Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Uncertain Future of USA Triathlon Age Group Sprint Nationals and ITU Sprint Worlds

If you plan to race at this year's USAT Age Group Sprint Nationals, be aware that it is no longer a qualifier for the ITU Age Group Sprint World Championship.

During my four years participating in the USAT Age Group Nationals weekend, there have always been two races: the Olympic distance on Saturday and the Sprint distance on Sunday. They varied in that one had to qualify for the Olympic race, but not for the sprint, but BOTH races were qualifiers for the ITU Age Group World Championship in their respective distances. I've enjoyed racing both and having two opportunities in one weekend to qualify for Team USA.

Last February, the ITU (International Triathlon Union - not our national governing body USA Triathlon) decided that beginning in 2016, the Age Group Sprint World Championship would change from draft-illegal (how nearly all of us age-groupers race) to draft-legal:

In non-drafting (draft-illegal) racing (again, most all age group races are this way), one must stay out of a 3m x 10m (or 12m for long distance events) "draft zone" around fellow cyclists on the course, except during a pass which must be done within a specified amount of time (I think 15 seconds). This is to minimize the advantages of "drafting" whereby the rider can save up to 40% of their energy riding in the low pressure area created just behind the rider who cuts through the wind. 

That's me riding safely in the front of the photo from last year's Nationals.

Non-drafting racing maintains the focus on the individual nature of the sport. Yes, one can draft somewhat in swimming, and theoretically on the run (not with much advantage) but in cycling it really changes the nature of the race.

In draft-legal racing, riders form closely grouped peletons or packs, adding a whole new dimension of race tactics and strategy. Because the drafting advantages come from riding very closely, the risk of multi-rider crashes go up significantly. A clipped wheel, a moment of inattention, a sudden move by a rider - that's all it can take for you and your cycling neighbors to go down hard.

The young professionals who race in ITU draft-legal racing are skilled and accomplished and can ride far more safely than us. 

But the bike handling skill set among us "weekend warriors" is varied. How many of us who are beyond our 20s and 30s, with jobs, and families, and responsibilities, want to participate in draft-legal racing? I'd argue not many! Certainly not me.

I train for my best INDIVIDUAL effort out there! I'm not interested in the gamesmanship, false advantages, and strategies of pack riding.

The other point to make is that the triathlon/TT bikes we ride in draft-illegal racing are not permitted in draft-legal racing. One needs the ready-access of shifters and brakes of a road bike for safety purposes and quick adjustments. So if you are interested in both styles of racing, you'll need to keep up two bikes now. And if you should qualify for both the sprint and Olympic Age Group World Championships? Be prepared to take two bikes if you want your TT bike for the Olympic.

One of the things I love most about this sport is it's inclusivity throughout the age groups. I love racing at Nationals and Worlds with athletes in their 60's, 70's, and 80s. Often the upper age groups are MOST competitive at the sprint distance, and if the only World Championship racing opportunity is draft-legal, how many will want to compete? I feel this rule change discriminates unfairly against the upper age groups! I know some of the top athletes in the 70+ age groups who are superstars at the sprint distance but for various reasons simply cannot compete at the Olympic distance.

It is my understanding that USAT and other national federations do not support this change. They have proposed that a non-drafting sprint worlds be offered but that isn't looking very promising. 

For now the ITU decision stands. USAT announced that it will hold a special qualifier in October for the 2016 draft-legal Sprint Age Group World Championships. So now rather than the expenses of one travel weekend to qualify for two races, now there are two separate travel weekends. But not for me, since I am not at ALL interested in draft-legal racing. 

I am even on the fence about whether I will race the 2015 non-drafting "Sprint Nationals" which seems less "Nationals" and more just "regular race" since one need not qualify for it and it qualifies us for nothing. 

I'm saddened by the implications of these changes for Age Group Nationals weekend and for our athletes who specialize in this distance. I'm saddened that Sprint Nationals seems a bit lost now and the excitement of the double-race weekend at Nationals with TWO chances to qualify for Team USA is no longer --

In summary, if the ITU wanted to offer BOTH a draft-legal and non-drafting Sprint Age Group World Championship, I could support that. But switching the Sprint distance to ONLY draft-legal is crazy. They claim this change is to become "more inclusive globally?" I'd argue it discourages participation particularly through the older age groups. 

I hope the ITU will reconsider its decision and continue to offer a non-drafting Sprint Age Group World Championship. 

Thank you to USAT for continuing to pursue change and solutions and for listening to and responding to our concerns!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

48 miles for 48 trips around the sun

Yesterday concluded my 48th trip around the sun, so as of today I am officially 48. In my head I am still 26, but I know I am officially "old" because I asked for, and was excited for, and received new bathroom towels for my birthday. Thanks mom and dad! 

