Monday, April 26, 2010

A Little XTERRA Does the Body Good

GU Chicks!

When it started raining last week I freaked. I didn't want the Xterra Crystal Cove 17k to get canceled yet again! Thankfully the weather gods played nice and Sunday's race was a go.

Saturday night I had a house guest--fellow triathlete and Xterra trail runner Caroline Gregory. I have to say, I can get used to playing "athlete hostel" for those who need a comfy bed in OC (my sister is away at college so you get more than a couch when you stay with me)! Caroline arrived just as we were eating dinner, so she got in on some of the sweet potato action and was able to see what a pre-race night at Casa de Prazak is like.... essentially just food and early bedtime :) Come Sunday morning, it was nice to have someone join me for a 5:30 wake up call to go to charge the trails. Unfortunately my usual race partner in crime (aka mom) had to sit this one out due to a hip issue she's dealing with. She was more than bummed, but she's got Vineman to worry about.

My goal for the Xterra race was to charge hard, stay in Caroline's zip code and beat my time from when I did this race in Dec '08.

This course is ridiculously hard, especially the first 3-4 miles of massive elevation gain. There's really nothing easy to look forward the entire time because it's generally all up or downhill and the flats are few and far between, and when they do come it's in sandy dirt so tough terrain. Here's the course profile for all you who like this stuff:
I highly reccomend running this trail if you ever get the chance. Here's how it goes: It pretty much goes from sea level to 1,000 feet in the first 3.5 miles. The bad part is, you start working toward that 1,000-foot mark, but then you hang a right and go down down down back to nearly 0 ft then have to start climbing all over again. Ouch! After that second gnarly uphill, the worst is arguably over with, but it still ain't easy. You run from PCH east to the toll road, about 5 miles, and it's all generally uphill with steep hills and maybe a few "breaks." You start wondering if the hills will ever end... how much elevation can you gain before getting some legit downhill?! Finally you hang a left and run parallel to the freeway for about 1.5 miles, and there's some relief with flats, although the terrain is sandy so it's not real relieving. And of course, there are still hills to battle. After one last big uphill you hang another left and start heading home for the final ~4 miles. The last section is the most fun because there are these gnarly huge rolling hills--I can fly down at a 5:15 pace only to hit an uphill and slow down to a 9-10 min "crawling" pace. There are roughly 7 hills like that, then the last mile is all downhill, aka haul-ass fun! Way better than ending on an uphill!

Not to mention, the trail was probably the most gorgeous I've ever seen it... a little peak:
So here's how my race went:

After about a 2-mile warmup and several bathroom visits I was nervous because "things" weren't happening bathroom-wise like I needed them to. After one last stop 3 min before the gun went off I felt good to go. I had eaten a lighter breakfast and drank less coffee to avoid nausea like I had a Xterra Black Mtn. Meanwhile, I packed two Vanilla Bean GUs in my jersey if I felt the need for both, which, turns out, I did!

I lined up in the front, the gun goes off and within 3 min my HR is in the 180s. Since I know this course so well and how I am capable of running it, I just went at a slower pace for the first hills, knowing I'd make up time later on. Caroline shot off and I was next to Beth Hibbard for a while, then she gained on me. I was 3rd place female for the first 4 miles then a lady in black passed me. Beth was in 2nd, lady-in-black 3rd, me 4th.... For the rest of the run that's how it stayed; and those two were always in my sight, but always just out of reach.

Caroline was 1st with 1:20, then all within 1 minute at 1:23 Beth crossed for 2nd, lady-in-black 3rd and I bringing up the rear end of 1:23 for 4th. The total route was just under 10.5 miles on my Garmin (pretty close to being an accurate 17k) and I averaged a 7:57 pace according to the results (although my Garmin said my avg was a little slower). That is by far THE BEST I've ever run that trail in the few years I've been going there, normally I average in the 8:20s to 8:40s, plus I'll stop for a breather at least once or twice. Not to mention, being within 3 min of Caroline and within 1 min of the other top ladies was an awesome feeling! I got 1st AG too, which was nice :)25-29 podium1st female/male overall

The highlights were 1) nailing nutrition yet again--huge considering the stomach/puke issues I had at Xterra Black Mtn; 2) being able to keep a high intensity without stopping and without exploding. (max HR 185, Avg HR ~171, but I forgot to turn off my HR monitor right away so avg HR was probably a few bpms higher). I think the HIIT work I'm doing is paying off in allowing me to maintain such high intensities for well over an hour.

