Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Off-Season

I entered my true off-season last Sunday with different fanfare than I expected. Last Saturday, I was supposed to cap off my race season with a PR half-marathon. Instead, after about 4 miles of the race, high heart rates and coughs, sneezes and wheezes associated with the virus I managed to catch the week before, I called it quits, DNF'd and took a leisurely stroll/jog back down to the finish line to cheer on my fellow training buddies as they crossed the finish line. I've never DNF'd before and I felt some sheepishness, but I'm certain it was the right thing for my body. My body was still fighting hard whatever bug was attacking, and it needed rest more than anything. There will be another day in my future to push myself hard.

Much of the rest of the weekend (with the exception of our fabulous end of the year TG brunch) and Monday I spent resting with a Kleenex box not too far away. I dragged myself to the doctors on Monday since after a week and a half, I still hadn't seen measurable improvement and when I coughed I sounded like I had the plague or black lung. After Monday's day off and the assistance of some new meds, I finally started to perk back up on Tuesday and Wednesday.

This week I took full advantage of my off-season break. Only two workouts - a tennis match Wednesday night and a trainer ride Friday morning - and neither one of them too strenuous or early in the morning. Next week I hope to get back to a little bit more regular workouts but plan to keep it loose and fun between now and the end of the year. I'm also looking forward to a little revamping of my blog and setting my next year's races and goals.

So . . . if I'm a little quiet on the blog front, I'm probably out enjoying the off-season. Hope you are too!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Updates and More Updates

The most important update first. Congrats to Kate O., Shawn, Sharon, Patty, Charlotte, Fred, Kate G. and Som on becoming Ironmen yesterday(Som for the 5th? time this year)! I am so proud of each one of you! Watching the online updates yesterday brought me back to a year ago in my own journey when I watched the Deannas, SQ, Karen, Anna, Carmen et al crossing the finish line and thinking that Ironman was something I wanted in my own future. 09 will be my year to give it a go and seeing everyone race yesterday only strengthened that desire.

The last two weeks have been packed. A trip to Bermuda for JK's wedding, then on to Montana for business, then back in town for W&M's homecoming, a beautiful fall ride in nothern Virginia, a busy work week, Halloween, oh... and some training for that half marathon in a few weeks in Richmond. Its been a bit crazy, but here are some of the highlights.

The beautiful beach at the Fairmont. Soft sand, clear turquoise water, a perfect setting for the wedding.

The gals all dressed up, a little wind blown and waiting for the trolley.

The happy couple says their vows.

A little change in gears. . . Back in the states, the next weekend we engaged in a little "off season" training on our hybrids. A ride on the Mt. Vernon trail from George Washington's estate to city center (about 19 miles) and back out was a perfect mix of a little sweat and lots of fun. The weather was picture perfect and due to the Marine Corps Marathon we were even able to ride down the middle of Constitution Avenue before meeting up with SG's brother for some mid-day "fuel."

Me and the boys post ride. Gregg tried to claim the yellow jersey for the day. It really belonged to SanDee. I highly recommend this ride. Once in D.C., if you bring a bike lock, you can take in all the sights and there are plenty of great places to stop to and from D.C., including Bart's favorite - the Ben & Jerry's in old town.

Yesterday, TGs Mollie, Katheryn, Debbie Jo, Fave, Lisa, TG40 and I checked out the new very flat half marathon course. I've determined that long runs are SO much more fun when run with others. The miles ticked off quickly as we wound through the beautiful neighborhoods of Richmond's northside. It will be helpful to have the landmarks of the course in my head on race day and it was good to have a decent long run (they've been alluding me this fall) in the bank before I start my taper. Thanks ladies for a great run!

Hope everyone is enjoying the fall. Congrats again to our Ironmen!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

An Indian Summer Sunday

TG Kate O's blog ticker tape reminded me that it is has been two weeks since I last posted. I wish I could post about all kinds of exciting things, but the truth is, nothing much worth blogging about has transpired.

Much of my focus the past week has been on nutrition and running. The nutrition is finally starting to come along. I've gone back to keeping a food journal and have really been trying to track the ratios and servings of fruit, starch, protein and fat. The good news is that I feel like I'm eating all of the time and am certainly not going hungry. Good nutritious food, really has much fewer calories. My energy levels are up and hopefully I'm beginning the process of changing my body composition. The bad news is that there is not much room for vino.

As for the run. . . I still feel like I'm making progress at the track (last week's 800s were on 8 minute pace), but am a little frustrated with the pace of my long runs. Last week's 14 miles averaged in the 10:20s and this week's long 16, while at much lower heart rates and more enjoyable, averaged around 10:45. Both, however, are way slower than where I need to end up come race time and well above my spring half marathon pace.

This weekend we've been enjoying a little bit of an indian summer. Temperatures during the day in the upper 70s and some of the bluest skies of the year. Hope everyone is enjoying it!

