Sunday, August 29, 2010

Race Report: Portland Century Ride

The Scene: Wednesday night dinner with corporate executives.  Less than 3 days to the event.  Several glasses of wine into the evening.
Manager who shall remain nameless: "Sarah, what are you doing on Sunday?"
Me: "Running or biking maybe.  At least, I should.  Maybe I'll do nothing."
Him: "Want to do the Portland Century?"
Me: "Okay."
Him: "So-and-so (another manager who shall remain nameless) can't make it and I don't want to ride by myself."
Me: "Okay."
Him: "I think it's flat.  A couple of hills in the middle, but mostly flat."
Me: "Okay."
Him: "Seriously?"
Me: "Sure."
[Stunned looks all around.  I smile and nod and take another sip of wine.]

The scene: 05:00 on Thursday morning.  In bed.  With a slightly throbbing head and a very parched mouth.
Me: "Uh oh."
Husband: "Are you okay honey?"
Me: "I have to ride 100 miles on Sunday."
Husband: "This Sunday?"
Me: "Yep."

[Cackles of laughter fill the room.  I pull up the website and check out the course.]
Me: "Uh oh."
Husband: "Are you okay honey?"
Me: "There is 6000 feet of climbing."
[More cackles.]

Date: August 22, 2010
Course Description (from race site):
This is the route that sparked the ride: a century that's all about Portland, from start to finish. For the most part it's a flat loop but the hills, and some of the greatest parts of the ride, come around Bull Run (Portland's drinking water source). This is extreme climbing with fast descents on narrow, winding roads. You'll want to take those descents slowly, even if you're an experienced rider, for the sake of safety.

Fast forward to Sunday morning...  I wake up at 04:30, because I have to be downtown by 06:00 and I have yet to get my bike ready, mix bottles, or even determine if I have clean tri shorts and sports bra.  I grimace when I realize that I haven't been on my bike since Vineman.  Race stickers and crusted gel drippings are all over everything.  I enlist Ken to help me clean the bike, pump tires, and load the car.  He's not amused.  I try on a few outfits, but everything seems to have shrunk in the wash.  Uh huh.  I settle on head-to-toe Ironman garb.  I might as well look the part.

I meet up with Mr. Nameless at the starting line.  It's still pretty dark, so we hang out with a cup of coffee and small chatter.  I keep hoping that a tornado or some other natural disaster will hit Portland and the ride will be called off.  No such luck.  Shortly after 06:00 we roll out.  At like 19-20 mph.  Oh dang.  This is going to hurt.  The first few miles are fast and furious.  But Mr. Nameless has only ridden 45 miles in one shot.  Ever.  I know that if I can just hang on for the first half, the second half will be easier.  Once we get out of town, we hit a bit of a headwind.  And a slight, but very steady, incline.  My bike computer wasn't working.  Which was a good thing, because it turns out that we were working incredibly hard to muster all of 14 mph.  Push, push, push for the next 20 miles.  We come into the first aid station and I'm wiped out.  I eat 3 or 4 cookies.  But I turn down one of these awesome looking pound cake delights:
Shortly after the stop, we hit a big climb.  Mr. Nameless turns out to be a good climber and dusts me.  I think how cool it would be to grab onto the side of a passing car and get pulled up the hill.  Like they do in New York city.  Unfortunately, there is no traffic out by Estacada early on a Sunday morning.  I take a breather at the top and pull out the course map, expecting to see that I've conquered the first big hill.  In reality I had just huffed and puffed my way up a tiny blip on the elevation profile.  My heart sinks.  I mentally kick my own ass for getting so out of shape in such a short time frame.

