Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sorry Blogger, we're leaving you

We've been blogging infrequently since we've been together and honestly, one of the main reasons why there are often gaps in posts is because of the insanity that is  It has been a good site but formatting has been nothing but a royal pain in my behind.  Luckily I know enough about basic HTML to go in and force things the way I want them but my tolerance for that only goes so far.  When I got started blogging, Blogger was definitely the site of choice for most basic/intermediate users and so along the way I've been waiting for them to make improvements/updates to fix what are seemingly simple formatting annoyances.   Picture insertions, alignment and sizing being some of them.   And when I choose a text color of blue....I really mean blue.  Not white, not black....BLUE!!  But here we are a few years down the road with nothing to show for progress really.   I was trying to insert a set of 3 pictures next to each other and after about 5 minutes of attempts, I threw up my hands and decided we are jumping ship.   Even though it meant we had to purchase a domain name of our own.  But for a first year price of just $2.99, it was well worth my sanity.  So....

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hy-Vee Triathlon and the St. Paul Sprint Triathlon

So we originally signed up for the Maple Grove Sprint Triathlon figuring putting the $$ down would make us get off our asses.  Well then we found out we screwed up because we have to work at a race that day.   Crap...... At least we will get the shirts ;)

So we waffled about it a bit and then put down another chunk of change to upgrade to the HyVee Triathlon which is a week after Maple Grove but an Olympic distance instead of a Sprint.... crap, crap, crap.....have I mentioned we really haven't been swimming like, at all for about 2 years?!?  But we've been on an abbreviated training plan that was created for us by our pal Vahid at In the Moment Triathlon Training and with two weeks to go, we're feeling pretty good.  Plus for being down there as a vendor for USA Triathlon, we get one free entry so that makes the cost much more bearable!

This will be our fourth year down in Des Moines for the HyVee Triathlon manning the USAT Midwest Region Expo Booth and Officiating the race so I am actually very excited to be a participant this year.

We've been getting in some long lake swims at Nokomis since now the Parks and Rec are allowing beach to beach swimming for free on Tuesday nights.  600 yards between the beaches so 2 laps gets us over our distance for HyVee.  It's been great for getting us used to open water swims again and having to deal with arms/legs/feet around us while we swim.  Oh and Nokomis is horrible for algae so after last night's 2400yd swim I came home sneezing and sniffling for a few hours.  Ugh!

Lake Nokomis OWS have been really good for me as I have never been a great swimmer. Having the opportunity to swim beach to beach has really given me confidence in the water. 

We also decided to look at the calendar to see if there was a sprint distance available for us to do prior to HyVee and luckily we could jump in on the St. Paul Sprint Triathlon.  Small-ish event but gave us a good opportunity to remember how this all works.  I wasn't going slow but I also wasn't trying to over push myself throughout the whole thing and was happy at the finish.  My swim times were much slower than they used to be but my bike was a 18.5 average and run was 8:53.  All of that got me in 5th place out of 22 in my age group so I'll take it as a success.  I just need to put in place my faster transitions again.  I easily know how to do those better :)
Our setup in transition

St. Paul was a decent event, the bike course is VERY rough (which is no fault of the event) and if you have ever done Lifetime Tri Minneapolis, you know how bad the river road is? The St. Paul bike course is WORSE. I managed 19.4mpg avg. but I wonder how much better it might have been with out the road conditions. I was very happy with my swim and honestly it was my best segment of the Tri for me, which is really strange for me to say. Other than the road, my only other complaint as a participant was that it took them more than 24 hours to post the results.

So less than two weeks to go and I'm feeling pretty good.  It's all just about finishing at this point and I don't care too much about my times at this point.  Looking at the field results from last year I should comfortably land somewhere in the middle of the pack I think.   The past few years we have been down there, it's been quite hot so I'm planning for a walk/run situation at the end and some cool swag to take home :)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Long OWS...

Our longest Open Water Swim in....4 years?  Eek I guess it is starting to sink in that we have been away from participating in triathlon since 2010.   2009 was a tough transitional year for me as I completed the divorce papers in July after....5-6 years of a separated marriage.  I was lucky enough to have Mark by my side to get me through the rough parts and that included the ever taxing training for Ironman Madison which I did that September as well.  After all of that we slowly stepped away from multisport and put a heavy focus on running for the next 2 years and then on the business for the next 2 years. We did continue with masters swimming well into 2011 and I know that this was a major factor with how good a shape we were in in the spring of 2011 and that the majority of our running PR's were set that spring. With as much success as we had, I am baffled as to why we stopped swimming.

