Sunday, December 25, 2011

An Epistle From The Great White North

At Christmas time the Austin Energy company erects an O Tannanbaum - wie treu sind deine Blätter! - in Zilker Park, centered around a scaffold tower that the rest of the year supports the tornado and severe weather alert sirens.

The weather outside may be less than frightful and a delightful fire means we have another drought-caused forest fire on our hands, but people flock to Zilker to evoke the Merry of Christmas (and have a taco out of the food cart operating in the parking lot...it wouldn't be Austin without a food cart).



But Christmas Day approaches ever faster and faster, and errands and errands pile up, so that not even an Angel of the Lord coming down and shining his glory around can help ease the mighty dread seizing my troubled mind.




And then I travel half-way across the country with my bike in the midst of the holiday rush, so it feels like I am away in a strange bed, asleep on what might as well be a straw mattress.  What am I?  A king of the Orient that bears gifts as I traverse afar?




All the while I'm thinking to myself, Kelzie, this is what they were referring to when someone said rest ye merry gentle(wo)men, let nothing you dismay.  And I'm all like, YEAH RIGHT!...




Amazon has lost my most expensive package, I'm running outside in weather that requires a HAT!, and I still have to deck the halls with boughs of holly.




Finally I cry out, overcome with stress, "I do not need even one more loud drummer disrupting my sleep!  Tomorrow they had better come with a gift receipt so I can take them back!  Isn't it the thirteenth day of Christmas YET?"




But eventually sitting with my parents on Christmas Eve, I hear the first strains telling me that all is calm, all is bright, and I finally feel a silent night.



Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!  -KEB

Friday, December 23, 2011

Operation: Homeward Bound

'Round about the first week of January, this scene is going to play out on the border between Illinois and Wisconsin, heading north.



Although we're doing it in much more style: there will be a bike on the back.

That's right, the Beebe's are moving back to Madison!  Ok, just The Support Staffers; I will be terrorizing the neighborhood on occasion and selected holidays.

It turns out that when your two hobbies are farming - which requires you to be in the same place every day - and motorcycle riding - which is best done in a different place every day - one hobby is soon to be no longer.

The sale of the farm was somewhat anti-climactic - long-awaited and then over as suddenly as it began - but the disbanding of The Menagerie was bitter-sweet.  One dog went to perma-doggie-daycare across the road this past summer; the cats had each gone a-huntin' one night and never turned up the next morning; Willy and Wee Willy were hired out as trash recyclers and general lawn care professionals on another farm; Brownie went to the young daughter of the cattle farmer who must soon remove his cattle from the grazing pastures he rents from us; this season's sheep and lambs were sold; and the second dog will remain on the farm with the new owners.  Which leaves...the guineas.  What to do with 15 - the new owners want 4 of our 19 - of the stupidest animals on the planet?

Sell them, of course.  For free.

You would think we selling (ok, giving away) illicit drugs.  Dad put out the word along the electronic fence line that our guineas were for sale for the bargain price of zero dollars, and the phone started ringing immediately.

A furtive female voice: "I hear you got guineas to sell."

Dad: "Yes."

The furtive female: "How much?"

Dad: "They're free."

Furtive female: "How many?"

Dad: "As many as I can catch."

F.F.: "My husband will call you back."  {click}

It was like they were casing the joint to make sure the phone wasn't being tapped and traced by the DEA.  Or maybe the USDA.

I am only sorry that I had already returned to Austin after Thanksgiving, by the time my parents used fishing nets and dog cages to catch the guineas.  I asked Mom how it went.

"The new owners are getting 5 guineas and they are just going to have to deal with that."

Here's to guinea-free living in Wisconsin!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Guru On The Mountain-Top

Sometimes, when you want something done right, you go to an expert.  Because when it comes to fitting my bike, I have tried to do it myself.

In my mind, there are four bike-fitters in the U.S. that are worth a special trip, one for each major region.  David Greenfield of Elite Cycles in Philadelphia, PA; Mat Steinmetz of Retul in Boulder, CO; Dan Empfield of "I only just invented the triathlon-specific bicycle, as well as the F.I.S.T. fitting system, and know a thing or two about putting a unique human body on such a device" [and that's reality, not bragging]; and John Cobb, formally of Blackwell Research, now of Cobb Cycling (and some of the most commercially applicable research in aerodynamics and comfort inducing research in saddle design) in Tyler, TX.  Each of these men has his own approach - rider feel vs. numbers vs. a trained eye and tinkerer's ingenuity - but some of them have been fitting riders longer than the other fitters have been alive, so...

I was fit by Davey G. back in the spring of 2010, and for 18 months the result of his organic approach to fitting felt great, until, as I aptly described in a previous post, it didn't anymore.  But what was a special day trip from DC would be a special weekend trip from Texas, and I just so happen to now live much closer to John Cobb.

Having identified and located the Guru, the parable of the truth-seeker seeking the answer to the meaning of life - or a bike fit - begins.

As per the parable, the trip to the mountain-top is arduous.


Just me, East Texas, and the occasional semi-truck.

Maybe there will be something to see if I turn on the brights...

As per the parable, the mountain-top is desolate, or more favorably described, under-stated.



In this case the answer to the meaning of a bike fit is found in the back of a used car dealership.  And before you laugh or jump to an under-educated conclusion, I can now say that the best bike fit I have ever received in my life took place in the least auspicious place I have ever received a bike fit in my life.  Don't judge the Guru simple because you find him in simple surroundings.




Unlike other Gurus, especially those in India, this one does not have a sacred cow.  Here is John uncovering and hacksawing off a piece of a saddle of his own design so that said piece would no longer be around to bother me.




But just as his own creations are not sacred, neither are those of others.  Here is John blithely hacksawing off a piece of my bike - yes, of my bike - because it was preventing the correct positioning of my seat-post and saddle.



And that is the answer to the secret of the bike fit: a basic, solid, supportive fit of a body in its most powerful position is everything, and no limitation - aside from ingenuity and the necessary structural pieces required to make a two-wheeled bike not collapse beneath you - should get in the way.

Just because some geek in a back office decided that aero extension arm rests should not attach directly to the aero extensions without a spacer doesn't mean your aero extension arm rests cannot attach directly to the aero extensions without a spacer.  If this means drilling new holes in non structural pieces and chiseling out plastic-in-the-way-of-progress with a hacksaw, so be it.  Hacksaw, please, Nurse, stat.

