Saturday, November 10, 2012

Great Lakes 100 Mile Triathlon - Race Report

This is possibly the longest overdue race report I can imagine. Still not sure what has been hanging me up about writing about my race but it deserves to be marked...

Pre race:
James and I drove to Seneca Lake a few days before the race and hung out with my parents who were vacationing there for a few weeks. It was great to get to chill out, swim in a chilly but beautiful lake, and get a sense of the wind and terrain in upstate NY. We drove the final 2ish hours out to Barker/Lockport NY on Friday before the race. We drove the bike and run courses. The bike course terrain looked very manageable but we could feel the wind even inside the car.  The run course had a whole series of small out and backs and only a few hills. Check in was quick and easy and we were able to head back to our motel to have our picnic dinner and hit the hay early. I can't remember but I think I slept pretty well (although the bed wasn't comfortable) and got up at 4am to eat breakfast and pack up. When I went outside to load up the car, I came to find that it was raining steadily and was around 40F. The weather improved in the 3 hours leading up to the race - the rain stopped, the sun rose (although obscured by clouds for most of the morning), and the temperatures came up toward 50F. We arrived at Camp Kenan a little before 6am and unloaded the car and set up transition. One of the camp cabins was open as an indoor and private area for any women who wanted to have a full change of clothes. I opted to ride in tri shorts instead of proper cycling shorts as my saddle sores were all healed up and I figured I could save a few minutes not having to detour and jostle with women for space in the cabin. Seems like most of the women opted to change indoors. With still 30 minutes before sunrise, James and I hung out in the mess hall for a while and listened to race announcements.
The RD gave us lots of useful info about the course and reminded everyone that they could switch to duathlon up until race start if they wanted, due to the strong winds and cold/rough water. As the sun came up we headed down to the water and watched the volunteers drag the large buoys out onto the course. The winds were definitely whipping and there was a pretty good swell going. I wore my new Xterra Vector long sleeve wetsuit and neoprene booties. I thought it might be overkill but with so much hype about the swim, I figured better safe than sorry.


  The swim, to my surprise (despite the warnings), was no joke! I lined up in the front with a bunch of men who were talking about swimming 22-25 minutes (for 1+ mile course). I didn't expect to swim this fast but figured I would hold on as long as I could and then be in a solid position to proceed along at my own pace. As we watched the buoys go out, we all thought the course looked long and with the swell and waves it seemed like times needed to get adjusted upward.

I went out hard at the start but quickly was disoriented and had lost track of the feet I was hoping to following. For much of the westward outbound trip there was a man to my right about 10 yards away so at least I knew I wasn't off course. I swam as hard I have ever swam in a race. I felt like I was standing still. We had been warned that there would be a current but this was the first time I had experienced one. Slowly, slowly, the buoys came and I reached the turn around. The return trip was equally swelly but I could tell that I had the current with me. I was concerned to see very few people around me, wondering how I had fallen so far behind the group of men I started with. There was a swimmer about 50 yards ahead of me for much of the return trip and the guy I was with on the outbound trip fall back from me. I came out of the water with thoroughly numb feet (despite my booties!) and gingerly made my way up the rocky shore.

As I ran up the slope, James was waiting and jogged along side me the 200 or so yards from the beach to the transition area. I asked him before the race to keep track of how many women came out of the water before me and to let me know. The first thing I heard him say was, "you're in third." I was a little disappointed with this. The women's field was quite small (11 women were registered for the tri and a few changed to du the morning of the race) so to be in 3rd would put me less toward the front than I usually find myself. I fumbled around in T1, taking off wetsuit and booties, putting on knee warmers, arm warmers, and gloves before heading out.  I couldn't feel my feet at all and was glad to be heading out on the bike, to hopefully warm up.

Heading out on the bike I could immediately feel the wind throwing me around. I tucked down in aero as soon as I could and just pressed on. The course itself was beautiful and I enjoyed myself a ton despite the winds. I passed a few guys in the first 10 miles of the race and didn't see any women. I was surprised that they were so far up the road given how hard I had swam. Around mile 10 I passed a friendly larger male athlete who told me that he was first out of the water and that I was first woman. I told him that my husband had said I was third and he suggested that perhaps the other two women had been in the changing cabin while I came through T1. I was a little confused by this exchange and assumed he was wrong in some way or other.

Around 25 miles into the ride I still hadn't seen any women. I came to an intersection where cops were directing traffic and was stopped short by a cop letting a car go. I hopped off my bike just in time and felt my heartrate spike. As I started back up I heard a funny sound coming from my bike. I couldn't figure out what it was. Thought perhaps since my aero water bottle was nearly empty that it was clanging around against my bike cables. I couldn't get the noise to go away though. Two miles later I looked down (just in time) and realized that I was suddenly dangerously flat on my front tire. I jumped off my bike and calmly proceeded to fix my flat. A few men passed asI worked at the side of the road and asked if I needed help. Thanks guys!!! I was all good though. Didn't see anything in my tire so switched out the tube and for the first time ever used a CO2 cartridge. Glad I brought two because I kind of messed things up the first time. But within 5 minutes I was back on the road.

For about a mile, I felt great, started thinking that maybe the wind had switched and I would now get to enjoy some favorable cross/tailwind. Then things got hard again and about 2 minutes later I was FLAT AGAIN!!! Jumped off my bike again but this time didn't have a spare tire. Thought various catastrophic thoughts and then crossed my fingers that someone would be willing to share a tube and canister. As I waited on the side of the road, cursing that I had missed those generous men from the first time go round, I had time to look carefully at my wheel and found a teeny tiny metal shard in my tire. I waited 5-10 minutes before I was able to collect a tube from one nice racer and a canister from another. A farmer from across the way came and stood with me while I waited. I watched as a number of racers passed as I worked again on my wheel. I got a glimpse of all but one racer who passed and I asked the farmer if it was a man or a woman. He sheepishly said, "it was hard to tell." This put a smile on my face. It is indeed hard to tell!  After an indefinite period of time I was again back on the road, now battling various thoughts about my tire flatting again, dropping out of the race, and cursing myself for not locating the metal shard the first time. It felt unlikely that I could ride 55 miles on this tube without another flat. I tried to quiet these thoughts as much as I could. I told myself that I could decide once I finished the first loop (at mile 42). At mile 32, I turned onto the eastbound straightaway back to camp. The tailwind was glorious. I felt like I was flying. I loved it. The RD drove by at this point and snapped the picture below.
 As I finished the first loop, I jumped off my bike and ran into a portopotty at the side of the road. Normally I would just pee on my bike but given the cool temperatures, the strong winds (25mph steady, with gusts increasing over the course of the day), and the fact that my feet were still numb I decided that being dry might be a good idea. I saw James at this point and told him about my 2 flats and 20+ minutes on the side of the road. He told me I was still doing well and had only seen a few women. So I soldiered on. I cant remember now, but I think that it was a no-brainer by the time I was in a position to decide. The second loop was definitely tougher than the first. The winds got stronger and stronger and it felt like grinding in place for almost 30 miles. I was passing many of the men who passed and/or aided me during my flats so I figured I was still riding steady. My effort felt good, although it was hard to know how hard to go as I have little experience riding this distance or in these conditions. Somewhere around 60-65 miles I slowly slowly was gaining on a rider who looked very solid. It wasn't until I was passing that I realized this athlete was a woman and said hello. I asked if she was a du or tri racer and she said tri but that she planned to stop after the bike. I rode on, wondering if she was the mystery rider who passed as I was working on my second tube change. As I came to the final straightaway I again reveled in the tailwind. I was feeling good and eager to finish up this second and longest leg of the race. I was a little worried about the wind on the run but overall my energy was good and I felt ready to go.

