Saturday, December 26, 2009

2010 Goals??

Gosh, it's that time again already, to think about goals for 2010. Last year was easier in some ways because there were still some firsts to focus on - complete a first triathlon and a first marathon - and of course to improve upon previous race times. Goals should be measurable and assessable. And yes, this is a lofty set of goals for which preparations are sometimes conflicting (e.g. powerlifting and endurance sports). So goals for next year...just brainstorming and I'll come back to clean this up:
  1. 135 lb bench press (with pause, competition legal)
  2. complete another marathon and improve on my time
  3. sub 21:00 5K
  4. be competitive in the Virginia Triathlon Series - mostly sprints but finishing up with an Olympic distance race. The area with the greatest potential for improvement is swimming - technique (over-rotation issue), endurance, and confidence. Of course I'd like to improve the whole package of cycling, running, and transitions too, but I'm not sure how to really translate that into measurable goals.
Those are such competition-specific goals, though. Other things that come to mind:
  1. Get more consistent with good daily nutrition (I tend to slip post-race for a while).
  2. Develop a consistent strategy for long run fueling and hydration and stick to it.
  3. Strengthen lower legs which tend to be a weak link.
  4. Pay attention to injuries and address them early on.
  5. Practice replacing bike tubes and learn how to adjust shifter cables.
  6. Get better sleep.
  7. Minimize daily stress, shed things, take on less, just say no!
Another thing we have started is one-armed pushups. It would be fun to be able to do those!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas- Athletic style

Some of Robert's colleagues were discussing spousal Christmas presents. I don't know what the other wives will be receiving under their trees, but Robert said he was the only one who got a wetsuit for his spouse! (Due to the return policy, I *had* to try it on right away!) Tis the season for last year's triathlon wetsuits to go on major clearance to make room for the 2010 models.

Winter training

Back in October, Anne Jones, who has a triathlon coaching business, posted on Facebook, "Next summer's victories begin now." I was reminded of this last week, when I put in an hour of running in the pre-dawn darkness that was further shrouded by a very cold and steady rain. I told Jake I thought I deserved "bonus points" for such a run! To that he replied, "You ought to be grateful. Mornings like this I call separation days. How many of your competitors do you think stayed in bed this morning because of the weather? Because you still worked out you put a greater separation between yourself and everyone else. Be grateful."

My only objective right now is to make those small but consistent deposits in the strength and endurance bank. There is no "cramming" in sport. And at the right time, I'll be cashing in on those deposits!!

....but you know I still think I deserve those bonus points for the dark, cold, rainy run ;-)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

VMI Powerlifting Meet

The VMI Classic was held in the beautiful campus gymnasium that had an elevated indoor track and a large, well-equipped amazing gym in the basement. It was the kind of gym where a lot of weight gets moved and a lot of work gets done -- no fluffy Gold's gym here!!

In the early 90s, for several years, I competed in powerlifting (squat, bench, deadlift). Since I enjoy lifting and strength training and have been working out consistently and aggressively with Jake in the gym for 18 months with many of the basic lifts, it made sense to try out another strength meet when one (drug-free of course) popped up close by at Virginia Military Institute (VMI). Jake went to compete in the deadlift portion, and I ended up doing the push-pull which was bench and deadlift.

Powerlifting and running/endurance sports are two very different sports that require almost opposite training approaches and physiques. My gifts may be more with endurance sports and running, but strength training helps my other activities and gives me a degree of confidence that carries over into other aspects of life. And while I might not have the ideal powerlifting genetics, I believe technique and consistent hard work go a long way toward compensating. So...back to the meet.

This meet was close on the heels of the Richmond Marathon so compromises were made with training -- namely not a lot of deadlifting. Until the preceding week, I wasn't sure if I'd deadlift at this meet but things had been feeling good. Deadlift is my favorite of the lifts for its clean simplicity.

The week was spent shedding a couple pounds to get to the 123 weight class (I was 122 at the meet, 125-6 leading into it). We started the day checking weight at the Weight Club. I was fine and Jake did some cardio to sweat off his final bit of weight. We drove up to Lexington in a moderate pre-dawn snowfall and arrived for weigh-ins and an equipment check. We discovered that we needed tall knee-length socks for deadlifts and didn't have any. The meet manager gave us one pair from the raffle table (thanks!!) and I was able to borrow a cool pair of skull socks from Bettina Altizer, a world champion powerlifter. I knew Bettina from my old powerlifting days. She has a mind-boggling 451 squat and a 418 deadlift. Bettina said a few years ago she got a 320 lb bench - at a bodyweight of somewhere in the 130s. She's a Roanoke area lawyer too, just a great person, and coaching a few master's female lifters. So I felt like it was pretty good karma to be wearing the socks of such a successful lifter.

After weigh-ins, the meet began with eating, coffee, and a lot of waiting. The meet started just after 10 and it was mid-afternoon before I was up for bench. I was not very patient. The way things worked, I was in the last flight of bench, and then Jake and I were both in the first flight of deadlift so as he was warming up for deadlift, I'd be benching.

Bench was a bit of a disaster. I was opening with 121 lbs. As the day wore on I was second-guessing that decision, which may have contributed to the disaster-ness. Once you open the door of doubt, it's hard to close it again. The long wait and many hours of surging adrenaline that left me feeling depleted didn't help matters either. I missed my opening attempt at 121, I just got out of my groove and it angled back, my elbows flared, and there was no way to recover. I was so pumped for the second try at 121 that I launched if off my chest before getting the command to "press." Two missed attempts, only one remaining.

Jake was two floors below warming up for his deadlifts which were to start right after my bench. The plan was for him to come up for my third attempt, assuming the first two would be no problem. I let him know what was happening. He came up, helped me regroup, and gave me a perfect lift-off resulting in a successful final attempt- solid and strong. I've never missed an opening lift before, but it was still a good learning experience. And I didn't give up.

We went right into the deadlifts, and I noticed that my name had not been called as expected in the rotation. It turned out my card had been left out so I was added to the end of the first attempts, then put back into the rotation properly (they go lightest lift to heaviest) which meant very little time between my first two attempts. I opened with a comfortable 217 lbs, jumped to 231 lbs, and then had a longer break before a final and successful 242.5. Jake nailed all of his lifts too, making them look very easy, and finishing with a 468 lb lift at 165 lbs bodyweight.

As with running, the powerlifting community is very supportive and friendly. You're competing to meet or exceed your own goals with an intense focusing of mental and physical strength for a fleeting instant. The spectators and participants wish for successful lifts for everyone and shout encouragement to any lifter who needs it.

The brief but intense period of effort is in dramatic contrast to a race where you are maintaining physical effort and mental focus for a long period of time, over 20 minutes for just a 5K and up to several hours for a marathon.

It was a long day, but a fun way to wrap up competitions for 2009. And I look forward to improving my bench PR at February's bench press meet at VT!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pittsburgh Turkey Trot

This morning I ran my second annual 5K Turkey Trot in Pittsburgh. I wore the same turkey costume as last year, one I had made years ago for Halloween for Robert. Last year many others said they'd return dressed as turkeys, but few did. There were some hats, but I think I had the only turkey tail.

Last year I finished just out of the medals for my age group and knew I could improve. (Honestly, I felt something stronger...something approximating "revenge". I know that sounds bad, but it's more like if they can do it, I can do it and then some.) However, just coming off of the marathon, I wasn't sure what I'd be able to produce. That's part of the fun of racing. You just don't know what you can do until that gun goes off, you start running, and you do the quick assessment of mind, body, and soul.

