Friday, September 30, 2011

My Comfort Zone is more of a Nook

The adventurous one in the family
A lot of us are drawn to endurance events and triathlon precisely because they force us to get out of our comfort zone. They provide regular opportunities to face challenges, tackle our fears, and overcome limits. I fancy myself as pretty darn adventurous now....or AM I??

Maybe not so much. Two things this week made me realize that I like adventure on my terms, unknowns when greatly outnumbered by knowns, and challenges where I can control the logistics. My comfort zone turns out to be a bit more limited than I realized...more of a comfort nook. That leaves a pretty wide-open area outside of the nook.

Case #1: I have my last triathlon of the season this Sunday - the Giant Acorn Sprint Triathlon. (yes, nothing like bouncing from Half IM to Sprint Tri to Marathon in the span of two months to drive Coach crazy) I signed up for this one with my friend Krista "just for fun". This weekend temperatures are forecast to drop to the mid-40s and are only expected to climb into the 50s. YIKES!

TOO far out of my comfort nook!!  

I hate hate hate to be cold on the bike. If I thought I could bike in my wetsuit I probably would. Now I am agonizing about what to do - jacket, jersey, arm sleeves, scarf, gloves, long underwear?? I polled my peeps and am leaning toward non-flapping zip-up jacket. I'll pack all the options and make a game-time decision.

Case #2: I'm heading to San Diego for a conference in a few weeks and my training plan calls for a 15 mile run then. Coach said it would be fun (!) to run in the triathlon mecca and in his defense I had said I wanted to run there. Sure, in theory, till I looked at a map and saw that there are no nearby parks - it's some serious city!

TOO far out of my comfort nook!!!

Where to run? What if I get lost (I am certifiably directionally challenged, remember one time led me to the entire wrong side of a mountain)? Is it safe? Will I get mugged, my precious gels stolen? What if I need more water? What if I need to make a pit stop? What if something happens? What if it leaves me too tired to do my talk on authentic learning assessments at the conference?

Anyway, if anyone has ideas regarding where I can safely run 15 miles in San Diego from my hotel by the airport, let me know. I suppose a cab is an option.

My 9-year-old is far more in touch with his adventurous side. Today he asked me for a machete, survival books, and to be able to sleep out in the woods alone tonight. He got the books :-)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Food habits and nutrient timing

People generally assume because I work out a lot I can eat whatever I want without consequences. This is absolutely not the case, particularly as I age. Despite being fairly careful, even small bad choices do catch up to me.

I was starting to get that feeling of my clothes not fitting the way they should. Although I'm not a big scale watcher (I had not been on a scale since the bench press meet last February) I stepped on there last week and indeed I'm a couple of pounds up from where I feel my best. Time to rein things in a bit and the upcoming Richmond Marathon (Nov 12) is good motivation to get back on track and maybe learn a few new things.

I've often seen it stated that weight management/loss is 70% nutrition and 30% exercise. Based on my own experience, I would agree. I work out plenty...that's not an issue. I eat consciously and well....most of the time. But it's all those little allowances I was granting myself with the excuse that I "train hard" that are catching up to me.

I'm back to planning meals on a spreadsheet (I love Excel). When I'm committed to it like now, I enjoy the process, enjoy the discipline. I'm finally starting to understand that it's like a puzzle to give your body just what nutrients it needs when it needs it. There's a good book on this called Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald. To be honest, I was not ready to comprehend all that info at the time that I read it. Fortunately, Kurt is helping me to gain an understanding of nutrient timing and I'm finally starting to get it.

My biggest challenge to improved eating habits is unlearning much of what culture has taught me about food. Here are examples of habits and ideas I held: (pre-endurance me):
  • Breakfast should primarily be composed of doughy (pancake, waffle) or crunchy cereal products. Start the day off with something sweet, right?
  • Lunch is defined as something between pieces of soft bread along with salty/crunchy finger foods
  • Fruit is for decorating the counter
  • Vegetables are only appropriate at dinner (lettuce and tomato on sandwich at lunch excepted)
  • Dinner must provide noodles, potatoes, or rice (white preferred) in unlimited quantities
I've made great progress, but I still have things to let go of and other things yet to embrace.

I'm beginning to understand that my body needs fewer starchy carbs and fewer calories than I believed it did. I see that fibrous veggies and protein can be a complete meal (yummy too!). I no longer think it's weird to be eating broccoli or brussels sprouts at 9 am. I see that every day does not need to be a brand new culinary adventure. It's OK to eat some of the same things and makes it much simpler too.