The middle part of the ride is sort of a blur.  There were more rest stops with more cookies.  And a lot more hills.  Big hills.  I had to take a lot of breaks, and then had to frantically try to clip in when I got going again.  I zig-zagged when I could.  I never walked though.  And I cried once.  But only once.  And then Jenn sent me a motivational text message and inspired me to put on the big-girl panties.  I finally made it to the top of the last hill, let out a whoop, and then flew down the most awesome of awesome downhills.  At like 50+ mph.  I passed dozens of people.  Some tried to hang on behind me, but nobody could.  This is why I ride!  (And this is why I need to switch up my gearing before IMCdA...)  I made it to the aid station outside of Troutdale at Blue Lake park and was reunited with Mr. Nameless GoodClimber.  I ate a huge slice of greasy pepperoni pizza.  It turned out to be magic pizza.

We hit Marine Drive and were smacked in the face with a typical Marine Drive headwind.  The wheels fell off my partner, but I got my second (fifth?) wind.  Bring it on!  I was able to pull my weight on this stretch, and gladly took the lead.  The course had merged with the 50-mile route, and there were a lot more riders on the road.  A lot more riders to hunt down.  The last rest stop was around mile 90, just off Marine Drive next to Smith and Bybee Lakes.  Almost there!
The last 11 miles pretty much followed the Portland Marathon route.  It was fun to reminisce and think back on the memories of my first marathon.  And know I would be running these same streets in less than two months.  Whoops!  Snapped back to reality!  I better start training...  We cross over the Steel Bridge back into downtown, weave through the city streets, and FINALLY climb back up to PSU.  Out of nowhere the finish line appears and we're done.  Yeah!!!
A few beers and lots of traffic later, I'm home and ready for a bath and my jammies.  It's all I've been thinking about for the last few hours.  I climb out of the car, walk up the front door, and go to stick the key in the lock.  Except there is no house key on my key chain.  And Ken is in Hood River for the day.  And we don't have a spare key hidden anywhere.  I do, however, have a garage door opener.  And homebrew on tap in the garage.  So I pour a fourth beer, which is about 3 over my limit, and fall asleep in the patio chair.  I wake up to Ken coming home, with crusted drool on the side of my face, and a horrible kink in my neck.  Less than an hour later I'm clean and cozied up in my jammies.  And feeling very accomplished for the day.

Race Report: Haulin' Aspen Half Marathon

A few weeks ago, but seemingly months ago, I headed to Bend, OR with my home girl Angie for a little running and a whole lotta shopping and relaxing.  The pseudo-destination was a trail marathon put on by Fresh Air Sports, 99% on dirt trails through the high-desert manzanita brush, old growth forests, and refreshing creek beds.  The real destination was a girls-only weekend far away from reality.

Date: August 8, 2010
Time: I don't even know!  Or care!  Somewhere north of 3 hours.

Pre-race routine:
We headed over to Bend on the morning before the event (about a 2.5 hour drive), and then spent about 6 hours shopping and hanging out in downtown.  Cute boots, yummy meals, coffee stops, and tons of laughter filled our day.  In the evening we checked out beach cruiser bikes from our hotel (The Oxford, awesome place and highly recommended!), cruised around the neighborhoods, ate more yummy food, and got caught in a weird classic car show in the middle of town.  We topped off the day with a soak in the jacuzzi and indulging in reality television.  It might not sound like it, but it was the perfect day.
Race morning:
We went down to the hotel restaurant and consumed enough food for like six people.  No joke.  Clearly we weren't all that nervous about the run.  And there was no reason to be.  We had already decided that we weren't out there to race.  Or even to really run all that much.
Once at the race site, we did the typical routine of standing in porta-potty lines and trying to stay warm.  The full marathon start went off and then we mosied on over to the start line.  When the horn sounded, we sauntered on over the trail and took off at like a 15 minute mile.  Nice and easy.
The race:
Dust!  Elevation!  I was so out of breath in the first few miles that I was wondering if we should maybe switch to the 7-mile course.  I'm glad that we didn't, because it was a beautiful trail that I never would have seen otherwise.  And we had twice the time to catch up on months of back-logged girl talk.  I think we probably walked about half the course, often forgetting that we were in a race and not out on a leisurely Sunday hike.  Fun!

