Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tomahawk Triathlon: one heckuva race!

I have nothing but positive things to say about this race. The organizers of this race, Start2Finish Charlotte, really went all out when they put this one together. I hope they plan to put this race on again next year because I want everyone to do it. Before I get into my race I would like to discuss what made this particular race so awesome.
  • First of all, one month from Tri Latta, this race is the perfect distance for anyone looking to bridge the gap from sprint to international triathlon distances. 
  • Unlike Tri Latta, the parking for the race is 200ft from the transition and there is no heavy traffic congestion for you to stress out about. 
  • The race shirt is pretty nice. Unique, colorful, and made of a high quality cotton blend.
  • The swim is an open water time trial start. What does that mean to you? Well you get to experience an open water swim without the thrashing beat down of a mass start. 
You think I am putting my cap on but I am really flexing. 
  • The swim course was easy to sight with only two turns and one sighting buoy between each.
  • The turning/sighting buoys were a different color than the swim caps (a personal pet peeve of mine).
  • The bike course is rolling with no major climbs. The farmland scenery is beautiful and if you are lucky the cows will moo at you as you roll by. I may or may not have moo-ed at them.
  • A lead race escort on the bike and run.
  • The run is a trail run. I know a lot of people were not happy about this but it was different and most importantly shaded. Only about 1 mile of the route is on the road, the rest in on a densely shaded hard packed trail. All the exposed roots were spray painted safety orange so it was super easy to navigate. It was by no means technical so experience and special shoes are not required. 
  • John Behme: run course race support. Need I say more?
  • A unique finisher's medal
  • Results are made available immediately on several big screens. 
See what I did here? Do ya? (hint: rhymes with fun)
  • You can even print out a receipt with your individual results within moments of crossing the finish line.
  • Online tracking works really well, at least according to Linda Leiser, super fan. 
  • The awards were phenomenal. Cash prizes and 2XU compression socks worth $45 for  for the top three, customized plaques, and preems for fastest m/f swim, bike, run splits.
  • The race benefits RunningWorks. The Running Works volunteers were out on the course in full force!
Volunteers running in with one of the participants
It seems like race organizations are getting so big that the race experience has become a bit generic to the point where the awards don't even mention what place you finished let alone what race you even did. Start2Finish put some thought into making their race standout and the differences did not go unnoticed (at least by me). They really set the bar high with Tomahawk. I am excited to see how others respond to the challenge. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sweet Potato Hummus

I came across this recipe the other day and I had to try it. Unfortunately I can't remember where I saw it so I cannot give credit where credit is due. I did a little internet search for the recipe (I am sure I saw it on a blog) but I came across so many versions I am beginning to believe the original creator of the recipe quit receiving credit a long time ago. As I mentioned, there are a lot of variations out there but I made this one and it is simply divine.  

2 large sweet potatoes (or 2 cups mashed sweet potato)
3 garlic cloves
1 15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup tahini
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wrap each sweet potato with foil. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until tender. Peel sweet potatoes, set aside.

In a large food processor (or blender), puree garlic cloves and chickpeas. Add tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, brown sugar, and spices. Puree until smooth. Then add sweet potatoes and puree until completely combined.

Serve immediately with pita chips or store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to serve. This will also freeze for up to 3 months.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mojo Lost

Call if found
Every now and then I lose my mojo. Usually when I lose it, I lose it in all areas of my life. Unfortunately the primary target of my missing mojo is my swimming. All other areas of my life seem to be going relatively well (of course I am lying about my love life (or lack thereof) but I digress . . . ). I have been traveling. I have been getting in a lot of great workouts. I am even back to running 30 miles a week. I gots lots to celebrate! Last Saturday I had a great workout. The boys and I hit up Cordelia with Johnny Tango and I pulled 5x 200m faster than I have in recent years. Despite dodging a fleet of wandering hairballs I was all over it! But then something happened Monday as I found myself just too tired to get up for swimming.  When my alarm went off I pet the cats and went back to sleep. Whaaaa?

I get so excited for swim days it is hard for me to fathom staying in bed rather than taking the opportunity to enjoy 25 yards of chlorinated bliss.  With a pretty tight schedule it is hard to make up missed workouts so I did not swim again until Wednesday morning. Getting in Wednesday I was slow and unmotivated. Even though I wrote my own workout I still was not excited about it. I was really only excited about swimming with AquaGeek, always a special treat regardless of my mojo level. This morning I got up and traversed the city opting to swim at the fine outdoor oasis known as Cordelia Park. As an added bonus I knew SprinterJohn would make me do some sprinter stuff which was actually starting to sound somewhat appealing over distance free and IM repeats. SprinterJohn never fails to disappoint but sadly the butterfly breakouts, no breathers, and underwater kick sessions did nothing to awaken my mojo. 