The picture above is what I packed to eat during the workday yesterday:
  • diced chicken + spaghetti squash + broccoli + carrot shreds + marinara
  • two eggs + spinach + brown mustard
  • lean grass fed ground beef + broccoli + Frank's Red Hot (enough to make my eyes water!)
So far, so good.

What food habits and assumptions are holding you back?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday Morning

This was obviously a Monday!!

The day was to start early with a 5 am run-by-headlamp followed by a 6 am swim. The run was going well until the coffee hit the bladder. Fortunately I was passing through campus with all the tailgate-ready port-o-johns everywhere.  I was in luck...or was I? The first group of loos were all displaying "in use", kind of odd I thought to myself at 5:30 am. The next set, same thing. I guess they lock them to prevent vandalism?

So I figure it's 5:30 am, who's around, and I go to....uh....ok....we're all nature as it were. I'm adjacent to the loos in a fairly open field....with my iPod going and my headlamp on, and who comes running by but the CORPS OF CADETS!!  They are coincidentally out for their morning run. I never heard them coming. Busted! (obviously they run in their shorts and ts, not the uniforms in the picture) It's companies of 20 or so, one right after the other, coming by in a seemingly endless formation. I turn off the headlamp, but I'm quite sure I've been spotted.

Once I gain my composure it's tricky to make my escape since I am heading in exactly the opposite direction of them. I'm swimming upstream.

Under any other circumstances, I really like to see the Corps of Cadets out running. There are over 1000 of these outstanding men and women and they have an impressive lineage of leaders and heroes. I've had the privilege to teach a number of cadets and they are exceptional.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

New Movies and a Cool Bike Stand

I got a super sweet surprise in the mail today, a box of DVDs from my sponsor, Endurance Films! I see some movie nights in the future and will report back on them. The titles include the 5 DVD USAT Training Series, Triathlon through the Eyes of the Elite, Galloway's Marathon Training, Triathlon Transitions, and two Rides bike trainer DVDs. The kids are heading out for a sleepover party tonight...wondering if a triathlon DVD could be considered appropriate "date night" movie fodder....hmmm. I think so!

I'm in a trying-not-to-spend extra money mode right now (except new A-string and replacement bridge for kids' cello = $112!!) but I succumbed to a cool bike stand today called the GearUp Grand Stand for $25 minus my 15% New River Valley Bicycle Association discount. I'd been eying a similar one online because I'm not real excited to store my bike leaned up against our garage shelves with all the kid and dog traffic that comes through. Now I can park it anywhere - even by the gas cans and lawn mowers instead of by the old shoes if I choose! My Teddy Roo lives the glamorous life!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Triathlon vs Horse Show

Every time I load my bike into the minivan I marvel at the ease. Ten seconds and done. Growing up, my sport required loading a pony into a trailer (later a horse). Not quite so easy, especially if they were not keen on the idea of getting into a metal box on wheels.

 I grew up riding in that big horse mecca (haha) of suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We weren't wealthy, but my parents somehow made it work, and I am so grateful. (We still joke that horses are cheaper than drug addiction or therapy.) We had to be frugal which meant my horse lived in the low-rent district of the pasture while friends' horses lived in the barn (my horse was happier).

Chance in his field
I rode up until my first son was born. Riding shaped much of who I am today. So did my involvement in the US Pony Club (I'm a lifetime member, graduate HA!) which has a system of ratings based on both riding and horsemanship knowledge. It was through the sport and coming up the rating system that I learned about patience, hard work, frustration, and success. Every child should have the opportunity to really invest themselves in a sport or hobby to learn to deal with the ups and downs and to see how long-term effort can pay off.

first pony Blueberry

As much as I loved riding and showing, at this stage I really appreciate how streamlined triathlon is. Here are some of the differences that highlight why:

Horse Show: Hours to bathe horse, braid mane and tail (only to have them rub them in the stall), clean all the leather tack, wash saddle pads
Triathlon: Five minutes to wipe off the bike and stuff gear into the transition bag

Horse Show: Wear tall leather boots, breeches, high-collared shirt, wool coat, and velvet covered helmet in the heat of the summer
Triathlon: Wear one, or maybe two items of climate-appropriate clothing

Dressage on Santos

Horse Show: You could end up in the first class of the day and last class of the day (time unknown) with endless hours spent standing around in between. You get home after dark.
Triathlon: You jump in the water at a precise predetermined time and keep going till you're done. With a sprint you could be home by lunch.

