Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Triathlon Genes

I think sometimes people assume I would be a really fast triathlete. I have a brother who is gaining ranks in the triathlon world. My youngest brother Ed seems to be a natural at it, taking fifth overall at the Spudman, as well as placing first at other local races. But I'm not fast. I don't know how to will my powers to run faster, swim faster, bike faster. I feel like I'm going fast for me, but others have their doubts (hmm, mmm, Kulani). This year's Spudman was still one of my favorite races of all time, despite the sad death of one of the competitors. I completely finished my race before I heard the news. However, I did hear some rumblings about someone dying when I was on the run. I assumed they were talking about a different race. It was also my slowest Spudman finish to date. I've done three of them so far; the fourth time I've done the bike (I was part of a team one year--we took first in our division--thanks to the quickness of Mary's run and Hetty's swim). My swim was okay; 22 minutes. My bike was slow because at mile 20 my tire lost a lot of air, but didn't flat enough for me to stop riding. I didn't have anything to blow it up or change it, which Kulani says I couldn't have anyway because they were cemented-on tires, or something like that. Kulani (Zen) takes care of all of my bike maintenance so I am woefully dumb about the art of bike repair. Even still, I average 18.5 mph. The bike was really fun this year. I found myself in the middle of an all-women peloton, all of us riding about 21 mph and none of us knowing how to pass one another or let others pass. I loved that. I hate riding in pelotons generally, but I really like riding in this one. I found myself being able to take a little break. And then, as always, I really enjoyed the run. My goal was to make it under an hour, and I made that goal by two minutes.

But back to my going faster. I really could if I'd dedicate my mind and lost some weight. It's really appealing to me, and I like the results of it. I don't think Kulani would mind if the house was a little messier than usual if the trade-off was me with an awesomely buff bod. And maybe then I could fit into my triathlon jeans (or genes).

Friday, June 20, 2008


Haven't done much post-race training. We walked for about an hour when we were in Hawaii. And then I ran for 40 minutes on Wednesday. I've been using every excuse to not train. Even so, already I'm thinking about that Vikingman, and already I'm thinking I enjoyed it. Don't get me wrong; I hated the bike and swim part, but I quite enjoyed the run part. Every triathlete does this. Give them some down time and they start thinking about the next race, what they want to do next, whether the last race was really worth it or not, etc. And usually, if triathlon really gets in your blood, you almost always want to do another one.

But a big reason why the Vikingman was so fun for me was because it was in my home town. We began the swim next to the house where my young women's leader lived. We swam past my best friend Keri's old neighborhood. We biked past my dad's old carlot and our family's old home. On the way in, I biked past my old church building and my old elementary school, the same school my grandmother and father graduated from. On the run, I got to see parts of Heyburn I haven't been to in close to 15 years. I ran past John Koyle's house. John Koyle was my first-grade crush. He invited me to his birthday party, and my mom dressed me in a dress. But I still managed to keep my dress clutched between my legs when competing in the head-standing contest. So many memories came flooding back to me to keep me company during the long day. I thought of many old friends I'd made through my early burglary years (thanks for that, Morrissey). I treasured the memories.

Kulani and I like the idea of doing triathlons in far away and exotic places. The idea behind it being we can train hard and do the race, then spend the rest of the week gorging the local food and taking in the local culture. Heyburn isn't a far away or exotic place, but for me, it was a great trip down memory lane.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I ... did ... it

Hardest ... Half-Ironman ... Ever. Well, maybe not ever, but it was difficult. We had head winds at 25-35 mph for the swim and bike. While swimming, I'd come up to breathe, and a big wave would smack me in the face. It took me 57 minutes on the swim. I had the second slowest women's time. The Snake River has a huge current that should have allowed me to do the swim in 35 minutes. Had there not been a current, I'd probably still be out in that river trying to finish. The bike was also awful. The head wind allowed me to average possibly 11 mph for the first 23 miles. On the way back, without any trouble at all, I reached as high as 32 mph. Yeah, the tail wind was awesome, but not worth the head wind. And then the run. Again, head winds and tail winds. I thought I was standing still, but I didn't turn a too bad half marathon: 2 hours 22 minutes. I really contemplated quitting many, many times. My dad was one of the helpers in the boat making sure people didn't drown. I swam up to his boat, but actually didn't get in. My total time: 7 hours 30 minutes. Slower than even Hawaii's difficult course. i just kept telling myself: the Vikingman will not beat me. I will beat it. I will be the viktor. I will be--the Vikingman!