We stuck around for awards... duh, I had the 1st place female with me! But even better than awards was the post-race breakfast and coffee... healthfully prepared scrambled eggs (i.e. not greasy and made with egg-white base mixture), quality fruit and pastries (but I opted for a Clif bar over the pastries!).

Caroline and I were so over the "mini" coffee cups so we grabbed our mugs and filled up...mmmmm :)

We got back to my house, ate some more then Caroline took off.

I crashed for a while but then got a second wind and enjoyed a dinner party with good friends who cooked up steak, chicken, rice, veggies and salad. I think I ate the most, even more than the boys! I also drank wine.... well-earned I suppose.

I decided last week that my long ride (3 hrs) would be on Monday instead of further thrashing an already beaten-down body on Saturday pre-xterra-race. Wise call on my part. I refuse to flirt with overtraining!

I was feeling a little "depressed" from the perfect weekend--a lot more good stuff went down beyond the Xterra race :)--so Monday's ride was just what I needed. Even better, it turned out to be the most quality 60 miles I've gotten in all year so far. Despite feeling Sunday's race & the wine indulgence, the legs still showed up for action. With how busy I am these days the concept of "quality over quantity" has never been so important to me... so during the ride not 1 minute was spent lallygagging. All. Hard. Work. And thankfully I only sat through a total of 9 min of stoplights/traffic. Not too shabby for an OC route!

But as right now, Monday evening, I can barely walk. Oh man. Thankfully tomorrow starts off with a swim.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bonelli Sprint Tri... SD.... Hectic & Fun!

Last Sunday I did the Bonelli Sprint Triathlon (500m/24k/5k). Talk about a cool race with a great laid-back vibe. The day before I was super busy and freaked out for a second - holy crap, was there a race packet pickup I was supposed to go to? I was going from a morning workout to SD to LA with no time to drive to the race site! Thankfully, the Bonelli race (part of the LA Tri Series) is way mellow, and all pre-race stuff is handled morning of. In fact, there wasn't even any body marking, no # stickers, no assigned racks.... Just show up and have fun!

Super casual...

I went into the race thoroughly thrashed. My training hours since Monday were in the double digits, including some key high-intensity sessions that tend to leave me more thrashed than a 4-hour weekend ride/run. My body was feelin it. I'd been bad in the rest department too (Galaxy Soccer game Sat night / up past midnight / so worth it). Come race day, I just figured, what's another hour+ of hurt?! I wanted to see what I am capable of when tired but still healthy.

Race day was gorgeous. I almost wish the race had been longer to enjoy the sunny, warm weather and beautiful course.... Bonelli Park is in San Dimas, and the course is very scenic and hidden from any main roads. It reminds me of a mini Vineman in terms of the rolling hills on the bike/run with green natural surroundings the whole time.

I didn't wear my HR monitor for the race (nor do I for most races) because frankly I don't want to know the bpms. I like to race by RPE and time. I like thinking about numbers while I race and doing math - weird, because I hate math normally. Meanwhile, I love training my HR but hate racing with it.

Feeling relaxed pre-race, the way it should always be...

The swim start was mellow; there was one wave with women 39 & under, so I'd have a good idea of my standings throughout the race. Steam was coming off the lake so I wasn't afraid of frigid temps. The 500 was heart-attack-inducing intense but went by in a flash, and as I stood up my watch read just over 8 min. Not bad for me. Stumbled a little up the long hill into T1 while catching my breath.

As always, after T1 I was ready to hammer on the bike. There were two loops, each just over 7 miles. I'd ridden the course so knew what to expect. Being in the right gear at the right time is crucial on this course, as there are a lot of ups & downs & sharp turns. I passed about 3-4 girls right away and traded spots with another lady for quite a while. I was averaging in the low 20s, and figured any other girl ahead of me was probably out of my reach. The two loops were a blast. All smiles except for an oddly strong headwind during one 2-mile straightaway. Ouch.

Side note #1: No joke - my rear brake pad was rubbing on my wheel the entire ride. It was audibly noticeable, but there was no way I was going to stop. Must have been from throwing my bike in the back of my car that morning because it wasn't rubbing when we put the Zipps on, we checked!

Side note #2: I had my aerodrink for the bike but forgot the straw. I remembered Ian telling me a similar story of doing this, and how he hit up a 7-eleven or something in the wee hours pre-race. I followed suit, and taped 2 slurpee straws together. Perfect!

One thing I noticed during the bike was the good manners of racers, even if some were lacking in their bike-handling skills. Whenever I yelled "on your left" everyone--even "macho" men--always replied with "you got it;" "sorry, don't mean to be in your way;" "looking good;" etc, etc. Wow.

