Hummingbird Triathlon

Please excuse the clouds of dust as I crack open this long-neglected blog. I have been training and racing the last few years, just not as intensely (nutshell: I’m slower). 

The Hummingbird Triathlon in Sierra Vista popped up in my Facebook feed a few weeks ago, and I decided to go for it. I like sprint tris, and it was only $45 total (no website or USAT fees!). I had just completed a 70.3 in Boulder a two weeks ago and had done almost no speed work in the past year (no sprint tris in almost two), so I had no idea how this would go. Sierra Vista is about 2000 feet higher than Tucson, which meant cooler temps (yes!), but might also mean slower times.

The race started at seven, so we left the house at five. The drive was easy, and we picked up our packets and set up our bikes in transition without any issues. There were only 50 individual entrants (along with some relay teams) and maybe nine triathlon-specific bikes, including ours.


After a quick briefing, the slowest swimmers got in the pool. The swim was 800 yards and each person got their own half-lane. The rest of us lined up in no particular order, and as soon as someone exited the water, the next person was called down. Ross and I were toward the back of the line didn’t get into the pool until about an hour later. At least we got to wait indoors and right next to the locker rooms.


When it was my turn, the timer entered my number in her laptop and started me. The athletes did not have ankle chips, so our splits were not recorded in the result, only our finish times.

For the first two hundred yards of the swim, I felt a little out of breath and chalked it up to the altitude. Eventually, I settled into a rhythm and felt pretty good, but had no idea what my pace was. The guy who shared my lane lapped me a couple times and got out when I was about halfway done, while the person in the adjacent lane breast-stroked slowly. I had the full lane to myself for the rest of the swim.

Volunteers counted the laps and put an orange sign into the water when there was one to go. After the swim, it took two tries to hoist and flop myself onto the deck. I had given 14:00 as my estimated time and finished the swim in 14:37 (1:50 / 100 yard).

I made it to transition before Ross (who started later), and he showed up before I left. As I headed onto the bike course, I figured he’d pass me quickly. The course is pretty straightforward: an out-and-back largely on one road. In some parts, we had it to ourselves, other times, we shared it with traffic. Police gave us the right of way at all the intersections. The road was in decent shape, but there were a few rough patches and some cracks.

The course looked flat on the way out, and I was in my big ring and feeling great. Maybe all that 70.3 training and race day magic were making for a great bike performance. It’s hard for me to look at my watch while I’m riding, so I’m not sure how long it took for Ross to catch me, but it felt longer than I was expecting. It seemed like I hadn’t been riding for long at all when I hit the turn-around. Uh oh. Maybe I’d been going downhill and not realizing it. It didn’t take too long to realize that was the case, and I spent most of the way back in the small ring. Since it was a small race with staggered starting, the riders were pretty spread out which was nice–crowded courses and close passing make me nervous. All in all, two people passed me and I passed five. My bike split was 41:59 (18.5 MPH).

During transition, my friend Sean, who was already done and ended up nabbing the top spot, warned me that the run would be hot and to take the water offered at the single aid station.

I had been going for about an hour when I started the run, so I knew my 1:20 goal was out of the question. The run course was on a mix of road, sidewalk, and asphalt multi-use path. It wasn’t hilly, but there were some mild rollers. The heat wasn’t an issue until about halfway, but it wasn’t too bad compared with other runs I’d done over the summer. I felt like I pushed myself, but at the same time, those faster gears just weren’t there, and I wasn’t on the verge of spontaneous combustion like I have been in other races. When I turned back toward the race venue, the finish line was in sight, so I picked up the pace a little bit and felt mildly pukey by the end. My run split was 25:31 (8:14 pace).

20190818_160115.jpgMy overall time was 1:25:34, which was good enough for second in my age group and fifteenth overall. Ross got third in his age group (sixth overall) and beat me by 7:17. I was about fourteen minutes off my sprint PR from six years ago. I knew I was going to be slower, but I didn’t think it would be such a big difference. 

Afterward, oranges, bananas, Oreos, and fresh water were provided. We hung around for the award ceremony and received medals. 

We both had a nice time and are planning to do it again. It’s a friendly, low-cost race and provides a nice respite from the blistering Tucson summer.

We have two more sprint tris coming up later this year (Tri for Acts of Kindness and Anthem Holiday Classic) as well as some running races. I’m taking a break from longer distances for a while, so I hope I can get some of my speed back. I miss going short and fast.

Full results here. Garmin data here



A Mostly Nice (and slightly naughty) Holiday Season

Ah, the holidays. When sleeves get longer as days get shorter. The hours are crammed with activities and faces are crammed with edible delights. Each year I strive to strike a balance between enjoying what the season has to offer while not throwing healthy habits to the wind. Here’s how I spent the merry month of December.

For the second year, my boyfriend Ross and I competed in the Anthem Holiday Triathlon. It’s a short, beginner-friendly event, and the men and women race separately. It makes for wpid-dsc00657.jpga long morning, but it also provides a rare opportunity for us to cheer each other on and play photographer. It was snowing when we left Flagstaff and raining in Tucson, but overcast and pleasant at the race site.

The swim is a 200-yard serpentine that’s completed twice. This year they started the oldest swimmers first (last year we organized ourselves by swim times), and the pool got congested very quickly. At one point my lane was so clogged that I stood and walked. People were also resting on the walls between laps, so there were a few times I stopped short and changed direction. I hope they change back next year.

