Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Life in a dual athlete household

I recently wrote a piece for Witsup, an Aussie-based website dedicated to Women in Triathlon that was started by Stef Hanson. The article focused on the joys... and challenges... of training with my beloved!

Life in a dual athlete household

Grocery bills that close in on $300 per week and a load of laundry every day might suggest a large family but in fact, there are just two of us. My husband and I met though triathlon four years ago and this October will be my 4th time and his 3rd time racing Ironman Hawaii and the second time that we will compete at the race together. Training and racing together generates a ton of dirty, sweaty athletic wear and two very hungry mouths to feed.
Setting off on a long ride prepping for Kona 13

As competitive age-groupers, my husband and I juggle full-time jobs with training for Ironman. Given the latter consumes ~20 hours per week on top of the 50-60 hours per week we spend on our careers, it doesn’t leave time for a lot of anything else in life. Our *quality time together* often needs to be cherished within the context and swim, bike and run.
Post-run lake jumping

One might believe the couple that trains and races together, stays together, but it’s hard to train harmoniously when our swim, bike and run speeds are quite different. My husband spots me 30+ minutes in a half-ironman and over an hour at Iron-distance races. He’s usually showered up, sporting fresh clothes and eaten a post-race meal by the time I cross the line.  I am the laggard.
Point Reyes Lighthouse ride

Swim training is the easiest sport to do with my husband. We swim masters in different lanes and both do our own thing with our respective lane-mates. The disharmony usually appears post-swim when I find my husband toe-tapping outside the locker room, waiting for me to get showered and dressed. It’s clear that he’s a lot more “wash n’ wear” than me… not that I am high maintenance, but shoulder-length hair and a greater concern for the drying properties of chlorine on my skin, add minutes to my post-swim transition time.
Racing together at Lake Stevens

The bike. Oh the bike! The only time we truly fight is on the bike… which I find hilarious since it’s the athletic discipline that we both love most! The mis-matched ability is a good starting point to understand why we bicker while doing something we enjoy. Throw in the more challenging environment for good communication (we have not yet resorted to “race radios”) and we somehow find reasons to argue. If he’s in front, he often *drops me* inadvertently as he winds up the pace during the ride or as the terrain steepens. It can take him a while to notice that I am no longer on his wheel. When he finally realizes this, he’ll suggest that I go to the front and set the pace… which to me is nutty… why have the weaker rider pushing wind? On these occasions when I am lagging far behind, I wish he would “cut the cord” and ride off into the distance, allowing me wallow in my slowness but he’ll wait patiently for me on hills or after a specific interval, to ensure that I am doing okay. Of course, there are tremendous benefits to riding together too. If one of us is having a bad day, we encourage and support one another to complete the training, even if we are not hitting the interval markers that we would like to see. Another huge advantage to riding with my husband is his bike maintenance skills. I cannot remember the last time I changed a flat tire, a fact which has protected many a manicure.
Running the "World Class Loop" on Mt Tam

The run is where we most differ and as a result we tend to “run alone, together”, running alongside one another on treadmills or starting and finishing runs in the same spot but doing our own thing. After all, his warm-up pace is my race pace! Just knowing he is out that is great comfort when I am suffering through a hard interval or tiring towards the end of a long run.             
We rode the entire length of NZ together

Race day presents different challenges, usually starting with who to identify as one another’s “emergency contact” since the contact person should never be another athlete! With wave starts our respective start times can be over an hour apart so we need to manage our pre-race preparation with the other’s schedule in mind. I’ve spent many an extra half hour figuring out where to take a nap in transition after seeing my husband’s swim wave take off. Once on the race course, I am mostly focused on my race but my mind will wander as I think about how he is doing. Out and back races are my favorite since it affords us the opportunity to get a little race day love and support from one another… while riding and running along, I anxiously scan the other racers, looking for him to get a small sense of how his day is going. If it’s on the run, we may even try and steal a quick kiss!
Marin Headlands just outside SF

When the racing is all over, my husband and I make great listeners for one another’s “battle stories” and the tales of the day’s events. Preferably over a great meal washed down with beer and wine. I understand and appreciate the minutiae of his race report and the dynamics of how his race unfolded and don’t mind if he repeats a story three times as his enthusiasm takes over. He’s listened to my post-race gushing many a time and always wants to hear the details of my race. We appreciate the hard work and effort that racing takes for each other and are even more appreciative that we can celebrate our successes together when the racing is done.

