Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Top 10 Clues it's Race Week

Three days until the PPD Beach2Battleship half iron distance race, the final race of my season (not counting a spontaneous holiday 5K or two). I am so excited! I did this race last year and loved it so much and I really enjoy finishing the triathlon year with a 70.3 after a season of sprints and Olympics. PPD B2B is one of very few events (two or three?) in the US that offer a very successful iron distance not attached to corporate triathlon - REV3, IRONMAN, etc. It's got amazing community support and you really feel like you are part of something special!

I'm feeling good. This is what I wrote to Coach Jim yesterday:
"I always ask myself before a race, if the race doesn't go according to plan, will I still feel good about the training that led up to it? YES! Will I feel like I wasted my time if it's a bad race? NO! I'm so happy for how the training has gone, what I got through, and what we have accomplished. The race is just the cherry on top of what I already consider to have been a successful season!! So I'm in a good mindset, the body is ready. You've got me ready!!"
There are tangible signs of my readiness, of the taper, and of the arrival of race week.

My top 10 Clues That It's Race Week:

1. Perpetual inescapable feelings of imminent potential spontaneous combustion. (translation: race horse in the starting gate.)

2. Presence of things like chia seeds, kombucha, and coconut water in refrigerator.

3. Apology issued to coach for final short brick run done TOO fast. (Yet I do it before every.single.race. It's just part of the process I guess!!!)

4. Triathlon explosion on dining room table (also known as packing).

5. Waxing and admiring of bike. Cleaning and lubing of chain. Stealthily hiding CO2 and spare tube. (awww, pretty Roo!)

6. Buying things at the bike shop (whether needed or not, but I did need spare tubes with long stems).

 Emma and Nate are not blurry in real life.

7. Attention span of a....goldfish? (drove PAST two destinations today, had to turn around).

8. Hyper aware of every body part. And hyper. And very aware.

9. Extra kale and spinach. (snacked on homemade kale chips with Cajun seasoning; yummier than pictured)

10. Toenails freshly painted to match kit. (kitty approved!)

Time to go stretch. Or eat. Or sleep. Or hydrate. Or notice something that feels odd. Or look at my packing list again. Or shine up the bike.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Purging the Training Equipment Graveyard

I started packing for next weekend's PPD Beach2Battleship race. That meant I was very open to non-packing alternatives to do!

It's no surprise then that my little "collection" of broken training equipment in the cabinet caught my interest. I'm generally an anti-hoarder, but I guess I'm a little sentimental about my oddly colored green Forerunner 405 that went to my first marathons and triathlons and logged a lot of miles. It's the same for the Garmin Edge 305 - it's accompanied me on many great adventures on the bike! But they are dead and gone, soul-less bits of plastic and electronics, blank faced, never to be revived, no more miles to be recorded.

But why did I keep two broken foot pods, seven broken heart rate monitors, broken headphones (hey never know when you might want to hear in just one ear), and a large collection of earbud covers all in sizes that don't fit me.

Sigh. One thing I will say, Garmin support is fantastic and if you want to know why things are a bit pricey - Well, it's because they are very good about replacing things when they break....and letting you keep the broken ones. Which I apparently do keep. For years.

One major upside to the purge is that in the process I discovered one brand spankin' new Garmin heart rate monitor that came with the new Edge and has never ever been used. Very wow!!! I have found that after 9 or 10 months the monitors get flaky even with a battery replacement plus they get stretched out too far to make them small enough to fit me.

So this is my current stash of what gets used regularly:

I'll confess I kept one foot pod "holder" and one non-functional heart rate monitor but recycled/tossed the rest.

Then I went to the garage and made this pile of tires and tubes to take to be recycled. There are reasons each of these came off my bike(s). In 5+ years I have never put an old one back on, so why do I think I would now? ("Good bike trainer tire" they say, but the bike trainer bike hits the road often enough that I need a tube/tire that I can trust.)

So you know what this all means, don't you?

