Friday, September 30, 2016

IM 70.3 NC Training: Mostly good, plus one Pity Party

How in the WORLD is it almost October?? The last two months have flown by, in part because work has been extra busy and exciting with the Olympics, Paralympics, and now Kona - and that is all on top of the "regular" training and racing by the fortyninegroup athletes! On the homefront, our sons, now a sophomore and junior in high school, are nearly at the end of the first nine weeks of school. We have a lot going on, so I just give each day my best.

I am in the final weeks of prep for my last race of the season - IRONMAN 70.3 North Carolina (aka Beach2Battleship) on October 22. I've welcomed the longer runs and rides and training has been going mainly pretty well. 

I saw a solid rise in my bike FTP in mid-September. I knew I had been feeling strong all summer, and toward the end of an 80 minute ride, a 20 minute threshold section gave me just the chance to prove it!

My swimming confidence and skill continues to improve and I am aware of and somewhat more able to control the nuances of the stroke. The best part of swimming is the people in my swim group! It's a triathlon "support group" where we can check in with each other, compare notes, and encourage one another. It's motivating -- especially since three of them race full iron distance, which puts my training into perspective.

Running is mentally the toughest for me right now, and it's where I feel the least consistent. I've had a number of track workouts that scared me, but I was able to meet all my targets, so I'm not sure why the lack of confidence.

Two weekends ago I had a pretty big blowup on an important brick. It seems to happen before EVERY half-iron I train for, this being my fifth. I let it happen.

I had a long-ish bike with two hours at race intensity, followed by an 8-mile run at race pace. The bike was no problem, but I let that run get into my head. My response to the fear was to overcompensate, to run way under the goal pace, and three miles in I fell apart. Big surprise. Then my mental game went south and all I could think about was I HATE RUNNING. It became an ugly Pity Party.

A few tears were shed (pathetic and overly dramatic, I know, but it was a mental and physical meltdown) and I could barely muster a mile at a time. When at mile six I found myself at the entrance to the swim spot, I shut the Garmin off, and hit the water. Then my sopping wet self slogged the last two miles back to the car. 

As upsetting as that session was, I learned from it and it was a wake-up call for how I need to conduct myself on race day:
  1. Don't overcook on the bike. Be disciplined and ride with appropriate power - not "just" 5 or 10 watts higher
  2. Stay on top of fueling!! 
  3. Be disciplined on the run especially in the first several miles - no faster than target pace! Run within myself. You have NO business redlining in a half marathon, at least not until the end. 
  4. Stay relaxed and positive. If the brain goes south EAT something, it's probably a fueling issue. Then suck it up and keep your head in the game!
A few days after the mental meltdown workout, I had a good commiseration session with my friend and lane-mate Kristen Chang. She just makes me laugh and see the ridiculous side of things!

I share this to point out that training is not always smooth sailing. I don't love every single moment, no one does. We all face motivation issues, doubts, and negativity, but we know to move through those times and not make too much of them. The tough days are what make us tougher! 

Runs have gone MUCH better for me since that brick. One thing I figured out is that unless my run nutrition is super easy to access, I won't use it. It needs to be front and center so I tested out a front pouch on last weekend's long run and it worked great! It was a good 13 mile out and back redemption run (photo at top) with tempo miles on the return trip that surpassed my expectations. I finished feeling great (oh, the wonders of fueling!).

So this is my new half IM race belt setup: pouch for Clif Shot Blocks plus BASE Salt, HotShot, and a mustard pack for cramp relief.

And in other news, my Garmin 910 died this week. For a long time I've had trouble with the power button and it finally got to the point where I could not turn it on at all. Disassembly confirmed the button alignment problem, and a new Garmin 920XT was ordered and received. It doesn't look any smaller, but it's lower profile and more comfortable. I'm still finding my way through the menus and things, but the transition has been relatively smooth. I kind of like the bluetooth feature that alerts me to texts and calls, so I find myself wearing it more than just for workouts.

