Thursday, June 30, 2011

Triathlete on a Business Trip

This week I've been in Vancouver whoopin' it up with the good folks of the American Society of Engineering Education. I'm staying at a nice hotel right on the inlet, selected because (1) it had the only pool that looked like I could swim laps in it (2) there are refrigerators in every room so I could eat most meals in and (3) it's right by Stanley Park.

Yes, I attended the conference, but I can only do that for so many hours of the day before my brain implodes. So here's how one triathlete does a conference:

Monday (travel day)
  • Pack suitcase half with clothes, half with food (oats, casein, Xtend, raisins, almond butter, tortillas, gladware, plasticware).  Clothes split between work stuff and workout stuff.
  • Be only passenger on plane to pull out a picnic lunch from home - chicken + flax oil + brussels sprouts + cauliflower.  (Might have also been the only passenger with an actual "book" and not a Nook/Kindle/iPad etc.)
  • Ask cab driver to stop at grocery store on way to hotel to get perishables (pre-cooked chicken, veggies, cottage cheese, fruit).
Tuesday (day of my 15 minute presentation)
  • Knock out a darn good back and shoulder workout in tiny hotel fitness center using just dumbells, a stability ball, a lat pulldown, and one adjustable cable machine.
  • Rent a bike to ride the seawall around Stanley Park. That hour and a half bike ride was the best $16 I spent here. It was a BLAST.
  • Swim in the hotel pool in the evening.  Notice that while it is large enough and deep enough to swim laps, it is unfortunately warm enough to cook an egg.
On the seawall, hopefully not contracting anything
creepy from the borrowed helmet
Making do with what they have at the hotel.
This shows nearly the whole weight area.
People wander around the hotel in their
bathrobes to and from the pool. Hmmm.

Wednesday (conference)
  • Run the Stanley Park seawall!  Heaven....bliss, for about an hour!
  • Ice the hotel ice machines for that! 
  • Toy with the idea of paying $20 for fancy downtown gym but instead get creative (again) for a chest and arm workout (yes, not great timing with yesterday's shoulder workout but I want to hit legs with Kurt at our gym Friday). 
Thursday (travel day)
  • Finish reading Becoming an Ironman on the plane and Athlete's Guide to Recovery (thanks to TriCrowd member Joel's recommendation).
  • Wear calf compression sleeves on plane, just because.
A funny thing about being away is that I turned my phone off because it's global roaming and expensive (and I'm cheap).  So my family has been emailing me.  Here are some excerpts:

Grant (9): "a bit boring here too with you gone. we go to the pool in the morning, freeze our butts off. then we go home to our house until lunch which we eat at oma's house. we watch smithsonian or play uno or something like that, but today I went to william's house. love you and see ya soon!"

Spencer (11): "Grant and I both miss you and anticipate your return. The time while you were gone has been relatively uneventful."  Can you tell what a mature 11-year-old he is?

Robert (hubs): "Yes.  Love you. me" Classic.  Short and sweet.

By the way, I LOVE Vancouver. It's clean and beautiful and cyclist and pedestrian-friendly. I've enjoyed my few days here but look forward to returning home!

    Monday, June 27, 2011

    Race Report: TriAdventure Summer Sprint Triathlon

    Sunday I raced in the first home-town tri we have had in the area in more than ten years. With over 200 racers, and legions of volunteers, many of whom I know from the gym, it was a great time.

    While I was excited to have so many local folks at the race, I have to admit that I felt a little pressure to perform up to my capabilities (e.g. avoid a major blowup). At the same time, I was feeling a bit of….I’m not sure….maybe racing burnout. Or maybe it's that I knew that I had these two back-to-back trips right after the race (I'm in Vancouver as I type). At any rate, I wanted to finish out June with a good race and be able to turn my attention from racing back to training until I race again in August. I switched my thinking around by reminding myself that I love to swim, I love to bike, and I love to run. So during each leg, my mantra would just be “I love to ___”

    Swim - 400m (8:08, 22/104 women)

    This was a pool swim, in a fairly new facility that was designed in part as the competitive pool for the Virginia Tech Hokies. It was set up in 50m lanes for a 400m snake swim, so just four laps. One look at the swim start seeding and we were all left second-guessing our self-reported pool swim times. I knew there were faster swimmers behind me so the pressure was on to deliver the times I reported. In the pool, it’s clear when you are passing or being passed. In open water, there is anonymity. I think I got a little psyched out, a bit intimidated knowing swimming is not my strength.

    There were no ladders, stairs, ramps, or levitation spells to get us out of the pool, so we’d have to hoist ourselves up with spent arms.

    I was passed by one person on the swim, my One-on-One Endurance teammate, John King. I actually stopped at the wall, grabbed on, and uttered an entire time-wasting polite sentence like “after you, John, go ahead and pass.” Then I tried to draft off his feet for a bit but pathetically couldn’t hang for the final lap. Not soon enough, the swim was done and I somehow climbed/rolled/flopped onto the pool deck and moved on.  (Despite the mantra, I did NOT love this swim. I'm not super thrilled with my swim time/placement....slacker!!)

    T1 (14/108) - This involved some major bike shoe fumbling. With a steep hill and sharp turn out of T1, I had little choice but to put my bike shoes on and run my bike out to the line to mount. Having shoes pre-clipped in could prove tricky or dangerous and as I told others, safety is faster than an accident.

    Bike - 20k (38:17, 4/108)

    The bike leg was my favorite at this race. Most of it is on a fairly tame (well, for the Blue Ridge Mountains anyway) straight, rolling, freshly paved road. Teddy Roo and I bounded off for some fun, passing a fair number of folks. I saw John King up ahead and focused on keeping him in my sights. And I did, even catching him near the end at which point I chided him to “speed it up”. I averaged a bit over 20 MPH, a good pace for me.

