the everyday adventures of sabrina

i'm happy, hope you're happy too

So I’m on call all this weekend for work, which means basically that I can’t leave the house for three days (long NYE weekend) because I have to be within 15 minutes of my computer should anything decide to go splat over the holiday. That being the case, I stopped by to vist my friends at the awesome Chicago Public Library — it rules having the main branch of the public library of one of the nation’s largest cities within half a mile of your house, y’all — and perused their sports books to stock up on reading materials for my hibernation.

First, I picked up Swim, Bike, Run, Laugh!: A Lighthearted Look at the Serious Sport of Triathlon and the Ironman Experience, by Dan Madson. This is a short one, and it only took me maybe an hour to read. It’s not the sort of laugh-out-loud comedy of something like Trizophrenia: Inside the Minds of a Triathlete (which I highly recommend, and quote the line about five-to-ten minute socks from regularly), but it’s more along the lines of a gently humorous memoir. So, from the title, the “lighthearted” bit is more correct than the “laugh” bit — it had a few laugh out loud moments, but mostly it was the sort of smile-to-yourself kind. It was a slightly less manic volume of the “humorous Ironman experience” than How Triathlon Ruined My Life. Not bad, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to read it.

Cover of bookThe second read of the night was a 1985 book called Triathlon, Lifestyle of Fitness: Swim! Bike! Run! and billing itself as “A Complete Training Guide to the Sports Phenomenon of the 80s!” So obviously it’s 25 years out of date, but I was curious to see how things had changed — what sort of anecdotes about the sport there’d be, or how training advice would have changed, over that time and especially after the popularization of the sport.

It’s actually not all that bad, as it turns out, in terms of training advice — with at least one major exception — and it’s kind of fun to read the anecdotes and especially the section about bikes — probably the only book I’ve read that talks about sew-up tires at all, and definitely the only one to baffle me by talking about clincher tires as “wired on” (I kept picturing wire wrapped around the tire holding it to the wheel).

Swimmers milling about on the beach waiting for the race to startSome of the photos are really great. From the photos you’d think that, in the 80s, all races were sponsored by either Crystal Light or Bud Light (wonder if they still handed out cola at the aid stations?). The author talks about having a special, custom one-piece suit made because he had a theory that having a single outfit to wear and not having to take “pit time” to change from a swimming outfit to a biking one could make the difference between winning or not — and mentions that the other athletes treated that idea with skepticism. So that’s kind of an interesting throwback if you’ve only ever competed in recent tris: imagine people actually wholesale changing clothes in transition! That no-nudity rule becomes even funnier.

Naked guy crouched by his bike in transitionMost of the training advice seems usable, actually, which surprised me. (I guess that’s the problem with making assumptions about old books.) There was some flat-out bad advice about hydration — “Water: You Can Never Get Enough,” discouraging athletes from drinking sports drinks because he says it’s impossible to sweat out the micronutrients that they claim to replace, and pooh-poohing salt tablets as unnecessary. Maybe hyponatremia hadn’t been discovered to be a real problem in endurance athletics then, because it was still an emerging and relatively unpopular sport? — and the food stuff was out-of-date with regard to modern endurance nutrition products (though it’s understandable why he’d advise you to keep bananas and other actual food handy, since there was no gel and he wasn’t drinking Gatorade).

Cyclist on a 10-speed with downtube shifters, wearing a foam helmetBut apart from that, there is a lot of decent stuff. He talks about the importance of cadence on the bike, especially spinning at high RPMs even though it feels weird (and the importance of not mashing because of the ineffectiveness and potential for injury), and how to use the entire pedal stroke to generate power (using clips rather than clipless pedals, of course, but the principle still applies). Some of the swim stroke advice is outdated (e.g., the S-shaped stroke is out of vogue these days, though I personally am still trying to break the 20-year habit), but who learns to swim from a book anyways? And he does advise people to find a coach or join a masters team to get real guidance. The running section explicitly advises a midfoot or heel strike, so at least that’s half correct by modern (fore- or midfoot strike) standards, and for whatever it’s worth, the reasons he advises against a forefoot strike are the same injury factors (Achilles, calves) that people caution you about when you start out a barefoot/natural/good form running program. And quite a bit of the advice is word-for-word still applicable, especially the parts about having all your stuff organized for transition so you don’t forget your shoes and have to run barefoot (oops), and not overtraining to burnout. Plus, the author talks about washing out of multiple Ironman races, so that goes a ways toward humanizing him and not making you think you’re reading something For The Serious Athlete Only™.

