Thursday, July 28, 2011

Surviving Wasatch Crest Trail

In my opinion, there's no better way to explore the beautiful canyons of Utah than on a mountain bike.  It's fast, exhilarating, lung-busting fun that takes you deep into amazing wilderness sites, while simultaneously giving you the feel of an outrageously wild theme-park thrill ride.  The single track trails twist and turn through Aspens and evergreens until you are deep inside the shadows of the trees...
only to open up to the most majestic mountain passes and valleys of wildflowers you could ever imagine. 
iphone image - sorry so dark

It is breathtaking - in more than one sense of the word.  

This week I rode with friends the Wasatch Crest Trail that winds from the top of Guardsmans Pass to a parking area below Solitude Ski Resort.  The logging trail begins with "Puke Hill" a two-mile aptly named climb, that leads you up to a summit of 9900 feet.  From this viewpoint there is a fabulous 360 degree view of the beautiful Wasatch Mountains.  Then, it quickly descends into a single track trail that roller-coasters through rocks, dirt, tree roots and hairpin turns,  teasing you with fabulous picture window views of  Big Cottonwood and Little Cottonwood canyons every time the trees open up. 

The trail wound down to Desolation Lake and followed the babbling stream through forests akin to those near Hogwart's Academy.  Inside the trees, the muted silence was interrupted only by and occasional laugh or the whipping noise of a branch brushing against your tires and calves.  (And the yell for help as I feel off a ledge.  I'm okay.)

It was an amazing ride and an amazing summer day.  We finished the ride with a few bumps and bruises - a little blood - but the biggest grins you could ever paint on our happy faces.  

And we loved every minute of it.    
Can we do it again tomorrow?

For more information about all of Utah's Mountain biking trails, go to  

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

L' Alpe D' Huez

In 2004, I was lucky enough to travel to France to see seven stages of Le Tour de France.  Lance was poised to win his sixth title, a feat that hadn't been done by any cyclist -- ever. 

Part of our tour included climbing the famous L' Alpe de h'uez.

We arrived a day before the actual race and were given the rare opportunity to try the climb the pass on our loaner Trek bikes.  Most of the crowds were already assembled around the tiny mountain road, with it's tight switchbacks and hairpin turns.  I remember starting out my day in awe that the tour riders would scale this mountain as if they had wings on their backs.  For me, it was a process of counting down the kilometers and turns, which were marked with big posters hung on the mountain walls, announcing which switchback you had conquered. 

I slowly made my way up the road, constantly encouraged and cheered on by the heavily enibriated Basque spectators, who had been camping for days on the roadside cliffs happily awaiting their favorite cyclists from their home country.  When I slowed, they would push me from behind.  When I was out of water, they handed me their orange water bottles, like I was one of their own.  I loved it.

The following day when the Lance and Jan Ulrich and the others were scheduled to ride, the mountain was completely closed to cars.  Trek Travel, our hosts for the event, shuttled us up to the mountaintop in helicopters.  It was an unexpected and awesome treat.  We got to watch the riders come by at the finish line and cheer them all. 

Lance did not disappoint.  He finished this time trial stage in first place, and went on to claim his sixth Tour de France victory. 

Watching the Tour each year brings back these great memories of the beautiful France countryside and the inspirational riders who compete each year in this epic event.  It was a once in a lifetime experience.  And one I will never forget. 

Cycling inspiration motivation before you go train or ride

Why I love Le Tour de France

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Open Shake Tap Gulp

Let me ask you, do you know the proper way to ingest your vitamins? I

One of my athletes is a vitamin guru.  He's worked in the supplement industry for years and years, and helped get several vitamins and OTC drugs into that giant metropolis known as COSTCO.  Needless to say he's got a stockpile of extremely large bottles of Omega 3 and magnesium, well, you name it, in his pantry.  

When I expressed an interest in his knowledge, he showed up at our hike on Wednesday with an arsenal of hand-picked vitamins and minerals just for me.  I proceeded to rip off the paper safety label and shake some CQ10s into the palm of my hand, only to hear him sigh in utter dismay.

"You obviously don't know how to properly take a vitamin, do you?" he said, rolling his eyes.  

Uh, no, I didn't know there WAS a proper way to take a vitamin.  

He took the bottle from me, and, rather than shaking the vitamins into his hand, he tapped a few into the lid of the opened container, then shook the extras back into the jar until I had the two I needed.  "This prevents contamination to the other vitamins," he said.  "The dirt and oils on your hands end up on the vitamins in the jar when you drop them back in," he said.  "Vitamins are extremely porous and absorb those oils quickly, ruining them."

