Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Guest blog: Sue Linroth

Note from JZ: Sue Linroth is a mother of two living in Longmont, CO. In 2007 she learned to swim and started back to running after a decade long break. Already an avid cyclist, triathlon was a natural next step in her athletic progression. In 2008, Sue competed in her first triathlon and never looked back!

Faster at Fifty

I turned 49 today.  By triathlon standards, that means that in 4 months I will also be turning 50!   I don’t have any issues with turning fifty, other than I didn’t have a chance to be fast at forty. 

You see, I entered my first triathlon at 46.  Over the last couple of years I’ve done the requisite work:  weekly track sessions, consistent intervals on the bike and I’m a regular at Masters’ swim.   Admittedly, with solid, consistent training I have reached some significant milestones.  This year alone I’ve more than tripled my yardage in the pool, PRd in my Sprint Tri 5k time and just recently set a new record for time in the saddle.  I’ve achieved results that I never imagined.  I’m definitely faster than I used to be but I’ve often wondered “How long will it take for me to get… fast?”

I recently found myself in a conversation about this topic with my husband.  He asked me how I define fast. I didn’t have a ready answer.  He followed with another question:  “If you can’t define fast, then how can you expect to measure it, and how will you know when you get there?” 

After some significant introspection (not to mention a great degree of discomfort at not being able to answer this question), I came to the realization that for me, fast is not a number.  It is a state of being in a given moment, workout or race.  A place where you test your limits, push the comfort zone and come out the other side with something that is faster in a way that it hasn’t been previously.  According to my own definition I have in fact been fast in my forties!

I intend to carry this new perspective with me as I head toward the next season and into my new age grouping.   I plan to keep my sights firmly on my goals, push some limits and come out the other side.  I am also looking forward to setting some new PRs ---- (I may have been fast at forty, but I plan to be faster at fifty!)

Good luck Sue. I hope you achieve all your goals. All the best to you in your fifties!

Friday, August 26, 2011

USA Pro Cycling Challenge: Vail Time Trial

My friend Lara emailed a few weeks ago asking if I wanted to drive up to Vail to watch the time trial for the brand new Colorado bike race. I responded with an enthusiastic yes. What a terrific opportunity to observe the best cyclists in the world. I figured I could learn something useful, have fun, and see all of the latest gear. Plus, this legendary 10 mile time trial is entirely uphill and gains almost 2000 feet to the top of Vail pass. The altitude at the top is 10,000 feet. It was sure to be a suffer-fest for the flat-landers.
Vail is so quaint!
 The day did not disappoint. The venue was a spectacle. The day was postcard perfect, with bright blue sky and imposing mountains in the background. There were thousands of people milling about. An expo was set up touting the wares of the various sponsors. There was so much to see, it was almost overwhelming.
The expo area 

Can you believe this t-shirt cost $40?
A souvenir cow bell was handed out. What a coup! I love obnoxious toys.
I rang the cow bell all day! It never got old.

Baby Paige liked the cowbell too!
We navigated our way through the crowd, aimlessly looking for the start house. Nobody was able to give us concrete directions until we met Bob the Avon policeman. We asked him if he was hot in his uniform, because we were roasting in our shorts and t-shirts. He said he was extremely hot, especially since he was wearing a bullet proof vest. What? Should we have been concerned about safety issues?

Bob knew what was up!

 We found our way to the start house about 10 minutes before the first rider was set to go off. Somehow, we were able to weave our way through the crowd and get to the very front.
The first rider nervously awaited his start
 We saw the famous Paul Sherwin and Phil Liggett.
Paul Sherwin was a celebrity! People wanted pictures and autographs.

Phil and Paul did their race commentary near the start
The start of the race was incredibly exciting. The national anthem was sung and then the crowd went wild banging on the barriers and ringing their cowbells and counting down the seconds. This reception was given to every rider in the start house. Even though the riders kept a straight face, deep down I know they must have loved the noise. The first mile of the course was teeming with people. The energy was palpable. It was impossible not to get caught up in the momentum.

After the first 10 riders were off, we decided to make our way up the course. I tried to get some action shots, but it was a tough task. The riders flew by and were gone in a flash.

I did manage to catch a photo of this guy coming around the corner
It was interesting to look at the different bike set ups and bike positions. Most riders opted for a TT bike with a disc wheel. Some, however used a road bike with clip on aero bars and other chose a road bike without aero bars. While everyone did use some type of aero wheel, there was a wide variety in the wheel choice from somewhat aero to very aero. I mostly saw guys wearing aero helmets, but there were a few that used a traditional helmet.The bike positions were also very disparate. Some of the guys had atrocious positions and were moving all over the saddle. Other were clearly much more comfortable on a TT bike and looked smooth.