I stripped off my gloves and kneewarmers. Changed my shoes, noting that my feet were still completely numb. Told myself to run lightly until I could feel my feet. James told me that there was a woman very far ahead but that the might be a duathlete (they ran 1 mile while we swam 1+mile, so had a 20+minute advantage). I was still confused about my position. In a small field it was surprising that it was hard to keep track of this sort of thing. As I headed out of transition, I remember shaking out my hair and looking forward to what was ahead. [What was I thinking?!?!?]

The run was truly ridiculous. The hardest thing I have ever done. The course was roughly an out and back with a bunch of smaller out and backs mixed in. The out had a tailwind, and the back would be all headwind; on the smaller side out/backs it was all crosswind all the time. On the outbound trip, I felt pretty good. Quite good for being 5 1/2 hours into a race. Miles ticked by and I stuck to my planned pace, feeling confident that I wasn't overextending given that I had the wind at my back so even at the faster end of my range it still felt good. The crosswinds were tough.  When I drank, I had an immediately regurge-reaction. I figured that I must be more hydrated than usual due to the cool temperatures. Although I had a well practiced and effective fueling strategy going into the run (gel at miles 3, 6, 9, 12), I started rethinking and talked myself into a new plan (4, 8, 12). In retrospect this was a big mistake, but I didn't realize until it was too late.

 Around mile two I passed a woman, who told me she was a duathlete. I kept trucking. I passed men. I kept trucking. The feeling came back into my feet and I was for the first time all day comfortably warm. I thought about trashing my armwarmers (actually $2 target knee socks with the toes cut off) but decided instead to roll them down to my wrists and see if that would be okay. This, unlike my nutrition thinking, was smart. I would need them on the return trip. At mile 5.5 my parents drove by and I smiled and waved. "Still doing good," I thought to myself. At mile 6.5 I came to where my parents had parked and passed my mom on the side of the road. I remember telling her something to the effect of "This is getting hard." I knew I would see her again in under two miles, just had to run up and down some rollers, out to the lighthouse, and back. This is where things started to get ugly. Everyone was struggling. There was a woman up ahead of me and I became determined to catch her. I focused on her with unusual intensity. I think probably as a distraction from my desire to walk. Right as we reached the far point of the course, the lighthouse, I caught and passed her. We exchanged few words, as it was suffer time. Coming back toward my mom I knew I was in for it. The pictures tell so much of the story. The first one [above] is at 6.5 and my posture is upright and strong. The second [below] is less than 2 miles later. I have crumbled and my energy is tanking. And I know it only got worse. To be fair to myself the wind was brutal. Weather reports indicate that by this point in the early afternoon gusts were up to 35mph and wind steady at 25+). I kept trucking.
My focus got very narrow. I remember saying the same things to myself over and over again. Keep going. Don't stop. Don't walk. Tuck in. Keep going. You'll be there sooner if you keep running. I stopped looking at my garmin (current mile/lap pace) after mile 10 when I saw my pace drop off toward 10:00+. I pushed and pushed and pushed. I was so deep in it, I don't think I can really do it justice in words. I noticed the people I was passing, those on the outbound voyage and those struggling on the return, but couldn't smile or offer encouragement (as I had for the first hour or so). I vaguely recall words of encouragement from others, but didn't hear much. Mercifully, mile 14 came and my mind told me that I would make it the mile home. I tried to push harder but was afraid I would be unable to continue. With 1/2 a mile to the finish line, the course enters a trail into Camp Kenan. I focused intently on my feet, on not falling. I was so afraid I would fall. I wasn't sure how I was still standing at all. Then the trail turned to grass and I could see my mother and James in the clearing a few hundred yards from the finish. I knew it was time to kick. I kicked with everything I had. Charged to the finish and ran under the banner and the clock.

Through the chute and immediately I was grabbed for a finishing photo. I had finished under 8 hours, my A goal, despite the 20+ minutes on the side of the road. I was happy for about 90 seconds. See me and Ken below, during the 90 happy seconds.
Post Race:
Then I didn't feel so good. James and my parents joined me and I asked what place I finished in. No one knew. I felt a little dizzy and cold. We all started walking toward the mess hall to get warm. Then I felt very dizzy. By the time we got into the mess hall it was time for me to be horizontal. I sat down hard, on the floor, in the middle of everything. I tried to drink. But I wanted to lie down. Then I felt like I was falling. I haven't had vertigo like that in a long time. The medical director (Kristina) came over and started asking me questions. She was calm but forceful. I couldn't do what she wanted me to but didn't quite get everyone's serious faces. The room was spinning, I wanted to close my eyes but I had to drink, eat, talk...When I tried to lift the cup of OJ in my hand to my mouth I could make my arm move. I cried hysterically for an indefinite period of time (20 seconds? 2 minutes? forever?) and then I stopped and I drank my OJ. I noticed I was shivering. I could hear concerned conversations about taking me to the hospital. I said no. No! Although I thought I was being tricked, I agreed to walk over to the ambulance which Kristina promised would be warm. I changed into some random clothes and out of my wet kit and walked over to the ambulance. In the ambulance, two lovely volunteer ambulance drivers gave me hot packs and towels and cranked the heat. Kristen gave me some magical superstrong Nuun. James, my mom and I sat in the ambulance for 20 minutes and I returned to the land of the living. I remember seeing an athlete I know walking toward the mess hall and thinking, "wow she finished pretty close to me" and looking at the clock trying to figure out the gap. When I couldn't, and I asked James how long it had been he said an hour. Everyone laughed at my disbelief at the passage of time.

We went back into the mess hall and found that the results had been posted. I shuffled over and looked for my name. First place woman! I won! So James and I hung out until the awards ceremony.

I had been coveting the oil burning lantern OA awards since they were posted on the race website (and facebook and twitter) a few weeks before the race. I couldn't believe I was taking one home. As first place woman I also won a full length Xterra wetsuit = awesome.

