Friday, December 31, 2010

Swim Assessment with Cast = Video Motivation

I met Coach Jim at the pool this morning so he could see my swimming and assess the situation and implications for the still-planned-for swim training block. I swam with the pull buoy, without it, and then for the first time, with one zoomer fin. Today I was able to do a solid 300 with the zoomer, and a 100 with no assistive devices. They were tough little cardio intervals, but doable! What a fun challenge it will be to work my way up from that.

Coach Jim seemed much more pleased and optimistic than I expected which really encouraged me. He's not worried about the cast having a negative impact on the stroke.

He had his underwater video equipment there and I was able to see that somehow, in spite of the cast, I have made some improvements with my stroke and body position. So I am now pretty fired up!!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Maybe not so much "float like a butterfly..."

...but I got me some "sting like a bee!"

Jake had introduced a bit of boxing into my training in the fall. Even after just 15 minutes, I would  feel it in my shoulders, back, arms, core, and lower legs (when available for use!). Knowing I needed an outlet for frustrations (which were HIGH today), he figured out a way for me to throw some punches! I'm sure my technique leaves much to be desired, but it's a fun change-up!

In case anyone is getting the idea that this experience has been easy, it has not been.  Almost every day I have shed tears of frustration.  There's a near-constant level of discomfort that makes it hard to concentrate or be productive. And when I start to feel sorry for myself I beat myself up for that because this situation is (1) temporary (2) fixable and (3) not that big a deal.  And so I move on.

Not slacking on the other body parts either

I think this photo was accidental but it shows Jake's meticulous planning and record-keeping.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bench, rowing, swim ladder

I'm starting to see the potential silver lining in the one-legged situation in terms of swimming and upper body strength. I'm back working with Jake at the gym, I signed up for the February bench press competition so I have a focus and goal, and starting Monday I am moving ahead with a swim block with Jim.

I used the rower at the gym and that worked fine so that's a good cardio option. And today I had a real honest-to-goodness swim workout.  I can't believe what a non-issue swimming is (other than the funny looks I get crutching to the pool).  I did a 100-200-300-200-100 ladder, swimming those at upper aerobic intensity, and followed each interval with a half-distance easy aerobic recovery swim.  So it was 100-50-200-100....  I got stronger with each. With the pull buoy, I feel like I have NO excuse for not leaving a goggle in the water when I breathe or for keeping high elbows in the catch/pull. This could be just what I needed to fix some bad habits.

After a rough first week with calf cramps, pain, sleep issues, negativity, frustration, and moments of despair, I think the worst is behind me. One week down....

Friday, December 24, 2010

All I want for Christmas.... five minute out of this stupid cast to stretch just a little!!!

I should be sitting here awash in Christmas spirit, soaking up the spirit of the holiday and the excitement of my kids. Instead, I am shoving a wooden spoon down the back of the cast trying to figure out how (if at all) to diminish this monster calf cramp that is near-constant. I would like to jump out of my own skin.  I am beginning to think the whole idea of a "cast" is entirely medieval and more "old wives tale" than science.

As of this morning, I still had all the gifts left to wrap.  I woke up at my usual 5 am and figured there was no better time to do it.  Then I realized all the gift wrapping supplies were on the main floor, and all the gifts were in the basement in our locked space under the stairs. I should have planned ahead.  It took five trips up and down the stairs on my butt, but I got everything essential moved - wrapping paper, tape, ribbon, coffee, iPad to watch the Biggest Loser for entertainment....

If you are looking for a great tricep workout you can do at home, go backward up your steps on your hands and one foot a few times. I highly recommend it.

Then I had a really enjoyable hour and a half of wrapping, thinking about each gift and the recipient.

Later in the day, each child in turn joined me in the basement and we wrapped the stocking stuffers each had gotten for his brother.  That was a great moment!  A new tradition has been born as they loved shopping and wrapping for each other.

I did a LOT of sitting/laying around today.  Oh, except for that hour at the gym with another no-mercy Kurt Weidner workout for shoulders and triceps.  So now my entire upper body has been thoroughly brutalized over the last two days. The legs are jealous and sulking.

Time to wind down and catch some Christmas Eve sleep.  No doubt it will be an early morning!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Acceptance and adjustments.

Today started off well with the swim and a strength training workout with professional bodybuilder Kurt Weidner at the Weight Club (Jake is still out of town).  I'm pretty sure you could show up in a full-body cast and the guy would show no mercy.  Perfect!  I worked back and biceps and left in a much better mindset (it wasn't hard to improve on the fact that I was choking back tears on the way in).

Later I took the kids to Target to shop for stocking stuffers for each other. It left me exhausted, my leg was swollen, toes were purple, and I was done.  I got home, propped the foot up and didn't move for two hours.

I remember this pivotal moment the last time I was on crutches.  This was the moment when I realized I can't keep up the same pace of life without going to bed at 4 pm.  Time to make some adjustments.  Chill out more.  Run around less. Accept that my "training" right now is a lot of resting and healing.

I struck a deal with the kids.  I would try to refrain from barking out a constant stream of orders (pick up this, get me that...) but rather I would collect up and save all the commands, then, a few times a day, spew them all out.  They promise to run around and do what I tell them for 10 minutes at a pop.  So far so good. They think it's a game!!

So when you are sitting around "resting" and "healing" and have a laptop, you fill your time with things like Googling "fibular stress fracture". Ever wonder who works their way through to page 14 of the results? Down to the really obscure stuff?  Me! I read a big long thread on a runner's forum where one person after another posted that by trying to cross-train or run through a stress fx, they only delayed healing.  Things only improved when they totally backed off.  So maybe my doc is onto something by taking the choice out of my hands.  I will probably be glad he stood firmly against my desperate protesting.

I can swim!!!

I made my way to the pool this morning at 6:30 am.  I slept horribly last night, partly because this cast makes sleeping comfortably a challenge, and partly because I was excited to get to the pool.

I successfully hopped on one foot from where I deposited the crutches to the pool side, and maneuvered my gear along the pool wall to a lane. I tried tying the pull buoy to my leg with the stretchy band I use for drills, but it wouldn't stay on so I just used it the regular way, which seems to be the way to go. 

Normally with the pull buoy, and resulting elevation of the back end, you feel like you could swim forever, but combined with the drag of the cast, it made swimming slightly tougher than normal, yet the stroke mechanics were largely unaffected.  I proceeded on with some basic drills - 1 armed swimming, catch-up drill, fist swimming, fingertip drag - and then a few sets of 100's. No doubt this will be a great upper body workout.

Between the lack of sleep and physical adjustment to the crutches, this was not the day to push things. I am excited and hopeful to know I can likely maintain and maybe even improve, my swimming some during this time.

I have no excuses not to work on leaving a goggle in the water and using the "cigar mouth" to breathe.

There really could be some good to come out of all of this.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

1 day down, 27 more to go.