I have often fantasized about having a spouse who is not involved in triathlon: someone who is not stealing my heart rate monitor when they cannot find their own, someone who does not place their dirty cycling shoes in the dishwasher, someone to hand off my morning clothes bag to in transition and to give me feedback and splits on the race course. But the truth is, that would not be the spouse for me. I love my husband and our dual-athlete lifestyle in all its highly-scheduled craziness. Training and racing triathlon creates the opportunity for many special adventures we experience and enjoy together: riding the length of New Zealand, swimming across mountain lakes in Tahoe, dinners at San Francisco’s best restaurants to fuel us for the next day’s training, overnight cycling getaways along the California coast, point to point runs in Colorado. If we argue off the bike, it’s likely because we cannot decide the destination of our next triathlon adventure.
Together forever... for once I traded the bike shoes for Louboutins!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Casablanco: we finally moved... new house tour

This post is a departure from the regularly scheduled triathlon talk but for the last 16 months, my husband and I have been renovating a house we bought in San Francisco so I thought I would share some details... and several people asked for photos so this is an easy way to share pics.

- June 2012 : we bought a 3 bed/3ba house in Cow Hollow that needed serious electrical, heating upgrades. It had low ceilings, lacked much daylight and was very compartmentalized. It did not fit with our "open plan living" lifestyle. But it did have a huge garage, two car parking, plenty of space for bikes and was in a fantastic location.

- June to Sep '12 : worked with architect/designer, Vin Leger, to design an open plan house with 3 beds/2.5 ba, adding skylights, raising ceiling heights as well as seismically upgrading the structure and integrity of the house

- Sep to Dec '12 : requested bids from four separate local general contractors. The highest bid was almost twice the price of the lowest bid! We opted for the lowest fixed bid but knew that the GC had included allowances for finishes since the ultimate price would depend on what we chose and this was subject to change. Of course, I did not realize how low the allowances were until we started choosing things like floor and discovered my choices were 2x the allowance. #expensivetaste

- Jan - Oct '13 : I watched the contractors slowly destroy then build our house back up. Nothing remained of the old house besides the exterior walls. It seemed like they made a lot of progress January through May but as they started the interior finishes in June, progress started to slow... The cabinet maker was busy so instead of 4 weeks, cabinets took 8-10 weeks, same with the countertop team and other subcontractors that my GC had less control over.

- Oct 30th '13 : We moved in! There's still a long punch list of little things to fix, and they are still finishing the deck and back yard but we finally live in the home we designed. It's been quite the process.  When we bought the house, we figured we'd be moving in by March-April of this year but we ended up 6 months behind plan. Also, the final numbers are not yet in but I think we will have ended up spending around 35-40% more than we wanted to! I have definitely lost a lot of sleep and gained more than a few gray hairs in this entire process but we are psyched to be finally living here.

Below is a little photo tour, starting downstairs with the yard (!?!), master suite, laundry room and garage and then heading upstairs for the open plan living area and two more bedrooms, bathroom and half bath.

Back yard and deck still a work in progress!

Sliding glass doors in master suite
Master bedroom: a king size red bed!

Sliding glass doors separate sleeping area from den area of master suite

My dream closet!
Even Blanco gets some closet space #ishare

Master bath

Master bath shower: controls on outside!

Laundry/mud room : luxury for city living!

lots of bike hanging space


living room, view back to entryway stairs
Dining room

Rear stairs descend to master suite

Living room

Kitchen island

View of kitchen from rear stairwell/walk-in pantry

Dining room, kitchen view from top of entryway stairs

Living room/kitchen view from top of entryway stairs

dining room and 3-sided fireplace

Dining room and hallway to upstairs bedrooms
Bedroom #2 : Cal's bedroom

Bedroom #3 ; still unpacking

Family bathroom

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Hawaii Ironman World Championships: the run and post-race pics

Maybe you thought I had forgotten about the run?