I really do think I'm done with this distance until Lilia is old enough to watch the girls. I say that now, but this time, I think I'm sticking by it.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


As in, my stomach is in ... knots. The Vikingman half-ironman is three days away. The anticipation of the race is almost worse than the race itself. I just called my dad and he said the Snake's temperature is at a balmy 55 degrees. We'll definitely be wearing our skull caps. The projected forecast for the race is a high of 63. I just hope the Idaho winds aren't blowing. It reminds me of the old joke that still isn't funny: Why is Idaho so windy? Because Utah sucks. My cousins from Utah would try to turn that joke around, but it never made sense to me, because Utah isn't nearly as windy as Idaho.

I'm having a hard time doing anything because of my jitters. I just need to calm down. I remind myself of the following truths.

I would rather do the Vikingman than:
  • repeat high school.
  • pass a chemistry class.
  • file for bankruptcy.
  • be a sprinter.
  • clean-up my house after a tornado.
  • sell books door-to-door.
  • go through a divorce.
  • encounter a rattle snake.

Life's partially about conquering one's fears. Nothing like a triathlon to remind me.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Today I caught a documentary on Steve Young while I was running on the treadmill. Steve Young could only be described as the Christenson family hero of all heroes. My dad taught my Sunday School class when I was around 13, and at least once a month the lesson was a talk by Steve Young that my dad had on cassette tape. Most of us in the class had it memorized. The gist of the talk was about working hard and not giving up. For those that don't know Steve's story, he was an 8th string quarterback at BYU who worked hard and with a little luck, ended up as one of BYU's all-time best quarterbacks. He took the same approach in the NFL, finally taking over Joe Montana's old post as quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, and earning them a Super Bowl championship.
During the documentary, Steve talked about heroes he had, the two most important being Roger Staubach and his father. To roughly quote him, he said his admiration for Staubach growing up helped him want to be a hero to someone else the way Staubach was for him. He said Staubach didn't owe him anything just because he was his hero, but because Staubach lived an examplary life, Steve sought to do the same. Of course I thought about how more sports athletes should think about that concept on a deeper level: how their actions in and out of the sport will affect those who are watching.
I think what impressed my dad so much was Steve's attitude of not giving up, and even more, of giving it your all. It was a very inspirational hour of television that has really helped me refocus my energies on the upcoming Vikingman. It also helped remind me that nothing is as important as the family. He ended the documentary with a famous quote from an LDS church authority: "No success can compensate for failure in the home." For me, triathlon must enhance my enjoyment with my family or else I will have to give up triathlon. Triathlon can definitely be a family matter. I may not be the fastest, but it makes me healthier and happier, thereby spilling out on my family. It's hard to feel sad or down on yourself after running, swimming, or biking a few miles.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Triathletes Suck

We do. Seriously, we do. Triathletes only want you as a riding partner if you can stay the same speed as them, you're focused, and you don't slow the group down. Case in point: Saturday's ride.

Old friends Jared and Steph moved back to Utah for the summer so Jared could do an internship in SLC. Though they claim they're out of shape, their combined body fat wouldn't keep a small child warm on a summer day. Two years ago, Steph rode 17 centuries. We knew they could keep up with our pace, and maybe even leave us in the dust. Kulani and I are Clydesdales and Athenas at best--we could even fit into a newer, larger category if needs be. Kulani made it clear to them that it was okay if they came along, but they needed to know that it was our ride and if they wanted to go faster, they could. If they wanted to go slower, we would leave them in the dust. I was more worried for the former.

About 20 minutes before they arrive, they ask if they can bring their little brother Butch. What's one more person on a road ride? Most cyclists enjoy lots of people. It gives you a chance to talk with a lot of people, and their is safety in numbers. Not to mention you just feel cool being with a pack of cyclists; you feel like a part of a road gang taking over large swaths of road territory. But triathletes travel in little packs because, again, time is of the essence and we suck. We're not riding for the social aspect as much as for the keeping-the-heartrate-up aspect. So they bring Butch.

We start out the road ride in great form. And it's fun. I'm catching up with Steph and Jared and Butch and it's a beautiful morning and we're keeping a good pace--I'm happy. But by hour 2 into the ride, we start to get slower. Jared looks back and sees Butch a nice shade of puke. We stop at a convenience store to fuel up with more water, bananas, some jerky--all the accoutrements. We're hoping Butch will recover enough to get him to Orem. Turns out he'd only ridden a 22-minute ride earlier that year, so he was pushing himself a touch. Even though we're triathletes, Kulani has way too much of the cyclist in him to leave a man behind. Luckily from Sringville to Orem, it's nearly all downhill. By this time, Butch is feeling better and he's ready to make it all the way back to Cedar Hills. Our pace continued to get slower, and not just at the fault of Butch. I was starting to get slower too. My leg muscles were shaking, and I was crankier than a curmudgeon whose lost the remote control.