Swim: 33:14 (including long run from lake up to camp area)
T1: 4:07
Bike: 5:06:12 (4:44:57 on the bike, per my garmin which I stopped during flats)
T2: 1:54
Run: 2:12:02
Total: 7:57:29  (1st woman, 11th OA)

-Bob Timkey put on one hell of an inaugural race! It was friendly, well organized, fairly priced, had a great course, and delivered on the promised tough conditions!!
-In our race swag bags was a 1lb jar of Once Again Almond Butter. I devoured the jar in 3 days. You should try it... I wish they would sponsor me.
-Good sportsmanship rules! So many athletes offered help to me when I was in need. I cannot imagine anything like this happening at an M-Dot race where people get so self-serious. If it weren't for these people my day would have ended very differently!
-Overall, I am very pleased with my performance. This was the longest distance I have raced and I stayed tough. I responded calmly to adversity and didn't let the negative thoughts that came into my head interfere with my day. I did what I could when I could.
-Only in retrospect did I realize that I messed up my nutrition. When I picked up my transition area after the race, I realized that I had downed 300 calories less than I thought on the bike. I only got 2ish gels down on the run (when I should have had 4). I don't think I was dehydrated, I think I was just so hypoglycemic that my system shut down. I should remember in the future not to deviate from a plan that works unless absolutely necessary. In an effort to avoid vomiting on the run I pulled the nutrition plug too early. I hope I don't make that mistake again.
-After the race I finally figured out what happened with all the confusion about my position in the women's race. When James told me I was 3rd out of the water, he meant overall, not among the women. So I chased phantom women all day. I can't say one way or another whether this was a good or bad thing. My sense from the folk I talked to after the race is that most people were just out there for fun and didn't want to suffer too much. I was prepared and wanted to suffer. And I did.
-Winning is cool. I wanted to revel in it, but a part of me resists. The race was small. The women's race was smaller. On a different day, other women would have handed my ass to me on a platter. But on this one day, I was the fastest (woman) out there. I want to feel (really) good about this but I also don't want to bother with caring about it because I doubt it will ever happen again. Somewhere in these thoughts is where my "mental" fitness could stand to improve. Somewhere in these thoughts is also why I took more than a month to write this report.
-Now a month later, it is hard to resonate with the last point, but I know I was thinking it in the immediate aftermath of the race. I'm not sure Ironman is for me. 100 miles was a lot of fun. I would surely love to swim 2.4 miles. I think I would even like to bike 112 miles. But I don't know that I want to walk, shuffle, or even jog 26.2 miles. There is something pretty awesome about the 70.3 distance. Its long but you can still go hard/fast. I'm not a fast runner (in any objective, absolute sense) but I enjoy running hard. I'm not sure I would enjoy knowing for a whole training cycle that I would be racing slowly in second gear. I just don't know. This gives me plenty of food for thought for the winter. Thankfully the life of a postdoc does not provide the kind of guarantees to make it possible to plan a race season 9 months ahead of time so I will just have to wait until I know where we are going to be living next year before I decide what races I want to sign up for.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Great Lakes 100 Mile Triathlon

Tomorrow I am racing the inaugural Great Lakes 100 Mile Triathlon. I can't believe it's here! Right now I am sitting in a lovely cabin rented by my parents for the month on Seneca Lake and will be driving the remaining 2.5 hours to Barker, NY later today to register and scout the course. The breakdown is: 1 mile swim in Lake Ontario, 84 mile (2 loop) bike through Barker, Gasport, Lockport, Newfane, and Appleton, finishing up with a 15 mile out and back along Lake Ontario. Weather forecast is calling for mid 40's to mid 50's with strong wind. I've got my knee and arm warmers all set and I'm ready to rock! See you all on the flipside... Wish me luck! (Or if you live nearby, come out and say hi!)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Patriot 70.3 Race Report

Once again I have let too much time pass before putting down my thoughts on a race. It's now 13 days since Patriot 70.3 and I'm (hopefully) getting toward the tail end of my recovery period during which time I feel sluggish, moody, tired, irritable, desperate to train and uninterested in training. I can say for sure, this is not what I was feeling going to the race weekend or immediately after the fact. So here goes:

James and I drove down to Middleboro, MA for registration and packet pick up on Friday afternoon. A co-worker's parents kindly allowed us to stay at the beach house 25minutes south of the race venue so we had a nice place to crash. James and I drove around, got some local dairy ice cream (for him), read by the beach, and tried to veg. The girls were hoping to arrive by 6pm but they got delayed leaving Boston so I knew it was going to be late before they arrived at the house. James and I went to dinner and we seated and eating by 6pm. Pizza. Pan pizza (which isn't usually my favorite) was actually quite tasty and a big salad with strawberries and almonds. Back to the house with a full belly. With a race this close to the summer solstice I was a little worried about how late it was going to be light out. And as expected I had quite a bit of trouble falling asleep. Part of it was the bed (never easy to get comfy in someone else's bed), part of it was that 8:30 bedtime when the sun was still up and the sky bright, and part of it was the party the next room over (everyone was very quiet but I knew they were there talking). I read Eat and Run until I was tired enough to try to sleep but then didn't sleep great. Alarm went off a 4am and I was glad to get the day started. I ate my regular raceday breakfast (bertucci's rolls, banana, water, diet soda) and waited for the gears to start turning. James and I got to the venue around 5:45 and had no trouble getting parking and into transition. The morning was cool (maybe around 60F) so I kept clothes on for quite a while. My wave wasn't starting until 24minutes after the elites so I tried to stay calm. Only did a little bit of "manic posing" for the camera(man).

There was a pretty steady breeze (10-18mph) and the water of Long Pond was churned up. (Not so apparent in this photo.) There were actually breaking waves coming in to the beach.

Swim: 32:22  (3/36AG)
I lined up with my green capped ladies (30-39), cursing under my breath that our wave was so far behind. Ahead of us were M50+, clydesdales, and some female waves who were likely to be slower. When we were allowed in the water I went up to the front and grabbed a spot second row, second from left. Women up front looked serious, which seemed like a good sign.

Before the race I had told myself that I was going to swim hard(er) for once. I tend to just cruise through the swim leg of each race and end up placing well but feeling like I barely swam at all. I had a few good OWS's in the weeks leading up to the race and came around to the idea that I should go out harder. So, I went out harder. I sprinted out the first hundred yards or so. This would have been great except with the waves it was hard to see the bouys (straight out into the headwind for .5mi) and the breathing each stroke started to make me feel panicky. For the first time ever I thought I might need to flip on my back to chill out and catch my breath but then I realize that was stupid and just willed myself to decrease the frequency of my breathing back to regular 1,2,3,breathe pattern. This is quite hard to do when you feel you can't breathe! Within the first 8 minutes I was passing the next wave ahead. At the back side of the course I started catching a lot of the next next way and things got a little congested. On the way back in there was a ton of traffic and I swam around what felt like hundreds of people.

As I popped out of the water I heard James call 32:15. I had been thinking I might go sub-30 but this was not too bad (faster than Mooseman last year which had much easier conditions). So although its not the number I might have liked to have heard I think that the effort was one step in the direction that I'd like to be going. In the future I do think that even in a choppier swim like this that I could afford to go into a bigger gear. All that being said, I came out of the water 3rd in my age group and 4th of the green caps.

T1: 2:39
Transition was uneventful. Stripped my wetsuit. Chugged some water and took some salt tabs. Put on my gear. Started my garmin. And marveled at how others seem to spend like half the time I do in there. Ran with my shoes on out to the mount line and was on my way. 

Bike: 2:51:41 (4/36AG)
I really enjoyed the bike course. James and I came down about a month before the race to do recon on the course so I knew it was rolling but not intimidating. Then 2 weeks before I met up with a local running club buddy to ride 1 loop. There was a bit of construction at mile 2 which made us detour and do some twisty turns but then it was time to open things up. My riding (on the trainer) has been really good thing spring. I knew my fitness was there. I haven't been on the roads enough though to be comfortable at the higher speeds I could now be riding at. I rode the first loop around 20mph with some major slowing through each turn. The thing I am most proud of is I finally got over my fear of riding in aero. Spent about half of the time down and could really feel the advantage it confers. The second loop I slowed a little, knowing that I wanted to save my legs for the run. Throughout the ride I could tell that I was not riding close to the HIM watts I had been training to be able to do (~190-200W) because I would have just been going too fast for comfort (particularly with the 90degree turns on the course). At a few points the wind made things interesting - in an exposed stretch of road transecting a large pond riders ahead of me were leaning so hard to stay upright that I couldn't believe their wheels were holding the asphalt.  In the final miles of the ride a strong woman came up from behind me and we stuck with one another (legally passing and passing back) in to transition.

