Monday, May 30, 2011

Swim, Bike, Run = Triathlon

Last weekend I did the Women of Steel Triathlon in American Fork, Utah. It was the biggest triathlon I've ever competed in, with nearly 800 women participating. So many people was intimidating! The route was 300 m swim in a pool, 12+ mile bike ride, and 3.1 mile run. I didn't know what times I should be aiming for, so I decided to set my goals a little differently. My conservative goals were: I wanted to finish the race and finish in the top half of my age group. To push myself, I decided on two more goals: I wanted to finish in the top third of my age group and do the run in under 30 minutes.

 The transition area had many bike racks set up, so I parked my bike, towel, biking shoes, running shoes, etc. all there. Then I had to memorize where it was so I could find it again. Some of the more experienced women brought helium balloons and tied them to the bike rack. I knew I was near the yellow balloon.

 Next it was time to go to the pool. It was a chilly morning, so I kept on a jacket and pants over my swim suit, as I figured I might have to wait awhile to start. And I couldn't resist taking a couple photos with my little point and shoot!

The pool was 50m long. They had it set up so every 12 seconds a swimmer would enter at either end of the pool and then do three laps (three down-and-backs), one each in three different lanes to swim 300 m. We self-seeded, or got into groups based on what we thought we would swim. I had timed myself a few weeks before on a 200 m swim (because that's what I thought it was!). When I found out it was longer, I had to adjust and thought I could swim 300 m in about 5 minutes. I've learned from previous triathlons that it's better not to swim all out, but swim at a nice steady pace so I don't cramp up afterwards. I was concerned that 5 minutes wasn't so fast (after all, I used to swim long distance in high school and competed competitively in summer swim team from age 6-18), but kept telling myself that 5 minutes really wasn't that long in the whole scope of the triathlon.

Then, when I got to the pool and saw that the self-seeding was every minute from 4 to 10 minutes, I realized I was doing better than I thought!

 Even in the 5 minute group, these were all the women ahead of me--just on my side of the pool! I watched the swimmers ahead of me to see how it all worked, as I had never done this pool start before. I saw that passing wasn't so easy, but could be done.

 Just before I got in, I gave my husband my extra clothes. That's me in the purple (eggplant) jacket and the crazy hair.

The swim went well. The water was pleasantly warm, and I swam strong but not too hard. Soon I realized there was a problem--a lady had gone who shouldn't be in the group, and she was backing up swimmers. I decided to pass, and that took a little time and a near head-on collision, but I managed to get around four swimmers. I also had one person pass me at the same time. Talk about a little confusing! After the passing there was a big gap in front of me and no one right behind me, and I was feeling a little tired because I wasn't really able to train for the swim, so I flipped over on my back and did some backstroke. It's always been my best stroke and I can do it with little exertion, so it worked out great.

 After the swim I ran to the transition area, found my bike, and donned a shirt (I swam in my tri shorts, which are bike shorts with a little less padding so it dries out faster), bike shoes, helmet, and sunglasses. I was a little slow in the transition (it's not easy putting on socks when you're breathing hard!), but got out and was feeling good.

I had only had the road bike a couple weeks and had used the clip-in shoes three times before the race, so I was a little nervous. But the bike felt great, and I was cruising along with little effort. In fact, I probably cruised a little too much and didn't race enough, as I went from 14th in my age group after the swim to 71st after the bike. But I didn't know that at the time, as with the staggered start it's hard to really feel like you're competing. The good part was I didn't crash.

That meant I got back into transition and then changed into running shoes and started running. It's never fun to run after biking, so I had practiced that transition a little. After about a mile my legs stopped feeling like jello.

And then finally it was the finish line! I made up some time on the run, finishing 49th out of 153 in my age group. And my run time was 26:57, so I met all my goals. I was very happy about that. But I realized my competitive side was coming out--I wanted to do better. Surely I could make faster transitions and ride faster on my bike!

I will get to find out next weekend, when I try another triathlon. This one has a big group start in a pond (which requires a wetsuit). It has a longer swim but the same length bike and run. It's a lot smaller (only about 300 competitors). That might partly be because there are two other triathlons in Utah next weekend, plus two 100-mile bike ride events, a half marathon, and several shorter running and biking races. And two mud runs. If you want to compete, there are plenty of places to do it!

Thanks to Grandma Sylvia and Grandpa David who came and helped watch the kids. Afterwards we went to a playground so the kids and dogs could play. The weather couldn't have been better. Now if it would just stop snowing so I could train for next weekend!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Spring Hiking with Kids

This is a long post--just warning you in advance! Yesterday I decided to go on a spur-of-the-moment hike, so we packed some "picnic snacks" and headed to a nearby trail. Desert Boy carried a little backpack of his favorite snacks and juice and "activities"--just in case he felt crafty out on the trail. (I figure if he's willing to carry it, he can take it--within reason.)

When we got to the trailhead, Desert Boy was ready to get going--in his two right foot shoes. He didn't seem to mind at all.

 We had fun looking at all sorts of things. Desert Boy really thought we should climb up to a cave and eat some food in a shelter. He was a bit concerned about the storm clouds. I told him we were going to keep going down the trail to the first stream crossing. That was about a mile up the trail and I figured a good distance for a beginning of summer warm-up hike.

The trail had a gentle incline, but I could feel it with Emma on my back. We looked for interesting things to talk about so that Desert Boy would keep hiking. Then we saw something very interesting:
A big gopher snake in the middle of the trail! It quickly slithered off.
The trail had some obstacles, like this fallen aspen tree. Desert Boy decided he'd rather go under it than over it. Going under required some belly crawling. But there were bigger obstacles ahead.

