Saturday, February 24, 2018

Northeast Duathlon: Run 1 vs Run 2 Analysis (plus a race report)

Today I drove about 2-1/2 hours to the Northeast Duathlon in the greater Greensboro, NC area. Coach Jim told me about it last fall and I was intrigued. I decided if the weather looked decent, I'd make the trek. Well, the weather was more than decent - sunny, dry, and in the upper 60s (maybe hit 70's). So I dusted off my always-ready and perpetually packed race bag, cleaned off the bike, and went! A 9:30 am start time made for a reasonable wake-up and departure time.

pre-race "glamour" shot, lol

This blog post is two things -- (1) a race report and (2) a quick analysis of Run 1 vs Run 2 across all of the competitors, you'll see why.

The Northeast Duathlon is a 1.6 mile run, 10.6 mile bike, and 1.6 mile run, based in Northeast Park in Guilford County. Each of the two runs is two loops of the park, and the rolling and smooth bike course finishes with a lap around the small park, so it's very spectator-friendly!

The race is well organized but has a casual feel, as it should for an early-season race. There were no bike numbers, no assigned rack spaces, and since we were body marked with numbers, we only had to wear our bib number on the second run (thank you!).

I was a little concerned about the mass start with 175 of us. I positioned myself near the front but the group stretched out pretty quickly. There were no issues, and it never felt crowded on the park trail.

That first mile on fresh legs is always SO seductive!!! I ran it in 6:48, which probably made for a poor race strategy but definitely made for a lot of fun!! I came to my senses (i.e. slowed down) and finished the 1.6 miles of Run 1 in 11:05, 8th ranked out of 53 women.

I was feeling pretty cooked coming into T1. Unlike in a triathlon, where we approach bikes in bare feet, I had to remind myself to remove my running shoes before pushing the bike out! Thankfully I did that.

coming back into the park

AH it felt good to be back racing on the bike. I was motivated by a fellow racer up ahead, Colleen (we chatted post race; she's a grad student on the Duke Tri Team). We traded off leads (without drafting) and it served to push us both. I kept telling myself to keep my foot on the gas to give myself as much of a lead on anyone/everyone chasing me in the second run.

We had a gorgeous day in a very pretty park!

Run 2 for me is about finding rhythm and flow and staying mentally positive. I don't look at my watch during races much anymore. This run was a 12:13, ranked 10th among women. That was 10.3% longer than my first run. YIKES!! I wondered how my slowdown compared to everyone else's?

-------------------- DETOUR! --------------------

So let's take a race report detour! I copied all the results into Excel then calculated the % Time Increase of Run 2 over Run 1 for all the participating athletes. (Apologies to my past statistics professors for the quick and dirty analysis.)
  • Average: 13.7% (std 7.8%)
  • The range was -3.4% (negative means faster on Run 2) to +45% (positive means faster on Run 1).
  • Only 4 athletes finished Run 2 faster than Run 1 - all were male - and those were -3.4%, -1.6%, -0.5%, and -0.5%, so not a big difference.
  • No significant difference in % Time Increase by Gender.
  • There is no correlation between % Time Increase and Age (-0.0786) or with Run 1 time (0.181)
So what does this mean? No matter our age, no matter our speed, most of us will suffer a significant decline from Run 1 to Run 2. It's the difference between fresh legs and tired legs. 

Note: There was a female racer age 80! Love that!

My disparity at 10.3% was less than the average difference of 13.7% but still probably not ideal. I mean, starting a race with a full-throttle mile is never a good idea (except at the time it sure seems like it, lol). 

I'm wondering how much of a difference would it make to go more conservatively in Run 1? Would going 30s slower in Run 1 mean I could be 45s faster in Run 2? Would it make me faster on the bike? Maybe. OK, probably. I am pretty sure that I may never know!! 

And how do Run 1 and Run 2 compare for elite duathletes? What is the "sweet spot" for maximizing all three legs and what is the resultant ideal difference between Run 1 and Run 2? Is there one?