Here I shall digress a moment.  To all the women and applicable men out there who have not yet tried one of John Cobb's saddles, I ask a single question:

WHY NOT?

Think about the softest, most vulnerable parts of your body and what it feels like to sit on them, on a really uncomfortable surface.  Like straddling the top rung of a fence with no where to rest your feet.  Now imagine if someone fit people - five billion variations on a single theme - for decades, listening to their likes and dislikes, and then invited a ton of those variations to sit on temporary molds fashioned on those verbal cues, and only then designed a saddle - a line of saddles! - with the express purpose of protecting those parts and providing support through the solid, non-nerve ending parts around them, no matter how unique it looks.  And then is entirely willing to take apart and cut up his creations to meet your specifications exactly, or to support you doing the same thing at home, with a six month guaranteed return policy.

Now imagine if someone imagined a saddle the way it is "supposed" to look (or how the "next big break-through" will look) - whatever the heck that means; my crotch doesn't need a big break-through, it just needs pain-free riding - and only then having you try how it feels.  Oh, and once the seat clamp has scratched the rails, it's yours for eternity.

The former describes John's long-standing, and on-site, R&D; the later describes pretty much everyone else's.  For once, you have permission to think entirely on behalf of your genitals - and they will thank you for it.

John does not lie when he says that every fit is learning experience and R&D opportunity for him.  I described some pretty-painfully-obvious-to-me discomfort, something he said he had never heard before.  Off came the cover, out came the knife, and goodbye offensive foam. 




Then some surgical staple gun action and good as the factory floor!  Only custom!


Later John showed aero extension arm rest makers just how necessary some of their plastic was.  Pretty darn unnecessary was the verdict.


The arm rests did need some minor shimming to effect the correct angle, and so he made some.  I mean, of course, doesn't everybody, right?  A few small washers and an electric drill and my forearms were once again happy campers.

All of this was not because John enjoys dismantling bike components (although I certainly found the process had a unique speak-truth-to-power feel) but because some not-so-subtle changes needed to be made so that my body in its most powerful position could fit on my bike, while maximizing comfort.  And John was not trying to fit a square peg - me - in a round hole - my bike.  I am short and have some strange morphologies, and somewhat by chance, the bike I walked in with is only one of three made by any company anywhere that could accommodate - and even then, only after all of the hacking and drilling and cutting described above - the fit I walked out with.  If anything, he was trying to further square out the corners of the squarest hole available so that the square peg could get through.  Others, it seems, had been rounding off my corners - limiting the use of my own body - to better fit a round hole.

For someone of my analytic take on things and own tinkering background, the experience was made truly engaging by the education to be gleaned from the one-liners dropping left and right.  Basically, you are in the presence of a man who has done more wind-tunnel testing - on pretty much everything - and functional comfort fabricating than, well, a whole slew of the people who try to sell you popular triathlon gear on a daily basis.  One sentence and an entire sub-industry of almost universally adopted bike gear is marginalized - with data to prove it!  Another and whoops, well, I might be doing some seamstressing on my tri kits.  With two fingers he touches the side of your leg while you ride to palpate a certain point.  He found this point through two years of physiological testing with 12-channel EMGs; now he can tell if you are in the proper position, muscularly, just by touching it.

Some people, as they gain education, are "closed," become narrow and limited.  Others are opened, far wider than many of us could ever hope to be, and learn to think without limitations.  A mere few of that number know how to bring others along for that experience.   John Cobb is one of that number.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Enemy Within

A lot of the content I post here is witty, or tries to be, or entertaining, or tries to be, or educational, or tries to be, while also accurately portraying the ups and downs of my job and life(style; but admittedly without much style).  But some things you just can't make witty or entertaining, some things are just plain confusing and icky and drive you to pull your hair out - or in my case recently, lose it.

Back in early October I was preparing for my third and final IM of the season, anticipated to be in Cozumel.  I wasn't breaking any land speed records, but I was getting the day-to-day done, although some sessions were truly ugly.  Several weeks in a row I was at the gym on Sunday afternoon, doing the same session, and thought I would try this new-fangled idea of weighing oneself on a regular interval, on the same scale, to track weight.

Coincidentally this was at the same time I gained 20 lbs in two weeks, without trying.  I topped out at the heaviest I have ever been, even counting that winter I learned to lift weights alongside my high school's football team, and tri kits purchased for racing season no longer fit.  Hauling around all that extra weight made running painful, and soon I was in no shape to continue training, let alone build to IM training.  I have never really wanted to be pregnant, and this particular transformation pretty much cemented that sentiment. 
 
Clearly things were not as they should be. 

I have said before, in this space, that a human being in training is a machine delicately balanced, a balance with which the human involved is intimately familiar.  Bonk coming on?  Period a few days away?  Muscle about to pull?  Chiropractic adjustment needed?  I for one, can feel these before they happen.  Many of the reasons the machine becomes unbalanced are external, which while frustrating, are, at least, "see-able."  When something inside becomes unbalanced, it's not only frustrating, but also "un-see-able."  So ends the season and so begins the hunt and so crops up the road-blocks.  

One simple blood test and it became obvious hypothyroidism is the likely culprit.  Something PubMed, Google, and I had already diagnosed.  Who needs an MD when the internets clearly have all the answers and never lie? 

But getting an MD involved wasn't all rainbows and unicorns. 

The problems I ran into were 1) not having health insurance, and 2) doctors who did not see my problem as being "big" enough - some weight gain and slightly-off test results wouldn't be as big a deal to someone who works at a desk - and 3) doctors who did not understand that tests completed after three weeks on the couch did not accurately represent my "normal" life.  

In the middle of all of this, I started speaking with prospective new coaches.  "Hi, I race professionally, but will likely be diagnosed with a chronic illness, not to mention I weigh more right now than I ever have before.  I swear I am doing everything I can to fix this situation with all haste, but it will still take some time.  So...any chance you might interested in coaching me?"  There is a reason I don't sell cars.

I chose the path I did partly because he is an MD (but not my MD) and he offered an apt analogy that put things into realistic perspective.  
  
"Everybody owns a station wagon.  They are really familiar with their own station wagon, because they live in it, literally.  They know which door handle sticks and which window doesn't roll down all the way.  Doctors are familiar with the users manual for station wagons.  Then you walk in with a Ferrari.  A Ferrari operates generally the same way as a station wagon - engine, four wheels - but its tolerances are different, its up-keep is different.  You need to find a doctor who understands Ferraris."

