Monday, January 6, 2014

Things I'm loving lately -- January edition

I'm returning to the long-neglected blog to share some of my favorite things lately.

1. Vega Energizing Protein Smoothie
I've never been a big smoothie-for-breakfast person because I eat after I work out and am hungry and want solid food. But when Vega reworked their protein smoothie mixes, I wanted to give them a try. As long as I add something to them, they keep me going till mid-late morning. I love the Choc-A-Lot and the Viva Vanilla. One scoop has 15 grams of protein! My favorite combination is a scoop of the Choc-A-Lot, a frozen banana and a cup of Trader Joe's unsweetened rice milk all blended in the Vitamix, then topped with a few cocao nibs.

This one was my own concoction of frozen banana, one scoop of Viva Vanilla, a cup of rice milk and a tablespoon of peanut butter.  Chunky Monkey?

This one was a recipe from A Whisk and Two Wands for a Cranberry Protein Smoothie. I'm not a huge cranberry fan, but this surprised me and was delicious.

2. Saucony Virrata running shoes. I got these last week and ran 6.5 miles in my first run with them and LOVED them!  I think they will be my new race shoes. I went to the running store with the intention of getting Newtons, but they didn't have the model I wanted, and I've had 7 pair of Saucony Kinvaras in the last two years, so decided to try these. Love them!

3. Farmhouse Seed Bread (gluten-free, vegan). I've made this twice and it was really good and easy.

4. Angela's Vegan Turtle Oatmeal Cookies. These are gluten-free and taste like those turtle candies we used to eat at Christmas. Yes, I made them large.  Go big or go home.

5. Gluten-free, vegan "cheez-its" from Fork & Beans. These were a little more labor intensive but still really good. I used the Daiya mozzerella-style cheese as that's what I had on hand, and added a sprinkle of cayenne pepper to the dough, and they still tasted like Cheez-Its.

6. Fitbit Force. I got this kind of on a whim. We had some Best Buy gift cards that had been sitting around for a while, so I decided to use them on one of these, mostly to track my sleep, as I get plenty of exercise. Also to remind me to get up from my desk once in a while and move around! I have had it for about a month, and it's been interesting to watch my sleep patterns. As I suspected, I do not sleep well and am very restless, particularly at certain times of the night. One night I was restless for 124 minutes! No wonder I'm tired all the time! I've been wearing it as my watch, too. Sometimes I doubt its accuracy, and it doesn't record my cycling at all, but most days I hit my 10,000-step goal.
7. Sunfood Chlorella Tablets. I started taking these because I read that chlorella was good for recovery because it helps to clear out toxins, and it helps to prevent illnesses. I take 12 a day. My stomach wasn't too happy with the spirulina algae, but it's ok with these. I may give spirulina another try.

8. Trader Joe's. I have always loved Trader Joe's, but lately I have found some really great products. The gluten-free rolled oats, Jumbo Raisin Medley and Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips are regulars in my basket, as well as the unsweetened rice milk, quinoa & brown rice fusilli pasta and the corn tortillas. I love that they have a lot of gluten-free items.

Here's what they say are their most popular products. (I don't buy any of those!)

What are your favorite things lately?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The gluten-free experiment

I know what you're thinking. Another triathlete trying the gluten-free diet to see if it will make her faster. Well, that's not true in this case, so read on.

I have had significant stomach issues for years. I won't go into details, but there was always a lot of discomfort and sometimes pain. I just lived with it, thinking that's how I was made, until earlier this year when I started working with Jennifer Lentzke, a sports dietitian and professional triathlete, as I trained for Ironman Kansas 70.3. One of the things we talked about early on was my gut issues. She ordered some testing to see if I had food sensitivities, and it turned out I had a lot. None were really severe, but the ones that were the highest were foods I was eating daily. No wonder my stomach hurt! I cut out all of those foods until mid-summer, when I would eat one of them occasionally (spinach). I always paid for it, though.