Horse Show: Horses, especially mares, have moods and feelings, good days and bad,
Triathlon: It's all you, can't blame the bike

Horse Show: Judged
Triathlon: Timed

Horse Show: Post-show requires removing all the braids, rubbing down horse, bandaging, feeding, cleaning poop out of the trailer, unhitching and parking trailer, putting scads of equipment away. THEN you can have a shower and something to eat....if you have the energy.
Triathlon: Straight home to bed/good meal/adult beverage

Horse Show: Horse throws a shoe - $60 farrier bill
Triathlon: Bike gets a flat - $8 tube

Horse Show: Overnight horse can roll in poop, rub braids out, get cast in stall, go lame
Triathlon: Bike is the same in the morning as at night

Horse Show: Horse takes expensive supplements to keep him and his joints and bones healthy.
Triathlon: I take expensive supplements to keep me and my joints and bones healthy

I'd like to make the argument that triathlon is a lot cheaper than riding, but I'm not sure I can. There's no monthly board, vet, or farrier but there is coach, trainer, gym membership, pool membership, orthopedic doc, acupuncturist, chiropractor. My new (used) tri bike cost more than my first horse.

Jumping at Pony Club camp on Chance
As much as I enjoy the three sports of triathlon, there are things I miss about riding, particularly the relationship with such a noble and giving creature. Truly, there is nothing like that. My best memories of riding involve jumping on my horse bareback in the field, no halter, no bridle, no tack, riding around with nothing but legs and seat to communicate. There's truly no feeling quite like that, horse and rider with full faith and trust in one another.

So how come I still can't ride my bike with no hands??

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Book Review: Dara Torres - Age is Just a Number

Dara Torres won three silver medals in the Beijing Olympics, just missing gold by 0.01s in the 50-meter freestyle, all at age 41. She was the oldest Olympic swimmer ever.

Often athlete bios can seem hastily written to take quick advantage of their winning buzz, but this was well done. I devoured it last Saturday while the kids had friends sleeping over (thanks, Krista, for the loaner!).

I came away with two major points: (1) we can indeed reduce age-induced slowdowns, and even overcome them in cases, by training smarter and (2) I'm glad I am a triathlete. Kudos to competitive swimmers, but I'm happy to be in a sport that is measured in hours and minutes, not mere seconds. Too much pressure!!

What I hadn't known about Dara was that she retired from swimming multiple times and her comebacks were separated by many years out of the water. Each time she returned with a deeper belief in and understanding of herself and the needs of her body.

Dara is a big proponent of good nutrition, strength training, and stretching. She has a huge 205 bench press!!

I enjoyed the insight into the swimming culture. It seems if you want to continue competitive swimming past college, the typical route is to train with a collegiate team. She trained for a time with the Stanford team, until she essentially got voted out. It was felt she was garnering too much attention. If you are looking for drama, there's a bit of that in this book too -- in terms of relationships with fellow swimmers and coaches.

One conspicuously absent theme was that of finances - and paying for all that training, travel, and a team of "stretchers" who travels with you. Dara has a pretty robust modelling career and her family is quite well off. While she did describe some struggles as a new mom preparing for Beijing, finances were never mentioned. (I probably noticed that just because I am trying to figure out how I will pay to get to New Zealand next year!!)

It was an enjoyable read especially as a master's athlete. Dara's story is powerful. I see age as a definite asset in triathlon where the discipline and toughness gained from having been around a few years is an advantage in training and racing.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Listening skills

I sometimes wonder what it must be like to coach me. Am I high maintenance, low maintenance, do I follow directions better or worse than others? Is there head-shaking with deep sighs when my emails and workout notes are read?

I got some high praise from Coach this weekend for my "listening skills" owing to perhaps my first ever truly laid back relaxed aerobic run on Saturday. So I was strutting around feeling pretty darn good about that. (I've only been working with Coach Jim for 2-1/2 years so you can't expect to get this stuff right overnight.)