This weekend I have my last long ride and long run and I'm looking forward to both!! Three weeks!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Grown-Up Decision to Back Out of ITU Worlds

my $485 outfit

I have decided not to go to ITU Age Group Worlds in Cozumel this year. I will not fill my spot on Team USA that I earned at USAT Nationals in Chicago last year.

It was not an easy decision, but it was the right one.

It's been a challenging year, and most of it not relevant to my sporty blog. So, feel free to skip to the next paragraph if you don't want the details, or read on if you do. My mom was super sick last fall and my dad passed away unexpectedly in February. Then my mother-in-law's partner of 25+ years passed away in April; he was a beloved Grandfriend to our kids and lived nearby. My mom, sister, and I sold my mom and dad's family home, managed my mom's downsizing, and moved her into her new townhouse. There were changes at my husband's job and he's now working from home. Spencer was gone to Governor's School for the month of July. The new school year brought changes, opportunities, and challenges for both kids - now a sophomore and junior in high school. 

It's the stuff of life. But on overload. It's been hard. 

Through it all I have kept up training with minimal deviations. I always wondered how I'd handle sport if life got out of control. Now I know. Getting out to swim, bike, and run is important for me to handle the stress. I'm thankful for the structure and the solitary quiet time to think and re-center. Much to my surprise, I've raced OK too. 

The truth is, I procrastinated on committing to Cozumel. As an early planner, that was really odd for me. I paid the registration fee in March ($485 - includes the Team parade clothes), and I'd had a primo hotel room booked since January, but I had no flight booked. I didn't order a new uniform. After my dad died, I just kind of knew this was not the year for it.

To get to Cozumel was going to take two flight segments, a bus or taxi, and a ferry. Doing that with a bike box did not sound like fun. Shipping the bike both ways was going to be about $800 and take longer than a domestic shipment, and I was too late to get a rental tri bike. On top of it all, I would be racing at the top of my age group. I just couldn't justify the expense when weighed against my motivation level.

So I made the grown-up decision to pull the plug. I'm at peace with it, but after I made the decision I realized that three of our pro athletes from the fortyninegroup are going to be there - Summer Cook, Rudy Von Berg, and Joe Maloy. I'm more disappointed that I won't see them than I am about missing my own race!

This was the right decision for my own sense of balance and for what the kids and family need. But it still kind of sucks!!

I'm doing a local race next weekend and will focus on a solid training block for IRONMAN 70.3 North Carolina on October 22.

As I have often told others - the sport will always be there for us! It's OK to step out of a race, or a season, or a few seasons.

Fortunately Team USA will be there for me again next year in Rotterdam.

Highlights from Chicago's ITU Worlds:

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Race Report: Scenic Mountain Triathlon, Richwood, WV

Coach Jim and I pre-race. Thanks TriStateRacer for the photos!

The morning of Wednesday, August 24th I was packing up to drive 400+ miles to visit my mom at her new house outside of Cleveland, Ohio. Coach Jim had made some adjustments to my training schedule and wrapped his email noting we'd be driving the same roads over the weekend as he'd be "driving back down Rt. 19 on Sunday evening myself...doing the Richwood Scenic Mt. Tri this weekend."

IMMEDIATELY I began thinking about how I could detour off my return trip route and join him!! 

For years, he has talked about this very special triathlon in Richwood, WV that he has raced many times since the early 90's. On June 24th this year, the area was devastated by flooding and the 31st annual race was rescheduled for August 28th. I couldn't believe they hadn't just cancelled. I was compelled to go and support this race and this strong community.

Luckily my race bag is always packed so it didn't take me long to throw it in the car. The plan came together pretty quickly!

I had a great time with my mom and sister doing odds-and-ends new house jobs. My race "taper" consisted of a 60 mile bike ride on the Emerald Necklace trail on Friday and about a 6 hour drive on Saturday to Richwood.

I met up with Coach Jim and his family where they treated me to dinner at the Oakford Diner. Then we headed to the Four Seasons Lodge for the night. The Cherry River runs just behind it, and we soaked our legs and enjoyed the tranquility.