This was an out-and-back course so at the turnaround you get a sense of your place. Like the last 5K, I noticed it was predominantly men ahead of me, and not all that many of them, so I figured my pace was pretty good. I just locked in with a group and kept pressing. The 5Ks go so fast there's no point in checking pace on the watch, you just turn the screws, do what you can do, and let the chips fall. I concentrated on holding an aggressive pace, but staying mentally relaxed and economical in my stride.

I met quite a few fellow Hokies out there!

Dressed as a turkey, you get LOTS of support, which somewhat makes up for the loss of aerodynamics from the tail feathers. In fact, coming into the final mile, I told myself that no one wants to see the turkey peter out, I had to finish strong. After a short mental debate questioning how badly I wanted it, and whether I wanted to challenge the only other woman within my sights, I decided YES in fact I wanted it badly. I found another gear I wasn't sure I had and surged ahead of her. It paid off with a result I am very happy with!

Time: 21:15 (last year's time: 22:12)
Pace: 6:51
Placing: First in Master's Women
8th woman across the finish line

All results:

Sunday, November 22, 2009


I paid the extortion prices for some digital photos from the race. NOW I know what all those cameras were for on the course! The drizzly weather did not exactly set me up for glamor shots, but what the heck. Here's a few shots from the day!

It looks like I am floating, which I sometimes feel when I am running.

Check out Robert - the only guy in RED in the crowd!

Funny rooster tail hair going, but digging the quad!!

YAY! Done!!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Richmond Marathon Race Report

Warning: VERY long.

3:38:39 – chip time (official finish time)
3:51:59 - my needed Boston qualifying time
8:21 mile pace
19 / 221 Age Group
131 / ?? Gender
696 / 3785 Overall (5188 were registered, a 73% show rate)
1:48:38 - half
2:46:38 - 20 miles

Yesterday I ran the 32nd annual Richmond Marathon…which was my first marathon….and I could not have written a better script or better ending. I arrived on Friday, and we stayed at the historic and beautiful Jefferson Hotel, just blocks from the start. I spent the day keeping busy – packet pickup, perusing the expo, settling into the hotel, and getting the blood flowing with some light elliptical work and stretching. The expo featured a lot of running gear along with Richmond Marathon apparel and souvenirs. I couldn’t bring myself to get anything though, afraid of somehow jinxing myself and being stuck with a memento of a bad race.

My husband and older son came, along with my trainer Jake, which was a huge bonus since he could manage the details (and me) so I didn’t have to. My job was to stay relaxed and eat through the big cooler of food we had brought.

After a week of record-setting rains, things cleared just in time. Race day started with clouds and drizzle, and temperatures in the upper 40s. I made two rounds through the port-o-john lines with a short warmup in between, then it was time to shed my toasty layers and get to work! Jake talked me out of wearing two watches (in case one failed) and two iPods (same reason) and he was right. So it was just me, my Garmin running watch with HR monitor, and two gels pinned inside my shorts.

I had elected to run with the 3:40 pace group which was led by a local runner, Shannon Price. Shannon has great energy (that’s an understatement really) and you’d be hard pressed to find a runner who derives a deeper joy from the sport. His enthusiasm is contagious, and I felt I needed the group mojo to really feel good and enjoy this. The Boston qualifying time for me is 3:51:59 so the 3:40 group gave me a big cushion. I had the splits for the Boston time written on my arm in case I needed “plan B.”

Off we went, and Shannon had planned to run about an 8:18 pace to give us a little time cushion, and he didn’t mess around. We got right up to speed and I had to expend some mental effort just to navigate the crowd and keep up. Before long I had Shannon’s shirt and singlet burned in my brain and like a bunch of ducks we followed our mama (ok, papa) duck!

Very quickly it seemed, we had ticked off a few miles, with Shannon announcing mile paces, and I was happy to be DOING it rather than just thinking about doing it. As I had planned, I shed my long sleeve shirt and gloves, left at an aid station and hopefully donated. Early on I felt like I had something akin to an anxiety attack and my heart rate really spiked (see Garmin Connect - Activity Details for Richmond). I had to will myself to chill out, not wanting to waste any energy unnecessarily. As I ran, I did little talking, just listened to my iPod and thought about keeping everything relaxed with efficient running form. I spent some time thinking about people who made it possible for me to do this, and the list of those who have helped, encouraged, or inspired me, is long.

Miles 7-10 were beautiful along the James River which was RAGING! The area had heavy tree cover, the road was closed, and we could spread out. I ran alone ahead of the group for part of this. As I ran I realized how wired I have become to expect hills up ahead. Around every bend and turn, I expected to see them, but there were very few. I did get a chuckle out of the fact that inevitably, up every “hill” there were always a few people walking. Flatlanders!! I think in some ways the flat course was tough on me because the impacts and the workload stayed the same for so long without the benefit of the changeups from the ups and downs.

We hit the 10 mile marker and it wouldn’t be long till we hit 13.1 and the half-way point. The crowds were great, shouting encouragement, yelling my name. It was a bit startling to hear my name called at first, nearly forgetting it was printed on my bib. That support was helpful, and I was amazed at the sheer number of people who came out to watch, in addition to all those at the aid stations holding out cups and gels, arms extended with water and PowerAde for hours and hours. I wonder how sticky and drenched they got from spilled and jostled cups?

We crossed the James again between mile 15 and 16. Even up on that cold blustery bridge, there were small pockets of spectators cheering us on! About this time I started to get really hungry, despite having had three gels at this point. I kept thinking about how good it would be to eat when it was all over, so I spent some time considering all my food options!

All this time my body was feeling pretty good. Even my knee that I had banged up three weeks prior and had been giving me problems had not lodged a protest. I had some areas of tightness here and there but just concentrated on relaxing them and things resolved.

By mile 20 I started to get a little excited, but I reminded myself that I still had about an hour to go. I had to just stay steady, relaxed, and very patient with myself, because at that point I would have been happy to have been done. One of my concerns leading into the race was whether I’d have to stop at a port-o-john and if so, whether or not I’d be able to catch back up to the pace group. To my surprise, I never did have to stop. My other concern was if my stomach would hold up as I’ve had some pretty major GI distress after long runs in the past. Again, a non-issue. My body likes to keep me guessing!

Miles 22-24 seemed long and I would have liked to have slowed down, but I convinced myself that going slower would just prolong the situation so best to keep it up and finish. By 24 I was REALLY ready to be done. I was starting to pass folks who were walking, dealing with cramped muscles or other issues. My heart went out to them and I remembered I came here to run not walk, so no way was I going to walk unless I was out of options. I continued to keep Shannon in my sights and put one foot in front of the other.

Thankfully the last half mile or so was downhill so I could just roll through to the finish. Normally I have a kick left, but on this day, I decided against it thinking the possible damage wasn’t worth it. Little did I know the toughest challenge awaited. I got my medal and stopped briefly, but long enough to know I was in trouble. I remember Spencer saying he was proud of me while I leaned on the metal traffic barrier for support and I could hardly respond.

