Tuesday, June 17, 2014

And Mostly, Here's a Toast to You and Me

 On the third day of our trip, we found ourselves in Phoenix, AZ. One of the places I lived as a child. We didn't  have a lot of time there, so I was trying to find a place where we could play, in a central location, for just a few hours. I decided on Papago Park. One of my favorite places when I was younger.

While we were there, we did a little running...

...And a little riding.

 They  had a great trail that went from Scottsdale, to Phoenix, to Tempe.

 After we played for a while, we met some of my cousins for a nice lunch. When my dad disappeared, we stayed with these cousins because we got evicted from our house and couldn't find any affordable housing back in 1969. So, we were pretty close to these cousins when we were younger, but I hadn't seen them in years. Thankfully, they still have a healthy sense of humor.

We finally made it to Tucson and settled in to our hotel room. We got a suite, so we could cook if we wanted and have a little room to move around, since we were staying for 5 days. It was actually perfect for us. Best of all? I talked John into having dinner at the Tiki Bar and drinking fruity rum drinks from giant coconuts. It was almost kitschy enough for me.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Warm Water Breathing, She Helps Me Here.

Photo credit Dawn Gibson

 So, I did the Pigman Spritn Triathlon on the first day of June this year. Before I did one, I always thought that triathlons would be the perfect race for me. I'm strong on the bike and the run, and everyone says the time in the water doesn't hurt you too badly. Plus, I grew up swimming in open water, so I didn't think I would have the panic issues other people had, who were only used to swimming in pools. Boy, was I wrong.
Photo credit Joanne McKillip.

I had no idea what it would be like. I'm a sloppy swimmer at best and then when I try to go faster, I pick up my breathing and, then when the water gets all choppy from people swimming around me and swimming into me, and after I lift my head and take a face full of water at least twice in a row, I start to freak. And once I swim with my head out of the water, I can't get to a better place, where I am able to get it back. So, I start rolling over on my back and kicking, or doing the side stroke or just dog paddling - all things that slow me way down and take up WAY too much energy.

This year, I made an even bigger mistake of forgetting my wetsuit. Many people think triathletes wear wetsuits to keep them warm in colder water, but really it helps us to stay buoyant, especially our legs, especially for us sloppy swimmers. In other words, without the wetsuit, I was at least 2 minutes slower than I was the year before. Oops!

I am checking into some things and think I will have people help me train in open water. I think the stronger I am at swimming, the less I will panic. I'll let you know how that works in September when I do my next triathlon...

The good news, is that after the swim, the rest of the triathlon is pretty great (in that, kicking my own ass kind of way). I have the fancy aero bike with the aero helmet. I don't wear clipless pedals, so I throw my running shoes on after the swim and have very little to do to get ready after I finish the bike portion.

This year, I was definitely strongest on my bike. I was over 3 minutes slower on the running section than I was the first time I did it, because my knee has still been bothering me, and I'm not getting to run much. As it was, I got 5th in my age group and John got 2nd in his. Nothing to sneeze at, but plenty to work on.

Thanks to Greta Songe for the photos.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

I'm a Wild Seed Again. Let the Wind Carry Me.

So, day two in our alternate universe vacation started out so well. Our continental breakfast at our casita was amazing. They had a beautiful seating area all arranged with a kiva and organic homemade food that was prepared right in front of us. So good and got us perfectly fueled for our next endeavor.

Since John had never really been to the Southwest before, I wanted to make sure he saw more than just Tucson, so on our way to Arizona, I wanted to find a fun place to do a trail run.

I wanted a place that wouldn't take us too far out off our route and what I came up with was Tent Rocks. 

I couldn't imagine a more gorgeous place. At first we really did try to do a trail run, but after every turn, we had to stop while our jaws dropped to the ground and we got our camera phones out to take photos. It was overwhelmingly beautiful.

Of course, because it's me and I am much like Lucille Ball, our little run wasn't without its mishaps. While trying to take a shot of the rock formations above me, I got low enough to the ground to accidentally sit on a Prickly Pear Cactus. You'd think I'd never lived in a desert before, but it did give us a running joke for the week. Lord knows, I love to be the butt of any joke. Har har.