So, my honest assessment of this out of print, out of date training book? You could do worse. Seriously, if you’re a new triathlete on a budget, for about two bucks for a used copy, this isn’t a bad book (if you ignore the part about drinking endless gallons of plain water and never taking in any electrolytes). And the pictures are pretty good too.

HC103 Resources

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These are the resources listed in the “beginnings” portion of the Healthful Lifestyle presentation from HC103.

Grocery Shopping:


Set Goals:

Charity Training Programs:



Online Resources:

Had a conversation last week with my team lead about something that’s been annoying me lately, my increasing need to clean up after others before I can do my own work (or, on occasion, for me to clean up after others before different-others can do their work, because what’s even better than someone wasting one person’s time is when someone can waste two people’s time, plus the time of the dev teams waiting for us to do our actual work rather than do clean up). I sent an email as an example of what I was annoyed about. This morning, my team lead followed up and said, “Ok, I think I see. He doesn’t mind the hiccups because he just sees the progress.”

My response:

Whereas I feel like I’m going through life as an endless repetition of what happened to me just now when I went to go get coffee: I showed up at the coffee station, then realized someone had dumped water all over the floor, so before I got my coffee, I got a pile of paper towels and mopped up the giant puddle so no one slipped and fell, and meanwhile, someone I don’t even know came up and laughed at me for making a mess.

Happy Monday.

So T. talked me into doing one last tri before the season was over — and can I just take a second to remember that, barely over a year ago, I was so certain that I would barely be able to accomplish a sprint triathlon, and that I should make it my goal to do that and then proceed on to do an Olympic in 2012 — and we picked the Tri the Creek triathlon, in Potato Creek State Park, just south of South Bend, Indiana. It was just shy of an Olympic, with a 1k swim, 22 mi bike, and 10k trail run.

I have the car rack, so I drove us out there. We decided that picking T. up at 4:45 from Logan Square would get us there when transition opened at 7AM, with it being about a 2 hour drive. I was actually running early when I left the house (SOMEONE CALL THE RECORD BOOKS, that is the first time that has happened in my entire life) and so I went to the Dunkin’ Donuts at Harrison and Wabash to get coffee. Bad decision. I called T. at 3:55 to see if she wanted one, then went inside. TWENTY MINUTES LATER, I left, coffee in hand. What happened, you ask? Dormrats. Dormrats happened. The fucking superdorm inhabitants, and 2 E 8th inhabitants, and Polk/Plymouth Columbia dorm inhabitants, and and and. Like little drunken, indecisive fleas. Since it was 4AM, only one woman was working at DD. That poor, poor woman. I can only hope she’s not always the one stuck with the drunk idiot children.

Anyways. So. 4:15 (4:15!!!! FOR TWO COFFEES!), I left and headed up to T.’s, and got there at 3:35. She came out, we got her bike on the rack and headed out. Dodged drunks the whole damn way to South Bend — it was not even funny, how badly people were driving. Best of all was when a CPD car came from out of nowhere headed toward the Skyway, bypassing the two clearly-drunk assholes that I’d carefully gotten past so that the accident they inevitably caused would be behind me rather than in front, and blew past me doing at least 100. T. was wearing her heartrate monitor at the time and her heartrate jumped from about 55 bpm to over 120. No joke. Thanks, CPD, your shit driving scared me more than the drunken assholes you failed to pull over. But we continued onward, and everything was great until we stopped at a BP for gas about 20 miles away from the race, and T. came out of the gas station and asked, “What time is it?”

I glanced at my watch, then paled and said, “FUCK! EASTERN TIME ZONE!”

