Hello, RAGBRAI

July 26, 2010

Holy bicycles, Batman! 

I had no idea what I was getting into when I was asked to spend a week in Iowa riding my bike nearly 500 miles across the state with the Executive Director of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, Shelley Pfohl.

I mean, it sure sounded like a rad idea – spend the week riding my bike, write a couple of blogs and call it work.  Sign me up.  But, as it got closer to my departure I was having a lot of anxiety about leaving and starting to wonder if I’d made a mistake in agreeing to do the ride.

Not to mention, I was going to have to spend a whole week in Iowa.  Corn, anyone?

Well, I’m beyond thrilled to report that not only did I make a really good choice by signing on, but I’m having one of the most amazing experiences of my life. 

I guess I should have realized right away that it was going to be a good week when I ended up sitting next to the drummer from SmashMouth on my flight to Sioux City (airport code – SUX; not a coincidence) and made a super cool new friend (and when I say he “rocks,” it’s totally true).  Hi Randy!

I’d heard of RAGBRAI (aka the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) from some friends – it’s a pretty famous ride in cycling circles – but I’m here to say that there really aren’t adequate words to describe what’s going on this week.

RAGBRAI is a moving party on bicycles.  This is a ride, not at all a race.  There’s a crazy diverse group of people out riding (all ages, shapes, sizes, levels of ability) and there are 15,000 of them.

That is not a typo. 15,000 cyclists riding all day long.  It’s pure insanity.  The roads are completely shut down and there’s a steady stream of people filling up the route all throughout the day.  And, it’s wicked fun.

Several people are dressed up in costumes or have funky decorations attached to their helmets and there is a lot of beer.  A lot.  I mean, there is beer available all day long at every stop.  They really should just rename it the Pie & Beer Ride.  Yes, lots of pie, too.

We pass through several small towns each day as we ride and the whole town comes out to see the riders, set up concession stands and just be part of the all-around celebration.

I think celebration is really the best way for me to describe it.  People are out there just having a blast and loving life – it’s such a positive and uplifting experience. 

I’m so used to riding solo at home when I train that it’s a nice change to be around people and have folks to chat with along the way.  Everyone is really friendly and it’s not unusual to strike up a conversation with another RAGBRAI-er as you ride together for a few miles.

Then, there was this guy.  Swoon.

The ride is seven days and a total of 474 miles.  Yesterday’s opening route was 68.5 miles and due to some mechanical issues I only got in the last 30.  I’m all fixed up now and today we rode 82 miles.  I felt great the whole way.  We had a kicking tailwind for a good portion of the ride, which helped us make really good time and we wrapped the day’s distance in 6 hours flat.  Not bad for me!

Most people spend the week camping and have tents set-up in each of the overnight towns, but yours truly is (not surprisingly) ditching tents for hotel rooms all week.  I mean, really, how am I supposed to ride my bike all day long then have to settle for a tent, port-a-potties and a pretend shower.  I think not.

Trust me, the hotels haven’t been too much of a step above camping, but I do have a real bed, a real toilet and a real shower so I’m not bitching about it.

I also have the great fortune of having my very own logistics guy – Tomas.  Tomas is ruling my world right now.  He works for Shelley (who is also super awesome & fun), so he’s driving our support vehicle and helping with whatever we need.  On top of being damn good at his job, he’s just a great guy. 

In exchange for all Tomas is doing to help me, I did him the favor of introducing him to Texts From Last Night so he has something to keep him entertained while he waits for us to show up at the next stop.  I know, I’m a kick ass friend.  You can thank me later, buddy.

Alright, it’s only 8:30p but it’s been a long day and we’ve still got lots of riding to do.  I’m supposed to have wi-fi at all my hotel stops (had some issues last night), so the plan is to blog each night.  I’m sure there will be plenty of stories to tell.

Peace out.

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Big Apple. Big Fun.

July 21, 2010

I belong in New York City.  I just do.  Someday it’ll happen.  It has to – I belong there.

But, until “someday” gets here (Dear Someday, Hurry the hell up please. Love, Katz), I settled for a long weekend of Big Apple fun with family and friends. Oh yeah, and a little triathlon, too!