My whole body hurt and my brain seemed to go crazy trying to figure out what to attend to first. I didn’t know what to do. Jake kept me moving then I tried alternately standing, sitting, and lying on the ground. I had a few incoherent conversations with some other Blacksburg friends. Then I went into the Omni for a pee (finally) and ended up lying on the floor by the fountain. Jake stretched me out, but I was so happy to just lay there, I really didn’t know how (or if) I would ever move again. Someone from the hotel came over and nicely inquired about how I was then informed me that I couldn’t lay on the floor of the hotel! In the process of trying to stand my quads had cramps of a magnitude I had never before experienced, so Jake pretty much lifted my dead weight to standing. He had to put my shoes on me, help me get my tights back on, it was pretty pathetic. Soon the worst had passed. I had water and part of a banana and began walking around and doing a systems check. It seemed everything was OK, or at least no particular parts seemed worse than the others!

Robert and Spencer had gone to try to get the car and bring it around, but there was no way with the blocked off streets. It’s probably just as well as the walk back to the hotel was just what I needed. I had a shower, some lunch, and within a few hours was really feeling pretty good. Today, the day after, I feel amazingly good and ready for more! My running routine will relax a bit through the holidays then pick back up for the next race destination, to be determined!

I was glad to knock this out after the spring leg injury and inability to run the Pittsburgh Marathon. I had to get this monkey off my back. Lately I had gotten pretty paranoid not wanting to be 0 for 2. Examples: we left my race bag in the parked car and I thought what if the car gets towed with my bib and chip in there? Walking in the city I saw the sidewalk grates as potential disasters in waiting.

In hindsight, I’m so glad the way things worked out for many reasons. This was a much stronger run than I could have produced last May. I was glad to have my trainer there before and especially after- considering all the help I needed in the hour after I finished. In Pittsburgh I was planning on it just being my dad and I and that wouldn’t have been good to put him through. The whole pace group thing worked out well too, knowing the leader. I also enjoyed the fact that so many people from the area ran in this and there was a nice little buzz leading into it. The running community is so supportive. In the end, we are all just challenging ourselves anyway.

It was a great experience, and I’m looking forward to the next training cycle (after some downtime)!! It turns out Boston 2010 registration closed on Friday, they are full, so I'll have to wait until 2011. That's OK, I'll be better prepared. To finish the race feeling good and wanting more, what better outcome could there be?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Day and a half to go

I leave tomorrow morning for the marathon. It's been a tough week - rainy and cold - and I'm off my normal schedule of things that I thrive on. I haven't been in the gym or pool since Tuesday and my few runs have been really short (and wet). My meals have been predetermined, and can you tell I'm feeling a little cranky?

Probably the biggest thing on my mind right now is my knee. It's not 100% recovered from that fall three weeks ago. There's a really sore spot on one bony prominence and it's not perfect when I run. I am just hoping and praying it holds up as I expect it too.

My energy levels have been really low too which is frustrating. I think it's a combination of lack of exercise, crappy weather, impatience, sitting around doing computer work, and maybe even too much sleep?

I feel as though I am not feeling the way I should, but then I realize I don't even know how I *should* feel. I can't let my brain play tricks on me, I've felt way worse in the past and hit good runs.

I have so many mental motivators, let's hope I remember them.
  • The pain of meeting my goals will be less than the pain of not.
  • There is no tomorrow on this marathon, I need to hit it then and there.
  • Don't expect to cruise through this. It'll be hard work, maybe not turning the screws quite as tight, but maintaining it much longer.
  • The weak link is the brain when it gets bored. Counter the negative messages.
  • Be a machine, just go. Keep the rhythm. Ride out the tough times, they never last more than a few minutes.
  • Keep everything relaxed, minimize effort.
  • Compared to the terrain of the training runs and the trail race, this should be much easier.
  • Run right where I am, not thinking even three feet ahead. Stay within myself.
  • Run one mile at a time. Settle in and don't start thinking it's over until it's over.
  • Be grateful for the struggle; I'm blessed to have this opportunity, the physical ability to do it, generous help and support, nourishing food, good shoes, and a lot of LOVE backing me up.
  • I'd rather be running for 3-1/2 hours than sitting in a meeting or waiting for a plane that long. Heck, I couldn't begin to sit through a movie that long.
  • I can run twice as far as I think I can.
  • I've sacrificed things to get here, and so has my family.
  • The first 10 miles are the warm-up, the next 10 are the working set, and the last 6 are where I will really grow.
  • I've paid my dues and done the work - see entry on Mental Toughness
  • Think how great it will be to run in Boston.
  • Ironmen run marathons AFTER major swims and bike rides, so surely I can just do the marathon.
  • People run 50 and 100 mile races in all kinds of grueling conditions, surely I can do 26.
  • Enjoy the sensations, after all, "running is a dance that covers distance."
  • This is a celebration of months of prep, a year really.
  • This is the first of many marathons so finish happy, finish wanting more.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Favorite Running Movies

Running Movies:
  • Saint Ralph - very cute about a 14 year old running Boston
  • Running On the Sun - about the Badwater 135 race
  • Running the Sahara - 3 guys run 4400 miles
  • Runners High - Inner City Kids from Oakland, CA training and running in the LA Marathon
  • Pre - Steve Prefontaine
  • Run, Fatboy, Run - comedy!
  • Spirit of the Marathon - documentary on the elite
  • Marathon Challenge - documentary on the everyman
  • Ultramarathon Man - Dean Karnazes

Book exerpts: What I talk about when i talk about running

Pre-race neuroticisms send me on a quest for books about running to fill my time. This is one I picked up and enjoyed!

Exerpts from
What I talk about when i talk about running
by Haruki Murakami (Vintage Books, 2008)

"When I'm criticized unjustly (from my viewpoint, at least), or when someone I'm sure will understand me doesn't, I go running for a little longer than usual. By running longer it's like I can physically exhaust that portion of my discontent." (p. 20)

On running the original marathon course in Greece in very hot temps: "At around twenty-three miles I start to hate everything. Enough already! My energy has scraped bottom and I don't want to run anymore. I feel like I'm driving a car on empty. I need a drink, but if I stopped here to drink some water I don't think I could get running again. I'm dying of thirst but lack the strength to even drink water anymore. As these thoughts flit through my mind I gradually start to get angry. Angry at the sheep happily munching grass in an empty lot next to the road, angry at the photographer snapping photos from inside the van. The sound of the shutter grates on my nerves. Who needs this many sheep, anyway? But snapping the shutter is the photographer's job, just as chewing grass is the sheep's, so I don't have any right to complain. Still, the whole thing really bugs me to no end. My skin's starting to rise up in little white heat blisters. This is getting ridiculous. What's WITH this heat, anyway?" (p. 65)

"I've discovered that after twenty-some years, and as many marathons later, the feelings I have when I run twenty-six miles are the same as back then. Even now, whenever I run a marathon my mind goes through the same exact process. Up to nineteen miles I'm sure I can run a good time, but past twenty-two miles I run out of fuel and start to get upset at everything. And at the end I feel like a car that's run out of gas. But after I finish and some time has passed, I forget all the pain and misery and am already planning how I can run an even better time in the next race. The funny thing is, no matter how much experience I have under my belt, no matter how old I get, it's all just a repeat of what came before." (p. 67-8)

"If you carefully increase the load, step by step, they [muscles] learn to take it. As long as you explain your expectations to them by actually showing them examples of the amount of work they have to endure, your muscles will comply and gradually get stronger....As long as you take your time and do it in stages, they won't complain - aside from the occasional long face - and they'll very patiently and obediently grow stronger." (p. 71)