    Coming into T2 I heard the announcer, who I later discovered was Cole Harden from the bike shop, say something about “Here comes Cortney Martin into T2 about to head off on the run which is her specialty.” Uh-oh, NO pressure there!!! But just maybe that helped me to believe in myself a little more.

    T2 (30/104) - Not good, especially considering Coach is the king of T2! Sloppy! Maybe time to reconsider the socks.

    Run - 5k (22:08 - 3/104)

    The run began with a sharp turn through a narrow chute and up a flight of perhaps 20 stairs (and major face-plant potential) before heading out on the road. It was an out-and-back course and as I was heading into the turnaround, who should I see coming out but my nemesis, Ellen Sortore (I adore her-- truly) , who beat me by five seconds the week before!! She issued a friendly “come and get me” and I took her up on her kind invitation. I saw Tanya and we exchanged a high-five of unspoken encouragement. I took the suffering up a level, closed the gap, and overtook Ellen. YES!! THIS is racing!! I was jazzed, just thrilled, to come out on top of a head-to-head chase. I felt a surge of adrenaline.

    The final half mile is up a pretty good hill and I could not let up no matter how much it hurt. There were plenty of other strong racers on my heels. Two things flashed through my mind: (1) I’ve endured worse burn doing leg workouts with Kurt so don’t be a wuss and (2) I want Coach Jim to see my heart rate on this hill and say “Wow you were working hard, that was some major red-lining there in the final mile” I didn’t want to leave any doubt that I had given it all I had.

    The last tenth of a mile has a hairpin turn into the finish and I heard my husband and friends cheering and yelling frantically. I looked back, saw no one, and burned what was left in the tank coming into that sweet finish. I’m pleased to say I ran a negative split. Did you catch that Coach!? Neg-a-tive split!  Miles were 7:13, 7:05, 6:58.

    Results - Team

    Team One-on-One is small but mighty with Ryan Day winning the overall men’s division, Edie Nault taking second among the women, me fourth overall and top master’s, John King and Tanya Leroith winning their AGs, Matt Pugh winning Clydesdales, and George Santopietro 2nd in his AG. We make quite the rainbow out there.

    Results - Individual
    Here are the full race results.
    4th/104 women, 1st Master's.
    Would have been 11th/121 men

    I burned all the fuel in the tank, so I feel good about that.

    Handing out wet wipes to everyone.
    Always the MOM and such a dork.

    Lessons Learned
    • I am learning that I can race. Up to now, it’s been more about running my own race and letting the chips fall where they may, but now I know I have the guts to race, head-to-head.
    • I don't think I swam up to my potential. Why? I'm curious to know how my race swimming compares to my swimming in training. Am I as fast or not? Does my technique slip? Is the limited warmup a factor? Am I afraid to push myself harder? If so, why?
    • Embrace the uniqueness of the course. Every course has its challenges due to layout and topography. For this course it was the narrow and steep bike start/stop and the stairway start to the run. it's these differences (assuming it's safe) that make it fun to race at different venues.
    • There's still plenty of slack to take out of my racing, particularly in T1 and T2. 
    Its always nice meeting new triathletes. Hi Kristine and Anna!

    I got a mention in the paper. Along with my age. I guess I will have to stop telling people I'm 25 ;-) haha.

    Friday, June 24, 2011

    USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals

    I've added the big-daddy race to my calendar, USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals in Burlington, Vermont on August 20.  Last fall, when I met with Coach Jim for the recap of the season and goal-setting for this year, Nationals was on my list.  But as I thought about managing the complicated logistics of it all alone, I took it off the list. Why venture out of my beloved Virginia?

    Fast-forward to May, and the candid smiling running race photo. That's the day fate put Mike Morris in my path. He is the fellow in the photo, whom (who?) I have since discovered is a tremendous ambassador for the sport. (Just to get a sense of the situation, I told him he could sell ice to Eskimos!) He and some other local racers have been to several National and World races and says the experience is well worth the aggravation of getting there.

    Then Mike put me in touch with a fellow age-grouper, Jan, who represented the US last year in Budapest in the 60-64 age group.  She lives five minutes from me (who knew?!)  and was looking for a traveling companion.

    Jan and I met today, hit it off, decided we were half crazy, and agreed to sign up!!

    Oh, and I should mention that the weekend BEFORE Nationals I am signed up to do the Luray Double which is an Olympic on Saturday, Sprint on Sunday.  So yep, three races in 8 days and about 1700 miles of travel.  But I will head to Nationals with no expectations or pressure other than to enjoy being immersed in the community of triathletes!

    Husband is supportive, Coach is on board, registration is paid. Between June 27 and August 12, NO races for me.  That'll be time for family and kids and some solid training.

    Speaking of, I pick the boys up from camp at 2:30 today, I cannot wait to see them! It's been way too quiet around here this week.

    Have a great weekend everyone!

    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    Swim Meet

    We have a summer swim league in the area and the boys and I have participated the last several years as members of the BCC Barracudas team.  This league encourages adults to participate and I initially did so to support Spencer and Grant -- kind of an "I know what you are going through" solidarity thing. I have to say, if you have the chance to compete in a swim league - master's, rec, what have you - you should.

    I didn't grow up on any sort of swim team, I really just learned to swim for triathlons. (thanks Coach Jim!) Swim meet were unknown territory for me.

    Let me just say that I truly believe that I push myself as hard as I can for tough intervals in practice. But somehow it doesn't come close to the whole-body hurt of a competitive race like this. Even a triathlon swim, by virtue of the longer distance, is not the same.  In a swim meet you are red-lining very intensely for a very short time.

