October 27, 2005      Mark Your Calendars for a 5K!

Janus Charity Challenge

Michelle has become a race Director and is raising money for the Downs Syndrome Association. She is organizing a 5K to raise money for Downs Syndrome research. The Dash for Downs 5K will be Sunday March 26th, 2006 at Williamson County Regional Park.  

October 27, 2005      Ironstar Triathlon

After Lake Placid I knew my training needed to change, I wanted to improve my times and my training methods of the last few years didn't seem to be making me faster any more. I joined Texas Iron at the beginning of September, eight weeks before my final race of the season. The intensity was a big change from the massive hours I had tried to put in during the past year. Intervals are hard, every practice is a challenge but I was feeling very confident about my decision. The people in the group are great, I was so amazed at the positive, supportive atmosphere. I feel like I'm part of a team again. For me, it's a great feeling to have a practice schedule, with coaches giving feedback, and a group of people all trying to push each other to improve.

I really wanted my last race of the season to be a good one but didn't want to give myself so much pressure. I promised myself I'd follow Andrea's schedule and have confidence it would make me faster. It seemed to be working well. Michael went to Taiwan for a bit and while he was gone I had some great workouts to boost my confidence. With 2 weeks until race day, I had a strong open water swim, hit PR's for my run loops and felt great on the bike.

That's when I decided the outcome of the race, Lynne was going to win and I was going be the 2nd female overall. It sounded like such an arrogant thing to be decidedly saying so I kept my thought to myself but in my mind I was sure that's what was going to happen. I kept telling myself Lynne would be the only one ahead of me at the end of the race because I knew I would have a heck of a task trying to run her down.

After a very chilly transition practice, Michael and I packed up the car to head to Conroe. I asked him what it meant to have a slow transition practice the day before the race, "It means you're going to have a great race," Michael assured me. As if he would've said anything different.

Once we got to Conroe we checked into the hotel, drove the first part of the bike course so I could see the new route, and stopped in the forest so Michael could ride the rest of the course. As Michael was getting his bike ready I called Jamie & Andrea to ask advice about the wetsuit, "You want to wear your wetsuit," Jamie answered. "Okay, that's all I needed to know." For some reason I had been a bit unsure since I heard reports that the water was very warm for 76 degrees. It's good to have coaches and husbands to tell you what to do when you're being stupid. Michael rode the course and gave me a report; the landmines in pot-hole alley were still on the course, be careful.

We went to dinner and I continued in my new habit of eating desert food whenever it looked good, it's so much more fun this way (I even had some wine with our anniversary dinner last weekend). Dinner wasn't bad and we got to chat with some friends while we were there. The toughest part was trying to turn off my brain to fall asleep, it took quite some time.

I woke up on race day 1hr before transition opened. I ate my banana and PB&J, had my vitamins, and got my stuff ready to go. We left the room a few minutes ahead of schedule and realized they were already allowing people into transition. I wasn't the first one on my rack but I still had a great spot, just a few feet from bike out / bike in. There wasn't much concern about allowing non-athletes into transition so Michael came into the area to help me search for my nose piece which had just fallen off my sunglasses. He gave me some more good advice about my fuel belt, "leave it out and decide if you're going to bring it based on the amount of water you drink during the ride." Again, he gave me more good advice which would help later.

I finished setting up my area, went back to the room to visit the bathroom, went for my warm-up run, and got back at about 7:15. I had just the right amount of time to wait for the porta-potty and get my wetsuit on before the race even started. Michael got a pre-race picture of Lynne and I and it was time to line up for the swim start.

I was kind of surprised by how clear my water was for the swim. There were 150 women all starting off in a pretty small area and I only got kicked once. Usually I get knocked and hang back but this time I decided to go w/ the opposite approach and pushed hard for a few strokes to get out of the way. That was the correct choice for the day and the rest of the swim was pretty clear. I tried to imagine I had my paddles on, keep my paddle stroke rhythm and be sure my arms took I full stroke. I was happy with how smooth I seemed to feel compared to during other races. I'm usually all over the place during the swims but I think I did pretty well sighting this time, I seemed to get the bouys in my sight earlier than usual. The end of the swim seemed to come a bit quicker than I'd expected, I was pretty happy with myself, feeling like I'd done pretty well, I was hoping I wasn't too far behind Meredith.

