Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Amber In Wonderland

"Come on, Amber. You can win the whole thing!"

"There is no use trying," said Amber; "one can't believe impossible things."

"I dare say you haven't had much practice," said Danny. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

And with that, Amber took up the charge, knowing that despite the predictions for the favorite winning the race, there was no reason why she couldn't be victor. After all, this is not a math test and the one that looks best on paper doesn't turn out best in practice. This is triathlon! And Amber's here to give it her all.

New Orleans 70.3 this weekend has a stacked(surprise,surprise) field which includes Mirinda Carfrae, Cait Snow, and Heather Wurtele. The swim got canceled last year but it looks like it will occur but most likely won't be wetsuit legal. The bike should be fast but exposed with potential for windy conditions. The run, well the run, is going to be a hot one! While there was serious talk about canceling the Boston Marathon due to the heat, New Orleans is predicted to have similar temperatures for the 70.3 miles without any talk of cancellation. A lot of the other female pros are from hot climates, like Texas etc, so there will be a bit of home field advantage but hopefully Amber will use this week to acclimate to the heat before our trip down.

Whatever the outcomes, I know there will be good jambalaya and gumbo waiting to be eaten and I think if we continue to try, and believe, the impossible, it will soon no longer be impossible.




























Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Not So Simple Question

Someone asked me the other day: What do you do besides train?

The question, seemingly innocuous enough, really struck me. What do I do?

Amber and I both still work full-time jobs, hang out with our friends and family, watch movies, read, hike, and go out to dinner as well as travel quite a bit. Just in the last two years, we have gone to: Texas where we were able the Galveston Island that Eric Larson depicted in his non-fiction book "Isaac's Storm"; explored cheese factories in Upstate Wisconsin; hiked in Zion National Park; gambled in Las Vegas; ate soft shell crabs in Annapolis; shrimp gumbo in New Orleans; nearly raw steak in Quebec; toured coffee plantations, walked in a crater, climbed a 13,000 foot peak and tried unsuccessfully to stand-up paddle board in Hawaii; and most recently finally made our way to Southern California where we may have had the best Mexican food in our lives. In addition, I went to Portugal, China, and Germany with my family, made a road trip to Atlanta with my brother, Andrew, sister, Marilyn, and cousin, Joey, and consistently loss at the annual Gold Jacket Tournament; and Amber snuck in a trip to Arizona. We watched our friends and siblings get married, achieve great success and suffer hardships.

We just happen to also run, and in Amber's case, bike and swim. And besides a long bike ride Amber may have on a weekend, very rarely does the training interfere with other aspects of our lives. I wouldn't take back my memory of running and swimming with my late cousin, Kevin, for anything.

The question quickly lead me to: What do other people do?

 What did I do five years ago before I started running?

That's a bit tricky because I was in college so a lot of time was devoted to studying, projects etc. Free time was dedicated to pick-up basketball games, $6 pitchers at Connor Larkins, or rock climbing at Quincy Quarry. However, I can honestly say that I probably spent less time "doing things" then than I do now.

What if instead of running, I continued to rock climb? What that be considered "training"?

That may be trickiest part of the whole question. Aside from a few runs that I force myself to go out on, I usually run where and when I want with my friends. I don't even necessarily view them as training as much as a fun(usually) outing.

If all I did was drink beer, would I be training for a beer chugging contest? Maybe I should after my humiliating defeat to my new friend Andrew in Shanghai.

Still, it still doesn't really explain why someone would ask the question in the first place. I feel like I'm missing something.

What am I not able to do because I'm spending(a very small portion) time running?

I can't think of anything. It is true, I don't watch television or play video games and besides this blog, spend very little time on the internet, but other than that can't really think of many things that I'd like to be doing but am not(around the obvious constraints of a full-time job). There are certainly people who let running(or triathlon) consume their entire being let all aspects of their lives fall by the wayside. But this is can be seen in any hobby. Look no further than the movie "A Big Year" and you can see Owen Wilson's character be consumed by bird watching! Whether it's running, bird watching, dancing, beer drinking, watching television, or even volunteering, if  there ceases to be a balance in your life only then does it become a problem.

However, while it is a ever-moving target, I think I've got a good amount of balance in my life. Now if only I can think of a witty retort to that person's question?

Does simply:  What do YOU do? suffice?

Knowing our time on this planet is limited, what will you do to live your life to the fullest and fittest?

Hug your loved ones, laugh with your friends, watch a movie, knit, snuggle up with a good book, or maybe even go for a run.

Up Next: New Orleans 70.3(4/22)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Swimming Up Stream

Alongside chocolate Easter bunnies and Peeps lined up on death row, in my Easter basket this year was an issue of the New Yorker courtesy of an ever-diligent Easter Bunny that wants to ensure that I am reading things other than Runner's World and Running Times. Little does my mother(errr Easter Bunny) know, I also read Trail Runner and New England Runner. As I was perusing the magazine on my ride back to Concord that night, I found an article by David Sedaris entitled Memory Laps. In this funny article it talks about his childhood as a reluctant swimmer and, amongst many, had a very funny quote that I'd like to share because it could have been me(barring the comedic prose) writing it.

"It was only in competing that swimming became fraught and self-conscious.
More accurately, it was only in competing with boys. I was fine against girls,
especially if they were younger than me. Younger than me and physically
challenged was even better. Give me a female opponent with a first-grade
 education and a leg brace and I would churn that water like a speedboat.
When it came to winning, I never split hairs."