"No matter what, though, I keep up my running. Running every day is a kind of lifeline for me, so I'm not going to lay off or quit just because I'm busy. If I used being busy as an excuse not to run, I'd never run again. I have only a few reasons to keep on running, and a truckload of them to quit. All I can do is keep those few reasons nicely polished." (p. 73)

This during a 62-mile race: "As I ran, different parts of my body, one after another, began to hurt. First my right thigh hurt like crazy, then that pain migrated over to my right knee, then to my left thigh, and on and on. All the parts of my body had their chance to take center stage and scream out their complaints. They screamed, complained, yelled in distress, and warned me that they weren't going to take it anymore. ..I tried to talk each body part into showing a little cooperation. Encouraged them, clung to them, flattered them, scolded them, tried to buck them up. It's just a little farther, guys, you can't give up on me now!" (p. 109)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Review: Rock Tape

I wrote this review for Runabout:

I tripped and fell at the Brush Mountain Breakdown sustaining a bruised hip and knee and I was just three weeks out from my first marathon in Richmond. The knee was troubling, and the best I can describe it, it felt as if something was getting hung up on the outside of the knee. I kept visualizing a string on an instrument being plucked. Whatever it was, it was not comfortable, but I didn't want to mess with any kind of wrap or brace that might just cause other problems if I used them during a run. At Runabout Sports, I was given a roll of Rock Tape ( to try. (This particular roll was hot pink, always a plus!) I remembered having seen something similar on tennis and volleyball players, and learned that it works to lift the skin away from the muscle thus promoting blood flow. My massage therapist does myofascial release and I supposed it did roughly the same thing. I applied the tape as directed (there are printed instructions and also videos online), with strips curved around each side of the kneecap and additional strips above and below. WIth the tape applied in its stretched state, it created a comfortable tension on the knee, giving the sensation of mild support and counterpressure. Mentally it also provided a distraction. The adhesive holds up well even in water, yet leaves no tackiness behind when removed. It's pretty much like removing long bandaids though. Lotions will affect the adhesive so put it on clean, dry skin. I can't say for sure what it does or how it does it, but at this point, I am still using the RockTape on my runs and will continue to do so. I asked my massage therapist about the efficacy of this kind of product and she was very much in favor of it. I will definitely add Rock Tape to my arsenal of tools to keep me running.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Review: Garmin 405

I got the Garmin 405 last year for Christmas and despite my initial skepticism am now a huge fan. I wear it along with the Garmin premium heart rate monitor (waterproof and more comfortable than the original version) on all my runs, treadmill workouts, bike rides, and bike trainer sessions. I have the Garmin Speed/Cadence sensor mounted on my bike as well. This equipment takes a lot of the guesswork out of training and I’m pretty sure it motivates me to work just a little bit harder since it tells all!

The watch provides up to three customized screens of data with up to three types of data per screen, but I usually just stick to one or two screens which is enough. A touch of the bezel flips between screens. There are many data options, but the basics work fine for me - pace (min/mile), average pace per lap, time, lap time, distance, lap distance, and cadence.

In early morning runs I turn the backlight on and I like to use the autolap feature so I get splits for every mile. With custom bike or run interval type workouts, I use the Garmin software on the computer to easily create a program with the parameters and upload it to the watch. I don’t have to remember the specified times or distances, the watch beeps to tell me when it’s time for the next interval, and it tracks splits appropriately. There are countless other features like the virtual partner, auto lapping based on position, etc but I’ve not used those.

When I ride on the bike trainer, I turn the GPS option off to save power, but use the watch to track heart rate and cadence over time. Training Peaks can use this data to calculate distance and power.

After a run, I review my history on the watch, then upload it to the computer. Garmin provides some rudimentary software for the computer as well as a web site to upload data to share, but by far the best interface is on the Training Peaks site. There you can see your route map with mileage markers and an accompanying graph showing elevation, speed, heart rate, and cadence. You can select portions of the run/ride to see statistics just for that. From there, the daily log reports the time spent in each of the HR zones. That helps to assess, for example, if you indeed kept it aerobic if it was intended to be an aerobic only run.

The equipment works seamlessly together. The watch, because of the large number of options does take some time to get used to so be patient, but it’s really quite well done with the touch bezel and just two buttons. On a few rainy days I have had trouble getting the watch to respond to the touch bezel. I found I could wear the watch under a raincoat and it did not impair its functionality at all and helped with the rain glitch. Even when the watch itself acts up, I have never lost data.

I highly recommend the Garmin 405. It provides important information that foster more effective training practices and it’s well designed and engineered. Garmin also offers the waterproof 310XT, but it does not collect HR data in the water.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Brush Mountain Breakdown

(disclaimer: I ran this race against the advice of trained fitness professionals who rightly thought I was somewhat reckless to do this three weeks before my first marathon and they are probably right but it was still fun.)

I always say how much I love this race, I thought I should take the time to capture my thoughts about yesterday's event. The Brush Mountain Breakdown is half of a weekend event called the "Rowdy Dog" that features Sunday mountain bike races in the same area. Competitors can do one or both events. Ever since I did this race last year, I knew I wanted to do it again. The challenge this year is that it's three weeks before the Richmond Marathon which is the major focus of my fall training. All I kept hearing was "be careful" and as much as I wanted to do this race, I was nervous about my decision.

I woke up at 5 am to hear the wind howling and rain blowing and must admit to second thoughts about this race, but by sun up the weather had settled and the day brightened. I drove to the race site and parked, which involved driving the minivan down a short muddy steep embankment, through a gate, and into a recently used cow pasture. It was nice that this was the second year for me and I knew a number of people including the folks from Runabout Sports who have sold me countless pairs of shoes to help offset countless aches and pains. The running community, especially at this type of race, is incredibly collegial and supportive. This is a small but cherished race. The mountain humbles us all.

After the 3 milers (7 of them) headed off, the 8 (14 of them) and 15 milers (43 of us) took off down the single track trail. Nervousness was replaced with a focus on the business at hand, and the challenge to run my best race. There's not much use in expending energy here to try to pass so I just kept in line behind my student Leah, who in a last minute change of heart upgraded to the 15 miler. It starts up hill for the first mile and a half, so the heart rate gets revved up in a hurry. When things widened out, I passed a few folks and settled in with a group of guys. Two were VT students, and one was a married fellow with kids who goes to our country club.

After the aid station, we crossed the forest service road and were down in the valley I guess you call it. This meant more level trails, but also the first of many creek crossings. I picked my way through the first trying to keep my feet dry, but after watching the fellow in front just charge through, I decided I needed to do that too. I was amazed how quickly my feet seemed to dry after each of these. We probably had 8 creek crossings in total. At one point, we ran along a beautiful trail framed completely in mountain laurels. The trail is peppered with little mud bogs that force you into a kind of slalom step side stepping and leaping so you are not left running with mud-laden shoes. I was surprised I never pulled any muscles with those acrobatics. The other challenge were the stretches of trail that were just boulders and rocks to pick through. I got safely through those and the ankle-twisters seemed to come on the seemingly groomed trails with the random rock here and there.

Before long we were climbing up Jacob's ladder, represented by the large elevation change on this profile below, taken from my Garmin watch.

