Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Saddest News

I said goodbye to my Dad yesterday.

For those of you who knew him, you know that the world has lost one of its best. For those who never had the opportunity, you missed out on meeting someone who just might have changed how you look at this world.

I didn't realize it until the last few years, but my Dad was one of the most influential factors in making me who I am.

Coffee lover: I grew up with there always being a pot on the coffee maker and a cup in his hand.

Strong work ethic: My Dad worked every day of his life and taught me that if I wanted something, I was going to have to work for it myself. Nobody is going to just hand you things in this life. At least nothing you will really appreciate.

Value education: If I got a 99% on a test, my Dad asked what happened to the other 1%. He would tell me that I'm smart enough to learn it all so why not work a little harder and be perfect. He would get angry when he met kids who had either been failed by the school system or by their own parents. He would donate his time and tutor those kids to help them pass tests, graduate high school and even get into college. He would teach them the lessons he taught his own kids.

Foodie: My Dad didn't start to really love cooking until later in his life... around the same time I started getting good in the kitchen. We exchanged recipes and spent hours talking about the science behind food preparation. We even share a private blog which lists recipes we've found, "invented", or recreated from my Grandmother.

Beer snob: My Dad was my father until I turned 21 and then he became my friend. It happened over pints at the Fox and Firkin pub in Corvallis, OR when I was in college. I went to my Dad's alma matter, Oregon State. He would come visit me and we would spend hours in the pub talking about his college days while sampling all the great microbrews from the PNW. I had the honor of sharing a few good beers with him last week.

More handy then most men you know: My Dad owned a door and window business and I grew up in his shop. I would watch the crew work, help out where they would let me, and spend a lot of time driving the fork truck around. I grew up around wood and tools. I helped my Dad build a barn. We built wooden go carts to race down the pastures. My Dad gave me tools (new and antique) and taught me how to use them. Most of all, he gave me the courage to try a project even if I didn't know exactly what I was doing.

Cyclist: Now, my Dad was no pro cyclist. He was a hippy in college and was "dirt poor". What he did have was an old 10 speed and time. I grew up hearing about how he would go for 100+ mile rides on the weekends. He'd ride from Corvallis to Eugene or the Oregon Coast. He'd even use the slip stream from trucks to rocket down I-5 (imagine a hippy motor pacing down a major interstate!!!). Whenever I would hear those stories I would think to myself "Wow! ONE HUNDRED miles! I wonder if I could ever do that..." Ironman, anyone?

Value experiences more than possessions: My favorite Christmas of my whole life was spent in the mountains with my Dad, Ruth, Evan and the dogs. We found snow covered logging roads, went sledding, rolled around in the snow with the dogs and laughed all day. What gift could possibly be better than that memory? To this day, I would rather give or receive experiences than typical gifts. They are what really matter. They are what you will carry with you the rest of your life.

There are no words to express how lucky I am to have had such a wise, funny, incredible man in my life. My world will never be the same without him. He was an avid blogger ( so I'm resurrecting my blog in his honor.

Lyle Wilson
July 14, 1949 - December 25, 2012

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Race Report: Ironman Pocono Mountains 70.3

The Swim
A few days before the race, the RD announced that the swim was cancelled because the Delaware River was still at flood stage.  I was pretty upset... until I actually saw it for myself.  It was flowing so fast there was no way I could have swam against the current.  I convinced myself a 69.1 was going to be just as much fun as a 70.3.    

I didn't want to swim here.

The Bike
This was a two transition race and T1 (now the race start) was in a small park with little parking and the only access being the closed roads of the bike course.  Because of that, they bused athletes to T1 and didn't allow any spectators.  That meant that lucky Jimmy got to drop me off at the bus and go back to the hotel to sleep for a few hours.  I'm used to having my sherpa with me so I felt a little lost until I made friends with the cool kids on the bus.

Because there was no swim, we had a time trial bike start.  They sent athletes off at 3 second intervals in order of number... and since I was number 1361, I had quite a while to wait.  At one point I realized that I was the last chick in line to start (the only downside of being Annie Z).  That meant that I was already behind all of the women on the course at the start!  To make it worse, I had 700 men behind me and I think they were all 25-35 AGers, so they would be passing me for sure.  If you haven't figured out, I'm still slow (but getting faster...) and I HATE being last.  Fortunately, it didn't last long.

I had driven this course several months ago and I knew it would be tough.  There are no really long climbs, but a ton of short steep ones that add up to ~3900 ft of climbing.  And when I say steep, I mean STEEEEEEEP.  There was a hill in the first 10 miles that more than half of the people walked up.  I was able to make it up (thanks to and passed at least 20 people on that hill alone.  There were 3 or 4 hills that people walked.  I ended up having to walk one, not because I didn't have the strength but because my tires had no traction on the wet, leaf-covered pavement.  With every pedal stroke, my rear wheel would spin and I wouldn't move forward at all.  Even off the bike, my feet were sliding backwards when I was trying to walk up.  I just laughed at myself.