It reminded me of last year's Exeter swim meet where, in the course of one day, I:
 a)lost my swim shorts on three separate occasions,
 b)was disqualified from the butterfly within my first two swim strokes,
 c)stared blankly at my "opponents" as they dove in the water to a weak sounding hum that I thought was someone's cat purring, and
d) was lapped not once, not twice but three times by fellow swimmers during the mile swim which Liz McBride sweetly cut short for me by "miscounting" my laps.

The thing was, though, I was competing against males and females alike and still couldn't churn the water. At least not like a speedboat more like butter with a yarn trying to cut through it.

I do believe that next weekend's New Orleans 70.3 which I am "competing" with have a para-athlete division so not only will I be vying for a place in the water amongst women, I will also have to compete with women with leg-braces or no legs at all. I wouldn't be putting any money on me. I don't think my mother will be either. Thanks mom! :)
Up Next:  Merrimack River Trail Race(4/14), New Orleans 70.3(4/22)

Monday, April 2, 2012

California 70.3 Race Weekend and Recap

A few weeks after Amber took the Silver medal at the World Snowshoe Championships in Quebec, Canada her next race brought us to San Diego, California for a half Ironman.
Amber with the TriBike Crew

Amber shaking her tail feathers in Quebec

We used TriBike Transport to get Amber's bike down which made the flight down really smooth only having to check one bag.
Amber's team, Zoot Ultra, had generously offered to put us up in a hotel for Friday, Saturday and Sunday but we were arriving Thursday and needed a place to stay that first night.We had arranged to stay with a local triathlete who also kindly put us up for a night. He took us to dinner, showed us around and made us feel at home.
Jim and Amber

In addition to being a great host, Jim also had a great set-up. Out his back door lead to a great trail network that I utilized while Amber was doing some warm up rides on Thursday and Friday. I'm not sure what I was expecting but definitely not the mountainous terrain of Arizona or Utah which I found outside his door. Maybe I was thinking Southern California would look like Florida. Great running with nearly constant up or downs.
Great Trails for Running

On Friday after carbo loading at Breakfast(which I believe is the real reason after likes to race), we went to the Expo where we met some of Amber's sponsors.

Amber's first course
The Breakfast Club Dinner
In addition to PR bar and GU, we met the head of the Zoot Ultra team and SPY sunglasses. She was very excited after meeting everyone and seeing(and tasting) the different products. I'd definitely encourage you to take a closer look at all her sponsors here.
Amber at the PR Bar
The goober at the GU station
The Swim in the Harbor
Amber at the swim start
After the checking out the sponsors, expo, the transition set-up, and taking a look at the swim in the Harbor we checked in at the Pacific Palisades. Zoot put us up for Friday, Saturday and Sunday at an amazing hotel with a full-length salt-water swimming pool which was located right next to a micro-brewery.
Amber at the entrance to the hotel
Amber in the full-length, salt water pool at the Palisades

Amber in front of the flower gardens right next to the hotel.

Danny and Amber sitting next to Matty Reed and in front of Andy Potts at the pro meeting

Amber taking her bike out of the car

Race morning came early as it always does, and before we knew it Amber was setting up her bike transition. The water was cold. 58 degrees! Luckily Amber had her new Zoot Prophet which is probably the best wetsuit that is legal in WTC races. 
I won't attempt to do a race report for Amber as she has promised me she'll do one later this week and post it here. But below is a series of pictures from race day:
Andy Potts leading off the swim
Amber swimming in third place on the swim

Amber continues to lead the second pack

After Amber got out of the swim and on the bike I took some pictures of the waves breaking on the run course
An overcast day may be bad for the spectators but great for racers
Amber at the start of the bike

Jim drove us out to mile 20 where we watched Amber pass. Smiling of course!
Amber coming out of the bike transition: Pick em and Pass em!

Amber turning the corner on the Strand

Andy Potts, the men's overall winner, being chased down by Amber
Andy Potts running scared seeing Amber closing the gap

Amber in her new Zoot Suit at the finish

Amber finished 9th female overall with a scorching time of 4:38 in a really competitive field. I am so excited to see how her race season progresses.
After the race, Amber, her dad, Greg(who had flown in from Las Vegas to watch Amber) and I headed back to the hotel for a soak in the hot tub and some March Madness basketball. Within a half hour of sitting on the hotel bed, Greg and I were passed out, while Amber decided to go out and meet with her teammates. You would have thought we were the ones that did the race.

Elite Women at the Carlsbad 5000
The next day Amber had a Zoot Team Camp so Greg and I headed into Carsbad for breakfast and to watch the Carlsbad 5000. This race is the fastest 5k in the world. It also is huge! The races are broken up to age groups with masters, walkers, 29 and under, elite women and elite men all are in separate groups. There must of been at least 5,000 racers. We watched the men's elite 5k where the first runner ran a 13:11. Imagine a running a 13:20 5k and not even making the podium! That's ridiculous. The elite women took off next and they didn't seem to be much slower with the first women finishing in 15:02.

Team Zoot Ultra
As generous Zoot was with the hotel, they also treated us to dinner at the Stone Brewery. The Stone Brewery produces the Stone IPA which is my drink of choice at the Barley House in NH. It was a sign! A great dinner meeting all of Amber's teammates.
Amber with Angi Axmann a fellow Zooter

The trip to California was a very fun time and made Amber appreciate her team even more. She cannot wait to represent them again throughout the upcoming season.
Up Next: Danny has the Merrimack River Trail Race then we both have New Orleans 70.3 in late April