I started to write a long and detailed race report, but I’m just not feeling the flow tonight.  Sorry.  Short & sweet version is that I have a lot of work to do on my swim, I rocked the bike and had a major equipment issue on the run that slowed me way down.  I felt strong the whole race, had a blast, still finished under my time goal (knocked out a not so terrible 3:44) and accomplished my two main goals – finishing & finishing without having to ride in an ambulance to the ER.

I love triathlon – it’s the most mentally and physically challenging sport I’ve ever done.  I’m super psyched to have a full, solid race under my belt and look forward to doing better and going faster in Chicago next month.  Hello, much needed confidence!

More important than the race was that I also got to spend the weekend with my whole family (I even forced them to wear some super kick ass “Team Katz” t-shirts I had made up for the event), some extended family and really close friends who all supported and loved me along the way.  Doesn’t get much better than that.  Much, much love to y’all.

Gah.  So much to say, but no words today.

Peace out.

Is This Heaven?

July 12, 2010

No.  It’s Iowa.

Alright kids, time to finally announce my next big adventure.  In just two short weeks, I’m off to Iowa to participate in the Register’s Great Annual Bike Ride Across Iowa.  Also known as RAGBRAI!  For those not familiar with RAGBRAI, it’s a legendary bike ride held every summer that goes across the state of Iowa.  There’s a lot of history to the ride and in cycling circles it’s one of the most historic and well known rides here in the U.S.

Please take special note of the word “ride.”  This is NOT a race.  It’s a ride.  This will still be a very challenging six days riding nearly 500 miles on some surprisingly hilly terrain in the heat of the summer, but the purpose is not to be the fastest one on the road – it’s just about being on the road at all!

Why RAGBRAI, you ask?  This one actually wasn’t my choice, but quite a gift that was presented to me at work.  Yes, I’m spending a week on my bike riding it across Iowa and getting paid to do so!  I’ll be out there riding with the Executive Director of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and some other special guests, helping to promote the White House’s commitment to getting Americans to become more physically active.

Yeah, I know that for most people that doesn’t mean riding a bike 500 miles in six days across an entire state.  That level of craziness is for special peeps like me.  But, I’m out there to help show America that it doesn’t matter who you are, what your physical state may be – you can get out there and move!  I’ll be blogging & potentially vlogging (that’s a video blog for my less-than-hip follower folk) from the roads of Iowa all week and I’ll have more details on that in the next week or so.  Irregardless of any work or White House related blogs, I will be making personal (shall we say, more candid?) entries here throughout the week fo sho.

I’m so stoked to be able to participate in this ride and honored that I was even asked.  I’m sure it will be a once-in-a-lifetime sorta thingy and an adventure for the books.  I’ve been cycling for a little less than two years and now I’ll be able to say I’ve ridden across two different states!   Too cool.  Lucky girl indeed.

Now, before we get to Iowa on July 24, we first head East to the greatest city on earth for the NYC Triathlon.  I’m off to New York on Thursday and we race on Sunday.  This is my first Olympic distance race so I really don’t know what to expect.  I, of course, have some ideas on what kind of splits and overall time I should be able to post based on my training, but I’m not publicly announcing any kind of time goal and I don’t “officially” have a time goal for the race.

The biggest lesson I learned a few short weeks ago in Lubbock is that I have a lot to learn.  So, the goals for Sunday are to race hard, cross the finish line, have fun and cross the finish line.  Oh, not to mention, crossing the finish line.  Along the way I’m bound to learn a ton of great stuff I can take to Chicago in August and keep improving as a triathlete.

Overall, I’m feeling okay.  Been dealing with a few physical things that should hopefully be cleared up soon, and honestly think some upcoming less-than-pleasant anniversary dates are weighing more heavily on my mind than I care to admit.  If this was the “old” Katz, she’d devote some significant time on this blog to what was going on in her life about one year ago and all that looking back shennanigans.  Instead, I’m going to “i’mua” like a madwoman and peace out.

Much love.

