Viroqua Triathlon Race Report

Ok, Viroqua Triathlon race report. I’m going to try to keep this short because I’m pretty tired and I got stuff to do. Got up at 4:30 in the morning (a time I’ve concluded should not exist) after a few hours of fitful sleep, ate a poptart, and dragged out of the house by a few minutes after 5. I’m glad I took extra time to pack everything up and put my bike in the car the night before, because triathlon requires so much gear and preparation that trying to do it at 4:30 would have led to me driving off sans helmet or something terrible like that. I had actually planned to leave the house by 5, assuming the drive was 90 min, so I would arrive by 6:30. The drive was actually longer than that, and I had to stop for gas. It got a bit nerve-wracking, actually. I was just pulling into the outskirts of Viroqua (a town with a “watch out for horse-drawn buggies sign on the main drag, as well as actual horse-drawn buggies galloping along) at 7.

At 7:10, I arrived at the pool. There were a few bike racks set up, so I dropped my bike off and ran inside, where no one seemed too concerned that we were 20 minutes away from the beginning of the race. Packet pickup went quickly enough, and I changed into my swimsuit and set up my transition area in about 15 minutes total for all three activities, so that by 7:28 I was standing on the deck of the pool. I was in the first wave of swimmers (at the time, I assumed that this was because I registered super early so I couldn’t convince myself not to do the tri. More on this later though.). We were assigned two to a lane in a really nice six-lane pool. I was in lane 1, and it was really wide—we probably could have gotten another person or two in without issue. The way the pool was set up, there was a wall with an opening in it that led to a shallower area (probably for water aerobics), and consequently the pool was super warm, at least in comparison to the pool I usually swim in, which is kept at 81 degrees. So everyone gets in the pool, the lane counter explains how everything works—eighteen laps, I’ll signal when you have one more using a kickboard and then signal when you’re done, have fun and good luck. I was a little nervous, suddenly feeling unsure about decisions like wearing my earplugs in the pool, wearing my watch, signing up for a tri when I’m obviously not a triathlete. . . . Pretty normal pre-race jitters, I guess. A few minutes after 7:30, the race director got on the microphone and talked and then we started.

Because of the nerves, I was feeling out of breath by the time I got to the end of the first lap (unusual for me). I guess I was probably pushing the pace, and also trying to do flip turns, which is always a bit stressful in a new pool. I consciously slowed myself down, focused on my stroke, and decided to stop with the flip turns for the time being. Things improved. By the time I hit nine laps, I was really moving—I passed the guy who was sharing the lane with me. I felt like I was flying, super aerodynamic despite the watch. I finished the swim in 17:24.3, the second fastest swim split!

Transition was run out the door and down to the transition area, dry off as fast as you can, regret the choice to try to put on tight spandex tri shorts over wet legs, hop about like an idiot, make sure your ear plugs get into your bag of stuff, grab the bike, duck underneath the rack of bikes because I don’t really know what the hell I’m doing, and sprint for the exit. 2:53.8. I think this is comparable to other tris I’ve done. (Actually, I just looked it up, my first transition in my first tri was 5:05, but I had to take off my wetsuit and I dropped my chip and all kinds of terrible stuff. I apparently didn’t blog about my other tris.)

The bike course was really pretty amazing. The first five miles were mostly downhill with a few rolling hills I was able to get up without issue. I knew ahead of time that there were only two really serious hills on the course. The first came a bit before mile 10, I think. According to MapMyRide, it was a 4.3% grade, which is pretty steep but not as steep as the hill I do hill repeats on. I knew it was going to be trouble when I was listening to the RD give me a description of the bike route, and when he said, “And then you turn left on Helgerson Road,” some guy standing behind me said, “Oh man, we have to go up Helgerson Hill?” Hills that have names are not fun hills. In person, it seemed very, very steep, that kind of lung-sucking climb that makes you grab the handlebars of your bike and bend over and just gasp to try to get through it. Sitting up straight is a better strategy though. Also, as I slowed down, a gigantic cloud of bugs came to attack me. Awesome. The second hill was longer but less of a climb (1.9%) and I went up it without any issues—it was actually almost fun compared to the first hill. As I was just getting to the base of the second big hill, some of the first sprint racers started to catch me. One asked if I was in the Oly. I said yes and that it was nice to see someone, since I’d been basically alone for the last ten miles. She mentioned that there were only six people doing the Oly, and only two women (so that was why I was in the first wave). I knew the other woman had gotten out of transition a few seconds before I did and was really fast on the bike, since I hadn’t seen her since. So at that point I knew I was basically racing for second place. Maybe she would have a bad run and I’d be able to catch her.