We reached the (first) stream crossing. Usually the stream is just a trickle, but with snow melt the stepping stones were submerged. So I crossed on the little log. Then Desert Boy gave it a try.

He started out well, keeping his balance. But the log was really narrow, and it wasn't flat.

Still, he hung on.
But then he started slipping.
And down into the stream he went. Then he tried again. How did it go?
Here's the answer.
We didn't need to go any farther, so it was picnic time! Desert Girl was glad to get down.

Desert Boy curled up in his sweatshirt and played rolypoly. We had seen some in the garden the other day, and he thought it was great fun to roll around like a rolypoly. He also enjoyed eating lots of snacks.

After our snacks I lifted the kids back across the creek and then it was time to head back to the van. Since it was down hill, I figured Desert Girl could walk--and she did, more than half way.

Desert Boy was now dressed in his sweatshirt and a rain coat wrapped around his waist. He liked leading the way. We had a little talk about how he had to stay close, where he could see me, because there were mountain lions around. He didn't like that because he thinks that since he is four years old he can do anything he wants, but after a little more talk about mountain lions, he agreed.

We reached the fallen aspen, and this time he decided to go over. Desert Girl thought it was a fun place.

Desert Boy was happily eating candy, so he was willing to pose for a photo.
Then it was time to walk again.

Desert Girl thought the flowers were nifty, and some just at the right height for closer inspection.

This walking outside is fun!
Desert Girl isn't exactly a great walker yet, so she bobbled and weaved and fell a few times. Even when she fell, she was all smiles.

A pollinator finding some food. Some time in May was Pollinator Week, but I missed it this year.

Desert Boy went behind a tree, so Desert Girl had to follow, even though the branches were low. After thrashing for awhile, Desert Boy had to go in and help her out.

Back on the trail, Desert Boy let out one of his ear-piercing train whistles. If any mountain lions were around, they knew we were there! I told Desert Boy if he ever gets lost, he needs to stay put and pretend he's a train. We should find him in no time.

Desert Girl found some colorful Indian paintbrush and investigated.

Then she found another flower. Still pictures don't quite capture all her excitement, so here's a little video-be sure to have your sound turned up to hear her talking (babbling):

Desert Boy had a little camera and he started imitating me taking photos of flowers. Desert Girl was there to help, of course.

Then Desert Boy found some old toys in his pocket and was absolutely delighted. That was almost all he talked about for the rest of the hike!
We crossed a bigger creek to get back to the parking area. The water is just starting to get a little brown. It should be getting a lot darker in the next few weeks as the snow continues to melt! The high mountains are still very white.

And that was the end of our hike. Desert Girl slept on the drive back, but Desert Boy kept talking and after a bath to warm up, we went to the playground to "help" the other kids pulling out weeds. Needless to say, he slept very well last night.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Indian Burial Cave

In going back through my photos, I realized I hadn't posted about a couple fun days in April. If you've been following this blog, you know that I like caves a little.

Or maybe more than a little.

If you're not sure, do a search on this blog for caves (or click the cave label at the bottom of this post), and you will see some of the other things I've written about caves.

I've been caving for 17 years now (that's making me feel old!), and I like teaching other folks how to cave safely and with cave conservation in mind. One of our archeologists had been asked to do an archeological survey in a vertical cave, but she didn't know how to rappel and climb rope, so she asked for a lesson. We were happy to comply, as none of our little caving group had done much on rope recently.

We started with practice outside. I always recommend practice out of the cave first--it's so much easier to see what to do when you have full light and not just the beam from a little headlamp. We spent a couple hours practicing climbing rope, changing over to rappel, and rappeling down.

Later that week, we went to a nearby cave, Indian Burial Cave. It's a gated cave and requires a permit to enter.

We did some rigging practice before we went into the cave and talked about ways to rig so you are ready for a rescue.

Then Meg volunteered to go down first. She rappelled into the cave and we heard her call back,
"There's a snake down here!"

Someone asked, "Dead or alive?"


Nothing like wildlife to make the trip a little more interesting! I found several dead snakes in the cave. I imagine that they're attracted to the pleasant temperature of the cave and then get on walls that are a little too steep and just fall in.

Meg pointed in the direction of the live snake, and I found it trying to hide. Poor thing, it will soon join the other carcasses. The silver lining is that they provide food for the cave-adapted organisms. In fact, before the gate, there probably was a lot more that fell into the cave and provided food for the severely nutrient-limited underground ecosystem.

Also right near the entrance drop was a sign. It says:
Paleontological Research in progress
Funded by the National Geographic Society 
and the Geological Society of America
Your cooperation is appreciated.

Numerous animal and human remains have been found in the cave.

I was more interested in the live wildlife. This caterpillar was climbing on a rock. I don't know if it will find enough food to survive.

The darkling beetle was wandering around.

A few flies hung out, too.

Then it was time to head deeper into the cave and take some photos.

Hi, Meg! She is wearing good caving equipment: helmet, lights, elbow pads, knee pads, and gloves.

The most notable formation in the cave are these folia, a shelf like feature that is really pretty.

More folia.
Then it was time to head out of the cave. We went one at a time, with two ascenders that gripped the rope. We all used the frog system, which is a sit-stand system. You alternate sitting and standing, moving one ascender with each movement. In that manner, you can move up the rope about a foot and a half at a time.

It wasn't a very long cave trip, but it was a fun one. It's always a good day when I can go into a cave--and get out safely!
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