It was, of course, not 6:45 and 15 minutes until transition opened, with two hours to go until the race started, but in fact 7:45 and with only 45 minutes until transition closed, with check-in and chip pick-up and body marking to be done before then, not to mention the 20 minutes of driving through the country until we got there.

We got there at 8:05 EDT, took a few minutes to get our stuff and unrack the bikes, plus air up T.’s tires as they were low, then got across the parking lot, at which point I realized I’d left my USAT card in the car and went back for it, then after T. finished checking in I went up and the cranky lady demanded my driver’s license, which I’d also left in the car (I can leave my wallet unattended in the locked car or unattended in the unlocked transition area, when I expect to finish dead last long after the others – hmmmm, tough choice), so I went back to the car a SECOND time. This time they let me have my race bib, and I went in to transition with 10 minutes left. This is actually slightly more time than I had at She Bangs, so I managed to lay everything out neatly and cover it up with the trash bag I’d brought in case of rain, since it was merrily raining all over everything. We put on our wetsuits and went out to test the waters and wait for the pre-race talk.

The race was tiny. TINE-EE. According to the results, they had 91 people in the sprint, and 47 of us in the long course. Which is like 25 more people than they had last year. But it was actually really nice to be part of a small race. Sure, I was guaranteed to be dead last, but it didn’t take me five minutes to find my bike and get out on the run, THANK YOU, CHICAGO TRIATHLON, AHEM.

Anyways, we did make it to the start without any drama more serious than Cranky Drivers License Lady, so all was well. The water was ZOMG FREEZING — honestly, I think it was colder than the 62°F Lake Michigan water I swam a mile in on Saturday; it was okay once I started swimming, but waiting in the water for the airhorn was brutal — and my interpretation of the race course was, let’s say, … non-traditional.

So the swim course was 1000m, and a rectangle out and back:

|         |
|         |
o         o
|         |
|         |
F         S

This is how I swam it:

o----o        \
|               \
|                 >
o               /
|             /
|          /
F         S

I’m pretty sure it started out OK, but then a few seconds in I thought I should give T., on my immediate left, a little space, so I went right a tad, and then I just sort of … kept going. I totally forgot to sight at all, and I was in the zone, so I was well out there by the time I remembered to look where I was going, and I glanced left and realized that all the other swimmers were at least fifty yards away. I adjusted course and swam and swam and swam and swam back and it seriously took me the entire rest of that leg to make it back to the pack. Then I rounded the buoy wide and finally got back into the inside of the course, but if I didn’t add at least 150 yards to my swim, I’ll eat my swim cap. It’s hard to be too mad, since it’s my own damn dumbass fault for not looking where I was going, which is basically the first thing anyone tells you to do when you get taught open water swimming, though. I like to think that the lifeguards were sitting there playing rock-scissors-paper to see who had to go get me and keep me from swimming out to the ocean.

My official swim time was 20:03, and my swim was 5th among female swimmers. If I hadn’t taken my little detour, I imagine I would have finished at least 2 minutes (if not 3) faster, and I might even have challenged the first place female swimmer, who had a time of 17:53. Grrrrrrrrrr. Stupid sighting, why are you so easily forgettable?!?!

Then I ran up the beach up to transition, found my rack with no trouble (I love you, blue painter’s tape!), and went out on the bike, where every single other long course competitor except one proceeded to pass me. But that’s okay. There was one obnoxious hill right at the start (to put space between competitors. Because there were just so many of us?), then two loops of a somewhat hilly course. It was really gorgeous. A very pretty state park, and a beautiful place to stage a race, especially for a slowpoke like me who has the time to appreciate the surroundings, haha. I averaged 15.1 mph, which beats my Chicago time, so I’m pretty happy about that. Not sure if it was the CompuTrainer classes or just having my front brake fixed so it’s not rubbing on the rim, or what, that helped me pick up the pace without feeling more whipped, or maybe it was just that the weather was cool instead of warm, but anyways, I felt good about the bike.

…that is, until I got back to bike in and the dang DJ was playing the Macarena. Really, people. It’s not 1995 anymore. LET IT DIE!

