Archive for August 2010

Dairyland Dare 200k

August 19th, 2010 — 6:25am

This past Saturday, I rode the Dairyland Dare 200k. And unlike last year, I actually finished the ride. All 125.2 miles plus some. I had intended to do the ride alone, but ended up running into a few friends at registration on the morning of the ride. They invited me to ride with them, and I figured I could use the company. Plus, I knew they would push me. The three friends I rode with are all notably faster than I am, so I knew it would be a great challenge to try to stay with them for all 200 kilometers.

The nice thing about the Dairyland Dare is that there is no formal mass start.  The race begins at Harris Park in Dodgeville and riders can begin at any point after 6 a.m. I rolled out of bed at 5 a.m., drove to Dodgeville (a little less than an hour’s drive from Madison), and was riding by 6:30 a.m. It’s kind of fun how the volunteers organize small group starts. Essentially, 4-5 riders line up behind an official start gate, the volunteers ring a cow bell and drop a ribbon, and you’re off.  That way it still feels like an official start, but without the crowds and jostling. It’s really a great way to deal with crowd control out on the course.

The Dairyland Dare is well known for its extreme terrain and killer hills. There are several course distances to choose from – a 50k, 100k, 150k, 200k, 250k, and 300k. I chose the 200k ride because the distance is longer and the terrain more extreme than the Ironman Wisconsin bike course. I wanted something that would test my physical limits and make next month’s Ironman course seem easy in comparison (if that’s even possible). But I do have my limits, and I think anything beyond a 200k would probably push me over the edge.

The 200 kilometer course features 13,547 total feet of elevation gain (yes, Wisconsin has hills—lots of them) and eight stages, with aid stations in between each. The aid stations offered water, HEED, bars, PB&J, fruit, cookies, meat sticks, and other necessities. The course was well-marked and the volunteers were wonderful. The roads were also great—smooth with very little traffic. Definitely a great day weather-wise and a really well-organized event.

As I predicted, my friends Tom, Mark, and Jackie pushed me hard throughout the day. According to Tom, we maintained an 18mph pace for the first 100 miles. Which is just amazing to me considering how much of that time we spent climbing. I’m sure it helped that I was oftentimes in the back of the pack drafting off the others. But it was anything but easy. In fact, I was working so hard I could barely keep up a conversation. Just like any endurance event, I had highs and lows—at some points I felt great, others I felt completely out of it. Tom informed me that the gearing of my bike (an 11-23 cassette) was in no way ideal for the course, or for Ironman Wisconsin for that matter. Apparently, I had less gears to work with, which made it more difficult for me to climb. So I’ll definitely be looking at swapping out my cassette for Ironman Wisconsin.

One thing that really helped me get through the day was the silliness of Tom and Mark. They added a lot of comic relief to the day, engaging with other riders, riding “no handed” for the photographers, and high-fiving every volunteer in sight. Although I was struggling and in pain, they kept me laughing. My favorite memory is when they saw another rider sporting a yellow US Postal Service jersey and started yelling at him in French accents and racing after him like he was Lance Armstrong at the Tour de France. It was classic.

We were all very tired during the last 20 miles of the race. The ride seemed like it was never going to end. I was sweaty, smelly, tired, hungry, and my legs were cashed. But I was excited when we hit the final aid station and were told we only had 8 miles to go. As we approached the finish, we saw a photographer crouched down behind a big red arch at the finish line. We decided to all ride through the arch together and raise our right arms. But as we squeezed through the arch, Mark’s bike tapped mine, and then I hit Tom’s. Luckily, we were able to recover without taking out the photographer! We finished the ride in 8 hours and 8 minutes. Afterward, we enjoyed post-race festivities in the Harris Park shelter—a burrito bar from Bluephies, homemade smoothies, and ice-cold soda. It was a great day and an epic ride.

FYI – the great pictures above are from Brad Guck. He totally captured the great scenery and essence of the Dairyland Dare.

