Monday, November 26, 2012

Confirmed: I'm a short-course girl

photo at top of a steep mid-ride climb
I set out to hit a new bike distance PR; my previous best long ride was 60 miles with a small group. Yesterday I did 71 solo. It was nice and fun and all that, but honestly right now I cannot see enjoying a century ride or a 112-mile iron-distance ride (followed by a marathon). I would not have had more fun, and truthfully less, had I gone 29 (century) or 41 (IM) additional miles. I was very happy to get home and park the bike in the garage.

Granted it was a hilly course (6000+ feet of elevation gain; see below), and bumpy (aluminum road bike), and it didn't help that I drove 450 miles the day before.

I'm just a short course girl at this time of life and make no apologies. I just don't have the desire or attention span for more (or time to train for more). I like to train for the short, fast, all-out races. That's plenty of thrill for me.

I have tremendous respect for my friends who have done or will do Ironman or iron-distance races. This short-course girl will be cheering you on and will remain in awe of what you accomplish!

Maybe when the kids are off to college....

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving & Turkey Dash 5K

This was year four of doing a Thanksgiving Day 5K and my third year joined by my nephew Evan (who I like to point out is a 2x Ironman at age 23). I do love this tradition!!

This year, we are at my sister's in Cleveland rather than my folk's in Pittsburgh so we ran the Karen P. Nakon Annual Turkey Dash in Avon, Ohio, one town over. This suburban race attracted over 1200 participants!! Thanksgiving has got to be the day of the most simultaneous racing across the country.

We were treated to a mild, beautiful day. I went out too fast (Garmin) and soon the left quad and hamstring were feeling the effects of the 400 mile drive the previous day. It was a so-so run for me, but it still felt good to get out there, rev up the engine, and blow out the cobwebs. Tomorrow morning I'll enjoy a long chill run along Lake Erie.

I finished in 21:29 to win my age group with about 3 minutes to spare. They awarded top-3 overall, but not top-3 master's and I don't know where I ranked overall. The fun for me is just getting out there and running in costume, spending time with my nephew, and redlining a bit :-) [Addendum: top master's, 12th female, 72nd finisher out of 1423]

Like most triathletes, I have much to be thankful for - the ability to run (and swim and bike), my family, friends, and loved ones, fulfilling work, and lots of adventure. So I'm signing out to go soak up all the goodness. Finish reading this, shut the computer down, and go do the same!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Let's get this party started

Final sprint

Evan and fiance Kim

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Zone 1-2 FAIL

Ah, early morning fall Virginia running - tank top and ear warmer! How's that for a fashion statement? My 50 minute run was to be just "cruising easy" in Zone 1/2. These zones correspond to heart rate ranges (beats per minute) which vary by individual.

Zone 1 - Easy Aerobic
Zone 2 - Aerobic
Zone 3 - Tempo
Zone 4 - Threshold
Zone 5 - VO2 Max

I set out to "cruise easy" per instructions aiming for Zone 1 (figuring I'd creep into Zone 2 anyway), which for me has been deemed to be under 139 beats per minute. Well, I zipped right through Zone 1, spending exactly 3% or just under 2 minutes there...on my way to far more exciting zones!! Woohoo!

I spent 53% of my time in Zone 2, and the remaining 44% in Zone 3. That puts me at following instructions 56% of the time. "Technically" one might consider that a failing grade. I'm thinking it's time for re-zoning.

It's futile for me to even think about running in Zone 1, and even Zone 2 requires conscious effort. Usually Coach just says "easy aerobic" for these chill runs, that's nice and subjective. This whole "zone" thing pins me down. Yeah, yeah, maybe that's the point.

My favorite zones are of course Tempo and Threshold. With marathon season fast approaching, I'll need to make my peace with Zone 2 and standard Aerobic. It's a little hard to redline for 26.2 miles.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Miscellany

Happy Friday! It just seemed like time for a good catch-all post from here with lots (and LOTS) of little things going on.