All I Can Do Is I’Mua

July 2, 2010

I’Mua (Hawaiian): “to progress” or “to move forward”

Thank you Sarah Reinertsen for my new mantra.  (Side note: for a healthy dose of laughs, inspiration and motivation, pick-up Sarah’s book In a Single Bound today!)

I’ve never been good at letting go.  Of anything.  Or anyone. I don’t like to just learn from the past, I’ve been quite known to live there for ridiculous amounts of time – getting hung-up on unfixable mistakes; worrying about what’s been said or done that could have been said or done differently; or reveling in the good memories and not recognizing the glory of the present or promise of the future.

No more.  Now, we focus on i’mua.

Peace out.

PS – Yes, short & sweet, but more to come soon.  Back into training and simultaneously still recovering.  Feeling pretty good & hoping the holiday weekend helps me catch up on rest.  NYC Triathlon (my first Olympic distance!) is just 16 days away. Yippee!

That Sucked

June 29, 2010

I tried to come up with some kind of witty and creative title for this blog.  I swear, I really did.  But, there isn’t absolutely anything to say about what happened on Sunday other than it sucked.  Totally, utterly, completely sucked – in every way possible.

Well, okay, not every way.  I did take six minutes off my swim time – so it started well.  I felt strong on the swim and though my time is still not fast, I definitely felt like things went better this year than last and was pleased when I got out of the water and hit T1.  I got to the bike pretty quickly and my awesome (not to mention super cute) handler Matt rocked it on the transfers and helped get my feet all strapped in, then I threw on my “fuel belt” (aka fanny pack – yes, I’ll admit it) and I was ready to rock.

(Side note: when you’re all tucked in and ready to bust out of T1 and someone says to you, “What about the sunscreen?” – the appropriate response is most definitely not, “Oh, fuck it.  I’ll be fine.”  More on that later.)

The start of the bike in Lubbock is pretty killer – scratch that, the whole bike is pretty killer – but, you literally come out of transition and hit a monster hill right away.  There are a couple other climbs to get through in the first few miles and then you hit some long straights before climbing again.  Anyway, I got through the first hilly section and settled into what felt like a comfortable pace, though I was cruising at 17-19 mph, which is very fast for me.

Conventional thought would tell you that I was out there killing myself to try to catch the amazing Trish Downing who had made a last-minute decision to try to tame the Buffalo one last time.  Honestly, I didn’t think I was working that hard and I was telling myself that as long as I felt comfortable and held a steady pace, I thought I had a good chance to catch her at some point.  But, I wasn’t trying to make up all the ground in the first 10 miles.

I wish I could pinpoint where and why things went badly, but all I remember is that sometime around mile 35 or so, my body just imploded.  I could barely turn the cranks over and the more I tried to collect myself and get my strength back, the worse it got.  I stuck with my nutrition plan and I was hydrating, but something was just not working right.  It’s hard to describe in words what it feels like to “bonk” (yup, that’s the technical term), just know that it blows.

There were even times when I wasn’t sure I’d be able to finish the bike.  The sun was scorching and the wind was just pummeling me out there, but I kept thinking about the words the incredible Jason Lester, one of my heroes, told me before the race.  He said, “Don’t Stop!”  I told myself every time I turned the crank, “Don’t stop, don’t stop, don’t stop.”  There were times I was only going 3 or 5 mph, but I knew that if I kept turning the crank, eventually I’d get to transition.

Last year, my bike split was 4:25.  This year, I thought a 4:10-4:15 was realistic and that if I had a totally kickin’ day, I might even be able to pull a 4:00 – though I knew that would be a huge stretch.  Well, my ass rolled into transition a smidge over 5 hours and I was most definitely thinking I was going to die.

At this point, I knew Kona was a lost cause and quite frankly couldn’t have cared less.  This was now a matter of survival.  Not to mention, Trish was out there having the race of her life and totally crushing the course – this was clearly her time and her day.  In the midst of my misery, I was so psyched for her and proud of what she was out there doing.  So, that slot was rightfully all hers and my race was simply all about not dying.