Congrats to all of the amazing folks who finished Kona yesterday in what appeared to be blistering conditions. I continue to be amazed by Chrissie Wellington - she has such fire and spunk and best of all, when she races looks like she wouldn't want to trade what she is doing with anything in the world. I can't wait to see the TV version this fall.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The whole package

It doesn't make sense in this sport to try and get better if you are not going to pay attention to the whole package. It doesn't make sense to log hours and hours on the bike, pounding the pavement or swimming in the pool or even time in the weight room if you are going to ignore other aspects of our sport like getting enough sleep, proper hydration and eating right and of course, believing.

I know this.

Yet, again this week I expected results and improvement on my long Saturday run but completely ignored part of the package -- proper hydration and nutrition. As I suffered through my 12 miles today, I got angrier and angrier at myself. I know I called myself stupid many times. I had showed up to run, with all my nutrition and hydration for the day, I was mentally ready to put the tough effort in, but I hadn't followed any semblance of proper pre-run fueling.

Let's see... my last two days started their precipitous dive on Thursday night with a salad, loaded baked potato (cheese, sour cream, bacon), a cheeseburger (no bun) and, to top it off, a half bottle of wine. Thursday night I slept like crap (bc of the half bottle of wine) and woke up tired and likely dehydrated too. So, I slept in, missed my swim workout and recovery run and headed to the office. I tried to get myself back on track with breakfast - some buckwheat waffles, toasted plain with a fruit protein smoothie, but then chose poorly again at lunch with too many chips and salsa to go with my fajita fillings, rice and beans. I repeated Mexican for dinner (I could eat it every meal if it were healthy) with some more rice and beans, chips and cheese dip, and shrimp fajita filling. I added my salt for the evening with 2 margaritas. My dessert, a 200 calorie gluten free peanut butter cookie from Trader Joe's that I've been craving since last December when I had them last. Then, rather than going to bed early to get some extra sleep, I stayed up late baking my unhealthy cookies, watching the presidential debates and then reading, get this, Nutrition for Endurance Athletes.

As I was berating myself on the run today, I counted my fluid intake from yesterday.... 2 margaritas, 1 cup of coffee, 10 oz fruit smoothie, and only 24 oz water. Pitiful. Is it any wonder my legs felt like lead, I suffered dehydration symptoms and in general had a crappy run?

I know better.

If I really want to improve, I need to commit. . . not just at workout time, but also throughout the day and week. Wanting it and believing will only carry me so far, I need to pay attention to the whole package. Its time to start!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Round and Round I Go.....

Over the past week I've been to the track twice. The first time, last Saturday, for my three mile timed run and tonight, for my weekly speed workout.

My results pretty much mimicked my love/hate relationship with the track. Tonight's workout was successful and I left the track feeling positive. Saturday's run was frustrating and disappointing and I left the track questioning the work I am putting in.

But whether I have a good results or mediocre ones, there is something that draws me back to track. Why? I'm not sure. For hours before these workouts, I dread the burn I know I'll feel in my lungs and legs. I get anxious about meeting goal times. And at times during the repeats, I'm working so hard I dry heave and want to walk off the track. But, on the other hand, there is something rhythmic in the work of intervals, a simplicity in my task. I like the lightness and quickness I feel in my stride that occurs at the very beginning of each new set. Its empowering to have to work hard. And finally, there is the thrill and surprise when I pour out my everything and I pass a goal time that on paper pre-workout seemed unattainable.

Tonight, as I finished my 4th of 6 600s, the sun was setting in the sky in bright hues of purple and pink, my heart was racing hard, and there was the beginning of fall's crispness in the air. And despite the hard efforts and my raspy breathing, at that moment it was nothing but peaceful. Just me and the track. I smiled, and set off for number 5.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A postcard from LA!

I got this postcard from LA today from TG40.

McQueen understands that Patriot Sangria is jealous. Don't worry Patriot Sangria. You'll be your own star after Mighty Man!

Friday, September 12, 2008

A mid-month update

Sorry for taking so long between posts. Last week was hectic with a trip to Chicago late night work hours. And this week, I've been exhausted and under the weather since Wednesday.

I wish I could report that things have been going swimmingly on my new back to school plan. But, they have not.

First, the nutrition. I have learned that my body can not handle a high protein diet. Twelve ounces of meat a day does crazy things to my stomach and I need more carbs to sustain my workouts. Consequently after 4 days on the diet, my stomach (and my husband) was saying STOP and my long run on the weekend was a disaster death march. So I dropped all the extra meat, but apparently (I learned today) didn't compensate with enough calories . . . which has contributed to this week's malaise. Today I returned to my nutritionist Tina and so hopefully after this weekend, I'll be back on track. New plan, new start.

Second, the strength training. This part is actually going well. I have gone each week to my Wed am core endurance class and as of Monday am now set up with a strength training program to add in one other day during the week. I am now able to laugh the day after core training without cringing from pain. Always a good sign :)

Running. Well I still really don't like it and my training gets mixed reviews. As I alluded to above, my first week's long run was a disaster. I had NOTHING for the entire run after mile 2. My HR soared, I walked a TON and for the first time ever I couldn't complete my mileage because I was too afraid I was going to pass out. Granted, it was extremely hot and humid that Saturday in Nagshead, but still my results were frustrating. How could I not run 14 measly miles when two weeks earlier I did a half ironman? Many kudos to TG SanDee for sticking with me and helping me shake it off afterwards. Total distance of the death march - 10 miles. Mid-week following, I did have a great track workout which helped me regain some confidence. And, last weekend's long run was MUCH better. 15 miles completed. My pace was a little slower than I would have liked (Ave 11 min) but I felt better during the run and was able to complete the distance. There were even a few times when the tunes on my ipod brought a smile to my face.