I heard Michael cheering, "Good job Mich," and saw Cam as I ran up to the wetsuit strippers. I had no idea we'd have wetsuit strippers so I was pretty excited about the assistance. T1 took a bit longer than expected due to my decision to put on arm warmers after freezing during my transition practice on Saturday. After shivering so much at IMNZ I promised myself I wouldn't do that again in a race, so I had my arm warmers ready to go in T1. This was a pair I'd gotten in LP and they're a little tighter than my old ones so I had a tough time putting them on, definitely lost a fair amount of time in T1 as a result. Note: I have no clue what the others in my AG were doing in transition; I think some of them were sitting down. I went out onto the bike w/ 2 bottles of water, and one bottle of spiz/cytomax/carbo pro but promptly lost one bottle of water as I kicked it while hopping on my bike

I enjoyed the bike; I tried to keep it pretty steady and relaxed the entire time. I was real glad I'd used the time to put on the arm warmers b/c I was a little chilled but definitely not too warm, I kept them on the entire ride.

The most amusing part of my ride were the guys in the 30-39 age bracket who seemed to be riding the same pace as me the entire time. One of them was on a cervelo, wearing a pair of grey tri shorts. The funny part was the fact that I could see them drying throughout the ride, I wondered if my blue shorts were the same way. I also flip flopped position with a guy wearing all black, on a black bike. He was helpful when I was complaining about the potholes during the 2nd part of the course; I guess I was a little louder than a realized when I blurted out, "this road stinks."

I wasn't really sure how I was doing during the ride, didn't really see too many women along the way. One girl did fly past me near the beginning of the ride but I remembered Jamie's comment that they will come back later or they're too fast anyways. Another girl from Colorado caught up to me and we swapped places for the 2nd half of the ride. I later told Michael about the conversations I was having with her and he looked at me real funny, "You were supposed to be racing." He's correct but sometimes I think a bit of socializing keeps me honest and relaxed so I have energy for the run.

I finished the bike feeling pretty good but knew I hadn't drunk enough water. I'd grabbed 1 bottle on the ride but that was only about 3 bottles for 2hrs and that's a little less than normal for me, I ran out of water a few miles from the end of the ride.

I saw Lynne at the 1mile mark as I was biking in. I'd assumed she would be in the lead, figured she would be at about 1.5miles when I started the run so I figured that wasn't bad. Someone had said I was the 8th girl off the bike. I looked up at the clock and saw 3:33:xx as I entered T2, I'd started 7min back, I figured I'd need to hit my 1:45 to get my goal of <5:15.

Going into T2 I had a bit of a mishap dismounting. Some girl was yellow dismount line and I thought she was standing at the line. A few people around me got off where that girl was so I had to run the bike a little longer but no big deal. Per Michael's advice I had an easy decision, bring the fuel belt. T2 was better than T1 but I still felt inefficient, I was real surprised to see I had the fastest women's T2 of the day. On my way out to the run I spotted Michael and Paul, "Where's Meredith?" "She's not here yet," Michael answered. I was so confused, during the entire bike ride I'd assumed I hadn't caught up to her yet, I assumed my conservative pace hadn't been enough to get me in good position for the run.

I started the run at the same time as the girl from Colorado. She passed me and then I passed her back at mile 1. She was the last girl to pass me all day. Right from the start I settled into a pace that felt easy. I kept telling myself 'slow and steady wins the race.' I kept reminding myself of all the advice Andrea and Jamie had given me; keep my chin down, good turnover, tempo run, it should feel easy. I kept my steady pace and I was soon passing some women; 1 in my AG, 2 relays... Eventually I saw Lynne coming in the opposite direction, and then 1 other girl (the girl who was racked next to me). By the time I'd hit the turn around I'd passed a couple more women, problem was; Lynne and the other girl was over 1mi ahead of me. So I told myself that my goal was to keep up my steady pace and to race to the best I could. I reminded myself of Mark's advice before the race, "Make yourself proud."

