Monday, September 4, 2017

When the Hay is in the Barn and the Magic Happens!

I've always understood that about two weeks prior to a race the "hay is in the barn." At two weeks, you essentially have the fitness and strength you can maintain into the race. You can't cram in the gains. The final weeks are intended to absorb the training, maintain speed and fitness, stay sharp, replenish energy, and get mentally prepared.

Fortunately I got a great week of training in before that barn door closed. It gave me a much-needed boost in confidence at just the right time.

Running has been frustrating this summer. Maybe I write that every September as it seems like each year I am less and less heat tolerant. Plus I'm a year older and the threat of age-related speed decline looms larger!

I can't control heat, humidity, aging, or my day-to-day outcomes. But I can stick very closely to Coach Jim's training plan, bring my best to my workouts, and have faith in the outcome. As has happened many many times throughout my 8+ years of following his plans, things magically come together when they are supposed to. It's a pretty amazing feeling and nailing a workout, or a week of workouts, is every bit as satisfying to me as having a great race. I just had a great week.

It started last Monday with a very short brick that included a 15 minute easy aerobic run off the bike. I wrote to Coach Jim, "I didn't mean to go fast, but boy it just flowed. It's been a long time since I have felt that good. It's nice to know that still exists!!"

Thursday I had another brick with a 1:20 bike and 0:40 run. The bike included 2 x 15 minute sections at about 110% of FTP so they were hard efforts. The run started with 3 miles at 10-15s faster than 10K goal pace. Of the workout I wrote, "Ummm :-) I love when this happens... The reward for training through the tough times and persevering!!"

I ran my first three miles strong. Even after "shutting it down" to an easy pace, I still averaged more than 0:30 per mile faster over this 5.1 miles than what I ran for the Luray International 10K (which was not a satisfying run for me).

This is so true:

Saturday was an easy 1:10 run where I had to stay under a particular heart rate. Coach Jim knows me well: "No cheating or excuses to run at a higher intensity today! Start easy, end easy!" I controlled it appropriately and reported in, "That is the absolute best 8.75 miles has felt in ages. I could hardly contain myself. I felt great from start to finish - legs, mind, energy."  I was super happy about the pace and heart rate too. Even this easy run was faster than my Luray pace...can you tell that run is bugging me??

Sunday was a double brick (bike-run-bike-run) with hard efforts in the second bike (30 minutes at 195-220w which is a lot for me) and run (2 miles sub 7:10, I did 6:59 and 6:54). I earned a gold from Training Peaks, but more importantly, I knew I was getting the most out of myself, and I knew I was ready!!

3.6 w/kg

I absolutely could not do this without Coach Jim. I am grateful on a daily basis that I get to just show up and follow the plan - the pacing, heart rate, power, RPMs, intervals, time, and miles. I don't waste time questioning it, I just do it, and I have fun (a lot of fun) working to meet (or sometimes exceed) the goals of each session. At times the targets are downright intimidating to me, but I know he wouldn't write them if he didn't think I could do them. He shows me what I can do!

I'm ready. The hay is in the barn!

There are 80+ people from 17 countries in my age group at the Standard Distance World Championship September 17th at the Grand Final in Rotterdam. I will be showing up as prepared as I can be. I already know I have enjoyed the journey and that's what keeps me coming back for more.

Thanks to Coach Jim and to my training pals including Janet, Rebecca, Kristen, and Gary!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Luray International Triathlon: Seconds matter!

Yesterday I raced the Luray International, which was my first time racing there since 2011.  It's a popular and beautiful race in the Virginia region, drawing heavily from the DC and Richmond areas as well as from our Roanoke/Blacksburg corner of the state. The race includes a small pro field in an open/elite division.

Things started a little rough for me when something I ate on the way there Friday that did NOT agree with me. I "lost" most of my dinner and did not sleep well. Fortunately I felt OK enough when I got up the next morning and I was very happy to see my friend and training mate Janet (and her husband Gary) had made it to the race. They had traveled up the morning of the race after working very late the prior evening. They'd had almost no sleep!