Which brings me to this week. Monday was great - my calfs were sore but I managed to get through a personal training session in the morning and then in the evening, head back out for a short 40 min run workout with 15 hill repeats wedged in the middle. While my legs felt the long run from the day before, they eventually loosened up and I actually felt strong bounding up the hill.

Tuesday was when I first started feeling wiped out. And so, I skipped my Tuesday evening easy cycle. Wed morning I headed out and made it through core class. I felt sluggish but I chalked it off to the 6 am hour and my upset stomach to dinner the night before. By mid day, my stomach felt rotten, I had chills off and on and I had a headache that wouldn't leave. I made it through the work day but collapsed that night on the couch at home and went to bed early. I felt slightly better yesterday but still sluggish. I made myself do my cycling workout before dinner - 75 mins of pedal stroke and cadence drills and riding. I had no legs for the workout and my sports drink made my stomach feel all bloated and gross. I managed to get through a normal dinner at Kitchen 64 and then headed to bed early in hopes of getting in my long run this morning before work.

When the alarm went off this morning, I knew 16 miles were not going to happen today. My head felt like it would explode and I was wiped out. So I rolled over and went back to bed for an hour or two.

Both Coach Harlow and my Nutritionist Tina concur. My body needs rest to fight off a bug I seemingly have caught AND I need to pay close attention to my calorie intake so I am eating enough. So no long run for me today. If I'm feeling well Sunday evening, I'm supposed to give it a go. In the interim, lots of fluids, enough calories and rest.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Back to School

Even though I haven't been attending classes for quite a few years now. . . the last week in August still signals that school is right around the corner. With my triathlons completed for the season, I decided to take a "back to school" approach with my fall training. My study? Three of my triathlon weaknesses:

1. Running
2. Strength
3. My weight

My extra-curriculars for the fall semester will be some fun easy time on the bike and some technique work in the pool.

Yesterday I started my new "running focused" plan. My ultimate end goal is the Richmond Half Marathon on November 15th. Coach Michael is gearing all of my run training over the next two and a half months towards getting me across the finish line under the 2 hour mark. Yesterday's workout was a nice break in post 1/2 IM - a half hour run on the grass field focusing on technique with 5 minutes in the middle of barefoot running.

Today I started my second class - my weight. First, I've made major progress over the past year and a month that I've been seeing my nutritionist, Tina Shiver. Not only have my stomach issues decreased substantially (after figuring out my gluten intolerance) such that now they seem to be infrequent rather than every day and are usually associated with a meal eaten in a restaurant, but I've also lost about 15 pounds and gone down almost 2 clothing sizes. That said, I still have a few tires around my stomach and more wiggle in my thighs than I'd like. So, we are aiming for another 10 to disappear.

In anticipation of my appointment today and refocus for fall, I took last week completely off (i.e. drank lots of wine, ate a few more sweets and didn't really pay attention to portions or nutritional content) and celebrated my "last meal" last night post workout at Casa Grande with a large margarita, lots of chips and salsa and our usual fajitas texacanas. This morning as I faced a new day, I got a good chuckle at pro Elizabeth Fedofsky's very timely blog this morning about she and her husband's grocery shopping habits. It reminded me of the difference between Bart's and my grocery lists - mine usually full of locally grown produce, organic fruit, alternate grains and "happy" meat and Bart never letting the jar with the dark chocolate Hershey kisses get empty, loving his hot dogs with cheese whiz and finishing off many meals with either a cookie, some ice cream or a big glass of chocolate milk. To his credit, he now also usually has bananas, salmon, organic strawberries and V8 on his list.

Today's visit with Tina as always was helpful in getting me prepared for my next goals. We talked through my successful nutrition and hydration at Timberman, designed some new bars for me to try from You Bar and then got down to business - my new eating plan. In essence, the next 3 weeks are going to be an attempt to trick my body into losing weight again by mixing things up and giving me enough protein to repair my worn muscles. We rarely talk calories (I have a hard time counting them) and instead talk in servings. My new plan is going to be tough - a lot more lean protein than I'm used to (a whopping 12 oz a day) and a super tiny allowance for fat (between 35-38 g a day). Since today I learned each ounce of protein from meat averages 2 g of fat, that means if I get at 2 oz of my protein from non-meat sources, I only have 15 g of fat left to spend during the day. Not much if you consider that a teaspoon of olive oil or butter has 5 g fat and most of our starches have some fat content - even if only 1 or 2 grams. Essentially this means I have to make some hard choices these next three weeks and eliminate most of my "luxuries" that I've been allowed to enjoy this past triathlon season - i.e. chocolate, mayo, regular salad dressing, butter, potato chips and the most disappointing of all, wine. Yes, wine must be counted as a fat and so most nights (thankfully not every night) I will have to go without.