Well I enjoyed my four whole gym workouts, conceived and executed all by my little self.  (See Winter Training for my big, but brief, leap into self-managed workouts).  It's back to supervised training because without help, I am relegated to a limited number of machines for anything with weight. Thanks Kurt and Jake who will make it possible to use barbells, dumbbells, and plate-loaded machines.

If you find yourself with a cast and crutches, here are my suggestions, which I can confidently provide now that I am in...ding-ding-ding....Round 2... of this nonsense.
  • Get the doc to fill out paperwork, pay $5 at the DMV, and get a temporary handicapped hangtag.  You'll need the energy for life's essential activities, not for walking from the far reaches of the parking lot.
  • Get fun socks.  This is a must in the cold weather.  And even more critical if the casted leg happens to contain a regrowing half-toenail that could scare small children and pets.
  • Learn to walk by throwing the crutches forward with body momentum, freeing up hands to carry dishes, coffee, paper, laundry.  Because even if you get great help that first day or two, it will diminish exponentially and by day four, most help is gone. 
  • Take NO chances with stairs.  Falling down the stairs with an immobilized limb is terrifying. Best is crutches in one hand, stair rail in the other.
Back to the gym tomorrow and a go at the POOL!!!!!  Please just don't let me slip on the pool deck.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lightening can strike twice

Just like the last time, I went into Dr. Lebolt's office expecting to receive a little lecture about taking a break from running.  I'm walking fine, heck I put in a nice hour bike workout this morning.  Could a truly injured person do THAT? No way!!

No lecture...instead I got a cast and crutches...oh, and lovely paper shorts! The fracture is in the same place (fibula), but the opposite (left) leg. Not good when the doc says he can "feel it". At least with the left leg, driving is easier.

Four weeks in a cast, two weeks in a boot.

I had a little cry and then started the negotiating.

How about just the boot?  Then I can still bike and swim, it doesn't even hurt. (no, I don't trust you) 
How about two weeks in a cast, and four weeks in a boot?  That worked last time! (nope.  do you want surgery?)
Can I still swim in the cast? (you can try)

Then I pleaded insanity.  Meaning, I will be insane if I can't do SOMETHING.  I feel incarcerated or grounded.  Unfairly.

I even asked my neighbor, Beth, the PA there, to plead my case with Dr. Lebolt.  She kept me company while I got the cast on.  Give me a light blue cast, waterproof, yes I'll pay the difference, just like the last time.

I talked to Coach Jim right away and he assured me we will figure out things to do.  He and Dr. Lebolt still feel like Boston is doable.  So on the plus side I am glad I fessed this up to Coach Jim, and glad I saw TJ, and glad I got into Dr. Lebolt right away. I could have easily kept going on this thing for quite a while and then I'd be healing in March instead of January.

I wouldn't have discovered triathlon had it not been for the last leg injury.  So who knows what might result from this one.  I'll stay positive.

I think I worked through the five stages of grief in about two hours.  It wasn't pretty.  Done with the little pity party. Now it's time to get creative.  What CAN I do? How can I maintain some level fitness, and how can I use this time?? How can I come back stronger than ever??

I do realize in the big scheme of things, this is FAR from the worst thing that could happen to me. Suck it up and move forward.  I have health insurance, a loving family, and a rewarding job I can do with one leg. This is just a speed bump.

I'm blessed, loved, and thankful.


I have an appointment for my leg at 4:15 today, with my neighbor/orthopedic PA who got me through the last ordeal. I pulled the aircast boot out of the closet and put it in the car as insurance that I won't need it. Jim saw TJ at the pool and I guess it was agreed that it is good I am not running with the location and level of associated tenderness and pain. It is hard to concentrate today.

On the plus side I had a nice hour workout/sweatfest on the bike trainer, no pain there!  Well, except perhaps for the butt and nether regions which take a beating on the trainer since you don't really move around as much as out on the roads. I watched a past episode of the Biggest Loser while riding. I never watched it when it was on TV but it is pretty engrossing.  They are fighting for so much - their health and self-respect - and display tremendous courage.  It shows if you want big results, you have to be prepared for big change and big sacrifice. And while support is essential, the drive has to come from within.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Deja Vous

Two weeks ago I took a "funny" step on a run and rolled my ankle slightly inward.  Since then, I've had  significant localized tenderness along the fibula of my left leg.  18 months ago, I took a "funny" step on a run and had localized tenderness on the fibula of my right leg.  I ended up with a fracture and a boot for 6 weeks. So you see why I was hoping and praying this would just go away. It's not. And I know from experience what happens if I ignore this beyond a certain point.

So I finally 'fessed up to Coach Jim, who sent me to physical therapist TJ Stites, who is a runner/triathlete and understands the mindset of a runner. He pushed and prodded, nearly sending me through the roof. He's figuring something bone related, or an attachment, because it is so tender and so pinpoint. He recommended an xray to rule out a stress fracture. The very mention of that possibility left me with a terrible pit in my stomach.

Until I know more about what is going on, I won't be running. I'm pretty sure I caught it early enough for a quick turn-around so I'm staying positive (well, after a two-minute cry in the car). Hey, it's an opportunity. I was gearing up for an intense block of swim training in Jan/Feb anyway, and one of my triathlon goals this year was to bring my cycling up to the next level. There ya go!

I am annoyed that my lower legs seem to be a weak link. That's OK. The physical stuff can be overcome.  I still have a tough warrior spirit.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Winter Training

Here we go again, we got hit by the first cold and snow blast of the year which this week resulted in two school delays, two cancellations, and for the last day I haven't even been able to get out of my neighborhood in the minivan.  I know running outside is not smart or possible when my ultra-running friend opts to do his 30-miler on the indoor track which is 9 laps to a mile! Fortunately I have the bike trainer (yay!) and a treadmill (not so yay) at home. If I had a nice endless pool I'd be in business.

The only way I'll get to the gym today is by bumming a ride from a neighbor or waiting for Robert and the truck.

Right now I am training on my own at the gym for the first time in a while. I bumped up the training sessions 18 months ago with Jake due to the leg injury and never bumped them back down. A string of unanticipated home expenses triggered the change, but I also think it's time for me to put into practice all I have learned.

I'm planning out my three weekly workouts ahead of time, aiming for around 30-35 sets to be completed within an hour and change.
  • Monday: Chest, triceps, core
  • Wednesday: Legs, biceps, core
  • Friday: Back, shoulders, core
I still have a lot to learn.  For instance, loading weights properly. On Wednesday I used the H-squat, and after a set with a 45+25+10 on each side, I went to move up to 45+45 per side.  Only after I unloaded one side, I forgot to add the 45.  So here I was marveling that this heavier set actually felt lighter, I thought, wow, I guess I am finally warmed up!  Doh! 

It's also tricky to not have a ready-spotter. Or counter. Or planner. Or motivator.