The best part of the bike was going past all these little small-town Wisconsin buildings. I passed a very small white clapboard church with a steeple, and a small graveyard behind it. It was like biking through Our Town. As I crested a hill, a flagger shouted to me, “Don’t worry, it gets better from here!” and then added, as I was almost out of earshot, “And then it gets worse again.” An accurate description of life. I finished the bike in 1:23:31, a pace of 16.8 mph if you believe their course measurement of 23.41 mi, and slightly slower if you go with the 20 miles my watch measured it at. Yes.

T2: Put on your shoes, blow your nose, remember to take off your helmet and go. 1:48.5.

As I was coming over the last small hill on the bike course, I’d seen the lead woman who was quickly overtaking the kid I’d shared a lane with (the run shared the same road as the bike course). She was really moving, so I knew I wasn’t going to catch her. At the same time, I’d passed another woman who was doing the Oly (turns out there were more than two of us) at around a mile into my run, so I had to push it a little to make sure I didn’t get caught myself. The run was a 10k on an out-and-back course—it ran almost entirely downhill to the turnaround, and almost entirely uphill back to the finish. I feel like I’ve learned two things from ultra running—the first is, always stop to fix small problems before they become big ones. And the second is, run with the terrain when you can, because it will totally turn against you. So I did the first 5k really fast, I think I was running 8:30s. The turnaround was a guy sitting on the bed of his pickup with his puppy. I got a glass of water from him and headed back. I passed the other runner who was on her way out to the turnaround and we attempted to high five. I cheered on a lot of the last few bikers and told them they were only a mile from the finish, and they cheered for me. It was cool and overcast, and the rolling fields and small houses made it feel like a Grant Wood painting. I slowed down to a 9:10ish pace on the way back because of the hills. With about one mile to go, my legs were pretty done. But then I got a little more downhill and made a respectable finish. Run time was 55:14; total time was 2:40:52, well below my goal of three hours.

My awesome post-race selfie, for those (Mom) who didn't see it on FB.
My awesome post-race selfie, for those (Mom) who didn’t see it on FB.

It turns out that there were in fact seven athletes who competed in the Olympic tri, five women and two men. The lead guy was out of the pool and out of transition before I managed to get to transition, so I never even saw him—he finished in 1:59:xx. The last woman, who must have been so far back I don’t even know if she’d started the run by the time I finished it came in at 4:04:xx. The age groups wound up a bit weird (why was it Men 20–29 but Women 26–35?), but I was the only woman in my age group and consequently got a medal. Overall I finished fourth of seven participants and the second woman of five. The woman who beat me did the swim in almost exactly the same time (she was a few seconds slower than I was), then did the bike in 1:11 and the run in 44.5 minutes. So clearly there’s something to aspire to.

And that’s it. I had a sweet roll from a local bakery, put my stuff back in the car, and drove to Green Lake for my husband’s family’s family reunion. Conclusions: All the time I spent doing 5×100 at I-want-to-die speed in the pool paid off. I should have spent more time pushing myself to go faster on the bike and working on hills instead of just training for distance. Running track has helped me keep my speed decent, despite the high training volume; my legs felt good and I think I would have been faster in a non-tri race. I can’t say I was sorry to get up this morning and “only” run without having to do a brick (a workout where one does at least two of the three tri disciplines), but I’ll miss some of the variety of triathlon training as I transition to getting ready for my last big race of the year, the Antelope Island 50k. Of which more later, because this “short” race report is now suddenly 1,800 words and I need to go make myself some dinner and maybe walk the dogs. Thanks for reading!