But this fall, a very itchy rash on my upper thighs appeared. It was the same rash in the same place as the one I had at the same time last fall. Last year I went to the dermatologist twice and got fancy creams that did nothing but turn my skin into sandpaper. So I did some research and found that gluten intolerance could cause unexplained rashes. I read the book "Wheat Belly," too. While I didn't agree with everything he said, a lot of the information about overprocessed wheat made a lot of sense. I decided to try going gluten-free for 4 weeks to see if it made any difference at all.

About 10 days into the trial, my rash was completely gone. I used no medications, did not change soaps or lotions or anything else other than eliminating gluten. I did have some tempeh that had barley in it about 3 weeks into the trial (I didn't realize it until after I'd eaten it), and the rash came back for a day, then disappeared again.

And my stomach? There was no change the first week. The second week I felt great. In the third week, I felt like I did before I started the trial, but I did accidentally have some gluten, so that might explain it. Last week, despite a lot of stress and drama with other things, my stomach didn't hurt at all. In fact, I never gave it a thought, and that is a first.

I have changed nothing else in my diet except to eliminate gluten.

I am still doing a lot of research (Ben Greenfield's website and podcasts have been extremely helpful) and have some other books I want to read during my semester break, but I'm going to keep going. Of course, this has presented a LOT of challenges with my diet since I am also vegan. Many prepared gluten-free foods contain eggs to replace the missing gluten, so that's been an issue. I'm really craving a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but can't find any GF bread that doesn't taste like wallpaper paste. I have some recipes for some but haven't had time to try them yet, but it's on my list.

What I have made are Oh She Glows' vegan and gluten-free graham crackers and some chickpea flatbreads (that didn't really work). I'm still looking for some bread-y type item to eat hummus with, but haven't found a good recipe. I'm still looking. And I can't choke down any more rice cakes after eating them as snacks during IMKS training.

Meanwhile, I have a freezer full of Bob's Red Mill gluten-free baking flours and starches and am learning about using them. More updates to come!

Friday, October 18, 2013

ENERGYbits review

As a person who eats a plant-based diet, people already think I eat strangely. If I had a dollar for all the times people ask me, "You don't eat eggs, EITHER?" or "So what do you eat?" I'm not sure what they expect me to say (dirt? grass? sticks? leaves?), but it's never what they think it's going to be.

So when I started taking algae tablets, I kept it to myself.

I got an offer to sample a new product, ENERGYbits, tiny little tablets of spirulina algae that are supposed to provide energy, endurance, balance blood sugar, lower blood pressure and reduce fatigue. They also are high protein and have only 1 calorie per tablet. It's recommended to take 30 bits before a workout for energy.

I have a testy stomach, so it took me a while to get up the courage to try them. I finally did before a mid-day 30-mile bike ride. I tried to be aware of how I was feeling on the ride. I felt like I had enough energy for the ride, but will admit I was slightly nauseated, but not uncomfortable. I think they will be great for me to use for workouts when I've already eaten, but I don't think that I could take them on an empty stomach before my early morning workouts. But that's just me.

The company's founder, Catharine Arnston, started the company after her younger sister developed breast cancer and was advised by her oncologist to change her diet to an alkaline one because it would help her heal. They learned that an alkaline diet is rich with green, alkaline foods (vegetables, greens) and absent of acidic foods (carbs, sugar, dairy, coffee, alcohol). Her sister changed her diet, and five years later is still cancer free. Catharine went back to school to study nutrition to spread the word about alkaline foods. She learned that algae was the most alkaline food in the world and founded ENERGYbits to make it easy to understand and use.

Now athletes are hearing the message. Professional and everyday athletes are now using ENERGYbits to maintain their energy and recover well. 

I'm interested in their RECOVERYbits to help recovery from hard workouts and to help build the immune system. 

Interested in trying ENERGYbits? The company is offering a 25% discount in October in support of breast cancer awareness. Visit and enter discount code "pink".