Then today was a short brick - a bit of a ride, bit of a run. The ride was uneventful, albeit a bit dull without the posse from yesterday. On the run I found a nice spring in my step and my heart rate climbed pretty quickly into upper tempo (or beyond?) I was enjoying pushing things a bit, feelin' mighty fine.....until about oh....3.8 miles into my 4.0 mile run when RELAXED AND AEROBIC AT ALL TIMES flashed in my head like a neon Las Vegas sign. Somehow I had forgotten that part, conveniently, until nearly done. It is a little embarrassing, at my age, to have difficulty following simple directions especially when I know Coach Jim is just trying to save me from myself.

So much for my good listener award.

New Riding Group

Yesterday I went for a ride with a new group. We covered a tough 11 miles in an hour and change, on an out-and-back course with just one refueling stop -- ice cream. The guys took turns pulling and fortunately they let me hang on the back, that draft was the only way I could keep up. They had the typical ride banter - you know, Xbox, Minecraft, farting, burping, and a little bit about equipment, that sort of stuff. I saw some unusually high cadence action, and at times feet would literally fly off of the pedals.  I got a little nervous when we approached baby strollers and small children, but fortunately all pedestrians remained safe.

We are already talking about our next cycling adventure. Thanks for the ride, boys!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Congrats to Kurt and Vaughan!

Pardon the little triathlon departure, but I wanted to take a moment to congratulate Kurt Weidner and Vaughan Twigger for going 1-2 at the WNBF Pro Universe Show in New York this weekend (read more here). Kurt (left) won the overall just edging out Vaughan (right). This is a fitting reward for these two natural bodybuilders who train together at Blacksburg Health and Fitness at the Weight Club (where I work out too). I train with Kurt weekly and can bear witness to his work ethic, discipline, positive attitude, knowledge and life balance that allows him to be in this sport for the long haul and to be so successful. The same is true of Vaughan. These two are so humble and I think very few people at our gym even know what impressive bodybuilding resumes they have. They aren't walking around in showy muscle shirts and shorts and they don't talk about what they are doing. They just work smart, work hard, and are patient with their development.

Kurt's athletic background includes soccer, track, and hockey and he has a master's degree in economics. He's the definition of the lifelong learner that we, as educators, want students to become. He is constantly adding to his knowledge of strength training, nutrition, rehab, and recovery. Then he shares it liberally as a trainer and bodybuilding coach.

I've been working with Kurt since spring and he's taught me a lot about how to manage strength training as an endurance athlete so that it is complementary and does not compromise performance. It's been a great season with quick post-race recoveries so clearly it is working.

I'm blessed to be around Kurt and Vaughan. They exemplify the traits that are necessary to be a successful bodybuilder or triathlete - discipline, focus, courage, and balance -- with a healthy dose of humor and fun!

Congratulations, Kurt and Vaughan!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Tour du Tailgates

It's nearly fall in my college town, leaves are turning, temperatures are dropping, and there is excitement in the air. That can only mean one thing....long runs!! OK, Hokie football and long runs. We are home to Virginia Tech and it's a crazy football town. I love soaking up the energy but I have no desire (or patience) to stand around at a tailgate, drink all day, eat bad food, and sit around rabid (drunk) fans at the game. But I do love to run through it all!

Today I had a super easy 9-miler, with Coach looking to strike a balance between recovery from last week's half-IM and prep for the Richmond Marathon which is in 55 days (egad, I'm sorry I looked that up).  He set an upper limit for my heart rate and clearly stated I was to stay below at all times. I took advantage of this laid-back run to snap some pics. I ran at 9 am and the game is not until 4 pm though so only the hard-core folks were out already!

Part of one of the RV areas
a Marching Virginian heading to warm ups

One big advantage to running during football season is that there are pretty much porta-loos everywhere! I took advantage of one of these today. Nice!

I'm super happy that my tendonitis didn't flare up today. With the nice relaxed (slow) pace I hit, I felt like I could run for ever; the photography stops probably helped! It's not easy for me to back off on a run but it makes it a very different experience-- more like touring. Maybe I'm turning a corner and maturing as an athlete, realizing that not every run needs to be a test of mental fortitude. Nah!!!  The real explanation is that I know my best chance to run a happy healthy marathon is to stick closely to Coach's plan.

While all the crazy fans are off at the game, I'll be happily at home, hosting a sleepover for two of the boys' friends. Suits me just fine!