Time to put on the big girl pants and figure it out.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Winter bike training

Over the last year, I've ridden the bike on the trainer in the family room, living room, garage, and bedroom. Oh, and at the Weight Club and Blacksburg Country Club too!  This winter, I am trying it in the sunny 2nd floor "playroom" which the kids now prefer to call the "office".  I think I found the perfect setup!!  I set up a music stand in front of the bike and can set the iPad on there to watch instant Netflix movies while I ride. I did need to add an extension to the earbuds.  I put a yoga mat beneath to catch all the drippings...and believe me, I do DRIP despite the repeated toweling-off.  I sweat a crazy amount on there.

The room is open to the foyer/1st floor, so I can also monitor the general level of friction between the boys and yell if necessary ;-).  Sound travels well from that location.

Aquajogging, swimming, and getting lean and mean

This has been a challenging week of ups and downs and distracting and difficult life situations. Workouts are good for keeping structure, focus, and sanity when negotiating those emotional speed bumps (some of which feel more like brick walls).


On Wednesday I met with Ann McGranahan, an elite level runner, who supplements her running program with aquajogging/swim workouts. She took me through a one-hour workout, and I think this is what we did....if my memory serves

200 warmup
4 x 50 aquajog/butt kicks/kickouts
8 x 50
     25 sprint, switching off btw free, back, breast
     25 aquajog/buttkicks/high knees
5 x 1 min up/1 min down deep water aquajog finish with 20s hands in air
5 x 30s up/ 30s down deep water aquajog with 20s hands in air
2 x 50 build free + 25 aquajog
100 cooldown

I was pretty well beat after this, with a nice feeling of all over body fatigue. This type of workout would be a great addition to any runner's program and a nice option for those rehabbing.  The cross country team at VT does this sort of thing on a regular basis.

Swim Technique

Today I met with Jim to start tuning up my stroke.  We worked on body position and my kick, and here are some notes from that.
  • Pressing upper body more into water, which felt like it required a bit of chin tuck too
  • lower goggle stays in water, cigar mouth to breath (always)
  • Smaller kick with straighter legs, more pointed toes, generate more from glutes
  • Back arch, butt up
  • More 2-beat kick, less flutter.  Less kick overall
  • swim with elastic ankle band to limit width of kick
  • use pull buoy to get feel of more horizontal body position
  • one arm swimming, with other arm at side, focusing on rotation, high elbow
  • kicking drills - front, back, sides with smaller, straighter kick
  • get zoomers to increase speed at which drills can be done
Here were some good swim tips I came across:

    Lean and Mean

    I'm on day 12 of structured, pre-planned eating.  The goals for me are to maintain a more constant energy level throughout the day and to just feel better.

    I'm eating 7 meals a day with a consistent balance of macronutrients.  I really really like eating this way.  It takes about 10 or 15 minutes of planning the night before, and meal prep in the morning, but then I'm on auto pilot.  It makes it easier to pass up all the goodies that are everywhere this time of year.

    Jake of course works with the overall meal planning. I've gotten some other ideas from Juliet Gotthardt (see , a young female bodybuilder at the gym who is working with BB pro, Kurt Weidner (  She's very creative and has a way of adding kick and flavor to otherwise somewhat dull meals.  Those guys just eat for utility, we like things to taste good too!

    What I love about our approach is that I just focus on the meals and how I feel.  I'm paying no attention to the scale and in fact haven't looked at a scale in nearly a year.  I am getting on the scale - backward - so I don't see the number.  Jake keeps tabs and provides general feedback and encouragement.  It's not about the number for me and it's easy to fall into the trap of obsessing about that stupid stupid number!  Why is that??  So this way I think about what I can control (nutrition, meals) and I don't worry about what I can't control (what the scale says).

    Sunday, December 5, 2010

    Favorite multi-contributor blogs

    I've got two favorite multi-contributor blogs (more than one person writes for it) that I absolutely love and thought I'd share.

    The first is the No Meat Athlete. Even though it's geared toward vegetarian endurance athletes, all of the columns I have read have had personal relevance. It's witty, honest, and thought-provoking writing. A few favorite entries are 27 Things Your Training Partner Won't Tell You and My Big Screw-Up: Why (and How) I'm Training for a 50-Miler in Only 4 Weeks.

    The second one on my must-read list is Endurance Corner.  The contributors include coaches, elite competitors, sport psychologists, and nutritionists.  I find much sage advice here!

    Swim Video

    Last week Coach Jim of One on One Endurance captured underwater video of three of us triathletes to evaluate our strokes. It's a pretty cool system but requires some real dexterity on his part to simultaneously manage hardware, software, cables, and us.

    Reality can be quite a bit different than perception. 

    I'd been feeling pretty good about my stroke, and certainly some things are coming along - general rhythm, power, confidence, and overall feel. I also know I'm still struggling to keep that lower goggle in the water (yes, there IS more oxygen that one inch higher up!). But my perception that I was pretty balanced and horizontal in the water was very false. The body is OK, but the legs are dragging behind. What to me feels like a teeny tiny kick, is still fairly moderate. So I have some work to do to bring those legs up.

    I also need to bring those elbows up into a better power position.  Waaayyy up. I thought I had been doing that, not so much!!

    I know what is next. To fix things takes a big adjustment where everything feels strange and exaggerated and yucky for a while. I'm game.  Now's the time!

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    Off-season nutrition goals

    Well, here I am in that limbo state called "off-season". Rather than just float out here in never-never land with no goals and nothing to obsess (!) about, I thought this would be a good time to learn more about nutrition and meal planning. I have always felt better when I followed Jake's race week meal plans. My energy levels are good, hunger pangs are minimal, and it takes the decision making out of it.  I actually prefer that.  I've never been a big foodie.  I hate to be hungry, but I also don't need every meal to be a gourmet experience. Cooking is NOT my thing....just ask my kids! I'm very basic and utilitarian!

    Two years ago, with Jake's encouragement, I used SparkPeople ( to log my food and manage macronutrients, and I lost about 20 pounds.  There is a lot of research to support the use of food logs for weight management and we have found SparkPeople, although not perfect, is about the best online tool there is.

    For a long time after that initial weight loss, I was good about keeping an eye on the scale, but not since last winter when I decided I would just go by how I felt. For some time now I have been subtly aware that I am no longer quite where I want to be and my eating has gotten too haphazard.

    It's easy to think when you are working out a lot that you can get away with eating whatever and however much.  It's not true, I think especially as we age and our metabolism slows. "Whatever" for me has all too often meant easy-to-grab carbs that don't fill me up and cause fluctuations in my energy.

    So I'm back on the scale, back on SparkPeople, back to conversations with Jake, back to more veggies, back to eating at regular intervals. I'm realizing that like my kids, who take basically the same lunch to school every day and are happy, I am fine with having some basic meals to work from for the majority of the day and then going a little wilder at dinner.

    I have found what works for me is to prepare quantities of the basic foods (brown rice, chicken, ground turkey, steak) and dice them up, package double servings in ziplock bags, and freeze them. I can pull out what I need as I need it. Each morning I prepare everything I need from mid-morning to mid-afternoon and pack it in my cooler.  Most of my meals are four or fewer ingredients. It's all ready to go, and ready to be eaten anywhere, virtually eliminating temptations to grab other things. It's a real cost- and time-saver too.