I was super excited to finally meet Paralympian Patty Collins, who is also a coach with Team MPI. While I've worked with her for some time and we've communicated quite a bit, it's the first time we've been together in person!

I lined up for the swim with Janet hoping I could hang with her but she pulled ahead before the first turn! She is strong in the open water and just thrives in the swim.

Janet and me!

Lake Arrowhead

The water felt great and it was busy in the little lake, but not overly congested. I swam a 31:08 and came out just a bit over two minutes behind Janet on the 1500m swim.

I headed out on the bike and stuck to the plan Coach Jim had laid out for me in terms of target power and limits on surges. My legs felt decent but I was burping like crazy from whatever got me the day before. I eventually found Janet and Rebecca about halfway through the 26 mile course. I was happy to see I had the 2nd fastest female bike split among the age-groupers. I don't think it's a secret that I really enjoy the bike leg!

Gary and me in the same picture!

I came in from the bike as Gary was headed out on the run (or out for lap 2). The run was generally downhill out and uphill back on the two-loop course. It lulls you into a false sense of comfortableness in the first mile or so and then reality hits on the slog back up from the turnaround. On the plus side, my stomach settled in time for the run. It seemed like it was forever to start loop 2, then I got a second wind on the downhill and just did what I could to bring it home. It was not pretty and it was not fast. 

When I looked at results, I saw two master's athletes just ahead of me and was thrilled to see I snuck in as third master's. I was very surprised (and thought it was a mistake) to be announced as third overall. That's because the top five females were in an open/elite division, so the three of us were then top of the age-groupers.

The top three age-groupers were separated by just 37 seconds!! 2nd place started a wave ahead of us, so I wouldn't have seen her ahead as a target. Had I seen her 11 seconds ahead, who knows what would have happened. But, it's a good reminder that every second matters. [Full results here.]
  • 1st - Maribeth Malecki (age 53): 2:43:11
  • 2nd - Abigail Ruscetta (age 42): 2:43:37
  • 3rd - ME (age 50): 2:43:48

us master's athletes have wisdom and experience on our sides ;-)

I can't say I was feeling too positive on the hot, hilly, turn-y run. If you'd have asked me how I thought I was faring at that moment, I'd have said NOT well. It's a good reminder that we can't judge our own race while we are racing. Keep forging ahead to the finish and do the best you can with the conditions of the day!! You might just be surprised!

I look forward to cooler conditions in Rotterdam (remind me of that when I face the cold swim). 

Thanks to the best ever sherpa and photo-taker Bryan. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Salem Distance Run 10K: A return to my first-ever race!

Today I ran the 10k at 43rd annual Health Focus Salem Distance Run. It was meaningful because it marked my return to the VERY first road race I ever did in my life, the 2008 Health Focus Salem Distance Run, when I was 41 years old! I ran a 53:26 then (and a 47:51 today) and I have no recollection if it was the same or a different course. I do know if gave me an incredible sense of accomplishment and I was hooked. I've been running ever since!!

I found out that my friend Robin also made her road racing debut the very same time as me and she's also still at it! She finished 3rd overall female in the 5K.

Michael Wardian, the extremely talented marathoner and ultramarathoner from Arlington, VA, has been coming to this race for the last 12 years or so? (I missed the exact year.) His list of accomplishments is long. Last year he set the world record (total run time) for running 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days. He's finished 45th at Boston. He's gearing up for a 400k in the Gobi Desert. Anyway, it was super fun to see him there and I shamelessly asked for a picture.

He of course ran the 10K the fastest (34:45, a 5:34 pace!), took some time at the finish, and doubled back to help at the last water station, arriving before me, the runner, did.

Unlike many sports, professional runners and triathletes are so accessible to us recreational types! We share the course and the conditions, and the struggle is the same for all of us (their struggle is just faster and over with sooner!). There is nothing analogous in other sports like basketball, football, or soccer. Would (insert name of famous sporty person) come to your local (insert name of sport)? Michael ran the race, helped out on the course, then announced all the awards!