    Here's how it plays out:
    You warmed up an hour ago. You wait your place on deck, fidgeting with goggles, adjusting your suit straps. The heat before you finishes. Up on the block, wait for the horn, and DIVE!  The body reacts with momentary shock. You think you paced the first 50 right but somehow you are still dying on the second 50! It's an unfamiliar hurt.  Reach the wall...and stop.  Catch your breath, gather your strength, and hoist yourself out.  
    Then in my case, I return to my required volunteer job, still dripping, which is to average race times (two timers per lane). That's my favorite job, I like doing the averages in my head, it's good mental exercise.

    Today was kind of funny as there was a very low turnout so some heats were combined. (Tons of the kids were away at 4-H camp including mine.)  My 100 free heat was all the girls/women over 13, but it was announced as the "Girls 13 and 14 year olds" which I promptly thanked the announcer for!!  Yes, the 14-year-old took me handily.  That means I did not win the Dum-Dum lollypop given to the heat winners. Darn it! Oh, and I refuse to do a flip turn. The one time I tried, OK I tried like 100 times in a row, I got so dizzy I just decided they were not for me.  Plus they are no use in a triathlon.

    I swam in my first ever relay, told by the team coach that I HAD to. Turns out it was pretty fun with all my (under-18) teammates and I held my own. And we won.  YAYYYYYY!!!!!  WE WON!!!!  I'm not competitive, haha.

    I finally figured out today that if I pull my swim cap down over the top of my goggles, I won't get water in them when I dive. Does that make me like the old geezer with his pants pulled up to his armpits?

    If you get the chance to do a good old off-the-block, air-horn-in-the-ear swim race, go for it.  It'll get your heart pumping and muscles burning like nothing else!

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    Strength Training: Compound Lifts for the Busy Triathlete

    With limited time for strength workouts during race season, compound movements such as squats and deadlifts are a cornerstone of my re-tooled strength training program.  Kurt's suggested approach, which makes sense, is that I can hit a lot of muscle groups at once making these types of exercises efficient and effective.

    I've just started adding squats back into my routine. Squats primarily hit quads, hams, glutes, back, and abs but lower legs, shoulders, and arms also factor in.  I am rusty and have some chronic bad habits to address. I've always had a tendency to fold a bit at the bottom of my squat, I think in part because of my individual biomechanics, but certainly there are things I can do with bar placement and stance to help.

    I wanted to see how I was doing on form so I shot some video. (I also need to shoot from the back to look for L-R imbalances.) I was curious if I was hitting anywhere near a competition-legal depth, in which the "top surface of the leg at the hip joint must descend until it is below the top of the knees" (USA Powerlifting) Even though I'm not competing in powerlifting at the moment, I still want a legit squat, and won't settle for sloppy form on any exercise in the gym. (Neither will Kurt, so it's really not an option!) Video confirms that the upper body "fold" is there at the bottom and I'm stopping just short of parallel. Things to work on!

    Deadlifts also hit a lot of the major muscle groups of the upper and lower body. Trap bar deadlifts are one variation that I find significantly tougher than my favorite sumo-style ones (see Birthday Deadlifts) and I feel it in my quads more. Video shows that my butt pops up just at the start so I need to work to keep my back tighter and hips lower as I start the lift, driving with the legs, not pulling with the back.

    My warmup for all this fun was 3 sets x 20 reps of 35 lb kettlebell swings and 12 lb medicine ball wall toss squats. I followed the squats and DLs with hill lunges (35 steps up, 40 lb bar x 3 sets), leg press, single-leg stiff legged deadlifts with dumbells, calves, and core work.

    And today I rest. No workouts whatsoever!! Then some short tune-up workouts Thursday and Friday and RACE DAY on Sunday!

    If you are looking for a good fire-ya-up read, check out one of Kurt's monthly articles from Natural Bodybuilding and Fitness Magazine.  This one is about passion, dedication, and commitment to a sport that is truly a lifestyle. Endurance athletes can learn a lot from bodybuilders. I'm very fortunate to work with a world-class natural bodybuilder who serves as a continuous reminder of the rewards of hard work and smart training as well as the importance of sound nutrition, rest, balance, and humbleness.

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    My fast twitch kid

    It's vitally important for kids to find their athletic niche, the thing that really excites them, and for Spencer, it's clearly things that require power and strength. When he did the track league last year, he was drawn to the shot put. On the summer river camping trips, he most looks forward to hauling huge rocks to build a dam. It's not to say we don't encourage the cardio end of things (swim team, CrossFit, and maybe someday triathlon), but without a hook, kids will never be excited to move their bodies and test their limits. Not every kid is destined for soccer or baseball. Spencer has always loved the gym!

    Our summer schedule doesn't work with CrossFit so this summer I want to take Spencer to the gym myself. We went yesterday while Grant had Karate and worked a little on deadlift form since that exercise is a staple when he returns to CrossFit. We hit some box jumps, roman chair, bench dips, jacknives, and other primarily bodyweight type moves. And in case you buy into the myth that kids should never set foot into the gym or lift anything heavier than a pencil, read this. And think about all the big heavy stuff you probably lugged around playing outside as a kid!!

    Spencer when he was 9....he's always been drawn to feats of strength!

    Spencer comes by it all honestly, it's probably in his genes. I spent several years in my early 20's as a competitive powerlifter, and actually went to a meet in December 09 just for fun. My age-old competitive bests (circa 1992-95) were a 265 squat, 310 deadlift, and 135 bench.  Keep in mind those were not "raw" but with the DL/Squat suit and bench shirt that offer a significant advantage. (I'm now a proponent of the raw divisions, no assistive equipment.)

    My kids are both off to camp for the week! I'll miss them, It'll be strange around here without them!

    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    Race Report: Bath County Sprint Triathlon

    The Mighty Moms with Bob!