While we were there, we ran into a woman who rented a house on the nearby reservation and she said she hikes at Tent Rocks every morning. Lucky lady. She also asked us if we wanted her to take a photo of us against this amazing backdrop. Yeah. I suppose...

John was a very good sport about posing for dorky photos and I really, really do appreciate that about him.

Sadly, we finally had to take off. We still had about 7 hours of driving to get to Phoenix that evening.

Luckily, that driving was also jaw droppingly beautiful. New Mexico and Northern Arizona can cause an accident, the scenery is so amazing.

We made to Phoenix, met with our teammate and had dinner and drinks at a pizza and brew pub. Another perfect day in alternate universe vacation world...

Friday, May 30, 2014

Took A Whole Lot of Tryin' Just to Get Up That Hill.

I will return to my vacation posts shortly, but I figured I'd mix some new with the old as I go. Last weekend was Snake Alley in Burlington. It's a hard race for me in every way. It has an insane climb and a fast downhill with a couple of turns after that. Also, I am all different kinds of perimenopausal and it can be really challenging racing under the hormones. Hmmmm. "Under the Hormones"...New blog name?

It seems a lot of women are squeamish about talking about "The Change". I was talking about it with John and we were pondering why people don't talk about it much. We assumed it was mostly because it was a sign of aging, and so many Americans hate to admit they are at THAT AGE. I also know way too many women who like to pretend it didn't make any difference in their lives after the fact. The women I'm thinking of were generally totally insane and/or self-medicating with alcohol or, like my aunt, at least a bottle of Midol a day.  I have never wanted to be one of those women, who after the fact, said they didn't know what anyone was talking about with menopause, they never had any symptoms and never got crazy, while their entire family is kicking each other under the table, trying not to laugh remembering how they all wish they could have armed themselves with tranquilizer guns during those years. So, in the interest of not being in denial, I am going to talk about the issues of being perimenopausal and how it affects me. Because, so far it has affected me some.

Being hormonal can make me weak, tired, dizzy, super spacy, anxious and mess with my confidence. Not in any way that would make me nonfunctional in real life, (yet) but all of those things are REALLY bad for racing. Also, my migraines can be worse and telling when I might get one is way more unpredictable then it used to be. So, I'm on a lovely hormonercoaster and it's hard telling from one day to the next who will show up to any race.

So it was, that I was feeling the hormones last Saturday when I raced up Snake Alley again, and again, and again. I did some prerides and didn't feel very strong or confident. The weather was beautiful and a lot of my friends showed up to cheer John and I on. I was afraid I wouldn't make all the way up the hill unless, I let all of the women go ahead of me and then I could choose my line and go alllll the way across on each switchback, which meant I was last for most of the race. Luckily, a couple of other women either went out too hard or just didn't have it in them to ride up Snake Alley that many times, and had to walk up. Which meant I was 3rd from last. I'll take it!

The next day, I was supposed to race The Melon City Crit in Muscatine, but after waking up with a migraine, I decided it probably wasn't a good idea. I did, however, watch John race and wandered around Weed Park, which was beautiful.

When we got home, I decided to run a nice, slow 6 mile route, because running can help the migraines go away, and luckily, it worked. Later in the afternoon, John and I went to see the new Godzilla movie and that was fun. As long as you didn't expect it to make much sense and you just wanted to watch monsters battle it out and wreck large cities while sitting in air conditioning and eating popcorn - which happened to be exactly what I wanted to do, thank you. We went for sushi after the movie and gave ourselves an all-out Japanese themed evening.

On Memorial Day, I woke up with ANOTHER migraine. We had already decided not to do the Crit in Davenport, so that wasn't an issue. I took my migraine meds and went back to bed. Then I got up and got some serious gardening done. I have some scrub bushes in my backyard that I've been meaning to tear out since I bought the house in 2009. I finally ripped out a little section and replaced them with Asian lilies. So much better.

So, I expect the next couple of years of racing to be a veritable crap shoot, where I work very hard at not getting disappointed when I am not able to do the races I love or decide to do them when I know I won't be strong enough or focused enough to get decent results. And since I have written this blog post, I will never be able to deny that perimenopause affected me after the fact...Unless I happen to accidentally delete this post, that is...