Overall, the bike went well.  I felt strong, had fun, and finished only 10 minutes slower than Rev3 Portland which was completely flat.  Definitely a sign that I'm getting better on the bike.  All of those long Sunday rides with Jimmy to Green Lane are really paying off.

Bike time: 03:46:09
Thrilled to be waiting.  It was c-c-c-c-cold.

Shut up legs.

Oh, look at that.  Another hill.
By the time I rolled into T2, I was ready to be off my bike.  My legs were shot but running felt surprisingly good.  Quick bathroom stop and I was off on the run.

T2 time:  04:24

The Run
As I was leaving transition, a volunteer yelled "Hey, there's a party 13 miles that way!  You should check it out!"  That's exactly what I needed to beer (uh, I mean hear).  The finish line party was combined with the local Octoberfest so to say I was looking forward to it was an understatement.  I saw Jimmy in the first mile, blew him kisses, then headed off happy as hell to be racing.

The course profile they posted made the run look relatively flat, but that wasn't the case... hills, hills, hilly hills.  Other than a few minutes of a sketchy stomach, I felt great.  I made a deal with myself that I could walk the aid stations if I needed to, but I wasn't allowed to walk a single step other than that, even on the steepest hills.

As I came back into town, I could hear the finish line party.  Then I saw all of the people... hundreds, maybe even thousands of them lining the streets for the last mile.  In Portland, it had been deserted, but this time I was surrounded by spectators, there were other athletes running with me, and I wasn't even close to being last.  I had goosebumps, I couldn't stop smiling and I think I even teared up for a second.  It was awesome.  I am so addicted to this crazy sport.

Even with the hills and destroyed legs from the bike, I ran this half marathon over 3 minutes faster than Portland.

Run time:  02:27:54

Total time:  06:18:27

Wrapped in foil, as happy as can be.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Boo's Big Adventure

As a puppy, Boo spent a lot of time with me on the Oregon Coast.  That's where she developed her love of finding smelly stuff, dodging big waves and dragging around, then eating, driftwood.  Since I moved East, she has made the occasional trip to the Jersey Shore, but let's face it, it's not the same.  She's 13 now and we figured it was time for a real beach trip. In September, we packed up the family and headed south to the Outer Banks, NC for a big adventure...    

Wanna go in the CAR?

STICK! stick stick stick stick stick...

... stick stick stick...

I may be resting, but don't touch my STICK!

"Hey Dad, that's a good one, LET'S GO!"

Shake it baby.

The most beautiful picture ever.

Salty dog.

Our "pack".

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Race Report: SheROX Philly Sprint

I was originally planning to race Steelman Oly this weekend, but when I found out two of my friends were signed up for SheROX, I changed my mind.  Racing with friends beats racing solo any day.  

The swim was in the Schuylkill River which runs through center city Philadelphia.  Locals fear this water because it's where people go swimming "with cement slippers" and sewage occasionally overflows.  I threw on my swim cap and jumped in.  The swim was decent other than a swift kick in the ribs by a breast stroker (freestyle people, freestyle!).  I was out of the water in 20 min.  Slow, but whatever. 

The second I was on my bike, I felt fast and wanted to race.  I passed a bunch of chicks, and it felt really good.  Then I passed more.. and more.  I'm guessing I passed at least 200 (there were several waves in front of me).  After getting left behind at Rev3 Portland, it felt awesome.  Only 3 women passed me, two had aero helmets, one had a sick wheel set so I was ok with it. (Full disclosure: a few passed me up hills, but I caught 'em and dropped 'em).  The roads were wet and slick and I lost my back wheel around a tight turn, got some control, went flying through some cones and volunteers but didn't hit them.  I turned around and got myself back on course, impressed by my own bike handling skills.  An awesome ride.

The run wasn't as awesome.  The air was so thick with humidity I could hardly breath.  I sucked it up and ran my 3.1.  Nothing special, no stories to tell.  To tell you the truth, it was all over so quickly.  Even at 1:49, it was shorter than most of my Sunday morning workouts these days. 

The plan was to use this race as a fun way to get myself back in the game before my ramp up for Ironman Pocono Mountains 70.3 in October.  It worked.

Cute, I know.

Why does everyone look so serious???  This is FUN!

This pic is just weird. I think I'm rinsing the nasty Schuylkill water out of my mouth.


What the heck is a hipster doing in the middle of the course?