    This approach is a radical departure from the misconception and belief that we need elaborate meals and vast choices to be satisfied. Simple is better.  Simple foods and simple plans.

    Saturday, November 27, 2010

    Turkey Trot

    On Thanksgiving, my newphew Evan and I took part in the Pittsburgh Turkey Trot 5K.  It was his first Pittsburgh "trot" and my third. The forecast was accurate for once - 100% chance of rain and 36 degrees.  It was man vs nature, and we were not going to back down. The forecast also meant 100% chance that Grant and Spencer would not participate and I can't say I blame them.

    Unfortunately due to the rain, I couldn't wear my turkey getup as the feathers are felt and would have quickly become a heavy sodden mess.

    The race course was changed this year and we started from PNC field - the home field for the Pittsburgh Pirates. I was excited about that until I realized that the only part of PNC field we had access to was some dark loading dock/dumpster storage area!

    Lovely conditions!
    The race started slowly, as they all do.  I started my watch late and didn't capture that slow first bit. I hit a 6:56 first mile, then 7:05 for the next two, and finished the last bit at 6:50.  The turnaround was close to the 2 mile mark so I kept wondering if they had measured the course wrong.  I didn't want to turn it up too soon and discover the race was 4 miles and not 3.1 miles. When I confirmed the finish line was in sight, I sprinted and was glad to discover I had sprint left in me. And finally, I had thawed out!!

    It was a fun run, not super speedy for either, but a good effort that made way for lots of turkey to follow.  I ran a decent but not fabulous 22:46, 7:20 average pace, 79th out of 1341, top of the 40-49ers.  The whole pack seemed pretty slow because I sure seemed to pass alot of people.  Maybe they were all hung over or saving themselves for Black Friday!  Results here.

    Sunday, November 21, 2010

    Book reviews

    It seems that part of my post-marathon recovery involved a reading marathon as I devoured two books in five days: The Grace to Race by Sister Madonna Buder and Marathon Woman by Kathrine Switzer.

    Sister Madonna Bruder has done 340 triathlons and 45 Ironman races plus countless marathons including Boston.  She didn't start running until age 48 but continues even now, at age 80. She has traveled the world to race and has dealt with injury, stolen gear, travel mishaps, missed time cutoffs, and the same mental challenges we all face in a tough race.  But she has such deep faith in God, His plan for her, and His provision. I want to display the kind of faith and calmness that she embodies. She is also our reminder that age is immaterial.

    Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to run with a number at the all-male Boston Marathon in 1967.  Back then it was believed that women could not hold up for those distances and it was detrimental to their health.  But this doesn't start as the story of a rebel.  She was a girl who liked running and who ended up with a running partner who had finished 10th in Boston many years ago.  After hearing his stories incessantly, she decided she'd like to train and run for it. The opposition she faced there, and the resulting media firestorm inspired her to (1) become an advocate for women's distance running and (2) become the best marathoner she could be.

    Kathrine ran that first Boston race in 4:20.  Her eventual marathon PR was 2:51!!  Early in the book, you have no reason to believe she is anything other than an average runner, an average athlete.  But her work ethic and single-minded focus to improve her race time and be taken as a serious athlete was incredible. She was putting in 100+ mile weeks with two-a-days on top of a more than full time job.

    To go from being the first woman marathoner to successfully leading a campaign to get the women's marathon into the Olympic games is incredible. Kathrine comes across as hardworking and humble. I hope I might have the chance to meet her in Boston.

    One training takeaway from this book is that if you train the same, you'll race the same.  If you really want to improve, something has to change. I'm not saying I am ready to move to 100+ mile weeks, but I recognize that if I do want to improve significantly I need to up my focus, volume, and intensity.

    I think I'm going to have a hard time finding a satisfying book after reading these two!

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    Richmond Marathon

    I guess a PR is a PR even if just by 37 seconds (that's a whopping 0.28% improvement if you are calculating!).  Most importantly, I emerged healthy and happy and truly enjoyed the experience and all the challenges.

    My goals, as stated the day before, were to be more in the moment in this race, and run from confidence, not fear. I also wanted to maintain even pacing throughout the race, with 8:10 as the target per-mile pace. I met the first two goals, but perhaps a larger dose of fear (perhaps more properly referred to as self-restraint and discipline) could have helped me with the third, which went askew after mile 17.

    I had a great week leading into the race and stayed very relaxed, very chill right up through the start. I slept well the night before and all systems were good - legs, stomach, energy. The weather was ideal, sunny and cool. I was decked out in short tights, arm sleeves, gloves, and a cool new top that I love that has a big pocket in the back for gels and such. (Apparently it's all about the wardrobe...or at least it was for the guy I saw in black tights and a pink running skirt!!

    I got a picture with running great Bart Yasso at the expo. I read and enjoyed his book, My Life on the Run, not long ago. He just finished the grueling Comrades race in South Africa this past summer, and he's a running icon. More on Bart later…

    Me and Bart Yasso

    Jake and I had planned to run this race together. We’d done a 23 miler together and his troublesome IT bands had held up but we still knew this race was a roll of the dice. Still, we remained optimistic.

    We saw Shannon Price in the first corral, ready to pace his 3:10 group. He’s an ultrarunner from Blacksburg who does much to encourage and inspire others. I love to see him before a race!

    Off we went, and I was so glad to finally have the chance to get to work rather than just think about it.

    Miles 0-5
    The crowds were great from the start and it was hard to hold back. Compared to the previous year, these initial miles felt much easier and I seemed not to have to waste energy dodging people quite as much. I think they were dodging us as we went out conservatively.

    The iPod was off, I was in the moment, high-fiving the occasional child, and smiling through the miles. I felt amazing.

    feeling easy

    Miles 6-10
    Jake had some flareups of the IT band and it was not settling down. I was torn between encouraging him to continue and suggesting he pull out. We hit a few downhills that exacerbated things and I watched his expression grow more pained. At about mile 10, that moment came where we both knew the decision had been made. He couldn’t risk a more significant injury nor could the ITB hold up for another 16 miles. We had discussed this possibility. He wished me well, and I kept going, never looking back.

    It suddenly felt very lonely, but I had to do this for both of us now. The iPod came on. I just worked to keep my miles around goal pace. I would stop at the aid stations, then run a little faster to keep my pace on track, and run a little faster still for the reward of bringing a mile in under time.

    I shed my arm sleeves, handing them off to a spectator.

    Miles 11-16
    I ran for a while behind a threesome of young guys who were whooping it up, jumping through leaf piles, running backward, really engaging the crowd. They were running at my same pace so I enjoyed trailing behind them. They began to slow, and I pulled up along them thanking them for the entertainment and for unknowingly pacing me. I teased them that they were slowing down and could they pick it up? They did for a bit and eventually really tailed off so I went on without them. I bet they paid for their early race antics.

    The three jokers ahead of me

    At this point I was still smiling, happy, and finding a lot of flow.