It was windy, which made for an interesting bike ride. It was a three-loop course, complete with climbs and descents. I hadn’t ridden my tri bike much lately, so I stayed out of the aero bars when flying downhill and during the narrow and twisty sections of the course. Ross, who is a beast on the bike, stayed in them the whole time. I was passed by three women, and he wasn’t passed at all.  wpid-dsc00700.jpg

The run is a loop, with a short out-and-back part. The first half is a net downhill, which makes it rough toward the end when you’re already tired. Ross had finished his race in 1:05:29, and I figured I’d be about 10 minutes behind him. My time was 1:15:36. It was nice to see his smiling face at the finish line.

We had decided to relax after the race, and booked a Jacuzzi suite. We ended up with three bathtubs: a Jacuzzi tub in the bedroom itself as well as normal tubs in the two bathrooms. Pretty flippin’ fancy.


A few days before Christmas, I got a special surprise. As I was getting ready for work, I looked out my back window and did a double-take. The weeds that had overtaken the yard during the rainy season were gone, and several herbs, vegetables, and flowers had been planted. Ross and his parents had come by the day before and transformed my backyard into something beautiful. I can’t wait to prepare meals with food from my own garden. It was by far the best Christmas gift that I’ve ever received.


On Christmas Eve, my friends Keith and Shokofeh, who head up the Tucson Runners Project, hosted a hot chocolate run on Mt Lemmon. It was chilly when we arrived, but the combination of sunshine and uphill running warmed us quickly. We did 6.6 miles with a couple of other friends while stopping for a couple of picture breaks. Afterwards, we hung out for a while and enjoyed treats, views, and conversation.

10866825_10152957421167068_2133306559_n 10850535_10152957420802068_37489893_n15501_10203253681085921_5108937100284759748_n

One of my blogger friends, Shannan, tagged me in a cookie recipe challenge. I enjoy cooking and experimenting in the kitchen, but I don’t bake that often. In the spirit of my blog, I wanted to make something fairly healthy. I had made black bean brownies in the past, and wanted to see if I could find a bean-based cookie recipe. Google showed me how to make peanut butter chocolate chip cookies with garbanzo beans.

Here are the modifications I made to the basic recipe. I used sunflower seed butter instead of peanut butter because it’s a little easier to stir and is already slightly sweet. I replaced half of the honey with liquid stevia, and found the cookies to be sweet but not overpoweringly so. I also multiplied everything by 1.5 to use the full can of wpid-2014-12-30-14.07.02.png.pnggarbanzos. The recipe warned against doubling because it could ruin the blender, but my Ninja Prep Pro handled it with ease. The batter was tasty, and with no eggs, I didn’t have to worry about eating it raw. Confession: I have eaten raw batter that contains eggs. Just one of the ways I live on the edge.

The cookies were a little soft after ten minutes, so I baked them for another two. It didn’t change the texture much, and I decided to stop there rather than risk burning them. The outsides had a hint of normal crisp-cookie texture, but the insides were very soft. I prefer a soft cookie, though, so it wasn’t a big deal. They were delicious and not beany at all. The original recipe is gluten free, and can easily be made vegan and/or sugar free. I would definitely make them again.

My holidays weren’t all exercise and bean cookies, though. I did enjoy some cheesecake, brownies, and chocolate treats. The evil geniuses at Trader Joe’s hooked me with their Taste Test of Caramels. Indulgence meets guessing game? You win this time, TJ’s.

It’s been a wonderful holiday season, and I am grateful for all of the friends and family that I got to celebrate with. I am enjoying some time off work, while I catch up on some R & R and much needed housework. Marathon training has also begun.

I hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday season and I look forward to seeing what 2015 brings.

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.


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!

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.


5:05 | 300 yards | 01m 41s / 100 yards
Age Group: 3/18
Overall: 35/182

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.

40:07 | 12.5 miles | 18.7 MPH
Age Group: 2/18
Overall: 12/182

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.

23:51 | 3.1 miles | 7:41 minutes/mile
Age Group: 1/20
Overall: 8/182

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.


*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.

Mountain Man Triathlon (Olympic Distance)

The Mountain Man Triathlon in Flagstaff, Arizona bills itself as “The Toughest Race You’ll Ever Love.” Something about altitude. And a hill. I had done it last year, and was looking forward to testing my mettle on the course again. I was also faster, more experienced, and perhaps most importantly, I had better gear. After the tube and tire fiasco at the previous month’s triathlon, I had made sure to take care of everything bike-related well before the night of the race. The latex tubes were in my tires, and I was able to use both race wheels.

The night before the race, my husband and I headed to Picazzo’s. I had a delicious Greek salad and a whole-grain crust pizza. Several other triathletes were carbo-loading there as well. Afterwards, we headed to Target. I needed berries and granola for my breakfast yogurt, and if a few other things happened to find their way into my cart, well, far be it from me to throw them out. We had planned on walking around downtown, but decided to head back to our room and watch Trouble With The Curve (purchased at said Target) instead.

I woke up a little after four, ate my yogurt breakfast, sipped black tea, and let Ted sleep for another half hour. He got up without too much urging, and we quickly loaded the car and headed toward Lake Mary. The mountain air was delightfully cool, and I wore a sweatshirt and yoga pants over my tri clothes. We parked off the side of the road as instructed, and made our way toward the transition area.