    Yeehaw! Good times at the gorgeous Lake Moomaw in Warm Springs, Virginia. It’s worth the trip on windy back roads with limited cell coverage (!) to reach this beautiful town and this gem of a lake, nestled within the Allegheny Highlands. I guess the beige food worked, I finished 2nd overall among the women, and my friends Tanya and Jennifer finished 1st and 3rd in their big competitive age group! It was a good day for the team from One-on-One Endurance!

    Tanya, Jennifer, and I stayed at a charming (2 bathrooms for 8 rooms) B+B with terrific hosts. The morning of the race we met the venerable Bob Valentine, another guest at the B+B. He remarked on the enormousness of my oatmeal breakfast which sparked a conversation where we learned he was 68, started triathlons 3 years ago, and is battling rheumatoid arthritis. Let me tell you, he looked spry, fit, and amazing!

    Just before showtime I had a 2nd Surge gel from Pacific Health Labs. They recently offered $40 worth of purchases for $20 on TriCrowd’s Trinero site so I tried this caffeinated gel on my strong double-brick workout last weekend and today pre-swim. No, I’m not sponsored by them or anything but I really do like this product and will continue to use one pre-race.

    SWIM (11th out of 88; 15:40)
    After my grumbling, I wore the wetsuit, it wasn't so bad. I was in a wave of maybe 80 women, and 50 yards in I took a foot to the head. After that, I settled into a good groove and focused on technique, a strong pull, and not my labored breathing. I found a pair of feet that seemed to be swimming my speed and pretty straight so I thought I’d try some drafting. It turns out it’s not easy to stay on someone's feet. I spent so much time and effort chasing the feet that I decided it wasn’t worth it and I should just do my own dang swimming.

    T1 (2/88)
    Wobbly and dizzy, I had to hold on to the bike rack to get my wetsuit off. It was not a pretty transition but it was effective. While I struggled out of my rubber suit I was strangely fixated on my rack neighbor’s wetsuit drip-drip-dripping into my run hat, which I had to move.

    BIKE (2/88; 0:36:45)
    I had a smooth mount and started racing, chasing down whoever was ahead of me. Several times I thought about how fun the ride was and how fortunate I was to be out there experiencing it all, and on the new smooth, Teddy Roo! I got through the skinny U-turn safely unlike a friend of mine who dropped her bike there and hurt her elbow. Tricky!

    The bizarro thing happened after I did my flying dismount and was cruising the last few meters (I thought) with just the left foot on the pedal, right leg alongside. People started yelling and I had no idea why. There were several lines on the asphalt and it appeared the dismount line had been moved further down the road. I was so disoriented by it all, I suddenly could not remember if I needed to be off before or after the line and so I overshot it but got off before the timing mat. I seriously wondered if I was disqualified.

    Any ride finished without a crash or mechanical issue is a success to me.

    T2 (27/88)
    In the confusion, I passed by my bike rack and had to backtrack to rack it. A less-than-stellar transition courtesy of my pea brain.

    The start of the run
    RUN (2/88; 22:36)
    I didn’t know if I was DQed or not but knew I just had to bust out the run regardless. This race has a doozy of a hill at the start and I kept the positive chatter coming. (Thanks, Casey for the well-timed “vroom vroom” reminder, I needed the laugh!)

    As usual I refused to look at who was ahead of me at the turnaround. Jennifer and I passed after a bit and she yelled “you’re the second woman!” Yikes! I saw the top woman, Ellen Sortore, ahead in the distance with about a mile to go. I told myself to be brave and go for it, to not calculate the odds and concede without a fight. Plus I didn’t know who was behind me, ready to overtake me, so I couldn’t let up. I reeled her in, but ran out of time, distance, and gas! She beat me, fair and square, by FIVE seconds!! Way to go, Ellen. I heard later she had just gotten over pneumonia too, tough woman!

    The tendonitis? Not a single peep. Gotta love endorphins. Still, I came home to reunite it with the ice bucket.

    RESULTS (2/88; 1:16:55)
    My times are nearly identical to last year's, which I finished in 1:16:58. My swim was quicker, and a better percentile ranking (but hard to say, the course distance can vary year to year).  This year's total of 1:16:55 would have had me 16th out of 133 men. Considering my limited running right now, I should be somewhat satisfied. I’m consistent, if nothing else, but honestly, I’d prefer progress, and will never stop striving for it. I won’t use age as an excuse. That's the personal challenge of this sport, to maximize our own potential and bust through our own walls and limitations.  (Full results here.)

    • KNOW where the bike dismount line is and get off before it!
    • Tighten up those transition times, especially T2.
    • Even when the odds are stacked against catching someone, push fear aside and go for it. Eventually it will pay off.
    • Keep training and raising the bar, don’t settle for consistency.

    Of course one of my favorite things about races is the people! I love seeing Mike Morris who I have the smiling running photo with. I just found out he has set out to do a triathlon in every state by the time he is 60. He’s hit 30 so far! The soon-to-be-married Jordan Chang and Kristen Dicarlo are like the first family of Virginia Triathlon! They are both fabulous competitors but also work hard as Setup staff too for many of the events. Of course Mark Taylor, from the Roanoke Times, has a great wit overlaying his incredible athleticism. I met Jilian, a new triathlete and new mom from my same town. I got to help a newbie triathlete set up and settle in to her first race. I was helped when I was new, and still get help, and I try to find opportunities to welcome new triathletes.

    Thanks to Coach Jim for preparing the three of us so well for these races and for giving us each what we uniquely need to race strong. Jennifer and Tanya, I treasure your support and friendship, and had a blast with you! Kurt, thanks for pushing me in the gym and helping me balance my racing and strength training goals. Lastly, a nod to Jake who first showed me I could be an athlete.

    Next Stop: TriAdventure Summer Sprint - Sunday, June 26.

