Friday, June 23, 2017

Escape from Alcatraz -- FAILED ATTEMPT



Spoiler alert:  I did not escape from Alcatraz.  The swim was cancelled -- the sea was angry that day. Race officials delayed their decision until the last possible moment, calling off the swim portion of the race and then scrambling to salvage an antic-climactic duathlon to appease the 2000+ disappointed athletes.  In 37 years of its existence,  the swim has never been called off at this event.  But white caps were forming in the Bay, and there was just no way the support watercraft could safely maintain their positions in the water.  Definitely a hard call for the race directors.  But the show must go on.

To the bike/run.  The truth of the matter is I've done this race.  I "escaped" five years ago, attending the race with my husband, daughter and her then fiance.  I came back to San Fran this year with the crew, plus my newest cheerleader who calls me grandma!  'Cause grandmas can conquer that Alcatraz swim too.

Here's the thing -- Escape from Alcatraz has lost some of it's mystique for me.  I felt the entire weekend was one endless "wait in line".   Wait in line for registration.  Wait in line for the race numbers to be applied as temporary tattoos.  Wait in line for the bike pump on race morning(can't fit that on a plane).  Wait in line for the shuttles to get on the ferry.  Wait in line for the boat. Get on the boat, get off the boat, wait in line for the shuttle to get back to Marina Green.  Then wait and wait and wait for the call to start the duathlon.  The du started about 9:30am, near the time that most of the racers would be finishing the original event.  But the individual send off by race numbers meant I had to wait for 1800 athletes to start the race ahead of me.  Keep in mind the winds are gathering momentum throughout the day, so both spectators and cyclists were getting pushed around by the annoyingly strong gusts of continuous wind.

Whine. Whine. Whine.  Does somebody want to call the "whambulance"?  On a positive side, the bike and run were great.  The course is challenging but oh so scenic and beautiful.  The views of the majestic Golden Gate and the twists and turns into Golden Gate Park made up for the terrible morning fiasco.  This year I was ready, I had prepared. First, I did a lot of hill training which helped on the run and especially on the sand ladder.  Second, I took my road bike and left the tri bike at home.  This decision saved me when it came to the windy conditions on the bike.  I would've been all over the road with my deep dish wheels and aero position.  I ended up in the top third of my age group -- and I'll take that.

Will I be back? Eh, not sure.  The racers were guaranteed priority entry in either 2018 or 2019.  I have time to decide.  In the meantime, I'll mull over these pros and cons and get back to you.

Pros:
Beautiful course (especially for a ROAD BIKE)
Bragging rights for a bucket list event
Great place to spend time before and after race with friends and family
Amazing food/restaurants  *Salt and Straw
Highlights:  Alcatraz Island Tour, Muir Woods, Golden Gate Park and the roaming buffaloes

Cons:
EXPENSIVE!
Race entry (around $750)
Tri Bike Transport (around $350)
AirBnB (over $1000 for three nights)
Pricey food/restaurants
Rental Car (I liked having a car to shuttle back and forth from AirBnB to event, but parking was hard to find and usually cost $$)
The endless lines and waits



My takeaway is that this race needs some serious organizational improvement.  Having racers stand for hours in the sun on the day before an event is not acceptable.  The line to apply the race numbers by volunteers was totally unnecessary.  We all know how to apply a temporary tattoo.  Move those volunteers in other areas to improve the flow of registration.   You've got a good thing with Escape from Alcatraz, WTC, just strive to make it better.  You've got room for improvement.



Here we come, SFO!


Windy welcome and long waits.  Grateful for patient cheerleaders

I'd say about five knots of wind.  Who am I kidding?  Just lots and lots of wind

Admiring the city from Alcatraz Island




Make your reservations for this tour the minute you know you're going to San Francisco.



Definitely a highlight of our weekend, the Muir Woods is spectacular.  Carve out a half day to discover the beauty of the California redwoods.  



Then hug a tree.  








Sunday, April 23, 2017

Everything You Need to Know about Oceanside 70.3


Oceanside 70.3  What you need to know:

Set in the quaint town of Oceanside, California, you know you've arrived when you see the distant surfers catching waves in the breathtakingly beautiful Pacific Ocean.  The breezy salt air will kiss your face as you get out of your car and walk to the Junior Seau Amphitheater, where the expo is held.  Don't miss walking the pier to Ruby's Diner, where you'll get to admire this visual from a different perspective -- fishermen, blowing kites, waves and sandy beaches.  Ahhh, Oceanside!