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

There Were Plants and Birds and Rocks and Things. There Was Sand and Hills and Rings.

Since I've been such an inconsistent blogger, no one really reads this anymore and I'm actually okay with that. It gives me the freedom to write what I want without people freaking out on me about how I perceive and write about my own experiences or certain friends or family members thinking I drink too much or spend my money in ways they don't approve or whatever the hell else people think is their business...Well, Okay. I'm fine with people judging me, but if they do it on here and I don't like it, I can just delete and continue to write whatever useless crap I want. See? Freedom!

Anyway, I know at one point I said I would write about my Arizona vacation and here it goes: We left Iowa right as it was beginning to blizzard on February20th. We went South to Missouri, instead of West to Des Moines to miss the worst part of the storm.

So it was, that we drove and drove and effing drove through Missouri and Kansas all night long, until we hit Oklahoma, just as the sun was coming up. In the light of day, the snow was gone, the plains were stark, and by the time we hit New Mexico, we looked like we were in Bedrock with Fred Flinstone and Barney Rubble.

In this much warmer, alternate universe, it became clear to us that things would suddenly go our way. We entered Santa Fe a little early and just thought we'd see if our room was ready. The clerk said that he didn't see that we had a reservation. John went back to the car to get proof. There had been a glitch and the only room that was open was a casita. They would give us that and not charge us for the upgrade. Hurray! He also informed us of the Goya exhibit at the art museum, that was only about a block down from the Georgia O'keefe museum...I was very much in love with our alternate universe.

Since neither of us got much sleep the night before, we planned for a nice relaxing day of eating, drinking and staring at things. To that end, we went to lunch at Cafe Pascual's and it was lovely. Great food and even better margaritas. We wandered around the Downtown area of Santa Fe, but neither of us are big shoppers, so most of it was lost on us.

We headed to the art museums and were so happy to check things out. The Georgia O'Keefe museum was very cool and the other museum had an exhibit from a couple who lived in NYC, who had normal jobs and collected all kinds of modern art and stored it in their tiny apartment. There were so many things to stare at.

We walked everywhere we went in Santa Fe, which is always the best way to check out a city, if possible. We had about an hour to kill between museums and our dinner reservations, so we wandered around until we found a place called Agave. "I bet they would sell margaritas there..." I said, and so we decided to explore the possibility. Turns out, they DID sell margaritas, and in fact they served the best margaritas we had the entire trip AND it was happy hour, so they were $5 a pop. Thank you, alternate universe!

We made it to Maria's for dinner which was just fine. They didn't have a lot of veggie or fish options, but we were able to find a couple of entrees and then had a lovely walk back to our casita. When we were about a block away, John said he wouldn't mind trying to find one more drink before we retired. Hell, we were on vacation, why not? So, we walked around the block and saw a restaurant named Tomasita's that had a line out the door of  what looked to be locals, so we figured it had to be good. We wandered to the bar and asked if we could just sit there and have a drink, and they said, "Of course." Our margaritas were very good and the next thing you know, we hear music and there are mariachis. Not only that, these mariachis were beautiful women. It couldn't have been a more perfect evening. If the rest of the the vacation turned out anything like this first day, we might never go back to Iowa...

Monday, May 12, 2014

I've Thought About Us For a Long, Long Time.

So, it's me again. What is it? May now? This was a big three day weekend for me. I try to save up as much vacation time as possible, so I can take it during the warmer months. I allotted myself an extra day and half for this month and used one day on Friday.

 What did I do with that time? Well, I woke up and read my book,  Americanah. It is really good so far and I drank tea and was covered in cats while I read it. Heavenly. Then I went out and bought up a bunch of organic veggie plants and flowers. After I had effectively pissed away most of the day, I was ready for my bike ride. I took the road bike out to Amish Country and it was lovely....Except for the brutal headwinds on the first 24 miles of it.

 I saw many beautiful Amish girls in bonnets and blue dresses doing yard work and men driving buggies, pulling trailers full of wood supports for buildings. I also stopped at the cheese house...Because I believe it might be mandatory when passing through Kalona. I rode through Frytown and then to Angle Road and finally got to my favorite road name in Iowa, Orval Yoder Turnpike. On the way home, I finally caught an amazing tailwind and flew up hills at 25 mph without even pedaling. So many reasons to be addicted to bike riding.

