Monday, April 2, 2018

OH. So that's what I signed up for.

Last April I did the USAT Long Course Duathlon Nationals in nearby Cary, NC. I did it because it wasn't far away and it was something different. It was my first duathlon.

There wasn't much "long course" about it with a 5 mile run, 31 mile bike, and 5 mile run. It was a small field (I think we had two waves), had a local race feel (less than 200 people in the race), and I won my age group, out of 9 people. It was very laid back.

Our little race kind of flew under the radar.

I noticed later in the season - in June - there was a much bigger USAT Duathlon Nationals in Bend Oregon that got a lot of press.

Fast forward to this year.

I see something that says USAT and Duathlon and Nationals, again in April, a little further south in Greenville, SC. I figure it's basically the same race that I did.

So I signed up.

The race is this coming weekend. Yesterday I finally took a few minutes to look at the race website. My first clue that it's not the same race is that I see an official Pre-Race webinar and full Athlete Guide. I see they are closing the roads for the race. Then I realize over 1000 people are expected for the three races. This year there is just ONE Duathlon Nationals and this is it.

It's the biggie!

It is attracting top athletes from across the country. There are 28 in my age group for Standard Distance Non-Drafting coming from Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Among them are names I see routinely on the podium at Age Group Nationals.

Not that this changes anything, but suddenly I'm feeling like oh $hit maybe I should have been working harder or running further or just giving the prep a bit more of the respect it deserved!

So I'm wrapping my head around the vision of a slightly different experience for the coming weekend!!

LOL. I am preparing to be humbled!

Coach Jim of course has just the right words to give me the proper perspective: "Just go run, ride and run like you enjoy doing…and then you can look at the results once you are done. I’m excited that you are healthy and enjoying your training and hopefully looking forward to racing again!"

Yes! I am looking forward to running and riding on closed courses and seeing what I can do at this point. It's still very early in the season and it's fun to feel my strength and fitness building back again.

My goal through the efforts of this race are to find FLOW, and as always, to stay positive!!

Run-Bike-Run, here I come!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

How am I still doing this? Also, blog post #999

Tomorrow is my birthday. I will be 51. The kids and I went out for an early b-day dinner, and as sometimes happens, our server asked if it should all be on one check. I say yes. We laugh. The kids humor me and say it's because I look young enough for people not to assume I'm their mom. I've raised them well that they say things like that, lol.

This is my 999th blog post. No kidding. It really is. It will be one of my quickest and least edited ones too. It's my birthday gift to myself - to write for me. I don't have much time for that anymore.

Here's a picture of me right this minute where I spend 99% of my time. Not really, but sometimes it feels that way.


I'm wearing a vest inside because I'm cold until June. Unless I'm running. Then I'm hot outside in a tank top when it's 27 degrees out.


I share my office space with the dog, cat, and often my bike. I'm fortunate that I spend my time here working in the endurance sports/event registration space, which I love. 

Wow so looking back, I've done 115 races since my first ever race in 2008. Tonight is the first time I counted them all. Of those, 67 are multisport events. Among them, I've run Boston, I've raced Olympic Distance triathlon for Team USA in Auckland, London, Chicago, and Rotterdam.

Honestly, it's hard to believe I did that stuff. I am doing that stuff. Still.
Still loving it!

As triathletes, we are supposed to know our reason "why" we "tri." But those are probably similar for a lot of us: to feel strong, to have community, to get outside, to be healthy....all that.

It seems more interesting to consider my how. How am I still doing this? How can a person enjoy training and racing for years on end?

Here are my hows:

Enjoy task completion! Give me a training plan and instructions for a session, and I will bring my all to it! I will make it fit in my day and I will embrace it. I am fed by that feeling of accomplishment (and an all-green TrainingPeaks calendar)!