Algae has more chlorophyll than wheat grass, more beta carotene than carrots, more iron than spinach and more protein than steak. It also has over 60% protein, Omega 3 and forty vitamins and minerals. - See more at:
Algae has more chlorophyll than wheat grass, more beta carotene than carrots, more iron than spinach and more protein than steak. It also has over 60% protein, Omega 3 and forty vitamins and minerals. - See more at:
Algae has more chlorophyll than wheat grass, more beta carotene than carrots, more iron than spinach and more protein than steak. It also has over 60% protein, Omega 3 and forty vitamins and minerals. In fact, algae’s nutritional pedigree is so deep, there are 100,000 studies documenting its health benefits including its ability to improve mental focus, increase endurance, fuel athletic performance, reduce breast cancer and more. Just as impressive, algae helps reduce hunger, fatigue, blood pressure, depression, obesity and type 2 diabetes all without caffeine, sugar, gluten or drugs. All for one calorie per tab. - See more at:

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Hero Run half marathon

After the Hy-Vee Triathlon, I wasn't sure what was ahead for fall. I was pretty burned out from maintaining a heavy training volume over the summer up until Hy-Vee and really didn't want to be training for anything in particular. I had a couple of local half-marathons in mind that I might run if I felt like it, but since they were both on Sundays, it presented a logistical challenge.

On a Wednesday, I got an email from a local running shop that had an event calendar, and I saw that there was a half-marathon and 5K that Saturday in a small town about 40 minutes away near an Air Force base. I kept it in the back of my mind, thinking about my plantar fasciitis and lack of speedwork over the past month. On Friday night, I decided to run it.

Fueled up the next morning before a 40-minute drive. The race didn't start until 8, so that gave me plenty of time. It took 2 minutes to register and get my bib. There was no timing chip, just a tear-off strip on the bib.

The race was in a very small town in the town's big park and benefited the Wounded Warrior Project. There were American flags lining both sides of all four roads going around the park. The area is completely flat. The biggest limiting factor of the day (besides my foot) was the weather: 72F degrees and 100% humidity. Yuck.

We got a bit of a late start after a lot of pre-race ceremonies. A military Color Guard was there for the National Anthem, then someone sang "God Bless America." Then a young soldier with prosthetic legs told us how much he appreciated us coming out for the Wounded Warrior Project.

This was the kind of race where the walkers get up in front and no one tells them any differently, so I knew the first quarter mile or so would be crowded and potentially dangerous. I did my best to get through the crowd without too much weaving. We wound through some residential areas for a while before reaching the edge of town and officially landing in "the country." If you've ever been in southern Illinois, it pretty much looks the same: acres and acres of flat land with corn, soybeans and cows. And that was my scenery for the middle miles of the race.

The first 5.5 miles or so we were running into a headwind. The water stops were not placed regularly so it was hard to plan nutrition timing. My handheld bottle of Perform was leaking before the race so I didn't carry it. I had 6 ProBar Bolt chews with me and planned to take one with water every 2 miles. It didn't work out exactly, but I ended up eating 5 of them, took water at every stop, and warm, super-concentrated, disgusting Gatorade at one. My hands were swollen by 3 miles and stayed that way the rest of the race.

I could see the police car/lead car with the flashing lights, but it was hard to tell how many people were between it and me.  Around mile 4, I saw a woman running in front of me and decided to pass her. I did, and she really, really tried to keep up with me, but couldn't. At about the 5 mile mark, a police officer on the side of the road said to me, "You're in the lead." Whaaaat? I just said thanks. I could see a turnaround ahead (marked by a volunteer and spray paint on the road). I did the turnaround and headed back up the country road. Now, there was no breeze whatsoever -- just 100% humidity-full air and rising temperatures. Gross. But as I passed others heading toward the turnaround, people started saying, "great job, girl," "go girl," then "You're the first girl!". I probably heard it 200 times. A man was running next to me for a little bit, and he said, "That's got to be encouraging." I said, "Well, it is, but now I have to hang on." We weren't even at the 6-mile marker yet and it wasn't getting any cooler, so I knew it was going to be tough.