So. . . if I'm a little grumpy the next few days as I adjust to my new plan, I apologize. The grumpiness will disappear soon and hopefully this will be just the jump start I need to get me back on track and losing again.

Tomorrow - I tackle the start of my final class - strength training - with a 6 am core endurance class.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Timberman Race Report

First, I apologize for the lack of pictures to accompany this post. My mom was responsible for capturing the moments at the race and they left for whale watching before I remembered to download the pictures from her camera. I'll try and post some later.

Overall, I had a great day and a great race.

Our morning started extremely early - the alarm went off at 3:45 am. By 4:30 we were dressed and ready to go, gear packed in the car, breakfast in hand. We picked up my mom and dad at their hotel and immediately issued a warning: "I'm sorry if I am grumpy or quiet this morning. I promise I'll be better after the race is over." For whatever reason, my anxiety before a race is horrible. Pre-race I'd pretty much rather do anything than wait around to race. The stress of it all turns my stomach in knots and is by far the worst part of racing.

Because of our early departure, we were able to get a pretty good parking spot at Ellacoya State Park in the shaded section in the lot by the swim start. Bart and I walked over to transition, took the tarps covering our bikes off and prepared our transition area and bikes for the race. At the last minute, I wimped out and decided to put on my bike shoes in transition rather than trying to put them on while on the bike. Although I've done it many times before, on race morning, it just seemed like too much for this particular race with this many people around.

After our transition areas were ready, Bart and I headed back to the car to try and eat some breakfast. I managed to gag down a banana and a half a cup of white rice before my stomach started to do flip flops. Thankfully there was a port-o-potty nearby and I went to stand in line. Back at the car my mom started asking questions about the race: "Why do some people have Rs on their legs versus an age? What is the distance again of the bike? etc" Finally I had to just ask her to not ask any more questions. The more I thought about the race (and answered the questions) the more my nerves got to me. So yep... back to the port-o-potty again. This time when I returned to the car, it was time to put on my wetsuit and head to the beach for the swim start. I was amazed at how quickly 2 and a half hours passed.

Once on the beach I was able to spot some familiar faces - TGs Lynn, Sharon, Karen and Shawn, plus Blake and Fred were wading in the water getting ready for the swim to start. The pros (both men and women) were off first. It is amazing how quickly they move through the water and how close they swim to one another. The 50 and older men were off next, including the Hoyts. I continue to be inspired by the strength and accomplishment of the Hoyts. As the pros were headed back to shore, it was time to test my goggles, swim a few strokes and head towards the start. Finally, around 7:50, TG Karen, Sharon and I were off.

The swim was much choppier than what I had experienced in my practice swim two days earlier. The buoys were easy to spot and I felt like I was making solid headway, although working hard, on the way out to the first turn buoy. Unfortunately, I wasn't having much success in finding someone to draft off of. It seemed the people around me were either too fast, and I would lose their feet, or too slow and I was climbing up their legs. So I just kept at it and swam. After the turn, while we swam parallel to the shore, I felt a little stronger and more comfortable. I was able to stretch out my stroke a bit and relax some in the water. Then, as I neared the last turn buoy, the waves started. Yes, I meant to write waves. Around the last turn buoy there seemed to be considerable chop and current. Almost every time I lifted my head to sight, I encountered a wave of water in my face. I felt like I was going nowhere. At that point, I wanted to be done with the swim, and I felt like it was taking me forever to get from buoy to buoy. Finally, after about 3 buoys, the current slowed some, the water calmed and it was a quick swim into shore.

I stripped my wetsuit down to my waist, and jogged off towards transition. My dad was alongside the swim exit and I got a big smile and "Go Beth" to help me on my way. One of my favorite parts was next... the wetsuit strippers. I plopped my body down on the AstroTurf and two kids yanked my wetsuit off in record time. As I started down my row, I noticed Bart leaving transition and realized my swim must not have been as slow as I thought.

T1 was purposefully on the slower side. I put my shoes on, took time to take electrolyte tablets, added my glasses and helmet and headed out to the bike. By then, my mom and dad had made their way to the bike shoot and were there to see me off with cheers and smiles.

Bike - My goal for the bike was to keep my heart rate in check - in zone 3 - for the entire leg other than a few of the killer hills and to eat and drink plenty on the back half of the course after getting through the initial 12 miles. The first 12 miles were as challenging as I thought they'd be. The worst hill was the "Monster" at mile 10. As I was grinding pedal by pedal slowly up the hill, Andy Potts was flying down in the opposite direction, followed quickly by a few more male pros and my favorite woman triathlete, Chrissie Wellington. Before I reached the top and right when I needed it, Blake also passed me and gave some encouraging words. Finally, the hills were over and fun part of the course began. I was very thankful that I had trained on what few hills we have in Richmond and also biked on the Blue Ridge a few times in training. The Blue Ridge rides were especially great preparation. The middle of the bike course was more typical of triathlons I've raced and I felt like I was flying. I ate well, drank lots and by the time I hit the turn around, I was much closer to my White Lake time than I expected and that bit of surprise gave me a little more energy for the next half. The return up the hills was easier than the trip out and I started to pass more people than I was passed (which was frequent by the 45-50 age group men in the beginning). Soon I was headed back into the park taking my shoes off on the bike and surprising my parents by my earlier than I anticipated arrival.