    Around mile 16 we cross a bridge over the river, and who should be there cheering on all the runners, but Bart Yasso! It gave me a nice little boost when I needed it.

    Things still felt pretty easy and I was actually proud of how well I had been holding back, or so I thought. I rationalized a bit and told myself that I had obviously picked a goal pace that was too conservative. I was thinking how great it would feel to really pick up the pace for the final few miles when others were fading and I still had gas in the tank.

    I got a little greedy.

    Just before Richmond, Jim had shared a race report from one of his athletes who did a 50 miler. In an email, he had cautioned her: “please, no thoughts about “banking” any early time, that would come back to haunt you.” I should have heeded that warning as I'd heard it from Jake too.

    Miles 17-20
    Here’s where the wheels started coming off. I’d had 3 gels to this point, one every 5 miles, and alternated PowerAde and water at each of the aid stations. Oh, and that nice big pocket in the back of my shirt?  Stuffed with the $2 kid's gloves I'd worn and all the empty gel wrappers. Yeah, good I carried all that with me, the garbage collector!

    At mile 17 I guess I hit a “wall” where I felt pretty mentally spaced out as if the blood was shunted from my brain to my legs. I took another gel, stayed calm, and altered my race plan. Now my goals were to find as much flow as I could and keep moving. Walking was absolutely not an option, but I did stop shortly at the aid stations. Nothing in particular hurt, so I reminded myself I didn’t need my brain fully functional to run, I just had to keep running.

    There was no more high-fiving of the kids along the route, no more thumbs-up, and not so much smiling. I can't tell you what was on the iPod.
    Feeling stiff and slow at this point

    I will admit though, having been burned by embarrassing race pictures in the past, I did try to mug for the professional photographers when I was alert enough to spot them. So maybe that’s a little vain, but I’m counting on those. I have zero pictures of my own from the race since I didn’t travel with any non-runners.

    This graph shows my per-mile pace throughout the race and just where I started breaking up.

    Miles 21-26.2
    I continued struggling along, concentrating on maintaining form, and trying tricks like upping my cadence, or lengthening my stride a hair, anything to try to squeeze a little speed out of myself. I managed to kick it up pretty good again around mile 23. There were more and more people slowing to a walk, or coming to a standstill to work out cramps, so I simply focused on picking off the next runner. That helped, but only for a while. After that, I was the one who was passed. When I saw the 3:40 pacer go by I was a little bummed. But I never slowed to a walk, I just kept on running. I think I managed my bonk pretty well as things could have unraveled much much more than they did. Mentally I didn't get too down or negative which is a big win for me.

    I made it through the finish chute in 3:38:01, 37 seconds under last year’s time. That put me 15/231 for my age group, 127/1575  women, and 647/3755 overall.

    The finish

    I saw Bart Yasso again at the finish line, so it was kind of cool that he was a presence at the start, middle, and finish of the event.

    I made my way through the crowd and found Jake. He had put his own frustration aside and was there to support me.  I was happy to be done, but this wasn't how this race was supposed to end.

    I began assessing the damage. I kept moving (more like staggering) which was key. That first hour was still rough. Everything hurts and you can’t escape your own body. A hot shower helped. As did a good lunch, a beer, some ibuprofen, and the satisfaction of knowing that although it was far from a textbook race, I stuck it out and kept it together.

    Lessons learned
    The obvious lesson is that I should have held back more in the front half. That is THE biggest challenge for me, to stick to a race plan and not decide in the heat of the moment that I suddenly have a better plan.

    The tough thing with marathons is that there are so few opportunities to hone one’s strategy, and it’s always a bit of a gamble. Sometimes the gamble pays off, often it doesn't.

    On the plus side, I am happy that I was able to stay relaxed leading into the race and to know that it doesn’t affect my race intensity. I was more in the moment and it was fun to run along familiar routes from last year. I stayed positive even when the going got tough, and that's not easy for me, or anyone really.

    Jake’s meal plans and pre-race electrolytes kept my stomach out of the equation, with no GI issues to speak of! And overall I still feel like I was stronger this year than last. I do believe I still have a better marathon in me.

    After the race I sent an email to Jim telling him, half-jokingly, that I am clearly a solid HALF marathoner. But in a twisted way I love the mental challenge of the back half of the marathon and you don’t get that in the same way with races of shorter distance.

    My goal for Boston in April is to run smarter, to have a conservative plan and execute it.  NO last-minute changes! I’ve said that running Boston is not about getting a PR, but about the experience, so I need to capitalize on it and show that I can deliver on a plan. I’m already looking forward to it….but after some downtime!

    These things are never accomplished without the love, support, and sacrifice of others.  Many thanks go to Jake, Jim, my family, and the underground brotherhood/sisterhood of runners and triathletes - Shannon, Michaela, Tanya, Ginger...too many to name.

    Off to rest and recover...

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    Richmond Pre-Race Report

    I’m a day out from the Richmond Marathon. Last year at this time, I was being chased by the fear of failure from having missed what was supposed to be my first marathon the previous spring. A leg injury delayed things till fall, and I had a single-minded determination to finish that race and get a Boston Qualifying time since based on training times I was fairly sure I was capable...physically anyway.

    This time around I feel like I am equally determined to have a good race, but not driven by fear.  This time….I’m not sure how to describe it….I want to be more “in the moment.”  I don't want to be running from fear, but within a (however small) bubble of confidence.

    I’m still anxious of course, that's part of the process.  The marathon has not been far from my thoughts all week.  My biggest concern has been, am I too relaxed?  Have I focused on the task at hand enough? I’ve had a very busy week, really a busy last FEW weeks with training, work, family things, and kids’ activities. I think it’s good I’ve been occupied because obsessing doesn't do any good.  It may not have been restful week, but this is real life, and I'm glad for all the facets of life.

    Jake and I will run together.  We’ve targeted what we think is a doable pace for me, and for his ailing IT band that’ll take work, but is not overly aggressive. I will focus on running a mile, 26 times over, and working to come as close to the goal pace as I can for each mile. I will stop at water stops, stay relaxed, and strive for “flow” in my run. I will set fear aside. I will remember that tough patches will not last forever, and I will stay positive.  I will think of countless people who have encouraged and helped me and honor their faith in me.  I will remember how blessed I am that I am physically able to run and that I have the time and resources to do so safely and comfortably. I will reflect on how running has impacted my life and my children’s lives. I will remember that pain is temporary but the joy of overcoming doubts is forever.

    I’ll report back after 26.2

    Friday, November 5, 2010

    Race Week then Off-Season

    I am eight days away from the Richmond Marathon. This week has been really busy with the kids, which is a good thing because otherwise I'd be obsessing about the race I'm sure. I've done the training, put in the miles, and I know I can do the distance.  The unknown is what will I have on race day? Will my goal pace (no, I'm not revealing that card!) be doable and what will my mental state be?  Can I keep things positive?  Every return trip to a race leaves you wondering if you can improve on the last performance. This race is no different.