This race is unique in several respects:
  • It's a late start - 10 am - which gives the fog a chance to clear (and athletes a chance to sleep in!)
  • There are two transition areas 17 miles apart. One numbered bag is used for your post-swim gear, and another numbered bag contains your run gear. Both are transported to T2/race finish. It sounds confusing but in actuality it's a smooth process!
  • There are no assigned racks, no swim caps, and no race bibs, just our body markings and a hand-written paper tag for the bike. There's an air of informality. 
  • No turn buoys - the swim is up one side of a rope/swim noodle lane and down the other. 
  • The course is hillier than any I have ever done. Yes, it's scenic, but the word "Mountain" is in the race name for a reason! 
  • There's pretty much no cell phone coverage in the area, and I have to say that was kind of refreshing!

This is the only time all year people are allowed to swim in Summit Lake. I was in wave 2 with Coach Jim but lined up opposite him to race my own race rather than just tuck in on his feet (which was tempting). With my preferred breathing side to the right, and the rope to the left, it was not the straightest swim I could have done! Coach Jim came out of the water a good 45 seconds ahead of me. I quickly got my bike and then discovered there was no official mount line. Eventually I realized that and got on!

Below is the bike course profile [Garmin Data]. I LOVED it! I zoomed down that first hill in the 30/40mph range, then got to work heading up the mountain! My summer training with a lot of sustained high-power work had prepared me well for this.

Coach Jim's family cheered at several stops along the bike course which helped spur me on. (Both of his children are triathletes too.) Despite a very uncrowded course, I managed to pick up a drafter along the way. I shot him a few nasty glances and he eventually detached and I left him far behind (3 minutes). I averaged 19.2 mph and 196w.

photo by Spencer gives an idea of one of the climbs

As I approached T2, I saw a volunteer ready with my run bag, and another took my bike. I was off on the run and soon joined fellow runners Krystal and Brandon, with whom I chit-chatted a bit (which if you know me is very unusual) as we all tried to take the first half easy. The course is an out-and-back, so as you are enjoying an easy run DOWN to the Cranberry bogs gate, you just know it's gonna hurt coming back UP. 

The three of us traded off leads but just past mile 4 I fell of their pace [Garmin Data] and I allowed myself to walk a few times (exactly 12 steps each time). I let them go, feeling fairly certain they had been in the first swim wave and thus actually 5 minutes behind me. I felt better again in the final mile and finished up netting an average pace of 7:54.

photo by Spencer - heading down toward the bogs!

 the grass beyond the finish was very inviting

We were all treated to a wonderful post-race cookout with chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, sides, and plenty of drinks. I enjoyed browsing through the nature center, and as promised, awards started moments after the final racer finished. I finished 4th overall, 1st female [Results at].

Afterward, my bike and I got a ride back to my van with the McGehees - it was still at the lake!

I for sure want to return to this race and to this community again. It's a tough but rewarding course that has inspired me to improve my hill running. I would encourage my friends to join me next year!

Thanks to Coach Jim and his family for all of their help on race day!

Friday, August 26, 2016

USAT Age Group Nationals in Omaha, NE

Lee Turner, Brad Metcalf (also with One-on-One Endurance), me,
Coach MarkT, and Darcy Ytterdahl

This is my latest most procrastinated race report EVER. This entire year has been one of those extra crazy busy times of life and it's not looking to let up anytime soon. I'm typing this up from my mom's new house, a 411 mile drive from mine. I'm determined to get this posted before my next race.

Anyway, I was looking forward to a change in race venue for Nationals after three great years in Milwaukee, but I confess that I had to look up Omaha on a map more than a few times to remember where it was. It's along the border with Iowa, pretty much smack-dab in the middle of the country.

I arrived Thursday of race week where athletes were greeted by inferno-like temperatures of over 100 degrees. Athletes were a little panicked but the forecast promised "cooler" temps in the 80s for the weekend. I didn't fret about it but just focused on staying hydrated. We'd all be racing in the same conditions. 