    Friday, June 17, 2011

    Packin' food for the race trip

    I won't eat out the day before a race if I can help it as I can't see leaving that important element to chance. So as usual I packed up my food for my trip -- for the rest of today and tomorrow morning. Together it looks very....BEIGE.  I purposely cut out the fibrous greenies after noon.  This morning started with my fav steel cut oats breakfast followed by beef with barley, asparagus, and broccoli.
    Later today it's all easy-on-the gut normal stuff (at least for me):

    * Cottage cheese + fruit (yeah, fiber, I debated this one) + sprouted ezekiel cereal + flax seed meal

    * Butternut squash + red potatoes + brown rice + chicken + hummus

    * Pre-bed snack of casein, natural peanut butter, and bare naked granola.

    I have an "emergency" Ezekiel + peanut butter sandwich too.  (Yes, Sable, it's that fear of hunger thing!)

    Morning will start with my standard oats + almond butter + banana and I packed the leftover roasted potatoes too (just in case!).  Add to that Gatorade and Perpetuem on the bike and I should be all set.

    I wonder what a sports nutrition expert would have to say about this pre-race menu?  We'll see how it works!

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    Saturday's Forecast: Wetsuit-legal, but barely

    I hate the dilemma of the barely wetsuit-legal water as is the case for this Saturday's race.  No reason you can't swim comfortably in just a trisuit in 76 degree water, but wetsuits make you faster. So I will in all likelihood join the crowd (ugh) and wear mine. Sigh.

    One of the best parts of swimming for me is the feel of the water and the minimalism of the sport.  It's me, my swimsuit (or trisuit), and the water. (OK, and goggles and swim cap and often the waterproof iPod for training, but you get my drift) Even after I drill with my zoomers, I am grateful for the return to nakedness for my feet. So any swim in a wetsuit just feels a bit like a missed opportunity. But I am also competitive enough not to pass up the opportunity for some free speed. I think these cutoff temps should be revisited with ambient temperature factored in. Thanks for letting me vent.

    (As I type this my kids are warming up for the first swim meet of the year. No wetsuits for them! )

    The arrows are pointing to my offspring. 
    Notice the rebels won't wear swim caps!

    As far as a pre-race report and my strategy for this one, it boils down to this:

    Swim: start relaxed, establish position, then get busy bumping up the gears, and stay long and lean.
    Bike: be careful with the mount, dismount, and u-turn at the far end, otherwise go hard and don't let up.
    Run: you got another gear there girl, don't be afraid to go after it.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Three races in four weeks amidst general life chaos

    June is a packed and chaotic month with three races in four weeks (one completed, two to come). I've abandoned all hope for structure and order this month.

    from the Salem tri.
    My friend Jennifer and I
    Last week it was all the end-of-school-year festivities. This week the hubs is out of the country again, returning just in time (I hope) for me to head out to the Bath County Triathlon Friday with friends Jennifer and Tanya. Next week the kids head to 4-H camp and Coach Jim leaves for Australia for two months. Then it's the TriAdventure Sprint Triathlon and the day after I head to Vancouver for a conference for four days (good times with the American Society of Engineering Education). Then I'm home for one whole day to madly unpack/restore order/pack the family for a trip to the beach.  It's all good stuff, I can't complain. Still, I'm glad that July looks to be much calmer!

    Goodbye, routine. 
    Hello, creativity and improvisation!
    I slacked on my icing routine for the leg Sunday and could tell a difference in Monday's run so I'm back on it.  I had acupuncture after Monday's run which left things feeling like they went through a meat grinder but today it feels good. (Me: if 6 needles are good, wouldn't 50 be better?)

    My tennis pro friend, who is also falling apart, gave me a roll of kinesio tape. I used it probably two years ago for a knee situation. I honestly think it works by providing a mental distraction, you notice the tape, not the soreness!!  I'm experimenting and invented my own way to tape it, which is probably fine since I'm 95% sure it's not doing anything anyway (which means there's a 5% chance it IS!)

    I've decided to keep track of how things feel in various shoes because I also had on different ones Monday than I had on for the runs of the double brick workout I crushed (insert maniacal laugh here) on Saturday.

    So you are probably thinking that if someone suggested I rub pickle juice on my tendons and wrap them with duck feathers to promote healing that I just might do it. Never say never.

    Still got the "motorcycle hands" thing going.  VROOM VROOM!  Sheesh.

    Final thought: I just learned about Natascha Badmann, a professional triathlete who finished the 2011 Ironman Lanzarote in second place. She is 44 years old....same as me. Go Natascha!!!

    Monday, June 13, 2011

    Good Reads!

    I've been devouring books lately and hit a streak of winners.  Marci and Joel's recent TriCrowd book reviews inspired me to add to the list of "triathlon beach reads"! Here are the last four books I have read.

    If you are an endurance athlete and have even one competitive molecule in your body, I'm Here to Win by Chris McCormack is a MUST read!!  It of course tells Chris' story as he made the jump from accounting (!) to the triathlon circuit, the tragedies he faced, and the tactics he used to train, race smart, and win! This page-turner is filled with insights into the strategies and psychology of racing. It'll leave you fired up for your next race!

    In 2008, Marshall Ulrich and Charlie Engle (both well-known and accomplished ultrarunners) set out to break the record for running across the US (68+ mi/day for 44 days). I didn't have high expectations for Running on Empty, but it turned out to be terrific. I was drawn into the journey, the pain, suffering, and the depths to which Marshall went to keep going despite ongoing injuries. The book includes the backstory of Marshall's life and relationships and shows how his wife Heather was a critical success factor on this run. On p. 272 he describes how he ended up with the same tendonitis that I have at the moment, so I can't help but feel a kinship, haha.  Of course he had about 100 various other injuries.  Marshall comes across as a humble man with tremendous courage as he reveals his shortcomings and struggles even as he succeeds as a runner.