When I came into T2, I thought there was no chance I was going out on that run.  I was a little dizzy, couldn’t lift my arms, had cramps in my back and was suffering the consequences of my decision to say “Fuck it” to the sunscreen.  But, Mama Katz and Mandy were there to greet me – as was Matt with cups of ice water to dump over my head and some awesome Junior Corps volunteers to bring me cups of cold water and Gatorade to drink.  I could feel their belief in me just seeping out of their pores and it gave me a sense of hope.

Then, the amazing Carlos Moleda came over, looked at me and told me that if I didn’t get out there and try to finish, I’d never forgive myself.  He encouraged me and told me to at least get out there and try.  I had started to come around a little bit and thought, yes, the least I can do is try.

So, in the racing chair I got and I headed out of T2.  I knew the test would come at mile 3 when I hit the first monster climb and if I could get up that, I figured I could make it.  I slowly made my way around the lake, at times thinking I might be getting some strength back and at other times wondering what the hell I was trying to prove.

My concerns at the time were that it was unbearably hot and getting hotter.  The course cut-off was nearing and the thought of being out on those roads alone and not 100% in the right state of mind, knowing the immense difficulty of the course as well, made me think it simply might not be safe for me to be on the road.

By this point, Jill Prichard (from CAF) had joined me on the course and as I started to head up the hill, I came to a complete stop and absolutely was not able to push myself any further.  I had started to get a little more dizzy and my arms were shaking.  I had nothing left to give and for the sake of my health and safety, I made the decision to stop.

It’s gut-wrenching, humiliating and embarrassing.  I didn’t even finish the race.  Kona?  Like I said before – who cares about that. I’m pretty sure I wrote on this blog before that qualifying for Hawaii was in no way the measure of success for Sunday.  All I wanted was to give all I had and race to the best of my ability.

So many people have been supportive and encouraging to tell me that I did those things, irregardless of crossing the finish line, but right now it just feels like I’m swimming in a giant pool of fail.  It’s hard to accept that on a given day your best isn’t even good enough to finish what you start.

Uh, I just re-read that – “swimming in a giant pool of fail” … I known I’m prone to exaggeration, but that is so overly dramatic. Even for me.  Okay, so “giant pool of fail” and all, where do we go from here?  There were a few moments on Sunday when I thought maybe the half-Iron and Ironman distance thing wasn’t for me.  That was definitely the disappointment talking.

I reminded myself that Sunday’s race was only my second triathlon race – ever.  Yup, second ever.  The first being this same race last year.  Most people don’t start with a 70.3, much less one of the toughest 70.3 races in the series.  But, I don’t do things small and I don’t do things the easy way.  Clearly, I’m not even close to ready for a full Ironman, much less the granddaddy of them all. That doesn’t mean I won’t be ready eventually.  In fact, I’m now more determined than ever to become an Ironman and one day race in Hawaii.  I know I’ve got it within me and even better, I’ve got the most kick ass support team anyone has ever seen.

No turning back now.

HUGE thanks go out to Mama Katz, Mandy, Challenged Athletes Foundation (specifically Jill Prichard, Carlos Moleda & Patrick Doak), Mike & Marti Greer, Tricia Downing (You’re my inspiration! Go kill it in Kona, girl!), my handler Matt (you totally rocked) and all the super-awesome, incredibly amazing, awe-inspiring members of  Team Katz – there are no words, I love you all.

Peace out.

Showtime

June 26, 2010

No more words. Nothing left to say. I’m as ready as I’m ever going to be and beyond excited to finally get to the start line & race.

While I may be out there on the course by myself tomorrow, I am by far not alone. I take a wealth of energy and love from the most amazing people in the world – my family & friends – and you all will help push me to the finish.

My goals are to race strong, race smart and race hard. If all goes well, we’re looking to finish between 7-7.5 hours and start the journey to Kona.

But, qualifying for Kona will not be the sole measure of my success. Finishing & being able to say I gave my best & raced my hardest will be enough. If the other things follow because of the effort I gave during the race, great – icing on the cake.

Of course, a zero stitches tally and no ride in the ambulance will be pretty fab, too.