Yeah, we rock.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


When I wrote my Rev3 Race Report last night I intentionally left out my thank you's.  They are so important to me that I feel they deserve a post of their own.

Getting through my first half took a lot of work, work I had to do myself. It also took a lot of support and help from a few others...

Jimmy Z - best friend, husband, sherpa
Last fall, I drank a few pints of Guinness after a sprint tri then admitted to Jimmy that I wanted to train for a half.  He said something along the lines of "hell yeah!" and we went home to sign me up (Ironman Poconos - Oct 2011).  Since then he's been by my side through all of this.  He joins me on my training rides (but not the runs... I've learned better than to even suggest such torture), he politely listens to me chatter away about anything related to triathlon, and he has even given up some really good surf so I can stay home and train.  Probably the biggest show of his support for me was flying to Portland for this race.  He couldn't get any time off work so he flew out Saturday then home Sunday after the race.  If anyone has ever flown back to back redeyes, or been a Sherpa for a long race, or even both... you know this is love.  I love you babes!

John Hirsch - coach, supreme evil leader, maker of breakfast
John has been my coach since I drank those pints, registered for IMPM and then realized what I'd gotten myself into.  I had blog stalked John so I knew he was my kind of people.  When he announced he had openings for new clients, I shot him an email asking if he had any interest coaching a total newbie.  Even though he coaches some bad ass athletes,  he was willing to take me on.  He took me from struggling through sprint tris, to training in the beautiful mountains of southern Spain, to finishing my first 70.3.  I can honestly say that if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have/couldn't have done this.

Christine Lynch - nutritional mentor, SLB chef extraordinaire, teller of silly jokes 
Christine is one of the coolest chicks ever.  Seriously!  We met at in Spain where she cooked up amazing, beautiful meals for all of the athletes.  Since then she's helped me with some nutritional struggles and helped me put together my nutrition plan for this race.  I followed her advice, nailed my nutrition and finished the race feeling great.  She also had me giggling all the way up to the race start.

I knew Christine and John were special when they both came to find me on El Torcal (a climb in Spain that had destroyed me physically and mentally) and helped me finish.  They kept saying, just a little further and you will see one of the most beautiful sights in the world.  It was true, the view of the Mediterranean from a Spanish mountaintop was amazing... but what really touched me was their willingness to help out someone when they really needed it.  They turned pain into a party.  These guys are awesome.

I felt like the luckiest athlete in the world having the three of you at my first big race.  If I could assemble a dream team to support me in this, it would be you. 

I owe each of you a big thank you, so here it is...


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Race Report: Rev3 Portland Half

“You’re so rad” – Bouncing Souls

Grab a cup of coffee, I tend to type a lot…

Pre-Race Freakout
Three weeks before this race I was a nervous wreck.  I had myself worked up into such a fit that I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn't stop worrying about what I had gotten myself into.  (For non-triathletes,what I had gotten myself into is 1.2 mile swim / 56 mile bike / 13.1 mile run aka half ironman or 70.3). My long rides had been too slow, my long runs too painful… I couldn't imagine ever finishing a 70.3.  I don’t even know how many times I emailed my coach saying something along the lines of “Can I really do this?”, “Do you think I’m going to die?”, etc.

Then I had two race simulators (aka death bricks) on back to back weekends.  They were long and difficult, but I didn’t have any pain and I started gaining confidence. The nervousness mostly went away and I finally felt calm.  That calmness lasted right up to the race.

Race morning!
I woke up only 10 minutes before my 5:00 AM alarm feeling rested, grabbed a cup of coffee, packed up my stuff, (forgot something majorly important…), and headed out the door. 

We rolled up to the race site around 7am… Pacific Standard Time!!  With jet lag working in my favor, it felt like getting ready for a leisurely mid morning workout.  There are few things that I love more than the buzz of a race site; it gets me so amped.  I was on top of the world while I chatted with people and set up transition.  Lucky for me, I was racked next to PJ (@peeeeeeeeej) so I set up everything just like her and knew I was good to go.

Christine (@holisticguru) and I decided to lube up (with trislide you pervs) and entertain the race announcer while we put on our wetsuits.  He called us the Suicide Girls of triathlon.  Awesome.

The Swim
I guess I’m one of the lucky triathletes who actually enjoys open water.  Nothing about it scares me and I find it really peaceful even when getting kicked in the face.  I was also really looking forward to swimming in a pretty Oregon lake because lately I've spent a lot of time in a gross New Jersey mud puddle. 

We were lining up for the swim when Christine and I realized we might see John so we ran over to where the pros were exiting the water.  We had just enough time to cheer him on before running into the water.  I’ve only done in-water starts before this and I felt like a total tri-rockstar running into the water all cool like.