Well that makes sense to me.  

So, I'm a changed woman with a new, clean, contaminate-free vitamin regimen:  Open. Shake. Tap. Gulp, nary an oil or contaminant on ANY of my supplements. 

And in 30 days, I'll report on my cocktail* and see if the huge bottles from COSTCO are worth their expense, or just make for bright yellow urine.  

* Omega 3
*  CQ10
*  Magnesium 
*  D3

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Strong Leg Drills

**Courtesy of Runner's World Magazine
Balance On One Leg:
Stand upright on one foot.  Slightly bend the hip, knee, and ankle of the weighted foot.  Keep your balance without having to catch yourself with the other leg.  Build up to a minute or more.  To make this exercise more difficult, try it with your eyes closed.  Beginning in week three, start doing this exercise with a Bosu Ball.

One-Legged Squats: 
Put all your weight on one leg and, with the unweighted leg behind you for balance and support, lower your body until the weighted knee reaches roughly 90 degrees, then slowly come back up.  1-3 sets of 6 to 12 reps.  Once this feels comfortable, try the squat with your eyes closed.  Beginning in week three, start doing this exercise on a Bosu Ball.

Straight Leg Lifts:
This exercise assists in retraining the large quad muscle (the VMO) to fire correctly.  Lie on your back with the working leg straight and the non-exercising leg bent near 90 degrees.  Lift the working leg 12 to 18 inches and hold for five seconds with the toe pointed toward your head and rotated away from the center of your body.  The burn should be felt in the large quad muscle.  3-5 sets x 10/leg.  Progress to ankle weights.

Single-Leg Bridge:
Lie on your back with your arms at your side.  With one knee bent at 90 degrees and other straight, raise your hips off the ground.  A straight line should follow from the shoulders, to hips, knee, and ankle of the extended leg.  Hold for 3 seconds, lower, repeat.  Work both sides.  1 set x 10 reps.  Progress to multiple sets of 10 - 20/leg.

Hip Abduction:
Lie on the ground on one side with the arm closed to the ground extended and legs straight.  Use the other arm to brace your body.  Lift the upper leg in a scissor-like motion.  Hold for 3 seconds and lower. 1 set x 10 reps.  Progress to multiple sets of 10 - 20.

Looking straight ahead, with hands on hips, take a big step forward, bend the knee and lower your body so the front leg is bent at a 90-degree angle.  This slowly push back up and step back to the original position.  Start with 6-8 reps on each side.

Write the alphabet with your toes.

Ankle Circles:
Make five slow clockwise then counterclockwise turns with each foot.  Repeat five times.

Back Extensions:
Lie face down on the floor and place your hands behind your head.  Contract your abs and keep them contracted throughout the movement.  Squeeze your back to lift your chest a few inches off the floor.  Lower and repeat 1-3 sets x 8-12 reps.  To increase difficulty, lift your legs off the floor at the same time you lift your chest.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011


Photo courtesy: Sumits Yoga
Tried hot yoga tonight at Sumits.

It was a typical yoga studio, or so I thought -- until the hidden vents began piping in the clouds of hot air -- turning our tiny room into a full on sweat lodge torture chamber.

Surrounded by yoga masters who could balance on one foot while completely extending the opposite leg, I struggled through the movements and "flow" as I sweated and sweated and sweated.  Yes, I see the reason we needed towels to cover our mats.  And extra hand cloths to wipe our faces.  And frozen water bottles.  This was one big sweat fest.

There were several times I had to sit/lie/rest to let the light headedness pass before I began again.  And tumbling through my mind was how good this would feel if I was in a whiteout snowstorm in Park City, Utah, in December.

But I'm in Arizona.  It's July.  I was walking out of one heat source, paying my drop-in fee, and walking into another.  Here's a thought...what about doing hot yoga outside?

Surprisingly, there was some slight relief as I opened the door at the end of my 80-minute class to walk to my car in 103 degree sunshine.  The fresh air felt nice.

The jury's still out on if I'll go back again.  I can't decide how crazy I really am.

Hot yoga.  We'll see.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Value In The Agony Of Defeat

The best laid plans...sometimes they don't always go the way you'd like.  But consider this: Do you learn more from your triumphant successes or your depressing defeats?  M competed this weekend in a race that didn't go her way.  She sent me this report and I LOVED her positive attitude and determination to learn from her mistakes and go for it again.  

Pedal Paddle Battle did not finish as I would have liked it to. It started out a great day. I was more than ready to go.  I hadn't hydrated probably as much as I needed to, but that came from all the travel. All I can say is altitude is a bear when you aren't prepared for it.