The hotels in the area were plentiful but none were within reasonable walking distance of the venue at Carter Lake. Most people relied on cars, hotel shuttles, and the event shuttle to get back and forth. With one main road in and out, it made for a big traffic jam Saturday morning that delayed the race start by 15 minutes. (Advice: leave yourself plenty of time to get there race morning.)

Packet pickup was smooth and quick on Thursday and the expo was in full swing! TriSports had a big shop with plenty of other booths including the major sponsors (Garmin, TrainingPeaks, TYR, Rudy Quintana Roo, etc). The venue itself was nicely compact with transition, the Expo, and swim start all in close proximity. 

Lee and Coach Mark Turner of Houston, TX and Team MPI

Friday I assembled my bike (shipped to the hotel via BikeFlights, of course!) and took it to the venue for a test ride and for mandatory bike check-in. The shifting sounded a little grind-y so I took it by the QRoo booth where I found out that they are happy to take a look at any and all bikes in the QRoo family!

With the bike set, I turned my attention to the practice swim session. This was my first Nationals or Worlds without a wetsuit and I relished the low-80's water temps! I found the lake to be far less imposing feeling than past venues. It was a quiet little lake rather than a major harbor or boat inlet or alongside a towering building or pier. There was a long temporary pier built out into the water from which we'd do an in-water dock start (one hand on the dock). I was HAPPY to swim here!

The most wonderful part of Nationals is the people! I see friends year to year, connect in person with folks from the tri community who I have interacted with online, and I always meet new people. This year I was very excited to meet Bob Babbitt of Babbittville Radio. I have probably listened to 95% of his podcasts over the last five years, they are fantastic!!

Bob wasn't just there in a token role. He raced hard and earned himself a spot for Team USA for Rotterdam next year! 

Before I talk about the race, I'd like to mention the next most important thing, which would be FOOD! I was pretty happy with the food scene in Omaha, particularly because most of it was concentrated in the Old Market Business District. You could walk just a few blocks and find whatever kind of restaurant/food you wanted. The city itself seemed clean, quiet, and very welcoming!

On to the races!

Race morning I got set up in transition pretty quickly and then spotted Coach MarkT in his officially ref-ing capacity. Then I finally got to meet Coach Amanda Leibovitz of Team MPI! She's amazing - a full-time student working on a PhD in Sports Psychology, training/racing a full schedule, and coaching accomplished athletes. 

With Coach Amanda Leibovitz

I raced the Olympic Saturday and the Sprint on Sunday. I am pleased with my performance for both: I raced to my potential, and I stayed strong, focused, and happy!

A few highlights, tactical decisions, and strategies 

Swim Start: In the past I've gone out conservatively assuming swimmers who went out aggressively were faster than me. I've learned that is often NOT the case. This time I pulled my feet up to the dock and pushed off hard to get to the front as quickly as possible then let things sort themselves out. Good decision there! (It's always so fun to see and hear Tim Yount announcing at the swim start, he's our "Mike Reilly" at USATAGN!)

Swim: The course layout was such that in advance, you could figure out your line to the first turn buoy and from the second turn to the finish, knowing which side of the sighting buoys to target. I felt I swam straight both days and I caught an awesome draft in the Sprint! 

Bike: The bike course was generally flat (with the exception of one short hill I enjoyed on the Olympic) with a good surface and never annoyingly crowded. There were a lot of refs on the course and I did not see any willfull drafting taking place. My Normalized Power was pretty good for me: 202w (22.1 mph avg) for the Olympic and 213w (22.9 mph avg) for the sprint. I was glad to see that even on tired legs I cranked it up for the sprint. I felt a "go for broke" aggression on the sprint bike and had a blast!! If interested, here are the Garmin files for the Olympic and Sprint

Run The run was a bit warm! My plan on the 10k was to hold back on on the first 5k and hold or ramp up on the second. My mile splits were 7:21, 7:29, 7:38, 7:42, 7:41, 7:33, and 7:32 pace on the last .34 miles. I was just happy that I didn't fade in the last two miles. It was a long 10k but it's because our turnaround was the infield of the Ameritrade Stadium which was pretty cool! I stumbled onto a new strategy for the last two miles of the run -- I compulsively spelled the word "technique" as I went, one letter at a time as my right foot landed, over and over. I did that to keep up my rhythm and remind myself to maintain my form! I did the same thing in the Sprint where my paces were 6:59, 7:07 and 6:56. This time I spelled B-E-L-I-E-V-E. I'm easily entertained, but it worked. 