I don’t think there will be online athlete tracking but if you can find it, my race number is 1306.

Thanks never seems to be enough for all I get from you, but since it’s all I can offer – thank you for the unending love, support & encouragement.

Go Team Katz!

Peace out.

Dear God, Is It Sunday Yet?

June 25, 2010

I feel like I’ve been in Lubbock for about a year now.  I know it’s only been since Wednesday, but my god I think time stops when you get to this town.

I’m going to say it’s a good thing that I’m *this* ready for race day.  I’m not nervous or worried, just excited and confident mixed with the perfect amount of self-doubt to keep me honest.

I’ve had a great time at the CAF camp, as mentioned yesterday, and I’ve certainly been fed enough information to keep me thinking for quite awhile, but at this point it’s all being filed away for recall at a later date.  I’m set with my routines, my seating positions, my nutrition plan, etc. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of all the tips and tricks you think you can learn at the last minute that will make you faster.  But, bottom line is that if you didn’t put in the work, there isn’t anything tricky enough that can push you over the top come Sunday.

I feel confident in my preparation and in spite of how (one teeny little part of ) the race went last year, I’m beyond grateful I have that experience to bank on. Some of the top wheelchair athletes I’ve ever known are here racing this weekend and they went out to scout parts of the course today and came back a little nervous after seeing some of those hills.  I’m happy to know that when I get to the start line Sunday, I’m 100% confident in the fact that I can conquer any one of those climbs.  Know why?  Oh, cause I did last year – that’s why!

Now, the downhill is a tad bit of a different story.  But, after today, I’m feeling much better about that, too.  I went back out to the park and went down the crash hill, as well as the longer, windy hill you hit about halfway through the run.  I’m pleased to report I managed a solid 2-3 mph down both hills and felt decently strong (mentally) on both descents.

I’m well aware of the fact that I’m going to have to get comfortable going downhill faster than 3 mph, but for this weekend, I’m feeling like that’s pretty good progress.  And, really, on a normal hill I think I’d be okay going faster, but these are not normal hills.  Not normal at all.

Irregardless, I’m just ready to race.  Tomorrow’s big excitement is Mandy’s arrival!  I’m very lucky to have my dear friend and Team Katz supporter joining me and Mama Katz here in Lubbock for race day.  I’m heading to the lake in the morning to meet my race day handlers and go for a short open water swim.  Mom will head to the airport to get Mandy and the rest of the day is about rest, rest, rest and preparation.

I’ve got tires to pump, numbers to affix and transition items to arrange.  It’ll be a busy afternoon and then an early night as we prep for our 3:00 a.m. wake-up on Sunday.

Holy crap – hurry up Sunday!

Peace out.

Hill 1, Katz 1

June 24, 2010

Maybe it’s all the soccer that’s getting to me, but I’m calling this one a tie.

Mama Katz & I woke much earlier than we would have liked this morning, traipsed ourselves out to Buffalo Springs Lake and drove directly to The Hill.  I was the pee-your-pants/on-the-verge-of-puking kind of nervous but I knew this was not an optional exercise.  No way could I just avoid “the scene of the crime,” as Coach Lisa called it, until Sunday and then just take my chances on race day.  I had to face down the fear and “make it my bitch” – as my friend Anne said.

So, I got in the chair, took some deep breaths, put a white knuckle death grip on the brake and started down the hill.  I felt (mostly) in control the whole way down and ended safely at the bottom without puking, peeing my pants or crashing.  On all those accounts – WIN!

However, my top speed on the way down?  A nerve-shattering 2.8 mph.  No, not a typo.  I did not intend to type 28 mph.  I really did top out at a whopping 2.8 mph, though I really cruised down at a solid 0.0 mph most of the way.  Again, that’s not a typo.  I literally went so slow, no speed registered on my speedometer.  On that account – FAIL.  Well, I guess not really a fail, but most certainly not the best case scenario.

Hence, I say tie.  I didn’t die, but I didn’t dominate either.