Nothing says "old" like excitement for new towels

This was my seventh year of celebrating my birthday in some kind of athletic way. 

I decided I wanted to kick off my bday weekend with a race, so I found the Joggin' for your Noggin' 5k put on by the Radford University National Student Speech Language Hearing Association to benefit Brain Injury Services in Southwest VA. I confess I emailed the race director to ask if I could have a number with a 48 in it, and my request was granted. I got a bib number with a 48 and personalized with a Happy Birthday. Thank you, Sophie! (I love her beautiful handwriting.)

Taylor Jennings surprised me by showing up to race! He and I share the same birthday. I beat him in "years" (by a lot; he turned 25) and he beats me in "speed" (by a lot).

This was a really unique race experience for me. It was a smaller race (60 participants in this its first year) but it was huge in terms of enthusiasm and purpose! It was a small party at the finish and I enjoyed joining in to cheer for the racers including a number of race participants who were brain injury survivors.

Big thanks to James DeMarco and Runabout Sports for supporting this race -- I found out that the personnel and nearly all of the equipment they supplied for the race are loaned out free of charge to charitable races!!

One of the brain injury survivors who I believe won the men's 41-and-over division.

Taylor and I are pictured with Sophie, the assistant Race Coordinator who made this a really special race! Taylor was first overall, and I was first overall female. I finished in 20:56 which was a decent time for me, but had I not started with an overly ambitious 6:39 first mile, I could have perhaps done a little better. I fell into the first mile trap of "hey this feels easy..." followed by a second mile of "when will this be over?" LOL.

After the race, I took off right from the parking lot for a 45 mile bike ride around Claytor Lake. I did parts of the Wilderness Road Ride in reverse and allowed myself to take my time, get a few photos, and stop for a mid-ride picnic/gas-station lunch along the lake.

This was the first time I ever loaded a course generated on MapMyRide into my Garmin Edge. That worked out pretty well for navigation but I discovered I was supposed to have loaded maps too, which I have since done (thank you DC Rainmaker for instructions). Without the actual maps, I ended up with a course sans roads or road names names, so I was basically just following a line, lol. If nothing else, this forced me to finally figure out the map feature and I feel like it's opened up a whole new world to my navigationally-challenged self!!!

my "course" - rather lacking without much of a map, but still sufficient.
should be even better now that I have maps loaded!

Picnic spot with Roo along Claytor Lake. I had a gas station hot dog and chocolate milk 
- very uncharacteristic of me. Also a good reminder of why
eating a lot (of yuck) at once is not a good idea mid-bike ride. 

THIS is the main reason for the course I chose. I love this spot coming out of Snowville, Virginia. The photo doesn't do it justice, but it's still representative of the vast beauty of our region.

I enjoyed my 48 mile day and some experiences that were different than my usual - a new race, new Garmin maps, and a different bike course.

I'm grateful to Oma and Grandfriend for the new addition to my library and the reminder that "fast" can apply to my sport but should not be applied to the rest of life in general.

Thank you to my family and friends for the birthday wishes. I look forward to another trip around the sun with you all!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Hair: The Next Big Thing in "Aero"

Triathletes are notorious for looking to save precious grams of weight from their bikes, and ounces from their shoes. We fuss about optimal water bottle placement and do all we can in search of the holy grail of "aero."

I'm here to tell you there's one major weight and aero factor that most people ignore -- HAIR!

Yesterday I was at Great Wolf Lodge water park in Charlotte, NC with the kids and a friend. In the locker room I dried my hair - which took all of about 47 seconds. There was a long-haired mom drying each of her long-haired girls' hair and she looked at me and said with a twinge of envy,"I wish we could pull off short hair!" I hear that quite often.

I love my easy short hair. While I certainly can admire long beautiful locks, that is no longer for me. I did the long-ish hair thing for 30-some years. Then I had kids and started running...and the hair got shorter and shorter in response to the ever shrinking amount of free time.

pre-kids, when I still had hair...and a curling iron...and time.

With training I can end up taking two or three quick showers in a day - that would not work if I had to fuss with hair.

Last weekend when I was running down a rural road I saw a young woman with hair pulled back that extended down to her calves. I couldn't help but wonder if that was a hinderance to being active, and if that cut her off from a world of possibilities?