I hit T2 feeling pretty fresh, though the balls of my feet felt rather hot and swollen... but not to the debilitating extent that prompted the 35 minute T2 at this race in 2009! However, I did take a leisurely 6 minutes in T2 as I was anxious to apply even more sunscreen as well as find Vaseline for some chafing that my swimskin had caused and which was by now irritated by sweat! Those things should take seconds not minutes... where did the time go?

When I last raced in Hawaii in 2010, I suffered a sidestitch in the first mile that would not subside until I hit the Ali'i turnaround. I'm not sure why I had the stitch but my strategy to avoid it this time was to run the first mile slowly and not take anything to eat or drink off the bike until the second aid station. My legs felt great and I was hitting my target ~8:30 min/mi pace for the entire stretch out to the turnaround and thankfully no sidestitch! On the return trip, the legs continued to feel good and with the exception of a bathroom break at mile 7, all the mile splits were in the 8:30-40 range.
Pick your eyes up, Jordan!
As I was running up Palani, I was excited to see Mirinda Carfrae flying downhill and it dawned on me that I would be able to see the top women during their last few miles and give them my cheers, especially Meredith Kessler, Linsey Corbin, Leanda Cave and Kim Schwabenbauer.

I felt good running up Palani but my stomach was starting to rebel on me big-time. It was a repeat of Cozumel where after 10-11 miles, my stomach was just in knots. The legs continued to feel good so when I was running the pace was in the 8:30-45 range, but with visits to the porta-pottie, my mile splits started to slide above 9min/mi. I had stopped eating at this point and I started to drink coke for energy but that seemed to make my stomach feel worse. I really should learn my lesson that coke never has a positive effect on my races, even if at the time ice-cold coke seems to be a refreshing and magical elixir as I saunter through the aid stations.

By mile 18 (end of the energy lab), I had started to walk aid stations and the legs were beginning to feel rather heavy. Miles splits were now hovering either side of 10min/mi. I knew that I was still on track for a sub-11 hour finish but I was now realistic that the sub-4hr marathon had gone down the porta-pottie! Just after mile 23, my Garmin 901xt died... so I had no data for the last 3 miles but I knew that I had just had to suffer through with 10min/mi pace and I'd make sub-11. It was about this point that Kerrie Wlad came skipping by and chastised me for walking an aid station!

Just get me across the finish line...
I hit the finish line right after 10hrs and 58 minutes and Blanco was there to high five me in the finishing shoot... looking all fresh and clean as if he had not been racing for 9.5hrs! However, I did figure out that I kept him waiting for less time than any previous Ironman race as I finally got the gap between us under 90mins! A small, family victory :)
  Hawaii 2010 Hawaii 2013
  Rich Jordan Rich Jordan 
Swim 1:05:16 1:18:21 1:02:51 1:11:12
T1 0:03:19 0:05:05 0:03:11 0:05:27
Bike 5:02:54 5:35:21 4:47:03 5:28:19
T2 0:03:15 0:05:01 0:04:01 0:05:57
Run 3:29:58 4:15:51 3:34:54 4:07:24
Total 9:44:42 11:19:39 9:32:00 10:58:19
I was happy with my race and even happier when Rich broke the news that Luke McKenzie had taken 2nd place overall. Good day all around!
There's not much more to say about my race performance except that I will be working much more closely on my nutrition plan for my next Ironman race. Ultimately I may have taken in a few too many calories on the bike and drank too much Perform, which I am not used to drinking. I am not signed up for any more Ironman races in the near future (I decided against Chattanooga) but we are considering a late season Ironman in 2014 where we would target a KQ for 2015... possibly Cozumel.
Post-race, Rich and I spent another 5 days on the island, eating drinking, lazing, cycling, participating in a photo shoot, spa'ing, swimming and hanging out with friends.
Los Blancos + Eric at the Zoot party
Brent + Sam + Los Blancos + Eric
We never missed a cocktail hour post-race.
A smashing ride out to Kawaihae & back... no headwind!