I ended up finishing 7th overall, in a time of 57:06 (Results here). This race series doesn't offer a master's division, but I was an AG winner, the fastest woman over the age of 27, and had the third fastest bike split of the women.

We received awesome winter hats for participating (great idea), and the awards were mugs with hot chocolate mix! The RD, Richard Swor pointed out that had they not done that, it might have been 25 degrees, rather than 65!! 


The thing that flashed into my mind a lot during today's race was just how capable and strong I felt to work hard - to work hard physically. I certainly work hard in other areas of my life, but for me the confidence of physical work carries over into the mental work much more than the other way around. 

This has been a VERY fun February of racing. It's time to buckle down and get ready for Du Nationals on April 8!!!!

Thanks to Coach Jim of One-On-One Endurance, to Solar Connexion for continued support of my racing, and to Bryan Walsh, champion sherpa. 

Monday, February 5, 2018

wazUPwidis: The Test of Calf Fitness

photo credit: Jay Proffitt 

It's been two days since the wazUPwidis Urban Run and Stair Challenge and my calves are still sore - the good sore, the kind that reminds you that you did something fun!

I don't always write up 5Ks, but this was such a blast and so different from anything I have done before.

First you'll note the course footprint is not very large:

And the elevation profile is not one that Mother Nature would provide:

The unique course owes its fun to two parking garages, ramps, pedestrian bridges, and stairwells. (Oh and it was 20 degrees, but once you start running that part doesn't matter.)

Here are some of the highlights from the course description:
  • The start will be at the pedestrian crossing at the Wells Fargo Tower
  • Head to the transportation museum where you will encounter some locomotive inspired terrain. (Note: that meant running along parked trains, crossing rail road tracks, and running across gravel)
  • Enter the Church Avenue Garage where you will climb 165 steps.
  • At the top you will cross over the top deck of the garage, enter the stairwell and descend 165 steps back to 1st Street. 
  • Here you will head back to the MLK Bridge, head over the MLK bridge, run to the main entrance of the Gainsboro Parking Garage where you will run down the ramps, then up the stairs (57), and exit the garage
  • Run down to the Pedestrian Bridge (39 steps up).  Cross the bridge and and enter the parking garage.  Run up the parking garage ramps to the top, 7th floor. Now descend the 7 floors back to ground level.  
  • Now for the best part. Here you will climb the 20 flights of the Wells Fargo Tower (440 up), cross over to the down stairwell to the main lobby (440 steps down).  Out the front doors, taking lefts around the building toward the finish at Market Street

What I enjoyed was the fact that my brain was constantly busy!! I had no idea where I was going or what was next, so I kept an eye on the runner ahead, followed arrows, and observed course marshals at the many turns. I was busy navigating stairs, looking for ways to minimize distance, and taking advantage of any opportunity to hit the accelerator.

With my brain occupied, I was very much in the moment, and I didn't have time to judge myself, only to to do my best in each instant.

Before I knew it, the race was nearly over. We exited the tower stairwell (top photo) and turned to enjoy a short sprint to the finish - probably my best finishing kick EVER, lol!

It was exciting to have finished 3rd female (results here). But what I loved above all was the feeling of just going, of not knowing what was next, of changing gears and directions. I wasn't measuring myself against some pace standard I had set for myself, I wasn't calculating how much of the run was left, I just pushed on in that way that feels so good to me.

I felt strong and I felt happy. That's why I do this. Isn't that why any of us do this?

This was a great start to the race season and put me in the proper frame of mind. As I come up against the inevitable age-related speed declines, I'm reminded that the great feeling of racing is not tied to a number. That great feeling is tied to an honest, hard effort and a happy heart.


photo credit: Jay Proffitt 

Postscript: I used the stairclimber at the gym for just 10 minutes at about 95 spm a few times a week for the last month or so and I do think it helped for this race!

photo credit: Jay Proffitt 

It was so nice to gather in the warm Market Square building after the race! 

