Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Post #800 - 2013 Training & Racing Recap

It's hard to believe this is my 800th post! I started this blog back in May of 2008 before I was a swimmer or cyclist, but just a newbie mom-jogger looking to "unblob". Back then my major goal was to run from one mailbox to another without a walk break. I had only vague get-in-shape goals with no idea (I mean NO idea) where those first steps would lead. What a journey it has been on up through 2013!!

I am thankful for every mile, minute, setback, experience, discovery, and friendship that has resulted from my involvement in triathlon. Though I could easily gush for thousands of words on what the sport has meant to me (and would still fail to adequately capture), I will move on to the recap.

Training Year

Longest Bike - 100 miles (Blue Ridge Parkway Solo Ride)
Longest Run - 26.2 miles (Boston Marathon)
Longest Swim - 2.54 miles (Claytor Lake)

That is about what my working mom life can handle, but that doesn't mean it's always easy to overcome the busy schedule, body inertia, or draw of the warm bed to train. I schedule it into my life and I just don't give myself an out unless there is a credible reason. The skipped workouts I can count on one hand.

Racing Year

PRs: (nice to get still at age 46!)
  • 1 super sprint
  • 5 sprints
  • 3 internationals/Olympics
  • 1 half-iron
  • 1 Aquathalon
Triathlon Podiums:
Year-End Awards:
  • 3rd Overall Female - Virginia Triathlon Series
  • USA Triathlon All-American (ranked 38/1871 in 45-49ers)

Huge thanks go of course to Coach Jim McGehee of One-on-One Endurance who has coached me starting with my very first triathlon in August of 2009. He is a vital partner who puts tremendous time and energy into me and into each athlete that he works with. When I look at my giant binder of weekly workouts printed from Training Peaks and my email folder brimming with advice, encouragement, analysis, and reality-checks, I feel very humbled and fortunate. He's been a major influence on me as an athlete and a person.

My family, my husband Robert, and my kids Spencer and Grant are so, so supportive. I have never heard one complaint about my training or racing even though it impacts their lives especially when I travel. Oma pitches in cheerfully when I am gone, feeding and toting kids around. My mom and dad have become big fans of the sport and they are the first ones I call after a race! I can't say enough about the importance of their love and encouragement and I only hope that I am doing as well encouraging them in their passions and work.

Bryan is my invaluable sounding board and tri-sherpa who brings perspective and straightens my path when I get mired in the unimportant. Krista is my awesome working mom/runner/triathlete role model who reminds me to take it one day at a time. Frequently our texts will read, "Are you surviving?"

I feel lucky every day that my work aligns with my passion. Thank you to John Jones of the fortyninegroup for all of the opportunities to work with fantastic athletes, coaches, race directors, and multisport companies!!
I'm glad to be part of the global community of triathletes. It's a much richer experience because of all the ways we can share and interact online. I often think without things like Facebook and blogs, this sport could feel a little isolated. I get so much inspiration and encouragement from athletes I admire who I may never even meet. Thanks to my racing team family - the Endurance Films Racing Team (read our year-end recap here).

Finally, I am very appreciative of my racing sponsor, Solar Connexion, serving solar energy needs for 23+ years in Virginia and surrounding states ;-)

On to 2014!

Monday, December 30, 2013

What I discovered during my running sabbatical

 December 29 bike trainer workout earned a "10" on the sweaty hair scale.

I have not run one single step since the Turkey Trot on November 28. Not one. My first run back will be January 1 after this self-imposed break of nearly five weeks (pushed back from my original plan of four weeks).

This running hiatus was intended to provide a physical and mental break after a somewhat frustrating season of running through an injury/impairment of unconfirmed origin. The time away has turned out to be an interesting experiment with some surprising results. So what happened during this period?

I didn't miss running. This was unexpected and a bit scary wondering why I didn't miss it. I thought I loved running...gasp...do I not? In the past when I've been injured and couldn't run it had been very emotional. I think that knowing this was a finite amount of time with a definite ending point, I didn't waste time missing it.

My mood noticed the reduction in "outside time." While I still got outside on the bike a few times per week, the reduction in nature time was not a good thing for my general mood/well-being. I realize now how important fresh air and outside time is to me (and what a world of good it could probably do for others). One great thing about a training schedule, it kicks my butt out the door!

check my speed? why thank you I WILL!

The small shift in routine freed up my brain and energy for other things. Of course the holidays have meant more family time and activities, but shunting around the running portion of my brain also allowed me to think more about other areas of training. I found myself re-motivated for the gym and ready to get a game plan and go after deficiencies and compensations I've formed over the last few years. (More on that to come.)