T2: 2:18
Transition again was uneventful. Running the long way around into the transition area with shoes on was cumbersome but okay. Again I fully stopped so I could drink (thanks James for yelling, "hydrate," I would have forgotten that opportunity), take salt tabs and switch over my garmin.  I jogged out of transition feeling pretty good (probably too good for this point in a 70.3).

Run: 1:47:39 (8/36AG - but only passed by 1 woman in AG)
Here is where the story gets crazy (from my perspective). I head out on the run. The weather is perfect. I am not overheating. I hadn't peed at all on the bike (so not since I was wading in the water before the swim start) but then I realize that I have a full bladder. So I immediately let it go. The fullness of my bladder made me very happy b/c I knew that despite a slight aero water bottle malfunction which led me to lose a fair amount of fluid from each bottle I got, my hydration status was good. I was chugging along feeling good but like maybe the effort was a bit hard. I looked down after about half a mile and realize the effort felt hard because I was running close to a 7 minute pace. So I reeled it back in and kept plugging. I knew I would see my girls at mile 2 so I told myself I could hold whatever pace felt good until I saw them and then I would try to settle into my planned 8:30 pace (through mile 8). Those first 2 miles came and went fast - probably b/c I was running fast (for me) and it was a slight downhill.
Mile 1: 7:55
Mile 2: 8:07

And then there were my girls, cheering, going crazy, holding signs, ringing cowbell, dancing on the side of the road. I had been unsure how it would be to have spectators (other than family) but it was AWESOME. I could feel the huge smile on my face. I was so glad to be feeling good and to be able to share it with them!

The next two miles I started to feel the effort a bit more. I wasn't struggling but I also knew it was time to get with the plan. The roads here were nicely shaded and I had a fair amount of male company which was good for pacing. At the odd aid station they had cups of ice. I was psyched about the ice. I have always wanted ice at a race but it has never been available. Ice down the bra and the shorts and I was one happy girl.
Mile 3: 8:12
Mile 4: 8:32

Just before mile 4 a woman came blazing by. She looked to be about my age but her number wasn't close to mine and I was under the impression that we were racked/numbered by age group. Another guy and I try to tuck in behind her. I tell myself that I can't run with her for long but why not take a ride for a 1/4 or 1/2 mile. I was able to stick with her for about a mile before letting her go. She pulled away 10 yards, maybe 15. Then we hit a hillier mile and she came back to me a bit. We ended up running together for a while before I broke the silence saying, "I just keep telling myself you're not in my age group." She responds: "I don't know, how old are you." Me: "30." Her: "Me too."  We unraveled the mystery of why our numbers aren't similar (she is on a team that all got racked together).
Mile 5: 8:18
Mile 6: 8:40
Mile 7: 8:15
At some point she asks about my goals and I tell her I want to go sub 5:30. She doesn't tell me her goal. She just says that she glad its not an Ironman year.  We run together and then she pulls ahead, back and forth for the next miles. I am largely convinced that I can't run with her and that at some point she will rocket ahead. But I don't get too caught up in it. I am surprised to find as we reach mile 7 that I am still feeling good. The ice is keeping my core temperature in a workable range. Usually as I overheat I just fall apart and can hardly run at all. Part of me still expects this to happen. But I am also aware that it hasn't happened up to this point. I decided at this point that I am going to hold on for as long as I can. And the miles keep ticking by.
Mile 8: 8:08
Mile 9: 8:28
Mile 10: 8:14
Just after mile 10 there is a turn onto the last main road of the course (this road is shared with the bike course we I've already covered this stretch twice during the morning) and there is a hill. I expect that this woman will pull away on the hill but she doesn't and for the first time she falls back and I lead for a while. The part of my mind that was convinced that I will blow up on this hill at mile 10.5 fell silent.  We rolled together through the last miles. I was distracted by the fantasy of saying to her "I owe you my PR, if we make it to the park together I won't race you to the line." I kept thinking this over and over. I ended up thanking her for the pacing which was way faster than any of my goal pace times, but I bit my lip after that. That little voice in my head clicked in saying "she's in your age group, you ran together this long, don't give away the spot, maybe you could sprint..."
Mile 11: 8:20
Mile 12: 8:14
Our last mile we definitely picked it up. I could feel it. I tried not to get worried about the pace. (Actually I checked my pace way less during this run than I usually do. A good sign of being in the zone.) My lungs were burning and my legs felt heavy (but they had felt heavy all day) but my head was straight. She was ahead of me as we turned into the park (with .3mi to go). I had decided ahead of time that I would not begin my final charge until after the foot bridge with about 150yards to go. Then ~200 yards out a man yells to me "Go get her! Go get her!" And something clicked in my mind and I didn't think a response but my legs kicked. And I passed her. When I checked over my shoulder she hadn't responded. I kept sprinting. I wasn't sure I had it to make it to the finish line. Checked again. She could catch my at any moment. But she wasn't coming. I ran hard through the finish line and she crossed 7 seconds after me.
Mile 13: 7:48
Mile 13.1: 6:05 pace

Total Time: 5:16:37 (4/36 AG, 22/232 Female, 124/611OA)

Post-Race Fun:
At the finish line, I didn't puke or keel over (my MO for all previous races). I chatted with a girl I have raced with before (a speedy speedster) and then slowly slowly it dawned on me that the woman I had been running with was her training partner. So glad I hadn't know this or I would have surely talked myself out of running with her on the grounds that she is too fast. And its wild, crazy, unthinkable (or as I kept saying "IMPOSSIBLE") that I ran a 1:47. But I did. And afterward I was in good shape. No puking. No headache. Appetite came around quickly. Which meant, I was able to enjoy an awesome picnic with my cheering squad.
Giving the blow-by-blow to James
Showing off my SWEET SOAS kit!