In my little crowd, NO ONE made it up Jacob's without walking parts of it. The challenge was to not walk all of it. I made it as far as possible, then with my heart just pounding, backed off a few times. It took all my willpower to pick up the slowest jog and resume the ascent. The topmost part was a series of switchbacks but no one even thought to just head straight up, it would have been too difficult. At the top we were rewarded with another aid station - fully stocked. After about a 45 second stop, a group of four of us headed off again. My glutes were feeling a bit fatigued, not something I was used to, and I wondered if they would bother me later in the race or the next day. Thankfully, they were never an issue.

Last year I ran this part alone and was never really certain that I was not lost. This year I had one guy in my sights and remembered the course so it was nice to not have that anxiety. I needed all my mental facilities to make it back down the mountain. It starts off with rocky, washed out switchbacks that all but catapult you from tree to tree. After making it through that, there is a long stretch of thin but non-rocky trail that is terraced into the mountain side. The guy in front of me bellowed "look at that VIEW!!!" It was incredible to look across the valley to the adjacent mountainside. You can't help but think that this is how mountain goats must feel perched up on a little ledge. It's one of my favorite parts.

Things open up again and you come across the third aid station. This one was unmanned, but well stocked, AND it included a special treat....FIG NEWTONS!! Oh, joy! I grabbed one of those, maybe two, and off I went again. The trail puts you back on Poverty Creek, where you are lulled back into a false sense of "I got this licked!" My legs never really seem to get tired on runs, and this was no exception. What gets me is when my heart rate starts to max out and breathing is labored, that's the thing that backs me off.

Around mile 11 things change when it's back UP the mountain and then into a series of ups and downs, ups and downs, and at that point, the UPS got really tough. I tried every trick in the book, thinking about the laps of lunges, tough treadmill workouts, and hill sprints that had toughened me up. I concentrated on the guy in front of me, but he's an ultra trail runner (runs over 26 miles) and was just a machine. He'd pull ahead up the hills, but I managed without trying to catch back up on the downhills. We caught up to two other guys near mile 14 and I (half) jokingly asked if we should try to take them! He was not interested but offered to let me go, but I said, no they weren't girls so I didn't care. I was feeling strong and good, but ready to be done.

We were cruising down the final stretch, headed back to the road and the finish chute, when out of nowhere, I caught a toe on something and went down hard on my left side. I was completely and totally shocked. That was not something I had prepared for or experienced and I was at a loss for what to do. This is what went through my mind in the .4 seconds that elapsed as I crashed to the ground. (1) I am jinxed (2) everyone who told me to be careful knew something I didn't (3) there are many people who will certainly kill me for doing this (4) am I injured? (5) how do I know if I'm injured? (6) what do I do now? (7) no way in hell I'm not finishing strong.

The fellow in front stopped, but I waved him on saying I was OK. I distinctly recall that my calf and quad felt like they had gone into a massive contraction. I had a knick on my knee that was trickling blood down my shin. I got up, took a few tentative steps, then broke into a run and finished. As soon as I crossed the finish line, I stopped, put my hands on my knees in the exhausted runner pose, and froze. My friend Kim who had finished 6 minutes before me in an awesome performance, ushered me to the hillside and brought me water. I sat there in my own little world for a few.

Finally, I wandered over to check my time and placing (23/43, 3/16 women; 2:20:16), then headed off to my car for the final challenge of the day. I had to get the minivan back up the muddy hill through the gate and out of the cow pasture.

Was it worth it? Absolutely. Will I do it again? Positively. There is something special about this small and intimate race, where ultimately it's not about man versus man, but man versus self and man versus mountain.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mental toughness

The theme for fall is mental toughness. I have come to learn that it is every bit as important as physical conditioning for success in training and racing, and it is something that JRP has stressed as we work toward the Richmond Marathon.

For me, mental toughness is about the ability to turn the screws on myself and redline it longer than I think I can. It's about producing the required effort to meet demand even if I am tired or not 100%. It's also about mental toughness with even the smallest choices of the day - doing what I need to do and not necessarily what I want to do.

Mental toughness was put to the test at the 15 mile Brush Mountain Breakdown in the Jefferson National Forest yesterday. It's a very hilly course with leaf-covered obstructions, rocky paths, creek crossings, mud bogs, singletrack mountainside trails, slick downhill switchbacks, and the famous (and humbling) Jacob's Ladder. This run allows for no lapses in concentration to assure solid footing. Examples of mental toughness on this run -
  • Running as much of Jacob's Ladder as possible, and when walking was unavoidable, having the fortitude to pick the run back up despite the fact that it was all uphill.
  • Recovering fast from a fall and resuming running, not knowing if I was OK or not, and still finishing strong.
Other examples I can draw on from the past few months:
  • The treadmill workout that began with successive quarter miles of 9 mph, 9.5, and 10 and ended with those in reverse. I was anxious about that workout for days leading up to it but dug in and did it. It showed me that I had more speed in me than I thought.
  • Being super tired but fixing rice, pasta, eggs, and chicken late at night for the next day's carb loading.
  • Running a strong 19 miles on a Friday morning before work because a weekend run didn't fit the schedule.
  • Pushing without letup for 21:27 in the Homecoming 5K, remembering the 3 seconds that knocked me out of first in the triathlon and vowing not to give up anything that day. Finished with a strong kick - no other way to do it.
  • Running 13 miles after not feeling well the day before
  • Cycling up the steep hill of Happy Hollow at Harding, legs burning, counting pedal strokes, suffering oxygen debt, but not letting up.
  • The last 400 yards or so of the 8 mile trail run when I just let everything out, had faith that my feet would find stable footing, and just watched the woods go by in a blur.
  • Stadium switchbacks with legs screaming stop by the end, but not giving in.
  • 10 sets of 7 dips, thinking there was just no possible way, but I did it.
  • Working out this morning at the gym and hitting the day's benchmarks despite being worn out and sore.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Homecoming 5K

Today was the Homecoming 5K. Grant ran in the 1-mile Fun Run with me alongside. He finished in a very respectable 9:38! Spencer ran in the 5K with our trainer Jake and he managed a strong race and is inspired to continue training and push things to the next level. I'm really proud of both kids!! It was a beautiful day, and that is such a fun, low-key race with maybe just 150 people in total. All the speedy women must have stayed home today since I pulled off the win for overall fastest woman with a 21:27. I was happy - first time I broke a 7:00 pace in a 5K. It earned me sufficient winnings to pay for a nice lunch for us all afterward!! Here's the VIDEO.

I have to admit it was REALLY fun to look up ahead and see it was only BOYS ahead of me! They inspired me and helped me turn the screws a little tighter. Jake reminded me to "run your own race" but even so I guess I got caught up in it all and went out too fast with a 6:25 first mile and a 7:25 last mile. Oops. Great day and fun to see Spencer getting excited about running too!!

Jake and some of his clients

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pushing past perceived limits

One of the best parts of building a relationship with a good trainer over time is that they get to know your capabilities often better than you do.

There were several example of this in yesterdays workout. One involved doing parallel bar dips near the end of my session. These primarily work triceps with some chest and shoulders. Normally I'll do three sets to failure, which is anywhere from 5 to 15 reps, depending on the exercises that I've done prior and how fatigued those muscle groups are.

Yesterday I was challenged to do ten sets of seven with timed rest intervals between. I really truly thought there was NO way I could do this, and that I had been set up to fail. I gave it my best shot, taking it one set and one rep at a time, knocking them out, and having to dig hard for that last rep and next set. But I did it, and left the gym with a great sense of accomplishment.