T2 - Again I took my time in transition, dried off my feet and body glided my blister spots, took some more electrolytes, grabbed my visor and took off for the run. I decided to wear my run belt after all just in case I needed water at a time it wasn't available. If I do this race again, I would leave it in transition.

Run - For the first time this year since the Kinetic Sprint, I actually felt good on the run. My heart rate stayed where it was supposed to and, while my legs were certainly hurting during the second lap, I didn't feel like I was going to die out there on the run course. Although I haven't looked at my splits yet, I'm pretty sure I ran a negative split. The support on the run course was better than any race I've ever done. I loved the man handing out snowballs (which I promptly put down my sports bra to help keep me cool) and the block of neighbors at the turn around who sang barbershop quartet and played Broadway show tunes. I took a cup of water and a cold sponge at every water stop and did my best to keep myself cool. The double out and back course was great for cheering on and seeing all of my fellow TGs (Karen, Susie, Shawn, Sharon, Lynn, Melissa, Mary, Kate, Sarah) , Coach Blake, my fellow Endorphin teammates Fred, Missy and Brian and of course my hubby Bart. I'm pretty sure I had a smile on my face the entire run. Having volunteered at Placid, I made sure I thanked each of the volunteers who handed me a cup, sponge, food or cheered me on. Final Kick's arch before the last half mile of each loop played motivating tunes when I needed them and helped me push the end of each loop. Despite the harder course, I ran about 4 minutes faster than White Lake and almost reached my run goal of sub 11 min miles.

As I neared the finish line chute, Bart was there to cheer me on. I missed seeing anyone I knew as I ran down the chute but as soon as I got my medal and my frozen ice pop, my parents were there to give me a big hug and congrats. I was so glad they made the trip and were able to be a part of my race experience. I think it gave them new insight into this sport I love and for me, it certainly made me want to work harder out there on the course. It was awesome to see their smiles and I know they were proud of both Bart and I.

While this doesn't fit in my race schedule next year because of Placid, I definitely will put it on the list of possible races for future years.

Here are my race stats:
Swim 42:12 (35:10 mile pace)
T1 3:34
Bike 3:23.42 (16.5 ave)
T2 3:46
Run 2:25.53 (11.09 pace)

Final Time: 6:39:05 (59/101 in my age group)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

We're Here - Pre-race Report

We finally arrived late night Thursday (actually early am Friday) after a 12 plus hour drive from Richmond to Meredith, NH. We'll have to plan our return trip a little better since we hit NYC at peak rush hour and then proceeded to drive through construction site after construction site in CT, MA and into NH. We also had luck (not) getting behind a 20 tractor trailer caravan of wide loads escorted by no less than 8 police cars as we neared Boston. It would have been a serious blocking penalty in the sport of triathlons.

The town of Meredith is quaint and beautiful. Here are a few pics from our hotel room at the Inns at Mills Falls over looking Lake Winnipesaukee.

We slept late yesterday, checked some work emails and headed off to a yummy brunch at noon. After chowing down and browsing the shops near our hotel a bit, we headed to Ellacoya State Park to check out the transition area, meet up with TG Kate to hand off her bike and do our practice swim. The ride to Ellacoya started to put doubts in our head as to the terrain of the bike course as we headed up and down and up and down the hills over to the park.

The transition area is huge. . . probably twice as big as White Lake. On either side of the transition are two beaches. Based on the course maps, it appears start our swim on one beach and return from the other. I will have lots of time to watch and the pros should finish the swim well in advance of my wave start.

The beaches were roped off and there was boat traffic all along so we put on our wetsuits and swam several times back and forth down the length of the beach near the buoys to get used to the water, current and swimming in our wetsuits for a change. The water temp is perfect, cool but not cold and the water itself is pretty clear. We will definitely face some current and maybe some small swells depending on boat traffic. It felt odd swimming in my wetsuit again - a little constricted and definitely different body positioning. By the end of my short swim I was sighting well, my wetsuit felt comfortable and it was time to get out and head to Gunstock.

Here is TG Kate and I post swim.

We drove up some more hills to Gunstock Ski Resort to packet pickup. I had heard that Timberman had great goodie bags and they were right. We got awesome TYR bags, long sleeved race Tshirts and hats plus an assortment of samples, and a triathlon magazine (unfortunately a back issue I've already read). The best item for me however was the portable sample size chamois cream. I had meant to pick one of these up to put on my bike for the race just in case, but had forgotten. Now I'm covered.