    Jake has been having some IT band issues recently so going for a best race is out for him at Richmond.  He's had to back off so his backed-off state is fairly close to my best-effort state so we are planning to run together, which I am glad about.  He's good at thinking, tracking, monitoring, navigating.  When I run, I'm pretty sure the blood gets diverted from my brain to my legs so the less thinking, tracking, monitoring, and navigating I have to do, the better.  For us, running "together" generally means I am at least a few steps behind him, which suits me. I lock in on him and focus on keeping up.

    I've begun thinking about my off season, which will begin after Richmond and go on through the holidays. (Except for the Turkey Trot, which is non-negotiable.) 

    Last year I blew it. I was afraid to lose ground and reluctant to back off so then in January and February I hit a patch of major burnout. Our cold, snowy, icy winter and far too many miles on the treadmill didn't help matters.

    This year I feel more comfortable dialing back and I know I need it and will benefit from it in the long run.  I realized that in the past calendar year, I've done 5 triathlons (3 sprint, 2 olympic), 2 bench press meets, 3 swim meets, and 4 races (5k, 8mi, 10mi, marathon). It's been a lot of gearing up, digging deep, and recovering.

    It's time to let up, recover, refresh, and get hungry for the 2011 season.

    It sounds good in theory, let's see if I can actually do it!

    Weight Club Fall Fitness Challenge

    On October 30 I participated in Kurt Weidner's Fall Fitness Challenge to raise money for the Humane Society of Montgomery County.  We took pledges for the number of reps or max weight of an exercise that we could do. Since I had a 23-mile run the day before, I had to pick something that didn't involve legs, so I went with bench press.  That is an exercise I am always working on, benching weekly, and working toward the February bench press meet at Virginia Tech.

    I took pledges for the number of lbs I could get in excess of 100 on a max bench press. I was confident through 130 and I hit 140 a few weeks ago for the first time EVER as part of my normal bench routine. On this day, I hit an ugly 130, and missed 135 twice.  It was the best I had in me at the time.

    It was a great event with men and women of all ages showcasing situps, pushups, pullups, deadlifts, squats, running, and tire flipping.  Kurt and Vaughan Twigger each did as many flips of an 850 lb rubber tire as they could.  I'd never seen that, but it's such an awkward movement, having to get a grip at floor level. On Kurt's last flip (#15), the tire slipped and landed on his leg.  We were all stunned and it seemed like an eternity before a few guys removed it from him.  His leg looked awful all week but it seems he escaped major injury.  Good thing, since as a personal trainer and world-class competitive bodybuilder, you kind of need both legs.
    As a group we raised over $4500 for the Humane Society. It was great event to be a part of in support of a very worthwhile organization and fun to see the talents of so many folks.  We had a few spectators and hopefully they were inspired to new personal bests.

    Kurt flipping the tire

    Mario, a pullup machine

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    Running form

    Video from a 5x400 interval workout, this was the last interval. Jake pointed out that my form changed about half-way through and became springier and shorter. I started this one a little conservatively then ramped it up, for a 1:18 quarter mile, a 5:12 pace.

    It's weird to watch yourself run...kind of like hearing an audio recording of yourself.  I still think I have a goofy bit of spaghetti arms.


    Pace of the final interval - started conservatively. Kicked it up with 100 to go.

    Tuesday, October 19, 2010

    2010 Virginia Triathlon Series Standings

    I raced in five events in the Virginia Triathlon Series, the minimum number to be eligible for a series-end award. As I understand it, and I am probably oversimplifying, points are awarded primarily on how you do compared to the average times of the top 5 finishers. There are probably close to 20 races spread throughout the state, so it's hard to gauge how you compare to the full group of athletes in your age group until it's all tallied.

    I discovered today that I ended up in 4th out of the Master's (40+) women. Yes, I'm pleased and humbled. Mostly I am reminded that I do this simply because I love the training and the racing and the community of athletes. The same can be said of Coach Jim, who finished 3rd in the men's master division, just barely edged out of 2nd.

    My goal this year was to race in five races and do my best.  I raced happy, healthy, and strong, with three sprints and two olympic distance races under my belt. I got stronger and more confident swimming in open water. My kids are running, working out, and finding joy in moving their bodies. It's a winning direction for all of us!

    Boston Marathon

    Yesterday at 9 am, registration opened for the 115th running of the Boston Marathon!  I filled out the darn online form about 30 times, and Jake probably did another 20 for me, before a kind soul posted a different link on Facebook that finally worked.  I have a spot, subject to qualifying time verification.  The race filled at 5:03. Just over 8  hours to fill 25,000 spots.

    Thanks to filling out the form so many times, I have that qualifying time memorized: 3:38:38!

    I got my hotel reservations a while ago, paying a ridiculous amount to be in a hotel right by the finish, but the logistics of staying somewhere cheaper were too overwhelming. Sometimes splurging is worth it.

    Thursday, October 14, 2010

    She's got legs

    I always used to wish for skinny thighs. Finally, I don't mind these non-pencil thin legs now that they serve a useful purpose.

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Good training weeks pop up at the oddest times

    The last week and a half I have not felt super fabulous. I'll spare the details because it would just sound whiny anyway, but suffice it to say I'm just off, for whatever reason. It happens.

    But unless I am dreadfully sick, gross, or contagious, I do tend to stick to workouts. I believe you can sweat out a lot of bugs, and most of the time I do feel better after a workout. Plus I take a pretty big hit to my mental/emotional well-being if I go too long (i.e. a day) without.

    It's a good thing, because I have had a few of my best ever workouts this very week!

    The first one was on Monday, when we hit bench. I've had a mental hangup about the idea of benching 135 lbs. It's a bar and one of the BIG 45 lb plates on each side. It's where the guys start, so it's in guy-benching territory, even if barely! We've been working on bench, steadily and consistently every week. I focus on doing the reps Jake wants without looking at what he has loaded to try to take the mental part out of it. On Monday, I hit a strong 2 at 130 I discovered after the fact, so rather than go for my "hang-up" weight of 135, we jumped to 140. I told myself to stick to my groove, just get a tad tighter, and to power through without giving myself a chance to think about how it felt. I just stuck to what works and wouldn't you know it that 140 lifted up with no hesitation!

    The second good workout was today, when I had an interval workout on the track: 10x200m. I was wearing my new Saucony Kinvaras, a lightweight minimalist running shoe, for the first time. And I l-o-v-e them!

    After a conservative buildup I was set loose on the last two intervals to give a near-max effort. I ran the final one in 36 seconds, or the equivalent of a 4:33 mile pace. It was the fastest I had ever run. EVER. Over 13 mph under my own power. It was totally exhilarating!!

    As I was running, I recall thinking that I would like to go faster but I was at a loss for how. It was such an out-of-body experience, with my brain feeling disconnected somehow from the body. My legs were turning over as fast as they could, arms too. Next time I'll think about opening up my stride some. This gave me some perspective on the challenge of running a sub-4 minute mile....faster than I went and 8 times further! Unreal.

