Friday, September 3, 2010

Hills, Spills and Thrills--and PURPLE HAIR

Since I last wrote, it's been nothing but hills, spills and thrills.  Oh, and some purple hair! This report is another Moby Dick, so for those of you who like to skip the whaling chapters, I will give you the cliff notes:

• Spills, Part One. I took a SPILL off my bike because I clipped out wrong. I fought back tears.  Should have listened to Brother Ben!

• Hills, Part One. I went to Wintergreen to climb HILLS--huge mountains, actually--and feared SPILLS for not being able to clip out. On the big hill, I had to stop riding my bike and get in the truck. I cried.

• Thrills, Part One. What a difference a climb on a huge mountain makes. The next week, I was THRILLED that God flattened out Goochland with a large iron. But really he flattened out hills in my mind. I grinned like a monkey. Maybe there was a tear of joy.

• Spills, Part Two. The next day, I, Captain Slappy, tripped while running and SPILLED splat onto the sidewalk. I stood up and felt okay, but everyone who saw me pointed at me in HORROR. A homeless lady (I am told she was an angel from God, but it was a good disguise) took a clean paper towel I had and dabbed my bleeding hands and knees with it. A lovely thought, but the angel had a lot of dirt on her hands, so the clean towel quickly became the filthy towel. Despite her kind ministrations, the front of my knee ballooned up to the size of a Florida orange. Later, as I stood at the doctor's office with the orange on my knee and blood oozing out of the other knee, I said, "Holly, how can I do that race next week with my hands all scraped up?

• Hills, Part Two and Thrills, Part Two. I bought $250 worth of bandages during the week, trying to find some that would cover my wounds during the race and stay on. Several promised to remain on for four days during which you could bathe. These came off during the practice swim prior to the race about four seconds after they got wet. Oh, well, I raced anyway, careful not to allow the Clydesdales to kick me in the knee, which was still the size of a goose egg. There was a giant Hill on the bike course, and contemplating it before the race made me want to throw up. But once I got there, I knew I could do it. I had to go around a woman who abruptly abandoned her bike right in front of me on the hill. That would have been me if I'd done the race in the spring. But on this day, I crested the hill and shouted a whoop! What a THRILL!

Future Thrills: I have two races coming up--Patriots Half Ironman on September 11th, and Marine Corps Marathon on October 31st. I have raised over $3000 and put a streak of purple in my hair. I'd like to dye the whole head purple for the Marathon, which I will do if I raise $5000 towards the goal of curing cancer. You can help me by making a donation to my TNT site. If you already have done so, THANK YOU!!

Now for the Moby Dick:

Spills, Part One.  The Clips
I should have listened to my little brother.  A little over two years ago, Ariel came into my life and I learned to clip into and out of bike pedals.  To get out, I would turn my heels in as though I were wearing Dorothy's ruby red slippers.  "There is no place like home."  Ben told me to go the other way, pigeon toed.  "What you are doing is dangerous, Amy."  Ah, but what do little brothers know?

Turns out, Ben was right!  I learned this on a hot Tuesday morning as we practiced climbing hills in preparation for a trip to Wintergreen.  We stopped halfway up a hill to listen to Coach Tyler's instructions.  I stopped, clipped out, hit my spoke with my heel, and toppled over in a circle of cyclists.  For whatever odd reason, it was a circle of male cyclist--I was the only woman--so I tried not to cry.  I spent the rest of the week icing my leg and researching how to clip.   I met with Coach Dave to relearn this basic bike skill.  I found I could only clip out properly at the bottom of the pedal cycle--I do not have enough leg strength, or torque--to do it on the top.  I felt barely competent by the time I had to go, and I most feared clipping out while going up a hill.  What if I wasn't in the right place?  Would I roll back down the hill?  Someone told me not to worry, that you would fall over before rolling down the hill.  Thanks!