Choose races to fit your life. Each year I put together a race season that I believe will best fit my life circumstances. Some years it might include 70.'3s, a century ride, or a marathon, and other years, like this one, it's all short course. My life is plenty long course enough at the moment and the college application process (for kid #1 of 2) has been an ULTRA-marathon. Too often on social media I see athletes (parents in particular) sharing how miserable they are training for what ends up being a one-and-done IRONMAN. Why? Do what's fun and works for you, and change it up! There are so many ways to keep yourself challenged and interested.

Don't waste time thinking about new gear you don't need. I still ride the used tri bike I got in 2010 (I also have an aluminum road bike I got off Craigslist), I've owned just two wetsuits (one was given to me), and I train in a bike helmet I got for free.  Have what works and take good care of it. You can spend (waste) a lot of time pondering and dealing with questions of gear. Spend that precious time training! Or sleeping!


Have a bad memory. I don't remember numbers well. I can't even remember my ballpark finish times for the 7 times I've raced the Smith Mountain Lake triathlon. If I've done my best at a race, I'm happy. I'm not mid-bike leg berating myself for whatever split I'm seeing. There are too many race-day variables with the course and our own physiology.  The one exception to my bad memory? I won't ever forget my 3:33:53 Boston Marathon finish in 2013.

Have a coach! I have worked with Coach Jim since June of 2009. I've said it a million times, I can't imagine doing this without him. I thrive with the structure, accountability, and challenge and appreciate having another person who frankly just cares - not only about my development as an athlete but my balance in my life. Through the loss of my dad, little health/injury things, job change, divorce - he's helped to keep me on an even keel with this outlet of sport.


Focus on what you are doing, not what you aren't.  Do I stretch enough? No. I binge-stretch a few times a year for a few weeks at a time. Do I eat amazing, mindfully-prepared meals all the time? No, too often I'm grabbing whatever is handy, as I run out the door. Am I focusing on my recovery and sleeping 8 solid, peaceful hours? Hahaha, right. What I AM doing is consistently swimming, biking, running, and sleeping/eating as well as I can.

Enjoy the feeling of a solid effort.  It's so funny but more often than not in training, and ALWAYS the morning of races (!), I think "I do not feel like working hard today." But once I get going, I just can't help myself. I really do seek that feeling of working hard, of pushing up against a wall, and chasing the person ahead of me - win or lose!

Be grateful. For ALL of it.

Sometimes I will think about what my life would be like without triathlon training, and I can't ponder very long because I don't like what I see. I know I wouldn't be very happy. Days would quickly get lonely and repetitive and overwhelming. I recharge and reset with the quiet simplicity of movement!

Oh, and if anyone is wondering...no. I don't have any amazing feats of swim/bike/run/gym planned for my birthday. My gift to myself is to NOT heap anything else on me. It's to slow down for the day, visit my mom and sister, and unplug as much as possible. I'm resting up for another season of racing. 2-1/2 weeks till Du Nationals!



Saturday, February 24, 2018

Northeast Duathlon: Run 1 vs Run 2 Analysis (plus a race report)

Today I drove about 2-1/2 hours to the Northeast Duathlon in the greater Greensboro, NC area. Coach Jim told me about it last fall and I was intrigued. I decided if the weather looked decent, I'd make the trek. Well, the weather was more than decent - sunny, dry, and in the upper 60s (maybe hit 70's). So I dusted off my always-ready and perpetually packed race bag, cleaned off the bike, and went! A 9:30 am start time made for a reasonable wake-up and departure time.

pre-race "glamour" shot, lol

This blog post is two things -- (1) a race report and (2) a quick analysis of Run 1 vs Run 2 across all of the competitors, you'll see why.

The Northeast Duathlon is a 1.6 mile run, 10.6 mile bike, and 1.6 mile run, based in Northeast Park in Guilford County. Each of the two runs is two loops of the park, and the rolling and smooth bike course finishes with a lap around the small park, so it's very spectator-friendly!