Friday, February 2, 2018

There's a reason fish swim in schools...

I suspect the reason fish swim in schools is that without buddies to encourage them to swim their best, they'd get complacent, swim too slow, and get gobbled up.

At least that's one of the upsides for me as part of the Christiansburg Aquatic Center master's swim group, coached by Judy Wolfe.

Yesterday we swam 12 x 100's, with diminishing rest, as part of our main set. A new member of the group was in the lane next to me and as we pushed off together, I noticed she was just a bit ahead of me, which really motivated me!! I did all I could to squeeze out as much distance per stroke as I could. By the 6th repeat I was able to match her and hold that for the duration of the set. (I'm the 4th column, she's the 8th. Each 100 was one minute plus that number of seconds.)

I finished feeling so accomplished and happy!!

There's no possible way I could have done this on my own. She said the same. It's great feedback to look over and see where you are relative to a similar/slightly faster swimmer.

We all swam well, with my lane-mate and friend Jen setting another PR for herself!!

If you have a master's or similar group in your area, I would encourage you to consider trying it out! Coaches and fellow swimmers will help you get the hang of things and there are lanes of varying speeds. Don't be intimidated! There's no need! You'll see that we are all in it together, and the benefits of coached groups swims are tremendous in terms of swimming skills, fun, and friendship!

As an aside, I found it amazing that our coach could track and record all the times for us, and send us off the wall with three lanes leaving on two different intervals (plus another lane was doing a different workout.) Then there was me, sometimes wondering if I was on the first or second 50 of the 100!!! LOL.

I'm so fortunate to be part of this group and it continues to grow, making it even more fun. Want to be part of it? We swim Sundays 5-6 pm and Thursday 6-7 pm (Mon/Wed 7 pm in March due to swim meet conflicts).

Saturday, January 27, 2018

I'll have routine, please, with a side of adventure

I am finally, happily, getting some routine back in my life. Yay!!!! From mid-November through mid-January I had two trips to Ohio and two trips to LA plus the fun but un-structure of the holidays. That, combined with an "off-season" mentality, did not offer a lot of positives for my training. But I wasn't stressing. It was just life at the moment. I knew structure and routine would return and it has. Again with the Yay!!!!

I had my longest run in quite a while today - at just over 11 miles - shared happily with my friend Kristen. She and I have both started new jobs recently and we had lots to catch up on. It was a harder effort for me than for her, but the miles flew by. And in an unrelated matter, I don't know why there is one port-o-john randomly near Allisonia on the New River Trail, but on this day I am grateful to whoever made that decision. Enough said ;-)

"Routine with a side of adventure" is very much how I prefer things so I'm glad that my days and weeks are falling into a rhythm. Days start with some early morning work, getting kids off to school, then training/errands, then my work day -- coordinating the majority of my hours to coincide with my colleagues on the west coast.

Weekly workouts are anchored by Thursday and Sunday night Master's Swim and Coach Jim populates the rest of the training schedule with bike, run, gym, other swims as needed, and REST!

Getting structure back into my training has had other positive impacts. I've been eating much better after a holiday of chocolate, cheese, wine, and more cheese, plus also cheese.

Racing (in the sense of participating in a race haha) starts for me next weekend. I'm doing the 6th annual wazUPwidis Urban Run and Stair Challenge - 3.25 miles plus 1000 steps. That should be interesting.  I've always been curious about it but have never done it. My specific "prep" has involved 10 minute stints on the stairclimber or Jacob's ladder each time I go to the gym.

The weekend following that I'm doing the Blacksburg Classic 10 miler. I said to Coach Jim that I wanted to approach it as a training run without any taper. I'm not anywhere near "race ready" in the fierce, mental sense, so I want to work hard but not go too deep into the well for that one.

Then two weeks later, weather permitting, I'd like to head to the Northeast Duathlon, which is kind of a lot of driving for a super-sprint style race, but I put it in the category of the "side of adventure."

