October 28, 2013

We're A Golfing Family Now

Back in February, my family was having dinner one night and J and were talking about sports.  We were discussing how our son, D, doesn't like participating in team sports.  We've tried soccer, basketball, baseball, etc....but he just hates them. Instead, he prefers individual based sports, like karate (he's about to test for his brown belt---black is the only color left to earn after this!) and running (just like his mama).  He's also very interested in archery.  But that night at dinner, the subject of golf came up---a sport that's individual, but yet social at the same time.

J started wondering if golf would be a good sport for our daughter, too.  She hasn't ever played a sport before, as her balance and vision issues would get in the way.  She did gymnastics for a while, but after breaking her neck last year she's not allowed to do that anymore.  She also takes adapted swimming lessons, but still can't swim unassisted.  Golf was intriguing to us.

A quick Google search found us a real gem:  a PGA golf pro who specializes in helping children and adults with special needs learn to play. The coach, (whom I'll just call Coach in this blog) was delighted to hear from me and told me a little of his history.  He has been helping people for the past 35 years play!  He works with special needs of every sort---autism, spinal cord injuries, Down Syndrome, etc.  When I told him about A, he said that golf would be the perfect sport for her.  One reason is that she doesn't need to run in golf (A has a hard time running due to her balance).  And the second reason is that the ball won't go anywhere until she walks up and hits it.  Because of her vision issues, I don't want her around flying balls coming toward her (soccer, softball, etc).  So golf did seem perfect.  Coach said to bring her in----but wanted the whole family to come, not just her.

We've been going every Saturday since February, and I can't believe how much fun we're having.  At this point, all four of us have our own set of clubs (J already had his own set, and the kids each got a set for their birthdays earlier this year.  I myself am borrowing a set from a friend).  It's the first family activity that we've ever done---something that ALL FOUR OF US are learning.  We have our lesson, then go out to dinner after.  Very good quality family time.

A is really enjoying it.  Although she hasn't gone on the course yet, she is enjoying being on the putting green, chipping green, and driving range. Because of her vision limitation (bilateral colobomas) she has to work extra hard at seeing the ball before she swings the club.  She truly is getting better and better, and she gets so proud of herself when she hits a ball particularly well, or sinks a ball into the hole on the putting green.

I myself have learned to like it. Until our first lesson, I'd never picked up a club, save for playing miniature golf.  But I'm liking the challenge. I especially enjoy chipping and driving.  The 7-iron feels so good in my hands, and I'm learning proper form and how to get a more aggressive swing.  I love it when the ball goes farrrrrrrrr.........

Best of all, and perhaps most surprising, is my son.  D has become a golf fanatic. He catches on very quickly, and is quite good for someone only playing a few months.  In fact, last weekend he participated in his first golf tournament, in the 10-and-under category.  I'm thrilled, as golf is one of those sports that can be done solo or with a group (much like running).

I've yet to go out on the course, but J and D have. Not only have they gone out with Coach on the rare days that A and I need to miss the lesson, but they have gone golfing on their own a few times at a local 9-hole course.  One day I'm sure I'll get out there. In the meantime, I'm enjoying learning the basics, and watching my kids each learn a new and fun sport.

October 9, 2013

Mission Bay Triathlon Race Recap ('13)

Triathlon #9---done!

I hadn't planned on doing a triathlon this year. After last year's half-Ironman, I was pretty burnt out, and instead decided that 2013 would be the year of focusing on the sports individually.  But since I am now registered for another half-Ironman (Ironman 70.3 California Oceanside) next March, I thought it might be wise to squeeze a sprint in this fall.  I wanted needed to practice my transitions and get my head back in the triathlon world.  So I registered for the Mission Bay Triathlon.

Mission Bay was my first-ever triathlon, back in 2010 (see recap here). I did it again the following year, in 2011 (see recap here). Obviously this triathlon holds a very special place in my heart. Additionally, it holds a very special place in triathlon---it was the first-ever triathlon, back in 1974! I just found this great article, written by the event's founder, on the history of that first race.  It's a wonderful event for first-timers, and now that I've done the same course 3 times, it's a nice measurement of my progress as a triathlete.