    That glimpse of speed left me hungry for more. And just last weekend Joan Benoit-Samuelson set a Chicago Marathon age group record for running in 2:46 at age 53. So one never knows!

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    Brush Mountain Breakdown

    It’s hard to believe I’ve been running long enough to make this my THIRD Brush Mountain Breakdown, a unique local trail race in the Jefferson National Forest. They offer 3, 8, and 15 mile options.

    The first year, my goal was to just finish the 15 miler. I did.

    The second year, my goal was to stay healthy on the 15 miler since I was preparing for the Richmond Marathon. I didn’t. I had a nice wipeout that left my left knee sore for quite a while. But I still had a strong marathon!

    This, the third year, my goal was to enjoy, not fall down, and not require a long recovery. Jake recommended I do the 8-miler since the race fell on a non long-run weekend (Richmond marathon again) and I had done very little trail running this summer. This was the first time I had raced at a distance that was not the longest one offered. It was a little hard to swallow, even though it made sense.

    The 8-mile course

    The small pack of loyal racers lined up at 10:30 and with some final instructions from James, we were off! The course begins with a brief downhill section on a wide service road, where we jockeyed for position knowing the first mile on the trail was single track making it hard to pass people. I was feeling good, as we all do at the start of a race, and went out way WAY (did I mention WAY) too fast doing a 6:30 pace for the first two minutes. I maintained my position, but my heart rate was near redline and my eyes were watering. I hate being passed and hate hearing people on my heels so I was reluctant to back off. It took all my concentration just to pick through the rocky trail through my blurry eyes, especially down the hills. About a mile and a half in I realized what a mistake it was to run someone else’s race instead of my own. I backed off and regrouped.

    Our club’s tennis pro, Bill, had taken up running this year and he trained on the trails quite a bit and I had a sense of his pace. When he passed me (arghh!) I made the decision to stay on his heels no matter what. With so few runners, you can end up running alone, and I much prefer to follow someone and have confidence in knowing I am not lost! It’s like drafting but in a mental sense as they do the work of picking through the trail!

    I consider it nothing short of total weakness to break to a walk up a hill, any hill.

    I walked at least six times on this run.

    Those hills were total quad burners at any pace. The mental chatter grew defeatest. I figured I would turn that into a challenge and see how positive I could be, that this was a test of mental strength. I would grind out the hard parts (e.g. ascents) and fly on and enjoy the other parts. I started to notice that I wasn’t going any slower up the hills at a walk than others who were “running”. Still, I forced myself to resume running sooner than I wanted, telling myself that folks could catch me if I was walking, but not if I was running. Jake had run this course with his Garmin so I had a mental image of his elevation chart and kept reminding myself that every uphill was followed by a downhill!

    It felt so good to return to the service road and the final stretch of the race. What a treat to just roll and not have to worry about where to put my feet, which by this point felt pretty beat up in my standard non-trail running shoes.

    I finished in 1:18:28, 10th place out of 29, 2nd woman, and just behind the tennis pro! It wasn’t a smart or fast race for me, but a good reminder as I head into Richmond that I need to run my own race from start to finish.

    Yes, I met this year's goals as I enjoyed the race, did not fall down, and did not require a long recovery. I saw lots of bloody knees this year, a badge of honor, but a distinction I was glad to be spared. Jake had a tough run with a major flare-up of an injury, but he pushed through to the finish. This is a race that takes heart.

    Brush Mountain is the one race I would like to continue doing year after year....but maybe back to the 15 next year :-)

    Ginger and me, both 8-milers!

    Me and Tanya (Trail Queen!)

    Saturday, October 2, 2010

    Crop Circles for Runners: Flower Power

    Ramping up for Richmond requires a number of "long runs" and today was the day of the 20-miler. Some time ago, I got this idea for a run of multiple loops emanating from a central point, allowing for refueling between. Jake put together the route, which is now called the "flower" route, or "flower power" as I like to call it. It was indeed fun to run three distinct loops.

    Jake joined me on the third loop and it was nice to get some encouragement over those last miles. But I'm afraid I wasn't too much fun. By about mile 17 I had to tell him I couldn't concentrate on anything but the 5 feet in front of me and laying that next step down. So he ran in silence and I listened to the same song, whatever it was, over and over on the iPod. When I get that tired, even the "wrong" song can annoy me, so best not to change anything at that point.

    It was a gorgeous morning with a clear blue sky. I ran the first loop with my bright yellow jacket and gloves, but after that I was down to a tank and shorts, running free, just like I like it!

    I had water bottles planted at the far ends of each loop or "petal" but I couldn't find the one on the second loop. I was half asleep this morning when I deposited them, so who knows!!

    Here's my run data -

    And the route. A runner's version of crop circles!

    Tuesday, September 28, 2010

    PTSD - Post Triathlon Season Disorder

    Well it's been an interesting few days trying to bounce back from this race, my last race of the summer. I feel as if I have been building to this moment for over a year when I first sampled the triathlon world in August of 09. Immediately after that I decided I wanted to do five races in the Virginia Triathlon series in 2010. All winter I worked on my swimming and cycling in the background with Jim while focusing on running. Then on March 1, 2010 I switched over to an integrated triathlon-specific training focus. For seven months, and with great enthusiasm, I did what was laid out before me. I cycled, ran, swam, lifted, and stretched. It resulted in a season that far exceeded anything I could have imagined. I knew after this year I would either find that I loved the sport, or would decide I had given it a shot but it was more than I bargained for. It turns out I really love it.

    But even when you love something, a break now and again is warranted and that includes a break from the structure and discipline on occasion.

    After the race, since about Sunday, with my personal gas tanks below empty, I had suddenly had it with anyone telling me what to do. I felt a bit like a frustrated, hormone-driven, rebellious teenager. I was in a badddd mood with Post Triathlon Season Disorder.

    I've always said that one of the greatest things about strength training with Jake or triathlon training with Jim is that it's the only part of my life I don't have to figure out or manage. It is a privilege and a gift to have it all laid out allowing me to bring the energy and focus to the workouts. But right now I don't think I could handle being told what to do. And fortunately nobody is trying.

    For the last few days I have needed space. And normalcy, calmness, routine, boringness. Focusing on work and the kids and all things NOT related to working out is good.

    Sooo, this week I'm taking it easy. I had two full days off and a week away from the gym. I had an easy swim yesterday, an easy unmonitored run today, and will have a low key bike ride tomorrow. Speaking of digging deep mentally and physically in a race, Jim said "you can only dip into the well so many times" and he's right. Between the races and even some of the workouts, I dipped pretty deep. Now I need to let time do its thing and refill the well.

    Don't get me wrong, I loved the entire experience of the last year and I wouldn't change ONE thing about how this race season went - the training, the races, nothing. I'm excited for more next year. And I realize my training volume is a fraction of what half-iron and iron-distance competitors put in. But juggling it with the family, the kids' activities, and work is a daily challenge. So forgive me if right now I am a little tired.

    Starting Saturday though it's back on a training plan with Jake to get ready for the Richmond Marathon on November 13. After that I'll take some down time with less structure through the holidays so I can come back stronger next year.