So here we are in 2014 trying to find ways to kick our asses back in shape.  I'm enjoying training to a point but at the same time, it's been quite taxing on the body and my level of tiredness.   Last night's swim was at Lake Nokomis where this summer they have been offering free beach to beach swims on Tuesday evenings. We were very surprised to see the number of people down there doing laps but at the same time, this is a rare and wonderful opportunity for triathletes training for the Maple Grove Tri or Ironman Wisconsin or the YWCA Women's Tri to get in nice, long, open water training. I was really impressed by Mpls. Park and Rec for putting on these OWS at Nakomis, two large sighting buoys and several lifeguards in kayaks all the way across the lake.

We had to do 2000 yards which was almost 2 laps.  We survived but barely.  I think the last length back my technique was completely out the window.  But we made it and it did add a bit of confidence for our upcoming Hy-Vee TriathlonFor me the swim was entirely about building my confidence and proving that I could swim long distance OWS. When were got to the beach I was at first taken back how far 600 (beach to beach) actually is but I just put my head down and concentrated on not letting anything surprise me, raise my anxiety or flat out freak me out. I will worry about technique later. 

We had dinner at Fat Lorenzo's afterwards (ate too much...) and by the time we got home, we were so tired, we settled the dogs, fed the cat and the fish and flopped on the bed...passing out until 1:00am when I woke up and got up to turn all the lights in the house off.  TV was still on downstairs too.    THAT's how tired we were! I agree, I was more exhausted then any other type of training we have done this brief season. For as tired and sore as my body is, I have to think we are making progress.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Look who came to dinner.....

Last night we had a very unusual visitor in the backyard. A Sharp Shinned Hawk seemed to be looking for dinner but not surprisingly there was not a lot of other activity in the yard at the time, the squirrels, chipmunks, mice and rabbits all found somewhere else to be.

"Nobody home"

He/she was kind enough to pose for quite a few pictures and only left after he tried to hop to the top of a metal bird feeder and slipped off. Hopefully he will come back again. This is only the second time we have had a hawk in our yard. On one other occasions a Broadwing Hawk brought his dinner to eat on a branch in one of our back trees.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Chisago Triathlon - Volunteering - a new perspective.

Last week, Kris and I both received and email from MN Masters Swimming indicating that Chisago Triathlon still needed volunteers and they were offering a free entry into the 2015 Triathlon in exchange for volunteering. We both have a participated in the race before, most notably when in 2009 I blew up on the run after turning myself inside out trying catch up with Kris on the bike. And then in 2010 we were signed up for the Sprint and never made it because of our epic bike ride late into the event and were too tired to get up the next day. So the idea of getting a free entry to try again had some appeal. Unfortunately, it meant getting up at 3:45am to get ready and drive to Chisago. 

Once we checked in, our first job was body marking which was a lot of fun, I have never had that assignment and it was nice to chat with all the athletes before the race, when most of them were still in high spirits. Highly recommend volunteering as a body marker. After that we were moved over into transition and I was assigned the Mount/Dismount line along with Doobie (Hopkins Royal Triathlon Race Director), Kris was assigned down at the road for the turn in/out of the parking lot. I also had a fun time with this assignment. Truth be told, part of my USAT Official came out and although there were no penalties to be given out, I made sure to be plenty loud making sure everyone respected the orange line. The one thing that surprised me was that even though I was being firm with the mount/dismount line, most participants were quick to thank me for volunteering which was really nice.

The one problem with volunteering at a Half Iron Triathlon is that with no relief you are at transition until the last biker comes back, which in this case was slightly after the 4 hour bike cutoff. When you get up at 3:45am, it makes for a very long morning.

We brought our bikes with us and we had planned to get in our 90 minute ride after we were done volunteering (and brunch) but after a handful of miles, I noticed that my left crank was really loose and on the verge of falling off. We stopped and I tried to tighten but it only lasted about a half a mile of our ride back to the car. There is nothing quite so surreal then having your crank come off your bike but still be attached to your bike shoe. So as it became apparent that I would not be able to ride back to the car, Kris rode back on her own to get the car and come back to me. Good thing my car is now a Automatic. Got the ailing bike into the back seat, I was afraid the crank would fall off during the long drive home and we were on our way.
(Now he got just a tiny hint of what happened to me during Gear West Du a few years back.   I still get worked up thinking about that race.  One of the few times in my life I new I really, really lost it!)