As for my race, I was pretty satisfied, running pretty even splits for the first 5 miles (7:30, 7:26, 7:37, 7:28, 7:32), then allowing myself to throttle back in the last mile (8:06) when I saw that first was way far ahead, and third wouldn't catch me. 47:51 isn't too far off what I've done historically (with the exception of my "anomaly years" of speed in 2012 & 2013, lol.)

I did consciously try to hold back a bit in the first few miles. I saw another female up ahead but just stayed within myself. The patience paid off as I caught her 4-1/2 miles in and held my position in 2nd. [Full results] Not too bad for being half a century old ;-)

I would highly recommend this race to others. The 10k is a nice/different distance and there are not a lot of local opportunities to run that. The course is interesting with plenty of turns and short hills. Turns were well marked with very large chalk arrows on the asphalt and there were plenty of course marshals. You could feel that the race organizers and volunteers had a great deal of pride in the race, the community, and their mission!

The race benefits scholarships in the health field and is well supported by sponsors. In addition to nice awards, they offered many nice door prize packages.

Following the race, I changed my clothes and headed out for a 26 mile bike ride, with several miles in a refreshing downpour.

It was a great day of training!!

Friday, August 4, 2017

44 Days To Go

I'm just 44 days out from Olympic Distance Age Group Worlds at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final Rotterdam on September 17. Once our June travel was over, I really buckled down and resharpened my focus to do the right things to be as prepared as possible to have my best race. Coach Jim made adjustments to my training and without teaching and travel to work around, I have a bit more time for it.

Changes include: 
  1. Sleep - 10 pm bedtime - not always successful but not too far off. Of course at this stage of life sleep is hit-or-miss
  2. More mindful eating and food choices
  3. Stretching and rolling each day
  4. Gym/strength training 2x a week - so far, so good and I'm enjoying it!
  5. An extra swim and and extra run most weeks
  6. More open water swimming
The training volume is higher, I'm on the track more, and there's more tempo/threshold work (but balanced with aerobic/easy). 

Another change is that I've been doing more training with my friend Janet. We are in the same age group and have been swimming together for a few years now, but have been sharing more bike and run sessions lately too. We are a really good match across the board and are pretty similar in terms of strength, speed, endurance, punctuality, and attitude! She's a multi-Ironman and a phenomenal athlete and human!! July is always a tough month for me for training because of the heat and the mid-season blahs, but she's made it great!

As promised, I took July off of racing. This month I am doing two races. The first is the Health Focus Distance Run 10k in Salem, VA on August 12. This was the VERY first race I ever did in my life in 2008 and I haven't done it since. Then I'll return to the Luray Triathlon for the first time in many years to race the Olympic distance as a tune-up for Rotterdam.

I got the Team USA gear. This is the first year ROKA is making the tri suits (top photo) and it's always interesting trying to figure out fit and sizing with a different vendor. At 5'7" and 130 lbs I ended up in a size large and it still feels a tad short...go figure. It's a back zip suit and came with NO chamois and NO lanyard for the zipper. How do they expect people to unzip for the "necessaries?" Luckily I had a spare lanyard and while we could send them back to get a chamois added, I'll just skip it. I took it for a test brick workout and while it was fairly comfortable, it left me chafed. 

The kids start back to school on Wednesday - a Junior and a Senior!! It's been a great summer and I'm not ready for them to go back. 

It's not exactly been the restful, sit around, read books, relaxed type of summer, but I'll take it!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Where has the last month gone?

It's always bittersweet when the summer solstice arrives (June 21) because, although it marks the beginning of summer,  the daylight hours very slowly begin to diminish. Late spring and early summer are my absolute favorite time of year - I feel energized, ambitious, and warm! With that, the past month has brought a lot of new experiences (and miles) for the kids and I. This is a major catch-up post!!!

I raced Mountains of Misery for my first time.

photo by Jordan Chang

This 102-mile bike ride/race, held on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, includes 10,000' of elevation gain and ends with a four-mile 12%–16% graded climb to the finish. It's a rite of passage for many area cyclists and I finally decided this was the year to do it. Due to my limited time available for long rides, I said to Coach Jim that I just wanted to be trained up enough to enjoy it and finish happy. 