First off, I want to say I am loving my "new" position with the fortyninegroup. I've been in it officially just over two months and it still feels surreal to be immersed in triathlon and endurance sports every day. I am able to write, create, and manage information for a tremendous group of clients that includes coaching groups, professional triathletes, and equipment companies. It's been a natural and smooth transition, playing to my strengths, while at the same time I am learning a lot from the clients and the company's chief connector, John Jones. It's because of this blog that I discovered my love for writing that led to this opportunity. It's helped to have readers along the way, so if you are reading this, thank you!

This is going well -- again, at a reduced volume and without the structure and intensity of race season, so it's more like play, but play that is happily scheduled on a calendar! I've increased my focus at the gym and am really enjoying training with my son, Spencer. He's been good for me, keeping me from chit-chatting too much so we keep the tempo of the workout up. He's a strong kid too!!

Related to workouts, I was doing a post the other day about TrainingPeaks for our Endurance Films Racing Team. They are a sponsor of ours and I've been using this online tool for 3-1/2 years since I began with Coach Jim. It got me curious about the number of workouts I had logged there and so I looked at that and at Garmin Connect, which pre-dates my TP use by a few months. So here's a summary of all the workouts I have recorded since I started training with GPS:

That's 1280 SBR workouts, 10,448 total bike and run miles, and 1173 hours of training.  Pretty cool! I've essentially run across the US once, and biked back and forth. I had maybe 6 months of pre-GPS running so this is nearly all of it.

Next Up
I got my official Boston acceptance this week in the mail which is weird since I haven't trained for or run a marathon in over a year now. I've run the Richmond Marathon for the past three years but with Worlds I did not. I am excited to start training for Boston, but nervous too, given my past history of missing Boston not once, but twice now due to injury. My only goal is safe and happy training and race.

Oh, the blog "apple" does not fall far from the tree! Grant, my young entrepreneur, started a blog of his own called the Young Entrepreneur. Take my drive and focus and replace "triathlon" with "earning and saving money" and you have my son Grant. He is incredibly confident, self-motivated, and hard-working at 10. He's been raking leaves (not easy as a little 80 lb kid) and saving so that he can move his investment savings to a different account that has a higher minimum. He's a persistent kid and after he did some thorough research and presented his case, I helped him setup a small online trading account.

Just as a disclaimer, we are not a money-driven family. So while I am trying to instill values of socially and environmentally responsible business and investing, I am happy for him to explore and learn all he can about business and finance. He's already surpassed what I know, and I'm fine with that. I figure one day he'll be my financial manager!!!

That's all from here! I'm off to the pool. Have a great Friday and great weekend!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Feeding time at the zoo

In the midst of all the excitement and upheaval of the last six weeks, you know what has really suffered around here?


Since I got back from NZ especially, as I've been clawing my way back on top of things (trying, anyway), "dinner" has included a lot of eggs, grilled cheese, some take-out, and my favorites - "scavenger hunt" and "every man for himself." It got so bad, I found myself wishing I could scoop some kid chow out of a plastic bin like I do for the dog.

If you don't already know this about me, I don't really enjoy cooking. It's such a time sink! As I say, I am a food assembler:

meal = lean protein + veggies + healthy fat

I eat for fuel and to not be hungry. 

Things get pretty chaotic here after 3 pm wrapping up work and driving kids around. Dinner time has been a mess. This past weekend I vowed to do a better job of planning and making dinner so I pulled out The Feed Zone by Biju Thomas that I'd gotten a few months ago (but hadn't actually used yet). I love this book!!