The other piece that I failed to mention is that both Kris and I were EXTREMELY sore in our quads. And I kid you not, it felt like we had run a marathon the day before and not just a 5K. For any of you who have run a marathon, you know the feeling, climbing stairs up is a challenge but walking down stairs in next to impossible. I know that we are out of shape and we did push it a little but this is ridiculous, there is no way we should be this sore from a 5K. As I write this Blog, it is Tuesday and I am still very sore and stairs are still a challenge. I am cringing just thinking about having to run for 10 minutes tonight as part of our scheduled brick.The price we pay for letting ourselves get way out of shape.
My bigger fear is the hip/leg/IT band.  I've decided to go back and chat with my PT again to see if we should look closer at my spine and hip because I'm really feeling like that could be the root cause but it is actually turning out to be just a muscle imbalance issue so I just need to foam roll more and do my core/hip exercises.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Ghosts and Pets and 5K's - Oh My.

1st 5K of 2014!

This past weekend found Kris and I running out first competitive race in over a year. We have run a couple of races in the past year or so but casually. Saturday was the first time we have really put an effort into any distance, in this case "just a 5K".

We decided that we had to start putting races on our calendar just as an incentive to get us going and the first race was a small one in Chaska, the River City Days 5K. A customer of ZapEvent and originally one of my accounts so it seems like a good fit for us. Both Kris and I have been just running to get in some miles and time has not even been a concern, so we were going into the race blind as to what we could even do. So we got up early on Saturday with no expectations other then being able to finish the race and headed to Chaska. Like I mentioned, this race was small, with 79 pre-registrations and with a good race day registrations they managed to have 131 finishers.

The race was nicely laid out and took advantage of the trails on top of the dykes so it was a really nice course. They only thing going against the race was that it was very humid with the heat of the day starting to warm up during the race so the conditions were against us. So we lined up and at the shout of "Go" we were off. If you know me then you know that I have a bad habit of starting out every race I run way too fast and then dying at the end. So in addition to just figuring out what pace I can run I wanted to make sure I was consistent.

I didn't do myself any favors by starting near the back of the pack at the start line and found myself having to work my way through the pack until I got myself into runners with a similar pace. By about mile 1 I was right about where I should be and was surprised when the guy with the stopwatch said 7:42. Really? I was running sub-8' and not dying? OK, let see if I can keep this up. Sure enough by the time I got to Mile 2, my MapMyRun app chimed out that I just ran a 7:49 mile split. Wow.... OK can I keep it up to the finish??? Almost. When I turned onto the final stretch, a long several block into the finish line, I had to take a quick walk break, not long, only about a 1/4 of a block but the heat and humidity was really getting to me. Just needed a short breather. Besides, the guy right in front of my, that I could not catch, was walk/running. He would walk a bit and just as I would catch up to him he would take off. So I figured, take a few seconds and finish strong. It did help, although I would have preferred to run the entire course and I did finish fairly consistent.

Turns out I ran a 24:31 (7:54 pace) and I came in 3rd Place M40-49. Not bad for my first race in a long time. Remember that guy that was walk/running? Turns out he was in my AG and came in second. He was so close, and in fact during one of his walk segments, I was ahead of him briefly. He ended up beating me by 13 seconds, which had I managed to beat him (my short walk is to blame) I would have gotten a medal!! They were handing out medals for 1st and 2nd in each of the Age Groups. Oh well, maybe next time.

My race went pretty well as I was just trying to find a consistent uncomfortable pace to settle in to.  As Mark said it wasn't a bad course, just hot and muggy.   And I can still very much tell I'm carrying extra weight from last we were seriously racing 2 years ago.  We are working to get our weight in check but at the same time if a brownie is going to make me happy.....I'm going to eat a brownie :) 

Home for Life

After the 5K we had to get home and get cleaned up as today was also the Home for Life Annual Blessing of the Animals Open House way out in Star Prairie so once we got cleaned up we still had an hour drive ahead of us.

As in past years, we got to visit Jonathan who Kris sponsors and some of our favorites including Stormy, Mozart and Celeste. She has always had a piece of my heart and this year she seemed to be a bit weaker than before.  I started to think about it....she's been there ever since I've been going to HFL and that has been 10 years.  I gave her lots of love and hugs and am hoping to see her again next year.  It has been a couple of years since we have been to the Open House as we could not make it last year so it was nice to get to see all the cats and dogs. I have made a connection with Mozart, granted he might be like this with everyone but I like to think it is unique to me as I can spend my entire time with Mozart in my arms, he is such a sweet cat.