Smiling coming up one of the climbs...

Pretty sure I got off the bike in 4th place. Averaged just about 21 mph. Looking at others' results, that was good. And considering the leg burn I was trying to ignore the whole time, I was happy with that effort.

I started the run with a goal of holding a sub-7 pace for the 5k. That is something I've never done in an open 5k or in a sprint tri, so who knew! And silly me, I had never tested out the run course so didn't know if it was going to be flat, hilly or what. Turns out it was 75% hilly but still short enough for me to get my goal and hold a 6:50 pace (according to the garmin; it was 6:59 on results... but also about 3.4 miles long). I felt decent on the run and think I could have held onto a 7-min pace had it been a 10k. Progress!

Only one girl passed me on the run, Christine Gould from SD. I tried to hang on to her, but she had about a minute on me. I finished in 1:16... later found out that was about 4 min slower than first. Nice. It always makes me wonder how much better I would have done had I tapered (not that I would have changed anything), and if the other ladies were tapered and fresh.

Turns out I was 1st AG. Whaaat?! In 25-59?! Totally unexpected!! Not to mention, I was 5th female overall, and all the women who beat me were those crazy 30-somethings... I thought 25-29 was going to be tough (and I still do!) but entering that 30s decade is going to be insanely hard! Hopefully I can hang by then.

With one of the athletes I coach, Marta, she rocked with a 2nd place AG!...With another athlete I coach, Benoit, who got his first taste of watching a triathlon at this race....

We waited around for awards, which dragged on way too long. Can't stand drawn-out award ceremonies. Bleh! Maybe I need to learn more patience because it was nice just chillin on the grassy field with nothing to do. But then there's me - itching to get onto to the next activity of the day! Still, overall, I love how this race is run and the vibe it gives off! Way mellow. Very grassroots, back-to-the-basics sort of triathlon. I'll be back for #2 in the series, but will miss #3 for Boise 70.3.

Check out my straw....

After awards we cooked up a big lunch (salad and steak tacos) with anticipation of an afternoon workout on the sched. Ummm... after eating, we fell into a food coma, took a nap and laziness ruled the rest of the day. Oh well, it was still a solid training week with more intensity than I usually have with the sort of volume I put in, and I was spent. Yes, a 1:16 sprint can leave you tired, especially going off 4 hours of sleep!

Sunday night I headed to San Diego because bright and early Monday morning I was scheduled to be in North Park for a photo shoot with Zoot and John Segesta for Zoot's spring '11 catalog. That basically ruled my monday/tuesday, and it will rule my friday/next monday. It's been quite an experience, and truthfully, modeling is hard! It's not "me" and it takes getting used to... i.e. I felt super awkward at first. But the story deserves its own blog, so more to come next week. Here are a couple inside pics in the meantime.

The room with all the 2011 Zoot goodies...

John Segesta behind the camera doing what he does best....Model Carly on the set. We've spent who knows how many hours there in the past two days...


Last but not least, I'm signed up to do the Xterra Crystal Cover 17k on Sunday as long as the weather holds. If that race gets canceled for a 4th time due to rain, I swear, I think it isn't meant to be.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Thanks for the great comments on my last post. I did end up visiting Jeff, and it was truly special. I'm so glad I finally made it there. Such a peaceful spot. Now that I've gotten over that hump, regular visits are in store :)

Last weekend I got to do my second favorite triathlon-related thing: spectate/cheer/sherpa at a race! (First fav is actually racing, duh!) I knew lots of people doing Superfrog and Superseal, particularly my mom. I always love when she does a race because it turns into a mini vacation. When I race solo, I will often sleep on random couches or in dirt-cheap motels, eat GU and Clif bars for two days straight and essentially live out of my car. I don't like extravagantly spending money. But when Mom races... well, you can guess... I was in for a weekend on Coronado Island!

As soon as we got to the Loews Resort I knew it was going to be a "lazy" weekend for me (i.e. vacation mode)... thankfully I had gotten in my big training days during the week, so I was playing the weekend by ear, hoping to at least run some.

Dad & Syd got in a solid workout....