I once read that people can typically run twice as far as they think they can, but we are so programmed to put limits on ourselves. It's good to have people around us to push us beyond our self-imposed boundaries.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

What Commitment to Exercise Really Means

So often I hear people say, "I just don't have time to work out." The translation is likely, "I'm not interested in fitness (right now)." That's fine, but let's call a spade a spade. The truth is, most of us DO have time but choose NOT to.

But if/when a person chooses to adopt a healthier lifestyle and incorporate regular exercise, the time to work out CAN almost always be found. No one was more surprised to discover that than me.

By way of background, I'm married with two sons (7 & 9 years), working full-time at Virginia Tech juggling two faculty roles in addition to participating in several community projects and organizations. My husband works long days with an hour-long commute at each end, and the kids are each involved in a number of extracurricular activities. Needless to say, there's not a lot of surplus time in the schedule for anything extra.

How in the world (and why) would I squeeze workouts into an already crazy schedule??

Looking back on the past 18 months since I began working with my trainer and made the decision to adopt a fitness lifestyle I've seen through his example and for myself that it takes motivation, goals, discipline, perseverance, time management, streamlining, and accountability. It's a daily choice to continue along this path and obviously the payoff turns out to be pretty good or it wouldn't be sustainable.

Motivation: When I began, my motivation was to lose weight, get fit, and feel better. My motivation now? Well, it's that I really DO feel better and I start to go a little stir crazy after a day without exercise. (I'd heard that from other people, but I never believed it.) I just feel healthier, more energetic, and like I am able to squeeze more out of life. The important thing is to identify, deep down, and in all honesty, your individual motivations, no matter how silly they might seem. Here are some of my quirky motivators. I am motivated to run in the dark hours of the early morning, when hardly anyone is out because it makes me feel strong and powerful and a little unique to know that few people would do that. I like knowing I can swim a mile, and seeing that my biceps pop out just a bit. I don't want to lose all I have worked so hard for, so heck yes, I'll keep investing.

Goals: Early on my trainer encouraged me to identify and work toward a goal. It began, reluctantly at the time, with a half-marathon goal (I thought he was crazy initially) and continued on with additional objectives: more races, lifting goals, a triathlon, and an upcoming marathon. These bring focus and purpose to my efforts. Each and every workout, for better or worse, is an important investment in a long-term effort. It's like a financial investment - regular, modest deposits are the way to go. Races and competitions at once excite and terrify me, but as I complete each one, my confidence grows sending me headlong into the next challenge.

Goals give my trainer and I a common focus, and he does a great job of coming up with interesting and sometimes unique (!) ways to prepare for them. He makes sure that things never get boring, that's for sure.

Discipline: I have been challenged to become more disciplined in every aspect of my life. My trainer gave me an excerpt from the Competitive Runner's Handbook (Glover and Florence-Glover, 1999) entitled "Warrior" that reminds me that being an athlete is a 24-hour a day commitment, reflected in all the small daily choices I make. As a Warrior I must be disciplined to balance family/work/fitness, perform efficiently at my job, eat for performance, sleep and rest as needed, complete scheduled workouts, and tend to injuries. Am I perfect at this? No, I still eat chocolate here and there and stay up too long, get behind on my work, arrive late to pick up the kids from school, etc. but it gives me something to strive for, a direction to head. However, my life is still far more organized than it would be otherwise.

I don't miss a workout unless I am really sick (fever), injured in a way that precludes a particular workout, or at a point of overtraining. Even while I recovered from a leg fracture, I still enjoyed working upper body at the gym with my trainer several times a week and made great gains. Go with what you can do!

I bring myself fully to each and every workout, striving to be rested and well fueled. Again, not every workout turns out to be stellar, but with a long-range perspective, each is still a good investment and learning experience.

Oddly enough, one of my bigger issues right now is having the discipline to NOT work out and truly rest on days off and not adding unscheduled workouts into the mix. Discipline is as much about knowing how to push and persevere as knowing when to back off and rest. I'm still working on that one.

Perseverance: This is the one area where I have probably been challenged the most and grown the most. I envisioned a nice smooth upward path to improved fitness, not knowing that physical issues can and will pop up, especially in that first year when connective tissues are adapting to increased demands. Perseverance and faith are critical!

My first scheduled race ever was a 10K, and about six weeks out I had sudden iliotibial band issues. The IT is a thick band that runs from the hip down through the outer knee and can cause acute pain when inflamed. It severely curtailed my running at time when things were just taking off for me as a newbie runner. I couldn't believe what an emotional wreck I became, but my trainer got me through it physically and mentally and I recovered enough to run a strong race. At that point I started to understand the importance of stretching, icing, and attending to pain.

Fast forward nine months, and an awkward lateral step on a routine run left me with shooting pains up my right leg. I was a month away from running in my first marathon and had been training diligently and strongly. It was a very rocky, emotional, and frustrating two weeks before I got a final diagnosis of a fractured fibula. Weeks of a cast, crutches, and a boot put my marathon dreams on hold. Once again, my trainer helped me through by getting me to focus on complete healing, short-term goals (upper body strength-training), and long-term goals (summer triathlon, upcoming marathonz0. Looking back now, I see the silver lining to the whole experience. I learned that I can get through setbacks; was encouraged me to branch out with my cross training; completed a triathlon that I would not have otherwise done; made gains in upper body strength; and returned to running stronger than before. Keep a long-term perspective when setbacks occur and work around them creatively.

Time Management: With work and family obligations, I have needed to be creative to fit in workouts. I've also relied on the help of my family. Most of my running is completed before 7:30 am so I can be home in time to finish getting the kids ready and drive them to school. This means some mornings I am running as early as 5:45 am. I choose routes that have streetlights and enjoy the peaceful solitude on the roads. Resistance training is done 3x a week after work. I am fortunate to have the support of my mother-in-law who takes care of the children during this time. Swimming happens either at 6 am or at 11 am. I am fortunate that the VT pool is halfway between my office and my 12:30 T/H class. I got a locker and towel service so I can easily swing by for a swim on my way to class. I try to plan and be efficient with my time.

Am I totally excited every time I need to get up early for a run or to hit the pool? Most of the time, yes, but there are days that I have to talk myself into workouts or drag myself out of bed, but I never regret it and sometimes those turn out to be my best workouts!

I look for ways to save time. I rarely go out to lunch, keep work and books in the car to take advantage of spare moments, and keep social engagements to a minimum.

Streamlining: I originally called this section "sacrifice" except that the things I've given up I really don't miss and really don't need. Some things that have been jettisoned, either completely or mostly, include: TV (I hardly watch any anymore), alcoholic beverages (they interfere with sleep and workouts), and shopping (I do what I have to online). I sleep a little less now too, but with energy levels higher, I seem to need less anyway

Accountability: Ultimately I'm accountable to myself, but having a trainer makes a big, big difference! Knowing the time and effort that has gone into tailoring, crafting, and balancing workouts and schedules, I am very hesitant to omit a workout (and it rarely RARELY happens). I risk throwing the whole thing out of balance and robbing myself of an opportunity. It's like a contract. I demonstrate my commitment to the training plan and in return I know my trainer is fully invested and there for the ups and downs. And there are downs, usually when pressures and stresses of life threaten to bury me and he finds ways to keep me going.