Em oi! #384: Stages of Thesis


The past two weeks have been a bit stressful. At the beginning of the summer, when it became apparent that I was not going to finish in time to defend at the end of spring term, I set August 9th as my official personal deadline for completing the draft of my thesis. Around the same time, B accepted a role in a play (The Merchant of Venice) that was set to perform the weekend before my deadline, meaning that we had dinner with several relatives that weekend. I also went to the show twice. It was a great performance, but that’s still a loss of time.

We also passed an unhappy personal anniversary on August 3rd. And finally, for reasons that I swear seemed reasonable at the time, we decided to start looking for a house.

Anything else? Yes. I hurt my foot and had to take a week off running at the time I most needed to be able to run.

That’s actually the whole reason I drew this comic. I wanted to blog about my plantar fasciitis.

I’m not really sure what happened. My pet theory is that getting a huge bruise on my shin at Dances with Dirt made me roll in a weird way during aikido the next week. This probably put more strain on my plantar fascia and led to the injury.

After swimming seven miles per week for two weeks, I finally saw my sports medicine guy last Monday (the 5th) and got a diagnosis. The sheet the guy gave me said “limit running,” but not no running, so with the help of a pair of orthotics, I’ve been running about every other day since then, a total of maybe 30 miles last week. (That figure includes time on the elliptical, though.)

I can’t tell if my foot is doing better than it was last Sunday. I did just spend seven and a half hours over the past three days at an aikido seminar (my present to myself for finishing the thesis) and it didn’t fall off. Conversely though, it doesn’t feel amazing after all that. The weather changing a lot today was a confounding factor too.

I am trying to put into practice some of the zen techniques I learned at my seminar, but it’s hard. I have difficulty just relaxing and waiting until I get better. (Obviously, right? Because I am still running.) I think the problem is, you can’t just force yourself to be calm. You can’t force yourself to find enlightenment.

But, as they say, you can clean up your room. You can open the window and sit. And when the breeze comes through, you can notice it.

So I will clean up my room. Not just so I can sit, but because we have to sell the condo now.

This is wandering a bit. I hurt my foot but I finished my thesis. Yay.

I’ll file this one under LB2385 L86 2013 for Theory and practice of education–Higher education–Academic degrees-M.A..

Em oi! #364: I Have this Talk with Myself Every Day

Once in the Orlando Airport B looked in my bag for a pen. He was baffled by the array of writing instruments he found there.

“I have one that I use,” I told him, “But then I brought a backup.”

“And what are the other seven?”

“Backups for the backup? Also what if I needed a different color?”

Now when I sit down in class and pull out the pens I need (typically at least two felt-tip pens, a pencil, and two highlighters) I think of that conversation.

The word for pen (ปากกา) was, incidentally, the first word I learned in Thai.

I’ll file this under RC569.5.H63 L86 2012 for Internal medicine—Neurosciences. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry—Psychiatry—Psychiatric aspects of personality and behavior conditions—Other personality disorders, behavior problems, situations, etc., A-Z—Hoarding. Compulsive hoarding.

Yesterday I biked 65 miles, so today I was a bit stroppy and moody. This is somehow related to a number of factors, including how much I worked yesterday and how much I ate and slept. I’m not really sure how to avoid it, but I’m trying to figure it out. Anyway, I decided I was unfit for public company and, after class, took myself home. I made a quiche for dinner and napped, then went to the gym to swim. The Aqua Zumba people were at it, so I got shoved into the wall side of lane four (see diagram). The guy I was splitting the lane with (I’ll call him angry green shorts man) was swimming a lot faster than I was, and between his passing and the aquarobics going on, it was about as much fun as swimming in a washing machine. I kept getting whanged up against the concrete, and now I am all scraped up. Also Aqua Zumba finished at the same time that I had to go change to meet B for lifting, so they were all in the showers and I didn’t get a shower.

But then while I was waiting for B, I jumped on a dreadmill and managed half a mile (in 7 minutes, or a speed of about 4.5 miles per hour). The only special thing about this is that my leg didn’t hurt at all, and afterward my muscle didn’t start to cramp up like it did the last time I did a run of any significant length. So that’s something! It is not much but it is a starting point. Maybe I can stop freaking out and start building back slowly.

Anyway so that’s the news. Now I have a bunch of Thai homework to take care of, so I will take my leave of you, kind readers.