Post packet pickup we drove the bike course. The work on this course is definitely going to be during the first and last 13 miles. The are not for the timid and I will need to remind myself on race day not to be discouraged by them. There are definitely some longer climbs, some shorter steeper ones (including the Monster) and some twisty high speed descents. As I told Bart, I'm going to have to put on my big girl pants tomorrow and take some of these descents outside of my comfort zone in order to make up some time from the hills. TG Lynn and TG Fave are going to love them. The back half of the course is more typical of the triathlon. Some up and down but predominately flat. We even found a yummy ice cream stop - too bad we can't stop and enjoy during the race. The course is definitely doable, but it certainly will be a challenge. I just need to remember to race my race, not someone else's and have fun.

Despite our ice cream snack, at dinner time I was starving again. We ate downstairs in our hotel at Lago. It was fantastic! I had grilled pork tenderloin with a blueberry, raspberry and strawberry salsa, rosemary mashed potatoes and green beans. I learned from the waitress that the blueberries had been picked that morning and delivered to the restaurant by a local. Yum! We also had a few glasses of vino to celebrate our arrival and race weekend.

Back at our hotel room we capped the night off cheering at our TV as Michael Phelps won his 7th gold medal by .01 seconds. He is simply amazing!

This morning we tested our bikes out on the roads around Meredith and got a little taste of what our first 12 miles will be like tomorrow - hilly. Although scenic, the road we took from the hotel was anything but flat. After about our 5th hill climb,14 minutes of riding and taking a look at the next huge descent I turned around and headed back towards town. My legs got their requisite warm up and the rest of the day they can relax.

On tap next? Lunch with my mom and dad who should arrive soon, race meeting at 3 at Gunstock and then off to rack our bikes for the night.

Tonight, think good thoughts for the 15 of us racing from Richmond and pray we have a safe, fun and fast race tomorrow.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Ahhh.... my Taper

My Taper has started and other than feeling like I've gained 2 or 3 lbs, I am loving it! As an added bonus to my shorter workout schedules, the weather in Richmond seems to have broken for a few days and the last week had been beautiful. As a result, my mood is more upbeat and I am having positive thoughts for next weekend.

Some highlights:

  • A speedy hour bike Wed night at West Creek (ave 18.5 with my zone 4 fifteen minutes at paces over 20 mph) followed by an easy zone 1 run;
  • Two strong swims at the YMCA;
  • A positive left knee check up at the orthopedist (my knee has been twingy since my fall in Cville and I thought I'd be safe and get it checked);
  • A bike to Ashland Coffee & Tea with Bart and the Gammons this morning and a 40 minute run in the fan around my old stomping grounds and through the Carytown Watermelon Festival followed by a quick cool down dip in the pool;
  • A yummy Friday night dinner at the Farmhouse with TG40 and hubby followed by some sangria under the stars and big oaks as we listened to Susan Greenbaum; and
  • Lots and lots of inspiration from the amazing athletes competing in this year's Olympics.

I've started my packing lists for Timberman and we head out to New Hampshire Thursday morning after our brick. One week left!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Double Brick

I don’t know about the rest of you, but there are certain workouts on my schedule that I anxious about completing and prior to starting have no expectations of successfully achieving their expectations. I call these my “Michael, you’re crazy” workouts. Last night, one of those workouts was on my schedule. And, to top it off, according to it was 89 degrees at 6:45 p.m. when I started and the humidity was 90% [felt lik 116 degrees]. West Creek was a sauna.

Here was last nights’ plan – a double brick:

Brick: I want you to perform a pair of bike/run combos at zone 4 intensity [i.e. right below AT]. Run easy for 10 minutes followed by 5 minutes easy on the bike. Now, I want you to bike for 25 minutes followed by a 15 minute run - both in zone 4. Take 5 minutes rest and then repeat. Cool down by running for 5 minutes and cycling for 10 minutes easy. Recover through stretching and a recovery drink.

Before we started, I took 2 salt tablets to try and beat the heat (my attempt to be better at nutrition after last weekend). The first brick was hard but for the most part I felt good. I kept my Garmin displayed on cadence and HR to try and simulate race feel. Team Nature’s Path was also cycling around West Creek and I managed to hold them off during my first cycle segment. After a quick transition to my Newtons, I headed off on the run. I haven’t run in my Newtons for a while and each time I do I remember why I love them. They make my feet feel light and my turnover faster. At the mile mark, my watch read 9:38 and my HR was on target, but climbing quickly. I had to slow down momentarily to keep my HR in check and tried to focus on staying relaxed. Pretty soon my time was up and I was back at the car. Brick 1 done.

During my 5 minute rest, I changed the lenses in my sunglasses to clear since it was getting darker out, grabbed a big gulp of cold water, put 2 electrolyte strips in my mouth and changed back to my cycling shoes. The 5 minutes flew.

As I started back out to Brick #2, I was worried. I was certain I would lose speed this lap and my HR would be higher quickly. To my surprise, I struggled more to keep my HR up on the second bike brick than the first. The loop went quickly and the wind from being on the bike felt good against my hot sweaty self. Back at the car, I transitioned quickly back to my Newtons, grabbed my Garmin and set off. “Only 1 more run to go. Almost done.” The 15 minutes on the run felt good. I was relieved since I had such a terrible run last weekend and because it was my second run segment. Towards the end I felt like I could relax in my pace and my HR was staying constant in zone 4 where it was supposed to be.