    Ten Million Steps by Paul Reese and Joe Henderson is out of print but used copies are available.  I first heard about Paul Reese in a "Marathon and Beyond" podcast. It was fun to read after Marshall Ulrich's book...more like a Sunday drive by comparison, but not without discomfort and challenge.  The 73 year-old Paul, with the support of his wife in an RV, ran a marathon a day on his journey.

    Iron Heart, by Brian Boyle and Bill Katovsky tells the true story of Brian's comeback from a near-fatal car wreck shortly after his high school graduation. He ultimately comes to triathlon during his recovery and is given a media slot to Kona, which he successfully completed.  The book was 85% about his medical and rehab journey and only the last few chapters really addressed his work toward the triathlon. I was left wanting for more details!  Regardless, his story is truly remarkable and miraculous.

    Saturday, June 11, 2011

    Christening the Q Roo, tendonitis update

    This morning I had a double-brick (ride-run-ride-run) and the first real workout on the new Q Roo. That bike just flies and I am flying high from seeing what we did out there today. Now that it's officially mine (i.e. the check cleared), it needs a name! My old bike was "Ace" (it was a Jamis Ventura..."Ace Ventura"...get it?).

    I decided to name the bike "Teddy" in honor of my dad, Ted Vargo, as today is his birthday and I attribute my need for speed to him! He was involved in car racing in the early days, long before everyone and his brother became a NASCAR fan. We have pictures of him as a flagman in the 50's for the Penn Western Racing Association and he's been to Daytona back when they raced on the sandy beach and the A1A Highway.  He dragged me to the local racetrack a few summers ago and I loved it! Appropriately, he drives a Corvette.  My dad has always been a staunch supporter of my hobbies, which growing up meant he spent a lot of long days at horse shows, holding horses, shining boots, and driving the horse trailer. He continues to be supportive but is probably happy that the torch (and related expenses) has been passed to my husband.

    Me and my dad in the Corvette last summer
    Post double-brick on the Teddy Roo.... it was an EPIC workout, the planets definitely aligned.

    I'd also like to give a shout-out to my husband Robert. It's not easy to be the tri-spouse. I follow Lindsay Cotter's blog - she is an athlete and married to a pro triathlete. Her writings reminded me how important it is to have that supportive spouse in your corner. My husband definitely is, and when I pitched the new bike to him, he never flinched. He makes it logistically possible for me to train and race and doesn't question the odd incidental expenses like the acupuncture.

    As a follow-up to my tendonitis post, the posterior tibial tendonitis is MUCH improved.  I've had two great runs this week that were relatively pain-free. I can still tell that the tendon area is tight, but the sensation of pain is gone.  I'm continuing with lots of icing, compression socks at night, theraband exercises, stretching, and acupuncture. I never really understood what icing does, but now that I do, I'm a believer. The simple analogy I read was that it causes things to contract and constrict, like wringing out a sponge.  That helps flush out waste products from inflammation and injury and as the area re-warms, fresh new blood comes into the site.

    Have a great weekend everyone!

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Survival tactics for the "continuous swim"

    Triathletes all face the "continuous swim" on the training calendar. It's the equivalent of the LSD (long slow distance) run, but without the scenery. Some of my training mates find these long swims, well...boring, but I love them.

    I find it's all about using some tricks to entertain myself.  It requires lowering my entertainment threshold very very low and then lower still.

    I highly recommend a waterproof iPod or MP3 player.  The good ones can be pricey, but it's worth it.  I have been happy with the iPod Shuffle that goes through an aftermarket waterproofing process from H2O Friendly (about $150) paired with Surge waterproof earbuds that I got separately. I tuck the whole contraption under my swim cap to keep things contained.

    Then into the water, start the timer, and go!  These are the kinds of mental tricks I incorporate:
    1. I tell myself I will be swimming essentially forever (even if it's just 25 minutes!) so I'd better settle in for the long haul.  Then I'm not focusing on finishing, I'm focused on swimming.
    2. When I want to look at my watch, I wait until the end of a song or wait two more laps.  Then I'm more likely to discover I am further along than I thought.
    3. I select a part of my stroke to focus on and change that focus every few laps.  I might think of an aggressive hand entry, higher elbows, longer glide, catch-up swim style, 2-beat kick, further reach, stronger pull, one goggle in the water when I breath, or super relaxed recovery arm. You're essentially doing modified drill work - hey, two birds here!!
    4. I'll break from my patterns and habits.
      • Since I tend to stroke first with one arm after pushing off the wall, I'll start with the other arm instead (woo-hoo! so fun!).
      • Cross my feet in the glide off the wall
      • change my breathing pattern from my standard bi-lateral every three.
      • "jazz hands" on my pull to change up the feel
      • catch my thumbs on my hips (yes, this is a source of entertainment for me.)
      • fingertip drag
      • close my eyes for a few strokes
    5.  If I get really desperate, I think of non-swimming things like groceries, blog entries, or work.  This entry was conceived during today's 40 minute swim.
    The funny thing is I can hardly sit through a movie anymore, I find most of them boring.  But ask me to swim for an hour and suddenly catching my thumbs on my hips is incredibly FUN!

    (Footnote: the tricks are far less effective if the stroke technique needs significant work. you should be able to swim conservatively with little effort and feel like you could go forever...if not for the boredom!  If you are not there, I highly suggest seeking help.)

    Thursday, June 9, 2011

    Tastes Change

    Growing up I detested peppers, onions, beans, meat (derivatives like hot dog or deli meat I would do...ugh) and only barely tolerated vegetables. I don't know what I ate -  a lot of waffles and peanut butter sandwiches (JIF...ugh) I guess.

    Thanks to mid-life triathlon and running motivating a shift in my eating, I now find things like this...