From this point I tried to keep a steady pace and take water and a ProBar chew at every water station. At one station I walked through to get two cups -- one to drink and one to pour over my head. Eventually we got closer to town, and I noticed some commotion behind me. A woman spectator said, "Be careful! There's a truck driving crazy behind you and he's trying to hit runners." I said, "Call the police!" She said something like, "Well, I don't know..." And I said, "Call the police!!" Turns out she didn't have to. Right after that the crazy driver drove up behind me on the left side and crossed onto the left side of the road where there were 3 police officers. He was yelling to them that "these runners don't have the right to run all over the road and spit in my car..." I just kept on going. I figured they would take care of him.

There was a male volunteer on the right side of the road, and he said, "You're the first female." I asked, "How far behind is the next one." He said, "Oh, you've got a good lead." I said thanks and kept going, but I wanted to say, "how much is that -- 30 seconds? 5 minutes? Help me out!"

Right after that we turned into a neighborhood, and I was running alone. Thankfully they had volunteers out to direct me, because otherwise I would not have known where to go. We came out of the shady neighborhood onto a wide-open street with no shade. I finally saw the 10-mile marker and thought, "I have three more miles of this boring, flat road!" But I kept on going.  As I got closer to the park, around 12 miles, there was a water stop, then shortly after that was a group with a couple of kegs of beer who were handing out beer. I saw they had big bags of ice and loose ice around the keg, so when they offered me a beer, I yelled, "ICE!" as loud as I could. A woman said, "we don't have any ice." I heard the guy who offered me the beer say, "yes, we do." But by this time I was well passed. A few second later I heard footsteps behind me, and they guy had a big mound of ice cupped in both hands for me. I thanked him profusely! I wanted to hold it in my hands to reduce some of the swelling. And I put some in my sports bra.

Again I was running alone, but I finally saw the flag-lined part of the street where we had started. We had to go all the way around the park, and it felt like forever. Finally I turned onto the part of the road that led to the finish chute. There were still 5K walkers coming in taking up the whole width of this road, so I had to politely tell them to get out of the way. Thankfully I knew the person who was running the race timing, so he knew that I was a half-marathoner, because no one else was prepared for me. Even the announcer didn't announce me as the first female -- he just said, "Here comes number 117!" I crossed under the finish arch and tore off my name strip from my bib to hand to the volunteer, who put it with the 5Kers. Then the race timer came up and told her I was a half-marathoner. I said, "Yes, I ran the half marathon." So they were very confused. Then I was handed a 5K medal.

Schenck Photo

I got a couple of bottles of water and a banana and cooled down a little bit. My friend at the finish line told me awards were at 11 a.m., so I had well over an hour to kill. Then went to my car to get my Vega Sport Recovery Accelerator, a Clif Bar and to put on my Zoot compression socks and my bag with stuff to do. I did go and get stretched by some chiropractors, who told me that my plantar fasciitis is caused by a tight soleus muscle in my calf.

Since this wasn't my part of town, I didn't know anyone there, so I found a picnic table and sat down to do some work while I waited. The awards ceremony was a bit anticlimactic since I didn't know anyone, and by this time, it was starting to rain.

All in all, my experiment to see how I would do in a half-marathon without a specific training plan paid off pretty well. Although my time was 5 minutes slower than what I ran at Columbus last year, I was still 4 minutes ahead of the second-place woman, who was the woman I'd passed early on. I saw her in the parking lot afterward  Her mother was the woman who warned me about the crazy driver, and told me she called 911 and heard later that the crazy driver got arrested. Mom also told me that this was her daughter's first half-marathon, then asked me how old I was, (!) and when I told her, mom, dad and daughter were all shocked (Like I have one foot in the grave already). Master's women can still win races!

But this one is not for me, it's for the wounded warriors like the young man who started the race.

Monday, September 2, 2013

HyVee Triathlon 5150 U.S. Championships

Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013, my triathlon career came full circle. As I mentioned in a prior post, several years ago, I saw a triathlon on TV that turned out to be the Hy-Vee Triathlon in Des Moines, Iowa. At the time, I didn't know what a triathlon was and had never seen one before. I was running, but had never considered a triathlon -- until that day. When I saw that race on TV, I knew I wanted to do it someday. 