So after a year and a half, I'm pretty certain that these are habits for a lifetime. I feel really blessed to have discovered the real joy of hard work, a soaking sweat, labored breathing, and discovering I can challenge and push myself harder than I thought I could. My kids are seeing first-hand how to work hard to reach goals. I see the impact it has on them as my 9 year old is about to run his second 5K and my 7 year old demonstrates great focus and perseverance in Karate.

I don't expect that my approach will work for everyone (or maybe not anyone), nor do I claim that I have this perfectly figured out. It's a daily and weekly commitment and juggling act but one that I am humbly privileged to be able to do. It is with the support of my family and my trainer that it works, but it was me who had to make the commitment and the changes. If I can do it, anyone can do it. It just takes desire and willingness to adapt. But the payoffs are tremendous and far-reaching to self and family. I promise!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

My car tells the story

Among the things with a permanent (or seasonal) home in my car are:
  • two stainless steel Nathan water bottles
  • large canister of Extend (branched chain amino acids for during/after workouts)
  • two iPods (one of podcasts, one of music)
  • spare car key with safety pin for use in running shorts
  • heart rate chest strap
  • running watch
  • towels for the gym
  • two pairs of running gloves
  • hat, ear warmers, scarf for when it gets really cold
  • arm warmers
  • calf compression sleeves for post-run shin issues
  • hydration belt with 22oz water bottle and pepper spray (just in case)
  • ibuprofen
  • bandaids
  • ziplock bags for icing body parts
  • lip balm
  • wrestling shoes (for deadlifts)
  • belt (for deadlifts)
  • gym bag with PINK lifting straps, small thing of chalk, gym passes
  • extra swim things - cap, goggles, etc
  • copies of weekly workout programs for me and for Spencer
  • assorted kid Clif Z bars in the storage drawer under the passenger seat

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Funny workout words

I'm sure there are more, but here are some funny words and expressions.
  • fartlek (unstructured run with periodic pickups...forgot this one, thanks JRP)
  • pickups
  • strides
  • hammer (as in go hard and fast) and the revered "hammerfest"
  • drop set, double drop set, triple drop set, triset,
  • settle-in (from swimming - regrouping after starting too fast)
  • aerobic, tempo, threshold zones
  • plyometrics
  • failure (actually a good thing, a goal to strive for on some sets)
  • deadlift, power clean
  • ladder workouts (running progressively faster intervals)
  • cycles
  • splits (no bananas involved here); then there are the negative splits!
  • bricks (workouts of 2 or more activities in succession e.g. ride/run or swim/ride/run
  • cadence
  • shake-out
  • whey, branched chain amino acids
  • refeed

Saturday, September 26, 2009

7 weeks from Richmond

Getting closer - seven weeks till the race. The mileage has slowly gone up (in a nice way that I didn't really notice) and I hit 35+ miles this week including a 17 miler today, which was my strongest long run to date.

I did what has become my usual route in the Tom's Creek Basin finishing up with a lap around campus. Miles 2-17 were an average pace of 8:18 and I worked hard to keep that up through the last mile. The most exhausting part is the mental aspect - keeping the pressure on but staying relaxed, remaining confident, and keeping the cadence up. Running books talk about either associating with your running body (i.e. keeping tabs on breathing, cadence, stride) or dissociating (i.e. thinking of other things, distracting self). I'm guessing I spend close to 3/4 of my time associating. I think of getting springier up hills, revving up rather than slowing down at the top, leg turnover, flowing down hills, etc. By the time I am finished I am so tired of hearing myself think!

It was my favorite running weather today - mid 50's, cloudy, misty rain. There were very few other runners out. And I do enjoy finishing up among the tailgaters knowing I am so much happier running than I would be sitting around at a party with no purpose.

I ran past a ticket scalper who obnoxiously said to me "this mile two?" to which I happily replied, "no, mile sixteen." I'd liked to have seen him run even two.

Incidentally, I think missing that May Marathon made me even hungrier for this one and more confident. I essentially have two marathon training cycles under my belt since I was only four weeks out from the other and had gotten I think two 20+ mile runs in to that point.

At any rate, it's about the journey, the training, the structure, the discipline. That's the stuff I enjoy, the racing is just a celebration of it all.

Monday, September 14, 2009

You can't buy fitness

Yesterday at the pool I overheard a bit of a conversation that included the following, "well, if I could afford to work out with a trainer every day too I could..."

It would be easy to assume one could "buy" fitness through trainers and products. There may even be folks who point a finger at me since I do work out with my trainer several times per week. But what they may not see are all the other hours that go into it and the choices that I and others make that they might not be prepared to make. They don't see the 6 am runs, the 8 pm cycling, the lunchtime swim, the nights I am icing and stretching sore muscles when I'd rather fall directly into bed. I forgo adult "beverages" (with rare exceptions), sacrifice sleep (usually up by 5 am), and work doubly hard at my job and managing the family so I can carve out time to workout without impacting others. I eat for performance which necessitates planning and preparation and implies very little dining out.

The gym time with my trainer is used to touch base on mental and physical readiness, to fine tune his nutrition and endurance training program, and to strength train. I do not lose sight of the fact that I am blessed and privileged to be in a position to work with a personal trainer (not to mention how amazing this particular one is). And I could not have gotten where I am without his help and encouragement. But did I "buy" my way to fitness? If you count among the payments sweat, pain, self-discipline, and occasional deprivation, then, yes! But they are relatively small investments that pay big dividends.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


There is something SO nostalgic about having a locker again. An orange, chipping paint, one missing hook, rusty bottom, combination locker. And just in front of it is a wooden bench, in need of refinishing, that has likely held up many a swimsuit-water bottle-towel-tennis shoe.

Of course now I have the locker combo in my Blackberry address book lest my overloaded mind should fail me.

There's something kind of cool and on-the-sly about walking along the Drillfield, with school books and computer in tow, nothing out of the ordinary, nothing to indicate I am about to do something ATHLETIC. Then a quick detour to the right, down a set of stairs, past the check-in desk for a towel and a trade of my Hokie Passport for a rubbery wristband that says they know I am in the pool. Change into my swimsuit, grab goggles, cap, iPod, training instructions, and water, and off I go.

That old pool. How long has it been around?

Everybody gets down to business, it's like the library of the sports world. Quiet, individual, no one speaking, nothing to hear. Lots of thinking going on. I think about my stroke, lap count, work, music I am listening to, the kids, spring triathlons, and the occasional, "now why am I doing this?"

On rest breaks I see the banner showing the yearly Hokie swim team rankings in the NCAA. Mostly they are in the thirty-somethings. Are they proud of that or embarrassed?

I finish my swim, and head back to locker 1503 where my towel and shower accouterments await me, jammed in to a space that was not designed for today's laptop storage needs.

I close the door, with the swimsuit locked to the outside for drying purposes, throw the towel in the laundry, reclaim my Hokie Passport, and rejoin the march of Hokies around the Drillfield. Round and round we go!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Training on a need-to-know basis

On my run today, I was thinking about my training style and how it is markedly different from how I like to manage the rest of my life. I'm a total planner - a day out, week out, months out, years out. I prefer to think now about next summer's vacations and have already picked up a few Christmas gifts and started a list.

However, when it comes to training, I am not a planner. I am quite happy to leave that aspect to others, and even then I want the info doled out on a need-to-know basis. I realized this summer that I like getting my workouts in two week blocks. That allows me to schedule, but prevents me from getting psyched out from what lies ahead. A bit of ignorance is bliss. In the gym I'm even weirder. I don't want to know what's coming, unless it affects wardrobe (e.g. deadlift shoes or belt required)! Going from exercise to exercise without any warning (with my trainer) keeps me from "saving myself" for the next thing. When I work out solo, I am more prone to rationing out my effort and energy.