On Saturday I woke up with a migraine. I took my migraine meds and slept it off. In the afternoon, I was able to plant about 90% of the veggies and flowers I bought. John helped me expand our garden by one extra bed. So, we will try to grow twice as many tomatoes, as well as basil, peppers, lettuce, eggplant, pumpkins and I would love to grow zucchini, but I have found it very difficult to find seeds or starts. I rode my bike close to 150 miles last week, but guess what made my legs sore? That's right. Gardening.

Later in the afternoon, we headed to Ames. Coadster still has one more semester of student teaching, but the Latino Students only have their graduation ceremony in the Spring. While we were there, we stopped by her house, to meet her new puppy, Bailey. Isn't she the cutest grandpuppy you've ever seen? I promise to spoil the hell out of her and to buy lots of loud squeaky toys, just for fun.

The ceremony was really long and there were many speeches that sounded very similar. Most importantly to me, Coadster got honored by the college of liberal arts for her great grades and all the work she did as president of the ISU educational association. They also talked about her amazing organizational skills, and i had to laugh and think, "Kids have to rebel against their parents some way!" She also sang a song and got a standing ovation. So many reasons for me to be a sorry sap, and I didn't really need any of them.

Mother's Day was lovely. I still wasn't feeling 100%, so we took John's mom and Stinky to Mother's Day brunch and then went for a walk that we finished right before it rained. We came home and took a nap during the thunderstorms - the best way to sleep, as far as I'm concerned. Then we went to the Kalona Brewery and did some beer flights and ate pizza. I couldn't have asked for a better Mother's Day....Well, I suppose if we could have ridden our bikes to Kalona and back. That would have made it better.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Well the Music Plays and You Display Your Heart for Me to See.

My new Nutcase helmet. I'm pretty enamored with it.
 Me: I am so in love with you.

John: Your cat is a complete Jackass.

I'm delusional, so I'm just going to go ahead and assume that he meant that he loved me too, inspite of my cat...
Archie is the ugliest, orangest  Nutcase helmet ever.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

I Am a Wunderlust King!

 It's been one hell of a cold Winter in Iowa this year. Except for about 3 hours on the bike trainer in the unheated garage every week, I haven't been able to ride like I wanted this year.

 We've been forced to try other sports instead, like bowling, and if we were going to bowl, we had to have a Big Lebowski movie party, right? There really was just no way around it. And if we were going to have a Big Lebowski viewing party, we had to make White Russians. We looked online and found a few options to the traditional drink. My favorite? The Anna Kournikova: It's like a white Russian, but with skim milk - a skinny, low-fat White Russian. People are oh so very witty on the internet these days.

 The best thing about this Winter, is the snow and the Cross Country skiing. We've been able to ski almost every weekend and it has been amazing. I just started skiing a couple of years ago and because the snow has been so sparse the last couple of years, I never got a chance to work on it and get better. This year I finally got that chance and I suddenly understand all of the things my brother was trying to teach me the first time I skied. I glide so much better, I lift my feet in corners and I can even double pole now. Yea me! Next year, my goal is to conquer skate skiing. I've tried a couple of times now. John has tried to help me at it by suggesting I use my ice skating skills I acquired as a kid. I had to remind him that I grew up in Arizona and didn't have the means to acquire any such skills.

Although the skiing has been great, it has taken away from the running I normally do in the Winter. We have a 25K part trail race that I'm not sure I'll be ready for on March 15th. The best thing about this Winter, is that John and I have planned a trip to Tucson in about 10 days. So, next Friday, I plan to be getting back up to speed on my trail running in this park outside of Santa Fe. It's called Tent Rocks and I can't wait to explore it.

Friday, November 22, 2013

On a Steel Horse I Ride.

I thought I would acquaint you all with the bikes in my stable. I know that I have written about some of them in the past, but here I am, organizing them by order of when they were acquired.