It was obvious who the contenders were.The top guys had a team car following them and the really top guys had a motorcycle with a cameraman hanging off the back as well. I am not sure what the poor saps without a team car were supposed to do if they flatted. Walk to the top of Vail pass with their bike slung over their shoulder? What a bummer that would be.

About 2 miles from the start house was the team staging area. This is where the team RV's were and where the riders did their warm up.
The BMC staging area
Look! It's George!

I was most impressed with the effort these guys put out on the day. After the previous stage with the two huge mountain passes, the legs of these riders were surely beat up. But, to their credit, they put it all out there. Their faces showed the pain and how much winning the stage or holding onto the yellow jersey or inner pride meant. It was inspiring.

It is hard to believe that bike racing at this level has been absent from Colorado for so many years. I hope this is the start of new tradition for bike racing in our great state.

Monday, August 22, 2011

AFC Half Marathon

San Diego truly is a lovely city. But, does it really deserve the moniker “America’s Finest City”? The organizers of the half marathon this past weekend seem to think so and use that slogan as the race’s namesake. Regardless of whether you agree with this bold appraisal of San Diego, this race was one of the finest I have participated in.

The course is challenging and scenic. Many of San Diego’s most popular tourist spots are featured. The race starts at Cabrillo monument and meanders through Point Loma. We then traversed Harbor Island, passed the airport, wandered through downtown and finished in Balboa Park.

Let’s talk about the finish in Balboa Park. It is home to the famous San Diego zoo, museums, and gardens. Here’s the catch. It is well above downtown; to get to the park one must go UPHILL to get there. So, at mile 11 of this primarily downhill and flat course, the road turns upward and stays that way for 2 miles. How inconvenient, one might even say inconsiderate! Even though I studied the course profile and am familiar with the streets of San Diego, the last 2 miles of the race were still a shock to the system.

 My race strategy was calculated in anticipation of this rude placement of such a steep incline. I had to run the first 10k fast and bank some time to make up for whatever I would lose on the uphill. This type of racing is counter to my usual “go out controlled” race plan.

I reached the 10k mark in 36:12 which is the fastest 10k I have run in as long as I can remember and I hit the 10 mile mark in 59:05. At mile 11, I was 65:05 and was thinking a sub 78 was possible. And then I hit the hill. I felt incredibly strong and ran it well, but, all I could manage was 6:30 pace for the next 2 miles (I felt better when I heard that the lead men went from 5:05 pace to 5:50 pace on that section). I did cross the line with a 35 second PR (78:26), which means this year I have shaved 60 seconds off of my half marathon time.

I was quite distressed, though, when I was running down the finish chute and I heard the announcer say “Here comes Joanna Zeiger. I recognize that form anywhere!” I know that this does not mean I looked smooth and gazelle-like, but rather, I looked like my regular spastic self. This is quite disheartening considering I have worked very hard on my run form with the hopes of eventually blending in.

I was lucky to receive an elite entry for this race. This afforded me two huge benefits. The course is point to point and all racers are required to take a bus from the finish to the start. Lining up with 8000 people can be chaotic, so I was incredibly relieved to find out that there was a bus for the elites leaving from the host hotel, which is closer to the start line. Yes!

That little perk was nothing compared to the private staging area with 3 porta-potties. That meant short lines and clean bathrooms that never ran out of toilet paper. After my experience at the Boulder 70.3 aid station, I will never take a clean porta-potty for granted. That particular porta-potty met with an unfortunate circumstance that to this day I cannot figure out how it happened. In fact, much discussion ensued amongst the volunteers, all of whom went to investigate, about how this occurred. Evidently, somebody had a very upset stomach and had terrible aim and ruined the porta-potty for the rest of the day. The point being, I really appreciated the presence of unsullied bathrooms, especially since we were at the start a full hour before the race began.

I have run 4 half marathons this year, 3 of them in San Diego. When it comes to racing, San Diego is America’s Finest City!

Monday, August 15, 2011

One year later

 It has been one year since I last competed in a triathlon. It is hard to believe how slowly and how quickly time has passed. My last race was Lake Stevens 70.3. It was not a banner day. Despite the pain from my rib injury, I hobbled through the race. I knew at the time that it would be my last triathlon for a long while, so I decided that I would finish slowly rather than not finish at all. After the race, I spent a month on the couch recovering both mentally and physically before beginning a long journey of doctor visits and physical therapy.

This past year has been one of change, introspection, patience and flexibility. I have altered my expectations as an athlete and redefined my role in the sport of triathlon.