Additional advantages to short hair:

  • no spending $$ on hair accessories, means more $$ for tri stuff
  • less hair volume in swim cap - less drag, less likely swim cap will split
look at that pointy low-drag head!
  • less weight to carry on bike and run, less hair to absorb sweat and be even heavier
  • no hair in my face
  • can craft attractive sweaty mohawk on bike trainer
  • impressive bed head
  • TONS of time saved with low-maintenance hair
  • competitors can't yank hair (ok, I made that up....but it COULD happen)
  • no bothersome calls from Ford Modeling Agency (haha)

this is as "accessorized" as I get - headband under bike helmet for warmth!

Big thanks to Dawn Hale my awesome stylist and friend for the past forever number of years. It's nice to just sit down at Innovations and say "do whatever" and catch up on life. She sends me off with well wishes and a reminder that I have "fast" hair :-)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The fun of coach-written training plans

I have worked with my coach, Jim McGehee of One on One Endurance, ever since I started in the sport of triathlon. I happened into him when our kids were both taking music lessons at the same place and I was coming off a running injury and considering triathlon. That was the summer of 2009!

The best part of working with him is that the training is never boring and each session includes just the right amount of goals and details to keep my mind appropriately busy. I get my workouts in two-weeks blocks, presented via Training Peaks.

What I love is that sessions often feel like games to me - with intervals to hold a specific-to-me pace, cadence, wattage, or heart rate. And when I have long or easy runs/rides on the schedule, I'm ready for the mental break and those miles are appreciated.

There's diversity in the settings too as he sends me of to roads, running paths, track, trails, hills, flat, treadmill, bike trainer. While weeks may have a similar rhythm to them (long things on weekends, group swims T/H), there are no two weeks the same...which I like!

These little goals keep me challenged and motivated! Here are a few favorite workouts from the last two weeks:

It really helps to have some type of programmable GPS device for these. I still use the old Garmin Training Center to program my Edge 800 and Forerunner 910XT:

Then I use Training Peaks to log the data and share it back with my coach for feedback, and he uses it in future planning.

I still find the training process - and data - endlessly fascinating and I remain grateful that I don't have to write my own training plan. Every two weeks I get to see what's in store for me.

I often tell Coach Jim he does the hard part writing all of this up, and I get all the fun!

If this sounds like fun, you might look into coaching. Just be sure to find the right coach match for you.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

My Power Gloves

These Adidas gloves are the first real running accessory I ever bought, purchased at our local running store, Runabout Sports, in the fall of 2008. I'd only been running a few months at that point and was headed into my first winter.

I remember just how I felt when I bought them - as if I had just crossed over into the world of "real" runners. But did I belong? I wondered if I'd last in the sport, or if running was just a phase. Was this a dumb thing to buy? What if I quit?

Now, seven and a half years later, I know the answers!

These are the gloves I put on when I need a lift in the cold months, when I need a reminder of how far I've come and how much I've learned.

I've mended these several times and I am super careful not to lose them. I've never had a pair of gloves that fit me better.

I love my POWER gloves!

Do you have sentimental items from the start of your running or multisport journey?

Disclaimer: my Power Gloves have no affiliation with the Nintendo Power Glove. (Mine are far more powerful.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tri Pros -- Like us, only faster.

In my work over the last 2-1/2 years with the fortyninegroup, I've had the privilege of supporting and serving a number of tremendous individuals who happen to also be professional triathletes and coaches. Through them I've interacted with an even wider circle of runners, triathletes, paratriathletes, and entrepreneurs in sports.

I haven't shared a whole lot about what I do here on my blog, sort of on purpose. The focus of my blog is my own journey through the sport as a half-crazed sleep-deprived working mother who is climbing up the age groups. 

But I'm going to break the "silence" to talk just a bit about my outside perspective of these top athletes. It's really a privilege to watch and learn from them. 

They ARE just like us. Only faster. OK, a LOT faster. But there are common threads that run through them, and hopefully us:
  • They have good races and not-so-good races but they learn something from every one.
  • They are self-reflective and honest.
  • They have mechanical issues and travel headaches just like we do.
  • They put in long, tedious, not-exciting indoor sessions too.
  • They get hurt, sick, and wipe out on their bikes.
  • They dial back training at certain times per year.
  • Most work closely with a coach.
  • They have short-term and long-term goals.
  • They are consistent and focused in their training.
  • They celebrate successes but don't rest on their laurels.
  • They don't publicly complain, make excuses, sandbag, etc.
  • They have healthy relationships with fellow triathletes and competitors.
  • They are overtly appreciative of those who support them - family, sponsors, and fans.
  • They bring a sense of humor and playfulness.
  • They note the natural beauty in which they race and train.
  • They are flexible and make adjustments as needed.
  • They appreciate a well-fitting wetsuit, great pair of running shoes, and a beautiful bike :-)
  • They have belief in themselves and keep pressing forward through the tough times.
  • They congratulate others for strong performances.
  • They don't put life on hold for sport (they remodel kitchens, travel, adopt kitties...)
These athletes and coaches provide me with a great dose of perspective every day that I can't help but carry into my own training and racing.