Six weeks after I had pulled the plug on my season - the week before Thanksgiving - I had Googled to the ends of the Earth, learning more about my body than I ever thought possible, and started a forward-looking treatment plan.  The PCP I finally found proved to be the problem-solver with which I had hoped to work: someone who understands my particular needs and is willing to say "we will try until we get it right, and within the context of your normal life."

Now, a synthesis of things I have learned, because this sob story had to at some point turn witty, entertaining, or educational [DISCLAIMER: Please do not misconstrue what follows as actual medical advice.  Find your own MD.]: 

Hypothyroidism is like diabetes, but of the thyroid rather than the pancreas.  The thyroid system - which regulates energy creation and metabolism - doesn't have as much of the hormone, and various in- and out-puts, as the body needs and the body's metabolism slows.  A slow metabolism means that a 3 hour bike ride burns the calories of a 30 min bike ride, for example.  The symptom list includes: fatigue and weakness, swollen joints and muscle aches, bloated face and constipation, hair loss (women are particularly likely to lose the outer half of their eyebrows) and brittle nails, depression and sensitivity to cold, abnormal menstrual cycles and sudden, unexplained weight gain (bingo!).  I also had more-than-usual hair loss (though not my eyebrows), and I *think* some joint pain and maybe fatigue, but being knee-deep in IM training who can say they weren't just what I deserved.

Estimates vary, but some researchers think 10 million Americans - many of whom do not know it - suffer from low thyroid.  As many as 10% of all women may have some form of thyroid hormone deficiency. 

It's treatable, but not curable.  Once the thyroid in unable to make as much hormone as necessary, you will always have to replace some or all of it via pill.  Unlike diabetes, people with thyroid conditions take one pill per day, and complete blood tests anywhere from every four weeks to once a year, depending on how stable their medication and physical symptoms are.  Because every human body requires a different amount of thyroid hormone even when the gland is working perfectly, every bum thyroid is circling the drain at its own unique rate, and synthetic hormone is available in numerous increments, the general approach to treatment is "start low and test often," until such time said lab results and physical symptoms become stable.
 
Interestingly, the list of things that can make a thyroid start to circle the drain is long, but does not include increasing amounts of physical training stress, per se.  Meaning, my thyroid did not stop working just because I train "a lot."  Some people are born with under-functioning thyroids (think Type 1 diabetes) and some go bad because of an under-active pituitary gland, pregnancy (or significant shifts in reproductive hormone balances...hello, 30!), radiation exposure, severe iodine deficiency, or auto-immune-induced inflammation.

This last one is particularly notable in light of recent diet fads and gender-specific responses to these diet fads.  An auto-immune response means the body fails to recognize its own tissue, and attacks it, with T-cells and whatnot, and causes tissue-damaging inflammation.  So hypothetically, a body can - and sometimes does - attack its own thyroid just because.  However, some foods - gluten, dairy, some nuts - are "inflammatory" because they engender an auto-immune response (an allergy; i.e. celiac disease) in the human body.  When someone with an allergy, even a mild one, eats the offensive item (say, gluten) their body's auto-immune function kicks in and attacks the food culprit and the greater digestive tract.  Unfortunately, other delicate parts of the body get caught in the cross-fire: the thyroid becomes inflamed as well, its cells get damaged, and the gland starts circling the drain.

The gender-specific response - and this next part is the most adamantly not me providing medical advice - relates to the insidious inclusion of soy in the modern American, high-protein, low-carb diet.  Soy naturally contains lots of estrogen, which women already have enough of, and isoflavones.  Some researchers say "great, bring on the isoflavones!"  For example, how many dry cereals, historically made of grain and full of carbs, now boast (inexpensive to manufacture) soy-based protein?  Other researchers believe that, in abundance, estrogen and isoflavones attack thyroid function directly and/or build up to levels so toxic the thyroid's function is suppressed through a chronic imbalance of its in- and out-puts.  The jury is still out on what, if anything, soy does to thyroids, especially in women, but both sides have enough ammunition to fight a civil war for some years.  Until then, my nutritionist and doctor have me off the (soy) sauce.  My nutritionist actually referred to tofu as "flavorless chunks of lard."

Of course, the rest of the body tries to cover for the failing thyroid and right the ship.  Some, but not all, testable levels will be off.  [It is important to understand that "normal" levels are just ranges, designed to include a decent number of the five billion variations on a single theme.]  Some doctors are unwilling to treat thyroid issues in these cases, but their hesitation can mean that we station wagon owners never learn that something we think simply comes standard with a used car, is really something a little spit and polish will fix.

Another aspect of hormonal - thyroid, insulin, estrogen, etc - imbalance is what "normal" truly means, especially with regard to test ranges.  It is far more important for a single patient to be "normal" relative to themselves - meaning, to their own previous test results - rather than relative to a range dictated by who knows who and how many of them.  In this respect, my own general good health has come back to bite me in the ass.  Before this fall I had never had comprehensive, in-depth blood tests.  Before this fall, my last true, non-gynecological physical was...twelve years ago? fifteen?  although more likely, never.  So instead of numbers from previous blood tests, the only basis for "normal" my PCP and I have to go on is that before this fall my hormones were balanced enough to keep me from gaining 20 pounds on a whim (although my metabolism may have been off kilter somewhat).  The only reasonable short-term goal for a return to "normal" we can have is reaching my pre-fall weight and regaining an appropriate weight control mechanism, meaning I lose what I burn and I gain what I don't burn.  The simple idea that supports New Years resolution makers the world over, but an un-checked thyroid condition makes even that a pipe-dream. 

Over the years, who knows what will happen in me, and in others.  My thyroid may never get any closer to the drain, or it may takes years to get there, or it may fall in tomorrow.  And it could have been getting ever closer to the drain since I turned 3, for all I know!  Not to mention that each of these scenarios represents a completely different treatment and testing plan.  Which is why I was so determined to find a problem-solving doctor and a coach with an MD.  Essentially, it's the educated guessing game of medicine on top of the educated guessing game of training, and I wanted people on my team who know how to make educated guesses.


But the message I want everyone to leave here with is this:

** Thyroid conditions are not a death sentence.  Heck, the longer I "have it," the more people around me I find out "have it" too.  My training partners, my massage therapist... Karen Smyers doesn't even have a thyroid! 

