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!!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Review: Calavera Swim Leotard

A few weeks ago I stumbled across Calavera Swimwear's one piece leotard online and was immediately intrigued. I'd never seen anything like it but I was always on the lookout for something "more" to swim in particularly during the winter or for cold open water swims. I wanted something to combat those morning swim chills and the shock of the first jump into the water. I finally found it.

I got the suit yesterday and tried it on right away, "swimming" laps around the house while my kids rolled their eyes at their strange mother. The size medium was a great fit for my 5'7" 130 lb self. It has a quarter zip on the back for easy on/off and a zipper pocket on the right side that can accommodate a gel or two -- which would have been ideal when I did the 2.4 mile lake swim last summer and emerged ravenous. The fitted sleeves have thumb holes to stay put. I love the black and blue stripe design especially but the suit also comes in dark grey and magenta as well. The full line includes one and two-piece stay-put beautiful suits!

This morning I took the suit for its first test swim. I was a little worried about whether the sleeves would catch water or if anything would chafe or rub, but it didn't take long for those concerns to evaporate (like the water pun?) so I could focus on the business of swimming and not the suit, which is the ultimate goal!  I didn't notice any drag or water within the suit aside from a few bubbles escaping the top of my back now and again. I have no hesitations about using this suit for rigorous training.

As I hoped, it was nice to feel warm poolside, and to escape that initial chill of the water. But I didn't get hot in the suit either despite doing drills, some build sets, and paddle work. (No killer intervals, it is off season after all!)

I truly love this swimsuit and expect I will chose it over my other suits more often than not. Oh, and look, it matches the fins!

Calavera was founded in 2010 by Anna Jerstrom, a surfer and swimwear designer originally from Stockholm, who recognized a need for performance-based stylish swimwear for surfing, swimming, beach volleyball, SUP, and any other water sport you can think of.

Please contact me at if you are interested in getting a Calavera suit. I am a happy ambassador and member of the Calavera Crew who value the development of functional and stylish swimwear that dares to be different.

As an aside, I think this leotard suit could benefit others who just might not want to bare all and prefer a more modest suit. I also think it could look pretty hot with a matching skirt. It's a really versatile piece that I am happy to have in my collection.

Just off the wall...legs haven't had a chance to sink yet ;-)

 Selfie in the zero-entry part of the pool.
I just thought it was a neat backdrop for the suit and it highlights my goggle eyes.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Granite countertops or bike?

When I was getting ready for last weekend's ride I worked on my bike in the kitchen (doesn't everyone?) and had HGTV on in the adjacent family room. I don't watch much TV but when I do, that is my go-to low brain bandwidth choice (no offense, HGTV).

Anyway, while I was messing with the bike I heard yet another "house hunting" couple with a very modest budget lament how they couldn't possibly live without granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. With my bike leaned up against my laminate counter in my white-applianced kitchen, I laughed. Would I rather have granite countertops or my beloved bike and all the miles I have enjoyed upon it?

That bike, along with my running shoes and goggles, have been conduits for much discovery and adventure! Can a countertop do the same?

Yeah OK, triathletes including me can get caught up in triathlete "stuff" but by and large I think the sport reminds us that the most important, the most memorable, the most valuable things in life aren't "things" at all. And they can't be bought.

Related to this, today I read this old post from TriFuel called, "So you wanna be a Triathlete." It begins with a sobering list of the difficult things about the sport but then it finishes with the following:
"You start to realize that this sport called triathlon could become a life-long adventure. Many people settle for things in life. They settle for a crappy job, marriage, friends, food, place to live and overall fitness and health. 

Those who desire more or those who want more out of life than a drive-thru window and boring sitcom, will choose triathlon or an activity that makes them happy. An activity that will change their life. Triathlon will change your outlook on life, your career, your marriage, your goals, your friends and many other things you thought you had figured out. It’s not just crossing a finish line or a boring finisher medal. It’s the countless hours that got you to that point."
We choose not to settle.
I'll take the bike, thank you!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Solo Century Ride in the Clouds

On Saturday I did my own personal 100-mile (aka "century") ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I'd never done that distance (or really anything close) but it was just something that I had really wanted to do for a while. I sought the perspective it would offer and I wanted confirmation that I could do it. It was important to me that I ride it alone, on my terms, my way.

