Monday, July 27, 2009

Wow What a Weekend

Hi there, remember me? Yea, its been a little bit, huh? Don't worry, I've been keeping myself plenty busy. And speaking of busy, the weekend was the epitome of busy. Not so much busy as in, going from one place to the next, one after another. But rather, we did a lot of stuff.

Let's start with Friday. As a continuation of the week long celebration of Rebecca getting one year older, we met up with some friends, one of which was also celebrating her birthday this week, at the Sculpture Garden of the National Gallery of Art for Jazz in the Garden. I hadn't been to one since last year, but man was it crowded! Fortunately, we had some blanket space and were able to find a spot. After a few pitchers of sangria, we were good and toasty (at least, some of us were), so it was time to head out and grab dinner. We ended up going out in Barracks Row, which, shockingly to us, was mega crowded. We came to find out that El Presidente was making an appearance at the US Army Ceremonial Band's summer concert series. It was kind of nuts with all the police cars and secret service around, but we were able to get a table at a nearby restaurant and enjoy ourselves.

Saturday brought some new adventures. On tap first thing in the morning was my "long" run. I use quotes, because my long runs aren't so long right now. I've been really focusing on the swim and bike, so the run has taken a back seat. I've mainly been focusing on my weekday runs to keep the mileage and speedwork, but the long runs have not been as consistent as I would like. Well I am hoping to restart the long run mojo as the countdown to the Patriots Half stands at 7 weeks away. So my run ended up being ok. Nothing spectacular, but considering my lack of long runs, I was actually pleased with the low HR average. I kept effort on the easy side, because my focus is still on the bike for the time being and I didn't want to waste myself for Sunday's bike ride.

But before I get to Sunday, let's stick with Saturday's plans after the run. Rebecca's friend was planning to celebrate her birthday by going on a tubing trip, just over the border in West Virginia. Since Rebecca and I had never been tubing, we were really looking forward to some fun in the sun. The weather looked perfect and the temps were hot. We zipped out there, and after a few hurdles to get through, plopped into the water. Now I don't know about you all and your experiences with tubing, but I would think that the point of tubing is to float down the river without having to paddle, like a lazy river, but with some rapids. Not the case here. We spent the first half hour paddling with our arms to get to the "current". We'd go through some small rapids and then get stuck on a rock or in an area with no current and have to start paddling again. I was shocked at how much work I had to do. I was beat! My arms were sore and they got chaffed from having to paddle and rub against the innertube! I was actually surprised too, since there was a massive thunderstorm the night before. So not only were Rebecca and I sick of sitting in the stupid tube for hours on end and paddling, but we had to climb over wet rocks to get out of the water. It was downright dangerous and we were sober! I can only imagine how many drunk related injuries happen while tubing. And just when you think it couldn't get any worse, it did. Remember that nice sunny weather? Well it brought afternoon thunderstorms. Fortunately, we were out of the water, but walking down the highway, with an innertube, a life vest, and just a bathing suit in the middle of the heavy thunderstorm is not fun. After a ton of chaos, we finally got on one of the shuttles that took us back to the company. We got in our car and hightailed it out of there. Never again! I'm just curious - has anyone else gone tubing and had a good time?

Last, but certainly not least was my bike ride. My one piece of consistency this year has been riding. I've made sure to get in my long rides and all my other rides. Not only do I enjoy it, but I think it pays the most dividends for racing, since a cyclist in good shape rides faster and leaves legs for the run. My attempt was to do my longest ride ever - 80 miles. Last year, I had a 72 mile ride, but didn't feel it was necessary to go much beyond. With some more experience in racing longer course, I can see the benefit in having a base that would allow yourself to go longer. So I'm sticking to it, because it seems to be doing wonders for my riding this year so far. The planned route included a section that had been recommended by a coworker who is a big cyclist. He had told me that there were some great hills, including one particularly nasty 1.5 mile climb with some very steep sections. Below is the route (though for some reason it is showing 85 miles, but it was actually 80):

So I set off first thing in the morning. Just before I left, I noticed a slight drizzle. I checked the weather real quick to see what I might have in store for myself. I saw a pretty significant line of rain, but it was pretty far west, with only a little bit touching the area I was going to cover. So I threw caution to the wind and figured if it rained a little, I'd chalk it up to experience. Well, experience came a little quicker than I thought. Within the first 6 miles of the ride, I was head first in a torrentional downpour. For a short while, it was coming down so hard, I nearly ate pavement when I incorrectly spotted the dip in the curb and ran into a part that was still several inches high. Fortunately, my mountain biking skillz helped me pull through and I never lost it. So while I was in the monsoon, I started thinking about going back home and finishing on the trainer. I despise the trainer. It was coming down that hard. I told myself that I'd ride till the next bailout option, which would leave me 9 miles from home, where if it was still that bad, I could go back and ride a couple of hours inside, while watching Le Tour. Well I am happy to say that I waved goodbye to that spot and pressed on. Besides, the rain had started to let up a bit and it wasn't THAT bad. In all, I had 3 total heavy downpours on my ride. But to be honest, I welcomed every one of them except the first. I was hot and humid, so the rain was a nice refreshing feeling.