So then, changed into running shoes and off to the run. This was, as promised, a nature trail hike through the woods. It’s worth saying that they told me so, but I didn’t believe them. I had dithered over whether to bring my regular running shoes or my trail running shoes, but I hadn’t run any trails since April at Starved Rock, and hadn’t trained in the trail shoes, and you know, the first commandment, “don’t do anything new on race day,” so I went with my regular running shoes. I think I would have been happier in my trail running shoes. Oh well. Then — hills. Hills, hills, hills. The run was not flat. My poor Chicago legs were sad. My poor Chicago quads were registering complaints with the union. It was amusing. It turned rapidly from a run into a hike. I ran the flats, picked my way carefully down the downhills (some of which were steep, most of which were littered with wet leaves, and all of which were muddy and slick), and strode up the uphills. My time on the run was utter, utter garbage. I seriously had a 15:58 pace, it was ridiculous. But, I didn’t break an ankle, and I finished stronger than I started. And, maybe more importantly, I really enjoyed my quiet little hike by myself in the woods, and it made me want to go back out to Starved Rock and do some more trail running through the muddy woods, so I think that is actually a total win.

And, as for being dead last. Well, first of all, someone has to be last, and at least I expected to be last so it’s not like I was going to be all upset and sad and crying my eyes out about the shame, the shame, the shaaaaaaame of it all. Besides, last person to finish a triathlon still fucking finished a fucking triathlon, so whatever, couch potato critics. Last place still gets a finisher’s medal! Ha!

And then — I got second place in my division! So I finished dead last, in the rain, AND I STILL PODIUMED. Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha. I rule!

So, I really liked the Tri the Creek, and I would totally do it again next year. I would do some trail running beforehand, and not just the nice smooth asphalt of the lakefront trail, and I would wear my trail running shoes. I would try really hard to remember to sight frequently and not attempt to swim to Ohio by accident. And I would remember that I’m going to lose an hour in the drive there, so plan departure times appropriately. 3 Disciplines put on a good race (even though all those fancypants sub-3 hour elites ate all the food before we finished), and I would totally do another of their races. Who knows, maybe I won’t be last place, next year!

So I just sat down and came up with an estimated budget of roughly $2000 for next year’s triathlon season — about half race entry fees and training fees, and the rest things like new bike shorts, new shoes, nutrition, etc. $2000 sounds like a whole lot, and don’t get me wrong, it’s nothing to sneeze at… except for how it kind of is totally to sneeze at, relative to how much I spent this year.

This is the post I’ve been planning, and dreading, all season. Oh yes – the part where I tally up that list of everything I bought this year. Well, everything I remembered to write down, anyway. Here goes nothing!

Race Entry Fees – Total: $848

South Shore Triathlon: $102
Chicago Triathlon: $188
SheROX Naperville Triathlon: $85
She Bangs Triathlon: $95
Bunny Rock 5k: $44
Ravenswood Run 5k: $42
Proud to Run 5k – $31
C4 Miles: $34 (+ $10 donation)
Fleet Feet New Balance Women’s 10k: $32
Elvis is Alive 5k: $27 (+$10 donation)
Illinois Tour de Donut: $25
Bike the Drive: $54
Hot Chocolate 15k: $69

Next year: Only do South Shore and SheROX sprint tris; do not register separately for Chicago and let T2 handle that. Budgeted for 4 5k-type races at $40 a pop, plus Elvis is Alive. Drop Tour de Donut. Drop She Bangs in the incredibly disgusting Bangs Lake. New budget: $450.

Memberships/Training/Etc – Total: $965
T2EA pre-season Indoor Triathlon: $175
T2EA Chicago Triathlon: $75
CARA 2 year membership: $79
USAT 1 year membership: $39
CES Open Water Swimming 10 week class: $227
Get a Grip Cycles bike fitting (so so so worth it!!): $270
TriMonster post-season CompuTrainer class: $100

Next year: definitely T2 indoor tri and regular season tri. Won’t need a new bike fitting, won’t take the open water class that I never got to go to because the Park District forced a rescheduling that didn’t work for me. Won’t have to renew CARA, will have to renew USAT. Will probably do another post-season class of some kind. New budget: $390.