The description says:
"The Feed Zone Cookbook offers 160 athlete-friendly recipes that are simple, delicious, and easy to prepare. When Dr. Allen Lim left the lab to work with pro cyclists, he found a peloton weary of food. For years the sport's elite athletes had been underperforming on bland fare and processed bars and gels. Science held few easy answers for nutrition in the real world, where hungry athletes must buy ingredients; make meals; and enjoy eating before, during, and after each workout, day after day."
Monday I made Chicken Tikka Masala and Tuesday it was Pasta with Smoked Salmon. We're talking 7 ingredients and 4 steps for the salmon, and 6 ingredients and 2 steps for the chicken. I can do that! The stuff was yummy, healthy, easy, wholesome, and enjoyed by all members of this picky household.

This book is pretty awesome and it has inspired me to get my act together and actually make reasonable dinners again. Or at least reduce the number of "every man for himself" nights.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Zen of Biking

Last weekend when I rode my bike to the Civic Center, I was asked how far it was. I responded somewhat apologetically, having ridden just one direction, "only 34 miles."

When did 34 miles become "ONLY"?

I cringed at how that probably sounded leaving my mouth, I didn't mean it in any sort of snobby way. But like a lot of things, the mind and body adapt so what once seemed daunting, becomes just normal. My typical long ride is about 50, but for many other cyclists and regular century riders (100 miles), 50 is short. It's all relative.

I think riding long is largely about finding a certain "zen" state -- the mind are body are relaxed, legs are on autopilot, thoughts become quiet, and the rider is simply in the moment. Time and miles fly by. That's how rides become "only" however many miles. (I should clarify that a different sort of zen state is needed for focused interval and race pace work on the bike.)

Today I also rode "only" 34 miles to and from McCoy Falls at the New River (pictured above). As I went along, I thought more about that response and how four years ago, my pre-triathlete and pre-cycling self could not have conceived of riding to the river and back. How do I view cycling now, versus then?

Well, I don't think about a ride in its totality, as a cumulative effort (math brain is thinking integral - area under the elevation profile, lol). I allocate the time, get on the bike and just go. Cycling has taught me to be very much in the now as the world reduces to the pavement around me, the road ahead, and the sights along the way.

With our rolling hills, it's not 34 miles of constant top-level exertion and intense focus. Most of the time I'm not even thinking about pedaling. The legs just know their job and do it.

Biking provides sufficient low-level tasks to quiet the mental chatter --  shifting, monitoring the road surface, navigating, and staying vigilant for potential hazards -- while leaving room for the more important or creative thoughts.

Staying in the now means you don't fret about what is to come because what matters is the road you can see in front of you. You learn that even if you're headed up a quad-buster, the pain is quickly forgotten on the other side.

Learning to ride for any distance is as much mental as it is physical and going longer just means holding hold that zen-like state longer. It simply requires getting out there and putting in the rides that ask the body and mind to adapt. That automatic adaptation process is one of the most fascinating aspects of sport for me. That's what lets us wake up one day and say things like "only 34 miles" and wonder when that happened!

60 miles is my longest bike ride to date, but I'm getting the itch for some longer "zen"!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Do the Pre-Ride "ABC Quick Check"

Before most rides, I inflate my tires, pick the bike up, and give each wheel a quick spin. Today I did not.

Hmmm, can you guess where this story is headed?

I left the house on "Ace" the road bike to do a short-ish ride with some quality tempo/recovery repeats. The bike was not shifting well and it would bounce up or down a cog. Sometimes that happens, I thought perhaps it just needed an adjustment.

Midway through a grinding section, the pedals stopped dead, crank arms horizontal. The chain jumped the smallest cog and was wedged next to the frame. I got off the bike safely, yanked the chain out, and put it back where it belonged. I figured I'd just avoid that gear.

I headed home and it got worse and worse. As luck would have it, one of our prominent bike advocates in the New River Valley Bicycle Association, Ed, was coming up an adjacent road. I hobbled alongside and he offered to take a look.

He immediately diagnosed that my rear skewer was very loose and the wheel was barely on the frame. A quick tightening and a run through the gears had it back to normal. I was pretty fortunate to avoid a wreck or other disastrous outcome. Had I taken a moment to check out the bike either before the ride or after the chain incident, I probably would have noticed.