Most of my route took me to the outer edge of the W&OD Trail. Then I found my turn off, which sure enough, crossed over many of the roads we had driven through the day before while tubing. I even saw this, which was one of the buses for the company:

Finally off the trail, it was time to settle into some of the more technical and challenging portions of the ride. For the most part, there were a lot of hills that required constant shifting and in several cases required me to sit in my easiest gear and spin my way up. I entered the town of Waterford, which is apparently pretty old (check out the date on the sign):

After a little bit, when the sun was finally out again, I stopped to snap a picture of a sight that I thought looked pretty cool (though the picture didn't show all the massive barrels of hay scattered throughout the field):

The back side of the loop had all the big hills, and most of them came one after another, so it was definitely a challenge on the legs, since they were pretty sore from lots of kicking in the tubing adventure the day before. Once the loop was over, I tried my best to hightail it home. I made one slight mistake by thinking, with about 20 miles to go, that nutritionally, I was fine and didn't need the 200 calories I had planned on taking. With 5 miles to go in my ride, I started bonking. I was on a very bumpy and rough stretch of another trail which took all the feeling I had in my legs out of them. I could barely pedal because of the bumps of the surface. So I did what I always yell at other people for doing - I rode in the shoulder of the main road, which was parallel to the trail. Now I know why people do it! This particular section of the trail was in such bad shape, that I can't imagine anyone with a road bike rides on it. Anywho, I finally made it back home, wet, dirty tired, and hungry. In the end, I logged 80 miles, averaging about 17 mph (the loop of the hilly section took about 2 mph off of my average for the ride).

The rest of my Sunday was filled with errands and miscellany. A friend came over and we all went out to lunch at the greatest place known to man - Wegmans. And we did some long overdue food shopping. Then we went to Ikea and got most notably a shelf for in our kitchen (runner up for most notable from Ikea was the $1 frozen yogurt!). Rebecca and I simultaneously put the shelf system together AND cooked a chicken (actually she cooked it, but I helped). And I am happy to say that the chicken was delicious (sorry no pictures - next time!) and the shelf system looks perfect.

So that was my weekend - how was yours?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Its Official - I'm Officially an Official

As you know, I started my process of becoming a USAT Official in May, starting with the Columbia Triathlon as my first race. Additionally, I've officiated at 2 other races since, which has resulted in my promotion to a Cat 3 Official. Woo hoo!

For those of you unfamiliar with the USAT Officiating hierarchy, there are 5 levels of USAT Officials.
  • Cat 5 - Following completion of USAT exam and certification clinic, during your first race (also known as your practicum), you are considered a Cat 5
  • Cat 4 - You become a Cat 4 after a successful Cat 5 race and based on the recommendation from the clinic instructor. You serve a probationary Official (and unpaid) and are supervised by Cat 1, 2 or 3 Officials. You must complete 2 additional races as a Cat 4, before being considered for promotion to Cat 3.
  • Cat 3 - You become a Cat 3 after you have successfully officiated 2 races as a Cat 4 and after the Regional Coordinator has received your promotion package (which is basically your Referee Record of what races you have worked and your request to be promoted). And most importantly, it is now pay day, woo hoo! Cat 3 is where it really starts (hence - me being officially an official).
  • Cat 2 - You become a Cat 2 after you have been a Cat 3 for at least 1 year, worked a minimum of 6 events, including 2 as a Head Referee, provide a letter of recommendation from another Cat 3 or higher, and submit your promotion package for Cat 2.
  • Cat 1 - You become at Cat 1 after you have served as a Cat 2 for at least 1 year, worked 8 events (4 of which must be as a Head Referee as a Cat 2), provide a letter of recommendation from another Cat 2 or Cat 1, and submit your promotion package for Cat 1.
So there you have it, the USAT Officials hierarchy and where I fit into all of this. To keep my status, I simply need to officiate at least 1 race a year and attend a certification clinic every 2 years to stay current, though I hope to do much more than that. What could be better than being able to watch a race and get paid to do it?

I leave you with this photo of me at the Montclair Triathlon while on a Harley trying to nab cheaters on the bike course, which by the way, is difficult to do because of the loud engine!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

July 4th Weekend Recap

Wow, was that only 3 days? I could have sworn it was longer! Seems like Friday was so long ago. So, let's start there for the recap.