    ....irresistable. Peppers!  The former pepper hater now loving peppers! The bag was a full two pounds when I started. (I wish they had been organic.) How beautiful!  I sliced them into rings, sprayed them with some olive oil, and roasted them.  I've been adding them to everything, including this odd but yummy combo:

    It's roasted eggplant slices, roasted peppers, two eggs (nuked) with salsa on a low-carb Flat Out wrap.  My kids have enjoyed the peppers too.  Fortunately they are open to eating a wider variety of foods than I did growing up.  Case in point, today was "graduation" for my 5th grader and we feasted on sushi for his post-grad celebration. Check out his professional chopstick handling!

    I will also include this picture of Grant's lunch today (it was park day).  Just for fun, I sent him packing in a snowman bag on this 85 degree day.  (Yes, Lay's....AND there were chocolate chip cookies too.  We upped the junk food for the last week of school.) 

    The mohawk started for silly hair day and has been with us now for a year.
    If you knew him, you'd know it suits him.

    How did your childhood shape what you eat today? Are there foods you avoided then that you enjoy now?  Any foods you'd be willing to reconsider?

    Tuesday, June 7, 2011


    I've had some tendinitis issues brewing for about two months now and my usual strategy of ignoring it hasn't been working (gee, it worked so well with the stress fractures!), so I'm trying a new approach of actually doing something. It's my inner ankle, right behind the ankle bone, and kicks in about a mile into each run.  I know it's a byproduct of the left leg stress fx/right leg drop foot double-whammy this winter and being over 40!!

    It's not getting worse, and recently it's mayyyybe getting a hair better, but it's hard to say. It's not a problem on the bike or swim or in daily life, just the run. I can certainly push through it (as I did at Sunday's race), but I'd prefer it to go away, and I certainly don't want it worse.

    Coach scaled back my running to the bare bones and I've kept to my promise to faithfully do PT with the theraband twice a day, I'm icing LOTS, and at the suggestion of Kurt and the chiropractor I threw some acupuncture into the mix. Yesterday was the first appointment and it was a very unique sensation with the current applied. It was a bit sore the rest of the day but today it feels pretty good.  I have a run tomorrow, but I know it will take time.

    I am really fortunate that we have an industrial ice maker at work
    and an extra trash can...makes for easy icing!

    At least I know I'm doing what I can...aside from NOT running. Thankfully no one is wasting their breath suggesting that.  It doesn't help that I'm in the middle of Marshall Ulrich's book about running across the US - doing 50-70 miles a day.  That guy battled horrible pain and injuries (and I'm only 1/3 of the way through the book), plantar fasciitis, Achilles issues, etc. So what's a little tendonitis??  Anyway, I'd highly recommend the book, it's gripping and I'm picky about what I read.

    What is it they say about runners and endurance athletes? We're either injured, rehabbing from an injury, or heading into an injury!! C'est la vie!

    Monday, June 6, 2011

    Race Report: Salem YMCA Sprint Triathlon

    Usually I do a pre-race blog reflection but did not this time because I knew I was doing something potentially risky and didn't want to put it in writing.

    I rode the borrowed Q Roo Lucerno tri bike in the race after only riding it once. 

    If you have made the switch from road bike to tri bike you know it takes some getting used to with the aerobar-end shifters, a lower front end, and different handling. After a single test ride late Friday, there was no turning back. Now that I have confessed, and there was a happy ending (3rd overall out of the females) here is the race report.

    This was a new local race, a 45-50 minute drive from my house. My friend Jennifer and I rode up together, warmed up together, and kept each other occupied and calm.

    Swim (300y)
    This was my first pool swim and shortest ever tri swim. We were seeded based on estimated swim times and went off in 10s intervals.  Clearly a couple of people either didn't follow directions, grossly underestimated their times, or were completely delusional regarding their swim prowess. At any rate it created some havoc and turned some of the swim laps into something like that annoying windmill hole on the putt-putt golf course. The poor guy was flailing the width of the lane.

    The group of us together in line agreed that "toe tap" meant "let me pass at the next wall".  I had to pass one flailing, miscalculating water obstacle and got tapped by the fellow behind me with about about 100y to go and I let him pass. (I passed him pretty quickly on the bike, sweet revenge!) This swim took more sighting than I expected! Recently I had been working on body rotation and a longer reach and glide in my stroke, but could tell I resorted to a slightly scrappier style. Brain capacity diminishes for me in races, so it's the whole "last-in-first-out" thing.

    The swim was otherwise uneventful but I felt shaky and slow getting from the pool to the bike and was passed by a few people which is not normally the case.

    Bike (15k)
    This one gets me the award for my least graceful mount ever.  I did my usual version of a "flying mount" by propping my foot atop the left shoe to hoist myself over.....then I promptly ran over a traffic cone. Smooth. It took me a minute to get my feet in and balanced enough to fasten the velcro, meanwhile I was weaving like a drunk. I'm sure I lost some time there but luckily survived upright. Then it was all business and the bike felt FANtastic. I had a smile plastered to my face for the entire ride. I passed a half a dozen people but was passed by two or three others. It's a different race with the seeded swim start instead of a wave start.

    Run (5k...5.4k actually)
    This course has a lot of turns and a number of hills from long and gradual to short and steep. I just tried to run the tangents as best I could and keep the cadence steady.  I saw a few people walk up hills and was determined not to give into that.  Kimberly Patterson, new to triathlon who started the swim 20s behind me, was on my heels and passed me about 1/2 mile from the finish. I didn't have it in me to put 20s on her at that point.  She ran a great race coming in second overall and she earned it!!

    My splits fell with a downhill first mile and hilly terrain for the remainder, but no major crash and burn: 7:03, 7:23, 7:36. Still, always could be better.  The tendinitis in my ankle never got above bothersome level and didn't seem to slow me down.