** Thyroid conditions and elite-level athletic function are not mutually exclusive.  See: Karen Smyers...and probably a lot more people than you or I think.  If fact, admitting you have a problem and getting treatment, will probably bring about higher level athletic function because your body will finally be operating in balance.

** You are not alone and you are not diseased.  I will admit that when I first seriously considered the reality of having a thyroid condition, I felt alone, the extreme over-abundance of internet chat-rooms and forums not withstanding.  "I broke myself and now I am doomed to regular blood tests and a daily pill...for-e-ver."  Add to that the alienating language and terminology involved in applying for health insurance - "pre-existing condition" my a$$, I bet I am still healthier than 95% of all Americans with health insurance - and I felt not only alone, but also mere steps from uselessness and the grave.  You are not alone...because I am here!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lost The Plot

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Einstein was a smart guy.

There are plenty of theories, anecdotes, and cautionary tales about plans, committing to them and changing them, in sport: Allow for a certain amount of time with a new plan before deciding how smart that option was to choose.  Allow for a certain amount of time when things aren't working before making a decision to change them.  Don't follow the Coach-Of-The-Moment.  Follow the Coach-Of-The-Moment.  Don't ask questions about how exactly the plan works, just complete the plan.  Ask as many questions as necessary to understand fully the plan (while also completing the plan...)  Absolute faith in the plan is necessary, otherwise it won't work.  Continue to educate yourself about alternate ways to train because absolute faith in any one plan is unnecessarily limiting.

But sometimes, perhaps inevitably, things that were working no longer work, for whatever reason, even an unidentifiable one.  Just ask anyone who is divorced.

And there are no rules for that situation.  Often it is about listening to your gut, and then taking your toys and going to a different playground.  It is about questioning your own sanity.

I recently decided to no longer be insane.

I worked with my now-former coach for three years.  I made a commitment, I had faith, and for a long time, the plan worked.  But then progression slowed, stalled, and maybe even back slid a little.  There is no blame, other than to say that I think we each have a share to shoulder, but what had worked before no longer did, and maybe hadn't, in a constructive way, for a while. 

So in my sanity I'm going to try something different, a pretty significantly different approach actually, and have faith in the plan and see where it takes me.  The decision was a long time in the making, but my first line in the first email in the new partnership pretty well captures my feelings about the whole thing:

{spits into palm and holds out hand}  Let's do it.

Because when you finally find the plot, I figure you should grip it tight and with conviction.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Hard Reset

The annual Christmas Church Choir Concert of off-season blog posts has begun.  "I'm stepping back, reevaluating things. Changes are afoot."  "I'm researching things so the problems of this year won't impact the success of next year."  "I've identified the key to success next year, just you wait and see."

These refrains are not disingenuous, nor are they out of place, as off-season is the time to address problems and changes.

They are just vague as h*ll.  No one ever outlines exactly what they have done, researched, identified, kept, and discarded.  It's certainly a personal quest individual to each athlete, and the to-dos on the list don't reinvent the wheel, but the possibilities are vast and the search for exact solutions can be over-whelming.

As an example, here is everything I did during my (truly off) off-season, which was abnormally long and lasted from mid-October to just before Thanksgiving, and my subsequent return to training:

** Picked the brain of a sports nutritionist.  Then followed up a gazillion times.  And then asked if he would simply live with, and cook for, me.   

** Got health insurance.  An expensive luxury now that I don't work in an office.  Does this make me part of the 1%? 

** Had in-depth physical(s), with lots ($800 worth!) of blood work.  To quote my PCP: "Most of the things that could be wrong with you, I can't see."  A truism for most athletes, pro or AG.
 
** Annual bike maintenance, which is more in-depth than the maintenance I do or I have the shop do at any another point during the rest of the year.  I learned my lesson earlier this year and would prefer to avoid that debacle in the future. 

** Over-hauled my position on the bike.  My previous fit was still about 90% correct, but that 10% turned me into a pretzel in Cedar Point.

** Shortened my cranks.  This required sending my entire crank arm-chain ring-powermeter set-up back to SRM, so I had the battery on my powermeter replaced as well.

** Tested(/ing) other racing kit manufacturers.  Winter trainer riding is the best time to try new shorts/chamoix: you will never be more uncomfortable than you are on the trainer because you never change position.  Plus you can take off really offensive shorts without the downside of being naked by the side of the road. 

** Tested(/ing) new bike shoes, new running shoes, and new aero-bar extensions.  If it ain't bolted down, super-glued on, or zip-tied together, or even looked at me wrong, it's fair game.  It's not that "My Preferred Equipment" was no longer preferred by me, but instead that I wanted to make sure they still should be My Preferred Equipment.

** Bought an up-dated GPS for running.  It told me I'm in Texas.  Wha? 

** Got a new coach.  And he didn't prescribe any of the previous items (although he would have if I had not already initiated some of them).

Just about the only things that were safe were my powermeter, sports bras, socks, orthotics, swim gear, and saddle.

Again, these are all personal choices or needs, but I don't mind sharing them with you because none off them are the silver bullet.  Changing my powermeter battery isn't going to make me a world champion, but together these action items add up to better training and better performance.  They need to get done, so they get done, no matter the money, time, effort, stress...or blood and needles (gah!), involved.  For me, it's part of the job, and for everyone, it's part of the sport.  And excuse me for thinking it's part of the fun of the sport.  Yeah, I'm also one of the people who likes Christmas shopping.  So shoot me.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Today's Signs of the Apocalypse

I just paid less than $3 per gallon for gas.

The temperature in Austin is officially cold enough to shut down the auto detailing businesses.

Hell must truly be freezing over.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

A couple days ago I suggested completing a technique-only swim workout, alone and not pace oriented, on a regular basis to teach and reinforce good swimming technique.  Here's a sample of a workout that incorporates many common swimming drills, as well as some drills I've either made up or learned along the way.  A technique swim session does not have to be 4000 scy.  It can be any length you want, as long as the vast majority of swimming done is done with good technique.