Awesome pic of Blanco
Posing on the lava fields

Me and my bestie #selfie

Friday, October 18, 2013

Hawaii Ironman World Championships:heat acclimation and the bike

Before I start talking about the bike and run in Hawaii, I should back up about two weeks prior to race day when I started what I will call "the sauna protocol". Living in San Francisco where it's 65f all year long, give or take 5 degrees, is not ideal preparation for a race in temperatures of 85f+ with high humidity. To prepare my body to acclimate to the heat as quickly as possible on arrival in Hawaii, 12 days prior to departure, I spent ~25-30mins in the sauna each day after workouts for an entire week. I found it mentally and physically challenging to sit in the sauna (without hydrating) for that long... the first 15 minutes would be fine, but as soon as I started sweating profusely, and my body was challenged to dissipate heat, it was uncomfortable to the point of unbearable. However, I do think it helped me from both a mental and physical perspective to prepare for the sticky climate of Hawaii. Prior to race day, I felt very comfortable riding and running around. More comfortable than I have ever felt in the past... to the point that I am now a little less fearful of the Hawaiian conditions.

The couple that sweats together...
 Getting out of the swim, my immediate concern in T1 was getting a solid application of sunscreen. Blanco had awful burns after Los Cabos and it pained me to see his skin so raw. For me, no race is worth the price of my health and skin, even if it did mean that T1 was a lazy looking 5 minutes.

Once on the bike, my goal was to ride easy through town and most of the way towards Kawaihae. In contrast to other Ironman races, I did not attack the bike with my usual gusto, maintaining watts on the very conservative side. In hindsight, I wish I had pushed things a little harder since I do have the bike fitness, but at the time, I was concerned mostly with the heat and about having a good overall race. I was hitting time checks that felt familiar to prior races (1:45 out to Kawaihae, several miles into the Hawi climb before I saw the pros descending). I was a little astonished when I hit 56 miles in 2hrs 29mins and I thought to myself that we would be *paying* for that later in the race. We had a tailwind all the way up to Hawi which made for a speedy trip to the turnaround.

Somewhere in the lava fields
As I climbed up, I was able to take note of a few friends in the pro race. Luke McKenzie was right up there in the men's race, as was Meredith Kessler in the women's race. Their green Saucony kits are instantly recognizable. Aside from the pro race, the other thing myself and other athletes commented on was the huge number of amateurs packs making the descent from Hawi. There were many familiar faces in those packs. I could rant about it and call out names but given the tailwind up the Hawi climb, I can see how it was difficult to separate the huge number of high caliber athletes. The race is getting bigger (almost 2100 athletes), amateurs are getting stronger, the competition is intense and no one seems willing to give an inch in this environment.

I struggled with the water bottle and my rear cage!
The descent from Hawi was fun and without any gusting sidewinds, there was zero reason to be out of the aero bars. This was probably my strongest part of the course as I seemed to pass a lot of athletes that descended more tentatively and did not ride the rollers before Kawaihae very well. At this point of the race, my legs felt great although I had switched to drinking Perform and was not enjoying the taste. Given the earlier tailwinds, I was expecting the headwinds to show up around Waikoloa and I was not wrong. The day had also started to heat up quite nicely and at this point my feet had begun to swell and were painful to push down on the pedals. I tried to cool them off with ice cold water at each aid station but if offered only temporary relief. I had faced a similar problem in 2009 and I thought I had solved the problem with different shoes... apparently not. I was frustrated since I had trained to really push the watts in the last 30 miles of the race but the discomfort in the balls of my feet was distracting. I was also a little uncomfortable with my saddle/shorts combo after 90 miles... "feet and butt" are two issues to fix before my next Ironman!

Getting out of my shoes was a relief.
Thankfully, it was a fast day out there, so even with my conservative ride (160w average is low for me), I was back in T2 after 5hrs 28mins... relieved to get out of my bike shoes and excited to finally be on the final leg of the race.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hawaii Ironman World Championships: pre-race and swim

Blanco and I arrived in Hawaii a week prior to race day and were staying at a friends house within the grounds of the Four Seasons resort. It's a fantastic place to stay, away from the bustle of Ali'i Drive... though the driving back and forth to town did start to weigh on me a little in the few days pre-race.
Four Seasons resort at Hualalai
Blanco and I registered at the earliest opportunity and reminded ourselves that we are very fortunate to be able to participate and race in this sport together at a high level. As an AGer, it takes ability, dedication and a fair amount of luck to qualify for Ironman Hawaii, so we take nothing for granted.