I mentioned my idea to Coach Jim at our meeting a few weeks and he was supportive and said something about "training for it." My response was essentially "oh, no, I don't want to actually TRAIN for it, I just want to DO it." I think he knows to pick his battles because my mind was made up on this one.

As an Olympic/Sprint distance athlete, I don't need the uber-long rides and my busy family/work/life situation doesn't really support them. My longest ride to date was 71 miles last November, when I had the last "long ride itch." It seems to be a yearly thing.

I wanted my solo century ride to take place on the Blue Ridge Parkway because there is no navigating involved. You get on, you go north or south. Simple. Can't get lost. The road surface is pretty nice too. And one can never see too many cows or barns or hills.

I picked Saturday because I wanted to go while I still had some fitness left from the half iron and because the forecast called for 60 degrees, 0% precipitation, and partly sunny! PERFECT!

Well the joke was on me. What I got was THICK FOG/CLOUDS and almost NO sun (see top picture). There was a good break in the fog mid-ride, but the first and last third were predominantly fog, broken up by periods of intermittent fog, followed by more fog. At that elevation I was probably literally riding through clouds. I had water dripping from my helmet and my socks were wet. It was scary at times to be riding a bike on a narrow road when visibility was maybe 50' in mid-afternoon. I had a blinky light and bright clothes and helmet but I still felt vulnerable. Luckily traffic was light because the motorists were smarter than I and stayed home. Had I known what I was in for, I'd have rescheduled, but I kept thinking the fog would lift.

mid-afternoon: much of the ride was like this

 the fog relented for one of my favorite rhododendron-lined stretches!

As I usually do on long rides or runs, I spent a lot of time doing the math - percentage complete, percentage of the south section, north section, estimated time to the turnaround, matching equivalent distances completed/remaining to my usual ride routes. With 16 miles to go, it was only two "Luster's Gate loops" left, and at 3 miles, that's just a 5k! [It was nice to recently discover that I am not alone in my endurance math, nor am I an extreme example. See Andrew Jenner's post on his 50-mile Mountain Masochist Trail Run in which he shares all the crazy math he does!]

I finished with 101.6 miles and 8400 feet of elevation gain. It was not fast, but I finished, and finished feeling pretty good, not trashed. Even today I feel just fine, so I guess that's a good sign!

The ride gave me perspective on the accomplishments of others. I thought of my friend Kristen's recent 50-miler race (trail run), ultra runner friends Shannon, Carla, and Michaela, and Marshall Ulrich's run across the US averaging 70 miles a day! There are similar amazing feats in swimming and cycling. We are each capable of tremendous things and enduring for long periods if we choose to commit, train, and remain tough.

Bucket lists things don't have to involve a finisher's medal, spectators, or other people. Some of my most memorable swim/bike/runs have been done in solitude, and this century ride is among them.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A (mostly) non-triathlon wedding trip

This weekend my oldest and I flew to Chicago to attend my nephew's wedding and to take a quick trip north to see my sister-in-law. It's good to take a full sabbatical from the triathlon world once in a while and this was to be mine. A family-focused weekend!

I didn't even plan to workout, but I packed some running clothes JUST in case.

Spencer and I flew out Friday and it was nice he did not need to be packed in a bike box. That made the whole flying experience much simpler and no surcharge for him either!

Friday night was a gathering for the out-of-town guests in honor of the bride and groom.

 Spencer, my dad, and the groom, Evan

The groom, Evan, is a triathlete and an Ironman. He and I did a nice long bike ride together a few years ago and we've run several turkey trots together in PA and OH. For his birthday this year I gave him an entry to this June's Chicago ITU race. Oh...right...I digress...this NOT about triathlon!

In honor of the occasion, I removed all my plastic "jewelry" including the Road ID, beloved plastic flower bead bracelet, and plastic Timex IM watch. If anyone needed lap splits, they'd be out of luck because I had caved to fashion.