With just four rides over 50 miles since the beginning of the year (53, 60, 66, and 68 miles),  I was surprised to feel good through mile 60, then through 70, 80, 90, and 98!! The last four miles most definitely lived up to the "Misery" part, but I was pleased to discover that I had the endurance and fitness to do it (not that I ever doubt my coach, he always has me ready)! I finished as the 7th female, in 7:27:51 [full results], which probably doesn't sound that great, but the last three miles took me 36 minutes to climb 1500 feet (yes on my TT bike). That included two stops and some walking, which also sounds pathetic until you've tried it...and tried it after already riding 98 miles. Huge thanks to my friend Kristen. I rode most of it with her - she's a smart pacer and as an RD I followed her lead on fueling and hydrating!

photo by Jennifer McDonald

I raced the Varmint Half Marathon for the first time.

This was also the first time that an AWARD was part of my motivation to race, but this race gives out the neatest homemade wooden sheep with plaques! My friend Tanya has raced this 11 times and I've looked longingly at her growing flock each year! 

The race is held in Burkes Garden Virginia. Called "God's Thumbprint," Burkes Garden is a valley bowl at 3000' elevation that is completely surrounded by a mountain. We run the inner perimeter.

About a week prior I mentioned my interest in the race to Coach Jim. With sprint and Olympic triathlons as my summer focus (and limited training time), I've only done three runs over 10 miles this spring. I didn't bother with a race taper, and had a tough track session two days prior, so I just wanted to race happy, and did. I finished fourth overall, and 1st master's in 1:45:32 [full results]. Another first - I had a lengthy mid-race conversation with another competitor - I was definitely laid back!! 

photo by Bill Huckle

With Tanya, Kristen and Jordan

I sent my kids off to Germany for a two week exchange program and I swam in a new pool.

Spencer and Grant spent time with host families in Quedlinburg, Germany through the German American Partnership Program arranged by their German teacher. I spent considerable time prior getting them packed and organized to travel, reminding them of things over and over (and over), and planning for every conceivable contingency (none of which happened of course.)  As a triathlete, I am naturally gifted at obsessing over all the details!! 

They had an absolutely wonderful time, exceeding any expectations! They flew out of and into an airport that was 155 miles from home so I figured if I was making the drive there and back twice, I should find something to do to break up the 300+ miles and I discovered the Greensboro Aquatic Center - a long course competition pool that's absolutely wonderful.

I did an open water swim in Lake Erie for the first time.

In all the times I've been up to visit my sister (and now mom too) near Cleveland, I'd yet to do an open water swim in Lake Erie. While the kids were out of town, I spent time up there. I found the Cleveland Tri Club on Facebook and connected with a small group for an absolutely lovely swim! As a triathlete (or runner or cyclist), it's easy to find community wherever we go. I'm looking forward to USAT Age Group Nationals in Cleveland in 2018 and 2019.

One of those in the background is me!
photo by Eric Gibb 

with my sister and mom!

I read a book for fun for the first time in over a year.

loved it!

I cleaned up all our gardens, thinned out plants and gave them away, and moved 10 yards of wood chips.

I won the Bath County Triathlon for the first time.

This was my seventh time racing but my first time winning [full results]. It was a smaller field this year as the race was no longer part of our state race series, but I was glad to support this much-loved event as I'd like to see it continue long into the future. Placing is a function of who shows up on race day, so regardless, I feel good about a race when I know I remained focused, smart, tough, and positive, and that was surely the case for this.

photo by Bill Huckle

photo by Bill Huckle

photo by Bill Huckle

photo by Bill Huckle

Moving on...

It's been a great ride but I am DIALING back for the month of July. I'm using it to recharge, slow down, empty out the calendar, and just attend to the smaller things. My next (scheduled) races are not until the Luray International on August 19 and then ITU Worlds in Rotterdam on September 17. I want to be in top form, rested, and ready.

But first...we are off on a college visit road trip - a different sort of endurance challenge!