I told Anne after the fact that I may not have made that hill my bitch, but I refuse to let the hill make me its bitch either.  I know there’s a happy medium between out of control 30+ mph and painfully slow 0 mph – I just need to learn.  I’m heading out there again tomorrow with the CAF group and hope one of the guys can help me put a strategy together that will be good for my racing, my safety and my peace of mind all at the same time.

Speaking of the CAF group (oops, that’s Challenged Athletes Foundation for those not in the acronym know), I have to give a major Team Katz shout out to Jill Prichard for organizing & funding this pre-race camp and to Ironmen extraordinaire Carlos Moleda & Patrick Doak for instructing/teaching/mentoring/sharing these three days leading up to the race.

This is an amazing opportunity for up-and-comers like me to learn from some of the best, most experienced handcycle triathletes in the business.  These guys are animals and Carlos even holds the Ironman handcycle course record at 10+ hours.  That’s just retarded fast.  To put it in perspective, my goal in Kona will be to have completed the swim & bike in just under 10.5 hours – Carlos finished *the entire race* in less time.

And, these guys are so crazy smart and are filled with an incredible amount of knowledge.  The fact that they’re so willing to share and teach those of us just beginning our journeys is remarkable.  I’m grateful and appreciative and just try to soak up as much as I can.  Thanks CAF!

Today we spent some time talking, sharing and learning during the morning session and then we hit the pool in the afternoon.  I’ve had some concerns about the adjustment to the new swim brace, but I’m happy to report things felt pretty “on” today.  I stopped thinking about it so much and just swam.  Damn, imagine my surprise (note: sarcasm) that things went better when I got out of my own way and left my brain on the pool deck.

Saturday morning we’re doing a practice swim in the lake, so I definitely feel like I’ll be square once I get that open water swim under my belt before race day.

Overall – I’m still feeling rested and strong.  Trying to stay hydrated and make sure I’m eating well – as always, easier said than done.

As previously mentioned, the group goes out for some bike & run time tomorrow afternoon.  I haven’t been on the bike in a few days (give or take a few days), so I’m actually looking forward to that!  Now, definitely bedtime here.

Peace out.

Hello, Lubbock

June 23, 2010

Super quick update tonight before bed…

We’re here!  Mama Katz and I hit the road from COS this morning and arrived in Lubbock at about 5p CST.  The drive was, thankfully, uneventful and this town is just as I remember.  We’ve already been to Wal-Mart (sketch) and are all settled in to the hotel for the rest of the week.

I know Sunday is the real “big day” in this whole scenario, but for me, tomorrow is what will make or break me even getting to the start line.  We’re getting up early, heading to the park and I’m facing down that damn hill that took me out last year.  It really is the most important thing I will do all week.

It’s about as literal as it gets when it comes to staring down your biggest fear, tackling it head on and conquering it with all you have – mind, body and soul.  I know I can go down it without having any issues, but I need to *actually* make it happen so that when I turn the corner to head down it on Sunday, I have the confidence to know I’ll make it down in one piece.

I’m going to have Mama Katz take video of it, so if all goes well, I’ll post that here tomorrow night.

Super excited about the CAF pre-race camp that starts tomorrow, too.  It’s going to be an amazing week.  Stay tuned for updates!

Forecast: Hotter Than Hell with a 100% Chance of Ass Kicking

June 21, 2010

Quick blog update since I’m tapping this one out on my phone.

Home from Miami after a hot & sweaty five days in the sun. The event went well & it was good to see some old friends and spend some QT with one of the best ones. Love you, T!

I got in two good workouts but ate like crap – race anxiety is a killer. Still feeling good overall & just seriously ready to get to Lubbock and do this.

Forecast is a high of 101 on Sunday. Sweet. I’d like to add there’s a 100% chance I’m going to kick this race’s ass. 🙂

Looks like I’ll get one last swim with Coach Lisa tomorrow to help calm the nerves & Mama Katz’s arrival this evening will help for sure.

I will add more about this later in the week, but I can’t say enough about what amazing support you all have given me and how much it’s helped along my journey. Team Katz rocks & there’s no way I’d be here without you!

PS – I promise no more anger blogging. Clearly, it just makes things worse. Big lesson learned.

Peace out.