Back at the car, I had a huge smile. I finished my “Michael, you’re crazy” workout. And, better yet, while I certainly breathed hard and sweated buckets, I felt pretty good doing it.
Post workout, I allowed myself to look at my splits - completely the reverse of what I expected. And, are these the splits from the same person who raced last Sunday?

Bike 1, 18.7 mph ave; Run 1, 9:45 mph ave
Bike 2, 18.3 mph ave; Run 2, 9:37 mph ave

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Tough Day on the Trails - Charlottesville Olympic Race Report

Yesterday, prompted by an invite by some C'Ville co-workers and encouraged by my coach as good practice for Timberman, I raced the Charlottesville Olympic. My personal goal for the Olympic was to practice my transitions (and the crazy shoe thing I hate), relax through my swim, and have a better run than White Lake. I managed the first two goals, but the third was a complete flop, much like my two face plants on the trails . . . more on that later.

We drove to C'Ville on Saturday afternoon and met my co-worker at the race site. Bart and I did our workouts for Saturday on site - a 30 minute bike and an easy 20 or so minute swim in Walton lake. As a result, I got to test the killer hill out of transition a couple of times and ease my fears about getting on my shoes while heading out of the park. After our swim, we loaded up into the car and headed out on the bike loop. In our car that isn't close to the ground and doesn't exactly corner like a race car, I was a little concerned about the hilliness of the course and curviness of the descents. Oh, well. Too late now.

On our way back to my colleague's house we detoured to the UVA aquatics center and watched his wife compete in the local championship "parent relay." Despite having not swum in a long time, she did awesome and her relay took 2nd. Her 3 kids were grinning ear to ear with pride.

Saturday night Bart and I did dinner on our own at Petit Pois on the Downtown Mall. Our dinner was fabulous, but although I was careful with my order, it must have contained something I can't eat (most likely culprit is a some non disclosed seafood other than the shrimp or some undisclosed flour). Post dinner my face was flushed and stomach that was far from happy. I downed 2 Benadryl to try and control things the best I could and went to sleep, hoping that my allergic reaction would be fairly contained.

Although I slept soundly thanks to the Benadryl, it was clear in the pre-race morning that my system still hadn't gotten rid of everything that bothered it. I ate my obligatory cup of white rice and banana and headed to the race course. My transition prep was interrupted by several more trips to the bathroom and I am sure I started the day on a close to empty, if not empty tank.

Swim - My goal for the swim was to stretch it out and try and find someone to draft, hopefully if possible one of my fast MW co-workers also in my age group. Unfortunately, she was too fast and I lost the lead pack quickly. Plus, my toes were a little crampy at the start. That eventually stopped at the first turn buoy, and I did settle in behind TG Coach Grandison and TG LMS to do a little drafting. I took it fairly easy through the swim, kept my breathing constant and steady and just stretched it out. Bart and I joked before the swim that he would pass me sometime in the water and he did. About 3/4 through the first lap I saw two white caps passing on my right. The second drafting swimmer had my hubby's distinct stroke, and I knew it was him. I think I laughed in the water and just kept swimming.

T1 - T1 was quick since I left my shoes on the bike. I mounted successfully and started up the first small hill. Still riding, I got 1 foot in. At the crest, however, I heard a rubbing noise on my bike. Thursday night when we rode, I had some brake rubbing issues and it sounded much the same. I didn't want to ride the whole course with my brake on, so I stopped my bike, put my other foot in my shoe and adjusted my front brake. Then I was off to face the big hill both feet in my shoes and ready to pull.

Bike - The bike was actually much better than I anticipated. On the bike, the course seemed less hilly and twisty than it did the night before. The worst hill was definitely the one out of the park. I struggled gaining my rhythm the first few miles, but then, on one climb about 4 miles in, I found it. The rest of the ride felt challenging, beautiful but comfortable. Definitely a ride that if I lived in Charlottesville, I would repeat for training. On the down side, my ave HRs were low in high zone 3 versus the mid to high zone 4 they were supposed to be, which means I didn't push myself hard enough on the bike. I also didn't do a good job of eating or drinking on the bike. It seemed we were either ascending or descending and I didn't have much time to fiddle with my bento box to find salt pills, eat a bar or drink much. As a result, my nutrition stunk, which added to my earlier stomach issues didn't bode well for the last leg. Total intake - probably 3/4 bottle of sports drink, 1 Gu and 1/5 a Cliff Nectar bar.

T2 - After successfully getting out of my shoes on the last flat and dismounting, I had a rather slow T2. Forgetting I had a big water bottle on the front, I tried to rack my bike by its handlebars versus the seat. After a few fumbles and a curse word, I finally turned it around and got it racked and plopped myself on the ground to get my shoes and socks on. I took my time a little bit in transition and headed off for the last leg with running belt in hand.