Too much time has gone by, so I'm having a tough time recalling all of the details.  The majority was single-track with moderate climbs and some tricky descents.  A few miles were uphill on an old fire road.  And I managed to find every single hidden rock and root on the path.  I should seriously consider investing in a mouth guard, face mask, and padding for trail running.

As is common with a trail race, the aid stations were spaced pretty far apart.  But they were well stocked and the volunteers were awesome.  The trail was very well marked, but it would be nice to have a few more mile markers along the way.  Overall, I have no real complaints.
The finish:
Sweet after party!  My limited experience with trail marathons is that they are low-key, no frills, and more about the experience of running instead of the glory of the finish line.  Almost to the point of being a let down when you're done.  Haulin' Aspen strikes a nice balance between that and the sensory overload of road races.  There was good looking food (I'm sure it tasted good too, but we weren't hungry yet), tasty beer, music, and an ice-cold creek for rinsing off in.  Since this is a point-to-point race, you need to take a shuttle back to the starting line to retrieve your car.  The shuttle vans were running regularly and we didn't have to wait at all to catch a ride.  I think they have the logistics nailed down now.
Yeah, I would do this one again.  In fact, I think we already set a date to be there again next year.  Can't wait!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

She's Crafty

To see all things non-tri related that I feel like sharing with the world, go HERE.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Gear Review: Cobb Saddle V-Flow Plus

I've written about my new Cobb saddle in a couple of other blog posts (here and here), but I'm finally ready to do an official review of it.
The details...
Manufacturer: Cobb Cycling
Model: V-Flow Plus
Price: $149.99
Return policy: 6-month guarantee (you can't beat that!)

Testing terrain: trainer rides, road rides from 30-60 miles, and one half ironman.

Why I chose Cobb: It was a no-brainer that I needed a new saddle, but the options on the market are overwhelming.  I had heard of Cobb saddles mentioned in the triathlon world and decided to call them and get some info.  After one conversation with Ginger Cobb, I was sold.  She asked me important questions like body type, weight, bike model, how aggressive of a position I ride in, what I'm looking for in a saddle, etc.  She made a couple of suggestions, recommended a style, and gave me John Cobb's cell phone number in case I had any issues with installation.  A couple of days later I came home to the package on my door step.

Each saddle comes with an installation video, a list of fit tips, and a tool kit.  In less than 5 minutes, this baby was mounted in my Cervelo ready to ride.  Yes, less than 5 minutes!  I had my husband help me take the measurements (it's easier to have another set of hands), but installing the saddle onto the bike was cake, and very easily can be done on your own.

My thoughts...
Fit: Pure comfort.  Every single mile.  Even on multiple days in a row.  Even in a half-ironman being soaking wet and 95+ degree heat.  No chaffing, no rubbing on the inner thigh, no horrifying soft tissue pain, and no numbness.  The width of the V-Flow Plus is perfect, although I wouldn't complain if it were even a tad narrower.  The nose is nice and squishy, but not overly plush  In fact, I hardly even knew it was there except for when I went super-aero and scooted forward onto the nose.

Style: Yes, style matters.  And this is a pretty sweet looking product.  It looks just different enough that it stands out.  And it ups the "awesome factor" on my ride.

Durability: Granted, I've only put a few hundred miles on it so far, but it still looks brand new.  I have the black, so I'm not sure how the white would hold up.  My guess is that it's comparable to any higher-end saddle on the market.

Overall opinion...
1) Their customer service is amazing.  And with their comfort guarantee, it's zero risk to give them a shot.
2) It's a well-made product.  Obviously, some saddles just aren't going to work for some people.  But if you're like me and have spent hundreds of dollars on various styles, and way too much ride time in pain, it's worth taking one of the Cobb saddles for a test ride.
3) No other saddle I've ridden has even come close to how this one feels.  What I thought was somewhat comfortable before would be intolerable after being on my V-Flow Plus.  I'll also be test riding the V-Flow Max, but honestly, I don't know how it could be any better than this one.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Who Hates Cancer?