I'm going to do a better job with the pre-ride "ABC Quick Check" now. Please do the same and ride safely!
  1. A is for air
    • Inflate tires to rated pressure as listed on the sidewall of the tire
    • Use a pressure gauge to insure proper pressure
    • Check for damage to tire tread and sidewall; replace if damaged
  2. B is for brakes
    • Inspect pads for wear; replace is there is less than ¼" of pad left
    • Check pad adjustment; make sure they do not rub tire or dive into spokes
    • Check brake level travel; at least 1" between bar and lever when applied
  3. C is for cranks, chain and cassette
    • Make sure that your crank bolts are tight; lube the threads only, nothing else
    • Check your chain for wear; 12 links should measure no more than 12 1/8 inches
    • If your chain skips on your cassette, you might need a new one or just an adjustment
  4. Quick is for quick releases
    • Hubs need to be tight in the frame; your quick release should engage at 90°
    • Your hub quick release should point back to insure that nothing catches on it
    • Inspect brake quick releases to insure that they have been re-engaged
  5. Check is for check it over
    • Take a quick ride to check if derailleurs and brakes are working properly
    • Inspect the bike for loose or broken parts; tighten, replace or fix them
    • Pay extra attention to your bike during the first few miles of the ride 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

What my "off season" looks like

"Off season" can vary greatly from person to person and there's no single roadmap. I guess it depends on how beat up we are from racing, the other demands of life, and preference. Some people (i.e. me) want a little more structure, some prefer little to none.

I really don't know how most people do their off season. I figured I'd share what mine looks like because I'm curious what it is for others.

The first week and a half was wide open. I swam once, biked twice, ran twice, and hit the gym twice, but it was all fun and low intensity, and several of those days I did nothing workout-y. Coach Jim and I met during that time and reviewed the year, looked at my Training Peaks data to date, and talked generally about the approach moving forward - the training balance among the three sports, volume, and goals for 2013. We'll meet again and talk specifics early next year.

Off-season does not mean a cessation of training. It means training with lower volume (right now at about 2/3 of what it was), more flexibility, and no need for race-specificity. By that I mean, there's no work at dialed-in paces (i.e. 1 mile at 6:20 pace) or defined intervals right now. There's still quality interval-like work, but it's in the form of things like running "ups" (tempo) and "downs" (recovery).  Training still has structure (which I prefer/need) but it has opened up quite a bit.

Off-season also means:
  1. More FUNctional training - biking and running as transportation to get somewhere
  2. A return to some trail running
  3. Riding the road bike
  4. Adding legs back into the strength training routine. I had stopped last February with my hip injury and never resumed since I was racing well and frankly it scared me to mess with that.
  5. Rehabbing the shoulder that has not been great for probably a year 
  6. Enjoying other sports - hopefully some skiing/snowboarding with the kids and hiking
  7. Sleeping more (maybe)
Off-season means a chunk of my brain has cleared out, leaving more room to think about other things. That's been both good and bad. My poor boss...I've had this incoming rush of "good ideas" that I really need to filter and organize rather than just doing the impulse Skype IM blurts throughout the day.

Off-season means doing those things that I so easily justified procrastinating for months and months because it was "Race Season." For instance, yesterday I:
  • took the compact fluorescent bulbs to be recycled (the ones that have been in my car for four months)
  • picked up my kid's teeth molds from last spring to take to the soon-to-be orthodontist
  • ironed the white pants and eyelet shirt that I wore early summer, washed, and never wore again because they needed to be ironed for the last many months.

Off-season means more family focus and getting ready for the holidays. And starting on the jigsaw puzzles that await us, unopened. Soon. Very soon. Bring on those snow days!!