Some races assign racks by number, but this isn’t one of them. Trying to find a spot to slip your bike in can be a little tricky, but I’ve never had a big problem. Sometimes, however, I do have a problem getting the number onto my bike using the twist ties provided. Aerodynamic frames have funny shapes. My friend Jeff says that he staples his number on, and I might just have to do that myself next time.


Hmm… Will this way work?

After everything was set up, I had plenty of time to eat some more, use the port-o-potties (the lines weren’t bad), and don my wetsuit. My wave was assigned golden caps, and I think they look as snazzy as latex head covers can possibly look. My time here last year was 2:44:57 and my goal for this race was to go under 2:40.


Swim (does not include time to reach timing mat)
00:30:20 | 1640.42 yards | 01m 50s / 100 yards
Age Group: 4/13
Overall: 85/278

The water was a bit chilly, as we stood half-submerged waiting for the start. I positioned myself about a third of the way back. Once we started, it was a mass of flailing limbs and brown, churning water. I knew from past experience that the first few minutes of the swim would feel awful thanks to the altitude, but knowing didn’t make it any easier. I felt like my lungs had shriveled up and I just had to keep telling myself that the feeling would pass and to keep going. My upper body felt powerless, and it was all I could do to weakly paddle forward. There had also been some turmoil in my personal life over the past month, and while I had gotten my workouts in, they certainly hadn’t been stellar. It would be interesting to see how this DSC03353race unfolded. I threw in a breaststroke every so often as I tried to sight, and I had to re-align myself more than once. The crowd had thinned by the time I reached the first buoy, so I was able to make a tight turn. I was also breathing much better by this time, but my stroke still felt weak.  

As I turned around the last buoy to head to the ramp, I was nearly blinded by the glare of the sun off the water. I could make out swimmers ahead of me, but not much else. I kept popping up to sight, but I couldn’t see the exit. It felt like I was never going to get out of this lake. I kept going, and swam right into a volunteer who was there to keep people from hitting a reef. At least the finish was in sight now. I was disappointed with my 30+ minute swim because it was slower than last year. I know I wasted a lot of time zigging and zagging. Still, there was a lot of race left, so I ran toward the transition, cursing the pebbles along way.

Transition 1

I scarfed a Z Bar and applied some sunscreen. In the process of unracking my bike, I knocked my aero bottle out of its cage, so I had to re-rack and put it back. I know my official transition time of 3:29 is slow, but since according to my Garmin I went all the way to Africa, I’d say that it was pretty fast. Seriously, check out the link. What up, Garmin? Atmospheric disturbance?

01:14:09 | 24.85 miles | 20.05 mile/hr
Age Group: 3/13
Overall: 85/278

Bike Course

The bike course is kind of an oxymoron: hilly, but fast. It’s an out-and-back, with most of the climbing taking place in the first half. Some people seriously fly on the way back, DSC03376hitting speeds of 50+ miles per hour. I had decided to leave my aero helmet at home because I didn’t know if I’d be riding mostly upright on the hilly parts. I knew the first part of the course was pretty flat, so I settled into my aero bars and rode at a controlled, fast-ish pace. My bike computer was showing cadence, but not speed. I am ashamed to say that the song going through my head at this point was Ke$sha’s “We Are Who We Are.” My only excuse is that it was in the RPM release that I was teaching that week. At least some of the lyrics were motivating.

Tonight we’re going har-har-h-h-h hard
Just like the world is our-our-ah-ah-ah ours!
We’re tearing it apar-par-par-pa-pa-pa part
You know we’re superstars
We R who we R

The lake and mountain scenery was gorgeous. It seemed like I wasn’t too far into the bike leg, when I saw the lead men coming back the other way. They had gotten an earlier start, but still. One of them was wearing nothing but a Speedo. Not so gorgeous.

I remember being challenged by the climbs last year, so when I hit the biggest hill of the day and it didn’t seem too hard, I wondered if it was the hill I remembered. I ended up passing my friend Shannon on this climb. His swim had been really rough as well. I was getting passed by people, but it seemed like a lot fewer than usual in my Olympic distance racing experience. I hadn’t heard any auto-lap beeps (I have it set for five mile increments on the bike), but I think that’s because the Garmin still had me in Africa. 

I finally reached the turn-around and knew that time-wise I was over halfway there. I back-and-forthed with a sixty-year old woman for a while. I eventually took the lead, but I was seriously impressed with her. I wanted to shout out the cheer from the audition scene from Bring It On: “Awesome! Oh wow! Like totally freak me out!” I decided to save my lungs, though. 

When I got to the long downhill, I remember thinking, This is what had me shaking in my spandex last year? It really didn’t seem scary at all, even though I reached 39.7 miles per hour. My hip flexors bothered me a bit, but I was mostly able to ignore it. I had decided get all of my bike-time calories in liquid form, and had Body Armor sports drink in my aero bottle. It tasted great. So much better than the mass-produced “ades”.

I was really pleased with my bike. I had taken over eight minutes off of last year’s time, but more importantly, I was happy that I was a much stronger and more confident rider. Improvements come slowly sometimes, but they do come. Next year, I’m bringing my aero helmet.