(I did not take this picture)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

50s Workout

With my tri season wrapping up, Kurt suggested we begin talking about strength training goals related to my racing goals. We haven't had the talk yet, and he's out of town, so this week I've floundered a bit and had some motivation issues. So today on the way to the gym I decided to use his technique of doing 50 reps of my chosen exercises, in the minimum number of sets required to hit 50. I had one hour to work out while Grant was in Karate. That meant avoiding talking to fit it all in, which is always a challenge for me. I put on my iPod and my "don't talk to me face" (which clearly needs work) and began.

On this, my chest and arms day, I did:
  • 50 x 100 lbs bench press (7 sets - no spotter...a few scary reps)
  • 50 x bodyweight parallel bar dips (9 sets - they decrease exponentially)
  • 50 x 50 lb ez bar curls (6 sets - dips and curls done as a superset)
  • 50 incline twisting situps (2 sets)
  • 50 x 20 lb db hammer curls each arm (4 sets - veins were a poppin')
This was a nice change-up. I did about half as many exercises as usual, but nearly as many sets, and I know the quality and effort were there. Plus it got me fired up and excited again!

One good cure for motivation problems is to find a way to make it more like play (like Joel's book review of the Accidental Athlete that I read today). The effort will follow.

Wonder how I'll feel tomorrow....

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Puppet on the run

Over the last few days, odd little details of Saturday's race, mainly the run, have been coming back to me. During the run, my world was stripped down to just me (and my pain), the path ahead of me, and people and voices around me. I'm guessing that happens to us all.

The funniest thing happened about 1/2 a mile from the finish. I knew no one was behind me for a ways and I fell to a walk. Shameful to be sooooo close and still not able to keep it up, I know, but I was beyond fried mentally and physically. Some spectator across the road starts yelling "Pick it up!!  You can catch him!!" His voice was booming and you don't say no to this guy! Sure enough, there's some dude ahead of me, and without a thought of my own (or even the thought to have a thought of my own), I pick up a run again to catch him. The spectator keeps yelling and I keep running! It was basically puppet and puppet master.

I can't believe how vulnerable I was to this power of suggestion. I mean, I am thankful, but it really is as if large parts of the brain shut down and you just become this reactionary being. It's just a little creepy.

I'm guessing he was having fun with it - kind of like a live videogame sort of thing. I wonder how many other people he brought across the finish line?!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Boston...Take Two

Yesterday I was accepted into the Boston Marathon. I have unfinished business with this race.

It's my second time getting in but I have yet to run it.

This morning I mentioned the race to my kids. My well-meaning offspring said in the very sweetest way possible, "maybe this year you won't break your leg."

I need to get there. This year the race falls on April 16th - a tough day for me and for all of us at Virginia Tech.

My hope is for the whole family to go to Boston on the train from Virginia. I've always wanted to travel somewhere on a train. I even have hotel reservations already.

But I've been here before so I'm not jump-up-and-down excited. I'm subdued excited. Not-counting-my-chickens kind of excited.

Before that, I am hopefully running the Richmond Marathon for the third time on November 12. (It's the only marathon I've ever done.) My only goal is to run that race happy and healthy, time is irrelevant. It's my first time handing marathon training over to my tri coach Jim and I'm glad about that. I trust his judgement far more than my own. He's always done a great job of reading between the lines and seeing past my personal denial of brewing issues!

So get ready Beantown.....I hope to see you in April!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Race Report: Patriots Half

After two seasons of racing, it seemed like a good idea to try a half iron-distance race this year. I put the Patriots Half in Williamsburg, Virginia on my B-race list. It had some extra significance, being in historic Jamestown, with the swim in the James, the day before the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Because my training was geared to my A-races at sprint and Olympic distances, and because my running legs have not been 100%, I wouldn’t be fully trained up for this distance but I wanted to have a go at it anyway. My goal was to complete the distance and enjoy it.

As a point of clarification on the naming of races, World Triathlon Corp owns the “Ironman” brand and that and half-Ironman are used only in conjunction with their race series. They have also trademarked 140.6 and 70.3 (1.2 mile swim + 56 mile bike + 13.1 mile run = 70.3). How can you trademark a number? Anyway...other races of this same distance are called “Fulls” or “Halfs” or “half-iron distance.” Technically then Patriots would be a 72.3 thanks to the longer bike leg.