I felt strong and confident during the swim.  I took it pretty easy because of the long day I had in front of me and just enjoyed myself.

I probably had a big stupid grin on my face the entire swim. 

Swim Time:  46:23

There was a 0.4 mile run between the swim exit and transition.  Rev3 is awesome and gave us bags to keep our shoes so we wouldn’t have to run barefoot, but I decided to keep it simple and get a barefoot run in.  Turns out running barefoot on concrete isn’t the foot massage I’d expected and so my run was slow and ugly.

Once I got to transition, everything went smoothly and I was off on the bike in no time.

T1 Time:  07:37

The Bike
The bike course was a beautiful 2x out and back along the Columbia River with views of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens (when she decided to peak out from behind the few clouds).  The ride was flat and straight, but the view made up for what may have otherwise been a boring ride. 

I get really excited racing so I had to concentrate on keeping myself under control.  I was tempted to take off but I knew from my race sims that I needed to keep a certain pace if I had any chance of running afterwards.  I stuck to my plan and let people pass me.  It was cool how many people offered words of encouragement as they past.  The best was my coach John (@j_hirsh) yelling “Venga! Venga! Venga!” as he flew past me (dude is fast).  It reminded me of training in Spain at Strong Like Bull. Stoked.

At one point towards the end of the ride, most of the cyclists had finished and there weren’t many of us on the road.  Because it was an out and back, I knew exactly how many people I had behind me.  There was even a few times when I couldn’t see another athlete at all.  It was really demoralizing and I spent a lot of time prepping myself for being last.  Triathlon has been really good for me because it’s something that I’m not good at.  I excel at a lot of things, but not triathlon (yet!).  It puts me in my place, makes me mad, and makes me want to work harder. 

Even though most athletes were out on the run already, I think they were all secretly jealous of me because I had the best cheering section of the entire race!  My awesome hubbie Jimmy Z, Mom, Dad, Sister, Brother and Sister in Law were all still out there cheering me on.  They even made the best sign ever…

Bike Time: 03:35:55

Got off the bike, couldn’t walk, laughed at myself, realized that I FORGOT TO PUT ON DEODORANT (IDIOT!!!), grabbed some gels, started my run… all with friends, family and my coach cheering me on.  Yay!

T2 Time: 01:38

The Run
It didn’t take me long to find my legs and I felt really good.  I chatted for a quick minute with a girl I’d been playing cat and mouse with all day, then said “Oh, that’s my coach up there, I need to run faster, c-ya!” and I was off.  Skull # 1- filled.  There weren’t a ton of people on the course but enough that I could concentrate on picking them off one by one.  The first 9 miles flew by like nuthin’. 

I have to give Rev3 a huge shout-out for putting on a really well run race.  Even when the last runners were pulling through the aid stations, they were still fully staffed and had anything I could have needed.  It was amazing having 10 volunteers at each station excited to cheer me on, especially after they had been on their feet in the sun all day.  I made a point to thank each one of them when I could. 

What some people might not realize is that there are some amazing stories going on at the back of the pack.  I high-fived a 70 year old man named Bob who was so determined to finish the race and had a group of dedicated people helping him through it.  I cheered on a very overweight man who was kicking ass with the support of two friends.  I met a woman who was cramping badly, but refused to give up.  Seeing the pros race is inspiring and motivating, but nothing like these back-of-packers who were all really fighting for it.  It made me proud to be one of them. 

During the last mile or so things got ugly.  I went into the pain cave and closed the door behind me.  It sucked, but it didn’t last long. 

A volunteer yelled “Turn here and the finish chute is right around the corner.  Less than a tenth of a mile and you’ve done it!  Enjoy!”  I’m not sure where the energy came from, but I got my legs under me, and ran to the finish line.  The announcer yelled “Strong Like Bullllllllllll”.  What an amazing feeling!  I had a pack of people waiting for me and it was awesome.  There was dancing.  There was a picture of me on the jumbo-tron.  There were burritos.  I couldn’t have been happier. 

I said to my coach “We need to make me faster”…

Run Time: 02:31:19

Total Time: 07:02:53

Sunday, July 3, 2011

#i8this and won!

My friend, CREWmate and nutritional mentor Christine Lynch (aka @holisticguru) is throwing a party on twitter/facebook called #i8this (I ate this).  The idea is to cook up some awesome food over this 4th of July weekend and post photos online for everyone to see.  Check out Christine's blog to learn more.

The BEST part is she's picking a winning photo every day... and yesterday I WON!  I threw together a quick, beautiful salad and Christine said it 'hypnotized' her.  That's one of the biggest compliments ever!

There's still time left, so fire up that grill and show us what you've got!

Here is my now-famous Grilled Tofu Salad. You can get the recipe here.