Sunday, May 30, 2010
Throwing in the towel
I keep a triathlon calendar on my wall, but this year I forgot to buy one. I went online and found a 2010 calendar. Because it was so late in the year, it was only $3. Great. The problem was that it was an official Ironman calendar shipped from Hawaii, and they wanted to charge $15 to mail it. There is no way I was goin to pay $15 to get a $3 item, so I did the only logical thing: I browse around the store to find more stuff to buy to justify the ridiculous shipping fees.
The problem with the Ironman store is that a lot of their merchandise is date-specific. Most of the nicer stuff has the year stamped on it so you can't really buy it unless you were at that specific race. But then I found this cool Ironman World Championship beach towel:
It's big and soft and doesn't have a date on it and most-importantly, it was $30. So now I could pay $15 shipping for $33 worth of merchandise. It seemed reasonable at the time.
Funny cause it's true
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Transporter room, come in. TRANSPORTER ROOM?!
Ironman 70.3 Hawaii is in two weeks and I may be doing the entire race on foot.
Traveling cross country with a bike is difficult. That's why "Tri Bike Transport" is awesome: you drop off your bike at a local bike shop, they bring it to the race site, after the race you give it back to them and they bring it home. They charged about $250. I used them for Coeur d'Alene and Wisconsin and it worked out really well. At the time, the airlines were charging about $80-$100 each way to ship a bike, so Tri Bike Transport was a little more expensive but the convenience was SOOOO worth it.
Obviously, bringing a bike to Hawaii would be difficult and Tri Bike Transport is supporting the Hawaii 70.3 race. Perfect. I remember going to their website right after I signed up for the race to make all the arrangements. I've been telling people to use them. Other people have been asking me "did you make a reservation?" and I've kept saying "of course, I took care of it long ago."
Tri Bike Transport is now completely booked, and I can't find any trace of my reservation. I've looked through my credit card history, my email messages, nothing. I decided to retrace my steps. I went to their website, clicked on over to Active.com, and saw the rate: $340. NOW I remember. Several months ago, I went to make a reservation and then said "whoa, that's a lot of money!" I don't mind spending fifty extra dollars for the convenience, but if it's $150 more than the airlines, then I don't mind lugging a bike through the airport. I didn't book it.
Well, it seems that a lot has changed in the past year. Delta is now charging $300 to ship a bike. Each way. I could fly a friend to Hawaii for less than that. (Any takers?)
It looks like I'm switching to Plan B. We are permitted to ship packages from work using our personal credit cards but at the greatly discounted corporate rate. I already have a bike box, so I think I can get my bike to Hawaii in less than a week for maybe $100. I checked the postal service rates, and it should cost about $110 for me to mail it back (up to 3 week delivery, but I'm not as concerned about the return trip. I can use my old bike to start my full Ironman training.)
If nothing else, this will be good practice for Kona in October. Tri Bike Transport is NOT supporting that race, so I have to get my bike there somehow on my own. I just have to lick a lot of stamps to do it.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
I bought my first piece of new gear in preparation for Kona:
This is my sixth iPod. My first iPod was a "Mini", but by today's standards it's huge. I have a Nano which is ok, but it works best with an armband and after 2 hours of running or more it gets pretty uncomfortable. I've had a few Shuffles which got ruined by me sticking them in the pocket of my tri jersey and getting them all sweaty.
This is the first generation of the iPod which I like LESS than my previous one. The new Shuffle has no buttons on it; instead, all of the controls are on the headphone wire. Normally I like to run with my the cable hanging behind my head out of the way, but now I have to keep in up front to access the controls. You click the button once to play/pause, twice to skip a song, three times to go back. It just doesn't have a good feel to it.
The new iPod has a feature where if you click and hold the main button, a computerized voice will tell you what song is playing. But guess what, Mr. iPod: I'm the one who put all the songs on you. I loaded you up with songs that I like. Do you really think that I need to have you tell me that "Hungry Like the Wolf" is currently playing?