Raise your hand if you HATE cancer.  Got both arms up?  Me too.  Did you know:
  • 1 in 3 people will have some form of cancer in their lifetime.  Next time you're sitting around the dinner table, look around.  Odds are that at least one of you will have cancer.
  • 1 in 4 deaths in the US is from cancer.  It is the 2nd leading cause of death in our country.
  • Each day, 3400 people are diagnosed with cancer.  In less than 15 days, Yankee stadium would be filled with cancer patients.
  • And each day, another 1500 people lose the fight.
But did you also know that the survival rate for many types of cancers has improved in recent years?  Thanks to cutting edge drugs and treatment, as well as awareness programs dedicated to prevention and early detection.

"The American Cancer Society is a nationwide community-based, voluntary health organziation dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service."

I personally know that the ACS stands behind their mission statement.  And that is why I have chosen to swim, bike, and run 140.6 miles at Ironman Coeur d'Alene 2011 in an effort to raise over $5000 for their organization.  Through the Janus Charity Challenge, my friends and family, and your friends and family, will be able to participate and support the fundraising efforts.  I am (un)patiently for the 2011 programs to be added to the website.  But until then, here is some additional information:

--I have a new blog page that will have current fundraising status, links to events, and ways that you can help.
--You will be able to "Buy a Mile" for $10 in honor or memory of someone, and I will race that mile for them.  I am hoping to find a way to have all of the names printed on my swim cap, bike jersey, and running singlet.
--General donations will always be much appreciated.
--I'm working on some fun events between now and June 27th (race day!).  Some ideas: a 5k snowshoe event, another bike clinic (like we had for the Livestrong fundraising), group training rides/runs, and some cool swag from the American Cancer Society.

Stay tuned...

Email me at for more information. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Race Report: Wine Tasting

The real reason I went to California...the wine.  Aside from seeing my Mom, of course.  The day after Vineman 70.3 we made the trip back over St. Helena (curviest road in California I think) and visited Sterling Vineyards, had lunch in Calistoga, and then toured/tasted at Castello di Amarosa ("The Castle").

My parents are members of the wine club at Sterling, so we were able to get free tickets for the tram, sit in the reserved tasting room, and had access to some of the reserve wines.  The tour here isn't super fabulous, but the views are amazing and you can learn quite a bit about the wine making process.  Just be sure not to walk and drink at the same time.  Right, Jenn?  :-)

Riding the tram up to the winery:
The views from their outdoor area:

And enjoying ourselves in the tasting room:

I've been here before, and remember being very much impressed by the architecture and attention to detail in building the castle.  And being very much not impressed by their wines.  They have improved over the last few years.  Enough that I paid full price for a handful of bottles.

Some of what you'll be treated to if you take a tour:

Race Report: Vineman 70.3

As is typical these days, I have let too much time lapse between a race and when I actually sit down to write a race report.  So I'll hit the highlights as much as I can recollect.  This pretty much sums it up:

We (Jenn, The Hubs, and I) drove down to Cali, had an awesome visit with my Mom, raced, drank wine, and came home with 6+ cases.  Okay, but seriously, back to the race report.

Race: Vineman 70.3
Date: July 18, 2010
Swim time = 42:35 (pace = 2:13/100m)
T1 = 2:54
Bike time = 3:25:59 (pace = 16.3 mph)
T2 = 3:58
Run time = 3:19:34 (pace = 15.2 min/mi)
TOTAL = 7:35:00

There are two things very interesting, if not slightly disturbing, about those paces.  1) I have been in the pool about, oh, 10 times since Ironman.  LAST NOVEMBER.  Really.  But, my swim was only a few minutes off of my normal half-ironman time when I was swimming 3+ hours a week.  Lesson learned = quit wasting money on a pool membership and wing it.  I'm not joking.  2) Despite running a ton this year (by my standards), this was my worst 13.1 miles ever.  Apparently I need to up my standards.  In my defense, I was coming off an injury at the time.  But I can only use that excuse for so long.

