Bagpipes, Bagpipes, Playing Loud and Clear

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It’s that time again! Duathlon season in the Hudson Valley (semi) officially started this past weekend in West Hurley with the Trooper Duathlon, a duathlon dedicated to three New York State Troopers who lost their lives in the line of fire. It is different than other New York State Triathlon series event because it is a time of reflection of those who perished, and a time to really reflect on how fragile life is. Before I begin, I would like to thank all of you New York State Troopers, Police, and other emergency responders for everything you do. You are the reason we are safe today, and also a big reason to why I drive my car within 5 miles per hour of the speed limit.

After competing in the duathlon as a team last year, and wanting to continue the legacy of the Valley Girls, at first I was on a quest to find a female I know in the Hudson Valley area who would enjoy being on the team with me. Little did I know, there are not that many people I am aquainted with who were willing or able to do this race. (My teammate from last year was out of town).

Then I thought about Kevin’s sister, Meg, who is a Collegiate Cross Country coach. Tada! A runner! When asked if she would do it with me, she said yes!

Now, all you internet readers, remember how a couple posts ago I said that Kevin had running in his genes? Running IS in his family. This girl is a running beast–in the positive sense of beast. You immediately know this when she is off doing her stretching.

Hardcore warm up and stretching

Hardcore warm up and stretching

She finished the North Face Endurance Challenge 50mile race last year, which is, like the name, an endurance challenge. During her college running career, she ran in the NCAA Championships, and awarded a bunch of awesome titles, that you can read about here.  Thank you, Vassar Athletics webpage for allowing me to stalk info on your coaches. 

My stretching...Not sure what zone I am in.

My stretching…Not sure what zone I am in.

Meg finished both two mile segments in about 13minutes each.

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Having competed in this race twice before (last year with S.Z.B. and in 2011 as a one-woman team ), I failed to remember how absolutely horrible Dug Hill Road is. If you are unfamiliar with this road in West Hurley, thank your lucky stars, because unless you have a vehicle, or are being towed by something, you do not want to know it.

Starting the bike

Face of determination…starting the bike

It is basically 3 1/2 miles of uphill. The first three miles are straight uphill. Okay, okay, the first couple hundred feet are a rolling incline. But then it goes up. And up. Even when you think you are at the top, it is still rolling in an upward direction. The first eleven miles are fine, and you can even build speed, boosting self confidence. On numerous occasions, as my lungs flamed (why? who knows), I found myself thinking, “Man, this is a piece of cake.” Come Dug Hill, all positive self-talk plummets. Inbetween labored breathing come grunts and groans. And bless John McGovern, who played his bagpipes half way up the hill. But, really? I love bagpipes, but in the middle of Dug Hill, when I am already spewing every curse word know to man, you decide to play the bagpipes? Who, who, who enjoys hearing bagpipes when they are near death trudging up a goddamn hill? It’s as if tricking you to think you are at the end of the bike course, when you still have miles to go.* We are in West Hurley, not riding into a Scottish sunset with the theme of Braveheart in the background.

...And ending the bike, completely oblivious to troopers cheering me on

Face of defeat by the hill, completely oblivious to troopers cheering me on

Hence, I forced myself to the finish, bronchospasming, with remenants of my breakfast inching up my throat. I felt that no rides this season have helped prepare me for this. To be honest, I’ve spent more time running this year than years in the past when biking has taken priority. Marathon “preparation,” i.e. running, has a hold of me, full grip. The only thing keeping me from walking up Dug Hill was knowing an athlete was waiting for me, so that she could start her last leg of the race. To my surprise, I beat my best time on the hill by one minute.

Meg (pink) looking strong

Meg (pink) looking strong

Meg finishing strong...And as it looks, me ducking out of the photo to hurl

Meg finishing strong…(I’m not hurling to the side, I swear!)

Another differing aspect of the race than other races I have been to is the post-race food spread. A BBQ, salads, sweet foods, beverages…If I was not still feeling ill from the ride, I probably would have indulged in the amazing food.