Oh and don't forget your favorite avian friends, Candy and Penelope!!  Erin was also there, she's a local runner we've gotten to know through Home for Life because she is Nike's owner and comes back often to spend time her

Ghost Peppers

So after spending the afternoon at Home for Life it was back home to get ready to meet our friend Mike  for dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings at MOA. I had seen that their "Sauce Lab" had Ghost Pepper as one of their sauces of month and I have been curious as to how hot they were. To be honest, I love HOT but I also am hesitant when it comes to super hot sources and anything that using Ghost Peppers, the hottest known pepper. In fact, I chickened out when we went Smalley's Caribbean BBQ in Stillwater which also has a Ghost Pepper sauce for their wings.

Once the ghost pepper boneless wings arrived, I took it very slow and yes it was extremely hot, it was not a burning pain hot I was expecting. I was eating very cautiously as Kris finished her wings long before I did and that never happens. The wings came with a little flag which at first I made no note of but while I was taking my time eating the wings I had a chance to read the flag and was very amused that it is essentially a liability waiver to prevent BW3's from being sued. The unseen danger of eating something this hot is not when you are ingesting but rather when the wings have worked their way though and on the way out you get a second burn. ;) Would I have them again? Probably not but it was worth it for the experience.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

On the road again...

As some of you may know, Kris works for USAT Midwest Region (and I just realized I've been working with the region for 5 years.  So I told Kris S (boss man) he needs to buy me some cheesy desk clock or something right?? :) and when recently she had make arrangements to ship the new region state flags and the US flags to the region special qualifier race in West Burlington, Iowa. She would have to ship those same flags from West Burlington to to Omaha, Nebraska for the Region Championship and then back home. Additionally, there are Air Dancers and Region Championship teardrop flags to ship to Omaha as well. Once Kris determined the total cost for all of the shipping, I mentioned that it would be cheaper to rent a cargo van and do all the driving ourselves for cheaper, including lodging.

I was sort of kidding but at the same time I was being a little self serving as I have never been to Omaha and I have not cached in Nebraska, so I had an opportunity to add a new state to my Geocaching list. Little did I know that Kris's boss at the Midwest Region would think it was a great idea and before I knew it we were making plans for an epic weekend driving trip.  I think we did end up saving the region about $400 or so, so it was worth it all around.

So on Friday...
we took the afternoon off, picked up the van and stopped at storage and loaded up the sky dancers and championship flags in addition to two empty boxes for a couple sky dancers we need to pick up and return to Minneapolis that would be at the race in Omaha. Once we were loaded up , we were on the road by 3:30pm with a goal of making it to Iowa City for the evening. I have gotten pretty bad lately with long trips and driving after dark, I get uncomfortable and tired very quickly. Since our goal was to get to our hotel before dark we tried to limit our stops along the way and managed to keep ourselves from getting distracted to much. Only two stops, one for a cache in Janesville and then we could not stop ourselves when we saw a sign for the "Largest Frying Pan in Iowa" which we quickly confirmed in our Roadside America App.

When booking this trip, we needed to keep it an inexpensive as possible and knowing that our hotels would be just a place to lay our heads for a few hours, in particular on Friday evening, I decided to give as we had really good results booking our rental car for Portland later this year. We were able to book both evening very inexpensive and even though with Hotwire you will not know the hotel name until after you make your reservation (fully paid), they do provide you with the TripAdvisor rating for the hotel which is reassuring. The hotel in Iowa City was decent and we got it for over half off so I recommend Hotwire

was our LONG driving day and we got up early (not too early) to continue down to West Burlington to pickup the flags and then head to Omaha. West Burlington was still about a hour south of Iowa City on the Illinois border and we arrived about 8:30am. The flags were being stored at the local medical center and once we figured out where the flags were located and loaded them up we were ready to go. We got a treat as we were ready to go as the local Air Medic took off from helipad which was only a few feet away.

My initial goal was to find caches in three states in one day on Saturday and to do this we had to make a quick side trip into Illinois to grab a quick cache over the river. Once that was done we really had to get going as it was 9am and we had to get to the race site in Omaha by 3pm, which was going to take all six hours to get across the state.

I won't go into our drive across Iowa and it was very uneventful and we did not have time for any distraction/ stops along the way but the one thing that we learned was that western Iowa is nothing but long rolling hills. The van was not a fan as every long downhill followed by another long uphill that always put the van into overdrive which was killing our gas mileage.

We arrived at the race site right at 3pm thanks to some minor seeping across the majority of Iowa and met with the Race directors and started setting up the flags on the finish line chute. All said and done it looked really good and made a nice touch to their finish line. We also dropped off the sky dancers and Championship flags that they would be setting up in the morning. Having completed our tasks it was now time to A) find our hotel and B) find food. Hotel was moderately easy to find, although we did have a bit of a challenge with their elevated freeway (Highway 6) but once we figured it out we were good. Again Hotwire was a great resource for a decent, very inexpensive hotel.

