Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Hike

The midwest was treated to a warm, gorgeous Easter Sunday, so after a 13 mile run with Alaina, we took the hyper dog out to Kuebler Woods and Bird Hills trails for an hour long hike. The wind had blown down some new trees for Cody to play on over the past week, and the parents didn't want to be left out of the fun, so we played balance beam over this ravine.

Cody scouts for squirrels from her perch

Alaina tests her mettle.

I didn't trust this tree farther than I could throw it.

Pooped pooch. Chased every living thing out there.

Tired girls.

Cody chases some squirrels

Tireless little pupper

Sometimes it Snows in April

Prince has a beautiful song called "Sometimes it Snows in April," and I get to play it all day at least once a year. That day came this past week where not only did we see flakes in late April, but it actually started to accumulate throughout the day. Oy vey. Prince is from Minnesota and he should know better. The song should've been called "It ALWAYS Snows in April."

So the mitten state was feeling beaten and broken, ready for Spring to finally break through, when Mother Nature gave us this Saturday. Mid 60s, sunny as you could ever want, and maybe a little windy (15-25mph), but for we who made snowballs last week, there was little to complain about.

Alaina and I hopped on our bikes and took to the country roads for a 72 mile ride, our longest this year. Although we weren't blazing fast, it was a hard ride in preparation for our first triathlon of the season, the American Triple-T, which is exactly one month away. It's far and away the hardest race series we'll do this year, with 4 triathlons in 3 days. The terrain is hilly -- it's in Southern Ohio at the foothills of the Appalachians -- and every race of the 4 gets progressively longer and more difficult. We won the Co-Ed team division last year, so winning again is definitely on our minds. Hooray for Spring!

Less than a week ago, we woke to this loveliness.

Some thought that Spring would never come.

But when it did, we took to our trusted steeds.

And there were smiles and joy once again.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Our cyclocross bikes have been collecting cobwebs since the Barry-Roubaix bike race a few weekends ago, so Alaina and I decided it was time to take them out on this dirt road loop known locally as Dirthammer after work. What a night of gorgeous riding we were treated to.

I love having something like this ride to look forward to throughout a long work day. No matter what kind of crap the day throws at me I know I can pound out some hard intervals and release the tension in one shot.

Love the tree lined roads. Leaves soon!

Oh mama, that's a lot of llamas

What do you do with all those llamas?

Yes, much much fun.

I swear there were a half dozen deer right here.

And then one deer tried to run me over! This is the picture.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Martian Half-Marathon

The first two months of the year to a triathlete is like an all you can eat buffet when you’re starving. You look at all the delicious races and say, ‘Ooh! I’ll take one of those vicious bike races, and I’m sure I can make some room for a half-marathon the following weekend, and hey, the Triple-T Ohio wasn’t so bad last year, right? No reason why we can’t sneak 4 half-Ironmans into the season, with an October marathon for dessert before cyclocross season starts.

Maybe next time I’ll make sure there are at least *two weeks* between races. Since the Barry-Roubaix 65 mile bike race last weekend, I’ve been fighting some knee pain and general soreness, plus I'd been having one of those weeks with more dread than killer instinct for the race. But what the hell, the knee was still attached and feeling decent come race day, so let’s roll the dice and see how much we can suffer.

Weather was predicted as snow and wind, but we got sun and less wind instead. Gorgeous day to run. I must’ve seeded myself well because I quickly found a pack of long legged gazelles doing 6:30 minutes per mile to draft behind as the first half of the race would be into the wind. These guys were solid and steady, like mighty riggers on high seas. I usually run more like Captain Cook, surging and fading, with a few spells of crazy for good measure. We ticked the pace down to 6:22s and maintained there nicely.

I stuck behind this one Asian guy who could’ve been a hi-volume shampoo model his hair was so thick and bouncy. My mix of music was bumping dub-club mix, so I just rocked out and watched this guy’s head become one of those WMP visualization settings.

These runners were tangent masters. They cut lines through the course I’d never have seen on my own. So I stuck with them through the turnaround (out-n-back) when hair model made me look like a knock-off brand and I faded back a couple of seconds per mile. Breathing was good, but the legs were starting to feel the deep down, still-recovering fatigue, so I held on to the heels of this other guy running in an Etsy style knit hat with two heart tattoos on his ankles, one red, the other black.

I spent miles 8-11 contemplating what those hearts meant. Ying/yang riff? God/man dichotomy? Drunk Valentine’s Day decision? Poker player with a wicked tell? Jury’s out on this one.

While I was running with this guy I could stand the suffering. He was steady as a metronome and it allowed me to shut down the demons that said slow down, you're in too much pain, you can't compete at this, you're a weak and crappy runner, so you might as well give up. Instead, I could enjoy the music, let him dictate the pace and truly enjoy myself.

I saw Alaina once after the turn around portion and she was looking focused and running well, so I knew I had to keep pushing hard if I was going to stay ahead of that little speedster.

Blasted though if I didn't crack a bit on miles 11-12 as a few of us jockeyed for position, feeling surges of suckage and those euphoric visions of crossing the finish. Throughout the last mile I was running well, though when I looked at my Garmin it showed an overall average pace of 6:25s and I was already at 1:25, with a few hundred yards to go. That’s when I noticed we were well past 13.1, so something was up. I kicked down the final third of a mile and clipped four dudes on the final straight. Sa da tay! Sepatown!

On the finishing chute: I'm to the left of the guy with the bloody nipples.

Alaina crossing the finish line with a big smile

The great news is I got 3rd in my Age Group and top-25 Overall, and Alaina got 3rd Overall Woman! Super stoked about that!

The Race Director acknowledged that the turn-around section of miles 6-7 was 1.4 miles, so the turn around was too far out, but the Race Director has corrected the times to reflect 13.1 miles.

1:24:18 is a new Personal Best for me and 1:29:07 is a PB for Alaina!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Playing on Triathlon Bikes

Yes, it's true, we finally got to ride our triathlon bikes OUTSIDE today because, contrary to popular opinion, Spring does come to Michigan too. Just a little late. Ahem.

What a great time this two wheeled couple had on the country roads between Ann Arbor and Jackson. The best part is that the farther you get from towns the prettier the country gets and the less often we see cars, so it makes you want to just keep going and going.

That said, after 62 miles of hard pedaling, our legs were cooked!

Pit stop at your local hay field

Look! I'm outside!

Alaina refuels at ZouZous Coffee in Chelsea

Every mile was worth it for this donut.

Map of the Waterloo Rec Are outside ZouZous