Thursday, July 28, 2016

A new direction

At the beginning of the year, I had two goals for 2016.  One was to race in the Glass City marathon in April and (hopefully) BQ.  The second was to complete in the half-Ironman in Delaware on August 21.  My injury back in April should have effectively ended both of those goals, given what I had read about femoral neck stress fractures and the amount of time it took for them to heal.  When I realized I was recovering more quickly than was typical for my injury, I started to ask myself... what if?  What if I could actually do the half-Ironman?  Maybe I could just swim and bike.  Or maybe I could swim, bike and then walk the run.  I started to study the cut-off times for the race, and realized it was possible.  That I could POSSIBLY do 70.3 miles in August!

But after my race at MingoMan, I started to seriously think about what I was doing.  What WAS I doing?  Swimming a couple of times a week... biking a couple of times a week... returning to running with a very specific program.  This was all well and good, but was I really preparing myself for competing in 70.3 miles?  I especially was concerned with the bike, after feeling pretty awful on the bike at MingoMan.  I also was wondering if I was really getting enough swimming time in. I attended a 4-session triathlon clinic this month and the recommendation was to swim 3200-3600 yards, twice a week. I was swimming nowhere near that kind of yardage.  I spoke after one of the clinics to Betsy, who was the "swim expert" at the clinic (who is also an amazing triathlete, and who I actually met almost two years ago at the distance swim challenge!).  I offhandedly mentioned to her that I was thinking I might need some coaching.  She messaged me the next day and asked if I would like for her to coach me.  I should mention, Betsy runs her own coaching business, Excel At All Three.  I decided to take her up on it, figuring that it could not hurt having an experienced triathlete in my corner, telling me what to do each day.

So I started to work with Betsy about 2 weeks ago.  She gives me the workouts via an app called Training Peaks, and I do them.  It's a pretty simple arrangement!  The biggest changes from when I was self-coaching:

1) One of my swim workouts is in the pool, doing interval work.  Ugh. I hate being "married to the clock" (as Betsy calls it), but I have no doubt it will help me capitalize on my swimming abilities.

2) I am swimming longer... as I said, 3200-3600 yards per workout.  The open water swims are also more prescriptive--I'm not just going out and swimming at Alum anymore.  Rather, I am focusing on certain things each length (form, sighting, speed intervals, etc.).

3) I am biking further.  Betsy has me doing 20-25 miles on each of my two weekday long runs, and progressing up to 60+ miles on my long ride on the weekend.  She's also having me push more of my rides, based on heart rate monitoring... which brings me to #4.

4) I am wearing my friend Steph's heart rate monitor.  It connects with my Garmin and gives me (and Betsy) feedback as to how hard I'm working on each ride and run.  It's also a good way for her to make sure I am not pushing myself too hard when I am supposed to be going easy.  I am finding the data that it provides pretty fascinating!

5) I am running off the bike more ("bricks").  This is a big thing in triathlon training that I haven't been able to do as much as I'd like, due to recovering from my injury.  There is a fine line between pushing myself too quickly, and learning how to run after riding on jello-legs.

I still am finding it hard to believe that I am actually going to be able to do the 70.3 in 25 days.  I am fully prepared to walk as much as I need to during the half-marathon portion of the race, based on how I am feeling. I know that I will be dead-tired after the swim and bike.  Right now I am up to 40 minutes of running (I am pool-jogging as well to help supplement my runs).  I am not sure how many  minutes of running I will work up to by the race... I know it won't be 2 hours.  So walk-run intervals are very likely.  Of course, given that it's likely to be 90+ degrees and sunny out while I am running (at around 1 PM!), many people will be doing the same thing, which will make it easier to stomach not actually "racing" in a race. 

Me after a very hot run!
 I am beyond on my blogging... I need to write a review of a product, as well as a race recap for a triathlon relay that I competed in over the weekend.  So I will end this blog with a quote from one of my favorite movies that really speaks to me...   

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Race Recap: Mingoman Sprint Triathlon (7/10/16)

I love lists.  Like, LOVE them.  My phone has an app on it called "Keep" where I can make lists and cross things off.  I think that's my favorite part--crossing things off!  But making them is super fun too. To-do lists are my favorite, but really I believe that all lists are super awesome. 

Bet you're all wondering why I am talking about lists in a race recap!  On the bike leg of my triathlon today, I started to make a list of what was going wrong with my ride (ooo, foreshadowing...).  That list got pretty long, and after a bit I decided that I should stop and try to make a list of things that HADN'T gone wrong.  A much shorter list (it seemed at the time least), but it helped me get my head on straight again.  I thought that it would be fun to make this a blog of lists.