Packing up. (I just love this grin!)
Cheering Squad (Kristel, Sarah, and Meredith)!
Showing off my tan lines
-Given how much I had in the tank for the run this provided a lot of evidence that I didn't ride nearly hard enough on the bike. The QT2 calculator had told me that based on my fitness parameters I could ride something like 2:35 on this course but that just seemed ridiculous to me (having not broken 3 hours last year). But now I see it. 2:35 would have been out of reach, I think, for this day. But I get. I could have gone 10 minutes faster (2:41). I also could have left a little more in the water. All that being said, the experience of running strong start to finish of the run leg may be the best thing ever and I'm not sure I would want to give that up for a slightly faster time. Don't get me wrong, I want to go faster. I just didn't realize that it was possible to not fall apart on a HIM run. And its awesome. (It was also an 11 minute PR on the run and an official half marathon PR)
-I chewed antacids on the run. I think this may be a big part of the not puking. I did it for a few runs before the race but wasn't sure. It caused no problems and I think it actually solved the biggest one I have had in the past. I will continue with this in the future.
-I love POWERBAR GELS. I wish Powerbar would sponsor me. Since I started running gels have made me sick. Since switching to Powerbar Gels (particularly on the run), I don't puke and I don't cramp. I love it. 
-It is possible to run strong even when you don't have that effortless feeling. At no point on this run did I have that "sweet spot" feeling where the pace feels just right (regardless of what the pace happens to be) and the turnover is good. I worked through every stride. I've had some medial glute/hamstring/calf issues in the 2 months leading up to the race and although I could feel things getting tighter nothing bad came of it on race day. 
-I feel really good about my training this spring. I have been pretty silent in blogland, even skipping out on my month in review posts because months seemed to end in the middle of blocks and as is usual for me only 2 disciplines seem to be going well at any given time. I really was gunning for this race and at some level the stakes felt too high to be talking about. Not in my wildest dreams did I think I would finish in the time I did or in the rank I did. I didn't post about goals.  I wanted to go sub 5:30. Secretly I hoped with a fast swim I might go 5:25. I really wanted to run strong and finish strong, 1:55 seemed like the number to beat. I beat my numbers. Actually, I crushed them. And I can get faster. I have just raised the bar. EEK!
-I hate the weeks after a big race. Despite not feeling destroyed at the end of the race (or in the hours, days afterward), there is this malaise that settles over me during transition period. All of the good mental skills I used on race day (i.e. not getting too freaked out when my breathing got out of whack on the swim, not worrying about the time out of the water, realizing who I should stick with on the bike, and not letting the nay-sayers in my head limit my courage on the run) go to hell while I recover. While I don't usually get caught up in what others are doing, I suddenly feel badly about myself when others post faster times. The accomplishment of the weekend (and the whole training cycle) - a 20 minute PR - for a time that I didn't think I would get to until 2013 - gets kicked around as others seemed to do easily things that are still "impossible" to me. Its hard to wait for my mind, body, and spirit to come back to life. Lackluster workouts and no next race don't help any. Yet, I know this is all normal so I am just trying to bide my time until the mojo comes looking for me.

Monday, April 16, 2012

2 Months in Review: February and March by the Numbers

Swim: 30,300yards
Bike: 496.9miles
Run: 85.4miles + 11.8miles walking
Weights: 8 short 15-20min sessions TRX/bosu/core

To be honest, I can't even remember February at this point. I know that I continued to be diligent about getting to the pool for short (2000-2500yard) swims and even got in a few longer swims. Biking all on the trainer (despite the mild winter) and one day a week at FastSplits on the computrainer. I continue to LOVE the computrainer. After replacing my new (Lake) cycling shoes with a second new pair (Shimano) the foot trouble I was having subsided enough to be manageable. I still get some numbness if I ride hard or long but nothing debilitating and nothing that kept me from running. I returned to running in my heavy trainers (Adidas Supernova Sequence 3) which was fine given the slow steady miles I put in. Endurance started returning on the run which was good to feel, despite the slow paces.

Swim: 32150yards
Bike: 538.8miles
Run: 138.4miles + 19miles walking
Weights: 5 TRX/core sessions

March was a pretty great month. A breakthrough run month!

I took a week of vacation the second full week of the month and just trained to my heart's content. It was blissful. 3 swims (2k, 3.5k, 4k), 5 rides (1hr OUTDOORS, 1h10m, 1h30m, 1h40m, 2h30m) with two 3+mile t-runs and one longer 1hr run off the bike. I moved my long run (usually Saturday) to Thursday so I could hammer that longer ride/run on Sunday. Long run was alright, nothing to write home about. Friday was a 90/30 brick, also good not great. Saturday I had speed work on the plan. I was thinking 6x400. I jogged easy to the track and then settled into the planned work. As I came toward the fifth interval I realized that my pace (including rest intervals) was pretty darn close to my current 5k PR time so I gunned it through the last interval. I came in just 1 second off my PR. I slowed to a jog to recover and realized I was feeling quite good. I decided to pick it up to mile 4. Then mile 5. Set a new 5mile PR (by a longshot). Decided to go for 10k. Came through 10k with the second 5k faster than the first 5k, and a PR by over 30 seconds!!! (21:54)   At this point I am on cloud nine, pretty psyched with all that frustrating slow running I did all winter. With basically no speedwork I found myself with speed. I ran another lap or so and was still feeling awesome. At this point my total distance was around 8.5miles. Something clicked in my head and I decided to just keep going. Miles ticked by one after another. At some point I decided I was going for 13.1. Why not? Its my vacation, I can do what I want!  The last mile was a 7:10. 7:10! That's my (former) 5k pace. I don't know where this came from. I ran through 13.1 and my watch read 1:39:59. Admittedly this is not a true time. I stopped my watch twice for ~30 seconds (at the end of that first 5k of trackwork (5.1miles) and then after the 10k of trackwork (8.2miles). Even if I were to call it 2 minutes of stopped watch we're talking many minutes faster than my HM PR set in November. (If you recall I was gunning for a 1:45 that day and then blew up at mile 10 and shuffled home in 1:48:xx.) REDEMPTION was mine!

During the month I rode my bike outside twice. I feel good about that. One on quiet roads to shake off some of the lingering fear I have from last year's witnessed accident. The second in traffic to really get myself used to my new road pedals and all the stresses of riding with cars and traffic lights. Both were slow, nothing like the confidence I have on the trainer. To close out the month I did my second FTP test of the season. My FTP came up more than 10% and my W/kg increased from 3.3 to just over 3.75 thanks to more watts and fewer kilos! All in all, a great month!!

Neglectful Blogger!

Often while I'm out on a run I start to compose a post in my head. I come up with a title. I think through a paragraph or two of something that is on my mind. Then I get home and hurry to shower and eat something a go to work and the post never gets written. Weeks pass like this. Good workouts come and go. Bad workouts come and go. Weeks turn into months?!?! I was convinced I wrote a post at the end of Base 1 but checked the other day and realized I must have only wrote it in my head! Shame on me :-)  I am now at the end of my third training block (of 5) leading into my first A race of the season. I must blog more often!!!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

angry foot

In December, my wonderful husband bought me my first proper pair of tri shoes and cleats. I made the switch from the little spd cleats/pedals to the big road pedals. I was very excited about this.

Since January I have been struggling with an intermittent pain in my right foot. I thought it was from running too many miles on one pair of kinvaras. I thought it might be building back my mileage. I thought it might be that I had messed up my saddle position (fore-aft) when a screw came loose and then I fixed it but hadn't remembered exactly what the measurement was.

I didn't want it to be the shoes. About a week ago I looked at the cleats themselves and realized the two shoes were not exactly aligned, so I made a small adjustment to the problematic foot's shoe. I didn't have excruciating pain after my 3 hour ride last week, but my foot was still numb (just in a slightly different location).

Then I took my bike it for a tuneup. It is a recovery week for me this week. So I didn't ride Monday through Thursday. I didn't really notice until yesterday afternoon, but my foot was better all week. Then yesterday afternoon the familiar spot started barking (after an easy 90 min ride).

I think its time to admit that its the shoes. I bought them too small. I think they are squashing my foot. Or maybe these big Look shaped cleats aren't good for me. I don't know. I'm not sure what to do. I can't return the shoes. How do I know if I buy another pair (which I don't really have the money for) that they will be better? 

What shoes have YOU had success with? If this were you would you keep playing with cleat position or jump ship?