I noticed something, however, that will hopefully be useful for my race in three weeks. Gels really help bring up the blood sugar levels. I hit a gel, and five minutes later, my mood is up, my legs are better. I brought six gels on the four-hour road ride, but I found I needed about two more. I usually do what the books say, which is take a gel every half hour of exercise. I found that near the end of my ride, I really needed a gel more like every 20 minutes. There affect seemed to wear off after about 15-18 minutes. Good to note, I think.

So my goal was to average 17-18 mph on the four-hour ride, but we only averaged 15 mph. I promised Kulani that next week, he could go on his own. And for me next week, I hope to average 17 mph. That's a much more realistic goal for me. And I'm also taking out my tri bike for the first time this year on next week's final long-road ride before the big race. I didn't train so great this season. I'll finish the race, but I'll be slow and bone-dead tired. My cycling has never been my strong suit, so maybe for the Spudman I'll focus more on doing better with it. The problem this season, or the excuse I'm making, is that our cycling bike broke, and our Gold's gym membership expired. So to get a road ride in, I'd need to call a babysitter, and I'm squirly when it comes to babysitters. I'll get one for our big rides on Saturdays, but I don't like to leave the girls anymore than is necessary. Plus, babysitters can be so moody when you're late, and road rides are unpredictable, and I always end up being later than I say. Not to mention the cost involved. I pay $6/hour for a sitter, so to get in all the road rides I need, that would add up to a small mortgage payment per month.

I'm not sure about this half-Ironman distance. It takes a lot of hours to train, which is hard to do when you're a mother of small children. I may just have to stick to the Olympic or sprint distance. But having a half-Ironman distance early in the season does help lay a really great base for the rest of the season. After training and doing a half-Ironman, you look at the Olympic distance like it is a walk in the park. "At most I have to train 2 hours on a Saturday? Sign me up!" is how your mind works. And it has sooo many analogies to life, a few being:
  • The mind is stronger than the body.
  • Endure to the end.
  • Work before the glory.
  • If you can do this, you can do anything.

And another thing I like to remind myself is that triathlon is three sports. I get passed by a ton of people on the bike, but then I pass a lot of people on the run. It's not a one-event sport, which is why I love it so much. Yes, triathletes suck, but they're also pretty cool when you get to the run part. By the run, people are tired and chatty. And when anyone hits the finish line, everyone is proud for them.

And bonus, I lost four pounds after Saturday's ride and swim. I'm pretty sure it's nearly all water weight, but it was nice to see that on the scale nevertheless.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Bio Network

When I have a long run on the treadmill, I find myself watching the Biography channel. In the early morning, from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., they usually show two "classic" profiles. It's fascinating enough that it takes my mind off the running. This morning's profiles were about Uri Gellar and James Praag.

I'm not really sure what to think about these two mind-bending folks. (My gut tells me they're either charlatans, or they made a lucrative money deal with ... could it be ... SATAN?!) At any rate, good information for the next time I do a crossword puzzle. I've also watched bios on Pat Tillman (football player killed in Iraq), Barbara Eden (I Dream of Jeanie actress), and Sandra Dee (as in, "look at me, I'm ..."). It's the kind of TV station the family I grew up in can't pull themselves away from. We are sponges for pop culture. Try playing Trivial Pursuit with us sometime and you'll understand.

The Bio people know how to keep a runner tuned in. I didn't even stray during the commercials. They'll end each segment on a cliff hanger like: "James' life was about to take a turn in a very drastic way." Drastic way? What could it be? I've got to keep it on this channel to find out, which is exactly the kind of thinking my tired, running mind and body needs. So I'll tell myself that I'll run through the commercials, and then I'll treat myself to a one-minute walking break after the commercial break. It works every time. With 15 minute of show, followed by three to four minutes of commercials, it's not long before the two hours of running is up. And I've got a little bit more trivia knowledge for the next Christmas-day challenge of Trivial Pursuit. Watch out brothers and sisters: this is when a little bit of Bio channel can be a dangerous thing.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Gotta have da music

If you are feeling stagnant, can't get going, etc., try wearing around your iPod for 10 minutes with some jammin' tunes pipin' it at 65 decibels. I'm not sure what a decibel is, or even if I spelled it right, but you get the idea. Kulani made me a smokingly great mix for my iPod. He knows my style. I am kind of stuck in a 9os rut when it comes to music, but Kulani helps guide me right to the stuff I'd like.