I traveled to Williamsburg with Becky, Tanya, and Clare who were competing as a relay team. We had a blast on the car trip and at the race. At the hotel the night before the race, we met the announcer, Ken Burger, and he took our names and gave us lots of shout-outs and encouragement on race day.

me, Tanya, Clare, and Becky
Up until race morning it was uncertain if the swim would happen due to anticipated flood waters coming into the James River. The swim at the Nation's Tri, being held up the coast on the same day, had been cancelled. Fortunately, the swim was a-go and the water was even warm enough to be non wetsuit-legal.

Transition opened at 5:30 for a 7:00 am race start. It’s very dark at 5:30. A lot of very clever athletes had headlamps. I was not so clever.

Swim – 1.2 miles (48:10 – 80/175 women arghhh)

The swim is right across from the Jamestown Settlement and the scene is just gorgeous. I chatted with the VT Hokie Triathletes and met up with some other One-on-One athletes in the staging area. This leg begins just off the beach in some pretty shallow water. Right before the start the group of swimmers around me agreed it would be faster to swim rather than wade in thigh-deep water and at the sound of the horn we dove and swam. It turned out to be the better decision. At the pre-race meeting a big deal was made of the tide/current coming up the James and how we should direct our swim path to let the current pull us toward the buoy. The current turned out to be less than what was described and we all swam too wide to the first turn.  The swim didn’t seem much longer than the 1500 Oly swim and I was kind of sorry to see it end. I thought it felt stronger/faster than usual but the time doesn’t really back that up. Maybe swimming straight is my issue. At any rate, I continue to gain confidence and comfort in the water.

It was a quarter mile run to T1 with sand, grass, bogs, rocks, and carpet along the way. My friend Becky had started  wave behind me – 3 minutes behind – and we exited the water together.

Bike – 58 miles (2:47 – 14/175)

The half iron bike is usually 56 miles, but because of some sort of political/permitting issue, our route was an additional two miles. I had NO idea how to pace this. I decided early on that keeping my heart rate in the mid 150’s would be about right. That is about upper aerobic/lower tempo.

I thought it would be clever to cut up a PowerBar into bite-sized pieces and put them between waxed paper in the bento box to make it easier to eat them on my every-20-minutes fueling plan. That would have worked had it not been hot and humid which left the pieces melted back into solid bar form and now laminated by waxed paper. I made it work. I didn’t take in as many calories as I thought I would – 2/3 of a Powerbar, one Accel 2nd Surge Caffeinated gel, and 200 calories of Perpetuem with Xtend BCAAs in my aerobottle. A cage-mounted bottle had water with Xtend.

I started off pretty strong (don’t we all?). Then I hit mile 10 and realized I had run out of things to think about. How was I going to entertain myself for the remaining 48 miles?!  When had I become so boring to myself?  I did offer thanks for cycling in comfort (thanks to the no-seat adventure of IronHolgs!), thought of some blog posts (all since forgotten), and read any and all signs I could find. I hit a nasty pothole at mile 21 and then wondered just how much abuse a wheel can take. At mile 45 I thought about how I wished I’d used chamois butter…youch.

I saw Tanya a few times on the course. She was looking strong and confident. Not like the poor guy I saw whose loosely hanging seat-mounted bike bag bounced back and forth from one hamstring to the other like some sadistic racquet sport. I inquired and he confirmed that, indeed, it was highly annoying.

I saw a strong Master's woman from Navy, we chatted briefly. Those Navy women are nice as well as TOUGH and strong. 

With two miles to go, I pedaled atop my shoes and stretched out the piggies to let them know it would soon be time to run. I had averaged 20.7 MPH and had kept a pretty steady heart rate, pace, and cadence throughout the fairly flat course.

Run - 13.1 miles (2:04 – 38/175)

In T2 I made the split-second decision to take my small white bar mop towel with me. GOOD decision. I soaked it with ice water at the first aid station and draped it around my neck. I later used it to wipe my face and hands, and to wave it as an SOS flag (OK, not really). The first mile I had to consciously work to slow-slow-slow myself down looking for a pace in the low 8’s.  That was my best mile. Things quickly unraveled.

I sensed my inner quads getting tighter and tighter. I had a sinking feeling it could become a problem. I did some butt kicks thinking that would stretch them out. Big mistake. At mile 2-1/2 I was stopped in my tracks by impressive knots and visible spasms. I fell into a crouch on a small footbridge over standing water and watched helplessly as the mosquitoes moved in on me. It was like an out-of-body experience and I wasn’t sure how or if I would ever stand again. Person after person passed me, each asking if I was OK and some offering to call for a medic. I must have looked worse than I thought.