List #1: What went well during today's race

1) I met my "A" Goal (which was a sub-2:15), with an overall time of 2:14:12.  Why am I not more excited???  See list #2. 

2) I didn't fall off my bike, or crash, or get a flat tire, or embarrass myself in any other way during any of the legs of the race.  There were a few crashes, and one bad injury. I need to be grateful that I wasn't hurt.

3) I had zero anxiety during the swim.  This is huge for me, as it's been an issue in the past.  I felt very relaxed.  Maybe a bit too relaxed... wait, that's not for this list!

The water was perfect today--77 degrees!
4) I got to see so many friends on the course!  Many friends were racing, and a few were there to cheer.  I loved it every time that I'd see someone. (Except for when Megan and Melanie zoomed by me on the bike... oh, wait, not this list...)  

5) The run went *exactly* as I'd planned.  I had my watch set to 4 min run/2 min walk intervals, and I followed directions to a T.  Even better, the final run interval started with 0.1 miles to go, so I got to run into the finish feeling super fresh.  Woo hoo!

6) I got to the race super early, so I had plenty of time to do everything and not stress about being rushed.  I love when this is the case.

Pre-race selfie! (That's my friend Jenny in the background)
7) Fueling seemed spot-on.  I had peanut butter toast + bananas for breakfast at 4:15 AM, and a honey stinger waffle at around 6:00 AM.  I sipped a bottle of water with skratch added from 5-7 AM.  I had a Hammer gel at around mile 12.5 on the bike, and sipped my skratch water bottle throughout.  I drank water from my hand-held during the run.  And NO STOMACH ISSUES. Wait... that totally deserves its own number...

8) NO STOMACH ISSUES!  No bathroom issues at all! This is always a very, very good thing!

9) My timing chip stayed on.  Okay, maybe a silly addition to this list, but since I've experienced it falling off during a previous race, I need to celebrate the littlest things.   Granted, I did have it safety-pinned on (thanks to my friends' pre-race advice)... but I digress LOL.

10) Both transitions went well, at least inside the transition area.  I did go past my bike mount in T2, but realized it pretty quickly and was able to get back to my spot. 

T1 set up

On to...

List #2: What did not go so well today:

1) The bike. Oh, the bike.  I have no clue exactly what happened.  I had trouble clipping in at transition to start; it took me a good 30 seconds just to get my first cleat in.  That was foreshadowing for the rest of the ride.  For whatever reason, I just COULD NOT get settled into my ride.  It took about 30 minutes for me to feel somewhat into it... but even then, it felt like I was pedaling uphill the entire time, even when I was definitely going downhill.   My chain has been grinding a lot lately, but even with that I have been able to ride at 16-18 mph for every ride. Today's pace was a sorrowful 15.2 mph.  On our 47-miler my average was 16.2 mph.  For 21 miles, I ought to be able to go faster than 15 mph, especially given the fact that I was actually TRYING to go fast!  At around mile 10 or so, I finally gave into the fact that this bike ride was just not going to go well, regardless of how hard I tried, so I focused on giving kudos to the riders passing me (and there were scores of them!) and enjoying the farmlands that I was cycling past.

2) The swim was a bit too relaxed. I knew it while I was doing it... that I could definitely go a bit faster. But I also had the goal of making it through without getting overly anxious, and that goal trumped pushing it too much.  I checked my watch upon exiting the water and saw that it said 0.53 miles and 15:10, which is around 1:38/100 yards.  This is definitely slower than I do in my faster training swims. My pace was 1:31/100 at my open water race.  There were a lot more people in the water this time, though! Still... I do need to pick it up a bit on what's supposed to be my best leg.

3) I had watch issues.  No problems at the start, and at the first transition into my bike.  As I left T1, I pushed the "lap" button to end the transition and start my ride. My watched buzzed to indicate the transition had ended, and then a second or two later it buzzed again (this is because I forgot that I had it set to "auto pause" if I was going less than 10 mph... which of course seeing as I wasn't even moving yet, it paused). I was so flustered, I pushed the lap button again, unknowingly telling my watch that I'd finished my bike and was in T2 already.  UGH!  This was so annoying, as I had to do my entire ride without my watch telling me much at all. I knew the approximate distance (after T1 my watch said 0.8-something so I was able to subtract that away from the total distance), and was able to see an overall time, which was how I knew how slow I was going.  But it would've been nice to have my mile splits buzzing at me.  Wait... maybe that would not have been so nice, given how slow I was actually going.   
4) I had to walk during the run.  I know, I HAD to walk... this was part of my plan.  But it was still not easy to do so.  There were times when it was... like when I got to walk up a huge hill versus tackle running up it.  But mostly, it was annoying.  I'd pass a few people, and then it'd be time to walk again.  It sucks being smart sometimes.