With this one change, I was more willing to make other changes. I began swimming with a new coached group twice a week and am really enjoying that! I've also started getting back to better eating habits that have slipped over the last two months of not racing.

Not running did not result in extra time. The training schedule was lighter and more flexible, but life has a way of filling the vacuum of available time. My takeaway from that is we might as well fill our time the way we choose, lest it be filled for us.

Most of my niggles disappeared.  The is-it-trying-to-be-plantar-fasciitis, the sometimes aching hip....they are gone. (The main issue of the left leg has not fully resolved, which at least tells me that running is not the main cuprit and probably not aggravating it. It's way better than last summer so I'll just give it more time to improve on it's own.)

I got a horrible cold. I can't remember the last time I had a serious bad head cold, but it's like the germs saw their chance to MOVE IN. Maybe it's not related to not running...but it's certainly a coincidence.

And in the possible "oversharing" department -  no Runner's Trots. I didn't realize this was such an issue for me until it went away when I stopped running. Not only was this a problem for me on longer runs but sometimes even the day after (the effects of running on the GI tract can last up to two days). No running, no "runner's trots." It's a common problem, and one I avoid on raceday with an Immodium.

I DO feel refreshed and ready. I think finally after four years I got my out-season right. For me, that meant enjoying my favorite bike routes with no expectations, finally doing that 100-mile solo ride, participating in the coached group swim, changing up my gym routine...and letting go of a summer of stressful running. The "right" out-season is highly individual and what was right for me this year may not be next year.

Moving forward

Regardless of whatever performance effects might result - positive or negative - I know this break from running was important. I learned a few things and got some breathing room in my training life.

I'm ready to start back!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

I did not follow instructions


Today was supposed to be a sub-148 heart rate ride. Setting heart rate limits is the best way to keep me throttled back. The problem is, I didn't remember that one and only instruction until part way through the ride. I was taking it easy, just not that easy, and the hilly route I picked was not conducive to easy.

Post activity comments to Coach Jim:
"I did not follow your single, simple instruction AT ALL. I remembered the heart rate cap at mile 14, but I'd picked a route with all those hills. Then since I'd blown it anyway, a case of the happys compelled me to race a few laps around the empty Drillfield pretending it was my personal velodrome. On the plus side, I did at least do the correct sport :-)"
Seriously, how could a person not be overflowing with happiness to ride under a cloudless sky from house to gorgeous river, under their own pedal power, on their beloved bike?!

Back to following instructions tomorrow.

New River Junction - where we tube and hubs and boys camp...when it's a bit warmer!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Elf Ride

Last year I had the "Elf Run Week" prior to Christmas but since I am currently not running, I had an "Elf Ride" yesterday instead. Same red shirt and striped socks, different mode of transportation. I joked I was packing this for my ride:

When in fact I packed the usual Clif Bar, 2nd Surge, two clementines, and a banana. I did have two stray Hershey Kisses that I enjoyed with about 10 miles to go. 

It was an unseasonably mild day and I took it easy on this ride (as easy as one can with all the inevitable climbing around here - 4400 feet on this ride), just enjoying the sights. It's like the southwest Virginia "safari" ride around here, as I pass horses, chickens, pigs, goats, cows, alpacas, dogs, and deer.  And the best part....zero traffic lights!!  I was having a serious case of bike LOVE yesterday.

Riding was a nice way to check out all the Christmas decorations too. I'm amazed how much people do when they live pretty far off the beaten path! 

Get out there and have some fun with your runs and rides (and swims) this week!!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tis the season for BOOKS!

We had a few book-related posts on TriCrowd so I thought I'd take the opportunity just to share my little library in case anyone is looking for holiday book suggestions! I'm too lazy to type them up so photos will have to do.

Oma (my mother-in-law) has a beautiful tradition of getting us each a book for Christmas. When she asked what I wanted this year I was kind of at a loss for a good tri related book so maybe others can make suggestions.

I was too embarrassed to ask her for the pop-up book I just discovered existed so I confess I ordered this one for myself. It's just about the right thing for my night-time reading attention span.

Seriously, when I couldn't come up with a tri book title, I asked for a T. C. Boyle book of short stories instead. I'd heard him interviewed on Whad'ya Know and thought he was very funny and clever, but I was in for a major shock to discover he looks NOTHING like the sweet grandfatherly person I imagined. What is with that hair?? Whatever. I'd still like the book. And when I say "book" I mean with paper and ink and everything. I don't like the idea of book reading depending on energy availability and software.