Celebrate the highs. 
Fight through the lows. 
Put in the work. 
Be grateful and appreciative.
Enjoy the journey. 

I LOVE my job....I truly love what I get to do and the people for whom I get to do it. Athletes and coaches work hard and bring great passion into all that they do. I get tremendous satisfaction supporting what they do. It's pretty cool the things that I get to call "work."

Lastly, who was I kidding saying I'd take 20 minutes every day this week to's hard to write much of anything in 20 minutes...sigh.

Learn more about these great athletes and coaches here

Monday, March 16, 2015

I am PRO biotic

It has been way WAY too long since I've made time to blog and it's not for lack of things I want to write about. My head is full of thoughts and ideas and things I want to explore and share but I've let life get in the way of this one creative outlet I really enjoy. So this week I'm going to just take 20 minutes every day to start getting these thoughts out of my head and into words...and clear out the mind for new things! (Today the blogging is taking place in my kitchen as I multi-task with dinner prep.)

Training is going well and I'm enjoying it more than I have in a long, long time. It just feels good to feel good. Well, MOST everything has felt good, but truth be told I had some running-related GI issues through the summer and fall that were disruptive and a little worrisome. My issues crossed over into the broad category of "runners trots."

This GI upset apparently affects the majority of runners at some point in time, but as one who is serious about carrying out training plans without interruption, any threat to that is not taken lightly!! The episodes were sporadic, unpredictable, and couldn't be readily tied back to specific foods. There were times I felt awful for the whole day following a long or hard run.

I'll spare the details, and you can Google "Runners Trots" yourself, but what I wanted to share was one change that I really think has helped me, and might help others too.


I got an appointment with a gastroenterology PA who is a mom and a runner who has also experienced running-related GI issues. Among her suggestions was to take a probiotic and she recommended Align, or one of the generic forms of it (I use the Kroger brand - still like $30/month...ugh!).

Although it can take months of regular use for it to really kick in, or take root, or whatever, after taking one daily for about three months I can already tell a big difference. I've not had a major GI bout since and I've noticed several other positive changes in my health.

In learning more about probiotics, there is evidence that gut health is important for a multitude of things - skin, brain function, mood, immunity, etc. I can only say that in my sample size of ONE, I've noticed dramatic improvements not only in my GI happiness but also in my skin (which after a lifetime of being breakout-free sought revenge in my 40's....yay 40's!!!).  I recommended my dad try probiotics too given that he's always had sensitive skin and my mom says after just a month she has noticed a big difference (my dad is a little less certain, but we shall see.)

I won't even try to make this a research paper on probiotics. There are thoughts that certain strains are best for certain conditions and so on but truthfully, I basically just followed the PA's suggestion and have been very happy that I did.

Plus look at how cute these little guys are! So colorful, and happy!

Golfing though? I really hope I am NOT taking the golfing strains, but rather the swim/bike/run strains!

So you know me -- just sharing in case this might be of benefit to others. Just keep in mind it can take a few months of regular use to see changes.

Have you tried probiotics? What were your results?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Laws of Garmin

1. The time needed to "Locate Satellites" increases exponentially in relation to how cold and miserable the weather is as you stand there waiting. (Tip: found this AutoLocate fix that needs to be done on some Garmins like mine.)

2. Your very best lap/interval will occur after you have mistakenly pressed "stop" rather than "lap."

3. Despite wearing a giant "watch," you will have no idea what time it is. But you will know pace, timing, cadence, heart rate, power, elevation, and multiple derivations of each.

4. The level of frantic-ness to get out the door to run or bike is directly proportional to the likelihood the Garmin is not charged.

5. The more important the training data, the more likely you are to forget the watch at home.

6. If it's a time-based interval workout, the screen will be set to lap distances. Conversely, if it's a distance-based interval workout, the fields will be set to lap times. Neither will be noticed until the workout starts.

7. The watch will enter sleep/standby mode just as the race begins.

8. Delusional athlete brains can overrule/ignore what the Garmin data is clearly telling them especially in relation to a race plan (often to their detriment).

9. If the Garmin is to freeze and need a "Master Reset," it will be race morning, and you will have no idea what the button combination is. (This actually happened to me with my old Forerunner)

10. Garmin can't measure courage and determination. Don't let numbers tell you what you cannot do!