Friday, February 17, 2012


Surely its true that I would love to be fast. To swim 1:00 100's, to run an 18min 5k, a 40min 10k, or a 1:30 HM. Sure. No denying it. It would be great. But if I had to choose...if I could have my heart's desire...I wouldn't choose speed. I want to be able to go and go and never tire. To run happily not for an hour but two, three, or four and have the last minutes feel as great as the first. To go in the morning and be able to go again at lunch and in the evening. To have the same energy before work as after.

A (not so) little voice tells me that it will never come to pass, to give it up. But it is such a sweet fantasy, I don't let go.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Month in Review - January (and December 2011)

December 2011
Swim: 11,500 yards
Bike: 400.7 miles
Run: 75 miles
Other: 8.6 miles
Weights/Core: 12 sessions
Total Time: 42 hours 27 minutes

2011 Totals:
Swim: 252,575 yards
Bike: 5316.35 miles
Run: 1105.5 miles
Other: 130.15 miles (walking, hiking)
Weights/Core: ~30 hours
Total Time: 613 hours 32 minutes

January 2012
Swim: 23,425 yards
Bike: 453.25 miles
Run: 73 miles
Other: 32.4 miles (walk, hike, snowshoe - mostly walk)
Weights/Core: 18 sessions, 5 hours
Total Time: 55 hours 7 minutes

Not sure exactly what to say about this prep and semi-structured base period...I like a routine. I like working out a lot. I like having mojo. I like going hard. There has not been very much of any of this. In December I sort of did whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted; but it was not very much. I got in the pool a few times but my swims did not continue to be good (as they had been, surprisingly, after my 2 month layoff). My often grumpy shoulder did its grumpy thing. I did short trainer rides which I enjoyed and allowed me to keep up with various tv shows that are on after my bedtime. I started going to a computrainer class at a local multisport store. I LOVE THE COMPUTRAINER. If I owned a computrainer I don't think I would ever ride outside. (This is not a problem I have to worry about given the cost. But I know the risk would be high given the amount of time I spent on my old run down trainer last summer when the roads were available.) I ran slow and short. I wore a heart rate monitor which continued week after week to tell me that my heart would explode at any pace faster than a walk (sometimes even at a walk). I spent the last week of the year visiting my hub's family and gaining a few last lbs.

On January 2 I started revamping my training and eating. Attention to recovery window refueling. Attention to adding fruits, veggies, colors. Attention to avoiding starches in the evening. The only hard part is what happens after 7pm. Fruits and veggies instead of starches during the day has been easy for me. Cutting out my luna bar + skim milk nightly dessert, difficult. Sometimes, very difficult. As always, easier to put on the weight than take it off, but I think I am on track to be back to my last summer race weight before my first A race in June.

Training itself is going according to plan. Although I haven't been feeling great I think that its to be expected (for me) during early base phase. The stuff that gets me going is the hard stuff. I don't have a lot of hard stuff going on. I was diligent about keeping an honest (read: slow) pace on all runs. I slowly started building back my yardage in the pool. Although its much easier to just hammer out 2 3000 yard swims (and then not have to drag myself back to the pool for a 3 time each week), its not the best for my shoulder or probably for my return to swimming fitness (which I know will return eventually). I got in 11 swims, ideally it would have been 13, but still a move in the right direction. I think I am actually going to go see a physical therapist about my shoulder. I know that once my fitness returns I will want to swim more and at that point the nagging pain will be a barrier - better to take care of it now. Riding has been good overall. Have continued with once a week computrainer class. I did my first ever FTP test (20 minute), which I enjoyed a lot. Finally a hard effort! I don't know what the number means relative to my peers. Regardless of the number, it will get me farther/faster the less I weigh and the better I can handle my bike. I played a bit with the QT2 calculator in terms of bike split predictions based on my FTP and cannot imagine being able to ride that fast (despite my power/weight ratio saying I should be able to). (Note, Rachel, RIDE YOUR BIKE OUTSIDE!!!)  I only did one long ride but was on my bike 18 times. Early in the month during a ride, my saddle went flying back on the rails (screw loose). I fixed it up and kept going but over time have come to realize that I think I didn't put it back in its right place. I developed some increasingly serious foot pain over a 2-3 week period. For a few days I actually got quite worried that I had a fracture in the head of my second metatarsal. At first I thought it was that my kinvaras, which I had been doing all my running in over the past 6 weeks. While those shoes are shot, a week off from running didn't completely fix the problem and the pain seems to get worse in the 6 hours after a ride. I finally moved my saddle and things seem to be improving. Still a work in progress though. I also changed my cycling shoes. For x-mas James got me proper triathlon shoes. Per the cycling shoe guy I went down in size from what I had been wearing - he said they should be snug. I am not sure if perhaps they are a hair too small? It also could be a cleat issue. Gonna have to keep playing with things. Lastly, I have been good (finally) about strength training. I built myself a faux-TRX and have been rotating between it, my kettlebells, and free weights/bosu ball at the gym. Good stuff. I love weights. I wish I were one of those people who had energy to workout in the morning and evening. I would love to hit the weights not immediately after my morning swim or run when I'm already a bit fatigued.

All in all, things are proceeding. My 20 week structured training plan began on January 30 for Patriot HIM on June 18. I did a modified Fitzgerald Level 6 last year - I was just working my way into being able to run 4 days a week last year - this year I am completely ready for it. So although I will again be working on a variant of it, I hope for it to differ because of its increased focus on the run, instead of being a bit short each week. Perhaps I should take a look at level 7 as well.

Onward to February!

Friday, January 20, 2012


I never did an end of year post or a 2012 goals post. Whoops.

I find winter demoralizing. My fitness is gone and slow to return. I have spent since the beginning of December only running easy in an effort to retrain my heart so that if doesn't f@%k me over all the time by exploding through the ceiling. I don't think its working. And now I also can't imagine running the paces that I previously considered run of the mill. I am trying very hard to be patient, but my patience and my faith are running thin. Similarly my return to swimming after almost 2 months out of the water has not been as smooth as I had hoped. I had a few good swims right off the bat and then it all fell apart. I'm happy to drill and go easy in the pool but I guess it would be nice to get faster. For the last 2 years I have been content to stay in a safe zone in the water and not push myself to improve. In all honesty I consider my swimming a relative strength b/c for whatever reason I can jump in and swim 30-34 minutes for a HIM swim without thinking much about it. But as soon as I start thinking about what others are doing, or as soon as I try out timed 50s or 100s in the pool I become painfully aware that I am not actually a swimmer. I can't swim a 1:10 100, not if my life depended on it. I feel like I should be able to. I realize I would need to let someone watch me swim. As a non-competitive swimmer it may be weird to say, but I resonated with what Mary Eggers said in her post today about feeling like she had it basically figured out until she let her coach video her swim and then she could see her need to go back to the drawing board. On the one hand I have no illusions of being a true athlete or someone who could ever really compete. But on the other hand it really gets under my skin that I'm not (and that I don't have the money to invest to see what my potential might be). There is a woman at my local Y who is a fish. I watch her swim sometimes and its hard for me to see what she is doing that makes her so fast.

...I feel myself getting pulled as I write into the dark pessimistic place...

Today I did my first ever FTP test on the bike. I think it went pretty well (relative only to me). I went 20W higher than I thought I'd be able to hold. But I have no idea what the number means relative to everyone else out there. I don't know whether it will matter one way or the other if I am able to increase it by 10 or 20W in the next 12 weeks.

