Swing Low…Sweet Chaaariot…

Today we were back to Lake Del Valle in Livermore. I gathered up my “Lil’ Lady” Iron Mel, Moddie the Tree Frog, our 3 bikes, bike trainers, wetsuits, various paraphernalia, and off we went from the Larkspur Ferry Terminal at 6:15 a.m.

We arrived and had a “pay it forward” moment – Jim K. had gone through the Park Gates, and paid for our entry fee! We decided to “pay it forward” to the next car. It was a great way to start the day, and it really made the 3 of us remember how little acts of kindness like that can go a long way. Once we parked, we were told to set our bikes up in a circle on the trainers. We were to do an Open Water Swim for 45 minutes, then come back to spin for an hour, then run for 20 minutes, bike hills (real hills, not “trainer hills”) for 40 minutes, then run for 20 minutes.

ooooh this thang is TIGHT!

After the bikes were all set, time to get into our wetsuits.

I am so grateful for Coach Mike Kyle – he loaned me BOTH the wetsuit I am using, AND the trainer. What a guy. Jim, Moddie, BK and I “lubed up” and zipped each other up then it was time to walk down to the boat launch, have one more “safety talk” from the coaches (and a team photo), then it was time to get into the water.

Here is our IronTeam Open Water Photo – I’m in the back middle, bright green swim cap.

me pulling wetsuit away from my body to let the cold water in

As usual, I just can’t stand waiting, so I was first in. HOLY FROZEN CHACHA BATMAN, it was SO COLD! Far colder than a couple weeks ago when we had the boot camp. Mel (who was sick and therefore not swimming) shouted from the dock “JOHN [Wayne]! Suck it up! Let the water in!” She made a motion like lifting the wetsuit off my chest. I did, and it was like 100s of little knives coming in. Aaaaaaaaugh!!!!!!!

We were to swim to a small buoy off the dock, then down the lake to another buoy, and “lather, rinse, repeat” until we were in the water for a total of 45 minutes. The water was so cold, it was dizzying. Tell you what – stop reading, and go get a bucket and fill it up with ice from the fridge (don’t worry, I’ll wait.) Then add some water into it, and plunge your face in for 40 minutes or so. That’s pretty much what it was like – the wetsuit keeps your body fairly warm (though my arms and feet were cold of course), but that cold water on your face is just brutal.

I was amazed, though, that I got right to it. Last time I did Open Water it was my first time back in forever – years. I did a lot of breast stroking, back stroking, side stroking, water polo swimming…not a lot of actual “swimming” until on the way back. Then, I actually got myself to do it in sets of 24 arm repeats. This time – no problem. I was “back.” OK, it was freezing and I mean free-zing. And my goggles fogged up. But I was fine.

Paula & Me during the Safety Lecture (Tiffany in background)

I was swimming most of the time with Tiffany and Paula. Paula was cracking me up – she kept swimming up my back or on my arm. We were laughing about it (then on the final run, she actually ran right up on me and under my foot much later in the day – she just said “I can’t get enough of you today, obviously” which made me laugh.)

One of the things I concentrated on was really blowing my air out into the water – because it would warm my face!

Once I got to the first buoy and turned around it, I could hear a song in my head. It was quiet at first, and I let it build. Then I realized what it was – “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”! I had to smile to myself – it brought me back 20 years, to my very first triathlons. I had been a member of the Hash House Harriers, and this is a song that we would sing and that I adopted as a “spiritual work song” while “working” in the open water. I really got into the rhythm at that point. It was magic. BK mentioned when we were talking about the swim after that it’s all about rhythm, and he was so right. Singing that song in my head just got my stroke down, and off I went.

Last time, I didn’t make it all the way down to the buoy. This time, I made it to the buoy, then back, then actually 1/2 way back again, when it was time to come in. I felt fantastic. When I got out, I was a little dizzy (Paula and I had a little “bonk” into each other when one of us “dizzied left” and one of us “dizzied right”), and I couldn’t talk because my mouth was so cold – but I was jazzed about my swim.

Mel and Me getting ready to hit the Hills

We jogged back to the cars and toweled off, got out of our wetsuits (Carolyn and I reprised our “stripping routine” from last time – though my “lotion on the legs” trick made an ENORMOUS DIFFERENCE), and then onto the trainers. I tried out one of the bars I had brought – 380 calories in one bar (!!) – and I was curious how it “sat” in my stomach (worked out fine actually). I had some of the Margarita Shot Blox, a GU, and then started pounding the Accellerade from my Camelbak.

We were on the trainers for about an hour, then we got off, changed into our running shoes, and went up the cross country path from last time, 10 minutes out, 10 minutes back. I felt really good. My 10 minute turn-around was at the little bathroom “shack” (after of course a break there – hey, it’s ME we’re talking about). Back down to the bikes, and we took them off the trainers and went out to do hill repeats.

Happily Hill Climbing! Who wudda thunk it?

I had a lot of trepidation because I was really afraid the hills would be like the ones we did last time we were there – and I was feeling tired (though still very cheerful). They were actually not so bad. I did the up and back 4 or 5 times. We were to practice actually totally letting go of our brakes on the downhill – and I practiced NOT going all the way to my easiest gear on the way up (because my new bike doesn’t HAVE that gear). I was in the “granny gear” in front, and then the middle gear in the back. I felt really strong and positive. I am still not able to stand up going up hill because of my knees, but who knows if the new bike geometry will change that.

Rocky and Chris on the hills

One thing that was really great was Chris rode up behind me and he’s always so encouraging. I really like seeing him on the path because he always has a good word for me. He asked how I was doing as he was passing me going up the hill and I said, “Actually, I’m amazingly great!” He looked up and smiled and said, “Hey now, that’s what I like to hear!” It really made me feel good. We have a great team and I have to admit that when the “big bike stars” like BK, Chris, Mel, Mike K., Jim, Rocky, etc. say a kind word it just makes me glow inside.

(Hmmmm did I talk about the new bike yet? Maybe I will need to do a post about that later on. I’m not riding her yet, I was on Vlad today.)

Happily running in - helped by my new run angel "Uncle Chris"

We brought the bikes in from the hill repeats, and then were back onto the cross country track. Out and back again. On the way back, a little bulldog puppy (well, about a year old) named Sophie started running with me. Her “mom” had 2 goldens as well, and she was laughing and let Sophie come along. Then the rest of the team (who had run out farther and turned around) came up and we were all running with Sophie. It was really cute and it completely took your mind off your legs. BK said that we all have to remember to have a “Sophie Moment” at about mile 20 or so of the marathon portion of our races!

We got back and then had an abbreviated Iron University. They mainly talked about the Wildflower 1/2 Iron that they are going to do when H and I are in Sedona. I’m actually not all that sad not to be doing it. It sounds like a killer course.

We drove back, having our usual goofy, innuendo-filled time. We also christened my new bike – Angelina Maserati ;-) I will write about the bike in a future post, which will ‘splain where the name came from. After dropping Mel and Moddie off, it was off to get groceries and back into the swing of things. Tomorrow we are supposed to do a 1 hour 45 minute run – and I think I am going to go to Napa to run Sedonia in on her Napa Valley Marathon. I hope the timing works out – we have Berkeley Rep tomorrow and need to pick Mom up at the Ferry Terminal at 1:00 p.m., so I do have to find out when the race starts! Mentor Margaret is apparently running Sedonia in from 1/2 way, so I’m going to find out what is up from her.

…singing Spirituals becomes an integral part of your day (or your race strategy!)
…you become ‘one of those guys’ who walks into the gym totally in Spandex (Rocky)
…you Facebook about how much you loved the Hill Repeats (Mel)