Transistion 2

I applied more sunscreen. 1:51, officially.

00:46:00 | 6.2 miles | 7:25 min/mile
Age Group: 3/13
Overall: 35/278



Taking a tight turn running downhill

I will spare you a thousand words describing the course, and let the picture above speak for me. It’s very flat – until it’s not. I felt confident that finishing under 2:40 was well within my reach. I tried flipping through my Garmin screens to get a sense of what my instantaneous pace was, but got nothing useful (it still had me in Africa). So, I just ran by feel, which is what I normally do anyway. Still, I like peek at my pace and check my splits. There was a pebble in my shoe, but I decided I to ignore it.

Hill time. Just focus on putting one foot in front of the other… There were kids with super soakers at the switchback, and I waved at them and hoped they’d let me have it. They obliged. I didn’t feel like I was running fast, but I kept passing people. I saw my friend Jeff, and we gave each other hollers. I was losing feeling in my left foot, and Linkin Park’s “Numb” started coursing through my head. At least I no longer felt the pebble.

After the hill, there’s a brief section on a dirt road, then it’s turn around and head on back. I was looking forward to screaming down that hill. I gave Shannon a wave as he made his way up. It was warming up, but at least I was in the home stretch now. Finally, it was back to the flats. When I hit the one mile mark, I knew that I would easily surpass my time goal. Feeling started to return to my foot.

I felt the cumulative physical effort of the race, but I was nowhere near as mentally exhausted as I had been in my previous Olympic triathlons. I saw two women ahead of me, and made it my goal to catch them. Concentrating on Linkin Park’s “Bleed It Out” had worked well for my last tri, so my mind went there again. I passed one woman. Digging deeper. The finish line was in sight, and I passed the second. I managed a little kick-lette, and I heard “Michael Kaseler from Tucson” over the loud speaker. Michael? Well, keep running, Michael. I crossed the line and the woman that I had passed was close behind. No one had passed me during the run.


Even though my swim wasn’t great, I was very pleased with this race. I had knocked over eight minutes off of last year’s time, and felt so much stronger and more confident in my abilities as a triathlete.

Final time: 2:36:31
Overall: 59 / 278
Age Group: 3 / 13

Firecracker Triathlon

I have no one to blame. I know better. Don’t mess with things right before a race. Here’s what happened: I had read that one way to decrease rolling resistance on the bike, and therefore go faster, is to use latex tubes instead of the standard butyl ones. They cost a little more, but compared to other my other bike upgrades, it was pretty inconsequential. I had bought the tubes weeks ago and promptly stowed them in the cabinet, where they remained until 9 PM the night before the race. After I swapped out the tube and started to put the tire back on the wheel, I realized that the valve was too short for my race wheels and I wouldn’t be able to use them. The things you don’t think about…

I removed the latex and wrestled the old tube back into the tire and and the tire on to the wheel. It had been a while since I had changed a tire, and my clumsy and somewhat forceful efforts damaged the original tube around the stem and caused a leak.For a panicked moment I thought that I wouldn’t be able to race, but I still had my stock wheels lying around so I created a bike mullet (business in front, speed in the back!). Crisis averted, but I was now worse off that I would have been if I had just left well enough alone. As an aside, I am now the proud owner of two shiny, new valve extenders.

To beat (ha ha) the heat, the race starts early. The youth waves started at 5:45 in the morning, with the adults starting at six. To get people through the course as quickly as possible, a serpentine swim is used and each individual racer is assigned a unique start time. I would be going at 7:21, which gave me some time to kill (all bikes had to be racked before the kids started).

I have a streak of besting my previous time each time I have done this series, and I hoped to keep it going. The last time I did a Tri Tucson race, the volunteer had signaled for me to get out of the pool before I had completed all 825 yards, so I am using my estimated time of 1:13:23 rather than the official time of 1:11:42. Firecracker tends to lead to slower times because the pool was set up long-course (50 meters), you have to somewhat awkwardly duck under lane lines after each out-and-back, and it’s really bloody hot, so I knew I had my work cut out for me. On the other hand, I did have my one race wheel and an aero helmet this time.

13:26 | 750 meters | 01m 38s / 100 yards
Age Group: 1/20
Overall: 56/279

After doing some easy laps, I lined up according to number and got ready for my start. The pool is cooled during the summer and felt really refreshing. The race director double-Snapshot 2 (9-6-2013 8-39 PM)checked my name and number, and I was off. At a recent aquathlon, my training buddy Ross had noticed that my stroke was choppy, so I tried to focus on extending long and keeping my body as flat as possible. After a few laps, I passed a swimmer, and I felt like I had a good rhythm going. Down on one side, flip, back on the other, duck under the lane line, continue. About two-thirds of the way through, I reached a bottle neck. I had caught up with two other swimmers, and I couldn’t really pass them because of how they were positioned. When I tried to make a move, I kicked pretty hard and got some water down the wrong pipe. Coughing, I had to stop at the wall and catch my breath. Thankfully, there was only one 50-meter length to go.

Transition went fairly smoothly, although it took a couple of tries to get my aero helmet snapped on.