I got this!
Somehow I stayed calm and clear-headed. The idea of not finishing had never entered my mind, but suddenly I saw a DNF as a real and frightening proposition. I just needed time and eventually I was able to stand. Then I walked. Then shuffled. I made it my goal to get to the next aid station where they had electrolyte tablets. I remembered my friend Ryan Day suffering the same fate and somehow getting through it. I was OK, sort of, until I tried the butt-kick thing again and there I was again, crouching, immobile. Finally I figured out NOT to do that. Needless to say it was a long and painful run/walk to the finish. I kept my cool and just did what I could.

The good news is my tendonitis was not much of an issue. Then again, if an elephant is standing on you, chances are you won’t notice a fly.

Side note: lately at every race I see one girl (maybe the same one?) who wears her race belt up under her arms, around her chest, instead of around her waist or hips.  How can that possibly be comfortable and does she not know she has another more typical option?

Finish (5:47 – 22/175)

Recovering in the medical tent and feeling better.
I crossed the finish line. I had fought back and finished my rookie half. The first person I saw was my friend John. I grabbed onto him and broke down into sobs. Poor John, stuck with this emotional sweaty mess. He directed me over to some shade and friends Tanya and Edie joined us. Then the real fun began as the cramps moved in with a vengeance. I described it as “childbirth of the legs”. It was extremely painful from quads to feet. I’m sure I wasn’t the best company there in the fetal position with my face contorted. Medical attention was suggested, summoned, and very quickly arrived. I was lifted up and taken to the med tent and plugged into an IV. Within half an hour the cramps were gone. Now I just feel like I had the equivalent of a 5+ hour leg workout with Kurt.

In light of some recent triathlete deaths, this is the first race where we were asked to complete a medical form. It seemed silly at the time, but now I understand why. The EMT pulled my form right out. Had I been unconscious, he’d be able to determine if I had any allergies or issues. I’m super grateful to the James City Volunteer Rescue Squad and have already emailed the station and am sending a donation.

Post-race reflections

I’ve gotten pretty comfy at the sprint and Olympic distances so I am glad I pushed beyond that and did something that tested me in new ways. I am proud of myself for staying calm and doing the best I could with the unexpected challenges I faced. Never give up!! Even with a horrible run, I still came out 4/36 in my age group and 22/175 of all the women.  There is just no telling in a race, and you can’t stop trying, you can’t give up. Random reflections:
  • Now I really wonder how anyone does an Ironman. Each leg I finished I tried to imagine doing twice that. No thank you!
  • I’m wondering now if I need to consider salt tablets for anything longer than an Olympic. If I think back to my marathons, I had similar cramping afterward, just not quite as severe as today. Endurolyte tabs are great, but for some reason they contain all the electrolytes EXCEPT salt.
  • I should have held back more on the bike, Coach said that might have made the difference in the run.
  • The caffeinated gel on the bike really helped when I got sluggish. I probably could have used another on the bike and another on the run.
  • I got pretty tight across my shoulders from almost 3 hours in the aerobars. I’m not sure if that’s a conditioning thing or a fit thing. It’s never happened before.
  • If I want to be competitive at this distance I obviously need to train at this distance which is a bigger time commitment. I’ll have to set some priorities for next year. 
  • I am still frustrated by being a mediocre swimmer.
  • Aid stations at every mile on the run is the greatest!! Those kept me going with their ice-cold sponge rewards in addition to drinks, food, electrolytes. Very well done and much appreciated!
  • I will definitely take a towel on these longer runs in the future.
My goal was to “experience this distance and enjoy it so I would want to do it again.” Oddly enough, just hours after finishing, I could say that I enjoyed it. It was difficult, frustrating, and painful. But I enjoyed facing the unknown, confronting a challenge, and being among the community of triathletes.
It’s pretty cool to think we all manually moved ourselves 72.3 miles! I hate to drive that far!!
I have one more triathlon remaining – the Giant Acorn Sprint on October 2 with my friend Krista. A last blast to bid adieu to the season. It’s been a great one!!

Many thanks to Tanya, Becky, and Clare for the hours of fun girl talk! Living with three men, I need that from time to time. Thanks, Coach Jim for dealing with my crazy race plans that make your job nearly impossible. Kurt, I'm looking forward to some solid off-season strength training.