Next week, one of the kids will have a school project where they need 6 old bike tires and 20 ear bud covers ;-)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Race Report: Hokie Half Marathon (PR!)

The second annual Hokie Half Marathon was yesterday, the day after Mirinda Carfrae's amazing comeback win yesterday at the Kona IRONMAN World Championship.

If you didn't follow that race, after the swim and bike, Rinny found herself 14 minutes behind the leader at the start of the marathon. It was a seemingly insurmountable deficit. Yet she steadily worked her way to the front, building to a 2 minute lead, by maintaining efficient and beautiful run form, strength, and focus as the commentators noted her "attention to detail" in terms of fueling and hydration. Watching her was mesmerizing.

I thought often of Rinny's determination and performance as I raced to a PR at the Hokie Half with a 1:39:55 finish. (I've only run two other half marathons though, both in 2008 in my first year of running.) That was 94th out of 1290, 18th woman, and top of the 45-49'ers. I was very happy and as with each and every race, I learned a few things along the way.

Lesson Learned #1 - Rough weather races are best shared with friends! Unlike Rinny's day in Kona, our race day began cold (50F) and rainy. Sigh! I talked my friend Krista into doing this race and the rainy Claytor Lake Sprint Tri. Nearly all of our shared races have been in challenging weather, and we have several pre-race "staying warm in the minivan" pictures like this one:

Lesson Learned #2 - It really is better to race without an iPod. I generally train with an iPod (but ignore it when I'm focused) and run most road races with it. And as we know, they are not allowed in triathlons. With Krista's encouragement I raced without and discovered I didn't need it, didn't miss it, and I'm sure I raced better without it. Thinking about it afterward, with swimming this year I have discovered just how much energy and effort is required to maintain technique when fatigue sets in. With minimal distractions I could better focus on maintaining run form. As Rinny demonstrated in her run, every detail counts!

Lesson Learned #3 - Third-person race commentary and coaching can really help! I heard this story recently on NPR Why Saying Is Believing — The Science Of Self-Talk, and how we are more encouraging when our self-talk is in the third person. I tried it out with some third-person coaching and race commentary in my head. For instance, I could hear Greg Welch from IRONMAN saying, as he did about Rinny, "look as she climbs that hill, her stride does not change!" Or I would say, "Cortney you are doing a great job here, feel how strong you are!"

Lesson Learned #4 - It pays to be patient early. We planned for me to run the first 5 miles fairly conservatively, and I stayed true to that, keeping effort and heart rate low. At that time I watched two fast local women (35-39'ers) pass by me, but I stuck to the race plan and let them go. Later I passed them decisively between miles 10 and 11. I ended up with a nice negative split on this course, which is tough considering the first few miles are mainly downhill. As Coach Jim points out, the benefits of the patient race and negative split are not only physiological, but motivational too as I spent the second half of the race just chasing down the next runner and the next and the next! (Listen to Coach Jim Vance's interview on Babbittville Radio about the Kona Pros who go out too hard/fast on the marathon and pay!)

Lesson Learned #5 - Running in the rain is fun. Volunteering in the rain is far less fun. Most of us had a pretty good time running in the rain! If you are dressed right (hat to keep rain out of eyes, light wicking clothes) it's a blast! We dodged puddles we could avoid, ran through the ones we could not, and kept moving! Volunteering is a lot of standing around - at aid stations, at intersections - and that does not keep you very warm, and certainly not dry. I did my best to say thank yous to all the volunteers, bands, and law enforcement, as I ran. Thank you!!!

This was a GREAT race and I would highly recommend it. I was extremely impressed by the organization and support for the runners!

Today is a day off, then a bit more training for the week before entering the "taper zone" for PPD Beach2Battleship on October 25!

P.S. Why is it called the "Hokie" Half you might ask? This is the long story of the Hokie Bird and Virginia Tech!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Emoticons Translated for the Workout Log

After 5+ years of logging workouts on Training Peaks it occurred to me that it should include an emoticon option for the comments sections. Think how much typing we could all save with these handy shortcuts that convey universal meanings from athlete to coach!

