Monday, May 2, 2011

The weekend in review Part One: "The Royal Brick."

Royal what? What wedding?

While many had set their alarms for ungodly early hours and were glued to their television sets, tea and scones at the ready, my husband and I were adding a lump of brick to our spot of training.

We put the kids on the bus and the bikes on the rack and headed east to Columbia, Maryland to preview our upcoming race course (and our current level of preparedness).

The Columbia Triathlon, which attracts world-class athletes, bills itself as TriColumbia's hallmark event and one of the most challenging and longest running triathlons in the USA. According to the website, this event, a widely acclaimed Olympic distance race that had its beginnings in 1984, attracts pro athletes and amateurs from across the country and across the world and is the "Best of The U.S." qualifier event for the state of Maryland.

Three weeks away from race day and already I'm feeling out of my league. One thing I've learned for certain after competing in 15 triathlons is that you are always only racing against yourself; you can't control the field of competitors, only your own performance. In other words, I could have my best race ever and not even rank in the top 20, and I could have my worst race ever and place in the top three. So, the only real way to measure success is by whether or not I posted a time that I'm happy with; one that shows improvement.

Another thing I've come to realize is that my race times are inversely proportional to my age. At some unknown point, I will max out; I will reach the point that I have gotten as good as I will ever be and it will be all downhill from there. Tick tock, tick tock.

So we set off on the 25-mile bike course, that sells molehills as mountains, and topped it off with a 5-mile chaser on a run course that walks the walk when it comes to its hills.

When I ride (or run or swim), I continuously and effortlessly compose posts about the experience, and about racing and fitness in general. With my mind and body in synch, and free of life's daily routines and demands, the prose just flows. If I had a portable,clip-on mike to use while I was training (and could delete the sounds of huffing, puffing and snuffling) you might actually get some really good stuff on this blog.

Alas, when my body comes to rest, the inspiration evaporates from my mind like mist rising up from the still surface of a lake.

But I will try to give you what I remember from my stream of conscious that day. With regard to the ride:

The 25-mile course is far more scenic and beautiful than it is hilly or challenging. Let me be clear: not that this makes me any more of a studette on this course; I'm just saying. As compared to the mega-hills Carroll County has to offer, Howard County is virtually sea level. The one thing it does have going for it is the trees. So many trees! Carroll, far less developed than Howard county, remains more agricultural and therefore offers wide, sweeping views of farms, pastures and meadows, but not nearly as many trees. Everywhere I looked, I was surrounded by green, and not just the kind you find on trees but also the kind you hope to find in your wallet. The further I pushed away from the center, the more "old Columbia" faded away and was replaced with huge, McMansions, rising boastfully from their foundations and obscuring the town's original vision. But, along with all this beauty and affluence comes people; in the form of traffic and congestion. Though we'd timed our ride to miss the worst of the rush hour traffic, we were inundated on several roads by service vehicles hauling lawn mowing equipment and tanks of pool water.

I finished the ride thinking that Columbia, with it's manicured lawns, green trees, and great parks, is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. There's no place like home!

After the bike, it was on to the run to complete my first nearly-full brick and this is the kicker: what the ride lacks in hills, the run makes up for it; that is one hilly-ass run course! Which is problematic for me since running is my weak-link to begin with. But I surprised myself with a decent pace and discovered later, when comparing my training times to the race times posted in my age group from last year, I would have come in around 15th, which is not too pitiful considering there were about 80 competitors in that division.

Who knows how it will unfold. I can't control the field, only my own performance. So, as always, I am only racing against myself. If I can manage to post decent times and, in doing so, manage to pull in a top 20 finish in my division, then I will consider it a job well done.

Three other points of interest on that day:

1) An enormous tree came down on one of the bike course roads just before we got there and landed on the bed of a small truck. Luckily, no one was hurt, but it was one of those moments that remind you of just how tiny we are in this big world.

2) We celebrated our brick with lunch at one of my favorite restaurants: The Great Sage, an all-organic vegan joint with insanely good food. If you're ever in the area, check it out: My non-vegetarian husband went along so willingly that I thought he'd missed the "vegetarian" part; turns out he had because he said, "except for the Thai Chicken Salad I ordered." Um, hated to break it to him, but "that's not really chicken." "Oh. Is that why it was in quotes?" HaHaHa. He's such a good sport!

3) There was no rest for the post-brick weary that day; As I posted on Triathlon Mom, we literally ran out of gas (long story) and had to make several trips back and forth to a gas station to fill a small gas can and deposit its contents into our car's fuel tank. This put us home just in time to greet our children as they climbed off the school bus to begin the daily witching hour. From there, it was off to two lacrosse events and one book club.

Friday's workout:

Bike: 25 miles
Calories burned: 1380

Run: 5 miles
Calories burned: 592

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