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2010 Concerts on the Square

August 17th, 2010 — 5:42pm

35168_586276714803_20206171_34147452_8234818_nIt’s hard to believe another concert season has come and gone. As many of you know, Concerts on the Square is one of my favorite Madison traditions. It’s a very popular annual six-concert summer series put on by the Madison Symphony Orchestra on the capitol square. Picture this: a beautiful summer evening, picnic blankets covering the entire capitol lawn, families and friends catching up over picnic foods and glasses of wine, and sweet symphony music floating in the air. Seriously, what could be better? 35168_586276724783_20206171_34147454_6041327_n

This year, I was able to make it to three of the six concerts. It wasn’t my best record. Attendance was much lower among my friends and I this year compared to last. It was disappointing, but I can certainly understand busy schedules. There were several competing priorities, including softball games, work, triathlon training, and vacations. And for some reason, all of my male friends have decided (amongst themselves, apparently) that the concerts on the square are too feminine for their tastes. So instead, many of them spend their Wednesday nights at bar trivia. Inside. a bar. Which is clearly their loss.060807tablebag

Not to be all Debbie Downer (I promise I’ll get to the good stuff next), but one thing that disappointed me most about this year’s series is that tables were banned. You know that cute little table-in-a-bag from Crate & Barrel that my parents gave me for my birthday a few years ago? The one that gets me loads of compliments and sets the perfect stage for the ultimate concert picnic? Yeah, that one. Well apparently the powers that be decided that tables make unsightly indentations in the capitol square lawn. And that just can’t be. p8041208

I found out the hard way during the first concert of the summer. I had carefully set up my table and was arranging food and drinks, as a security guard came up and informed me of the new policy. I couldn’t believe my ears. Instead of making a scene and taking it out on the security guard, the mere enforcer of a stupid rule, I simply nodded and deconstructed my table. Part of me has wanted to stage a demonstration ever since to prove that tables like mine are not responsible for holes in the lawn. I could literally get on top of my table and jump up and and down and there would be no damage to the grass. But alas, I have no fight in me. So I’ve grown to arrange my food and drink on my picnic blanket just like everyone else. But I sure do miss my table in a bag. p8041207

Moving on to happier thoughts, my favorite memory from this year’s series involved a local celebrity encounter at the final concert during the first week in August. It was just a small group of us there—Julie, my friend Beth who had driven in from Naperville, and myself. I had taken the day off from work and was able to secure our usual spot under a big tree across from the Old Fashioned. It was a perfect summer night. And because it was also the last concert of the series, people came out in hordes.p8041206

Just after arriving for the concert, I looked to my left and noticed Philippe Coquard, the winemaker from Wollersheim winery, sitting next to us with his family. You may remember from past posts that I’m a big fan of Philippe. Fortuitously, my friend Julie had brought a bottle of Wollersheim’s signature Prairie Fume (the concerts on the square special edition) for us to drink with our picnic. Philippe noticed very quickly, and promptly came over to introduce himself as the winemaker. We told him that we knew exactly who he was. He also explained to us that his extended family (some in from France and Italy), about 40 in total, were in town for his daughter’s wedding and thus with him that night. Once Philippe returned to his family, we stared at each other in disbelief and squealed like teenagers.

We decided then and there that we needed a picture with Philippe. And his autograph on Julie’s bottle of wine. Just our luck, I happened to have a Sharpie in my bag. And my friend Beth agreed to serve as our photographer. After a few sips of wine, Julie and I approached Philippe. He very gladly agreed to sign the bottle and take a picture with us. I think his family found it all very entertaining. They, too, stood and snapped pictures of us. Victoriously, we returned to our blanket. And later in the night, as the wine in our glasses slowly dwindled, Philippe swept by to offer us each a pour. It was the absolute perfect way to end the 2010 concert series.

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RMC Race Report

August 13th, 2010 — 1:01pm

2323232327ffp-93nu3398-38248829249ot1lsiEarlier this month, I competed in the Ripon Medical Center Triathlon. It was my second triathlon and first Olympic-distance race of the season. I’ve done the RMC triathlon six years in a row. It’s one of my all-time favorites. Best of all is that the race takes place on beautiful Green Lake, which I’ve grown to love through countless weekends spent at my best friend’s family’s lake house there.