5) My legs didn't feel great during the run.  My hip felt fine, which actually should be on list #1, as did my plantar fasciitis.  But my calves felt tight off the bike (an issue I had last year), and whatever muscle/tendon/tissue is below my shin, right above my foot, felt super tight, especially on my left foot. Walking actually was more uncomfortable than running.  I am going to chalk this up to the fact that I *just* started to run again, and my legs need more time to get back to normal.

So that was a relatively short list, especially given that I thought the race was a total wash at first.  One more list for you...

List #3: What I will do differently at my next triathlon:

1) I will learn how to fix a flat tire. I saw a woman whose tube blew up (literally!) at mile 1.5.  I need to learn how to do this ASAP!

2) I will get my bike gears figured out.  If the Westerville Bike Shop can't figure it out, I'll take my bike elsewhere.  I know that it needs something.

3) I will work on my bike-run bricks so that my legs are used to running off the bike.  

4) I will bike more often, and longer, and on routes with more hills.  I have basically memorized the course at Alum, and this is honestly doing a disservice to me.  I need to be ready for novel roads like the ones I had to ride today in Delaware.

Final stats:
Swim: 16:25 (this includes the "run" up to transition, which was 0.61 total by my watch), 9th overall out of 82
T1: 2:31
Bike: 1:22:40.  68th overall out of 82
T2: didn't register (1:25 by my Garmin)
Run: didn't register--my Garmin said 31:07, which would've been 59th overall out of 82.  
Overall time: 2:14:12  (55th overall out of 82, 15th out of 31 females, 3rd out of 6 in 35-39 AG)
A few more pictures from the race...
Post-race MRTT picture!  

Pre-race with several MRTT mamas!

Pre-race with Jenny, Megan and Becky!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Sweet, sweet summer... oh, and a race

Most teachers live for summer. I am definitely one of them!  Things I love about summer include: no rushing around getting my kids places (well, even though they all have activities, I don't have to rush to get dinner fixed after work), no grading or lesson planning, no getting dressed if the kid and I don't feel like it, no making sure kids are bathed before school the next day, no stressing about getting everyone to bed on time, no stress for the kids to get homework assignments done... and, of course, with the lack of all of these things, there is finally time to do what I want--all of the workouts!  I love being able to have more than enough time in the mornings to get my swims/bikes/runs done.  Usually during the school year, I have to start no later than 5 AM to finish up even a short 5 mile run.  There's never the chance to swim, as the rec center isn't even open until 6 AM.  If I want to run longer, I have to get up even earlier.  I really do hate setting my alarm clock in the 4's, but that's how I have to do it when school is in session.

Summer, though... it's when I get to sleep in until 5:00, or 5:30, or even 6:00, and still get a great workout in!  This schedule is perfect for triathlon training, as I'm able to get long bike rides or bricks finished before I have to be home by 7:45 to get my daughter up for swim team practice.  Here are how my weeks have been shaping up:

Mondays: long walk (4 miles), which now has morphed into run/walk intervals
Tuesdays: was a sunrise yoga class... now is bike (or swim/bike brick this week)
Wednesdays: short walk, which now has morphed into run/walk intervals (this week with a short bike beforehand)
Thursdays: shorter swim/bike brick with Heather (and anyone else who joins us that week) at Alum (.75 mile swim/12 mile bike)
Fridays: was a rest day, now is run/walk intervals
Saturdays: longer swim/bike brick (more like 1.5 mile swim/30-40 mile bike)
Sundays: rest day

Obviously there is flexibility.  This week, for example, Saturday is my rest day.  That's because Sunday is a race.  Yep, a triathlon.  I'll get back to that in a bit, though.