One beneficial offshoot of the training is that I've learned to be a bit more in the moment, taking each day as it comes. Good thing since today's 13 miler was only the first of many long runs between now and Richmond!!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Goal: Normalize, Schedule-ize

Week TWO of the semester and I'm starting to get a feel for what is going to be doable and how to squeeze things in without compromising work or family.
  1. I got a locker and towel service at War Memorial, which is halfway between my office and Torgersen (my class) So I can stop by there T/H and get a 40 min swim workout in.
  2. Gym workouts are moving to 5:30 M/W/F. The kids will already be at the gym so their fabulous Oma has agreed to pick them up there while I get my session in.
  3. And of course I like running at 6 am, which limits interference with kids and family.
  4. Cycle rides I can do on the trainer in the garage either early AM or evening.
So far, so good. Well, I need to work on getting more sleep. One day at a time, one week at a time, and keep it FUN.

The latest Triathlon magazine had a sports psychology article in it dealing with motivation and digging below the superficial reasons people give for participating in multisport competition. So what are my reasons? Well, I'm thinking this through as I type but I would have to say for me it about the structure and discipline, the required focus, and the mental effort to push myself and to adhere to a specific workout plan. I love to sweat and huff and puff and think I can't make it but then do!! I like the time alone and the fact that there is no way to multitask during workouts. I enjoy the confidence it brings, and the way I feel, and the way I look. I like buying clothes in size small (except for my shoes, bigfoot there!). I am proud of my cardio fitness, my low blood pressure (it was 90/70 last week), my strength, and my work ethic. I enjoy the journey toward a goal, the nerves and buildup to a race, then putting it all on the line for race day. I enjoy the feeling of success - whether in a workout, making a good food choice, or having a strong race. There is a freedom that comes with knowing I am an athlete and not simply wishing I were in shape or exercising.

I love the challenge of committing to a goal that my head questions, but my heart embraces. I have faith that I will do the work required to be successful. I have faith in the wisdom of my trainer and coach and the soundness of their plans. On race day my faith shores up my body and allows me to turn the screws a little tighter to give it more than I knew I had.

Faith. FAITH. faith.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

HR Zones

Estimated/calculated HR zones from Jim.


Aerobic: 120-139
Tempo: 140-155
Threshold: 156-169
VO2 Max: 169-180


Aerobic: 125-152
Tempo: 153-160
Threshold: 161-169
VO2 Max: 170-176
Maximal Intensity: 177-185

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Lake Norman Sprint Tri!!

Hot off the press [click on the whole slide show for bigger pictures in Picassa]:

Don't have a lot of time to write but here are some quick impressions.

I've been nervous about this for weeks, primarily the swim, but also just the whole thing. There are lots of details to remember about each segment as well as transitions and I was sure I'd forget something, but nope, I pulled it off. Jim gave me great coaching on all of it, and I read and reread everything, visualized it, and was able to go on a bit of autopilot.

The swim (750m) was great. Not quite the mass chaos I had feared thanks I guess to the wave starts. Yes, I had a few people about swim over me and I about did the same to others, but quickly we spread out and found our rhythms. I swam around floaters, backstrokers, and the like. I enjoyed the 85 degree water, and doing what I had practiced - reaching, gliding, rolling, and before I knew it I was finished and coming out of the water in a sea of blue caps that told me I had finished with at least some of the folks from the previous wave that started five minutes ahead of me. That pushed me on a bit as I ran to transition.

The bike phase was only 13.5 miles, shortened from the original due to construction. There were some slight grades, but riding around the hills here prepares you for most anything. I love the hills, but some of my fellow participants must have had other feelings toward them! I just focused on high cadence and staying aero and tucked. After a successful flying dismount (still new to those), I racked the bike and onto the run!

With the run (5K) I settled into my happy pace pretty quickly and then never left it. Mile splits were 7:18, 7:22 and 7:10. Just focused on cadence, breathing, and passing people. And pass them I did!

Then before I knew it, the race was over, and I headed directly back to the lake for a nice little soak. The awards ceremony was held and shockingly I won the women's master novice division. But we all know a better athlete could have shown up and blown me away so placing is arbitrary. I did run the race we had planned for, crossed my t's and dotted my i's, gave it everything I had, and had a good positive energy throughout. It was a great culmination to a fabulous summer training journey in the gym, on the roads, and in the pool.

This was a definite group effort, to get me from injured reserve to triathlete in one summer. Thanks to Jim, to Jake, to Robert and the kids, my family and friends, and all who encouraged (or refrained from impeding) this experience. I can't explain WHY I am this way, but I definitely love these opportunities to strive, to push, to sweat, to challenge myself. I hope that what I do might help encourage others to seek and pursue these opportunities. I just needed a little push (OK, SHOVE, thanks, Jake) in the right direction to discover this amazing source of peace and contentment.

Look for me in the Virginia Triathlon series next year for SURE!


[Swim 16:25][T1 2:02][Bike 41:09]
[T2 1:18][Run 22:03][TOTAL 1:22:54]

1/36 in Master's Novice Women (7th in swim; 1st in bike; 1st in run)
2/136 overall Novice Women (38th in swim; 2nd in bike; 4th in run)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Purpose-Driven workouts

I'm in week 9 of my triathlon summer crash/cram course and was looking back through the weeks of workouts and how far I have come both physically and in terms of my understanding of the training approach and process. One has to train for each sport individually as well as in concert, building endurance, speed, and skills.

Triathlon is a sport of efficiencies and no effort is wasted. I began to see that each workout was geared toward a specific purpose. For instance, some swim workouts were designed as "settle-ins" so that when/if I start my swim too aggressively and get anaerobic, I will have the confidence and know-how to rein things in and get back into an aerobic rhythm. There were indoor cycle workouts created to give me a sense of different cadences as a faster "spin" can help save the legs for the run, especially at the end of the bike ride. And of course the "brick" workouts help you learn how to do two or three of the activities in direct succession - bike then run, or swim-bike-run. Last week's double brick or bike-run-bike-run was a nice challenge!

So I really like the notion of a focus for each workout. That's not to say they all have to be major efforts, sometimes the appropriate focus is an easy enjoyable outing, to get back in touch with the great feeling of the water, or to find that flow to tick miles off on the road. Knowing the purpose, whatever it is, helps to quiet the mind and dig in a little deeper.

One week out!

I'm a week out from the big day. There are just over 500 entrants in the race and the vast majority are master novice entrants like me so I will have sufficient competition. My goals for the week are to follow through on the taper plan, eat well, rest, stretch, stay healthy, and visualize my race. As a first effort, I just want to have an inspiring and fun time that leaves me wanting to do more next year.

One image I will carry with me into the swimming is that of our friends' dog Lucy who came to the river with us this weekend. This 8 year old yellow lab just swam and swam and swam in the current, just dug in and went. She was steady and confident and never gave up.

One thing's for sure, I have very much enjoyed this summer, the mix of workouts, and the change from the exclusive run-lift combo. I'm thinking the part-year run focus, part-year tri focus could be a good synergy. I expect to carry some good energy and motivation into my running season that will start after the triathlon with my sights set on the Richmond Marathon!