Bike (includes transitions)
37:26 | 11.5 miles | 19.9 MPH (estimated speed after taking transitions out)
Age Group: 1/20
Overall: 74/279

I got off to a good start and felt really solid in the aero position. The song “I’m Flying” from the musical Peter Pan popped into my head as I zoomed down the road (I had played Wendy’s daughter Jane in a 7th grade production. It was a small part, but I got to fly!). Not exactly a push yourself song, but it captured the fun of biking fast. Because of the serpentine swim, the course is a little more crowded than it is during the spring and fall races, but the passing and being passed went smoothly. I saw one woman who had a full backpack on and wondered what she might be carrying.

The course is three loops around the University, so there are a lot of turns. I kept hearing Ross’s voice telling me to downshift before making the turn, so I don’t waste so much energy getting back up to speed. There were a few times where having to steer around people and kept my hands away from the shifters, but I did it for most of the turns. I was happy that I was even able to stay in the aero bars part of the time while on crazy-cracked Euclid. It’s been a slow process, but I am becoming a decent bike handler. I had put a Nuun tablet and a bunch of ice cubes in my aero bottle, but the fluid was warm now and not super-refreshing. Still, hydration is hydration. The good news was that there was cloud cover, so I was spared the brunt of the sun. I hoped that it would stay that way for the run.

Transition Happens. Riveting, I know.

20:50 | 3 miles | 6:56 min/mile
Age Group: 1/20
Overall: 16/279

Last year I had made the decision to carry a small hand-held bottle at this race, and it served me well. I could use my bottle to for hydration and pour all of the cold course water directly onto my head. I was feeling good about keeping the streak going, as long as the heat didn’t suck too much life out of me. There were some kids with water guns on the course, but I was next to another runner when I passed them, and he got the benefit of the soakage.   Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 9.25.09 PM

I saw my friend Pat taking pictures when I made a sharp turn at the east end of the mall, and tried to smile for the camera. The beep of the Garmin alerted said I knocked off my first mile in 6:45, which was much better than I was expecting. I didn’t feel like I was going too fast either, and felt that I could probably hold the pace. I was also passing people at a regular clip, which always makes things more fun. My friend Shannon, who was in the middle of Ironman training and not racing himself, was out cheering, which I appreciated. The second loop was more of the same, and I was almost worried that I didn’t feel worse. I mean, I was running hard, but maybe I was holding back? Mental DJ, cue Linkin Park. I bleed it out, digging deeper… 

The sun started to peek out from behind the clouds as I finished my second lap and headed toward the finish line. Ross was heading out for his run, and we high-fived. I crancked up the effort, but in reality, I wasn’t going that much faster. My heart rate shot up though, and it certainly felt worse.

I bleed it out
I’ve opened up these scars
I’ll make you face this
I’ve pulled myself so far
I’ll make you face… this… now!!!!

Unfortunately, there wasn’t any chase-fodder to provide extra motivation. Still, when it was all over, I had completed my run almost a minute faster than I had in March, and came within one second of beating my official (short) time from that race. It was much better than I had expected to do, and I was thrilled. I also ended my Firecracker podium drought and by winning my age group.

Snapshot 1 (9-6-2013 8-31 PM)Final time: 1:11:43
Age Group: 1/19
Overall: 34/279

How I Survived My Summer Offseason

In some parts of the world, the summer months are ripe with races. In my neck of the desert, where midday temperatures routinely top one hundred degrees, formal racing opportunities dwindle. For others, the downtime comes when the ground is buried under crunchy layers of white stuff. Still, there are plenty of ways for a even the most ardent race-a-holic to stay motivated and well-trained during the inhospitable seasons.

Get Out of Dodge:

Is the weather awful? Go somewhere where it isn’t! Destination races can be a lot of fun. This summer, I cooled off in San Francisco and Flagstaff. Last year I ran a half marathon in Disneyland. Make like a kid and head to a sports camp. I’ve had great times at running camp. Incidentally, my hometown of Tucson is home to several triathlon camps during the winter months. Consider a fitness spa vacation to both sweat and unwind.

Alternative Events:

While there are fewer formal races, I’m fortunate that my city provides a few weekday events during the summer weeks. My favorite is the local aquathlon series (800 yard pool swim, 3 mile run). The swim can get a little crazy, as we circle swim three or four to a lane. Swimmers are assigned lanes based on an a submitted start time, but some estimates are better than others. I know my times vary from week to week. Some days, it’s like bumper boats, and other times things go… just swimmingly. Then it’s pop out of the water, put your shoes on, and run three laps around a park path, weaving through walkers, bikers, and oblivious children. This particular summer was a lot of fun for me, as both my run and swim times improved since last year. I also had some great sprint-to-the-finish battles and even managed to win a few. They are relatively small events, and you get to know some folks pretty well by the end of the summer.

One other thing I like to hit at least once during the summer is an all-comer’s track meet. There are several youth track clubs that participate as well as full-grown folks. I like to do mile time trials occasionally to gauge my fitness, and it’s fun to do them in a competitive setting. If that means getting beaten by an eight year-old, so be it. My mile PR dropped to 6:07 this summer.


Now, if your offseason happens during the winter, you might find snowshoe races, cross country skiing, indoor or winter triathlons in your area.

Just do it anyway:

Some folks just decide to suck it up and race. One local running event company hosts a “Run With The Roosters”, which starts at 5:05 AM. I passed on that, but I did take part in an evening 5K and a sprint triathlon. With racing getting more popular these past few years, I have noticed that there are several events to pick from, even during the dog days of summer. If extreme weather is just one more challenge you’d like to take on, there are events like “The Hottest Race on Earth” just for you.