I kept going at my pace, my legs were starting to feel like they were cramping so I started to take some salt and refused to let myself ease up. The 2nd loop got harder, it seemed like Lynne may have gained a little time on myself and the other girl. When I passed the turn around on the 2nd loop I saw Adam Riser, "She's only 1:45 ahead of you, go catch her... or at least make up some time on her." 'Yeah right,' I thought to myself, but I kept trudging along, drinking Gatorade at the stops and taking GU and electrolytes to try not to let the legs get worse. The course had changed a bit and I didn't realize I still had to run through the neighborhood on the way in. I was hurting by that point and really wanted to be done but knew I had to keep my pace if I wanted to keep 3rd overall. Ahead there was another turn around and some guy told me, "She's right there, go catch her." I looked ahead to see the other girl in sight, slowing fast. She made the u-turn, saw me and started to pick it up. 20s later I was at the u-turn and I made my choice, It was time to push hard, if I wanted to beat her I was going to need to run hard when I passed her to be sure she got dropped. So I ran hard and passed her with about 1/2 mi left in the race. For a few minutes people kept saying, "Good job ladies" or "good job, she's right behind you." I didn't look back; I was in a ton of pain and could tell my form was probably horrible from the cramping.

Eventually I was alone, but knew I had to keep pushing to be sure I wouldn't loose my place. About 100ft from the finish we ran from the road up to grass, as I did this my legs seized up and I thought I was going to fall over, I told myself there was no way I was going to let that happen so I regained my stride and finished. Michael has some good pictures of my legs buckling as I hit the grass.

I crossed the line and went over to where Lynne was standing. she congratulated me on my race. Lynne had thought she'd gotten a penalty and was waiting to see if the next girl would be less than 4 minutes behind her, "I didn't know it was going to be you," she said happily.

My 2005 triathlon season began in March. Ironstar was my last triathlon of the year; it was a long season; 2 Ironmans, 2 ½ Ironmans, 2 Olympic distance, and 2 sprints. I had done well at a couple of races but I had also had some frustrating races. I really wanted to do well at Ironstar and in the end I was very pleased with my day. I'd done everything according to plan and I definitely made myself proud. I had crossed the line at 5:13:09, a new PR. I'd hit my goal of sub 5:15 and my 1:45:12 run was pretty good pacing for someone who doesn't wear a watch and wanted to get 1:45. I had pushed hard at the end and had given it all I had at the end.

I still have some areas to improve upon and some cramping issues to figure out but I'm closing the book on a long 2005 triathlon season feeling very confident about what's ahead of me. Most of all I'm happy about all the supportive and encouraging people I've had along the way.

The Best Part Is the Hard Part

Make Yourself Proud 

September 2005       To The Bouys and Back

The Friday night open water swim has become a bit of tradition this past summer. Meet up with friends after work on Friday night, Zen swim for ½ hour, head off to Whole Foods for dinner. Everything about it seems perfect but our warm Austin summer began to make the swim a bit too much for our delicate equilibriums. In an effort to acclimate to the colder waters, Lynne set out in search of a new location for our tradition; the low water crossing, just past Mansfield Dam.

It's hard to describe the true likeness of this location, the waters are chilly, and the current is fierce, but until you have actually attempted to swim in the area you don't really know what it is like.

Upon first hearing about the suggested location, Michael's response was, "Burr." He knew the waters would be chilly, but 65 degrees was a bit surprising when the top of Lake Travis is reading about 90 degrees. Even so, we agreed to take part in the inaugural swim after being told we were allowed to wear wetsuits.

So Michael & I met at Dell on Friday night and drove down to the low water crossing to meet up with Lynne and Fred. As we drove up to the area we could see the water was moving fast but we weren't real sure what this would mean once we hopped in the water. Michael and I managed to get on our wetsuits, quite a difficult task on a hot night in Austin. I was covered in sweat, wondering what I was thinking.