A few things you may need to know as a first timer:

TWO TRANSITION ZONES Head to the expo without your bike.  After you pick up your race packet, you have time to get out for a quick spin on your ride to double check any mechanical issues that may have arisen on it's journey to the event.  The transition zone with the bike rack is about 1/2 mile from the expo.  Before you head off to drop the bike, make sure you have your stickers in place on the bike frame.  They won't allow you into the transition zone without these in place.  You can put a plastic bag over your seat if that is your thing, as your bike will be spending the night in the transition zone.

SWIM  The swim in 2017 was a self seeded swim.  You placed yourself with swimmers who had similar swim finish times as you.  The clock started when you jumped into the water.  No mass starts here.  This was a bonus for me.  But some swimmers were a little disheveled when they couldn't find their right "time groups".  Some were quite near the front and if you were a latecomer, you had to fight your way through the crowds to get where you needed to be.

The swim is mostly in a protected marina, which keeps the waters fairly calm.  About halfway out, you hit the high seas, but then it's a quick turn around to the boats and docks, where the waters calm down and you can finish strong!

BIKE  Don't let the elevation profile fool you, this course has LOTS of hills.  And not just the big ones at mile 28 and 31. Be prepared for those steep climbs, but also be prepared for rollers the rest of the time on the bike.  Prepare wisely with lots of hill training.  The terrain is spectacular and Camp Pendleton has some of the most majestic views you'll ever see of the California coastline.  The flatest part of the bike is in the last five miles, where you can get into your aero bars and really gain some speed.  But don't forget about the speed bumps and hairpin turns you encountered on your way out, they will slow you down a bit as you enter T2.  

RUN   Rollers, rollers and more rollers.  Get ready for a challenging run that meanders it's way through the famous beach houses of So. Cal.  The bonus for this course is that the spectators fully embrace and support this race.  You'll never run too far without a cheer or shout out from a friendly fan.  Music is blasting from audio systems inside and outside the homes, lending to a festive atmosphere to keep you smiling as you endure this long, sweaty run.  Again, hill work is great prep for this race.  The course is an out-and-back twice situation.  So you can gauge yourself against your competitors as you pass them or they pass you on the run.  The last mile of the run veers off into a finishing chute which is a welcome site after your day of endurance.

FINISH LINE  I love the amphitheater where finishers are directed to sit and recover post race.  It's an easy place to meet up with your supports as a "see-and-be-seen" meeting spot.  The food for the athletes has always been top notch.  And once you're out of the finish line madness, you can spread out to hydrate and recover.

Add this to your race calendar if you've never done this race.  It's a good one.  You'll leave happy after a hard day's work.  Sunset dinner at a beachside cafe is a perfect way to top off your stay in Oceanside.  It even cools off enough to don the famous California style:  hoodie and shorts.   XOXO California.  You're always in my heart.





Monday, March 20, 2017

A New Kind Of Race

My mother has Alzheimer's.  We got the diagnosis three weeks ago.

I typed that out just now and had to let that sink in before I could type more.

My memories of my mom consist mainly of her being the outgoing, energetic, creative mom of six, grandma to 24, and great grandmother of one.  She excels in crafts, handiwork, decorating the home for every holiday, and preparing Sunday dinners for her entire family each week.  Her quilts are intricate, beautiful pieces of art.  She walks miles everyday with her best friends and neighbors.  And she has lived an independent life since my father's death in 2008.

But things have started to change.  We noticed an anxiousness that overtook her when she had to step out of her routine.  She had extreme anxiety when it was time to get to an event, like my daughter's wedding.  She'd stress over who was going to take her there and pick her up.  The mom who never stopped talking, over time, was the first to hang up in a phone call.  "Chow! Chow!" would signal the end of the conversation.

We saw the family practice doctor and he performed some simple tests.  "Table, apple, penny, remember those three words," the doctor would say.  Then he'd ask her to do a series of simple math problem and then went back to ask her to recall the words.  She could not say all three.  Ever. Cognitive Memory Impairment was her first diagnosis.

She was referred to a neurologist who did the similar line-up of tests.  But she struggled.  Perhaps most shocking was to draw the face of a clock and put the big hand and little hand at ten minutes to two.  She was confused and embarrassed when she couldn't draw the answer onto the white board. Through a series of more tests, doctors and scans, her neurologists eliminated the other possible outcomes of CMI and diagnosed her with Alzheimer's Disease.

So today, my focus turns to a different type of race.  The race for time.  For memories.  For interaction and conversations with my mom.   For the ability to tell her that I love her and let her know she was the perfect mom for me.  You see, our family has been down this road before.  We lost my father-in-law to the ravaging effects of Alzheimer's on January 2, 2016.  