It’s become an annual race day tradition to drive to the start of the race at the Green Lake Conference Center by way of pontoon boat. As always, it was a beautiful morning, with the sun rising over the peaceful waters. It was Karen, Kate, Brian, and me in the boat, along with all of our bikes piled in the middle. We whizzed across the lake to pick up Karen’s friend, Julie, before heading to the GLCC beach. There, we nuzzled up to a pier and tied up the boat before unloading our bikes and gear. Talk about rock star parking.2323232327ffp-97nu3239-58885wsnrcg339376433-nu0mrj

We had arrived plenty early to set up our transition areas, use the restroom, and do a quick warm-up jog. Although I was tired from the week’s high training volume (I was already up to 207 miles for the week), I was ready and excited to race. It’s the only race that I’ve ever been able to come into as the reigning champion. I’d been the female long-course champion in 2006, 2008, and 2009 (the race changed locations in 2007 and there was only a sprint distance that year). Even though it’s a very small race, I was proud of my record and hoping I could live up to it in 2010.

All was going well until just a few minutes before the race, at which point I realized I had forgotten the bag with my wetsuit, cap, and goggles. The bag was still back at the house—and it was too late to do anything about that. Luckily, I was able to borrow a cap and goggles from friends. As for the wetsuit, I was going to have to go without. I was disappointed with myself for having made such a careless mistake, but at least I could still swim without a wetsuit. If I had forgotten my bike, it would have been a different story entirely. 2323232327ffp-94nu33987-9248889-249ot1lsi

After a few quick race announcements and the start of the men’s long course wave, I lined up along the water’s edge for the women’s start. As soon as I heard the start horn, I ran into the water and dove in. The water was both warm and calm. I knew I would have to swim extra hard to make up for not having a wetsuit. Along with another swimmer, I pulled away from the group pretty quickly. We caught up to the men’s wave within the first few minutes. At that point, I had to focus on dodging and swimming around people. After rounding the big orange turn-around buoy, we headed back to shore. I finished the swim in 21:39, which was interestingly faster than my time in 2009, when I swam in a wetsuit. Go figure.

My transition from the swim to the bike was very poky. I spent too much time fumbling around with my timing chip, which seemed to have loosened its grip on my ankle during the swim. After throwing on my bike shoes, helmet, and sunglasses, I ran with my bike through transition and hopped on once I hit the pavement. We climbed a giant hill leading out of the conference center grounds. I was passing many riders and a few men sped by me. It was an interesting mix of serious and recreational athletes from both the short and long course races. Outside of the conference center, we hit the rolling farm lands. I had forgotten just how hilly the course was. I felt like I was out of my saddle climbing constantly.

Eventually, the short and long courses split from each other, and the long course ventured further into the countryside. Suddenly, I was alone and couldn’t see any other riders around me. At that point, my legs began to shut down. They seemed to have no more power or strength left to give me. A few riders suddenly flew past, including another woman. I had seen her in transition that morning and thought to myself, I bet she’s really fast. I tried to hang with them, but quickly realized I was unable to keep the pace. I got a little down as I contemplated how tired I was from training, how stupid I was for forgetting my wetsuit, and that I would unlikely be unable to regain the lead. I was still riding strong, but my head wasn’t in it. I finished the bike in 1:12:45. 2323232327ffp-83nu3239-58885wsnrcg33937633-nu0mrj

I got through transition the second time much quicker. I racked my bike, pulled on my running shoes and visor, and took off. I felt great. Unlike on the bike, my legs didn’t feel as tired while I was running. Mentally, I was able to get back in the game. The first part of the run course was relatively hilly. After the first mile, we cut over to the lake and ran along a flat road. We also did a little bit of off-roading in a construction zone. I tried to focus on passing each runner ahead of me.

At mile two, I could see the first woman ahead of me in the distance. I realized then that I might be able to catch her. I picked up the pace and slowly inched nearer. At the run turnaround, I finally passed her. She was super friendly and we both said great job and good luck to each other. She told me after the race that as soon as I passed her, she knew I was gone. After I had gotten far enough ahead of her, I eased my pace a little. I finished the run in 46:45, for a total time of 2:23:04. I think it was a personal best for me at the Olympic-distance, and definitely my fastest time at the RMC Triathlon. The race was a whole lot closer this year, but in the end, I was able to hold onto the win for another year. I still don’t know how I pulled it off. When I was announced as the female long-course champion, the race director said, congratulations…again. With that, we rode back on the pontoon boat. And then I went water skiing.

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