Hand in hand with my honey

A few weeks earlier, Kristin Mayer of Betty Designs had invited Blanco and I to be on Team Betty for the famous Kona Underpants Run (UPR) which takes place in town two days prior to the race. I was a little horrified at the idea of jaunting around town in a skimpy string bikini but it did add a little extra motivation for me to stick with the pre-race nutrition plan! I've been pretty conscientious about my diet this summer and managed to lose ~5lbs so that race weight was 126-127lbs, rather than the usual 131-132lbs. I know that weight is just a number but I was hoping that a leaner body would help me in the heat.

Blanco is on the far left. I am the white chick... next time I spray tan!
In the days leading up to the race, Rich and I tried to be as chill as possible, eating and cooking at home and trying our best to limit time on our feet. But, we also wanted to make the most of being in the land of "Everything Triathlon" where sponsors are handing out lots of schwag and demo'ing their latest products. Our favorite new products are the BOA shoe closure system, Saucony custom Kona shoes and Smith Optics sunnies.


Race day: the swim
My personal mantra for my 4th Ironman Hawaii race was: "it's not a race". I know that seems weird since it is clearly a race, but for me, I am realistic that I am not competing for top 5 in my AG so it's more a celebratory race. Thrilled to be racing on the same stage as the world's best! I knew that I wanted to feel comfortable all day, that I did not want to get sunburned and that I wanted to go under 11 hours, if the weather permitted. Race times are hard to predict in Kona but in my mind I thought a 1:15 swim, a 5:30 bike and 4:00 marathon would get me my sub 11 hour finish... a time that would have me crossing the finish line before sunset and give me a PR for the course.

Pre-race selfie with Blanco in transition
In previous years, I have lined up for the swim start near the pier (right hand side) and have been beaten up, swum over to the point of being frightened of the mass swim start. This year, having consulted with several friends, I lined up much further left. I got in the water relatively quickly after the pro women started (6:35am) and treaded water for a long time. Just before the start, a guy turned around and said to me and another woman, you ladies better be planning on swimming sub-1 hour. I laughed and then commented: "either that or we are stupid!".

When the canon fired, it was a frenzied start and I was hit, kicked, swum over, legs grabbed, goggles knocked askew, and I did think to myself that my positioning on the second row might have been a tad aggressive. Thankfully, the rough and tumble swimming calmed down after a couple of minutes and I found myself being sucked along amid a stream of white bubbles, following feet. I barely did any buoy sighting, and definitely no admiring of the underwater world. I was focused on maintaining a solid turnover, strong pull and light kick... while following feet. We seemed to make quick progress to the Body Glove turnaround boat and I allowed myself a quick peek of the watch. 30:34... I was astonished. I knew from practice swims this week that the outbound journey would be quicker but I was expecting something around 35mins at this point, especially considering my previous 3 Hawaii swims have been 1:24, 1:19 and 1:18. That little boost helped me remain focused on the return leg... though I did wonder at one point whether someone had knocked my watch and it had stopped since 30mins to the turnaround was fast for me. I continued to be surrounded by swimmers for the entire return leg as I swam right on the buoy line. For the most part, I was right on the feet of others, switching feet from time to time as folks sped up or slowed down. On exiting the water and glancing at my watch, I was overjoyed to see 1:11. This was a massive 7 minute PR for me on the Hawaii course. I hope this was not a fluke but rather testament to the hard work of the last several years. My pool swimming has improved, as have my race times, with the help of Matt Dixon of PurplePatch Fitness. The highlight of my swim training has been to swim consistently on the feet of some fantastic training partners: Monica Moreno, Ariane Buser and Danielle Hauptman, pushing each other and working very hard to survive Matt's tough swim sessions.

Bike, Run and Post-race to follow...