The race started at 6:30 pm, which in itself was off for me.  But it was 20 miles that should be cake.  I wasn't able to drive the course beforehand so I wasn't familiar with the road, which is what cost me the most. When we started out, there were only 21 people in the race -- all men -- with the exception of me and 2 other girls.

It started out fast on a gradual uphill.  I was hanging on the back of the small lead group to try and stay out of the wind because it was blowing pretty hard.  Did I mention it was about 93 degrees out as well?   Not the greatest of riding conditions.  But I just kept telling myself get through the first 10, then it's all pretty much downhill from there.

I held pretty well with the group until shortly after the turn into the backside of the gorge where the 2000 foot climb began.  It was way harder than I thought it would be, it seriously felt like I had flat tires!  My speed dropped quickly and I slowly let go of my wind block.  As they crept away, I knew that this is where it would become an advantage to be adjusted to the altitude, which I, unfortunately, wasn't.

Keeping my head down and digging with all I had, out of gears, breathing hard, and sweating buckets, I finally made it to the first slight downhill.   "Yes!" A little rest and easy pedaling briefly! I would take it!  My legs were screaming as well as my lungs.

I started down what looked like a short hill, however my speed got the best of me.   As I came around a long corner, I was surprised by the next much tighter corner.  I knew at this point I was going way too fast to make it.  I eased into the brakes but my back wheel started to schimmy.  I had to make a quick decision where I was going to crash, and to me the dirt of the bank looked much better than the asphalt.

I let off the brakes, tried to relax and prepared for a fall.  I had made the right decision.  Dirt is much more forgiving.  I got up and dusted off, checked out my bike -- very minor damage.   Luckily for me bruises and scrapes heal over time. I was a little shook up but was determined that this was not going to stop me.  I decided to walk for just a little bit to try and get my nerves settled as I approached the base of the next and final steep climb.

At this point I was about seven miles into the race.  One more mile of hard climbing, I could do this! I got back on my bike and started up.  I went about a quarter mile and my legs started to cramp up like never before.  It was so painful to try and turn the pedals, but I kept going.  I finally reached my breaking point.  I couldn't do it.  My legs totally seized up.  That was it... I fell over on the pavement.

As I lay there on the ground all I could think about was what I should have done differently.  "You didn't drink enough, you didn't drink enough."  That's all that kept running through my mind. I had been defeated for the first time ever in a race.  I wouldn't be finishing today. I lay there on the ground until the SAG truck came up.  Embarrassed and sad, I was indeed grateful for them.

I have taken from this a great learning experience and know what I need to work on for next year. There will always be another race and this was just a stepping stone.  It was hard to swallow, but if we don't fail once in a while, we can never really appreciate the feeling of success.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

If You're Considering Ironman France

Bon jour and Ciao!

It's been two weeks filled will crepes, gelato, baguettes and croissants.  Europe was wonderful.  The highlights:  Michelangelo's David, the picturesque villages of Cinque Terre, the canals of Venice and, of course, Ironman in Nice with my family.

So let's get down to business.  Ironman France was tough.  It was my fourth Ironman and the hardest race I have ever done.  It was different than any North American race -- very organized, very professional, and very hilly.  My Garmin recorded 8,309 feet over 108 miles on the bike.  Sheesh!

Here's my take on things...

Registration:  The Europeans have it down.  Everything was smoothly run and efficiently.  Most of the instructions were printed in an athlete guide, which eliminated the need to explain things to individual athletes and bottleneck the ques.  This is probably due to the various languages of all the international athletes.  There was no weigh in.  Also, the swim caps were already in the athlete bags with the numbers written on them.  Like I said, streamlined.

At the bike drop off, officials took a quick computer photo of you and your bike, which they then pulled up when you picked up your bike at the end of the race as a security measure.  It was awesome.

Bike and run bags were placed on hanging racks near the transition area the day before the race.  When you ran up to T1 and T2, you just reached for you bag and switched shoes in the open lane.  Changing tents were only used by athletes who were completely disrobing.

Swim:  There's just no getting around that mash up swim.  Ugh.  It seemed extra crowded and clustered.  I got punched in the stomach, the eye, the head.  The two loop course didn't help.  It was treacherous the entire race.  The water was warm and clear and calm lapping up onto the rocky beaches. I finished 5th place in my age group on the swim, but never seemed to get my groove on.