I read an article a few weeks ago about two different types of triathletes. I am going to botch it now, but it had to do with those who are success seeking versus those who are failure avoiding. Obviously, as with everything, people are a mix of the two. I can feel both within me. I do really groove on a good workout. I enjoy numbers and tracking improvement and attending to the nitty gritty. But truly I think I fall into thinking about what I'm not, and what I won't ever be all too quickly.

I don't much like the tone of this post. It's a winter post, what can I say...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

November - By the Numbers

November 2011:
Swim: 13,000 yards (5 swims)
Bike: 176.2miles
Run: 60.65miles + 24.7miles walking
Other:  2 pilates, 3 weights, 3 yoga
Total Time: 36 hours 16 minutes

November was officially the off-season. I had my final race of the season on November 6 and then took a full week completely off. Then spent the next week doing what felt like hardly anything -- as little as I could force myself to. My mood tanks when I don't workout so this was very tough. I ended up walking a lot and doing easy yoga just to keep from getting too grumpy. In the second half of the month I finally got back to the pool after no swimming for 6 weeks (and only one swim in the 2 weeks before that - September!).  Realizing that I needed to sneak in 24000ish yards before the end of the year to reach 250,000yards/150miles was motivation enough to get going. I brought toys with me and enjoyed drilling and swimming without looking at the clock. Actually had 3 pretty good swims in a row, then 2 crappy swims. After having no interest in my bike at all for most of October I had a few more enjoyable rides (on trainer in my cozy spare bedroom) toward the end of the month. Running has been pretty pathetic. Harder than they should be given the pace. Not surprising though given the 5(ish - who knows, I'm not getting on the scale to torture myself right now) pounds I've gained in the past month. I have in my head the gain no more than 8 lbs rule of thumb from Racing Weight...but its amazing how much harder running gets with just a handle of pounds. Makes me really want to see what my running would be like if I could drop another few below where I spent this summer (a pretty happy weight - but perhaps not quite lean and mean).

Not much else to report for November really. Off-season sucks. Its hard for me to rest when I should. And gets easier for my to settle into the laziness just when I feel like I should be getting back into gear.

Something about late November, early December seems to get everyone thinking long and hard about their upcoming year. I've been doing some of that but feeling discouraged for some reason. Perhaps I need a few more weeks of unstructured time...paradoxically though, it seems like my regular routine (regular from Feb-Sep) is the thing that gets me in the mindset in which it becomes possible to think positively about future goals. We shall see...

Addendum: After posting this realized that I never wrote any sort of race report for the half marathon I ran at the beginning of the month. I was feeling cautiously optimistic heading into the race and then gave in to an uncharacteristic surge of outright optimism and fearlessness the morning of the race. This led to me abandon my realistic goal of going sub 1:50 and admit that what I was really gunning for was 1:45 (and had the times in the 3 weeks leading up to the race to think it was possible). This was a mistake. Made the same tactical error I always make (too fast in the first 3 miles - in this case something like 7:45 pace when goal average pace was 8:00 and had been very clear that first mile should be 8:15 or slower - not the 7:25 that I actually run). And blew up. It was pretty ugly. Every mile slower than the last kind of thing. Crossed the line in 1:48:24, a 3 1/2 minute PR but not even close to 1:45. Had I been shooting for 1:50 I think I would have come in faster than I actually did. Lesson learned? We'll see I guess. I felt off the whole time. Nothing like the super-hero runs I had been having in the preceding weeks. So maybe it was an off day. Maybe I screwed myself. In the week after the race I entertained the fantasy of jumping right back in and trying to go after another HM immediately. That faded though.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

MI mi.

Today on a nice easy 5mile ("offseason") run I crossed a milestone. 1000 miles.

Actually I'm at 1001. Last year I made it to 1000 but I included miles walked in that total and think given how I did my training log miles on the elliptical may have also snuck in there. This year I decided I really wanted to see the true run total. And, I made it, with 6 weeks to spare! I know there are folk out there crossing 2000 right about now. That totally blows my mind. I wish I could run that much. Maybe in a few years my feet with love me enough to let me put in that kind of mileage. For now I'm pretty happy with the thousand I did run. Now I just have a few hundred miles to cross 5000 on the bike and if I can get myself back to the pool another six to ten times I might hit 150 miles of swimming...

Friday, November 4, 2011

2 Months in Review - September and October by the Numbers

September 2011
Swim: 14,950 yards
Bike: 343.3 miles
Run:  93 miles
Other: 14 miles walking, 3 mobility/stretching sessions, no weights
Total Time: 41 hours 28 minutes

October 2011
Swim: 0 yards
Bike: 295 miles (all on trainer)
Run: 141.5
Walk: 29 miles
Weights/Core: 10 sessions
Total Time:  49 hours 39 minutes

September marked the peak and the end of my triathlon season. I tapered for the first 10 days of the month heading into FirmMan on 9/11/11. After some early season aspirations of big swim yardage my swimming fell flat in late August and by the start of September I had little interest in the pool. Thankfully I stumbled upon this small local lake (that I knew about but had never been to) and did basically all of my swimming there leading into my race. The decreased yardage didn't seem to matter much, with my swim leg holding relatively steady (30 seconds slower than last year but with tougher - colder and choppier - conditions). My riding this summer and leading into the fall also shifted in a strange direction. After the accident I witnessed it was hard to get myself motivated to go out on the roads. I forced myself out once leading into FirmMan but mostly just pounded out awesome trainer miles. Riding on the trainer certainly improved my strength and fitness, but not my handling or confidence. I took a good chunk of time off my bike split from last year and was oh-so-close to breaking the 3 hour barrier (next year!). It was only in the few weeks before FirmMan that it really dawned on me how much harder it is possible to be working on the bike. I tend to settle into a comfortably hard zone but don't think I spent nearly enough time pushing my limits. My running leading into FirmMan was solid enough until I started having some weird knee pain that freaked me out enough to cut things back quite a bit during taper.

Looking back on FirmMan itself I feel kind of neutral (is that weird?). I PR'd. Pretty significantly actually (9 minutes). I held strong on the swim. I made real gains on the bike - which was quite clear by the difference in the company I had out on the roads this year compared to last - I was actually with guys who could ride, not all by myself at the back. I fell apart on the run. Same as last year. I barely held on. I was hungry for a strong run but wasn't able to execute it. 6 weeks later I am feeling okay about that but it took a while. I ran a strong first ever half marathon 2 years ago. I way over-achieved relative to my expectations. Since then I have raced only one open HM and I completely blew up. I'm not sure that I even posted about this race, back in May, because it was so bad. I didn't realize at the time but I was in the midst of a cluster of migraines and basically was in an altered state trying to push through (with little success). That race and the slow difficult plodding along of run legs of 70.3s is in my head. I'm not a strong runner, or so I tell myself. Without any solid performances this year to point to it can get me discouraged. With a little time I have also realized that the big (very big for me) volume I was putting in on the bike this summer (600+ miles a month) may have taken away from potential gains I might have made on the run. Looking back at my training log its pretty clear that I was doing little legit speed work and of that work it probably wasn't at the training targets/paces I should have been shooting for.