My thoughts are with my nephew Evan, racing the full at Cedar Point today. It's his second iron-distance and tomorrow he turns just 22! As I sit on my butt today I'll be tracking him compulsively and sending every encouraging vibe I can!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The 70.3 Mile Virgin

I am a day out from departure for my rookie half IM race (race #14 for me) in Williamsburg, Virginia and am feeling pretty good. By good, I mean normal, as in going about about my business. I can't begin to imagine what the experience will be like so I figure no sense in worrying about it. I'm traveling with three girlfriends who are doing the relay so it's bound to be a good time on the trip.

What is it about a race though that makes you suddenly obsess about some stupid little detail? I have raced in the same (sockless) bike shoes in every race I have done and suddenly I find myself second-guessing and wondering if I need to race in my other larger shoes that accommodate socks. No, I tell myself, no need to change anything at this point.

I sent an email out to my Endurance Films Racing Team folks to see if anyone had any advice to share and it flowed freely back to me - mainly to conserve, fuel properly, and enjoy! It got me wondering how many other sports have such a deep sense of community and sharing that we have in triathlon?

Related to this, my trainer Kurt is featuring interviews with a few of his athletes on his blog in part to show the diversity of his clientele. (i.e. bodybuilders don't only train bodybuilders) One of the most difficult questions for me was "What have been your greatest sources of motivation and inspiration? What individual(s) has/have had the greatest impact on you throughout the course of your life and why?" I gave the short answer to Kurt, but in reality the list of people who inspire me is enormous.

At the finish of every race, I am left humble and acutely aware of just how many people are really involved in getting me to that finish - family, friends, coaches, blog pals, team mates, coworkers...doctors, massage therapists, chiropractors, and acupuncturists!!

It may be an individual sport, but no one gets to the start or finish line alone.

Thanks :-)

You can read my short answer and more, at Kurt's blog: 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Data never lies

It seems I maxed out today at 1037.5 MPH on my run. Not bad for an easy aerobic run. Had it been a tempo run maybe I wouldn't have held back so much.

Swimsuit Optional

iPod....check.  Garmin watch....check.  Pool bag...check.  Towel....check.  Swimsuit?  ooh....swimsuit. Not so much.

I planned to drive to the campus pool, park, run, and then grab my pool bag and head for a swim. I had just enough time to squeeze the run and swim into my schedule (story of my life) and then scoot home to pick up my son for our lunch "date" on this rainy holiday when we are all home.  Just as I took off for my run and went through my mental checklist it dawned on me that I packed everything I needed except for the essential piece of wardrobe, my swim suit, and I was too lazy/time crunched/stubborn to drive home for it.

I did what anyone would do (or maybe just me) and swam in my running clothes.  Not so bad, really. It turned out I wasn't even the strangest scene at the campus pool. That honor would go to the ROTC/Corp of Cadet guys who were swimming in their shorts and cotton t-shirts with big face masks. The runner-up spot might go to the sweet senior citizen who chats up the lifeguards in her stretched-out see-through swim suit that was worn out years ago. I'm guessing her eyesight is not so good. I kind of like our anything-goes pool.

I ran into my friend John there (looking very Michael Phelps-ian I might add); he's doing the same race as me on Saturday but it will be his second 70.3. He later dropped me a quick email with this sage and uplifting advice:
The last 10K of the run is where dreams go to die so just keep that in mind.'d better believe I will be thinking of that and laughing (crying?) on the run!!  Thanks, John!! In his defense he did follow that up with "just enjoy the day and have fun, that’s why we do this, right?"

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Picnic on wheels

I'm loving my newly acquired Fuel Belt bento box for the bike. It fits right behind my head set on the top tube. I stuffed that puppy full of good stuff and enjoyed a picnic on wheels today as I tested it out for next week's half iron distance race (my first). During the hilly 2:20 ride, I took in a bottle with a scoop of Perpetuem, a gel with caffeine, and 6 PowerBar Energy Bites (combined total of about 600 calories). I felt great on the ride and it flew by (thank, Ryan!) but once I finished and had time to think about it, I was famished. Hmmm.

I still have no idea what I am in for next week, but one thing's for sure, I'll be eating well on the bike. I'm just sorry it's not big enough to hold a peanut butter and banana sandwich.