Em oi! #363: Picking a Lane at the Pool: An Illustrated Guide

I have been logging a lot of time at the pool lately (14,300 yards total last week alone). I think I mentioned last week that there is something wrong with my leg*, and so I am temporarily off running for a bit. This is driving me crazy. I was already pretty depressed by the time I got to the PT, and then he said something like, “Take two weeks off, and then you can go back to running two days a week.”

WELL. I mean, I went to the PT for an aggressive plan of treatment that could get me back into shape fast so I could start training for my damn marathon. So I guess I was disappointed with his advice. I didn’t tell him this though, because I was upset, and I know from experience that if you show you are upset in front of a medical professional, they will write in your file things like, “Shows inappropriate emotional reactions.” I don’t even know what that really means, but I have a feeling it isn’t a good thing to have in your record. So instead of telling Mr. PT that I wasn’t satisfied, I did the following:

  1. Hid my feelings.
  2. Went to the pool.
  3. Cried while swimming laps.

No one can tell you’re crying when you’re swimming. It is a perfect solution. Well, ideally not crying would be a better solution, but sometimes it’s unavoidable.

Anyway, yesterday B sent me a link to this TED talk. He was really sending it to a friend of ours who suffers from various chronic pains and PTSD from a term of service in IRAQ (that’s some serious shit, yo), but I immediately seized on this as a method for making myself happier despite the injury and attendant stress. And so everyday I think about what might help me get a little bit better, a little stronger. Everyday I try to notice how far I’ve come from the day three weeks ago when I had to cut my run short because my SI joint was stuck and running was just too painful. Also everyday I do things that make me happy and reduce my pain, like eating half a loaf of focaccia (oops), a mango, or doing my PT exercises (somewhat more usefully).

It doesn’t hurt that the exercises are working and every day I am feeling less pain and my gait is getting stronger. I hope I will be back to running very soon.

Clearly, this gets filed under GV838.53.S85 L86 2012 for Recreation. Leisure—Sports—Water sports—Swimming, diving, lifesaving—Special topics, A-Z—Swimming pools.

*The PT thought it was a “strain,” which is actually not, as it sounds, a mild case of overdoing it. Strain, in medical terminology, refers to a torn muscle–in other words, you really fucked up. I do not think I have strained my leg, based on how much it hurt during the course of the injury and a lack of precipitating circumstances but WHATEVER I AM NOT A PHYSICAL THERAPIST I GUESS.

Em ơi! #317: Highlights From My First Triathlon

Sorry about the sketchiness/relative badness of the art on this one.  I have not had what could be referred to as “free time” lately.

So, the triathlon.  When I first started running, I was kind of overweight and not really very good at it.  In my first 5k, which I ran with my brother Daniel, his then-girlfriend Claire (I may have mentioned them once or twice), and a couple friends of theirs, I finished almost last.  Not just last in my division, but last.  It was great in some ways, because it was a lot of fun to run with everyone, but coming in so close to the end was a bit humiliating.  I didn’t run another race for about two years.

I’ve since got to be a much better runner and recently I’ve been placing in the top 20 in my division and much nearer to the top overall.  People who have met me AFTER a lot of weight loss and hardcore training seem to have this idea of me as a natural athlete, and that just isn’t the case.  I always remember where I used to be…and sometimes, I get to revisit those times.

All in all, I didn’t have a terrible race (except for the swim portion, which was terrifying).  I inhaled about half the lake, and coughed for the rest of the day.  Despite this, I did finish.  Will I do another?  I don’t know.  I might.  I’m off swimming for a while and just relaxing before I have to throw myself into marathon training in earnest.  Of course, the purpose of a race is not to win, and how I placed is largely unimportant compared to how I felt during the race.  But this was definitely a challenge.  I still have somewhat mixed feelings about it.  Glad I tried it though.

I should add that in panel 3, that orange pyramid is the buoy I’m supposed to be swimming toward.  Panel 5 did actually happen.  And I did actually shout “REALLY?”  The guy holding the flags to direct us all around the turns didn’t seem to get it.

Here are two photographs Bryan took of me, one before the race, one after the swim portion.  For two more fun photos, click the “photos” link at the top of this page and put in my number (1354).

Continue reading “Em ơi! #317: Highlights From My First Triathlon”