Last weekend Greg and I had a mini-vacay up at Schweitzer mountain with some super fun and adventurous friends...
Things on our "to do" list for the weekend: 
  • go hiking, aka climb to the top of Schweitzer mountain (as we did, and it only took us 6 hours since we were also picking berries all the way to the top)
  • ride the lift back down the mountain (check!)  it was gorgeous and there was a wedding in progress at the very top
  • pick huckleberries (and how!)
  • eat huckleberries  (can you say huckleberry pancakes and huckleberries on top of cream cheese icing on zucchini cake?)
  • have a picnic on the mountain (breathtaking and delicious, WAY better than eating inside, anywhere!)
  • relax, at night only! 
  • laugh A LOT, many times laughing AT me, see below
I'm happy to say that we managed to do everything on our list and then some! 
A particular highlight for me was a little seemingly innocent conversation I had with Emma.  Here's the setting=> On Friday night we stopped at Arby's in Sandpoint, where the boys all ordered huckleberry shakes.  While chatting with the manager of Arby's, we learned that they received their huckleberry supply from a local picker, he charged between $30-40 per gallon.  Emma has been saving her money for the past 6 months to purchase her very own iPod Touch.  She has worked very hard to earn this money, including rubbing feet, stacking wood, saving birthday money, weeding and various other "jobs" around her home.  When Emma heard that huckleberries cost $30-40/gallon, a little lightbulb went off in her brain!  Both Saturday and Sunday we all spent some time picking mountain huckleberries.  At random times, Emma would ask how many "dollars" worth of huckleberries she had picked.  After we finished picking the last of our huckleberry crops, as we were walking down the mountain toward the condo, Emma and I enjoyed some chit-chat.  It went something like this...
Emma:   "How much do you think I should charge for a half-gallon of my huckleberries?"
Naive me:  "Well, maybe you start by telling me what you think is a fair price, then I'll tell you my opinion."
Emma:  "I was thinking between $20-25 dollars is fair."
Stupid me: "If you average it out, that equals $22.50."
Emma:  "That sounds perfect.  Thank you so much, Matalie!"
Dumb-ass me:  "Did I just BUY your huckleberries??"
Emma:  "Yes, and thank you so, so much!"  "I love you."
Jessi:  "Not to make you feel badly, but you just outbid me by $7.50.  Earlier I offered Emma $15 for the huckleberries."
Silly ho me:  "I'm a dumb-ass."  
Everyone, but me:  Unbridled fanatic laughter.
If you know Emma Thompson, you also know that one never messes with his/her commitments to her.  So, when we got back to Spokane that evening, Emma gently reminded me that I owed her money for the huckleberries I had redeemed from her.  She even reminded her mom, Jessi, to text me her credit union account number so I could DIRECT DEPOSIT her cash!  You bet I did too :).  Love her!!!

Today, Emma and I had a play date to bake a huckleberry crisp.  We will share the crisp with her family, the Byrds and my family, since it's my turn to make dinner for the Dinna Club.  She's a champ and made the crisp by herself, with very little help from me.  YUM! 


My First Half.

At the end of last season, after racing several sprint and Olympic distance tri's for a few years, I decided I wanted to train for my first go at the half-Ironman distance.  I had been working hard at riding stronger and consequently my running fitness had improved.  My swim; however, was still far too slow.  I was not spending enough time swimming.  So, I swam right on through off-season for once.  In April, when our masters swim schedule changed to Mon-Fri in the very early morning, I committed to swim everysingleday at masters until open-water season began, then I switched to alternating masters practice with OWS.  I kept my promise to myself and never once swam less than 5 days/week leading up to the race.  I went to work from the first of April through the end of June with my hair in a wet, sloppy bun.  Believe me, I sacrificed ;).

In April, I still hadn't decided which race would be my first half.  I was toying with Boise, Troika and Lake Stevens.  As luck would have it, the decision was left to luck.  At our Tri Fusion meeting in mid-April, a race entry for Troika was raffled off.  I did not win that raffle.  Instead, I won another prize, a product that I am very well supplied with already.  The Troika entry kept getting turned down.  Finally, when one of my teammates was hedging on accepting the entry, I offered to trade her prize for my prize.  She gladly accepted my offer and I was finally committed to an half IM race!

I'm one of those people that needs to be VERY prepared when doing something unknown, challenging or extremely important.  Because of this, I was already following a training plan that was somewhat aggressive on mileage/time spent training, to get myself ready.  I worked my way through three different training tables from the beginning of the season until race day: a sprint plan until March, then onto the Olympic plan through April; to finish with the half IM plan.  I also left myself room to participate in random longer training sessions with teammates and friends and race some fun, local venues.  I wanted to enjoy training and learn from athletes with experience.  I needed lots of solid swims, rides, and runs.

All of the preparation proved to be very physically and mentally helpful.  I'm not saying I never had a "downer" day/week of training or that I felt 100% confident I would finish the race.  I will say that on the last day of training before the week of taper began, when I finished a triathlon followed by a long ride, I finally felt like I just might make it.  Waves of built-up doubt left my mind.