Clothing – Total: $621
Pearl Izumi tri shorts: $40
3 Adidas tech t-shirts: $20
3 The Finals swimsuits: $60
Aerotech Designs tri shorts and bike shorts: $73
Moving Comfort sports bra: $20 (clearance! wooohoooo!)
Moving Comfort shorts and sports bras: $150
Bike Nashbar bike gloves: $5
Moving Comfort sports bra: $50
Blueseventy Reaction Wetsuit: $120 (super awesome T2 discount, plus Fleet Feet rewards points – got this for less than half price! score!)
Zoot tri top: $30 (woohoo again for clearance!)
Nike singlet: $13
Speedo Vanquisher goggles: $15
Pearl Izumi bike gloves: $25

Next year: Will definitely need bras, but am good on shirts. Will need at least another pair of long compression tights for cold-weather running. Will also need warm wool socks for cold weather. Will probably need two pair of bike shorts, a windbreaker shell of some sort, and estimating 3 swimsuits and one pair of goggles. New budget: $415.

Accessories – Total: $1,440
Polar FT-7 heartrate monitor: $110
Chamois Butt’r: $12
Travel Trac II bike trainer, frame pump for bike, Clean water bottle: $203
Chamois cream and goggles anti-fog spray: $25
Foam roller: $24
Floor tire pump: $28
Cateye wireless bike computer: $60
Bike gel seat cover: $10
Floor tire pump that does not destroy valves: $25
Tifosi Root Beer sunglasses: $40
Sportwash: $10
Shimano SPD pedals, pedal wrench: $73
Shimano SPD-SL/SPD shoe adapter: $25
Bike shoes for spinning bikes: $45
Shimano SPD-SL pedals: $44
Bike multitool: $10
Allen wrench set: $6
Cateye Strada Double Wireless bike computer: $100
Water bottle cage: $10
Pedro’s Toothbrush: $6
Bike chain cleaner/lube: $11
CO2 inflator and cartridges: $32
3-bike rack for car: $160
iPhone armband: $20
Hydration belt and spare bottles: $40
2 pair of Yankz: $14
Clip-on electronic metronome: $14
TriSlide: $12
Bodyglide: $12
Brave Soldier antiseptic, lubricant: $25
SuitJuice: $15
The Stick: $50
Compression socks, compression leg sleeves: $90
Race number belt: $8
“Insurance” pair of Tifosi Root Beer sunglasses: $40
Bike chain cleaner kit: $30

Holy fucking shit. Next year: is there anything left in this category TO buy??? – Will need more lube, probably TriSlide, Bodyglide, and Brave Soldier. Will probably need another bottle or two of goggle anti-fog spray. Might buy a handheld water bottle for running, will probably need to grab a couple bike water bottles. May buy a chip band. At least I’m pretty well set on electronic gadgetry, as long as I don’t fuck up and lose my bike computer a second time (ugh, that SUCKED). New budget: $200.

Books – Total: $100
Triathlon for Ordinary Mortals, The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer – $28
Training Weight: $12
Off Season Training: $4

Well now. Obviously I just wasn’t writing these guys down, since I have at least several other books. So I’m just doubling what I put down, as my real amount spent this year. Next year: Will probably be similar. New budget: $100.

Shoes – Total: $300
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 11: $100
Nike Zoom Structure: $100
Vibram Five Fingers Sprint: $100

My current shoes should get me through my half-marathon in January with no problem. After that, I may have to buy three more pair through 2012. New budget: $300.

Nutrition – Total: $100
This one’s just an estimate. But I think it’s a pretty good one.

Will probably be about the same next year, as well. New budget: $100.

All told, I spent — at least — $4400 this year on my triathlon pursuits, not counting my $1500 bike, the gas to drive to suburban races, or the amount of my fundraising minimum I’m going to have to pay out of pocket to T2 if I don’t raise the rest. So my $2000 budget for next year is looking pretty rosy, in comparison. Also, I will have some more Fleet Feet rewards points to use, and my REI dividend should be nice and fat next year, so hopefully those will stretch the budget a little extra.

It could always be worse. I hear the average that people spend to compete in an Ironman is $15,000…