The plan was for Rebecca and I to go on a casual ride somewhere scenic and minimal traffic issues. About a year or so ago, I bought Scott and Jim's Favorite Bike Rides, a book about some of the best local rides in the area, complete with descriptions, elevation charts, and cue sheets. Some of the routes are ones that anyone who has been riding in the area for long enough, but there are also plenty that I never would have thought of and also multiple route options of each. So for example, there may be a great 50 mile ride in an area where I really had fun, but I want to do a shorter option. In most cases, they have shorter (and longer options), so there is plenty to choose from. In this case, I had biked out in Poolesville a whole bunch last year, so I knew the area pretty well. I found a ride that offered a 25 and a 35 mile option, which would take us to Sugarloaf Mountain and back. We decided that we'd go by feel and decide which option to take at the decision point in the ride between when the two options split.

So Friday morning came about...we slept in! Hey, this ride was on Rebecca's terms, so I had to go by HER rules. Rule #1 - No alarms! Of course, I was up bright and early getting things ready. I loaded up the bikes, prepared the bottles, packed all the gear, and was ready to go. All by the time she opened her eyes! Who says you can't be too prepared? So with that, we eventually ate breakfast, and set on our way for the nice easy drive out to Poolesville, MD.

Within 1 mile, we encountered our first problem: Construction. Apparently, the route crossed a bridge that was being repaired, so we had to follow the detour. A few scenic miles later, we were back on the planned route. The next several miles zipped through a bunch of orchards. It seemed like peaches and blueberrys were the most common items in season, judging by what we saw from passing by on the road. We had planned to stop and get some after the ride, but ran out of time. Oh well, next time. As we ticked through the miles, you could tell we were getting closer to our destination. Sugarloaf Mountain, though not large by most standards, is Montgomery County's largest mountain. It stood out in the distance, until eventually it was right in front of us.

Rebecca standing with Sugarloaf Mountain in the distance

It was at this point that we made the decision to go with the 35 mile route. The weather was great, legs were feeling good, so we pressed on. The main difference between the two loops is that the 25 mile loop goes to the foot of the mountain and then goes back toward Poolesville, while the 35 miles route goes around the mountain. So off we went around Sugarloaf. Though we didn't climb the mountain, there were some short steep climbs, along with a lot of rollers. Very few flat spots. The only negative came several times throughout the 2nd half of the ride as some darker clouds began forming and dropped some rain on us. This happened about 3 times, with only one of them dropping true rain. The others were short segments with some mist/light rain. In each case though, the rain ended without causing any issues. Our little detour in the beginning took us a few extra miles, so when it was all said and done, we had clicked away 41 miles. Not bad!

Then Saturday, July 4th rolled around. The paced changed on Saturday form cycling to housework. Fun, I know. What is more American than working in the yard? In this case, we had to take care of some items we had put off for too long. We cleaned our house top to bottom, and even dusted (fun again, I know). But then came the real fun: trimming the hedges! No really, it was fun! There is something fulfilling about chopping things down. In this case, the front of our house needed some TLC bad. The hedges were overgrown, covering much of the staircase, and several trees branching out to the house. It all needed to be cut back. So I leave you with these before and after pictures.



Hopefully you can tell the difference...the 8 trash bags of leaves say it made a difference! Saturday night was obviously the 4th. With no specific plans for the first time in years, we stayed home and opted to watch the fireworks on tv. Instead, we were surprised (but first scared to death) with fireworks IN our neighborhood. With so many of those fireworks vendors all over the place, apparently people actually do buy them! So we started hearing all these loud noises and eventually, went outside to try and get a better view. We were able to watch quite a few quality ones go off. And then again, a few hours later, our neighbors decided on an encore, which scared the living bejesus out of me. But in the end, it was cool to be able to watch from home.

And last, but not least came Sunday. Let me just say that housework can be just as physically demanding as regular training. After all the squating, bending, stretching, and lifting, my hamstrings were sore! It felt like I had just done a speed workout at the track. Anyways, back to Sunday's activities. Among other things, we continued our quest of accomplishing as many housework projects as possible. While I won't list them all, I'm going to show the ones that look like they were worth the effort. Sunday early afternoon was spent on the back yard project: Landscaping. On Saturday, we bought some stones and some small garden border fencing, along with some mulch for the back yard. I spent a good few hours digging the holes for the stones and getting them the fit right, while Rebecca worked on the mulching in the corner, as well as along the side of house (not pictured). Below is the final result in the back yard, as viewed from the deck.

And last but certainly not least, my bike got a bath. It was long overdue. After many long rides over the past several months, including the Air Force Classic which began in rainy/sloppy conditions, my bike was crying for a cleaning. So I finally got around to it. Much better!

So that's it! What a weekend! Hope everyone had a happy 4th!


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