No longer a triathlon competitor, I continue a very active involvement in the sport as a coach, writer, and educator. I avidly peruse results, stay up to date on technology, learn about new races, and keep informed about rules changes. I take my job as a coach very seriously so I continue to be a student of the sport; athletes look to me to achieve success and I do not want to fail them. As well, with my long history of ailments, I can almost always find a solution to an athlete’s problems. Cheering from the sidelines is not as hard as I anticipated.

In terms of training and racing, my year has taken a very interesting turn. I am a Masters runner with a very concrete goal of qualifying for the marathon Olympic Trials. Training has changed markedly. I run with the Running Republic of Boulder. In the past, I ran mostly alone, whereas now, I almost always have a run buddy (especially since if I cannot find a human, Diesel the dog, is always a willing and able partner). The workouts are completely different than anything I have done in the past – they are longer, harder, and far more taxing. Indeed, in the beginning I was getting a touch of workout anxiety, wondering if I could complete such rigorous training. My confidence in running has grown tremendously this year, although I still worry about getting dropped on the long runs. And, I am continually humbled by the ageless 47 year old Colleen DeReuck who kicks my butt on a regular basis (how on earth can she get that far ahead of me in just 60 seconds???).  I have toed the line at races I would have balked at in the past, and have a lot of fun doing so.

Flexibility and patience. I have been notoriously poor at both. My rib injury still plagues me and so, in order to train at the level I aim for, I have made certain modifications. For instance, I have gotten out early for more swim workouts this year than in my entire career previously. I learned that if my rib hurts in the pool, I must get out lest I make it worse. I cut run workouts short. I take unexpected days off to let a rib flare up calm down. I manage the pain most of the time, but it takes a lot of effort to do so and I cannot relent on physical therapy, stretching and gym work. I am "patiently" waiting for this injury to finally go away.

It is never easy to redefine yourself, especially when something has characterized you for many years. I realized that finding other tangible goals has eased the transition. We are always evolving; it is up to us to keep up.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Boulder 70.3

Yesterday I volunteered at the Boulder 70.3. This is totally unremarkable, except for two things: 1. I had never worked at a triathlon prior to yesterday and 2. I was pressured into working the aid station by Coach Darren, as I was not feeling up to the task of attending a triathlon. I had serious trepidations about going to the race. I did not think I was emotionally ready to watch a triathlon. 

My initial fears about my mental status were unfounded. I had fun handing out ice and water and hanging out with my running group. I actually felt somewhat like a hero, giving the athletes much needed relief from the heat of the day. Their downtrodden faces lit up when I yelled “Ice” and they eagerly came over to grab a cup, or have it dumped into a hat or shirt.

Working the aid station allowed me a whole new perspective on the racing scene.

  1. When I first started racing, there were very few options in attire. Mostly, people wore bathing suits. I remember one particular race in which the run went through a quiet neighborhood. I recall thinking to myself, “Wow, we really look ridiculous running down the street half naked in our bathing suits.” The men, especially, in the just their Speedos. Nowadays, the clothing options are plentiful and that was abundantly clear yesterday. Most athletes were wearing colorful tri tops with tri shorts, many sporting their club logos. Lots of people wore arm coolers. Except for two women who were kickin’ it old school and wore a standard bathing suit.
  2. People were so incredibly polite. I heard “thank you” and “thanks for being here” more times than I can count. The athletes were orderly at the aid station when they came through in groups. I did not see a single discourteous person the entire time I was there. 
  3.  Triathlon truly has a “finish or die” attitude. I arrived at the aid station around 11 am. The athletes coming through were mostly walking and they were on their first loop. They still had 7 miles to go! The people who gutted out the heat or lack of fitness or poor nutrition, I say kudos. To the individual who walked the entire run with a boot on her foot, I ask, “why?” As someone pointed out at the aid station, it’s not like this race comes around every four years!
  4. Speaking of nutrition, it is very clear that most people do not take enough salt. I saw hundreds of uniforms mottled with salt stains. People were gray in the face, cramping, hunched over, and looking pretty bad. 
  5. We went through a tremendous number of cups, bags of ice, bottles of water, Gatorade and cola, bananas, gels, bars and pretzels. One racer even asked for a piece of pizza that was provided for the volunteers. Of course, we obliged him. Triathlons truly are a moving feast.
Who doesn't love pizza and Gatorade 12 miles into a 70.3?

On another note, I rode a friend’s mountain bike to race. It was my first time on a bike in 6 months. On the way down, I thought to myself, “This isn’t too bad. Maybe I will start riding again.” On the way back, I thought to myself, “This really sucks. I can already feel my ribs and I am getting very uncomfortable.” So, it looks like my hiatus from riding will extend even further.

Congrats to everyone who raced yesterday.