Chamois Butter (European = menthol in this case) packet. I ended up eating my own Honey Stinger waffle and decided to save everything else for another time.

After chatting with some folks, it was time to climb again. I was now in pine country, and their sharp, clean scent hung in the air. For the most part, all you could see was the road ahead, but there were some spots with amazing views of the city below. It’s a tremendous feeling to look down and see how far you’ve climbed. There was a sign saying that the camp ground was a mile away, but somehow I missed the turnoff. I decided to keep riding and make it an even 20 miles up, and luckily I found it on the way back. The Tri Girls had provided bagels, Z Bars, fruit, cookies, coffee, and more. I took my refueling very seriously because I didn’t want them to have to lug too much food back down the mountain. I was pretty sweaty and it was cool enough up there that I started to feel a little chilly.

968893_4509464075025_1020164686_n

The way down was surprisingly enjoyable. There were some times when I rode the brakes, but I always felt in control. Some riders really push it going down, and they whizzed by me. Coasting was fine with me. I also stopped more than once to take some pictures.

Ride data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/352753406

1146712_4509463795018_187143102_n

Two weeks later, it was time for the Full Lemmon: Cookie Cabin (Milepost 25) or bust! Rafael joined me again, along with some of his other friends. I met a guy named Bill and mentioned that I was more of a triathlete than a cyclist. He asked if I knew one of the other triathletes in the group, but said that maybe I wouldn’t because she was in her thirties. I told him that I was as well, and he said that he had thought I was twenty-something (he was well into his fifties). I asked if it was because I was wearing sunglasses. He said it was the legs. Anyhow, it’s always nice when people think you look younger than you are. Thank you exercise.

The SAG stop was at Windy Point this week. It was a really hot day, and I probably guzzled a quart of water in under a minute. It’s amazing how quickly I can drink after a good sweat session Then I grabbed a banana and smeared peanut butter on it.

856476_10201910060132307_391394264_o

I hung around for a while, drank some more, and reapplied sunscreen before heading back up. The extra seven miles made a big difference, despite a long downhill toward the end. My legs quivered as I dismounted at the Cookie Cabin. It was closed, so I had to make do with one of the energy bars that I had brought. Even at the summit, there was no escaping the heat this week.

1175646_4586495160754_1827858866_n

I didn’t see any Tri Girls, so I decided to head back down on my own. It had already been a very long ride. I saw a deer on the way down and got off my bike to take a picture, but a car went by and the deer leapt over the side of the mountain before I could. I also realized that I had left a water bottle at Windy Point, and thankfully it was still there on my way back. By the time I finished, my back was sore and I was stinky and starving, but still smiling.

Climbing the mountain had been unthinkable to me for so long that I felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment. I could try to wax eloquent here, but I feel a song coming on instead…

Ride data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/360555541