Off-season means the diet relaxes some. I managed to pack on a few pounds in New Zealand and the kids and I will do a good bit of holiday cookie baking next month, so in and around that I'll stick to my normal eating to keep things in check. But for sure there will be an allowance for cookies, and wine, and chocolate....

So that's how things look for me. How about you?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

2013 Race Schedule


The 2013 Set Up race schedules came out November 1. Set Up Events runs the Virginia Triathlon Series that I've raced the past three years, along with race series from Georgia to Maryland and standalone events like Bone Island Tri in Key West, and Beach 2 Battleship. They are very organized, top-notch events, I see my friends there, and the events are fairly close. That helps to minimize cost and time away from the family.

It took me about 15 minutes to come up with next year's schedule. With the "A races" and the Boston Marathon nailed nailed down, I only needed to fill in with VTS races that fit between Boston and Worlds. The date and location for Nationals is still only rumor, but I'm hoping it's true it was moved up a weekend.

This schedule includes 9 triathlons and 1 marathon. I did 9 triathlons and no marathons in 2012 and that was plenty! There's only one pool swim on the schedule (yay) but not nearly enough Olympic races. The few VTS Olys don't work well around the big races :-( I may need to refine this and switch out a race to get another Oly on there.

04/15/13 Boston Marathon
05/04/13 Appalachian Power Smith Mountain Lake Triathlon (sprint)
06/02/13 Salem YMCA Sprint Triathlon 
06/22/13 Bath County Triathlon (sprint)
07/13/13 YMCA Colonial Beach Sprint Triathlon
07/14/13 YMCA Colonial Beach International Triathlon
08/10/13  USAT Nationals Sprint
08/11/13  USAT Nationals Olympic

09/08/13 Patriots Sprint – tuneup for Words
09/22/13  London ITU World Age Group Championships - Olympic and poss. Aquathon

My thought is then to change things up in 2014 and maybe look at trying to qualify for something like the 5150 National Championships or do the Set Up Cup race series that spans all the Set Up series. But for this year, there are plenty of big challenges. I'm glad for my base races to be the familiar.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Ride to the Green Living & Energy Expo

Me with fellow triathlete, Kimberly. We triathletes like sustainable energy!!
This first week back was focused on keeping my head above water. My sleep schedule was a wreck (ooh, midnight! time to get up!), it was Halloween (thank you ebay seller for the kid's costume ordered October 17 that arrived November 1), and of course we had some rough weather from Frankenstorm Sandy (thankfully no power outages). Plus I was restoring order to the family and getting back into work.

But come Saturday, I was feeling some "adventure withdrawal" made worse by having just watched the Phil Keoghan documentary,  "The Ride," about his bike ride across America for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. (I'd highly recommend it - avail on iTunes)

.....So the Green Living and Energy Expo was Friday and Saturday in Roanoke, Virginia and Solar Connexion was exhibiting. I had the great idea that I should ride my bike the 30+ miles to the Civic Center, help pack up the booth (in my bike shoes, LOL), and bum a ride back to town. So that's what I did, despite quite a bit of anxiety about riding to a place in "the city" with the last bit along a route I was just picking randomly from a map.

I said to the hubs, should I do it? He said yes, so I went for it. It was my first non-loop, non out-and-back ride ever.

I figured I'd ride super carefully and conservatively and go. The first 20 miles are my normal country roads. Then I hit some busier mountain roads, then off into urban neighborhoods I did not know. Really, it generally went fine until the last mile or so where I had little choice but to be amidst the four lane traffic, lights, and turn lanes. Though the ride was "only" 34 miles, I had NO desire to ride back through that traffic and was glad for the ride back. Here's the Garmin map/data.

I'm glad I did this, but I'm sad that there are big public places like this that are so scary to get to by bike. The ride itself was not difficult (only the traffic was), and it took me ONLY twice as long, pedaling easy, to get there by bike as by car. I think it's pretty astounding, really, that a trip that is nearly an hour by car was less than two hours by bike.

It was a cool experience for sure.