Well, my offseason is rapidly drawing to a close. Starting with an 8-miler on Labor Day, I have eight more races packed in to next two months. I’m eagerly anticipating my times dropping with the temperature.

Tempe International Triathlon (Olympic Distance)

After finishing my goal 5K, it was time to start thinking about October’s Half Ironman. I had three Olympic distance tris planned leading up to it, and Tempe International was first on the list. It was only my second ever open water tri (and my first since last August). My running has been fast and consistent, but very short-distance focused. My first Olympic race was at altitude on my old bike with standard wheels in just under 2:45. My goal for this race was somewhere between 2:35 and 2:40.


1) Heat.

2) Not having swum in open water in nine months.

3) Heat!

I set my alarm early enough to have my normal Greek yogurt, berry, and granola breakfast and some hot, black tea. I was able roust my husband without too much effort, and we piled into the car. The route we had chosen had been coned off, so he let me and the bike off at the side of the road. I walked about a quarter of a mile, racked my bike, picked up my timing chip, and then realized that I had left the extra bag with my hydration and pre-race food in the car. I called my husband and asked him to bring it, but he was still looking for a place to park. Thankfully, I was able to get a bottle of water to empty into my aero bottle so I would at least have something to drink on the course. My bike handling skills still aren’t great, so I had planned on drinking my calories, but that obviously wasn’t going to happen. I was also worried that not being able to eat my pre-race food would lead to a serious bonk. Still, since my wave was scheduled to go off about an hour after the official start of the race, I was hopeful that I would be reunited with my food, uh husband, beforehand.

An announcement was made that the race would be wetsuit legal (the water temp was 77 degrees), and I was happy about that. I was a little concerned that I might get hot in my full suit, but I wanted the flotation benefits, so I was going to risk it. My husband found 942303_4167198798607_1445839812_nme and handed me my feed bag. Fuel time! The temperature was creeping up, and there was an announcement that the start of the race was going to be pushed back because the streets hadn’t been fully barricaded yet. On the plus side, there was ample time to use the facilities and I took advantage.

I got the bottom half of my wetsuit on, but left the top off until it was almost time to start because I wanted to stay as cool as possible. This was the fourth time I had worn it and I was able to slither in without too much difficulty. I saw my friend Paul from last year’s running camp and wished him well. He’s done some Ironmans, but today he was racing the sprint. It’s always fun when you bump into people at a race.

Swim  (

26:47 | 1500 meters | 1m 34s / 100 yards (This time includes some of the transition time. Actual time in the water 25:39)
Age Group: 1/14
Overall: 78/296

My age group was given pink caps, and I heard the announcer call the pink group. I started to head toward the starting area, but then I realized that it was only for the sprint athletes. That could have been a major mistake… The rest of the sprint waves started one by one, then there was a break as the kayakers got into place for the Olympic swimmers. After we were called, our group had a couple of minutes to bob around in the water before the start. There weren’t a crazy amount of people in my wave, so decided to move toward the front of the group. And we were off!


The course was fairly simple; I just needed to make sure that I didn’t swim past the buoy or drift too far away. The water felt good, and I tried to swim smooth and217339_4167198638603_46040761_n strong, but not too fast. There was some contact, but nothing bordering on assault. As I was still on my way out, I passed some red and green caps from earlier waves, which was fun. At times I found myself going wide and had to adjust. I’m still not very good at sighting (maybe because I don’t practice…). I was able to cut close to the turnaournd buoy because it wasn’t too crowded. The water still felt cool toward the end of the swim, which was a relief. When my hands finally touched the sand, I stood and checked my watch and was happy with my time. Somehow I even ended up with the top swim time for my age group. I’ve done enough tris to know that I am not a premiere swimmer, but sometimes funny things happen with small sample sizes.

T1: 2:02

There was a long run up a hill to get to the transition area. The wetsuit came off much more easily than it had at my last open water tri. I applied some sunscreen and took off with my bike.


Making faces makes the wetsuit come off faster.

Bike  (

1:16:49 | 25 miles | 19.41 MPH
Age Group: 7/14
Overall: 168/296

This was my first triathlon with my new race wheels. My Cateye hadn’t read cadence since I got them, so I spent some of the bike leg thinking of “Love in an Elevator” and its 93 BPMs. I kept in the neighborhood of 20 MPH for the first bit, which made me happy. I was also able to keep in the aero position for the most part. Still, I got passed by several cyclists, including a woman wearing polka-dot tri shorts.This led to the Polka-Dot Door (a TV show from my childhood) theme song running through my head. Thankfully, this gave way to Van Halen’s “Right Now” (another 93 BPM song) and “Peaches” by the Presidents of the United States of America. Peaches sounded mighty tasty, but I had to settle for some Power Bar bites that I had put in my bento box. I was able to eat a couple of them while riding, which I had never done before (yeah, I should have practiced before race day). Small victory for me!


OK, so I didn’t stay in the aero bars during the turns…

The course was a repeat of two loops, although they weren’t really loops. There were all kinds of turns and bridges going this way and that. It was nice seeing my husband as I wound past the underpass to start the next loop. I definitely slowed down my second time through and was passed by some more people. My cycling holds up alright in local sprint tris, but seriously lags in Olympic races. It’s definitely something that I need to work on before I do my Half Ironman this fall. I hoped that I’d be able to pass a lot of them back on the run.