Lo and behold, we took first place for the Women’s Relay Team. The Hudson Valley Girls did it again! (S.Z.B, you were missed)

First place Women's Relay Team

First place Women’s Relay Team

A fellow mountain biker and incredible athlete asked me how my training was for the marathon, and if I felt prepared. I’m pretty sure I just stared at her, as my “training” for this marathon (in less than two weeks, mind you) has encompassed six mile runs and a couple 13 milers. She said my training should be “winding down” now…And, I guess if the last time I ran longer than six miles was the half marathon in April, then, yes, my training is winding down. To be fair, I have developed an even greater love of mountain biking, and so on days off, I’ve wanted to save leg strength for rides as well.

Training

Basically, my training for the past couple weeks can be seen below, in the exact same sequence:

Wake up, inhale coffee, catch up on The Real Housewives, or other Hulu classics (What WAS Tamara thinking inviting Vicki to her gym?

Go for a run…Attempt to Strava the run, give up on Strava, and use Map My Run instead

Drink more coffee–usually iced, usually black

Go for a mountain bike ride, or road ride (I need to start spending more time on the road, as it is duathlon season)

Attempt to blog, but end up browsing potential races instead, then realize I have loads of errands to do

Prepare dinner

Meet up with Kevin and go for mountain bike ride #2 or walk (depending on my legs)

Eat, sleep,work

One would think that these upcoming races will be pieces of gluten-free cake, right?

Well, we will see….That is, if I survive this marathon.

*It was a nice touch, though. And, John McGovern is a triathlete wonder. In retrospect, it was pleasant having my attention diverted from the pain I was in.

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Cycling Mishaps, The Brick Yards, and the Eggs Nest

You know, there are some days when you are just not meant to go for that 46 mile road ride to show a friend the sites of Dutchess county. And, Saturday was that day.

Start of road ride

We started off at 8:30 and made it almost to Turkey Hill when I realized I had a flat. I did have a patch kit, but no spare tube with me (when will I learn to always bring a spare tube?). We manage to get 6 miles into the ride before this happened  on a beautiful day. So, I used my patch kit to patch up the hole in the tube, my friend pumped it up, and we were off for another two minutes when the tube went flat. Again. More patch kit used. And that is when we realized I slashed my tyre and would need a new one (how I slashed it, I have no idea. Bummer, because I just bought a new tyre about a month ago). So, I road down to route 199 if you are familiar with the area of Milan, and waited for my friend to sprint the 5miles back to my house so he could pick me up. Well, there went that idea of a fun long road ride.

Two flats within 5 minutes

But, we did get another mountain bike ride–my “Urban Mountain Bike” experience later in the day down by the old cement and brick factories along the Hudson River close to Kingston point. I must admit, it was much trickier than the riding I’ve been doing as of late– the terrain is very slippery due to dust and tiny fragments of old cement, and it is quite rocky. I’ve been riding in the forests, so this was a whole new world to me. It was interesting, and we were not run over by motocross fools, but it did leave my nice clean Scott covered in dust pasted to the bike frame by mud. Ohh well.

Brick yards

Checking out the Urban Jungle---old cement and brick factories

Perfect riding partner.

bikes in the background...Not sure what Kevin was upto....

Due to our ravenous appetites, we decided to go to The Egg’s Nest, in High Falls, NY. I’ve been here a couple of times, and the atmosphere of the place is like one of no other restaurant. It is eclectic on the inside and out–painted different colors inside, with chandeliers decorated with decorated eggs….The was even a branch hanging from the ceiling with a small white tiger (toy) walking along the branch. Ofcourse, there were eggs hanging from those too.

The Eggs Nest in High Falls, NY

The menu was great, and food delicious. They have very good options for both vegetarians and vegans alike, and can do gluten free.

Tomorrow I’ll continue with my triathlon training and update you on that!

Looking Back on a Year of Tri Training

The other day, well actually yesterday to be more precise, I was lamenting the fact that I wanted to write a post but felt incredibly unmotivated to do so, even though I have quite a bit I would like to share with the world. My friends response, “You could just start writing it and not publish it yet, right?”