Hills, Part One, Wintergreen
That weekend, we found ourselves in Wintergreen, where we were to ride 50 miles, but Coach Michael said the hills would make it "equivalent to 75 miles."  As we warmed up and talked about climibing skills, I began to shake.  It was warm, but I was shaking as though it were December.  "Are you all right?" said Coach Tyler.  "No," I replied.  I was afraid of the hills.  Really deathly afraid. 

Our first task was to head down Wintergreen Hill.  It was steep and curvy.  As we descended, Ariel shouted "WHEEEEEE!" and I did too.  Tyler had warned us not to ride the brakes the whole time because this would cause our tires to burn.  I noticed helpful signs, such as "HILL" and "USE A LOW GEAR TO SAVE YOUR BRAKES."  I used my brakes on the straight parts, and released them on each turn.  The hill kept going.  After a while, my hands were so tired I wondered if I could keep squeezing the brakes!  I resolved to use the "GRIP MASTER" I keep in my desk drawer at work to make my hands stronger.

I think the downhills were my favorite part of the weekend, but the scenery was beautiful, too, as we travelled through some flat ground, and then the rolling foothills of the mountain.  I knew, though, that we approached Crabtree Falls.  The climb up this hill is incredible.  It starts with small climbs that level off every so often.  What follows are steeper and longer climbs that "level" off every so often to what you thought were big climbs until you saw the bigger climbs.  At each climb, I worried whether I could make it to the next level spot.  If not, I was not sure I could clip out without falling.  The fear of falling with my feet clipped in gripped me.  Coach Renee was close by.  "I can't do it any more," I announced.  And she would say, "Just try this one more."  And I did.  But eventually, I clipped out at a flattish place and begged her to go ahead and send "the Truck."  I walked some, climbed a bit more, and cried.  Finally Guy showed up in the truck, and I wiped my tears as we loaded my bike and rode up the remaining hill.  It continued just as steeply for several miles more.  We passed my teammates in the third pace group, which we had dubbed "Team Zebra."  (The faster groups were far ahead of us.)  Everyone on Team Zebra walked a bit of the Crabtree Falls climb to the store. 

Soon after the store, we began the remainder of our ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Coach Sallee announced that the hills there were merely "rolling" and we'd enjoy the ride.  Let me tell you: Rolling Hills on the Blue Ridge are HILLS!  But after the humiliation of getting off the bike at Crabtree Falls, I was determined not to walk on a "rolling hill."  After climbing a particularly tough one, huffing and puffing, Coach Michael passed in the truck and shouted, "Great Job!  That was the last hill!"  I believed Michael and said "Praise God, Hallelujah." And then I climbed up two or three things. I don't know what they were, but they did a good job of pretending to be hills.

Thrills, Part One. God's Iron

God must learned from my experience at Wintergreen that I don't mind hills, so long as they are not steep or long.  The weekend after Wintergreen, we rode 64 miles on a regular route that we take most Saturdays in Goochland County, outside Richmond.  Normally it feels hilly.  I remember in the spring huffing and puffing up some preliminary hills and being rescued by Coach Phil, who let me draft off him to catch up to the group.  But after Wintergreen, the experience was different.  It was as though God had gotten busy with his iron and flattened out Goochland.  He figured I wanted no hills, and flatly eliminated all the things I used to think were horrible hills out there. Goochland is not flat, mind you; apparently God used Coach Michael's definition of hills during his ironing binge.  Everything out there for 65 miles was no hillier than the things that followed Michael's report of "no more hills."  After all the hard work, to bound easily up these hills, er.. things, was a THRILL.

Spills, Part Two.  Captain Slappy.

Various coaches have told me I run like Bozo the Clown.  I prefer to think of myself as Captain Slappy.  I don't "heel strike," which is the number one no-no of running.  I land on the balls of my feet, but with a vengance.  If you run beside me you will hear, "slap, slap, slap, slap."  It's a regular rythm.