That someday came yesterday. I qualified for a free entry at the Kansas 5150 triathlon in May by placing third in my age group. I also qualified at the St. Louis 5150 triathlon. 

We went to the expo Saturday where a 30-minute pre-race briefing was required before you could pick up your packet. 
 At the Expo, a HyVee Triathlon-wrapped Mini Cooper!
Last year's top three winners at the press conference Saturday (from left to right: Bevan Docherty, Greg Bennett, Javier Gomez, emcee, Lisa Norden, Emma Moffatt, Angela Naeth.

The week leading up to the race was in the upper 90s and very humid. I train in the heat and humidity so I wasn't too worried for myself since the race started early, but I'd still prefer cooler weather. That came courtesy of a thunderstorm from 4:30-6:30 a.m. race morning. The rain not only cooled things off, but also delayed the race by 45 minutes.

I arrived at the race venue at Gray's Lake early since we didn't know about the delay until we were already on the way from the hotel. I took a 20-minute nap in the car, then decided to head to transition. I had plenty of time to get my area set up, then walked the quarter-mile or so to the beach, where I had to wait another hour or so. It was chilly, but I didn't want to get in the water because then I'd have been really cold once I got out. The water was 85 degrees, so it was wetsuit-illegal.

 The transition area for the pros. Each had their own space with a flag representing their home country. No muddy field for them! 

 Greg Bennett's transition area. 

A better look at the transition area. On race day, each had a HyVee hand basket for their gear.

Ready to go!

The pro men and women were introduced and started swimming, then each wave went in 3-minute intervals. I was in the third-to-last wave, so I had a lot of time to wait. Finally, we were ready to go. I really didn't feel nervous like I used to because I know I can do it, but I was a little nervous about the swim, just because I don't like the contact sport of it. But, I held back toward the back of the group and did my best. I did my usual lifeguard-style swim at first, then started my usual swim. The first 1/4th-1/3rd was very crowded, and I found myself in a pack of several women, and we kept jockeying for position. I ended up stopping to let water out of my goggles and they got a bit ahead and spread out a bit. Then I had a lot of room to just do my swim. There were only 2 waves behind ours, then a 15-minute break, so there wasn't a ton of traffic. I did not freak out once. I stopped a few times and breaststroked just to get my bearings, but honestly, after it opened up, I felt fine. I'm not fast, but I felt confident -- even without a wetsuit! As I was running up the ramp from the beach, Dan was there and I gave him a high five!

The swim exit was kind of a long way from the transition area, so I had to run a long way, it seemed. The rain had made the transition area pretty muddy, so my feet were really gross by the time I got to my bike. I put my socks on anyway, got suited up, then ran the bike out. I was feeling good. I started eating ProBar Bolt Chews and drinking Ironman Perform. The rain had left some of the roads wet and slick, so when volunteers at those corners yelled out to slow down because of a slick turn, I obeyed. Turns out some of the pros and elites had crashed. The best part about the bike ride was that all of the roads were closed, so there was no traffic. It was relatively flat, though there were some hills, but not terrible. The worst part about the bike ride was the wind. It was brutal! We rode out by the airport, and there was nothing to block the wind. While I got over 30 mph on some of the flats, I was using everything I had to get up to 13-14 mph in the strong headwinds. It was Ironman Kansas 70.3 all over again!  I was happy that I ate all of my chews during the bike, though I didn't do as well with the Perform.