    Sunday, September 26, 2010

    Big Lick Triathlon at Smith Mountain Lake

    Yesterday closed out my first full triathlon race season with 3 sprints and 2 Olympics under my belt. I have a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment not only for the races but for training hard, weathering the ups and downs of progress, and managing fears and self-doubts. I can’t believe how much I have learned in 15 months in the sport...annnddd I'm excited to think about how much more there is to learn and do!

    We got a cabin at the lake and made a little family trip out of the event. SML has quaint, newly-built, well-equipped 2 bedroom cabins, with most right along the lake. It’s a real treat to have a home base like this at a race and it sure keeps the kids happy.

    I felt some additional pressure coming into this race because it would be my fifth and the final one needed for eligibility for VTS awards. I had mechanical issues in the last race, and this was the site of my mentally tough swim back in May. And after some challenging run legs in the last few races, I wanted to prove to myself that I could execute a smart run plan. I wanted to pull it all together in this final go.


    Friday night I went to the race site to check in and get a look at the courses. The swim course looked HUGE and I was awash in feelings fear and defeat. I also learned that this was the VTS Collegiate Championship race so there would be lots of young fast fit collegians in the field (including a team of 36 from Virginia Tech!!). But as I drove off along the bike course, that crushing feeling of dread turned on a dime and morphed into something that said “time to roll up the sleeves and get to work.” I knew I was trained and had put in the time, so there was nothing to fear. As suddenly as the panic had set in, it was entirely replaced by excitement!! It was the coolest feeling and a reminder of why I love the thrill of racing.

    One of the most fascinating things about the races has been experiencing my own reactions and learning to predict and channel the emotions and mental aspects. I recall being genuinely concerned at Bath because I was strangely calm and almost lethargic before the swim. Now I know that’s just my normal response. I shut down and save the adrenaline for when the starter’s horn sounds. This race was no different.


    The water was a hair under 78, so considered “wetsuit legal.” I debated the wetsuit briefly, but Jim suggested I wear mine and I needed race experience in it anyway. I gathered with the white-capped women of wave 5 and off we went on the rectangular course. It took 150m or so to really settle in to a comfortable breathing pattern and then things went on auto pilot in that rhythmical upper aerobic/threshold zone. I swam behind some feet for part of it, but we were all pretty spread out and I was primarily alone….except for when I would overtake swimmers from previous waves which always feels good! The glare made it hard to see the turn buoys so I just made sure I was in the middle of the pack, assuming we couldn’t all be off course. The last 2-300m I was ready for it to be over so I started counting strokes knowing every 100 strokes got me at least 100m closer to the “wiggly man” that is present at the finish of all the VTS events.

    (Incidentally you’re apparently not supposed to pee in a wetsuit because of reasons of long-term lingering grossness. Let’s just say you gotta do what you gotta do!)


    After a minor struggle to extract myself from the wetsuit, I was off on the bike and on a course I knew I would enjoy. I’m guessing people don’t train on the bike as much as they should, or at required intensities, because I am always surprised by how many people I pick off. In my training, on the road and on the trainer, Jim had me cycle near threshold and hold it for increasingly longer periods of time. During the bike phase, I thought about some of those times and the intensities I had held and it gave me confidence to push against the wall. I thought too about the countless quad-burning laps of lunges Jake has put me through on a regular basis. I survived those and the pain was always temporary.

    I did get passed by a few folks on the bike, but they were the middle-aged guys who had slow swim times but were studs on the bike. I could hear their disk wheels and slick bikes approaching from the rear!

    The course was rolling, with a good road surface, few turns, and only one moderate hill. I kept up a 90ish cadence and when I glanced at my bike computer, I noticed I was at 58 and some minutes and 19 and some miles. One of my goals this summer had been to sustain 20+ mph and it was within my reach! I crossed over 20 in under an hour and was elated. My overall bike time averaged 20.1 MPH, which for me was solid. In the final miles I shifted my attention to the run and what I needed to get done. But I already had some concerns about my energy levels. I had consumed most of one bottle of Perpetuem (maybe 150 calories) and one gel (100 calories), but it may not have been enough.


    I had a slower transition to the run than usual and I knew it. I grabbed my gear, started the watch, and headed off. My plan was to open with a 7:30 mile, cut to a 7:20 and hold that for 2 miles, then just focus on picking people off in the final miles. I struggled on that first mile which opened the floodgates for negative chatter. It was a hilly course and I could feel myself worrying about each approaching uphill. I was concerned I’d really bonk and really blow it. I ran from aid station to aid station, stopping at each to pour water on myself because it had to have been close to 80 by this point. I ignored my Garmin watch, which was set to show my average pace for each mile. I didn’t want the bad news. At one point I even walked a bit up a hill which to me is the ultimate sign of mental weakness. What was wrong with me?!

    Coach Jim's pre-race advice included some prophetic words for the last tough hill, "Don't feel sorry for yourself, just get the work done!" He sure knows these routes and can anticipate my state of mind!

    For as disastrous as it felt, I did manage to pass some folks, and I don’t recall being passed by too many others. It turned out to be the 14th best run of the women, a 48:52 (7:53 pace). It was not a great run time for me, but then again, the tricky part about triathlon is managing energy and effort across three sports. It’s not easy to run after a hard swim and bike.

    My mile splits were: 7:56, 7:31, 7:41, 8:15, 8:42, and 7:32.

    I’m wondering if I was running low on fuel and that contributed to the negativity. At any rate, I’ve got to do a better job of managing those thoughts that tell me I am doing an awful job. I can’t really know how I am doing in relation to the field, for the conditions of the day, or the topography of the course. I need to keep it positive and keep on going!

    Reflections/Lessons Learned

    I may have to revisit this part in a few days after my energy rebounds and I’ve had time to ruminate on it all. It’s been a heck of a ride this summer, FAR exceeding my expectations. I look forward to next summer and revisiting some of the same races and maybe a new one or two. I’ve enjoyed a widening circle of triathlon friends and I know more than ever this is a sport I would like to enjoy for a long long time.

    After a few days off, I will be shifting gears to more of a running focus and preparations for the Richmond Marathon in November and Boston in April. But I’ll continue swimming and cycling to maintain some endurance and refine technique for next year’s race season. I already have a cabin reserved for the May Smith Mountain Lake sprint tri and I plan to be stronger than ever next season!

    Thanks as always are due to my fantastic triathlon coach, Jim McGehee, and strength trainer, Jake Parks. They give so much of themselves for so little in return. I’m grateful for the support of my family and the two loudest cheerleaders, Spencer and Grant!


    Overall Women’s Results:

    TOTAL - 02:35:06 (10/119 women racers, 2nd Master’s Female; would have been 75/224 among men)
    Swim – 0:29:57 (52nd)
    T1 – 0:01:39 (12th)
    Bike – 1:13:22 (10th)
    T2 - 0:01:18 (51th)
    Run – 0:48:52 (14th)