This disease will steal your loved ones from you.  It will leave you heartbroken and devastated.  It lingers around and gives you glimpses of hope.  And then slaps you back to the reality that IT is in charge.

I turn my focus now in her direction.  There will always be another triathlon. My training plan, my nutrition, my race schedule will always be under my control.  But I can't escape the overwhelming cloud called Alzheimer's that is rolling again onto our horizon to rain down it's sadness and despair onto all of US.  She's starting to slip.  And I need to catch her.

This race is different. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Fast After 50, by Joe Friel

Yep, 50.  I'm here.  And yet in my mind, I'm 20 and can walk the halls of my college campus and fit right in....right?  Okay, not so much.  My KIDS are now in college.  

Everything ever written says the forecast for aging athletes is grim: metabolism slows, race times drop and that little layer of fat begins to increase around the middle.  Ugh.  Not fun, especially when that mind I was talking about still wants to add in classes for Fall Semester.

Leave it to author Joe Friel to make us feel better about life after 50.  Friel's book, Fast after 50 is a must-read for any athlete who wants to get inspiration to keep going.  There's a lot to live for and train for in the later stages of being an athlete.  He says it best "If you decide you have some degree of control over your destiny as a senior athlete, then you are taking the first step toward improved race performances.  AGING IS FIRST AND FOREMOST AN ATTITUDE.  WHETHER YOU DECIDE YOU'RE OVER THE HILL OR NOT, YOU'RE RIGHT. "

Friel, who is now over 70 years old, advocates acquiring a great aerobic base first, then mixing some high-intensity training with a good dose of quality sleep and balanced nutrition.  It's a good recipe for a well rounded athlete, whether you are in your 20's or 80's.  He researched this stuff because he wanted to keep going.  I know I do too.

So here's to the next 50 years of triathlon training.  I'm in!  My times may drop, but my belief is that there's more to gain in my triathlon journey than PRs and fast times .   I enjoy getting on my bike for an epic ride.  Outside is the place for me.  I'm not taking this aging thing in a rocking chair.  It will have to chase me down on a dirt trail -- 'cause there's a lot out there for me to see!

xoxo.
L


Thursday, January 12, 2017

I'm Still Waiting

This post is dedicated to those who have ever been through divorce.  To those who have ever uttered "I'm going through a divorce." "My parents are divorced."  "I am divorced."  "My child/grandchild is getting divorced."  It's a word that, unless you have ever been through it, does not convey the elaborateness of experience.  For anyone who has ever let that word define their situation: I apologize.  I am sorry that I did not recognize what you've been through on any level.

Until you have felt the heavy burden of such this short, two-syllable word, you cannot know the meaning of it's message.  In short, two people have dealt with sadness, betrayal, chaos, heartbreak, tears, rumors, gossip, anger, shame, distrust, blame, envy  -- the list of negative verbs is endless.  It's a word that strips a person of all the happiness in their lives and rips their world into tiny pieces.  And we sum it all up in one.  little. word.  When that couple drops their announcement into the big pool of family and friends, the ripple effect begins to dissipate into the lives of all who they love and who have loved them.  Sadness envelops more lives than that couple will ever realize.

Divorce was not a word ever uttered in my family.  Sure it has happened.  But not within my immediate six siblings.  We are a proud family of married-forever believers,  We endure to the end. Then it struck one of my own and we were forced to look divorce square  into it's heavy ugly face and watch it affect grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings and in-laws.

The heartbreak is overwhelming and as a mother, there is nothing you want more than to take every burden of your child and heave it onto your own shoulders. You want to pronounce to the world "You are wrong!  She is good.  He is good!  It just didn't work." If only I could do that.  Because I have seen the poison of malicious gossip seep into the cracks of a broken person and burn their soul.  I have heard the cries of agony and have felt the heaviness in the air of sadness that seems unrelenting. I have watched as lives can be destroyed by a simple whisper of deceit.

Through it all I try to give advice, to look for the bright light at the end of the tunnel.  Because there is an end.  It comes when new relationships form and old ones fade away.  That word divorce will soften, I'm sure.  It's abrasiveness will heal with time.  Rumors will become non-issues because we..."move on."  Forgive and forget, they say.  But like the Dixie Chick sing, I'm still waiting.

Today I will mourn the loss of a once-happy love story.  I will force myself to smile as I watch new relationships blossom.  And I will empathize with anyone who shoes have walked this same path of despair with grace and elegance.  I applaud those who come out on the other end as a better person.

My Apple watch reminds me daily to ....breathe.  Take a minute, focus, slowly inhale, then...exhale. For now, that's enough.

Que lindo es sonar despierto.
How lovely it is to dream while you are awake.

Dreams That Have Come True