This party was a great chance for me to brush up on my social skills outside of triathlon. However, it turns out the two people I spoke to the most were Evan's Uncle Frank (a multi-Ironman) and his Uncle Mike (a runner). We had a LOT to talk about - shoes, power meters, training, race schedules. No idle chit-chat there!

 me and my "little" 13 year old boy who is approaching 6'

 with my sister, mother of the groom!

Predictably, on Saturday morning I was up way before anyone else. So what's a girl to do? My bed-headed self stumbled, un-caffeinated and un-breakfasted, to the hotel gym to put in 6 easy miles on the treadmill. Good thing I had packed for this contingency!


Then it was wedding time!!  My nieces managed to fill the entire morning - hours and hours - with something they call "getting ready." I'm still not sure what that means, or what it entails, but I am pretty sure if they ever do a triathlon, their transition area will contain a hairbrush and mascara (at a minimum).

 I have wonderful, brilliant, creative, beautiful nieces!

They make my Achilles hurt just looking at them, but my niece pulls it off
like the professional that she is!
I'd need crutches to walk in them, and then crutches to recover from walking in them.

Mr. and Mrs. Evan and Kimberley Walter!!! 
Nurse and triathlete -- a perfect marriage!

Sunday morning I met up with tri-friend and fellow blogger Sheila Plemich. She's done every triathlon distance from Ultraman to Ironman to Supersprints and her training, intensity, and focus just blow my mind. She's racing IM Cozumel in three weeks. We met at 6:30 am as the hotel restaurant opened and spent 2+ hours talking triathlon and life and drinking way too much coffee! By the time we finished, the family was finally wandering in to the restaurant so I joined up with them.

 Shelia and I

 Second breakfast!!

On Sunday Spencer and I drove up north to my sister-in-law's to spend time with her. She showed me around her town and pointed out the path that led to the nature preserve where she often walks with her dog Penny. With that, my fate was sealed. On Veteran's Day morning, I hit the trail for an impromptu run at the Rollins Savanna Forest Preserve. It's a flat, wide, packed, cinder path that is a runner's dream! I got about an hour in before the rain and snow moved in.
 Happy Veteran's Day! (yesterday)

After a shower and some re-packing, it was back to the airport. Spencer and I had lunch and observed the various running forms of the airport gate sprinters. Then it was time to return home.

So maybe it was not a TOTAL non-triathlon weekend, but it's hard to take the "triathlon" fully out of the "triathlete".

Congratulations, Evan and Kim!!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Roller Derby

I got a set of used rollers in September and played around with them once right after that. Following the advice of my loved ones and coach, I agreed to put them aside until this last race was behind me. I didn't have the time during race season for (1) injuries or (2) drywall repair.

Today seemed like a good day to give them another go since the kids are off school and could call 911 if necessary.

This time I had a better idea for the setup that eliminated the possibility of me falling through a second story window. I positioned the rollers between the kitchen bar top (with padding/wall protection added) and the repositioned couch. I even got brave and clipped in. Then I decided on an arbitrary goal of 10 miles for this little ride. This video is at about two miles in.

10 miles. It took me 51 minutes. With 16 stops. Tempo-level heart rate. 11.8 mph!! OMG! Well, I can only improve from here.

I figured out a few things about rollers today:
  1. The more relaxed I am, the more stable I am. Steady breathing and a steady pedal stroke are essential.
  2. It takes a significant amount of concentration so I can see this being good mental training!
  3. I don't think I will ever ever use rollers without these "bumpers" on either side of me. At least not unless I figure out a ceiling-mounted safety harness.
  4. I felt most stable with my cadence in the low to mid-80s. (BTW this was all in the small chain ring)
  5. My heart rate was WAY higher on rollers than it would be for a similar effort on the bike trainer. I spend most of my trainer time between 16 & 20 mph and on the rollers I was around 13! I guess that is from all the extra balance and coordination plus brain power needed!

I love a good challenge, and these rollers present exactly that. I think this will be fun!