I did have the iPod engraved, so at least that part is pretty cool. But the thing is so tiny, it won't be very long before I lose it.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
I have a standard routine in the morning: shower, put on deodorant, dress, brush my teeth. On days that I'm doing a ride or run first thing in the morning, it seems silly to shower so I skip that step. But I still put on deodorant - I think of it as a quick "shower-in-a-can". Some people use the smell of coffee to get them going, I guess I rely on aerosol Right Guard.
We had a ride yesterday, so I skipped the shower. I took some Chamois Butt'r cream to grease up my nether-regions (have to avoid chafing, you know) and then went to to deodorize. Here's the problem: in order to use an aerosol spray, you have to hold the can somewhat firmly while pressing down on the nozzle. But with my hands completely greased up with skin lubricant I couldn't hold the can. Every time I'd try to spray, my thumb would simply push the can down through my slippery fingers. My workaround was to place the can on the counter, squat down in front of it, raise my right armpit to it and press the nozzle with my left forefinger. Reverse and repeat. Very awkward to say the least. Next time, I will try to remember to put the deodorant on first.
We did a 56-mile ride, a course which we describe as "flat" although technically that's not true: we were on the river trail, which means it's a slow shallow descent all the way out and then a slow shallow climb all the way back. I went out fairly strong on the way out (taking advantage of the slight downhill) but the moderate heat and headwinds took their toll on me. On several occasions, when I stopped pedaling I could see my leg twitching as it was starting to cramp up. But in general I was having a good ride.
Gerald gave me a salt tablet at the turn-around which helped with the cramping, but the return trip wasn't great. I was just beat and it was a long 28 miles. I followed that with a 25-minute run, which I think hurt more mentally than it did physically. I started crunching all of the numbers: I rode 56 miles and ran 2.5 miles at 80 degrees. In October I'll have to ride twice as far, run 10 times as far, with an extra 10 degrees and another 10% humidity. It just wasn't feeling very fun.
The good news is that I only had 2 cans of Mountain Dew after the ride. Well, that and a bunch of vodka lemonade later on but that's another story.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
In spite of my early "issues" wearing wetsuits, (Issue 1, Issue 2) I am happy to say I am completely comfortable prancing along the beach in a wetsuit these days. However, I have a new dilemma to face for my two upcoming Hawaii races.
Pretty much every open-water swim I've ever done has been in water below 70 degrees (some below 60) and I've worn my cozy wetsuit for them. The Hawaii swims should be in the upper 70s, which means wetsuits aren't allowed. Here's the problem: I don't like being shirtless. Other people don't like me being shirtless either, so it's fair. All of my Disney tops are bike jerseys, which are no good for swimming. There is one option: at the Hawaii half, they DO allow "speed suits". These are very thin suits like you'll see during the Olympics. I was thinking about getting one, but I was right on the border of the sizing charts between small & medium and wasn't sure which size to get.
You remember our team swim coach Steve?
Well Steve has a medium speed suit that he brought to one of our team meetings to let me try on. Oh. My. God. These things are TIGHT. The best way I can describe it is that it feels like being shrink-wrapped in a Hefty bag. And here's the thing: people think we look funny in wetsuits, but the reality of the wetsuit is that the thick material smooths out a lot of bodily imperfections. So yes, at the beach I think I look better in a wetsuit than out of one. The speed suit, in contrast, clings to every imperfection and exaggerates them. I do think the white socks really make the outfit though.
So needless to say I am skipping the speed suit and will just wear my tri shorts for the swim. If nothing else, it's one less thing to pack. I still find it hard to wrap my head around the idea of swimming in ocean water that warm, but it will be a welcome change.
Sunday, May 09, 2010
I went for the Saturday morning group bike ride yesterday. In order to prepare for the heat of the Hawaii 70.3 a bunch of us are doing next month, Gerald suggested we start the ride later in the morning. Sounded fine to me, I have no problem sleeping in later on the weekend. We didn't get rolling until about 9:30.