We walked onto the bridge where Fred informed us of the plan, "I thought we'd just swim under the bridge, down the side, to the bouy line. Then swim across the bouy line and back. The way back should be pretty fast."

So we four fools head down to the water in ignorant bliss. As we get down to the water we see another guy flying back from underneath the bridge. He quickly flips over and his arms start flailing through the air. He seems to be making absolutely no forward progress and a minute later he lunges his body forward and grabs a hold of the metal truss hanging down from the bridge. "I wonder how fast he swims in a pool?!!" I say this out loud as I try to convince myself I must swim faster than this guy who's in baggy swim trunks and still has shoes on his feet.

We step into the water and the chill of it makes me very appreciative of my efforts to squeeze myself into my wetsuit. I start my watch and we head off into the uncertainty of our new swimming hole. We head over to the bridge and I can already feel the currents pushing hard to force us downstream. We make the 90 degree turn towards the bridge and we're off, flying up stream like a pack of salmon.

Or maybe not! I was headed nowhere fast. As I try my hardest to fight the current I am very aware of my lack of progress. I look overhead to see the pipe above me, I'm moving in the wrong direction. I concentrate hard and move forward about 1 inch. I look ahead of me, Lynne has made it through the bridge, Fred is struggling to get out, and Michael appears to be treading water. What in the world is going on I think? Is he holding onto something? I keep swimming hard, trying to make it to Michael but not getting any closer. I look up to see his head just bobbing along as I'm using my entire mite to make forward progress. After a bit of time I begin to worry I may tire myself out and might not be able to make it back to the start location once I resign from my battle. So I back off a bit and start swinging my arms as fast as possible to make it back to the start location. I'm exhausted. I look down at my watch, 5:38. Oh my goodness, I just swam for 5 and a half minutes and I'm tired!

A moment later Michael comes shooting through the back of the bridge and starts failing his arms in an effort to make it to the start location before getting forced down stream. He tells me about the rope he was hanging on too and I am a little less confused. Lynne and Fred are still out in the water, fighting their way towards the bouys.

We have a new plan, go to the other side of the road, swim hard for a few minutes, then fly back to our original start location and get out. This seemed like a much better idea until we started walking along the road and rocks without shoes. Maybe this was the logic of the other guy.

By this time a few people have stopped atop the bridge to look down upon these crazy people swimming below them. Michael and I hop in, swim for about 30 seconds, flip around, and fly back through the bridge. It was quite a rush but a bit scary too.

Lynne and Fred hop out after a few more minutes and we all have a good laugh about Fred's crazy idea of making it to the bouy line. Lynne tells us she had to make herself stop laughing because it was causing her to move backwards. We had all enjoyed ourselves and were very amused by our new adventure. This was definitely a challenge we were planning to take on again.

We met up again a week later, this time Chris T. joined us. We joked about Fred's statement of the week before and all got ready to swim. It was yet another struggle to get into the wetsuit but I knew it would be worth the effort.

I'd brought my paddles this time and was determined to get out from under the bridge. We hopped in made a mad dash for the bridge. It was quite strange when we got to the bridge this time. Michael, Chris, and I were all swimming right next to each other, hitting each other with almost every stroke, getting some great open water swim practice. After a minute we were able to spread out a bit but it was still a bit hectic under there. This week I made progress, I made it through the bridge, and was elated with myself even though I was using paddles. It felt amazing to me; with every stroke I could study my efficiency. It was like being in an endless pool but I measured my lack of progress against a rock at the bottom of the lake.

I looked back over my shoulder to see Michael standing on the bridge, taking pictures. He wasn't alone, there was a large crowd gathered. It was quite humorous to me, to see all of these people watching us, wondering what we were thinking. I started to laugh and moved backwards. Lynne was correct, you can't laugh.