5 x 100 - progression through "side work"
  • kick on side with both arms along the torso, switch sides every 12.5 yds (or m.)
  • kick on side with bottom arm extended straight from shoulder toward the wall to which you are heading, switch every 12.5
  • 4 kicks on side, then 1 stroke with top arm (to flip you to the other side), 4 kicks on side, 1 stroke...focus on high elbow for that one stroke
  • 3 kicks on side, 3 strokes starting with top arm (ex. R, L, R to switch sides), 3 kicks on side, 3 strokes starting with top arm (L, R, L)...
  • 3s and 4s: alternate 3 strokes of freestyle with 4 strokes of back (e.x. L, R, L, flip immediately over rotating to your left, R, L, R, L as back, flip immediately over rotating to the your right, R, L, R as free....if you do it right you will be rotating different directions and won't get dizzy)....don't start start stroking until your head flips as well to reinforce your neck being an extension of your spine, and keep your hips high in the water
10 x 25 free style with band, alt fist down, regular back
  • keep the amount of high elbow needed to create an effective catch and propulsive pull in mind to inform the drills after this
20 x 50 - either in rotation or straight through, 4 each of:
  • fist - swim normal stroke but with your fists balled up
  • finger drag - dragging the tips of your fingers along the surface of the water as the arms recovers forward past the head; keep the elbow high (very bent) and the hand loose
  • thumb - swim with the thumb extended out from the hand, perpendicular to the fingers, so that when it hits the hip/upper thigh at the end of each stroke you know you have used the full length of your stroke
  • scull - elbows bent 90 degrees, pointing toward the sky; hands cupped and fingertips pointing to the bottom of the pool; move forearms back and forth from the elbow like a wind-shield wiper motion
  • Distance Per Stroke (DPS) - exaggerate the stroke, minimize resistance to the water, and go as far in the water as you can with each one
4 x 100 - catch-up
  • 2 x hands meet out front before starting the next stroke - can use the exchange of a kick board, pull buoy, or short pipe to keep yourself honest
  • 2 x the forward hands starts to move when the recovering arm passes the ear
5 x 100 - single arm
  • 2 x 50 with pull buoy, non-stroking arm extended straight from the shoulder toward the on-coming wall - first 50 right-arm-only (RA), second 50 left-arm-only (LA)
  • RA with non-stroking arm along the torso, breathing to the stroking arm side
  • LA with non-stroking arm along the torso, breathing to the stroking arm side
  • RA with non-stroking arm along the torso, breathing to the non-stroking side
  • LA with non-stroking arm along the torso, breathing to the non-stroking side
10 x 25 free style with band

8 x 50 FAST with fins on :90 
  • focus on moving the arms through the strokes faster, but without sacrificing a good catch, a high elbow, and a finish past the hip
500 moderate speed, focus on form, bi-lateral (to both sides) breathing

200 c/d

total - 4000 scy/m

When form gets sloppy or focus is lost, stop, even if it's in the middle of an interval.  Rest, and simply start again from where you left off.  Continuing to swim when form is sloppy only reinforces sloppy technique.  Don't waste your own time.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hook 'Em, Bevo

If you're going to break the law, break it with enough conviction to end up in jail.

If you're going to get disowned for moving to Texas and abandoning the Big Ten, attend a Longhorns football game and wear school colors.

I pulled on my only burnt orange piece of clothing and prepared to meet Bevo Nation.  They did not disappoint.

We walked to the game from a friend's place to avoid the utter traffic nightmare, and the campus I see every day on the way to and from masters swimming was virtually unrecognizable.  I grab breakfast tacos here after practice in a pinch:


This is the view of the stadium I get every time I swim on campus.  People, move, you are ruining my shot!


The stadium is quite nice, accommodating 100+k without creating traffic jams.  This food court holds the most people I think I ever saw at a Harvard football when we weren't playing Yale.


The view from our nose-bleed seats, which I actually preferred.  We got to see the skyline and the sun, and everybody else got to see just a sea of burnt orange.


And quite a sea it was.

Less than one third of the stadium

It was the Veteran's Game so Airborne Rangers parachuted into the stadium and received a huge cheer when they hit the Longhorn emblem mid-field.  On game day, Bevo the mascot resides in that burnt orange bunker in the top right corner of the photo, just at the bottom of the bleachers.  Let me assure you, the rest of his life is just as posh. 


The UT marching band is HUGE.  They do really complicated figures because I think there would be no other way to incorporate the entire brass section.


It says "UT" - with people left over

What state is this again?  As if the number of unique or custom-made cowboy boots didn't give it away.



I have been following (and watching on TV when possible) the Longhorns the entire season, but I was reminded just how much being a fan of a team is only cemented by attending games.  I didn't know the fight songs, the dances, the cheers, the call-and-responses, the band's ditties, and the tradition of firing a cannon at nearly every single applicable opportunity.  I didn't even know what a Bevo was before entering the stadium.  The Big 12 might not be as keen to have me as the Big Ten was sad to lose me.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hopeful And Thankful

Here's hoping you had a comfortable and cozy Thanksgiving - and a cute place-card to boot.


Never knew I was something of a genius with candy corn, did ya?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Wood Anniversary

Five years ago today was the first day I ever swam laps with an eye toward swim training.  Aside from an ill-fated single day on a summer swim team, I had only ever tried to not drown before.

I had run the Philly Marathon the weekend prior and went home for the Thanksgiving holiday knowing that I needed to find some active recovery activity that wasn't running.  In the snow biking was out.  Swimming on the other hand...I had to borrow my mother's suit.

The YMCA in Madison charges outrageous day-pass fees, but over Thanksgiving they waive the charge if you donate to their food drive.  I went to the grocery store and bought four cans of the cheapest canned vegetable I could find: corn, at 25 cents per can.  A weekend of swimming that would have cost me $80 cost me $1 - and helped America's farmers. 

I decided to swim for an hour straight.  I promised myself that if I could raise my arms above my head the next day, I would go back and do it again.  I ended up "spending" all four cans.

Fiver years later things have really progressed - I have my own suit and don't pay for lane time with cheap canned vegetables.

What have I learned in the past five years?

It is still all about not drowning.

Oh, you mean seriously?  Will you settle for useful?

** Get into a masters group or workout as soon as you feel comfortable swimming for 2000 yards or so (not straight).  I ignorantly did exactly the right thing: I spent a winter building up distance (at the time I had no concept of bases and place clocks so if I was getting faster I had no idea) and then the following summer jumped into a masters group that I had no business swimming with.  But this masters group - and consistent attendance - took me from swimming 2000 yards a workout slow, to swimming 5000 meters a workout fast, in far less time than I would have been able to alone.