I did take his advice to heart, and decided to start writing…Twenty four hours later. And, in order for me to sit down and watch a football game (I cannot ignore the fact that Boston College is playing Notre Dame…Even if the TV is on mute because I cannot really stand the commentators–is it obvious I’m not a huge American Football fan?), I needed to do something. Hence why I’m writing now. (FYI, Boston College is not doing so well. And I don’t like the change in their uniforms since I last watched them play, which was over a year ago…I know, I’m a bad alumnus. Honestly, their football went downhill after Doug Flutey).

So, it’s been almost a year since I started training for my first “big triathlon”–or really, just a triathlon. And after recent runs/rides/swims, I cannot tell you the difference I feel from when I started. I’m not saying I was in bad shape before starting my training–I had just never followed a formal training plan, nor had a coach before guiding what I should be doing, and when I should be doing it. And to those of you who are just starting out training for something–whether it be a running race or biking race or triathlon or duathlon–when you first start out, how you feel you are doing may be discouraging because you can’t really see the progress you are making in the midst of training. But after you finish that race, or in my case, attempt to finish, and look back, your strength and growth as an athlete increases tremendously.

My favorite place to swim at dawn

Last October was the first time I had entered a pool in years. Swimming 100 yards felt like infinity. I choked on water, swam into the swimmer next to me. My form was horrible–I didn’t kick, my body sank as I swam, my arms crossed below my body with each stroke…I could go on and on about what I was doing wrong. Oh! And, I didn’t put my head under the water (which you need to do when swimming, just FYI if you don’t swim). When it was time to swim in a lake with fish–might I add, a cold lake–in a wetsuit–I was terrified. I won’t be redundant because I’ve written posts about my first experiences with OWS.

When I went to the pool last week, I felt like a completely different swimmer, and, truth be told, I am. Strokes come with ease–all of the “high elbow/head under water/kicking….” etc my coach told me–is there when I swim. 100 yards now is nothing, especially after spending the summer swimming in a lake , which as you know, I enjoy better than swimming in a pool. I no longer swim into other people, or swim into the wall, or feel like I’m drowning. Crazy! Although, I cannot say how I feel in a wetsuit, since the last time I was in one was Mooseman–which, I will dominate next year. Just you wait. I don’t give up that easily.

Off of Turkey Hill Road

As for biking, I cannot begin to tell you the change I’ve seen in my stamina and strength on a bike (road bike that is). And it’s an awesome feeling when you can see how much you have improved. The “time trial” I had before I started my training program last year I can do in half the amount of time  as it took me last year, if not more. And, it seems like nothing. All the dreaded hill work and hill repeats my coach had me do made a huge difference. I remember when I first rode up my “hilly route,”  I thought I was going to have a heart attack and die, or that my legs were going to turn into mush. Since then, those “hilly” routes have become standard rides  (i.e. all the “Hills” in my area, including Turkey Hill, Millan Hill, Academy Hill…My question of why there are so many hills in this area will be saved for another post), and yes, I can feel the burn, but they are no longer dreaded challenges that make my heart rate increase to above 200. Okay, my HR never went that high, but I felt like it did at the time. And, I’ve come to realize that slimming down/eating healthier does make a difference in your performance. But to feel the progress that has occurred in a year rocks (woohoo! Riding in 11 degree weather dressed like a crazy person last winter paid off!) Furthermore, after spending so much time on a bike, it’s funny when you actually drive past roads you’ve ridden on and think, “Dude, that’s the road I ride on!” Okay, so my navigational skills have not really improved over the past year and I still get lost easily, but I do know my way around country routes in Dutchess/ Columbia/ and Ulster Counties better than I would ever know if only driving. And, even though I always somewhat knew this, I’ve realized I love biking (I know, I know, you already know this after the number of bicycles I’ve purchased in the past year). Not only this, but I want to pursue bike racing come spring. Don’t worry though, I won’t be one of those anal, mean road racers. Maybe.