T2: 1:44

I took a little extra time in T2 to re-apply sunscreen. I alse grabbed a small handheld water bottle that I had brought because of the heat.


Run  (

51:24 | 6.2 miles | 8:16 min/mile
Age Group: 2/14
Overall: 97/296

Ah, the run. My strongest leg. Time to reel ’em in, or so I thought. I passed a few people early on and finished my first mile in 7:51. I was feeling really good about breaking 1:40 and thought maybe I’d be right around 1:35. There was a portion of the course where we had to go down a flight of stairs, which I was not used to doing in a race, and run under the overpass. I took some water from the volunteers and it was back into the sun. Around the second mile, the wheels started to fall off. Although I had run some 13-milers the past few months, my 5K-focused training had not prepared me for the distance combined with the heat. I started to feel like I had felt in the latter miles of my last marathon. Why, why, why do you do this? I asked myself. It felt like a death-trudge. I passed some more people, but some people passed me as well. Part of the course was on dirt, which made me even slower. I just wanted it to be over. Not dead, can’t quit, not dead, can’t quit… 


One thing that helped make the run bearable was the abundance of ice-cold water stops. I would have been fine without my handheld bottle at this race. The song “Fire Burning” played at one of the aid stations:

Somebody call 911!
Shawty fire burning on the dance floor

Yeah, I was burning up all right. When I had to go down the stairs again, it was a slow walk. I didn’t trust my wobbly legs. The mile splits kept getting slower and slower. I was just hoping to make it under 1:40 now. And to not walk. Boy, did I want to. Finally, the end was in sight, which meant running up a hill to the finish. I squeezed out a little more effort and finished feeling like I wanted to vomit.

I grabbed some watermelon and headed to T3 (lie down and transition from dead-tired triathlete to functional human being). When I examined my feet, I had a pretty good blister from the run. I also severely burned the back of my neck (or maybe it was wetsuit chafing?). It was a very tough race, and while I know it’s short for all of the Iron Folks out there, two-and-a-half-plus hours feels long to me.


Wake me up, before you go-go.

Overall, I was pleased with my time and know that by focusing more on longer distances, I won’t fade so badly during the run. It was good enough for 2nd in my age group, although I should mention that if I had been in the age group directly above or below, I wouldn’t have placed. You just never know who is going to show up at any given race.


Final time: 2:38:48
Overall: 109 / 296
Age Group: 2 / 14

Tucson Triathlon

I enjoy getting “Word of the Day” emails, even though some of them are pretty obscure. Try working clepsydra (water clock) into a conversation organically. Still, there are plenty of gems. One of my recent favorites is swivet: a state of nervous excitement, haste, or anxiety; flutter. Six months had passed since my last triathlon, and I was in a raging swivet.

I knew I was trained. I had been running well. Except for a little lapse around my marathon and over the holidays, I had kept up with my swimming, even on some 24 degree mornings. If there’s such thing as triathlon karma, I deserved a good race just for that, right? I had acquired a shiny new bike since my last race and I was eager to see how she’d do on a flat course. Plus, I had just gotten my fit adjusted and felt much more stable in the aero bars (thank you, Ross). I had done enough of tris by now that I no longer woke up two or three times during the night to throw extra things into my backpack. Still, I had some self-imposed pressure. I had improved my time at each of my five Tri Tucson races and wanted to keep the streak going (1:13:55 was the time to beat). I had placed second in my age group twice, and wanted a first. Plus, there’s also always the possibility of a flat or crash on the bike…

I had been assigned to wave 8, transition which was slated to start around 8:48. All bikes needed to be racked by 6:30, though, so I set the alarm for 5:05. It was a brisk morning (48 degrees is chilly to a near-native Tucsonan), and I was glad that I wasn’t in one of the early waves. I walked back and forth through the racks a few times before I found a place to squeeze my bike in. I got body marked and headed back to the car. Is there any other sport where people’s ages are scribbled on their limbs for the whole world to see? I ate my standard Greek yogurt breakfast, leaned the seat back, closed my eyes, and listened to music for about an hour.

As always, it’s fun to see friends at these events. Kristen, the fast and funny dominator of all things aquathlon decided to make peace with her bicycle and compete. It was Ross’s first race in two years. Caroline, whom I’ve had some close races against lately, was in my wave. I saw fellow RPM instructor Amy and her insanely fast biker husband Wally. Tri Girls Leah and Chrissy weren’t competing, but they were there volunteering and spreading good cheer. Susie came to offer support and kindly took pictures during the race. Jeff showed me where the less crowded bathrooms were. Pat, who’s in her seventies and  a regular in my RPM class, was there to cheer for me and other folks from our gym.

Last year the female race had been won by a Canadian professional, but she wasn’t here this year. There was what looked like a Canadian youth team, or so I gathered by their official looking suits, complete with names across the butt. They ended up finishing toward the top.

I had my caffeinated Clif shot and was amped up. I swam 250 yards in the warmup pool and headed over to the main pool. I think I tend to swim under my abilities at these races. I think it probably has to do with nerves and going out too fast. With running, it’s easy to check your pace and rein it in if necessary, but during the swim it’s like time doesn’t exist.