The next day, I ran like Captain Slappy, tripped over a lip in the sidewalk and SPILLED splat onto the sidewalk. I stood up and felt okay, but everyone who saw me pointed at me in HORROR. A homeless lady--a friend told me she was an angel sent from God--took a clean paper towel I had and dabbed my bleeding hands and knees with it. A lovely thought, but the angel had a lot of dirt on her hands, so the clean towel quickly became the filthy towel. Despite her kind ministrations, the front of my knee ballooned up to the size of a Florida orange. Later, as I stood at the doctor's office with the orange on my knee and blood oozing out of the other knee, I said, "Holly, how can I do that race next week with my hands all scraped up?

Hills, Part Two and Thrills, Part Two, Luray

The week following my spill on the sidewalk was the Luray International Triathlon. I was recovering from my wounds and wondering if I should race. Would it be prudent? And then my teammate Eric said that there was a hill at the end of the bike route that he called a “DOOZY”! I told him this announcement made me want to puke. I shouldn't race!  Then I couldn’t decide if I was considering pulling out of the race because of my wounds or because of my fear. I decided to travel to Luray and race. I was determined to defeat the hill.

When I got to the swim portion of the race, I had a new concern that delayed my fear of that hill. My knee was still swollen the size of an apricot (down from the original navel orange size that occurred when I fell down). The eight dollar bandages that my friend Lenora had recommended to me became parachutes during the practice swim and had to be removed. And then I learned that I was in a later wave, along with the Clydesdales. Really big dudes. When I saw them, I forgot about the hills for a bit and worried whether one of the big dudes might take me out with a breast stroke frog kick to my leg. That would scuttle any opportunity for me to try getting up Puke Hill. So there was to be no drafting in the swim, I tell you.

Kelly Hadiaris, on the other hand, had no such worries. She went off in an earlier, fitter wave. I'm pretty sure she did some drafting. And you would have too. You can see evidence that she was obviously drafting in the photo, attached. Teammate Brenda snapped this when Kelly emerged from the water. Brenda deserves an award for this photograph, I do believe. You feel like you're right there, now don't you?

Kelly calls the photo "every racer deserves an entourage.” Kelly can call this photo whatever she pleases, but I call it a Chippendale's party. Look at her, Dirty Dancing out of the water with none other than Patrick Swayze!

But just so you know, I had a little party myself. I think there's a picture of me dirty dancing out of the Lake Luray too. Looks just like Kelly's photo, except my dirty dancing partner is Chris Farley.  Can't seem to find the photo to post here; you'll just have to trust me.

Now, children, if you are too young to get the cultural reference, you can thank somebody for you tube and watch the Saturday Night Live skit to which I refer. Here you go:

More Thrills and Hills, I prefer no more Spills!
Coming up next on my calender is the Patriots Half Ironman on September 11th.  A patriotic race for an important day for our country.  It's a 1.2 mile swim in the James River in Williamsburg, followed by a 56 mile bike ride and then a half marathon run (13.1 miles).  So, 70.3 miles altogether.  We previewed the whole course over two days last weekend.  I was helped tremendously by drafting off the back of Coach Tyler's bike during the training ride--I won't have that crutch during the actual race.  I am hoping to beat my Augusta Half time, which was 7 hours and 31 minutes.  The swim will be slower for sure because Augusta's swim was downstream.  A log could have swum that fast, frankly.  I swam Augusta's 1.2 miles in about 30 minutes, whereas the Patriots swim will be closer to an hour.  So I will need to cut the bike and run time by 30 minutes just to match my Augusta time.  Yet I really do hope I can beat it.
After Patriots, I will focus on running with the Marine Corps Marathon coming up at the end of October.  Marine Corps Marathon features a large hill at the very end of the run.  So hills remain in my future!
Purple Hair
As you know, part of my motivation for doing all this is that I'm raising funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  I have raised over $3000 so far, so I previewed the purple look recently at Allyson's hair salon.  Take a look at the photos. I really want to paint the whole head purple, though, which is what I'll do if I raise $5000.  If you have contributed already, thank you very much!  If you want to contribute but have been procrastinating, now is the time!  Just click on the link to my fundraising website, and the rest is easy!

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