    I just finished reading Chris McCormack's book I'm Here to Win and he talks about triathlon having four components - swim/bike/run plus the mental components.  (I'd probably add a fifth: nutrition/hydration.) I've done eight triathlons now so I'm not all that experienced, but I am finally starting to recognize and trust my unique patterns.  I am calm leading up to the start and that's OK.  I know that instinct will kick in at the start, and I'll roll up my sleeves and get to work. Today was no different.

    Someone at today's race said, "I saw you on the course and wanted to say something but I had heard you get 'in the zone' and I just left you alone." Marshall Ulrich in Running on Empty refers to 'Road Trance" and yep, that's me. Road trance. All I can do in a race is continuously monitor my own exertion levels and make sure that I'm giving it all I can but at a level I can sustain without blowing up. One of the things I do appreciate about racing is that level of focus that blocks all else out.  There is never another time in my life that I'm not at least peripherally thinking of kid logistics, bills, work, groceries, etc. I feel confident I gave nearly everything I had that day to the race.
    • Swim: 300y - 5:34 (14/80 women)
    • T1: 0:59 (3rd)
    • Bike: 15k - 26:05 (4th)
    • T2: 0:43 (7th)
    • Run: 5.4k - 24:37 (4th)
    • Total: 57:56 (3rd, would have been 13/84 men) Full results here.
    Again, one of the best parts of the triathlon experience is the people.  I enjoyed seeing a number of the members of the Roanoke Triathlon Club who I had first met online - Mark Taylor, Casey Mills, Jenny Kellinger, Dave Pait, and Sam Schneider. Plus I hung with my speedy local peeps - Jennifer McDonald (finished 10th), Anne Clelland (63rd), Denyse Sanderson (4th, top masters). Our big local club TriAdventure was well represented too.

    No race report is complete without big thanks to Coach Jim McGehee of One-on-One Endurance for his coaching and counseling!!  I wish he and his family well on their upcoming two-month adventure to Queensland Australia!

    Things to work on for next time: mounting and dismounting on the bike, not letting swim technique go to pot under pressure, and strength and endurance on hills for both the bike and the run. Just more miles, laps, and sweat....and all the more fun! The sport is growing, the talent pool among the master's athletes is expanding. It's no time to get complacent, time to raise the bar!

    And by the way....I'm buying the bike :-)  
    Thanks, Steve at Just the Right Gear for entrusting me with your bike
    and for getting it race ready so quickly!

    Friday, June 3, 2011


    I'm enjoying some loaner inversion boots from Kurt.  Doing time in cast/crutches/boot with one-legged swimming/rowing/walking can leave a girl a bit "unbalanced".  I still feel it in my gait and I'm not quite as symmetrical as I need to be biomechanically or in term of strength. The chiropractor is working to get my hips and pelvis in alignment (here's how they looked in an early post-injury run) and Kurt has me really focusing on form and balance with my leg work especially. With imbalances, one's injury risk goes way up, so it's critical to get a handle on this.

    The inversion boots feel quite simply, amazing on my entire body especially my hips and back, and yes, I have them on backward (hooks should be in front) but they feel better this way.

    There's a certain amount of trust and belief involved with this whole setup. That's a very hard concrete floor.

    Sure hope I don't get stuck either.

    Thursday, June 2, 2011

    Try the tri bike

    Bikes are a big deal to triathletes. Duh. But I pride myself on competing on my used, retro-fitted impulse-buy Craigslist special with my helmet from Dick's Sporting Goods and refer to myself on occasion as the redneck racer.  It's not light, it's not aero, still it works for me. But when you are 6 seconds off the overall podium like my last race, you can't help but wonder what impact equipment could have.

    (By impulse bike buy I REALLY mean impulse. See the Wed June 3 2009 post when I was still in a walking boot and had the idea for a bike and the Fri June 5 2009 post about being sprung from the boot and buying and riding the bike the previous day.)

    Then recently my two talented tri girlfriends got gifts of tri bikes from their knowledgeable road biking and mountain biking husbands.  My beloved prefers stationary recumbent "biking" and even so, only rarely, so I'm not waiting on the surprise bike from him.  His talents lie in other areas like circuit board design (he's an EE), which doesn't translate so directly to gifts!!

    I had a discussion with Coach Jim and agreed to a patient approach to the bike issue, particularly since I'm doing well and am comfy on my current setup. Plus I don't exactly have wads of cash laying around and would need to find the right bike at the right price (free would be good!). Like most type-A triathletes, I'm very patient. Hahaha. I'm trying anyway.

    I asked some local tri-buddies for some general input and they suggested I see Steve at Just the Right Gear, a shop a few towns over.  He met with me and we discussed several options: (1) upgrading my current much-loved bike (2) new bike (3) used bike and (4) super expensive tricked-out wheels. I was in overwhelm.  The next thing I know, the owner is sending me home with HIS triathlon bike to "try" for a week to decide if that's even the route I want to go.

    I was shocked but he simply replied that I looked "trustworthy" :-) This trustworthy soul drove home a nervous wreck with the Q Roo hanging off the back of the clunky minivan. I was vigilantly checking my rear-view mirror to make sure no one was anywhere near rear-ending me!

    Driving home I was trying to envision other circumstances where you'd send a near stranger off with something worth thousands....."here, try this diamond ring for a week, I trust you!"  Just another thing I love about the community of endurance athletes. Thanks, Steve, and Just the Right Gear!!

    Cue the dramatic soap opera music....
    • Should I even think about a new bike or am I selling out?
    • How do I broach the subject of a bike upgrade with my husband, who returns from a 10-day business trip tomorrow?
    • Will I ever love a new bike as much as I love the one I have now?
    Any bike manufacturers want to sponsor a fairly successful age-grouper mom in Virginia??