Swim (unofficial)
13:46 | 825 yards | 01m 40s / 100 yards
Age Group: 6/28
Overall: 89/305

The swim is simple: 33 laps, two to a lane. A volunteer sticks a red sign in the water at lap 32. I also keep count in my head so I have an idea of where I am. We got in the water, and ready, set, go. One lap, two, three… I had been doing some 500 yard straight swims in training, but I hadn’t done an 800 since last tri season. It feels like a time warp. Fifteen, sixteen, start counting down, sixteen, fifteen… At least the laps give me some sense of progress, unlike being in an Endless Pool. I wondered if the Endless Pool folks had ever asked Lionel Richie to make a commercial for them. “My… Endless Pool.” Do other triathletes have Lionel Richie songs in their head during competition? Ten, nine… I saw the red sign in the pool when I figured I had at least 200 yards to go. I popped up at the wall and my watch said 10:22. No way was I done. I was hoping to swim around 13:20 – 13:30. My lane-mate, who had stayed even with me from what I could tell, got out, but I kept swimming. When I saw the sign again, I decided to get out even though I still thought I was short. I have been known to miscount.


I’m in the blue cap

Bike (unofficial, includes transitions)
37:50 | 11.5 miles | 19.4 MPH (estimated speed after taking transitions out)
Age Group: 2/28
Overall: 85/305

Transition was simple and quick enough (for a person who doesn’t do flying mounts, anyway). It took me a couple of seconds to get clipped in and I was off. I checked my Cateye, and it wasn’t showing the cadence field. There are about 10 different data screens and I didn’t want to scroll through them while I was riding, so I let “Love in an Elevator” run through my head. Thanks to teaching Spin classes, I knew that its was a 93 beats per minute song and I tried to pedal in time.

A whole lane was coned of for our use, but as I headed west on Broadway, there was a car in the lane and an officer to its right. If I were to pass on the right, I’d be in traffic, so I maneuvered left. Then the car started to move left, so I slowed way down until it turned onto a side street. I probably lost a few seconds, plus I had to expend a little extra energy to get back to speed. In retrospect, I’m happy that I didn’t get hit. I’m assuming the car didn’t see me. I’m not sure what I should have done – yell something?


There weren’t a lot of bikes on the course, but I passed a few people and vise-versa. Most of the course is smooth, but Euclid still rattles the brain. As I accelerated out of the turn onto Speedway, the phrase wind it up passed through my head. This led to Gwen Steffani’s song “Wind it Up” and eventually to “The Lonely Goatherd.” Mental DJ, what are you doing to me? Give me some power songs, please! I decided to think on “Rag Doll,” another 93 BPM Aersosmith song.

Yes I’m movin’
Yes I’m movin’
Old tin lizzy do it till you’re  dizzy
Give it all ya got until you’re put out of your misery

Better. I was holding the aero position and feeling pretty steady on the smooth sections of the course. I saw one guy running with his bike, probably the victim of a Euclid pinch flat. I was pushing, but was able to breathe deeply. In several previous triathlons, my breathing was sharp and shallow after the swim and stayed that way for most of the ride. Three laps down, and it was back to the transition area, and off for the run.

Run (official)
21:47 | 3 miles | 7:15 min/mile
Age Group: 1/28
Overall: 37/305

I had put my race belt on really quickly, and a volunteer yelled, “Your number is upside down!” I did my best to right the situation without breaking stride. The legs felt funky after the ride, but I’ve done enough tris that I’m used to it now. I started to turn where I’ve turned in the past, and I heard a someone yell, “Go straight, Michelle!” There was some campus construction going on, so they had to tweak the course a bit. I hadn’t noticed it while riding, but my toes felt a little numb. I checked my watch to see how I was doing, and it still showed the little swim icon. Crap. I had pressed stop instead of lap during one of the transitions and not pressed anything during the other, so as far as it was concerned, I was still swimming. It made for a very interesting race file, as most of the bike leg interpreted as backstroke. Even though I had no feedback from the watch, I felt like I had found a good pace.

Run with Caroline

Running with Caroline. Matching pace, matching Tyr gear.

I heard breathing behind me, then Caroline pulled up alongside and passed me. I didn’t feel like I should try to catch her at this point, but I stayed close. There were several shouts of “Go Caroline!” as we ran by. The lady has fans! Keeping my steady pace, I eventually overtook her again. The run was pretty uneventful. I passed some people, and no one else passed me. I was feeling decent, and started to question if I had held back too much. During the last quarter mile I started to feel nauseated, so I guess it was a pretty good effort after all. I was still nursing a little strain from my 10K a few weeks ago, so I didn’t kick hard, but I finished strong. Caroline finished ten seconds later.Finish

I ended up placing second in my age group. The Garmin lap data confirmed that I had only swum 725 yards. I was almost five minutes ahead of third place, so I feel I was a legitimate second despite the swim count mishap. I figured that it would have taken me about 1:41 to swim that extra 100, so I added it to the results to get the unoffical time shown below. I showed small improvements in all three disciplines and kept the streak alive, so I’m happy, even though I didn’t get to go home with the blue towel.

Final time: 1:13:23 (unofficial)
Age Group: 2/28
Overall: 60/305

2nd Place Towel