I actually didn't really train specifically for this event. I had just done a 2.4 mile swim race the week before, so I felt confident on the swim.  As for the bike, I've mostly been spinning at home recently, on the trainer, although I'd had a few outdoor rides recently. And my run isn't in good shape, as I've been going very slowly and not too far as to not aggravate my herniated disc.  My intention for this race was not to PR (spoiler: I didn't) but, as I wrote earlier, to practice transition and get rejuvenated for training.

One side note---the race was affected by the government shutdown.  I got this email the day before the race:

Mission Bay Triathletes,
We are looking forward to a great event tomorrow!

Unfortunately we have learned from our medal supplier that due to the government shutdown, our medal shipment is being delayed in customs and will not arrive in time for the race tomorrow. Your medal(s) will be mailed to your provided address as soon as they arrive. We are extremely disappointed and apologize for this inconvenience.

I wasn't expecting a medal in the first place, as the past two times I did this race they gave out pins.  In truth, I don't care about the medal.....but after reading the email I was shaking my head yet one more time about the wide-strewn effects this shutdown is having.

Every year I've done this race they do things differently in terms of packet pickup.  This time we had to go to Road Runner Sports, which I did the Friday before.  I got my swimcap (pink for the first time), timing chip, strap, and event tech shirt.  I did some bike prep Friday as well, cleaning and my lubing my chain, pumping my tires, etc.  Saturday they opened transition to rack your bike if you wanted.  I did, and was able to snag a prime spot on the end of my wave rack.  I packed my gear (and double checked, and triple checked) and before I went to bed Saturday night had everything loaded in the car.  I was in bed by 8:30, and pretty much slept soundly until 4:05, which was 5 minutes before my alarm was due to go off.  I rarely sleep so well the night before a race, so I was happy!

When I did this race in 2011, I left the house at 5:15 and ran into TONS of traffic getting down there.  This time I left the house at 4:30, and got there in plenty of time. I didn't hit any traffic and even got a great spot in the front parking spot.  Getting 30 minutes less sleep was totally worth this. I waited in my car about half an hour, then made my way to transition.  Set up was easy, and I had lots of time to get bodymarked, double check everything, and ease my wetsuit on.  A woman two bikes down from me recognized me.  She's a reader of my blog and we have a mutual friend on Facebook, and had conversed a bit on Facebook about a half-Ironman she did. It was great to finally meet her in person!  I had eaten a Luna Bar on the way down to Mission Bay, but before I left transition I grabbed a Honey Stinger Waffle for extra fueling.

transition set up!

ready to TRI!
Last time I did this race, my wave was #13 out of 14.  This time I was in wave #8, so I didn't have as much time to wait around, which was great.  I got in the water early (this is an in-water start) to warm up. The air was pretty cold outside, and my feet were freezing standing on the cold cement and grass, so getting into the 68 degree water felt good!  I warmed up a bit, splashing around and swimming back and forth. Soon it was time for my wave (women 40-49) to line up.  As we were treading water waiting for the horn to blow, a woman next to me asked me if my name was Sugar (well, she used my real name, but I don't use my real name on my blog). She also has a mutual friend on Facebook and recognized me from our friend mentioning my name. I couldn't believe she picked me out of a crowd of women, all wearing wetsuits, pink caps and goggles, but she did! It was great to meet her.

As we were waiting for the horn to blow, we kept moving past the start buoy and had to keep backing up. The current would be with us!  When the horn finally blew I was off!  I wasn't expecting the swim to be hard; after all, only 7 days before I had swum 2.4 miles in the ocean!  Yet the 500 meters seemed to take forever.  I got stopped momentarily here and there by women cutting me off, but never got hit or kicked. I had someone on my feet for a while, and was almost hit by a woman doing the swim entirely in backstroke and going off-course, but overall I had plenty of water and space.  Only halfway through, however, I started to tire. This always happens to me on sprints, as it takes me 500 yards to warm up, and in a sprint, by the time I'm warmed up the swim portion is over.  And the water started to feel warm, too warm.  But I just kept my head down and kept one arm in front of the other.  Soon enough I saw ground below me. I kept swimming until my hands actually hit the earth, stood up, trudged through the rest of the water, smiled for the camera, and walked up to transition.  It was my fastest time yet swimming at this triathlon.