What are your favorite tri books?? Has anyone else read T. C. Boyle?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Party like a triathlete: End-of-Season Soiree

Two weekends ago I attended the third annual triathlon season wrap-up party at the home of multi-Ironman and uber-planner Scott Moir. It's an event I very much look forward to, and because preparations for it start in early fall (did I mention someone is a planner?), there is a lot of time for anticipation to build.

What do I mean by preparations? The party is part celebration and part "roast". Scott puts out the call for our season recaps then assembles a program to highlight each athlete and their accomplishments. In addition, each person is given a nickname, and the stories behind the nicknames are often hilarious!! Mine this year was Cortney "blog, blah, blah, blah, blog".  Yeah, OK...with nearly 800 posts, I suppose that is deserved. Coach Jim's was "Clark Kent" since he is super-speedy in transition - into that phone booth/transition area - on with the cape - and out!!

In all seriousness, it was really nice to see the varied types of races in which folks from our region participated - cycling, road races, triathlons, duathlons, aquabikes, aquathalons, relays, open water swims, and swim meets. We raced every distance! I may have this wrong but I think the group had 19 iron distance races among them and I have to give a special shout-out to some of the women in that group: Nancy Hans, Donna Williams, and Karen Bowers. 

And of course conversations were predictably triathlon-y...gear, off-season, next season, physical condition. Above we see Mark Taylor sharing his patella x-rays with Mark Long. That's perfectly acceptable at a tri party!

The athletes in the room included working folks, moms, dads, grandparents, kids, and students. We all have busy lives, but we each find fulfillment in multisport so we just make it work. Thanks to Scott for hosting this end-of-season celebration and to all who make up this tremendous group of local athletes! It's been another fantastic year!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Finally....I miss running

Since I began my self-imposed four week sabbatical from running I have to admit I haven't really missed it at all. There have been days I was even thankful not to be running. I found that to be a little disconcerting, but to be fair, this holiday time of year is pretty busy - especially for us mom types. Finally...FINALLY today, after two and a half weeks, I got my first little stirrings of wanting to run!! I'm hoping by the time I start again after Christmas I'll really be chomping at the bit.

I've kept up my swimming and some biking, but that has been interrupted the last few days by a cold. Interesting that I haven't had a head cold this bad in what seems like years, but of course one would move in during my run time-out. Coincidence? Hmmmm.....

My immune system has probably not been helped by inconsistent use of basic supplements (multi, D3, etc) and eating that has been OK but not great. I'm not doing the best job of managing my own holiday stress levels either.

On the upside, I've done a few positive things the last few weeks related to trying to improve my physical condition for next year.

I met with the Fitness Coordinator at the Weight Club, DeWayne Moore, for a functional movement analysis. I kept saying I wanted to work on my weaknesses in the gym this off-season, but that is tough if you aren't really sure what they are.

From a series of movement tests he determined that the first areas I need to address are core and shoulder mobility. He gave me a number of exercises to do for strength and flexibility and I have done them faithfully and will meet with him periodically to build on those. This is good because core was on my list of things to focus on this off-season but I was having a little trouble getting started. Part of my hesitation is that it's hard to know what is effective and worth doing when it comes to core. I'm getting to the gym two times a week (plus doing core stuff at home) and enjoying the gym now more in the off-season when I don't have to be quite so concerned about interference with swim/bike/run.

I'm taking the time now to pursue the quad issue medically since it has not fully resolved and has flared up randomly on the bike here and there. I went to a DO who is also an elite-level marathoner and her attending physician had a pretty strong hunch about what is going on and had seen a similar case. I'll get a little diagnostic work done after the holidays and see. It would be nice to finally know and have a plan of action.

The group swimming is going well! We'll break for the holidays but it sounds like it will continue on afterward. I sure hope so. I have appreciated having eyes on the deck to give me technique reminders and reinforce when I am making the right changes. Plus we just work hard for a solid hour and I really enjoy that there is a group of us doing the same thing!

That's the December update!!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Here comes the bride (ok, not really - just the dress)

I happened to notice something on my Garmin Connect account the other day, where I archive my bike and run files (and some swim). It says I've burned 239,000 calories since the start of the year -- not that I concern myself with calorie "burn" at all EVER but when I saw that number, it just looked big. Then I thought about what IF I hadn't burned all those, but still ate what I ate. I am fairly certain I wouldn't fit into my wedding dress from 18 years ago.