So where is my mojo!?! Who took it !?! And most importantly, how do I get it baaaaaaack!?!

Tomorrow morning I will once again be at the mercy of the merciless Johnny Tango. Will he bring my mojo back? Will he present me with a challenge that will ignite the fire and my deep seeded desire to seek and destroy? One can only hope . . . 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Three bros and a . . .

. . . awesome chick named Jenny.

Well I had big plans for the July 4th holiday weekend. Unfortunately those plans were derailed slightly due to a few obligations at work. And by obligations I mean I was called to appear as an expert witness in a court case that has been dragging out since early 2012. So rather than spend 4 glorious days in the foothills of northern Georgia on a sweet traincation, I stayed in Charlotte and made lemonade out of lemons. 

July 4th:
I took advantage of the holiday to grab a long ride. James was heading north to the Davidson area for a century ride. I have not had the chance to ride up in that area so I begged him to let me tag along. Lucky for me he was feeling generous. Not so lucky for me, I arrived to the ride with a dead Garmin. Without even a traditional watch as back up I knew the 100 miler I was about to endure would be interesting. To be honest, a workout without collecting any data was quite liberating and refreshing. I was actually kinda excited about the opportunity but after my blow up in Brushy last weekend I was a tad nervous about timing my nutrition right (ie pre- leg cramps and diva moments). Ultimately I consumed more than enough to get by for a 5 hour ride enjoying the company and countryside (even though it rained for the first two hours). 

Mid-ride post-showers selfie
July 5th:
Friday morning I got up to swim like any other week day. I found the MCAC a bit more quiet than it usual so without a workout and someone to keep me honest I did quite a bit of dilly-dallying before hopping in the cool-to-cold water. After a decent warm up I pounded out what would best be described as a "technique swim" where I focused more on swimming correctly than I did on swimming fast.  I spent most of my swim in awe of the woman in the lane next to me. She is what I would describe as a "fitness swimmer." To me, a "fitness swimmer" is someone who maybe didn't grow up swimming, swims for the exercise benefits, and doesn't particularly appear all that interested in competitions of any kind. I am not sure if any or all of these characteristics apply to this woman but she was working it! Working it like no swimmer I have seen in the pool recently. She pulled, she kicked, she did sprint 50s, and she even busted into several laps of butterfly. It was awesome! I loved watching her get after it. Unfortunately I had to head out to get to work but I left the pool with a huge smile on my face and feeling more inspired than I had all week. 

Somewhere in Georgia, obviously
July 6th:
With little else to do I decided to trek to Georgia anyway for rest of the weekend. HaycraftGWTD, 404 (aka The Honey Badger), and Chuck Norris were planning to ride the Six Gaps route in Dahlonega, GA and I wanted in on that action. I have heard a lot of great things about the Six Gap Century and frankly I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I guess I should have checked out the elevation profile prior to committing to the ride. When it was handed to me Saturday morning my jaw dropped. I tried to convince myself the climbs only looked hard because the profile was not as stretched out as it should be (scale is everything) . . . wishful thinking on my part.

In an effort to delay the inevitable I went for a short run with Chuck Norris and then treated myself to some fine breakfast vittles prepared by Mama Chuck Norris. It was close to noon before we were on our bikes. It had been a rare dry day so far but less than 10 minutes into the ride it started to rain; it would rain off and on for us for the next six hours. The cooler temperatures were welcome but the humidity and damp roads were not. Regardless of the weather, the four of us were committed to this ride and plugged along at various intensities. I tried to be conservative with my efforts but each climb took almost everything I had just to keep the ol' legs moving. People swoooooon over Mt. Mitchell and BSG but this is easily the hardest course I have ever done and can ever imagine doing. I have the deepest respect for Chuck Norris who rode a similar route as a part of Ironman Lanzarote, no big deal for the guy who crushes pavement. The route itself is scenic and I am amazed an area so beautiful is located so close to the city of Atlanta. It must be a popular training destination because we ran into several triathletes from Dynamo Multisport about halfway through the ride. After some blog stalking I learned Dynamo Multisport has an annual training camp that starts with the Peachtree Road Race every year (July 4th). Unfortunately I was not able to come up with many details about the camp but it looked like they had a good group of triathletes in attendance (maybe a couple of pros too!). It took us about 6 hours to finish the 105 mile ride so it was relatively late by the time we returned to the house. We were left with little more to do than strap on a feed sack and hunker down to watch 300 with our full bellies and tired legs!

The bros
(Pink does not appear in the dress code)
A little too much riding in the rain

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Watch and wait . . .