The race is well organized but has a casual feel, as it should for an early-season race. There were no bike numbers, no assigned rack spaces, and since we were body marked with numbers, we only had to wear our bib number on the second run (thank you!).

I was a little concerned about the mass start with 175 of us. I positioned myself near the front but the group stretched out pretty quickly. There were no issues, and it never felt crowded on the park trail.

That first mile on fresh legs is always SO seductive!!! I ran it in 6:48, which probably made for a poor race strategy but definitely made for a lot of fun!! I came to my senses (i.e. slowed down) and finished the 1.6 miles of Run 1 in 11:05, 8th ranked out of 53 women.

I was feeling pretty cooked coming into T1. Unlike in a triathlon, where we approach bikes in bare feet, I had to remind myself to remove my running shoes before pushing the bike out! Thankfully I did that.

coming back into the park

AH it felt good to be back racing on the bike. I was motivated by a fellow racer up ahead, Colleen (we chatted post race; she's a grad student on the Duke Tri Team). We traded off leads (without drafting) and it served to push us both. I kept telling myself to keep my foot on the gas to give myself as much of a lead on anyone/everyone chasing me in the second run.

We had a gorgeous day in a very pretty park!

Run 2 for me is about finding rhythm and flow and staying mentally positive. I don't look at my watch during races much anymore. This run was a 12:13, ranked 10th among women. That was 10.3% longer than my first run. YIKES!! I wondered how my slowdown compared to everyone else's?

-------------------- DETOUR! --------------------

So let's take a race report detour! I copied all the results into Excel then calculated the % Time Increase of Run 2 over Run 1 for all the participating athletes. (Apologies to my past statistics professors for the quick and dirty analysis.)
  • Average: 13.7% (std 7.8%)
  • The range was -3.4% (negative means faster on Run 2) to +45% (positive means faster on Run 1).
  • Only 4 athletes finished Run 2 faster than Run 1 - all were male - and those were -3.4%, -1.6%, -0.5%, and -0.5%, so not a big difference.
  • No significant difference in % Time Increase by Gender.
  • There is no correlation between % Time Increase and Age (-0.0786) or with Run 1 time (0.181)
So what does this mean? No matter our age, no matter our speed, most of us will suffer a significant decline from Run 1 to Run 2. It's the difference between fresh legs and tired legs. 

Note: There was a female racer age 80! Love that!


My disparity at 10.3% was less than the average difference of 13.7% but still probably not ideal. I mean, starting a race with a full-throttle mile is never a good idea (except at the time it sure seems like it, lol). 

I'm wondering how much of a difference would it make to go more conservatively in Run 1? Would going 30s slower in Run 1 mean I could be 45s faster in Run 2? Would it make me faster on the bike? Maybe. OK, probably. I am pretty sure that I may never know!! 

And how do Run 1 and Run 2 compare for elite duathletes? What is the "sweet spot" for maximizing all three legs and what is the resultant ideal difference between Run 1 and Run 2? Is there one?

---------- BACK TO THE CONCLUSION OF THE RACE REPORT! ---------- 


I ended up finishing 7th overall, in a time of 57:06 (Results here). This race series doesn't offer a master's division, but I was an AG winner, the fastest woman over the age of 27, and had the third fastest bike split of the women.


We received awesome winter hats for participating (great idea), and the awards were mugs with hot chocolate mix! The RD, Richard Swor pointed out that had they not done that, it might have been 25 degrees, rather than 65!! 

  

The thing that flashed into my mind a lot during today's race was just how capable and strong I felt to work hard - to work hard physically. I certainly work hard in other areas of my life, but for me the confidence of physical work carries over into the mental work much more than the other way around. 

This has been a VERY fun February of racing. It's time to buckle down and get ready for Du Nationals on April 8!!!!

Thanks to Coach Jim of One-On-One Endurance, to Solar Connexion for continued support of my racing, and to Bryan Walsh, champion sherpa. 