So it was kind of cool to discover over Thanksgiving that I did indeed fit comfortably into my wedding dress!!  You know, you get with your sister and niece and mom and husband back in your childhood home and from the closet emerges the long-ignored wedding dress. I slipped it on and in the moment of truth, my mom zipped it up. (Road ID matches everything, even wedding dresses!)

I'd like to clarify that what is important to me is how my body functions and performs and I don't get wrapped up in how it looks or its form. But I admit I was glad to fit in the dress, especially since there were many intervening years when I would not have fit in at all. 

Several times I've biked up the mountain to where we had our wedding reception (Mountain Lake, VA). The pics above and below were taken in the same spot. I'm FAR more comfortable in a cycling kit than I ever will be in a big dress. But once was nice!

When I had the dress on my dad was trying to think of other uses for it and he thought I ought to run in it. That got me thinking how much fun it would be to have some kind of wedding/bridal dress race/run. I'm sure they are around. The pic below was for a contest in Belgrade to win a dream wedding. (Those shoes make so much more sense for a wedding day too...just saying.)

I'd have to do some alterations, but If I can run fast in a turkey tail, I'm pretty sure I could figure out how to run fast in a wedding dress.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Group Swim Training & Lessons Learned


This was week one of a three-week pilot program at the Blacksburg Aquatic Center, my local pool, for Swim Training for the Competitive Athlete. This was borne of a chance conversation at the local bike shop, East Coasters, among me, Taylor Jennings (speedy collegiate triathlete), and Anne Jones, head coach for TriAdventure. We agreed there was a need for a fairly rigorous adult coached swim program (whether Master's Swim related or not) at our local pool. And I was ready for an off-season change-up, and to train with others, after a long race season of primarily training solo (by choice).

We met with Lynne Krulich, the Aquatic Supervisor for the town, and Tom Williams, a former swimmer at the University of Tennessee, and past assistant coach for U of T and Virginia Tech. (I did my snooping and Tom has one of the all-time top-10 200m breaststroke times for the school and he was a team captain in 1998.) We settled on a three-week test run, two practices each week, and Tom agreed to coach.

On Tuesday at 6:30 am I showed up at the pool not really knowing what to expect. Tom directed us, and off we went, circle swimming, going through a warm up, then doing a variety of intervals and sets for him to get a sense of our capabilities. We had two lanes going, each with a slightly different focus.

I have some things to learn about group swimming. One would be anticipating approaching swimmers and "trimming my sails" as they pass by (sorry everyone!), and another would be learning if and how and when to pass or be passed.

In addition, I need to work on my listening/comprehension skills. I am accustomed to written, printed workouts, encased in a ziploc bag, that I can refer to over and over in an OCD way. Imagine my surprise when Tom says,
"Now we'll do two ladders: 150, 75, 50, and 25 on the 2:00, 1:30, 1:15, and __ (I forget)" That will be 150 swim, 75 as 50 kick and 25 swim, then a 50 drill, and 25 fast."
I'm like....WHAT?? WHAT?? You lost me at 75! I'm really supposed to remember that?! My brain was not ready for such a long string of instructions, especially not that early in the morning. But I caught on and got it (more or less).

Well, today I was READY when he came at us with instructions for a 9 x 75 with each set of three as a different combo of drill, kick, swim, and build. I listened and after he repeated it one more time (at my request) I had it securely stuffed into my neural network.

Included in today's workout was a 500m benchmark time trial and 6 x 100 that gave Tom a chance to figure out our paces and assess our technique. He showed me how finish my stroke more completely and I received the poolside thumbs-up for making the change. I'd have returned the gesture, but my triceps were burning from their new job.

Despite my tendencies toward solo swim, bike, and run, I really REALLY enjoyed the group swim!! It felt focused, and workmanlike, but still fun. Knowing I was part of a group, and seeing from the others how much faster I could be, was really motivating. I hope this program will continue on.

Eric, Taylor, Jim and Rebecca (who swam for Princeton!)

Yours truly

Coach Tom Williams


Thanks Anne Jones of TriAdventure for the photos,
Lynne and the BAC for hosting, and Tom for coaching!

Monday, December 2, 2013

I'm Taking a 'Leave of Absence' from Running

I am taking four weeks off of running. No, I am not injured.

I am taking four weeks off because I am choosing to, because I think it is a smart thing to do, and because I want to see what impact it will have on my run speed and the health of my legs.