Watch your thoughts,
      . . . they become your words.

Watch your words,
      . . . they become your actions.

Watch your actions,
      . . . they become your habits.

Watch your habits,
      . . . they become your character.

Watch your character,
      . . . it becomes your destiny.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Turning a breakdown into a breakthrough

Unappreciated view from Cordelia Park
This past weekend was off to a great start. I got to sleep in a little bit before heading out to indulge a rare treat of an outdoor long course workout. While it had stormed through the night, the morning was crisp and brimming with potential. After throwing down a solid 4500m, the boys and I headed out for a nice, yet humid, little run through NoDa and my old 'hood, Plaza-Midwood. It was a fun little jog down memory lane (except for the blistering fast pace set by The Boss). A late breakfast, a little R&R, an aerobic ride, and a short dinner with the girls . . .  done-zo for the day-o.

It's kitty time!
Never one to shy away from adventure, I committed to heading over to the Wilksboro area to ride the infamous Brushy Mountain route Sunday morning with Chuck Norris and The Champ. I was feeling a little intimidated to ride with these guys as I know from personal experience they are both strong climbers and really tend to push the hills. I figured the two guys would just feed off each other and leave me behind like chum in the water. Unfortunately for me this was the least of my worries. About 90 minutes into the ride I blew up. We were on our second climb and I was struggling to breathe. My heart rate skyrocketed and I felt like I was hyperventilating. The combination of clouds, cooler temperatures, and high humidity beguiled me to believing I did not need to eat or drink anything.  Yet when I hit the top of Lithia Springs I was drenched and had a nice steady stream of sweat rolling off my nose as I bent over my bike trying to catch my breath.  Thinking I had just overcooked it, I continued on with the ride feeling quite helpless as my mind and body slowly and painfully deteriorated. On the last big climb of the day I found my legs barely capable of pushing my pedals. I contemplated getting off my bike and sitting on the side of the road until someone took pity on me but since I was so busy throwing a pity party for myself I ended up lumbering my way up to the top without additional assistance. When I finally caught sight of the guys my mind was almost in full blown tantrum mode. Chuck Norris tried to memorialize the meltdown via video.  Luckily a few words in the right tone put an end to those shenanigans. I silently finished the ride stifling expletives and whimpers as my adductors and quads continued to cramp. I was frustrated and disappointed in myself for not being smarter and fueling appropriately but mainly for letting it get to me. The celebration for reaching our final destination was short and sweet but only when I watched Chuck Norris head out for a post ride run did I realize 1) this stuff isn't easy 2) I should be thankful I get to do it 3) I am constantly surrounded by the amazing athletes/friends. And with that I rang my air cowbell as loud as possible for Chuck Norris as he came in FTW.

The transformation
Monday morning I woke up to a new day. Thoughts of yesterday’s (almost) complete meltdown were (almost) long gone. I packed my swim and lunch bags as if on autopilot and lumbered out the door with my coffee in hand. As usual I was late walking on deck and I was easily the last one to start warm up. Thanks to the cramps running up and down my thighs my legs were not feeling too jacked. Warm up ended too early (said the girl 15 minutes late) and the first warm up sprint set felt like a slap in the face. Finishing the last sprint 50, I am fairly sure I saw a little gleam in Johnny Tango’s eye as he cheerfully wished us a happy July 1st and announced we would be doing a 1000 for time. I would be lying if I claimed I was not downright giddy. The other girl in my lane, a distance swimmer from Brown, made the executive to not do a broken 1K, as some of the other lanes were doing, much to the dismay of the sprinter from UNCW. It was clear Ashley and I were in our element as we both very quickly settled into a groove. The poor guy in our lane didn’t have a chance as we averaged 1:06s per 100. The last 150 didn't feel so hot but I finished the 1K satisfied and content with my effort. Unfortunately that feeling was fleeting as we were told to begin an 800 IM for time on “the top.” I waited patiently for Johnny Tango to instruct us on how we were to break it up but as I feared it was supposed to be an 800 IM straight. I didn't have time to reflect on it as “the top” came fast and unyielding to my concerns. Surprisingly the 200 fly felt pretty smooth so my insecurities shifted from the butterfly to the breaststroke. Breaststroke has always been my nemesis. Luckily Ashley and I are equally poor at breaststroking and while neither of us drowned Cody did manage to catch up a little bit. Finishing the 800 IM once again quite pleased with myself, I was ready to kick back into a long drawn out cool down set. Nope. 200 free for time. Awesome.

Johnny Tango, he looks innocent enough
Just goes to show you everyday is a new day. Don't commit to yesterday. And don't forget to HTFU.