We had stayed at my Mom's house in Hidden Valley Lake on Fri night, but wanted to be closer to the start on race-eve and moved home base to a hotel in Santa Rosa.  On Sat we did a practice swim in the Russian River (warm, calm water!), went through the athlete meeting and packet pickup (boring), set up T2 (getting tired now...), went for a quick practice run (HOT!  REALLY HOT!), lounged at the pool, finally got checked in, ate dinner, and got our bikes ready.  Nothing like being on your feet all day, running around like a crazy person, and getting sunburned the day before an event.

The morning of the race we hit the local Starbuck's, Ken dropped us off near the beach, and we did our pre-race routines.  I never saw Jenn after we entered transition, and since it was her first half-ironman, I spent a lot of time looking for her and telepathically sending her all sorts of good juju.  Then I hung out with my Mom and Debbie, got ready, and meandered over to the swim entrance.

This is the first race that I wasn't nervous as all get out right before the gun went off.  I think I knew that I was horribly under prepared, and therefore didn't have any pressure on me to perform well.  I said a quick prayer to the tri gods for me to remember how to swim, did a goggle leak check, warmed up the river, and waited for my wave to start.  Bang!  The swim itself was uneventful.  Although, it was really curious to see people walking the swim.  The river was really shallow in places so sometimes I would turn to breathe and be staring at someones knees.  At least no one was in jeopardy of drowning at this race.

After I got over the shock of being under, like, an hour for the swim, I got down to my usual transition rock-starness.  I was fast enough to be happy with my time here, especially since I stopped to say hi to my family, ran down the incorrect bike aisle (thanks a lot Mom!), and had to take the time to bag everything up.

I love my Cobb saddle.  Love.  I love it so much that it's pretty much all I could think about during the ride.  Because I was so shocked at how much I loved it.  I'll be doing a full gear review on it soon, so stay tuned.

The Vineman bike course is truly gorgeous.  Some of the most stunning views I've seen from my saddle ever.  Vineyards, hills, rivers, wineries, forest.  It's awesome.  And NOT hilly.  Seriously people?  I was so freaked about this race after reading all the hype on the forums about the "relentless hills" and "super challenging bike course".  And I am so not a climber at all.  Chalk Hill was notable, I'll give y'all that much, but it still only lasted less than 5 minutes.  All that being said, my pace was slow compared to what I'm usually capable of, so maybe it really was hilly.  And I just didn't notice because I was LOVING my saddle so much.

As a bonus, I got to see my Mom, Debbie, and Ken somewhere near Healdsburg.  Clearly, I wasn't taking this day too seriously.

Gah!  Did I have a picnic or what?  Slow!  It was a long transition I suppose.  My favorite part was getting to see my little brother Joshy-poo and his wife Heather.  Very cool that they came out to cheer!

One word: HOT.  Okay, two words, because it was also: SLOW.  The views sort of sucked too.  Not even close to my favorite run course.  The volunteers were pretty fantastic though.  My biggest regret was not figuring out that my sports bra was the perfect ice holder...until mile 11.  My Mom was waiting somewhere around mile 10 or 11 and ran/walked back with me.  I don't think she was very impressed with my race strategy of "run the downhills and walk everything else".  I, of course, thought it was genius.  Joshy ran with me for the last 1/4 mile.

I was so happy that it was over.  HOT!  It was really fun to see everyone at the finish line too.  Jenn was still smiling and we were able to take some finishers pictures together.  After rounding up our gear, we headed to Bear Republic to join some fellow finishers and enjoy yummy Racer 5 IPA.

And, more importantly, the wine-tasting race report will be posted next.