Once in transition I felt befuddled. I had no clue what to do first.  Everything was organize nicely, but I was disoriented and couldn't think straight. Finally I figured it out--take off the wetsuit, rinse my feet (they were covered in dirt, rocks and grass from the walk up from transition), put on socks, bike shoes, helmet, Garmin, sunglasses and race belt---but it seemed to take me forever. One neat thing for me was there were LOTS of bikes still there---I beat many, many women out of the water. I guess all my Tiki Swim training paid off! I certainly wasn't one of the fastest, but my placing was very good for me.

One humorous thing that happened here---as I took off my wetsuit, I noticed that my tri shorts were on inside out.  What? That's what happens when you get dressed so early in the morning. By that time, of course, I couldn't do anything about it. I had to do the bike and run with the padding and tags on the outside!  So funny and embarrassing at the same time!

Out of transition, past the mount line, and finally I was able to get on my bike, Bullet, and clip in.  I couldn't concentrate, though. I was wearing my friend (and new coach!) Steve's Garmin, and in my hurry and disorientation in T1 I hadn't fastened it correctly. I was worried it would fall off!  So once I got in the Sea World parking lot, I pulled over (off the course), fixed it, and was able to get on with a new peace of mind.  The course is advertised as 15k, which should be 9.3 miles, but every year I've done it it's actually about 10 miles. It goes over an overpass (the only "hill"), through the Sea World parking lot, around one lap of Fiesta Island, then back again.  Although it's a very flat course, it was very windy. I hunkered down in aero and rode as fast as I could---but when I looked at the Garmin, I was only going 14 mph!  Ah, silly wind.  Of course, turning some corners made the wind help me, and I was able to average 17-18 mph.  I felt like I held my own on the bike.  I was 3 minutes slower than last time I did this race, but last time I had just trained for and completed an Olympic distance race and was really bike-ready.  This time I wasn't.  Still, I felt good, never felt too tired, and although I got passed by all the fast people on their race wheels, I myself passed many people. So different from my first triathlon, when I got passed by EVERYBODY!  Although I ate a few Clif Shot Blocks on the ride, it wasn't until about mile 7 that I realized I should drink something.  Oops!  Luckily with such a short race it was fine, but I really need to start nailing my bike nutrition and hydration better. 

Clip-clopped into T2, and this time had an easy transition.  Helmet off, running shoes on, and go!  One stop at the bathroom and I was ready to run.  As I was changing my shoes, I head the announcer say that someone was about to get proposed to at the finish line. I was sad I had to leave, as I would have loved to have seen the proposal!

The run was where I started to have issues.  I took along my new Galloway timer, which allows me to set intervals and have it vibrate against me so I know when to run/walk. I set it for my usual 2 minutes run, 30 second walk, which is what I've been doing lately. It was only 5k, but at about 1 mile my sciatic pain started acting up.  Grrrrr!  I kept my ratio, although started to do a little more walking than I intended when the pain would ramp up.  The run is always nice here---it goes around the model boat pond, and is full of happy runners. The pain wasn't awful, and I was able to keep going with a smile on my face.

Toward the end, I did something I've never done in a triathlon before: I started gunning for women in my age group. Usually in triathlons I don't care where I place. I usually place toward the bottom of my age group, and always try to swim/bike/run my own race. But in the last half mile, I saw 3 women ahead of me, all with 42 or 43 written on their calfs (our ages are bodymarked on our left calfs).  I wanted to beat them!  In the end, because I didn't want to push it too hard and hurt myself, I passed only one of them....but for a moment there I was uncharacteristically competitive!

Finally the finish line was in sight and I was done!  Although I didn't PR (I was a few minutes off my 2011 time) I was proud of myself.  Considering how little I've been biking and running recently I did great. And I accomplished my goal, which was to practice my transitions and re-enter the world of triathlon.  I'm glad I did it--not only did it highlight my current strengths (ie swimming) but showed me what I need to work on (um, hello T1?).

Now to wait for my medal to clear customs......