The question my followers are probably asking is, HOW IS RUNNING?  So I started on June 23 using the plan that I mentioned previously.  I had already finished Phase 1, which involved being able to walk fast pain-free.  I attempted Phase 2, the plyometric (jumping/hopping) phase on June 20 and was able to complete it, so after being released from Dr. Dick on June 22, I began Phase 3.  This phase has five stages to it:
Stage 1: 5 min walk/1 min jog x 6 for 30 minutes

Stage 2: 4 min walk/2 min jog x 6 for 30 minutes
Stage 3: 3 min walk/3 min jog x 6 for 30 minutes
Stage 4: 2 min walk/4 min jog x 6 for 30 minutes

Stage 5: jog every other day with a goal of reaching 30 minutes (starting each run with a 5 min walk, gradually increasing the pace)

Over the past 2 weeks I have progressed through the first 4 stages. I did stage 1 twice, stage 2 once, stage 3 twice, and I've done stage 4 once so far.  I will do it again on Friday.  The program really doesn't say much about repeating stages.  My friend Tamara said that she'd repeat each one as needed, based on how I felt.  So if I had any discomfort at all either during the run itself or later on in the day (or even the next day), I would repeat the phase.  By "discomfort", I am not talking about pain.  Rather, just the feeling of muscles being used again, enough that I could feel "something".  Dr. Dick said to expect this, so I am working on listening to my body, not freaking out over minor discomfort, and taking things nice and slow.  I've found that if I keep my jog at around a 9:30-9:45 min/mile, I feel better than if I push it to 9:00-9:15 min/mile, so that is something else I've been working on.

I'm not sure how long stage 5 will take me. I plan on starting it next week, barring any unforeseen circumstances.  I think I will throw in walking periodically, continuing to work on building my muscles back up again.  Phase 4 is an actual running schedule (running every other day), with the first two weeks being 30-35 minute runs, moving up by week 12 to 45 minute runs.  I love the very gradual progression of this plan.  It's pointedly, almost painfully slow, and that's exactly what I think I need right now. 

So... now you're all probably wondering exactly why I'm racing in a few days, if I'm taking this whole recovery thing so sloooowly.  I actually transferred my bib for this race (Mingoman) a month ago, as I'd registered for it back in November during a sale.  Then, a few days later, I learned that there was a sprint distance (not just the Olympic distance I'd registered for).  A sprint tri finishes with a 5K run (3.1 miles).  Last month, I knew that I could walk 3.1 miles; I was doing it a few times a week at that point.  I was feeling great on the swim and bike.  I spoke to my doctor and she had no problem with me signing up, under the condition that I would be either walking or walk/running the 5K at the end.  Not a problem!  So I had another friend's bib transferred to me and signed up for the sprint.  A typical sprint is around a half-mile swim, around 12-14 miles bike, and a 5K run.  This race is longer on the bike (22 miles), but the swim (0.45 miles) and run (5K) are normal.  I don't mind the longer bike ride since I rode 47 miles last weekend, and I know I can handle 22!

I have zip, zero, zilch goals for this race.  Yeah, right... I can't NOT have any goals.  I should be able to do the swim in about 14 minutes.  I should be able to do the bike in about 1 hour 20-25 minutes.  I did a 5K walk/run at stage 4 today in 35 minutes.  So, adding those times together gives me 2 hours 9-14 minutes, plus transitions. So.... C goal is to finish uninjured and happy.  B goal is 2 hours 20 minutes.  A goal is under 2 hours 15 minutes.  

My friends are concerned that I will push the run... that I won't do my intervals.  Oh they know me so well!  Yes, I am competitive.  Yes, it will be hard for me to watch people pass me on the run, which will definitely happen.  But my goals are bigger than this triathlon.  I am super excited to compete in it, and I will give it my best shot.  But I won't be doing anything more than my 4 min jog/2 min walk intervals.  Because that's where I am at right now, and it's a good place.  A very, very good place.  

Friday, July 1, 2016

Race recap: Central Ohio Multisport Festival 2-mile OWS (6/25/16)

In November, Greenswell (a local organization that puts on races) had a half-off special at around Thanksgiving.  All of their 2016 races were 50% off.  What a deal!  I registered for the MingoMan Olympic distance triathlon that day, as well as for the 1-mile open water swim at the Central Ohio Multisport Festival.

This festival includes the Tri For Hope (my first triathlon last year!), a variety of distances for OWS, SUP (stand-up paddleboarding), as well as a mini, sprint and Olympic distance triathlon.  Such a fun concept, a weekend of racing!  With my anniversary on 6/26, I didn't want to commit to doing a triathlon on Sunday, so instead I chose to sign up for the 1-mile OWS.  It was only $15, so I figured if my husband and I decided to skip town to celebrate (as we often do on our anniversary), I wouldn't be out too much.