I have no races planned for March, so I hope to get in a good training block to be fit and ready for Duathlon Nationals in early April in Greenville, SC!

In other news:

  • I finally ordered new running shoes since it's been about 10 months since the last new pair (loooooong overdue). I'm going with Brooks Pureflow and can't wait to get them!!
  • I've done a few runs on Zwift (in addition to rides) and it's pretty cool!! I'm hoping they will add swimming in soon so I can use my power-based Vasa Swim Ergometer and do an entire triathlon on Wattopia! 
  • I am hooked on the heavy rescue tow truck show called "Highway Thru Hell" on Netflix (5 seasons!) and when I need enticement for the treadmill or bike trainer I remember I can watch that! Isn't it strange what captures our interest?

Wishing each of you as much...or as little...routine and adventure as you desire!!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

GoodBYE 2017!!!

I closed out my training year by showing this wintery day that I was tougher than it.

It was 18 degrees when I started my 140 minute ride. And a balmy 19 when I finished. 

During that ride, I had some very happy and comfortable periods, some tough patches, and a few times that my hands were so cold I really thought about bailing. But I kept on pedaling, and I am so thankful that I stuck it out on my coldest ride ever!! I wouldn't have changed a thing.

Speaking of "wouldn't have changed a thing," a friend of mine posted that recently in reference to her very tough year. I read her words and paused, contemplating. In 2017 I got through a long overdue divorce. It hasn't been easy, but I had to get through it at some point. So yeah, I would not change a thing.  Just like my bike ride, this year there were some very happy and comfortable periods and some tough patches, but I got through it. I have come a long way in the last twelve months and I am excited for a new year!

This year has been FULL TILT crazy with the German exchange program, college applications (we are down to just one more), a new dog, job change, some trips with the kids, life....oh and training and racing!

I'm pretty proud that I was able to keep up my training and race decently this year. I finished as a USAT All American for the 8th year in a row, was Long Course Duathlon National Champion (age group), did three local triathlons, finishing 1st overall and third overall (twice), and was 19th at the ITU Grand Final (F50-54). I finished four road races, coming 4th overall at the Varmint Half, and 2nd overall at the Health Focus Distance Run 10k. And I did the Mountains of Misery Century for my first time. 

Yearly volumes:
  • 2856 bike miles
  • 823 run miles
  • 123 swim miles
I am VERY grateful to my coach, Jim McGehee, and my training pals for rallying 'round me. I am typically a solo trainer, but I really leaned on friends this year and logged some wonderful miles with my pal Janet!! 

My goals for the coming year are to simplify, slow down, and take a little more down time. I hope that doesn't sound selfish. I started over the holidays. I read a book my son recommended to me (Never Let Me Go), did a puzzle with the kids, went to a movie with a kid (Lady Bird - very good!!), and met friends out. It was wonderful!

I'm also ready for consistent training. I ran a personal worst 5K on Christmas Eve...but in all fairness, it was on the heels of two months of low and erratic training volume (three trips in a month didn't help there). It's at least reassuring to know that the training pays off, and not-training doesn't! Incidentally...this will be another total short-course year for me. That's what I enjoy the most and what my life can realistically sustain.

I also want to get back to writing for me, which is why it was so important, on New Year's Eve, to sit down and get ONE more blog post out before the end of 2017!!  I am so grateful that my energy and creativity have an outlet through my work, but I miss doing my own writing.

So here it is, the last evening of 2017. 

I hear the conversation of half a dozen happy teenage boys in the basement and I'm so glad we are the gathering spot! 

I see our content doggo sleeping on his bed in front of me. (The cat just finished licking his head.)

I smell the chocolate chip cookies and the bacon (not shown) for the club sandwiches.

My legs feel the satisfaction of a long ride.

We are warm. We are fed. We are challenged and motivated. Everyone in this house is loved, and everyone in his house loves.

I am content (well, personally, not politically). I am ready for the New Year.

Welcome 2018!!

Happy New Year my friends!!