I've placed a few of the songs I like on this blog. Perhaps they will inspire you too. My sister Mary has been a huge fan of Guster for years, and sadly, it wasn't until Kulani put their songs on my iPod that I really woke up and took notice. I'll have to say that Guster's Careful is about the most perfect song I've heard in a long while. I put one oldie on the list, which is Kulani's signature song ("Sunshine").

Happy training!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Saturday Musings

Saturday was long-roadride day. Me and the trusty Lemond Versailles took off from home around 8:30 AM, while Kulani watched the kids at home. I decided to travel south and east toward Provo Canyon. I ended up traveling up hill both ways. Seriously, look at this residential climb:

And this was the climb on the way back:

I think I climbed for at least one hour yesterday, all totaled. When climbing, I tend to think of other things to keep my mind off the pain. One thing I tell myself is to take 'er easy. I try not to hyperventilate thinking about how steep the hill is or how hard it is. Instead, I look straight at my front wheel, and I imagine I'm on a slight uphill. If you look straight at your front wheel, it's hard to notice the pitch of the hill. And like any good sherpa will tell you while scaling a huge mountain, never look up. It's the wu wei of the universe: be in the moment. I think Oprah's book club this month is all about that concept. Maybe I should pick up a copy.

Also when riding up hill, I go rather slow, so I have a chance to stop and smell the daisies, as it were (daisies don't smell so great). The daisies this weekend included the oddities that are Utah County. Check out this coordinate I found in Pleasant Grove:

Notice this nice downhill followed by a steep uphill.

It makes you want to get a lot of speed heading into the uphill, but no chance. The lovely city engineers in Lindon put a speed bump at the bottom of the hill. Makes sense for cars, but it really bums out cyclists.

I rode for two and half hours. I made it to Vivian Park in Provo, then turned around and came home. My highest speed I reached was 27 mph. I'm afraid to go much faster than that. On the steep downhills I especially go slow, because I don't want to get doored or hit an unforseen road bump. But on the flattish downhills, like 1600 North in Orem, I'll take off the breaks somewhat. On my journey, I passed Racer's morning road group, and then Kulani caught up to them later that day. All are training for Rawrod in two weeks. The ride converted me back to cycling. Riding on a stationary bike just isn't the same.

The following picture shows where Kulani road this weekend on his five-hour ride. Maybe he'll blog about it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Triathlon 2008 Season Officially Commences

Yes, another year of triathlon, and I'll be on board. It's been two days, and I've been doing great, so far. Yesterday we went swimming at the American Fork Recreation Center, my personal pool of choice. I dropped the kids off at the daycare there for 45 minutes, while I managed to swim 1100 meters in 30 minutes. Pretty slow, but I felt great. It was a good, quality swim, and my heart rate got up. These first few weeks, I'd like to see me drop some pounds, so I'm mainly focusing on just getting my heart rate up. After the swim, we took the girls swimming as well. That's why I love going to the American Fork pool; I can bribe them to be good for an hour with the promise of going swimming when we're all done.

Today I ran for 35 minutes while Lilia was at ballet class. I ran around the American Fork indoor track (12 times around = 1 mile) while I pushed Nohea in the stroller. Melissa was at preschool. I brought along the iPod, which made the run quite enjoyable indeed.

So on deck I have the Burley Vikingman the first weekend in June. After that, I'll be training for the Spudman at the end of July. I like to do three triathlons a year, so I need to find one more triathlon. I'm thinking the Saratoga Splash. That's a fun one.

Happy training!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Long live the treadmill!

We recently purchased a second treadmill for the family. We placed it next to the treadmill already in commission downstairs and plugged it into the overloaded circuits. The only outlet we have in our unfinished basement could not handle the loud of both treadmills operating at the same time, so Kulani got his friend Craig, the electrician, to come put in another outlet. A few parts and $100 later, both treadmills are spinning away on our "road to nowhere."

I love treadmills. I love running with Kulani on the treadmills. I love listening to music while running on the treadmill. Tonight I found an old CD, the Best of Barenaked Ladies, and gleefully pounded out four miles. Nohea, my one year old, caused me to stop every now and again for fear of her coming too close, but for the most part, she played quietly by herself nearby. I didn't think I had time to exercise tonight. I could feel my body and mind start to wind down. I have a bed full of clothes to fold. I ignored it all, and took the time to exercise. I'm glad I did.