...while I did "crack" opps! Caught!On a totally random side note, I'm sorry... but this mirror thing in the elevators (as you can see in the pic) is WAY freaky to me! I don't like seeing what seems to be endless reflections, just creepy.
Saturday night ended up being one of my few splurge nights that happen once in a blue moon these days (btw, whitney, I still do drink on occasion).... the night included glass(es) of wine, good food, great company and a very late bedtime. The alarm didn't sound so hot the next morning. But by 5:30 it felt like mid-afternoon... I was supercharged to watch some racing! I got totally geeked out in tri gear, water-bottle belt and all... it was efficient for holding a camera, phone & staying hydrated all hands-free all while still getting in what I call a "broken up" long run. Bits and pieces of running, which totaled about 7 miles by noon. No joke! The weather turned out to be great, minus wind that affected the bike course more than anything. Rain was forecasted, but it decided to wait until Sunday night. Thanks weather gods! Long story short... Lauren & Tatiana raced Superfrog and came in 7th and 10th, respectively. They both kicked butt and I was stoked to watch my RAHA girls in action. They have a lot going for them if this is the level at which they're starting the season.

Tati off the bike...
Lauren almost at the finish... The same can be said for my mom. She got 1st AG in 50-54 women, beat 2nd place by 10 freakin minutes and PR'd on the course from last year!! Wow. The Prazak family was happy. My dad was glowing with pride, but I was especially happy. As my mom's coach, I'm admittingly hard on her because I know what type of competitor/athlete she is and what she's capable of achieving. I'm not so tough that I make her push through fatigue or train ridiculous amounts (I also realize she's in her 50s!), but I make her do workouts outside her comfort zone. The hard work is clearly paying off, and I'm excited to get her ready for Vineman 70.3 next! There's another Prazak family member who I can't forget to mention... We had a special guest along to partake in the triathlon fun (thanks to Loews for being dog-friendly!), and she was a great spectator as well as the perfect "happy distraction" on the bike course... she got lots of shout outs! Also a big congrats to Whitney (1st AG), Liz (2nd AG), Adam (L's bf), Michi Weiss (seal winner), Tracy R (seal 2nd overall), my CSUF bud Bill (frog), Caroline (impressive race girl!), Grady (seal, 1st race back post-surgery), Kevin Rausch (seal), Felipe... and all the other racers I know/met/saw. I love being involved in this sport!

In the meantime, I've been so busy I haven't even had time to zone out on FB or Twitter or blogs. I have lots of articles in the works, started writing my thesis, training lots & lots, coaching more... enjoying life away from electronic devices when possible. And more fun is on tap. Saturday I'm going to a pro soccer game with Galaxy vs Utah (a first for me), racing a sprint triathlon sunday morning then off to SD for some fun with Zoot mon/tues.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Long Overdo Visit

Today's ride was one of those rides where I literally felt every emotion--from tears in the beginning to smiles & laughs to my animalistic side of "let's do w-o-r-k." Of course, there's nothing like PCH, getting lost in memories, good company & conversation and gnarly headwinds to bring all that out.

My view in the beginning....
..couldn't help but smile & feel grateful. (I wear this Clearwater jersey too much, oops! haha)

This Friday was planned as a long-ish ride/t-run day because I'm headed to SD this weekend for Superfrog/Superseal (as a spectathlete) and don't want to deal with bringing my bike. I started the ride off solo from SPI with a 20-mile out-and-back on PCH/up Newport Coast, then grabbed Mike for another 30. One quality t-run later and I was dunzo.

So you're probably wondering why I said I cried in the beginning.... it's not because I was working my body so hard that I broke down (although, I almost did just that Thurs during our high-intensity functional-training sess at SPI).

No. these tears were different. April 9 is a special & sad day for me. In fact, as I write this I feel another round of eyes-welling-up coming on. April 9 is the birthday of my dear friend Jeff Jackson. Jeff is no longer with us.

Jeff was my age (11 days apart!) and lived two doors down from me. Not only was he one of my best best best friends from childhood all the way through college, but he was also my first boyfriend (in the days where "boyfriend" meant getting butterflies around him and hanging out together slightly more than average... that's about it. In fact, I remember breaking up with Jeff because I was afraid he wanted to kiss me). Thankfully, we always remained close friends. We had a special bond.

I don't want to go into details, but Jeff was taken from us about 3.5 years ago. It was tragic, untimely and unfair. But I guess it was God's plan. He was such a wonderful, extremely intelligent, kind-hearted human being, and I miss him terribly.

One thing that haunts me about his death is that I haven't been able to bring myself to visit his grave site. That's been on my mind a lot... especially this week, especially during the first 20 miles of my ride this morning. I guess visiting Jeff's grave just makes his death that much more real, and I don't like that. But I also need that closure and peace of mind. I decided on my ride this morning that today is the day I'll go visit my friend.