** Don't let "I don't know enough" or having poor form or doing open turns keep you from swimming with a masters group.  My first day ever of masters I didn't know the order of strokes in the individual medley (IM; it's fly, back, breast, free).  I got a guffaw and a serious eye-roll, but hey, they let me come back the next day.  If you have concerns, talk to the coach beforehand; they can put you in the correct lane or suggest an alternate group.  If you have unassailable concerns, swim with friends and form your own masters-esque group. 

** Never lead a lane unless you can use the pace clocks and correctly identify when to leave on the next interval.  Or else you will face the modern-day equivalent of a mutiny and marooning.

** Whether you swim with a masters group, with friends, or alone, don't always swim intervals of the same distance.  Occasionally get in and swim lap-after-lap-after-lap until you are thoroughly bored (or if you're me, lose count) then swim ten more laps.  Try to get up to 1500 to 2000 yds/m, during which a consistent pace is more important than a fast one.  Then try to swim that far with changes in pace - ex. a fast(er) 100 every 500 - so that you learn to recover while still swimming.  

** The "public lanes" at a pool sound all kumbaya and Kindergarten-y, I know.  But the public in the public lanes is best avoided.  Unless you bring with you a group of your own public and can #OccupyPublicLane.

** Urban legend, pursuant to the previous point:  The nicest pool in DC has lanes divided by speed - slow, medium, fast.  Inevitably slow people self-select themselves into the fast lane.  One day a fast swimmer told a slow swimmer that they were in the fast lane and should move to the slow lane.  The slow swimmer's reply?  "But I'm going as fast as I can."

** Swim all the strokes, occasionally, even if you feel awkward, tired, and/or slow.  The important part of the fly pull is the same as the free-style pull, except you do it with both arms at the same time.  Double the workout!  If fly really isn't your thing, try it with fins to get the rhythm down.

** Early on in your swimming, or heck, even late on in your swimming, write a technique-only workout and do it once a week, alone.  I found Sunday was a good lazy day to focus on form and not worry about speed.  The goal is not to go fast or far, the goal is to swim with correct technique as much as possible.  Once your form gets sloppy, stop, even if you are in the middle of an interval.  Rest, regain your focus, and start again from where you stopped.  2000 yards with good form is more valuable than 4000 yards with poor form.

** Swimming with a band can fix in 10 strokes what fixing with a stroke coach can take 10 hours.

** Never become too reliant on any one toy.  Pulling with a buoy but no paddles works on core stability, rotation in the water, and increasing awareness of the catch.  Pulling with paddles and no buoy works on synching your kick with your stroke and lifting your back-half while moving fast(er) through the water.  Pulling with paddles and buoy (and band) works on pure strength, but can encourage cheating at various parts of the stroke: dropping the elbow, ending the pull too early, not cocking the wrist for the catch.  Swimming fast with fins quickly highlights any point of the body or stroke that deviates from streamline, and naturally increase stroke rate.

** Give swim cords (Therabands also work) a try.  Separating the catch and pull, and repeating them over and over without the pesky concern of drowning - not to mention the ability to actually see a dropped elbow and feel what it takes to keep an elbow high - will cement in your mind and kinesthetic sense what swimming should feel like.

** Don't be the person at the pool with the see-through suit.   

** Buy polyester suits.  Figure out your size in a store, and then buy on-line from a reputable dealer (Speedo, TYR, etc) or buy a reputable brand from discount clearinghouse (swimoutlet.com).  Last season's prints get down to $20 and one poly suit lasts me 18 months, even when worn every time I swim. 

** Swim more.  Swim that more with people.

** Don't drown.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

S'UP ATX?

Just what I have been doing since I last posted?

Learning to walk on water, of course.


Water is such an integral part of Austin (despite it's marked absence falling from the sky these past 12 months).  Town Lake runs right through down town, not two blocks from my apartment, and is an outing or outlet for thousands of people each day.  It's a geographic divider like the Potomac in DC, but unlike the Potomac, Town Lake is easy to access and just another playground, open to anyone not swimming.  Madison is also defined by bodies of water - 4 lakes forming an isthmus - but I never really made use of them.  I decided that instead of just driving over Town Lake or running around it, I would go out on it.  So I picked up stand-up paddling (SUP). 

S'UP ATX?

It is disorienting how different things look from the water.  The traffic on a major highway artery vanishes.  The Loop 360 corridor is almost serene.


On the trail, a single tree is simply part of the larger canopy.  From the water, it is statuesque, its roots so perfectly veined as to look like a set piece in a play.




Those stairs lead up to the running trail, from which I have never noticed those stairs.

The bridges become legitimate art and architecture, providing shelter or a picnic spot.  Not to mention an optical illusion.

Under Lamar

On a wind-less day the waves not on the water show up elsewhere.  Huh. I've only ever run across Pflugerville Pedestrian Bridge in a straight line.

Pflugerville

Pearls of wisdom and works of art hang in galleries stories above the water.




No matter the perspective it's a lovely way to spend a late afternoon.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Rev3 Cedar Point: Any Given Sunday

Time heals all wounds.  Distance makes the heart grow fonder.

Yet, more than two months on, I can dredge up a no more rosy-colored assessment of Rev3 Cedar Point than "meh."  Imagine how I felt the day after.

It wasn't the straw that broke the camel's back, nor was it the next deposit in the bank toward a larger, more meaningful goal.  At worst, Cedar Point was a race where I walked the last 10 of 140.6 miles in order to earn a paycheck.  At best, Cedar Point was the canary in the coal mine.  Of what?  I didn't know at the time, although two months has proven the length of time to figure it all out and do something about it.

I actually did start a more traditional Kelzie-style race report on the trip home from scenic Sandusky, Ohio.  Only it's title - Any Given Sunday - and opening stanza remain, as a tribute to what I thought at the time was the larger theme of my race.

"It's Ironman, it's a crapshoot."  - very astute observation by my rack mate 'round about 6 am on race morning

Betting big or betting conservatively, first-timer or Luis Alvarez (note: only person to complete every IM on the planet), we are all the same race morning: standing at a start line, facing something of a crapshoot.

From the first-timers perspective, I offer my athlete who this weekend completed her first Ironman.  Her stated goal this past winter: finish standing, with a minimal amount of suffering.  Well, she finished.  And not only standing, but with plenty of time to fall flat on her face and crawl the last 26.2 miles if need be.  Dare I say her experience and execution surpassed both of our expectations?  Her come out roll at the 'shoot was a straight up 11.  Her response: That was SO. MUCH. FUN.