I was 12th out of 114 in the Oly, and 8th out of 53 in the Sprint. I am pretty sure I got Team USA slots for  Rotterdam for both but I don't know for sure yet. Full results here

I had a super fun race weekend and despite my apprehension about Omaha, it was a very welcoming and wonderful city! I look forward to next year!

Thank you THANK YOU to Coach Jim McGehee of One on One Endurance who has had his work cut out for him coaching me through this tumultuous year. Thank you to my mom and sister for their understanding as this race weekend happened to coincide exactly with my mom's move (which had been delayed). I'm grateful to my kids and husband for allowing me the time to train and race. Gracias to Sherpa Bryan for help with logistics and equipment details and for sponsorship by Solar Connexion.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Draper Mile: Downhill in 5:47

photo by Frank Locascio Sr. via Runabout Sports

On Friday night I ran the 35th Annual Draper Mile, put on by Runabout Sports, for just my second time. It's held in conjunction with our annual two-day community craft/vendor/eating/music festival called Steppin' Out. I had often opted out of this local race because I didn't want to needlessly risk injury the week before USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals. But I've mellowed...and it had just been too long since I had raced anything (July 4 to be exact). So the day before the race, I signed up.

It's a cool race because (1) it's a straight shot down one of our town's most historic and picturesque roads (2) it's downhill and the FASTest road mile you'll probably run (3) you finish down a vendor-lined street and into the heart of the festival and (4) there is tremendous local crowd support. It's just really fun!

the route

The elevation profile

This year they had a men's elite wave (6:00 or faster), followed by the women's elite (7:00 or faster) and then the open division. I'd run a 5:43 in 2014 so I took advantage of the rare opportunity to be categorized as an "elite!!"

The decision to race was rather spontaneous and since I'd had a pretty hard run the day before with working intervals and a threshold-type mile, my legs were a little sore, which I took to mean READY!

Of the 29 runners in the women's elite division, half (15) were under the age of 18.
I was the second oldest.

As we stood waiting for the gun, we heard some distant rumblings of thunder and a gentle rain began to fall. We took off and my mindset was to go hard, but carefully, knowing that painted areas of the road and speedbumps could be slick.

It's crazy trying to pace a mile. I really just didn't. My goal was to try to hang behind/keep up with my friend Marcia who I know to be particularly strong on shorter distances. I quickly reached what felt like a neuromuscular limit of how fast I could make my legs turn over. I was a little worried my legs might buckle!! My average cadence was just 95 though, not all that super high, but it felt like a Roadrunner-level turnover!!

Marcia ahead of me on the left. I am grimacing!
photo by Frank Locascio Sr. via Runabout Sports

With such a short intense race, the brain becomes hyper-focused. There is NO room for other thoughts like the ones that can creep in on even a 5K. It's a VERY COOL other-worldly feeling to think of nothing but legs, breathing, form, and motion.

I finished 10th with a time of 00:05:47.5 - just four seconds slower than two years prior [Full Results here] The fastest time on the male side was 4:04.5 by Patrick Woodford, and Oliva Beckner (age 16!) was the fastest woman at 5:04.8. Crazy fast!!!

After I finished, I found a spot along the course to watch the runners of the open wave. I looked across the race chute and saw my Coach and his wife, who had watched their son and daughter come through with the elite waves. Watching the families and kids come down Draper Road, I thought about how fortunate we are to live in a community that is so supportive of running that a one-mile race is an integral part of our community festival...for 35 years running!