Okay, back to September though. After the race I took 10 days to recover. Swam (doggy-paddle) at the lake. Spun in a low gear on the trainer. Ran at whatever speed I felt like. I also wallowed in some post season blues and tolerated wild swings in mood and appetite. After about two weeks I started to feel a little more like myself. I noticed that unlike last fall when my legs came back to me on the bike but not on the run, this year I was all about the run and had no interest whatsoever in the bike.

I signed up for a half marathon. I had been sort of fantasizing about jumping in with James at the Hartford Marathon on October 15, 2011 but was able to be reasonable with myself that a marathon (premiere) on 4 weeks training post 70.3 would be a bad idea for me.

I wrote a training plan for the 6 weeks starting after my 2 week recovery period up until the race (this weekend!). For the first time since before I got bitten by the triathlon bug I have really invested in my running. Hello, October! To be completely honest --- it has been AWESOME! I gave myself permission to not worry about swimming. In fact, I didn't swim once in October. I thought about it. I even brought my suit and goggles when I headed to the Y. Never once did I feel inspired to swim. For the most part I haven't had much interest in my bike either. Part of that may be that as soon as its cool enough to run comfortably it's almost too cold to ride my bike (on the trainer, in the outdoor garage) without my feet going numb. I did finally bring my bike inside a few days ago so hopefully will find some mojo again. So this month I lifted religiously 2-3 times per week and I ran.

I ran a lot! I ran 141.5 quality miles! In July, I ran nearly 119 miles with 4 long runs and some 10k oriented speed work at the track. This had been my biggest running month to date for me. October I ran only 3 long runs (14, 12 and 13.5 miles) but I steadily build the distance of my fourth weekly run and added a very short 2ish mile run on my weights/xtrain day. I was super diligent with the training plan I wrote. On Tuesdays I did a short trainer ride (40-50 minutes) mostly to loosen up and because I don't have to be in to work until 11 followed by a true speedwork session at the local track. I did mile repeats. I did 800's, 400's, 200's. I checked paces with McMillan before workouts and went after those paces at the track. On Thursdays I did tempo work. If you'd asked me over the summer whether I was doing my tempo runs I would have said yes. Looking back on it, maybe not exactly. I have a tendency to run my endurance runs and long runs a little too fast. I then run my tempo pace a little too slow. I think in my mind running is hard, even endurance zone running so its hard to think about running harder. This month has totally busted that thinking wide open. I can run faster than I thought I could. It is hard. But it feels good (on rested legs)! Throughout the month I have watched my paces improve and my effort at given paces come down. I have had more than my fair share of confidence building runs. In the second half of the month I started playing a game with McMillan where I would try to out-do him (or rather, beat myself). Its a pretty fun game when you're winning!

What I think started coming into focus for me is that this thing I thought was impossible for me - to build effort and speed over the course of a run - is possible. During a track workout that was planned as 800's at 10k pace with 400 recovery intervals, I found myself getting faster on successive intervals. As I hit my last planned 800 I did some math in my head and realized that if I added a bit of a push and an extra 600 meters or so that I could take down my old 10k PR. I couldn't resist. I pounded out that last 3/4mile at faster than 5k pace and bested my official 10k PR by 1:02 and my unofficial PR by over :30. I felt damn good about this.

Then I realized something about this McMillan game. When I "win" it tends to be in one direction - given a particular time I have run before, I can out-do his predictions for distances shorter than the benchmark. When I look at playing this game in the other direction it gets pretty daunting. I can't imagine running a 10k in the time he predicts based on my 5k. Or a half marathon based on my 10k time. I ran a strong (untrained for) 5k in June and have been using that as my benchmark. Here's the thing; I have also been telling myself all along that I can't really run that time. That it was a fluke. Turns out - not a fluke. This past weekend I didn't have a long run on the schedule, instead two short 6 mile runs. James had a run Halloween race. We got dressed up in costumes and drove early on Saturday morning to Salem, MA. I was planning to run my 6 miles while he raced. When we got there though it seemed like the only reasonable place to run (without risking getting seriously lost) was on the course. So I jumped into the race. It was 6.66 miles (Devil's Chase). I was not going to race. This is one week out from my half marathon. Just going for a run. James and I started together because he always starts slow (for him) and I tend to start not slow (for me), which evens out. We ran the first mile at an 8:15 pace which felt comfortable, then I let him go. I have been having some angry calves (from the increased mileage and switch over the mostly running in kinvaras) so was in my heavy trainers and just running along. I'm not sure what happened but I spotted a woman who was running strong. In my head I mostly thought I would watch her run away from me because I was not going to push it (and I'm not really a runner). But I kept plugging. And she didn't pull away. After a mile or so I finally acknowledged that I wanted to stick with her. I was running faster than I had planned but it felt like controlled chaos. I latched on. She would pull ahead on the downhills but then I'd catch back up on the flats and inclines. By mile 5 it was clear that I was pushing much harder than planned. And I was still with her. I stuck with her until the last half mile then I let her go. I stopped my watch at the 10k mark and checked the time. 50 seconds faster than that track workout from 10 days before. The time is exactly what McMillan predicts based on my 5k. I am faster than I think! In fact, that impossible 5k time from June, I ran the last 5k of this 10k+ race at exactly that pace!

Wow, I'm rambling! Guess I should post more often...

So October has been a really good running month. It has really crystallized in my mind the importance of true dedicated speed work for me. Working at my edge makes me feel strong. While it is easy for me to get into the whole narrative that I'm not fast and will never be fast (and I do believe this to be true in some objective absolute sense), this isn't really about being the fastest kid on the block. Its about the feeling of killing a workout, of raising the bar, of outdoing myself. When I can stick with that it feels pretty good.

And now, with November upon us, its time to race. T-minus 2 days!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

FirmMan 2011 - Very Short Race Report

My head still isn't screwed on straight after the race, so here is the thumbnail sketch.

Waves were huge and crashing. Current (turns out) was fast. Seaweed was disgusting. Thankfully I wasn't in the water for too long.
look at that mohawk!
Still dilly-dallying, as usual.

Was on pace to go sub-3 and was gunning for it but then there was a 6 mile stretch in the last 15 miles of all torn up, scarified highway so I slowed down to be safe. The ride was good, harder than I have ridden before. I love riding during races, when there are volunteers stopping traffic. I only got passed by 2 or 3 women in total - a huge improvement from last year. 


Crash and burn. Totally fell apart and it was not pretty. Started out with those numb legs that want you to run yourself straight into a cramp. Quickly those legs disappeared. I never found my good strong pace. By mile five I was above 9:00. By mile 9 I resorted to my first walk break. Miles 10 and 11 were very sad and very slow. Whenever I would try to speed up I would puke. I got basically zero nutrition in on the run. I was worried I wouldn't make it to the end. At mile 11 a woman passed me and I latched on to her heels. I was able to hold on for about 2/3 of a mile then I had to let her go for fear that I was exerting so hard that I would collapse (at a 9min pace, wtf?). When I reached the beach for the sprint to the finish I didn't have a sprint in me, just a trudge. 

Total: 5:36:17

I spent the next hour crumpled on the ground, spontaneously puking and generally worrying those around me. After that passed, we went down to the beach to cool off then indulged in a delicious picnic that my mother brought.

Crazy thing is...with so many people racing IMWI, Rev3 Cedar Point, PumpkinMan and 70.3 Championships, the field at FirmMan was small. My 9 minute PR was good enough for me to place 2nd in my AG!!!

(pics are misbehaving but i'll try to get them up soon!)