Monday, February 5, 2018

wazUPwidis: The Test of Calf Fitness


photo credit: Jay Proffitt 

It's been two days since the wazUPwidis Urban Run and Stair Challenge and my calves are still sore - the good sore, the kind that reminds you that you did something fun!

I don't always write up 5Ks, but this was such a blast and so different from anything I have done before.

First you'll note the course footprint is not very large:


And the elevation profile is not one that Mother Nature would provide:


The unique course owes its fun to two parking garages, ramps, pedestrian bridges, and stairwells. (Oh and it was 20 degrees, but once you start running that part doesn't matter.)

Here are some of the highlights from the course description:
  • The start will be at the pedestrian crossing at the Wells Fargo Tower
  • Head to the transportation museum where you will encounter some locomotive inspired terrain. (Note: that meant running along parked trains, crossing rail road tracks, and running across gravel)
  • Enter the Church Avenue Garage where you will climb 165 steps.
  • At the top you will cross over the top deck of the garage, enter the stairwell and descend 165 steps back to 1st Street. 
  • Here you will head back to the MLK Bridge, head over the MLK bridge, run to the main entrance of the Gainsboro Parking Garage where you will run down the ramps, then up the stairs (57), and exit the garage
  • Run down to the Pedestrian Bridge (39 steps up).  Cross the bridge and and enter the parking garage.  Run up the parking garage ramps to the top, 7th floor. Now descend the 7 floors back to ground level.  
  • Now for the best part. Here you will climb the 20 flights of the Wells Fargo Tower (440 up), cross over to the down stairwell to the main lobby (440 steps down).  Out the front doors, taking lefts around the building toward the finish at Market Street

What I enjoyed was the fact that my brain was constantly busy!! I had no idea where I was going or what was next, so I kept an eye on the runner ahead, followed arrows, and observed course marshals at the many turns. I was busy navigating stairs, looking for ways to minimize distance, and taking advantage of any opportunity to hit the accelerator.

With my brain occupied, I was very much in the moment, and I didn't have time to judge myself, only to to do my best in each instant.

Before I knew it, the race was nearly over. We exited the tower stairwell (top photo) and turned to enjoy a short sprint to the finish - probably my best finishing kick EVER, lol!

It was exciting to have finished 3rd female (results here). But what I loved above all was the feeling of just going, of not knowing what was next, of changing gears and directions. I wasn't measuring myself against some pace standard I had set for myself, I wasn't calculating how much of the run was left, I just pushed on in that way that feels so good to me.

I felt strong and I felt happy. That's why I do this. Isn't that why any of us do this?

This was a great start to the race season and put me in the proper frame of mind. As I come up against the inevitable age-related speed declines, I'm reminded that the great feeling of racing is not tied to a number. That great feeling is tied to an honest, hard effort and a happy heart.

Onward!


photo credit: Jay Proffitt 

Postscript: I used the stairclimber at the gym for just 10 minutes at about 95 spm a few times a week for the last month or so and I do think it helped for this race!


photo credit: Jay Proffitt 

It was so nice to gather in the warm Market Square building after the race! 


Friday, February 2, 2018

There's a reason fish swim in schools...



I suspect the reason fish swim in schools is that without buddies to encourage them to swim their best, they'd get complacent, swim too slow, and get gobbled up.


At least that's one of the upsides for me as part of the Christiansburg Aquatic Center master's swim group, coached by Judy Wolfe.

Yesterday we swam 12 x 100's, with diminishing rest, as part of our main set. A new member of the group was in the lane next to me and as we pushed off together, I noticed she was just a bit ahead of me, which really motivated me!! I did all I could to squeeze out as much distance per stroke as I could. By the 6th repeat I was able to match her and hold that for the duration of the set. (I'm the 4th column, she's the 8th. Each 100 was one minute plus that number of seconds.)

I finished feeling so accomplished and happy!!