Here is my first real bike I ever got. I bought it with my income tax return in march of 2011 for $800. It is an aluminum frame Motobecane cyclocross bike. I raced road and cyclocross and gravel races and road it on mountain bike trails. If you are poor and want an all around bike that you can do most things on, I recommend getting a CX bike. I still use this bike on my trainer and for RAGBRAI and I rode it around Louisville when we went to Cyclocross Worlds. It is a bike I take when I don't want to worry about it getting stolen. I would be very sad if I didn't have it, but I have other bikes who can do what it does now.
The second bike I acquired was a gift from John. It was his old road racing bike that he fixed up for me to use to race time trials and triathlons. I bought the aero bars and paid $600 for the used  tri-spoke and back disc wheel from a friend of mine. It is an a aluminum frame Specialized E5?. I'm not sure of the year either, but it has served me very well in time trials and triathlons for the last couple of years. There is a chance that I might take over John's old aluminum frame P1 time trial bike, but I haven't been able to get the aero bars and the fit quite right yet.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

No Trophy, No Flowers, No Flashbulbs, No Wine


So, I haven't been writing much here or anywhere and I need to start. I also want to work on looking at my training and racing and trying to remember what worked for me, what didn't, where my head was on a particular day, and even more importantly for me being in my late 40's, where my hormones were. 

To that end, I am going to try to change my blog a little and use it to talk about training and races more, so I can look back and see what I was doing. It's hard for this old lady to remember from one day to the next, let alone one year to the next, what the hell I did. I will still write about personal stuff here and there, but those of you who couldn't give a rat's ass about racing (and I do understand that), feel free to ignore me. I also hope this helps any women, older women especially, to get into racing or if they already race, to commiserate and rejoice or feel superior or whatever helps.

Photo credit Mark Consadine    

Photo credit Mauro Heck

 This weekend was my favorite race of the year. It is called Jingle Cross Rock and it is in my hometown and it draws cyclocross racers from all over the state and it's also a 3 day party. Everything about it is wonderful.

This has been kind of a tough Cyclocross season for me in general. I had to cat up. I was a beginner last year and placing in most of my races. How it works for most women, is that we don't have a lot of categories. We are either beginners or we race with the best in our fields. I found it VERY humbling to go back to being one of the last finishers in most of my races. Lord knows, I'm not expecting to win nationals or go to the Olympics in any field, but to consistently be fighting for second to last place did tend to bruise my ego even more than my legs this year.

At one point early on, John told me that I didn't look like I was having any fun and seemed pretty negative about it all. It was hard to hear, but I knew he was right. I just had to correct myself. Instead of stressing out so much about my results (or lack thereof), I still tried as hard as possible, but put way more emphasis on having fun with it. I love to ride my bike up hills and in mud and sand and I get so happy when I "master" a part of a course I didn't think I would ever figure out how to ride. Plus, the other people who race cross are always amazing and fun when I come with my head screwed on the right way (which can be tricky), I have more fun than should be legal.

Photo credit Chris Munday

Going into this weekend, I was ridiculously excited and I was at a good hormone place and ready to ride. I raced the 2/3 women category on Friday night. I started out pretty strong, but I was bounding over the logs, when the woman in front of me just stopped. I had nowhere to go and was in mid-leap, so basically slammed into the fencing and my bike. I have no idea how I was able to stay upright, but I did. Of course, most of the field had passed me as I got on my bike and tried to get my chain back in a decent gear, at that point and I played catch-up the rest of the race. Not exactly my forte'. I was able to get a few places running up an evil hill, but finished a few places from last.

On Saturday I woke up feeling crappy. My nose was running all over the place, my ears were itchy and I was dizzy (even more than normal). I decided not to race and hoped I would feel better on Sunday.

Sunday came and my dizziness subsided. Even though I was still sick, I didn't want to give up a chance to do a muddy race. So, I raced. I was second from last by the end, but I learned how to ride my bike up a muddy hill, after a brutal run-up and I couldn't do that the first couple of times I pre-rode the course. In my delusional brain, I was triumphant. I celebrated the rest of the day.

Today, I am still a little sick. I really want to run or ride, but I'd rather rest and get better for my race on Saturday. Most importantly, I am still smiling from all of the weekend antics.