I finished the bike feeling pretty good. I racked my bike, changed my shoes, stuffed more chews and S caps in my jersey pocket, grabbed my handheld, then ran out. The run was an out-and-back on a path at first, then went out on to closed roads. There was a lot of support, water stops, sprinklers and LOTS of sun. The sun was in full force by this time, and I was glad I had sunglasses and a visor. At mile one, I looked at my Garmin, and it read 7:09. Hmm, a little too fast, but I felt ok. I took a chew and kept running. I kept going and saw a water stop approaching, so I stopped to drink a cup to wash down the chew. We ran past the Iowa Cubs stadium, and I noticed my hands were starting to swell (a recurring theme). I kept taking sips from my handheld with Perform, then walked through all the water stops.  Somewhere between mile 2 and the turnaround someone was handing out ice-cold towels. The problem was they were too short to tuck into my tri top and were dripping wet, so I kept it around my neck for as long as I could, then tossed it. At some point I took an S cap. At the turnaround I was feeling good, still, so just kept going, though walked through the water stops. We ran across a bridge, then I saw Dan and his brother, Tim. I gave Dan a high five, and he asked how I felt. I said good, though I was hot. I stopped to walk for a minute shortly after that. Between miles 5-6, the run wound through Gray's Lake Park, and it seemed like it took for-ever. Finally, we ran across some grass and came out onto Fleur Drive, where there were inflatable arches all along the road leading to the finish line. I finally saw a 6 in blue tape on the road, and was so happy. Point-two miles to go! I made a left turn and heard the announcer. I ran as hard as I could. There were big grandstands on the right and people everywhere. I made the last turn toward the finish line and heard the announcer say my name. I raised my hands in the air and crossed the line.
What a rush! And realization of a dream come true!

Afterward, I saw Dan and his brother, and gave Dan a BIG, long, sweaty hug. I was so happy!

Later I found out my times:
Swim: 36:41
T1: 3:21
Bike: 1:21:58
T2: 3:20
Run: 46:50
Finish: 2:52:08

Sadly, this was 16th in my age group. The top 15 qualified for next year's race. Shoot! But, still, my finish time was a 6-minute improvement over my time at St. Louis 5150. My swim improved by over 2 minutes, bike improved by 3, and run improved by several minutes. I didn't expect to place well at this race since it was a national championship, but at least I PRed and felt good, and that is what is important.

 We got some nice race swag! This is the front of the jersey we got instead of a T-shirt.

 This is the back of the jersey and the visor. We could choose between a visor and a hat.

We also got this nice backpack filled with all kinds of stuff: two bottles of Vitamin D, keychains, coupons, a can koozie, chap stick, a toy football, etc. 

Post-race food fest: a vegan bahn mi sandwich, fries and a pickle at Gateway Market in Des Moines. We also ate there Saturday night. I had vegan Pad Thai. I highly recommend Gateway Market -- it's a smaller version of Whole Foods, and has a delicious cafe!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

"I am" posters

I want to share this fantastic source of awesome posters. I had seen it on Swim Bike Mom's Facebook page, and wanted one for myself.
A graphic design firm called Tran Creative makes inspirational posters for athletes for the awesome price of.... free! All you have to do is like them on Facebook, then send them a photo of yourself and what you want the message to say, and a few weeks later, they post it on Facebook and tag you.

If you're not sure what you want to say, go to their Web site or Facebook page and see some of the ones they've done. They will really inspire you. I debated for a long time what to say on mine because I'm very private, but I decided to put it out there. Here is mine:

Here are the full instructions:
Get your FREE I AM poster. SHARE & INSPIRE the world. I AM is a campaign that celebrates life journeys.

Whether you're a 1K, 5K, 10K, 13.1, 26.2, 50K, 70.3, 140.6, or any other, each person has a unique story to tell (inspirational or would bring a smile to others). Be a part of the I AM community.

1. LIKE Tran Creative FB page
2. Message us your Headline & Photo (vertical)
3. Your City/State or Country (if outside of US)

The Tran Creative magic IAM app will create a personalized poster for you to share with family & friends, or use as your profile pix. We'll TAG you when it's ready in about 5 weeks. WHAT'S YOUR STORY? See the I AM video:

So if you're interested, do it! it's fun! 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

It's not always about the race

This post is overdue, but it has taken me about 10 days to process the outcome of my most recent race, the St. Louis 5150 (Olympic distance triathlon) the last Saturday in June.

I hadn't really planned to do the race, but I was feeling OK and wanted the practice of doing a full Olympic distance triathlon. I actually competed in the Kansas 5150 in May, but the swim was canceled due to lightning, so I missed out on that. I've done this race three times before, but this was the first year it was a true Olympic distance. It's always been a "Quartermax" (quarter Ironman) before: 1000 yard swim, 28 mile bike and 6.2 mile run.