There's no possible way I could have done this on my own. She said the same. It's great feedback to look over and see where you are relative to a similar/slightly faster swimmer.

We all swam well, with my lane-mate and friend Jen setting another PR for herself!!

If you have a master's or similar group in your area, I would encourage you to consider trying it out! Coaches and fellow swimmers will help you get the hang of things and there are lanes of varying speeds. Don't be intimidated! There's no need! You'll see that we are all in it together, and the benefits of coached groups swims are tremendous in terms of swimming skills, fun, and friendship!


As an aside, I found it amazing that our coach could track and record all the times for us, and send us off the wall with three lanes leaving on two different intervals (plus another lane was doing a different workout.) Then there was me, sometimes wondering if I was on the first or second 50 of the 100!!! LOL.

I'm so fortunate to be part of this group and it continues to grow, making it even more fun. Want to be part of it? We swim Sundays 5-6 pm and Thursday 6-7 pm (Mon/Wed 7 pm in March due to swim meet conflicts).

Saturday, January 27, 2018

I'll have routine, please, with a side of adventure


I am finally, happily, getting some routine back in my life. Yay!!!! From mid-November through mid-January I had two trips to Ohio and two trips to LA plus the fun but un-structure of the holidays. That, combined with an "off-season" mentality, did not offer a lot of positives for my training. But I wasn't stressing. It was just life at the moment. I knew structure and routine would return and it has. Again with the Yay!!!!

I had my longest run in quite a while today - at just over 11 miles - shared happily with my friend Kristen. She and I have both started new jobs recently and we had lots to catch up on. It was a harder effort for me than for her, but the miles flew by. And in an unrelated matter, I don't know why there is one port-o-john randomly near Allisonia on the New River Trail, but on this day I am grateful to whoever made that decision. Enough said ;-)

"Routine with a side of adventure" is very much how I prefer things so I'm glad that my days and weeks are falling into a rhythm. Days start with some early morning work, getting kids off to school, then training/errands, then my work day -- coordinating the majority of my hours to coincide with my colleagues on the west coast.

Weekly workouts are anchored by Thursday and Sunday night Master's Swim and Coach Jim populates the rest of the training schedule with bike, run, gym, other swims as needed, and REST!

Getting structure back into my training has had other positive impacts. I've been eating much better after a holiday of chocolate, cheese, wine, and more cheese, plus also cheese.

Racing (in the sense of participating in a race haha) starts for me next weekend. I'm doing the 6th annual wazUPwidis Urban Run and Stair Challenge - 3.25 miles plus 1000 steps. That should be interesting.  I've always been curious about it but have never done it. My specific "prep" has involved 10 minute stints on the stairclimber or Jacob's ladder each time I go to the gym.

The weekend following that I'm doing the Blacksburg Classic 10 miler. I said to Coach Jim that I wanted to approach it as a training run without any taper. I'm not anywhere near "race ready" in the fierce, mental sense, so I want to work hard but not go too deep into the well for that one.

Then two weeks later, weather permitting, I'd like to head to the Northeast Duathlon, which is kind of a lot of driving for a super-sprint style race, but I put it in the category of the "side of adventure."

I have no races planned for March, so I hope to get in a good training block to be fit and ready for Duathlon Nationals in early April in Greenville, SC!

In other news:

  • I finally ordered new running shoes since it's been about 10 months since the last new pair (loooooong overdue). I'm going with Brooks Pureflow and can't wait to get them!!
  • I've done a few runs on Zwift (in addition to rides) and it's pretty cool!! I'm hoping they will add swimming in soon so I can use my power-based Vasa Swim Ergometer and do an entire triathlon on Wattopia! 
  • I am hooked on the heavy rescue tow truck show called "Highway Thru Hell" on Netflix (5 seasons!) and when I need enticement for the treadmill or bike trainer I remember I can watch that! Isn't it strange what captures our interest?


Wishing each of you as much...or as little...routine and adventure as you desire!!