Taper week seemed so boring.  I felt like a person without a purpose.  Absolutely lame, I know.  But I kept my nutrition in check, followed my plan and waited patiently.  The day before the race, I listened to the advice of my experienced (and successful!) husband and focused on a specific race plan.  Nerves eventually crept up on me again about 15 hours before the race.

I managed to sleep almost 7 hours that night and woke up thinking, "I should be excited, this is going to be an amazing adventure, no matter what!"  And so I was.

Race Day (I know, finally, right?)

Publicly, I had NO time goals for Troika.  My only real expectation for myself was to finish the damn thing already.   Get it over with, please.

Swim:  I figured logically that the swim would take me 45 minutes.  In previous Olympic distance races I had completed the swim within 36-38 minutes, but I had made some improvement.  I really wanted to avoid feeling overly anxious at the swim start and swim steady throughout.  I was able to do that.  Before starting, Greg had suggested that I begin kicking harder and really push it in at the last buoy before shore.  Right about then, I got this horrible feeling that I had already been out there for 52 minutes and my time was gonna suck.  But when I got out of the water, I checked my HR monitor and it read 42 minutes!  I gave a little fist-pump as I ran to T1 and let my family/friends know that I had exceeded my private goal.  Just then a smile on my face appeared and remained for the duration of my entire race :)))). 

I have to mention that I had the most incredible and loving support crew beyond belief at this race!  SERIOUSLY.  My husband, Greg, had every.little.thing. dialed in for me for race day.  He had a ton of confidence in me.  He loved me up all day long, with unexpected sightings of him throughout the course and whoo-hooing I've never heard from him before!  Carrying me from the swim all through the bike to finish my run, with hooting and hollering, making me look like a rockstar by encouraging me and cheering with all their might at the race were:  Tiff, Eric, Steve, my mother-in-law, Trish, John, Jessi, Rog, Emma, my mom, step-dad, Rosi, Barb, Tim, Andy, Elise :), Nate, Merissa, Jenn, Adam, Gg, Dd, Craig, Kathy, Eric, Brynn, Teri, Laura, Phaedra, Amy, Jeff, and Rodger. 

Bike:  My plan on the bike was to ride in HR zones high 3-low 4.  I'd used my label-maker to post stickers on my handlebars with those 2 zones only, to keep me totally focused.  I was able to maintain exactly what I planned.  Since I had ridden between 56-70 miles at least a half-dozen times during training, I expected the ride, at my target HR zones, to take 3:05-3:15. There were times when I wanted to pedal harder, go faster and stand up on the hills, but I heeded the advice I'd been given and stuck to the plan. I really only felt a lull in the ride from miles 45-finish, because basically everyone out cheering had gone into town to get ready for the run leg of the race.   I finished the mileage in 3:02 and I was still smiling!

Run:  Typically, the run of any triathlon is the part I am most looking forward to racing.  The run is where I have the most experience. I did not feel the same about the half IM distance.  Running a 5K or 10K after biking your legs off for 30 minutes or an hour is not comparable to running a half-marathon after 56 miles of riding and 1.2 miles of swimming.  While training recently, I'd run 13.1 miles in 1:47 and 15 miles in a bit more than 2 hours.  To put the run into perspective at the end of an endurance race, I wanted to finish in 2 hours or less.  Greg, Jessi and Erica had advised me to start out running conservatively, take in all the nutrition I had planned, and stay steady until about mile 10.  With 3 miles to go, I was to pick up my pace (if I could) and finish strong.  I ran mostly in HR zone 4 and had no idea my pace whatsoever.  I didn't even care.  I just smiled my way up and down the run course, congratulating every racer that I ran by, coming and going.

Again, I followed my plan and felt pretty good the whole run.  In the last three miles, I picked up the pace and ran with my heart, so happy to accomplish a goal that I'd prepared diligently to finish.  I'd pictured the finish line only a zillion times before, but I didn't expect to feel so happy and loved as I did.  An entire hillside was loaded with my family, friends and teammates as I approached the finish chute.  The sound of cheering was ENORMOUS and unbelievable!

 As I de-briefed the race, I checked my run split...1:59:59!  My secret, told-no-one, overall finish goal was to not exceed 6 hours.  Total time = 5:50.  It's good enough for me!

I wasn't the only one out there trying to either make peace with the half IM distance, set a new PR, or try it for the first time.  My good buddy, Matty accomplished a major PR at Troika, overcoming some demons that have chased him before, but no more!  Congrats to a much deserved solid race, long and strong :).  Erica (pictured with me far above), one of my fantastic friends and a fast lady that is crushing the field this season, also endured Troika for a solid PR and a first place in her AG!  She amazes me all the time.  Rene joined me in the first timers club and finished in a highly respectable time! Way to go, man.

Many friends commented on my permanent grin for the entirety of the race.  I was truly happy to have the health to participate at Troika on Sunday.  I value my life and what I have been given and the people God has blessed me with who make me who I am.