After a few minutes of Zen swimming with my paddles I decided to head back to shore. I wondered if I could make it through the bridge without the paddles. I removed my green helpers and made another go at it. No luck, I still couldn't make it through the bridge. I did make it a little farther than the week before, this time I managed to grab the rope. I tried to rest and regain composure before making another attempt. I was close but never quite managed to get free of the bridge. It was another epic swim and this time I'd gone a bit longer.

Attempt 3 occurred the night Michael left for Asia. This time Kelly G. and R.F. had joined up for the adventure. Kelly had her wetsuit but RF did not. He questioned me as I put on my paddles, "I need these," I said. I was determined to make it farther tonight.

Lynne proceeded to tell them the plan, "We'll swim out to the bouys, swim across, regroup, and come back."

"I'm not waiting for anyone," RF declared

I held in my laughter as he started to ask how long it would take, how hard it was, etc. Lynne just kept giving vague replies, "Don't worry, just swim."

Once again we were off, heading towards the bouy line. I made it through the bridge fairly easily today. I assumed I'd just keep swimming for a while and eventually head back and take off the paddles for another attempt to make it through the bridge without them.

RF and I were swimming fairly close for a few minutes and then he, Lynne, and Kelly appeared to be way ahead, off to the left of me. I began to think about Michael's hill climbing advice. He tells me that if a hill is too hard I should start weaving a bit, making it easier than going up the steepest grade. I start to wonder if that is true for the swimming, maybe it's easier if I don't go directly into the current. So I shift my plan and begin to swim diagonally towards the others. Fred is right beside me and we appear to be making progress.

After a few more minutes I look up and see the lead three standing. I am a bit confused, wondering how shallow it is and wondering what they are standing on. Below me it is too deep to stand and the lake bead is covered in long weeds which flutter rapidly with the current, I can't imagine putting my feet down into that.

I keep swimming, determined to make up the ground I've lost. After a few minutes I come upon a shallower area. Eventually a notice some spots with rocks and assume this is the type of area my friends had been standing on. For me there is no time to rest, they are swimming again and I don't want to loose any more ground. I begin to make up some distance and it seems like Fred isn't next to me anymore. I keep trudging forward, a little freaked out by the shallow areas where the fluttering weeds seem to be just inches below my paddles.

As I muscle along I begin to assess the current state. I can't believe this. They must not have realized we were joking. They're actually going to swim all the way to the bouy line. Well, if they're going to make it, I am too!! Lynne stands up again and I'm also in a location to stand so I pop up to blurt out a few words to here, "I don't think they knew we were joking about the bouys." Lynne laughs and we both start to swim again, knowing we will make it today.

As we get closer to the dam there are areas of variable current. It is strange, a little scary, but very invigorating. Kelly and RF are both ahead, they make it to the bouy line first, Lynne arrives shortly after, and my paddles and I make it there too. I am sure to swim all the way up to a bouy; I've made it all the way here so I need to touch one to make it official! We share a moment of honor and since I cannot touch ground I decide it is time to head back.

Maybe this is what it feels like to climb Everest; you struggle up for a moment to reach the goal point and relish in your accomplishment, and then it's time to rush back. Not the same scale of accomplishment but it was definitely a lot of satisfaction.

We turn back and fly through the water, half body surfing, half swimming. Once again, we shoot through the bridge and have to make that instantaneous conversion to mad swimming back to the start point. 30 minutes to the bouy line, 5 minutes back.

It's quite funny when you think about it, how we each set boundaries in our heads and don't believe we can overtake them. We made it to the bouy line because RF and Kelly didn't know the story of the previous weeks' adventures. They believed we planned to swim to the bouys and stuck to the plan. They weren't limited by a mental block and because of that we were able to make it to the bouys too. It is quite amazing what a bit of mental strength can do.

Our swim to the bouy line was quite a surreal experience, I learned quite a bit from that 35 minute swim. Most of all I learned how happy I am to be living in Austin, how happy I am to have found such a great hobby, and how happy I am to have so many friends to partake in this craziness with.

Next I must make it to the bouys without my paddles.