We took a fairly normal route, about 50 miles with a solid 6-mile climb near the end. (East Fork Road for you locals.) After that, I did a 30-minute run. I wanted to do about 15 minutes, but Jen passively guilted - errrrr - "inspired" me to do 30. It was probably around 1:30pm with temperatures in the low 80s by the time we were done.
We were all moaning a bit at the end, but truth be told I didn't feel all that bad. I'd certainly felt better, but this wasn't one of those truly killer workouts.
It wasn't until it was time to clean up my living room today that I realized what a toll the ride had taken on me. This is what I saw:
That's 8 cans of Mountain Dew. And that's not counting the 24-ounce bottle I had in the car on the way home from the ride. I drank nearly a gallon of Dew without even realizing it, because my body felt so depleted. That's a lot of caffeinated sugary goodness, even for me.
The moral of the story? Make sure I'm stocked up on Mountain Dew at home before I go on these weekend rides.
Monday, May 03, 2010
View from the top
Technology is an amazing thing. It lets us preview race courses in ways which we could barely dream about just 10 years ago. Thanks to the miracle of Google Maps, we can see the race sites as they appear from space. From SPACE!
For example, look at this section of the Ironman Coeur d'Alene bike course. Notice the lush, thick forest. The serene lake. Absolutely beautiful.
Now take a peek at Ironman Wisconsin. Amazing farmland everywhere you look. Picture-perfect landscapes. This is America's Heartland, and we were a part of it.
Here's the Kona course. Desert. Dirt. Pretty much nothing but death for as far as the eye can see.
I've watched plenty of the Ironman World Championships on DVD, and I've seen lots of footage of the bike course. I knew it was barren, but the aerial view just REALLY makes it look bad. Hawaii has arguably some of the most beautiful scenery on the entire planet, yet the race has to go through the testing grounds for the Mars landers.
Such is the irony, or Ironmany, of the Kona World Championships.
Sunday, May 02, 2010
Ironman Arizona: Who's the Boss?
I enjoy making race signs to help cheer on fans, at least when I have a good idea for one. Arizona was Jersey Jill's first Ironman race, and although the day didn't work out the way we all wanted, we enjoyed cheering her on. I thought I had an easy concept for her race sign: she's a Bruce Springsteen fan, so I would just go to the local record store, pick up a Springsteen poster and add the words "Baby, you were born to swim bike and run". Yes, in my world I think of going to local record stores.
To my surprise, the music stores I went to didn't have posters of Bruce. Maybe Bruce didn't license (sell out) his likeness the way everyone else did? I tried a different strategy. I went to Hollywood, which has cheap souvenir shops all over the place and every one of them has a set of celebrity posters in the back. Surely I would have my choice of Bruce poses, right? Nope. Not a one. I saw posters of every musical act from the 70s and 80s but not a single Springsteen. If Jill was a fan of Kiss or the Doors or Boston or Elton John it would have been easy, but that wasn't to case.
Then I had a moment of enlightenment: In Hollywood, there are a bunch of cheesey shops (yes, one step below the tacky souvenir stores) that specialize in celebrity glossies. Basically, the walls are lined with WWII-era filing cabinets filled with photos of every celebrity you ever heard of. I went to one of those stores, asked about Bruce, and they pulled out his file. Sure enough, they had a folded Springsteen poster in there that probably came from Tiger Beat Magazine circa 1979. It was perfect!
Then I got greedy... I started thinking, "what if I could top the poster off with the actual album cover from Born to Run?" I went to Amoeba Music (which actually IS a record store) and there it was: Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run on vinyl, $3.99. It killed me a bit inside to think that such an important piece of music history was basically being given away but I wasn't complaining. And I did feel a LITTLE bit guilty that I destroyed the cover to tape it to my poster. But I think the end result worked and I think Jill enjoyed it as well:
But I'm telling any of you aspiring Ironman racers right now: if you're a Lady Gaga fan, forget it. I do have my principles to uphold.