Here are some examples of emoticons translated:

Very good workout, went according to plan, all systems go, feeling good!
Much suffering.
Total panic meltdown and massive doubts regarding upcoming race. Please call with reassurance and coachly perspective.
Could not hit those paces/intervals/times. Do you have me confused with somebody faster?
Did not hydrate enough.
I got distracted and forgot to pay attention to what I was supposed to do.
Complete disregard for entire workout plan. Had a LOT of fun doing something entirely different.
OMG VERY hard workout, thought I would for sure die/pass out/vomit!
Slept through master's swim practice. But I needed the sleep. Really. 
The new GU flavor was NOT a hit.
That was one bad a$$ workout, thank you very much!
Drank too much last night.
GI problems.
Worthy of a celebration.
OH! Was I supposed to do ALL those things?
Fuming. Currently not loving this sport.
I love this sport so much!
That went well. 
Perfect execution. Exact precision on every single interval. 
Lost track of the number of laps on that set. And the time. Got nothing for you. Sorry.
Gold star workout.
Ummmm....notice anything? Hmm? Like a GIANT PR on that?

And that's just the start! What would you add?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Mental Strength and Endurance Need Training Too

This Buttercup sucked it up.

I had a big (for me) and MUCH needed confidence-boosting weekend of training. And not a moment too soon - I'm less than two weeks out from the Hokie Half Marathon, and less than four weeks out from PPD Beach2Battleship half iron distance race.

I needed the chance to prove to myself that I had the mental endurance to stay focused and deliver a consistent and fairly high level of effort from start to finish on these two key workouts that are much longer than the sprint/oly/rehab focused efforts of the summer. (wow that was a long sentence).

Frankly, my efforts on the bike have felt a bit lackluster. My runs have been inconsistent. I've struggled with focus, confidence, and positivity.

Building physical strength and endurance is a matter of consistent work, increasing physical demands, and sufficient rest to bring about physiologic adaptation. With Coach Jim, that part is taken care of.

Building mental strength and endurance takes the same, but it also requires stringing together thousands (or millions?) of moment-by-moment decisions to commit to do the work. It's really up to me.

I viewed this weekend as a dress rehearsal for the mental side.

What I did Saturday - 60 mile bike ride + 20-minute brick run with the first mile at 7:30 (about 20-30s under my half iron run pace.)

How I did Saturday - I did maintain mental toughness for the duration, despite the pleadings of the body to let off the gas the last 12 miles. I worked to keep heart rate between 150 and 155 and when things were tough I thought about technique rather than effort - a quiet relaxed body and steady, efficient pedaling. It paid off with a 20.6 mph average that made me very happy!

What I learned Saturday - I can stay focused and must! With focus comes speed and performance. I also learned that even if I'm hurting at the end of the bike, the run will be there, don't dread it!

What I did Sunday - 12.5 mile run, the longest I have done since last year's PPD Beach2Battleship half iron.

How I did Sunday - Confidence/focus dropped a little in the middle miles, then picked back up so that my fastest 1.5 miles (7:38 min/mile pace) were the final 1.5 miles! Cadence is a big indicator of my focus, and it stayed at or above 90 average per mile. I was very surprised to hold a 7:53 min/mile pace on this training run.

What I learned Sunday - The middle miles may have suffered from thinking about how much further I needed to go. "Run the mile you are in" I need to remind myself. That last mile and a half showed there is more in the tank than the body lets on. Don't be afraid to back off half a gear, just keep cadence up and stay positive!

Why mental endurance training is good - As a working mom and crazy busy person I'm in a constant state of multitasking. It's important to build mental strength and endurance in the context of a single task like biking or running. It's hard, but it's rewarding.

Take Away - Take a metacognitive approach and check-in constantly on your commitment to do the work; performance will follow.

Sharing my post-ride satisfaction with the ducks of Narrows, Virginia