Bike:  In this race, with the monstrous French Alps climbs, I was passed by probably 2,000 cyclists.  However, when you get passed by people named Pierre, Konstantine, Thierry and Marcel it's almost amusing.  I LOVED reading the names of the athletes from around the world.  "Way to go, Lohreee!" they would say to me as they passed by.

The course was very Tour de France-esque.  Between long climbs next to campgrounds and circled round abouts, there would be charming towns and single-lane streets lined with locals cheering and encouraging the racers.  "Allez! Allez!" the villagers would shout, while waving their arms overhead to music streaming from the open shuttered windows.  There was even a mountaintop fire station with firemen who turned their hose on for cyclists who needed a cool down.

While the ascents were challenging, the descents were equally difficult.  The course was filled with hairpin turns with signs "Very Dangeroux!!"  I passed several wrecks, and heard one directly behind me when a rider didn't slow down enough to make a tight turn.  And that weird European siren sound still haunts me.

Mile 15 had a 10 percent climb where many of the riders were zig zagging the street to make it up the hill.  The road was one-lane and crowded, but the climb was short -  500 meters.  Miles 35-75 were agonizingly uphill and seemed never ending.  The climbing ended at mile 75, and then I was white knuckling those curvy downhill mountain roads until about mile 100.  (I kept my Garmin on miles instead of kilometers so I could mentally keep track of where I was.)

**An aside, while there were aid stations every 20 kilometers, there was not ONE Porta Potty for the entire 140K bike!  I just don't get it.

Run:  Coming into T2, I was beat.  The weather was hot and I was worried about how I would battle my core temperature.  I avoid running and training in the afternoon heat.  Nice was prepared, however.  Every 1.7 kilometers on the beachfront avenue, an overhead shower was set up with 4 shower heads streaming cold water onto the racers.  The coolness of the water gave me a jolt of energy as if someone unexpectedly threw ice water on my face. It literally took my breath away, and helped keep me moving.  Those showers saved me.

The run was a four loop affair.  After each six-kilometer loop, volunteers placed a scrunchee on your arm.  The first one was white, then lap two was black, then blue for the third lap.  The pros:  I was motivated to get those dang bands and I could visually see who was ahead and behind me by looking at their wrists.  The cons:  You had to keep heading back to the finish line over and over and over again - only to turn around!!!  Finishers were being announced and congratulated every time I made that 180 degree turn back out for another loop.  "Supear, Jacque! You ah an Ironmen!" they would be annoucing.  So aggravating when you still had loops to do!

Again, I only saw ONE Porta Potty on the run course.  Really? Europeans must do things differently.  But I passed more runners than passed me during this stretch, so I considered the run a success.

Finish Line:  The Europeans still allow athletes to bring their families across the finish line with them.  This is totally fun and make your family feel part of your day.

Precautions:  If you are an athlete who has a strict race diet and routine (like most of us do), be prepared for change.  I packed light and could not find a bottle of Ensure at any grocery store.  Peanut butter is scarce.  And bread comes mostly in baguette style loaves.  There is plenty of carbo loading spaghetti and margherita pizzas in Nice, but yogurt and power gels and even milk tastes different.   I saw an assortment of energy gels discarded on the road which were packaged in mini tubes, similar to the tubes of Neosporin. Hmm? Come prepared with your own energy bars if you are not ready to try something new on race day.  Also Coke is served at each aid station, which I found surprisingly delicious.

There were only 187 women athletes out of 2,600 racers in Nice.  If you are a woman who is not a strong cyclist, your morale may be tested here.  Be prepared to be passed by strong male climbers.  On a positive note, the late sunsets in Nice give you plenty of time to finish in daylight, rather than darkness.  My time of 13:45 (13th in my AG) at 7:30pm was not even close to 9:30pm nightfall.

Post Race:  I give two thumbs up to the race organizers, once again, who staffed over 30 massage therapists at the finish line.  They also had warm pasta, chicken soup, fruit and drinks at the athlete village.  It was fast, easy and uncrowded ... that could also be because of my late finish.  The medals were substantial, and the finisher shirts were tech fabric and collared.  The backpacks are high quality and something I will keep and use.   Nice touch, IMFR.

Overall, the adventure in France was great.  Give it a shot if you're considering it.  Use Tri Sport Express to ship your bike and try a home exchange or home rental to keep things convenient and comfortable for your stay.  And if you're going to the beach, no need to pack a bikini top.  ;)

And don't forget, when you're done with the race, reward yourself with a warm Nutella crepe.

It doesn't get any better than that!
Que lindo es sonar despierto.
How lovely it is to dream while you are awake.

Dreams That Have Come True