Based on a recommendation from one of the race directors, we decided to head downtown to the Old Market District to find something interesting to eat. Not the ideal area to drive a big cargo van into but we survived. It is a very cool area of Omaha and I am glad that we chose this area as it was very lively (busy) and there was a lot of choices to pick from. After a lot of walking around checking out the scene we decided on a brewery (surprise, surprise) which was very good. Upstream Brewing Company has some very good and unique beer choices and has excellent food. I had the Chipotle BBQ Beef Tip Salad and it was wonderful. On the beer side of the world, I had their Raspberry Belgian Wit, one of their seasonal choices and I would highly recommend it My second beer was their Cask Conditioned Ale (conditioned in a cask and served at cellar temperature i.e about 55 degrees), unfortunately it is just one of their standard ales, in this case their Flagship IPA, conditioned this way. Not a beer I would have chosen but I was going for the experience. After dinner we were exhausted after such a long day of driving and we would be up early so we headed back to the hotel to call it a night.

Before going to sleep we tried to watch the Tour on the TDF Live App, what a waste of time and money that app was. The recap video, if it was even available, was not our friendly Paul and Phil but some other announcer and the other clips were so small that you only got tiny slices of what actually happen during the stage. NBCSC normally does a great job covering the Tour but BEWARE, stay away from their App.
Started out a bit later then we planned, we were exhausted from the day before and knew we have another long drive ahead of us today so we let the alarm slip a bit. We were still up by 8am but by the time we got up and picked up something to eat (the free breakfast at the hotel was packed and they have Dunkin Donuts in Omaha) we made it to the race by 9am, not early enough to catch the top finishers but we did get to see a lot of the field finish. Omaha Triathlon put on a nice race and it is a great venue, the swim is in a nice clear reservoir and how often does a race get to close all of the roads on it's bike course? While we waited for the final finishers, we found our first Nebraska geocache within sight of the finish line. Once the race was over we quickly packed up the flags and sky dancers and were were on the road by 11:30am which was about a half an hour earlier they I was expecting. On the way out of Nebraska we stopped at the last exit before the 680 bridge and stopped at the Florance Mill, a Mormon stop on their way west, to grab at least one more Nebraska geocache and were rewarded with a small farmers/craft market to look through as we grabbed the cache. Lots of muggles but we managed.

That stop at Florance Mill would set the tone for the rest of the day and a trip that should have taken about 6 hours ended up taking over 10 hours with all of our stops and side trips. We came home via Sioux City, Worthington and Mankato route which allowed us to cache 4 states (NE, IA, SD & MN) in one day with a quick side trip into South Dakota. Along the way we also stopped at Le Mars, IA the Ice Cream Capitol of the World and home to Blue Bunny Ice Cream where they have an amazing ice cream parlor and museum, well worth the stop and the "Highest Point" in Iowa at Hawkeye Point. Kind of cheesy but worth a stop to break up a long trip. Special Thanks to our Roadside America App for letting us know about this locations. 

With a dinner stop in Worthington, it was time to get home as we would be driving in the dark yet again. Kris does not drive much during these trips, I for some reason feel I need to do most of the driving but she does help me out whenever I ask and drove a large chuck from just North of Worthington to somewhere near St. Peter. We finally got home at about 10:30pm.

Final Stats for the Trip.
Total Miles - Just shy of 1200
Total Hours - 23 Hours (during a a 55 hour period)
Total States - 5 (MN, IA, IL, NE & SD)
Total Geocaches - 14 (5 different states & 4 states in 1 day)
Total Roadside America Stops - 4

View Larger Map

We had a fun time, not sure I would have tried this in such a short period as we did, add another day so we are not constantly driving but I think we set a precedent and will be making a similar trip like this next year.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Our First Snowy Owl Encounter

Today we had two goals....pick out a new, used car and get a good photo of a Snowy Owl. 

First task was due to the fact that Mark got in an accident with an idiot on Christmas Eve and his Focus got totaled out.  So we got enough from insurance to go find another used car and also get new tires for my Charger.  We didn't want to buy anything that would end us up with a car payment yet.  Just find something in good condition that will get us by for another year or two.

So we ended up with a Suzuki SX4 from Buffalo Ford

After that, we were off to Ramsey.  We have heard SO many reports of local Snowy Owls there this winter that we knew it should be an easy place to find one and spend some time trying to get a good photo.  And after 3 hours of hanging out with this beauty, here are some of our favorite shots:

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