From the betting big(ger) perpsective, I offer myself who this weekend completed the Rev3 Cedar Point Iron-distance race two weeks after taking a turn at the 'shoot and rolling snake eyes.  I rolled a Hard Deuce (note: that's a 4, which is horrible odds for a come out bet).  My response: meh.

The rest of what I wrote is inconsequential now.

The absolute highlight of the weekend was participating in my first Rev3 race.  From Charlie to Krista and Carole to Sean and Brady, this race organization goes out of their way to treat every single athlete like a rock-star by hosting big events with a family feel.  They gave a race-less girl a last minute destination, a hearty welcome, and more than a few laughs.

The swim was disgusting, both on my part and the part of Lake Erie.

The bike's scenery was far more beautiful than I expected.  The bike's chip-seal was just as painful as I expected.

Every run course should have a militantly religious drill instructor standing mid-way through each lap.  "G*d will be waiting for you on the second lap."  He was so up-beat and positive, not to mention hilarious, and at mile 23, truly a god-send.  Everyone at the awards banquet cheered when he was shown in the race video.

But even a messenger of G*d on the run course in wind pants and a sweat band, with a shiny bald head, can't top the bizarre of post-race.  While I ate a late dinner at a bar I got picked up by a guy on a blind date.  With the blind date sitting right next to him.  That's keepin' it sexy Sandusky.

The rest is pretty immemorable.  Case in point: I took not a single picture the entire trip, which is definitely the only PR I set that weekend.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Like I Said

World War III is underway right.over.there...

Photo credit to someone else, not me

Today the air in Austin smelled of burning tires and the buildings just across the lake from me were hazy at best.  I'm off very early tomorrow for lake-side, not smoky or tire-burny, Sandusky, Ohio.  Please, Austin, be here when I get back.  I was just starting to like you - oh, ok, and your taco stands.

Ring Of Fire

Over the weekend, with Hurricane Katia pushing in from the Caribbean and front pushing down from Oklahoma, temperatures around Austin cooled somewhat, or at least to less than triple digits.  But the lack of rain since April and incoming rush of wind, the brush and forest fires that have been chewing up central Texas since last December finally made a dedicated appearance in Austin. 

Happy Labor Day.

Now Austin is literally surrounded by fire.  Steiner Ranch to the west, Bastrop to the east, Pflugerville to the north-east, Leander to the north-west, Spicewood to the north, and newly sighted blazes on and on...

Governor Perry swung by our neck of the woods to view the already and soon to be charred remains.  Back in April, the Governor requested all Texans to pray for rain.  Well it hasn't rained since April, and now the Governor is complaining about the small and slow federal response. 

For all the pictures on the news and rumors of friends' homes being under threat, it's completely different when you're rolling down the road on your bike and the horizon looks similar to the mushroom cloud from an nuclear weapon.  I went to spend some quality time on a stretch of interval-friendly country highway, which is near the town of Bastrop on fire, and the landscape is basically flat and tree-less, providing excellent views of the town of Bastrop on fire. The stiff wind was smearing the smoke down the east side of the city as far as the eye could see.   It's a somewhat different take on an interval workout when it looks like World War III is underway right.over.there. 

The drive home heads straight west, toward the Steiner Ranch fire, and then turns south, so that from a highway over-pass, I could easily see a streak of smoke on my right and streak of smoke on my left, each reaching to the southern horizon.

For the number people among us, since last December, drought-related fires in Texas have burned 3.5 million acres.  That's an area the size of Connecticut.  I guess everything is bigger in Texas.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hell's Kitchen

If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

The little fella outside my apartment found out the hard way.

This is approximately how I feel after a long ride down here.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

IM Canada: Yeah, No

Spoiler Alert


Mise-en-scene


IM Canada is one of last remaining classic IM courses - one-loop each of swim, bike, run - and Penticton is one of the classic IM host communities.  This race is literally as old as I am; the first iteration had 25 participants.  In retrospect I would expect a better oiled machine after holding 29 of these things, but the IMs where the host town is small enough to be all.about.the.race on race day never cease to draw me.  It reminds me of Green Bay when the Packers play, or pretty much any big college football town on any given Saturday.

Act 1: Wherein Nothing Cute or Funny Happened

After staying in a loose group through the first half of the first leg, I soon found myself alone and swam the rest disgustingly slow.  And trust me, I knew I was going slow, but my effort level was already a bit above ideal so it was what it was.  It didn't help that I slowly roasted alive in my wetsuit.  Looking at swim splits, it does seem that people who would normally be a few minutes in front of me, were those same few minutes in front of me; we all just swam a bit slower at the same rate. 

Act 2: The Dance of Ineffectuals and Inefficiencies

Out of the water and onto my bike I was more than ready for something cute or funny to happen.  Or at the very least, PACE COMMENSURATE WITH EFFORT and NOT FREAKING BOILING ALIVE.  I got my way for roughly 100 minutes.

I steamed along, riding race effort effortlessly in that tapered way, at what basic math determines was roughly 24 mph average, until the infamous Husky station in Osoyoos.  Rounding the corner out of the parking lot to start the 11km climb up to Richter Pass, my rear tire flatted.  I was just short of an aid station so I crept along to reach it.

Ask the aid station volunteers to call for a tech vehicle and I change the flat, during the course of which I realize a horrible swim does not really leave enough upper body strength to wrestle an old tubular off its glue and a new tubular onto the rim.

Try the aid station's pump, during the course of which I realize the pump's rod (which operates the piston) is bent.

Try my CO2 cartridge, during the course of which I realize Chrissie and I have the same luck using CO2 to fix flats.

Try the aid station's pump again after attempting to straighten the rod, during the course of which I realize that I am no good at straightening metal and that for every stroke more air is escaping than going into the tire.

Wait for a tech vehicle, during the course of which I realize that I am not good at waiting as hundreds, but felt like thousands, of people are going by me as I stand by the side of the road.

Get tired of waiting and climb to the top of Richter Pass on probably 30 psi of air, during the course of which I realize that Richter Pass is actually a pretty awesome climb.

Wait at the top of Richter Pass for a tech vehicle, during the course of which I find out there is a rumor of tacks being thrown on McLean Creek Road (in the first 20k of the bike; I'm at 75km-ish) and all the tech vehicles are occupied with flats in that section.