In my first few years as a newbie runner I ended up with two pretty significant injuries (April 2009 and December 2010) that landed me in a cast and on crutches. (Note: These were during marathon training and Coach Jim was not calling the shots on my running program at that time.) I recall one orthopedic appointment when Dr. Lebolt looked at me and said very emphatically, "You need to take a month off of running every year." I kind of gave it the "yeah, yeah..." brushoff but I never forgot what he said.

In 2011 I had a hip "thing" that interrupted my running for a few weeks so I just called that my time off. By 2012, I figured with 3-1/2 years of running my body was strong enough not to need time away from running. I had a great winter/spring of running with a PR for a 10-mile race and a PR at the Boston Marathon. But afterward, I had a quad issue plague me for my tri season. It's better, but still lurks, and I think it's time to see what a total running shutdown might offer.

I struggled with this decision but ultimately I asked myself, "If I don't take the time off and I have issues or injuries in 2014, will I be wishing I had heeded Dr. Lebolt's advice?"

I always felt that I came back as a stronger and fresher runner after injury time-offs. That becomes a bit more of a gamble as we get older, but I think I need the mental reboot to get my head back in the game for the 5ks and 10ks I want for my 2014 triathlons.

It's only 4 weeks. I'll continue to swim, bike, and strength train and will use this time and the winter season to diagnose and address weaknesses and muscular imbalances that may be affecting me.

I recognize that taking a total time off could backfire but then I will know. Ultimately each of us is our own scientific experiment - a study with a sample size of 1. The only way to know what is best is to take a chance and try something different.

The Turkey Trot was my final run for four weeks so that will take me to December 26. I will have plenty to keep me busy during that time :-)

Have you ever taken a non-injury/illness time-out?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Triathlete's Thanksgiving Challenge

I saw the following challenge online the day before Thanksgiving:


The challenge calls for doing the following throughout the course of the day: 
  • 250 squats
  • 200 push-ups
  • 150 burpees
  • 100 crunches / abs of choice
  • 75 hip bridges
  • 50 leg raises
  • 25 V-ups
  • 5 total minutes of planking 
  • This 10-minute run warm-up, followed by 10 hill sprints (30 seconds up, jog down)

So I decided to take it on, and I put out the challenge to my friends online:

Our family spends a quiet Thanksgiving day indoors (aside from my Turkey Trot), having traveled from Virginia and Ohio to Pennsylvania to be together for the day. There's a lot of talking and catching up but I do better with a certain amount of motion here and there so this challenge was perfect!

I ended up doing 200 cheater pushups (from my knees) and I skipped the Burpees because they are pretty disruptive. But all in all it felt good to do, and substituted for my second gym workout of the week.

Kudos to Lori Blanc back in Virginia who did the challenge too! I'm still waiting to hear if she is sore today, because I am!

Today I am taking FULLY off, unless the kids and I find ourselves at the nice indoor pool up here :-)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Race Report: PNC YMCA Turkey Trot in Pittsburgh, PA

Hard to believe this was my 6th annual Turkey Trot. The first one, in 2008, I did on a lark as a newbie runner, and it's become a tradition for me (and countless other runners). It's a great way to start Thanksgiving Day! I've run the last few with my nephew Evan, but I was solo this year as he and his new bride stayed home and ran in their own community Turkey Trot, starting new traditions!

I grew up outside of Pittsburgh and so I enjoy this excuse to head into the city...even on a morning when it's 19 degrees and a "feels like" 9 degrees. Fortunately it was sunny and dry and the roads were clear. It's a fun course from PNC Park, over the Roberto Clemente Bridge and the Allegheny River, around a few blocks downtown, past Point State Park, and then back.

I had a decent race in spite of frozen feet. You know -- the kind of frozen feet where your socks feel scrunched and like they are falling down but they aren't. It's just that the nerves are too cold to work right. No matter how low the thermometer, there's always that "one guy" -- the one in shorts and NO shirt! Brrrr! (I passed him.)

I ran a steady race and had enough reserved to gun it at the end and pass a few people into the finish. I was the 1st turkey, 106th overall, and 17th female at 21:50. [addendum: won my age group out of 134, but there was one 44-year-old master's runner faster than me!! Full Results here.] I was satisfied with my race.

See ya, Pittsburgh! Thanks for having me again!
THANK YOU to the organizers, volunteers, police, and rescue for
giving up your morning for us to race.

"Bibs" app gave us quick access to our own results.

Now onto the business of eating and being lazy with the fam which this year seems to include a lot of Grant winning at Monopoly.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!