We did skip town (five kid-free days in Lake Cumberland!), but with my daughter's early-morning swim meet, we needed to wait until lunch time on Saturday to head out.  Her meet was also the reason I ended up transferring to the 2-mile swim.  The meet was supposed to start at 9 AM, but the 1-mile swim was at 8:30... and the 2-mile at 7:00.  I realized that if I transferred to the 2-mile race, I'd be able to see her compete.  No brainer!  Of course, two days before the meet, they announced that her swimming competition would actually start at 8:05 AM.  I contemplated skipping out on my own race, but in the end decided that I'd get to see her swim at least one or two races if I hurried out to New Albany after my swim.

I showed up at 6:20 AM for the "packet" pick-up, greeted by this gorgeous sunrise.  Have I mentioned how much I love swimming open-water at sunrise??  

I say "packet"... but there was no packet at all, just a swim cap that we had to wear.  Umm, okay.  Again, I'm glad I only paid $15 for this race.  No t-shirt, no bling... and I was surprised that it wasn't even chip-timed.  I spent the half-hour prior to the race chatting with a few other swimmers.  I knew Betsy from the 10,000-meter swim challenge that I did a couple of years ago.  One introduced herself to me as Macy, and I immediately knew she was Macy Weber, who a few of my MIT-coach-buddies had referenced before as a super-stellar triathlete.  Their friend Julie came over and Betsy started to joke with Julie about how she didn't even need a wetsuit, she was so fast.  Hmm... so here I am, with three women who clearly were accomplished Ironman-finishers... not sure what I expected, doing a 2-mile OWS race.  Who else does that distance, except for serious peeps?!  Needless to say, I took a breath and told myself that place didn't matter in this race.  It was a chance for me to get a PR distance, practice going around buoys (with a 0.5-mile course, I'd be doing 15 turns!), and also swim in a crowd.

The race started a minute or two after 7:00, with an unceremonious 3-2-1-GO!  There were 20 of us in the water (7 females, 13 males--I didn't realize this till after we got the results, although it did seem overwhelmingly male-dominated at the start).  As usual in an OWS, the start was a bit dicey.  Lots of splashing, kicking, etc.  I tried my best to find my own lane to swim in and avoid the flailing arms.  In my previous OWS's, I have had trouble with anxiety and catching my breath in races.  I wanted to avoid this, so I told myself to just swim nice and easy, like it was a training swim.  And it worked!  I didn't have any anxiety at all, yay!

The race went really well, I was pretty much by myself after the first 200 or so yards.  I could see two people in front of me (a male, and then a female that I knew was Betsy), but other than that, I felt alone, which was fine with me!  I focused on my sighting, taking the turns around the buoys as tightly as I could, and just staying relaxed.  I was surprise how LONG the loops felt.  As I was approaching the start/finish buoy for the third time, I sneaked a peek at my watch and was shocked to see that it said 1.77 miles.  I had another loop to go, and we were almost at 2 miles already!  I contemplated stopping at that point.  Maybe I'd miscounted.... but I saw Betsy and the other swimmer continue on around the buoy so I kept going myself.  

Pace-wise, I increased my effort for the 3rd and 4th loops. I need to figure out how to set my watch to give me splits at each half-mile so I can see how much faster I got.  I thought that maybe, just maybe, I'd be able to catch one of the swimmers in my vision on that last loop, but realized as we headed down the final straightaway towards the finish that it wasn't going to happen, and I was just fine with that!  I had no clue how many people were ahead of me--or behind me!  I swam into the finish and walked shakily onto the beach.  

Julie and Betsy were the only two females there, so I was quite proud of my 3rd place overall female finish, especially in the company of greatness!  Julie ended up winning 1st overall female with a 1:02, and Betsy finished just ahead of me as I had thought. Macy finished about a minute after I did.  Overall, I was 6th (so three men beat me as well).  We spent about 5-10 minutes discussing the length of the course.  Julie and Betsy hadn't worn watches, and Macy's never started.  One male swimmer had 4000 yards on his Garmin, which is 2.27 miles.  Another had 2.7 miles after just three loops--he'd stopped early upon seeing this!  The race director didn't think the distance was as far off as we were all saying... whatever.  My official final time was a 1:05:30, which was a 1:31 overall pace for 2.44 miles.  This is definitely at the faster end of my training pace, and since I basically treated this as a training swim, I am pleased with it!