So, I guess the point of this blog is to just say how grateful I am for my sports because they truly allow me to get deep into thought and appreciate life, loved ones, memories, nature.... it's zen-like almost. Sounds corny, but it's true! Think about it: You've likely experienced your highest clarity while on your bike, in the pool, running, etc.

Plus, if there's anyone you've lost and miss a lot, trust me--there's nothing like letting out the tears at the beginning of a workout, then finding that inner strength again and making it a hammer sess in the name of your loved one... because you know that person would want you to do just that!

Jeff & I... circa 2004?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Oh the places I go

I'll get to this...Have to say, this has been my fastest recovery ever from a half-Ironman! So what do I do? Celebrate, indulge a little then wreck myself (non-alcoholically speaking) on the weekend!

I got in some fun unstructured swimbikeruns over the week, and by Friday I was feeling awesome & fresh so I decided to race the Santiago Time Trial (11 mile bike race) on Saturday morning, something I've wanted to do for a while. Took my resting HR 1st thing Sat morning just to make sure the bod was ok--can't always trust the brain regarding my perception of recovery. Good news, the heart's low bpm meant "go race!"

The TT was way low key. But it'd be my first bike-only race and on a route that I know like the back of my hand (conveniently 3 miles from home) so I was way excited!
Got my mom to do it too. She's a trooper and I know she needs "race-morning" practice... eating early, that anxiety, etc. Matt was doing it too so we hung out a bit before, he showed off itsy-bitsy-tiny-weeny skinsuit: Next thing I know, we were all lined up on the bike path getting set off every 30 sec... that's the only time I got race nerves. Being that it was so short, the plan was to go all out. But would my legs show up? The first 4-4.5 miles are all a good uphill climb, and I knew if I could hammer up that I would be OK for the rest. (OC Tri veterans, this TT is on part of the bike course.)

Just got released... go time:

Here's my iBIke file: I actually felt really "good" the whole time. I was having fun and hurting badly--perfect! I wanted my watts to stay 200+ and HR to get into the 180s. Seriously, it's hard for me to get my HR that high on the bike! In the end, avg HR was 174, while average watts were 214.5 (max 415!!!). Dad got some good shots...

An all smiley-in-love-with-bike face:
Changed to growly-in-pain-with-snot-flowing face:The fierce mom right behind:
I cossed the finish at 30:58. Way faster than any of my solo practice trials. Stoked! Waited for my mom with Matt and them at the finish. Didn't wait long. She finished in 32:58. We all cruised back. Turns out I got 2nd place woman overall; missed 1st by only 25 sec! Saaaweet. I was very happy with that. And the ol' mom got 5th... gnar gnar! Maybe the most competitive women slept this time, but, if anything, our times were right there with some of the dudes ;)


After the race it was a quick lunch and down to San Diego. I have a new athlete I'm coaching and he invited me to a women's field hockey game at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista that he was watching with a sports writer for the SD Union Tribune. Uh, yea--love sports, could mingle with a sports journalist, plus I've always wanted to check out the OTC. I was there. The OTC is sooo nice and in a beautiful tucked-away spot in the mountains. Too bad Olympic triathlon is not my goal cause I wanna live there! After the game (which I missed most of due to traffic) we explored the place. That led to a little adventure in the Athletes' Lounge, shhh, don't tell... at least we're athletes!: After the OTC and dinner, it was RAHA girls' night out (minus sara, bummer)... Black Eyed Peas concert at Sports Arena! I'm not gonna lie, I was utterly exhausted by 8 p.m. but sucked it up (and got an espresso). It was an awesome concert and good times with Lauren & Tatiana; BEP puts on a good show... I didn't fall asleep, so a win!

Somehow I eeked out a 10-mile run at El Moro in the morning (aka the course for Xterra Crystal Cove 17k). It hurt, but that's what I get for my crazy Saturday with only 4-5 hours of sleep, and not running here since Jan--thanks a lot rain! In fact, I think that course got harder ;) But my time was a little faster than normal too, so who knows. I did take some un-timed breaks to wait for a El Moro-virgin running partner to catch up so he wouldn't make a wrong turn. Those breaks also probably kept me from blowing chunks as I made the mistake of eating too big of a brekkie, but I was hungry after a big night!

I died after the run and lunch--just passed out in my bed. I literally couldn't get up or even lift an arm for almost 2 hours. But after a nap, I felt better. Although, I kept the rest of sunday's pace akin to that of a 99-year-old's but with an appetite of an NFL football player's. It was a very refreshing afternoon.

Looking forward to booked weekends for the next month+!