Get 120 psi and set off to descend off Richter Pass, during the course of which I am sliding, shaking, and shimmying all over the road as I scream down the side of a mountain at 50mph.  During the course of which I remember that while mine was properly prepped (kudos and thanks to CHR!), spare tubulars have about a third of the glue on them as normally glued and seated tubulars.  During the course of which I realize I am in serious danger of rolling a tubular (meaning the tire comes off the carbon rim, and you very suddenly and very violently are riding carbon-on-cement).  During the course of which the results of rolling a tubular play through my brain...



During the course of which I think This is where I am going to die.  During the course of which I grab a handful of brake and continue to descend at a less death-defying speed and get passed by tens more people.  During the course of which I realize, well and truly, that my day of racing is over.  My day of riding back to town has just begun.

Data puts the whole experience in stark terms.  My SRM PowerControl, which collects data only when my bike is moving, lists a time of 5:13:52.  My race-timed bike split, which starts when I leave T1 and stops when I enter T2, is 6:21.

As I suspected I would, I had a great time riding the rest of the course back to town.  It's beautiful, and the crowd support is impressive, especially on the climbs, for an out-of-town course.  I rode race effort where I safely could and rode conservatively where I got the go-slow-or-meet-Death vibe.  For example, descending off Yellow Lake, which is like Richter Pass only with switch-backs and wind, is one of the scariest things I have ever done a bike.  And I've endo-ed into trees. 

Act 3: The Great Self-Debate

Upon return to town, I was faced with the actual act - not just the thought or intention - of DNF-ing.  It took me two miles of running, thinking what the hell am I doing?, to finally pull the plug.  I was out of the mix, would not achieve any of my goals for racing that weekend, and had long ago emotionally disengaged from the day, if only to protect myself from spending four hours riding through Canada feeling nothing but negative emotions.  None of those are really good reasons for not continuing when I was physically capable of doing so, and I still get a pit of sadness/shame/anger/frustration/what ifs/ripping the heads off chickens in my stomach as I write this and sense myself equivocating.  I do not want to diminish "simply finishing" when "simply finishing" is 100% success for 95% of IM participants.  But the reality is that not running a marathon on Sunday has left me with far more options to make a bad situation better in the short term, than running a marathon on Sunday would have. 

If nothing else, IM Canada taught me that not finishing hurts on Sunday, and in a much different way, than finishing hurts on Monday.

Curtain Call: Turn On A Dime (And Spending More Dimes)

Ma Support Staff and I made the most of being in Canada with a rental car and the ability to walk post-race.  Now I'm back in Texas after the necessary two days of travel.  Plans are in quick development to race - and hypothetically, finish - on September 11.  In this case, the emotional, rather than physical, turn-around will be the test. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

FiveHundredTwentyFiveThousandSixHundred

This Sunday is the one year anniversary of my first race as a professional.  This Sunday I will celebrate baby's first birthday by starting my eighth race as a professional.

This Sunday also marks the second anniversary of my first Ironman race ever, as well as the fourth anniversary of the first Ironman I sherpa'd.  (The person for whom I sherpa'd is celebrating four years on by getting married.  Congrats MP and KD!!)

I wish I could say I saw my current life coming those four years - or even those two years - ago but I can't, and any fortune-teller who does likely has a scratch on her crystal ball.  See, I am one of those people who, at the age of six, knew what they wanted to be when they grew up and didn't change it when they turned seven.  But with the scuttling of the Space Shuttle program and something like 300 trainees in the astronaut corps who had yet to leave this planet, I thought it was fair to say my childhood dream could finally be shelved.  But what to replace it? 

If you had told me four years ago tomorrow that I would ever do an Ironman, I would have laughed in your face.

If you had told me two years ago tomorrow that I would ever race as a professional, I would have laughed in your face.

But here I am, four years after four years ago tomorrow, and I'm not laughing.

To be honest this was never my dream.  Because I never thought to have this dream.  Sometimes we get luckier than we could ever have imagined and find things in life we could never have known to wish for.

But now that I'm living this dream, I realize there is more than one way to reach our own stars.  Who knows where I'll be one year from tomorrow.  Or four.

Friday, August 26, 2011

OMG! GRN!

I'm back in the land of Bob Ross and happy little trees.  

Ma Support Staff and I flew into Spokane Wednesday, drove to Penticton, BC, Canada, Thursday morning, and then drove the 1-lap bike course that afternoon.  Thanks to spending lots of time sitting and staring out a variety of windows, I got to see a whole heck of a lot of a part of the country and continent I've never really had the opportunity to see before.  Let me tell you, it's beautiful.  And not only that, it's green, sometimes in places where it's supposed to be green.  After the last five months, I will never take "supposed to be green" = "actually green" for granted again.

Here is a photographic tour of GEG - KOMK - YYF - IMCAN:

Heading west from Spokane

Officially in wheat country

One seriously big pile of gluten

Not a tree for MILES.  Do they measure the crop by loaves/acre?

Leaving the rolling plains for river-carved valleys and bluffs

Can't leave well enough alone

Happy little trees!!

In the high desert...Rocky Mountains HO!

Rough, rugged, beautiful, high desert country

Good Bye, USA...

Hello, Canada!

Vineyards and fruit groves of every variety

Further up the valley we come upon the 'burg of Penticton

Heading south out of Penticton on the bike and run course

Well, hello there.


Tight curves, close quarters, and chip seal

Exploring some farm land west of Okanagan Falls

Back along the lake(s)

Starting the 11km, 4 stage climb up to Ritcher Pass

Coming down off Ritcher...the descents are as epic as the climbs

The rollers on the back side of the course

The top of the next big climb, Yellow Lake Pass

The whole trip was one big mind-bend, the type of mountain travel where everything looks close enough to touch, but takes hours to reach.  I hate to be a lacking in originality, but the course reminds me so much of IM Lake Placid: big climbs, big descents, tree-covered mountains, lots of water, undeniably challenging but not impossible.  And most of all, something gorgeous to look at the entire length of 140.6 miles.

The notable difference is the sheer openness of the course.  Where the roads in Lake Placid are closely lined by trees, the roads near Penticton are almost entirely un-lined...unless you count flanked by mountains miles away.  A good (read: bad) wind and the day gets even more epic.  Either way, it's going to be a memorable time.  And green.
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