I thought that my fitness would be good considering the St. Louis 5150 was 3 weeks post-Ironman Kansas 70.3. I was feeling pretty good, not as good as I did before IMKS, but pretty good considering.

The morning of the race I got up at 4:30, at my traditional toasted bagel, half with peanut butter, half with jelly, and some Ironman Perform drink. I left home at 5:05 a.m. for the 1-hour drive to Innsbrook Resort. I was calm, cool and collected, which is highly unusual for me pre-race, but since I knew this course, and wasn't really racing, I was ok.

The lake was 80 degrees, so no wetsuits for this one, and I was ok with it. Last year was not wetsuit-legal either, and I did fine. And the week before, I'd swam without a wetsuit at the open water swim practice, so I was confident. I got to warm up for a few minutes in the lake before the pros started. Finally the canon sounded for my wave. Although I struggled at bit at the beginning because I kept getting water in my goggles, it actually was the least stressful open-water swim I've ever had in a race. I felt really good, didn't panic at all and felt like I was making good progress the whole time. I passed a few people, and when I was passed, I tried to stay on their feet as long as I could. I reached the shore and started running up the long, grass-covered hill to the transition area.

I had a quick transition time, relatively, and headed out on a very hilly, very technical bike ride. The first part is a very steep uphill that many people have to walk their bikes up. Every year someone falls over because they start it too big of a gear. I've learned to keep it in an easy gear and glide on up. The route was a little different this year, but despite the hills and technicality, I made good time, I thought, with an average speed of 20.2 miles per hour. I even passed some men, and they didn't pass me back! There were three hills where people were walking their bikes up. These were mid-packers, not back-of-the-packers. I stopped at one point to make sure I didn't have a flat because I suddenly wasn't going anywhere fast!

I still felt pretty good when I started the run. However, the course was changed significantly this year to one that was even harder than before. We started out on hilly grass that had lots of holes and ruts. It was almost cross-country like. It was really hard. Then we got into the condos onto regular road until we got onto the gravel road. The course was one of the most difficult I've ever run on. I had to walk up two very long, steep hills. I had hoped to really blitz it out on the run, but the course was not allowing that. As I passed other runners, I got a lot of "great pace," "looking strong," "keep it up." As I neared the finish chute, I was back on the grass, and had to run up a couple of short, steep hills. I tripped, but didn't fall. I ran as hard as I could through the chute and to the finish line. I had no idea what my time was, but I felt pretty good about my performance.

I got some food and water and went back to my transition area to gather my stuff, and a woman came in on her bike and racked it near mine. She made a comment about how hard the bike course was, and I agreed. She then said, "I don't know if I can keep going." I said, "what do you mean?" she said she still had to do the run. I encouraged her not to quit, as the weather was beautiful and she'd already come this far. I felt bad for her.

I took my stuff to my car then walked back to get my receipt with my results. My swim time wasn't very good, but it includes the long run up to transition, so I was ok with it. My bike time was pretty good, though they had my avg. speed at 17.5. The run time was not good, but considering the circumstances, I was ok with it. But then I saw my placement in my age group (9th) and was devastated. Although I kept saying this was just for practice and I wasn't racing, I had really hoped to finish in the top 5 in my group. I was really discouraged. I got some more water, got in my car and drove home feeling really defeated.

Since then, I've talked with my two trusted advisers, one of whom was there watching his wife. He said there was nothing for me to be discouraged about, because he had learned the swim course was way long (over a mile), and the run course was just brutal. My other adviser said to consider that this was my third race in 6 weeks, and my body was probably really tired. This is really my first season doing solely triathlons, so I'm still learning how I recover. So I felt better.

So while it was a race, it was a learning experience in many ways -- my first real Olympic distance race, as well as one in which I set too high expectations for myself and disappointed myself. But, life goes on, and now I know three races in six weeks -- Olympic, 70.3, and Olympic -- is probably not the best plan for me.

What's next? I'm going to take some time to think about it while I train correctly for HyVee Triathlon in September.