Along with the positive aspects of my training also comes many things I learnt–and continue to learn. I would not neccesarily call them mistakes, but rather things I did/did not do which definitely affected race performance–most of which I’ve addressed in prior posts. No one (person or athelete) is perfect. Some might think of that as a blessing, some might think of it as a flaw. I’ve chosen to think of it as a positive–and this not only applies to training but about life in general. Everyone can improve upon something; they can learn, and grow from experiences. How boring would life be if you knew everything, if you were perfect at every single thing you did? Yes, maybe life would be easier. But the growth you have throughout life is what makes it exciting. And, you never know what will happen tomorrow, which is one thing my job has taught me–never take anything for granted. Because it could be gone in an instant.

Well, Boston College still isn’t doing very well, which I blame on their uniforms. How can you beat a team like Notre Dame which has awesome gold-colored helmets? And, I’ll end this post by telling you that if you dedicate time, and work hard, and continue to train towards something even if you feel you aren’t progressing, as I mentioned above, in the end, you’ll succeed.

OH and, if you are in the Hudson Valley and need baked goods for a special occasion, contact Thea at Thea Sphere Sweets— not only is she amazingly sweet, but will bake custom cakes, cookies, cupcakes…You name it. To say her baking is simply food is an understatement. Her baking is an art.

The Biker Tan Returns!

I cannot express enough my delight with the weather we’ve been blessed with this past week. Ofcourse, it was short lived, as every day next week there are “chances of showers.” Despite attempting to ward of sickness, I’ve managed to spend as much time outside as possible. And after returning from a brilliant ride yesterday and taking off my jersey I noticed those distinct lines that mark the middle of my biceps. The biker tan has returned! As I am somewhat of a nut, I actually wrote a post all about sun screen protection and biker tans here  so I will not be redundant with the importance of sun screen. However, with this weather, I must admit I’ve been slacking on my sun protection and will need to step it up a notch for the next ride I’m on. (I don’t really need to worry about it for my runs, since I run at night).

Angry little bugger

My ride yesterday was perfect. It was warm enough for sweat production, I was hitting the hills with gusto and felt more fuel under my belt than on my past couple rides which have been torturous. Perhaps because I had riden on roads I’ve never been on. I realized that most of the roads in Milan/ that general area, have “Hill” attached to them. Like “Milan Hill,” which I like riding in the direction away from route 308 instead of towards it, “Turkey Hill,” “Becker Hill”…etc. I think Turkey Hill should actually be called “Snappy Hill” because on all my rides up that hill which tends to make me feel angry, I’ve never once seen a turkey. But, on my ride, I did see a snapping turtle crossing the road. Ofcourse, I had to stop my ride and help him so he would avoid premature death by zooming cars. (Just Imagine: my bike on the side of the road, me in  cleats, spandex, jersey, my new awesome  Evil Eye Addidas Glasses which don’t fog up, and helmet, slowing down cars on that road. The turtle survived, although his only thanks to me was getting angry and trying to attack me with his snapper mouth).Back to hills. There is also “Academy Hill” and lots of roads which should have the word “Hill” attached to them.You cannot go riding around there without hitting a hill. So, if you like the feeling of burning thighs and feeling your lungs on fire, go cycling in that part of dutchess/columbia county, and you will be in heaven.

View of the Mtns from Becker Hill

I do miss my time on the mountain bike, but for the next couple weeks (less than three weeks to be exact), I’ll be living on my first road bike baby until Mooseman, and making sure I apply some sunscreen so when it comes to swim suit time, I will not look like a complete freak with tanned lower legs and forearms and pasty white thighs, hands, biceps, and core. Then again, the only time I’ll ever be seen in attire resembling swimwear I’ll thankfully be wearing a wet suit.

And upon ending this short, somewhat useless post I must admit there’s never a better feeling nor sensation when you reach the top of a long, painful hill and the only thing you can see are fields of emerald green grass, budding trees, and the picturesque Catskills which lay right ahead of you.

When was the last crazy post written?

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