Run - As an after thought, I should have not used my fuel belt on this run because any less weight on these billy goat trails might have helped. I've did a few trail runs in training in order to practice for this but had never "raced" a trail. By this time in the race, I was hot, lacking in nutrition, and not feeling great. My legs felt awful and my HR immediately spiked as I labored up the first of many hills on the trail. I did get to meet and spend some time leap frogging with another EF teammate Brian who I learned is also doing Timberman. We both cautioned each other to watch our step and continued racing. I walked most of the uphills, but tried to keep plodding along. About mile 2, Brian was the first to trip. After making sure he was okay, I continued on the trail, reminding myself to watch 10 steps ahead. Towards the end of the top of the figure 8 on loop one, there was a big hill and then we headed down to the first aid station. They were out of water and I was hot, so I emptied my water bottle in my fuel belt on my head and headed back into the woods. The cool water felt good and I started to increase my cadence. I was running well then THUD! I tripped and did my first face plant of the day. My clothes, hands and knees were a little dirty, but I was more embarrassed than hurting at this point. I walked the next few minutes and then up the switch back hill and then started my run again right before the next aid station. Soon we were out of the woods. Thank heaven, I thought, only one more loop. As I ran by the finish line, my time was slow, my two C'ville colleagues were finished and I knew I needed to pick up the pace on the second loop. The start of the second loop seemed a little better. I took a GU at the aid station and headed back into the woods. I was cautious where I stepped and it seemed a little easier knowing it was the last loop. My chills, however, I get when I'm lacking in salt appeared some in the second loop. Towards the end before exiting to the aid station again, I hit a straight level stretch and I picked up my pace and started to feel good for the first time in the run. That must have been my curse. THUD! Down again I went, and this time it hurt. What spots of my body missed the dirt last time, caught it this time. My elbows were bloody and my left knee throbbed. All I could think was I hope I didn't hurt myself on this stupid trail before Timberman. I sat on the side of the trail for a minute collecting myself and even thought about quitting and walking back to the parking lot. By this time though, I only had about a mile or mile 1/4 left and I knew I could at least walk it. I remembered TG KO's awful feeling after a DNF and seeing strong pros walk their runs after bonking and decided I wouldn't quit. I walked a bunch and jogged a little bit to the opening by the aid station. The volunteer helped me wash off my hands with water (they had refilled by this point) and I headed back to the woods. I did run some of the second part of the figure 8 and was really happy to see the open clearing near the point when the trail heads back out to the road. With the finish line in sight, I wanted to finish as soon as possible, kicked it into high gear and tried my best to finish strong. My run/walk/fall time was terrible.

My race pictures ought to be lovely. Post race, I was covered in dirt from head to toe and required a dunk in the lake to get cleaned off and an ice pack to my already swelling left knee.

The day after, I think everything is still working. I'm definitely bruised and scraped up, but I think I'll be fine to return to training tomorrow with an easy run and swim and get back on track for Timberman. Lessons learned - pay more attention to my nutrition (and HRs) on the bike and eat at home the night before a race.

The good news - next year I won't have to do this race. Instead, I will hopefully be on my way to being an Ironman in Lake Placid.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Blue Ridge Part 2

I am definitely not the King of the Mountains. However, after my second Blue Ridge ride yesterday, I certainly have a greater appreciation for the agonized faces of the Tour riders as they grimace up the long climbs in the Pyrenees.

Our ride Saturday was 50 miles on the Blue Ridge. My stomach Saturday morning wasn't cooperating at all from the start. Apparently something I ate Friday wasn't gluten free or I had the touch of the stomach bug and, I couldn't stomach anything (or keep anything in) but a half a banana pre-ride and was feeling nauseated through most of the first 20 miles. But, I had come to ride the BR so. . . a little upset stomach wasn't going to hold me back; it just didn't give me the greatest legs for my day's challenge.

About 20 of us (TGs, hubbys and Maramarc boys) started off at MP 23. Our route was 10 miles down, yes predominantly down to Reed's Gap, our starting point for the last ride, 10 miles back to our starting point, then 15 miles down (again mostly down) to milepost 38 and back up to the start. With my stomach feeling gross, my goals for the ride were 1) to finish, 2) feel comfortable riding McQueen in the mountains and 3) learn how to conquer my fears of the descents.

I did finish; felt fairly comfortable on McQueen although realized that my flat time trial gearing isn't ideal for the mountains and did improve from the last time on my descents. My Garmin recorded a speedy 38 mph. The hills seemed longer and a few a bit steeper than the last trip. And, as with the last time, each time we rode down, down, and down all I could think about was how in the world was I going to make it up, up, up. There were two particularly "memorable" climbs of the day - the first, a winding 3-4 mile long steady and seemingly never ending climb up from MP 38 and the second, the last big climb of the day, probably only a quarter mile, but straight up in the sun, when my legs screamed with every pedal stroke.

As I rolled into our starting/finish point I was exhausted and doubt I could have gone a mile further. At the same time, I'm pretty sure I was smiling and glad I had finished this rewarding and challenging ride.

Post ride, we headed back to our Wintergreen house for the weekend, cooked a bunch a burgers and dogs, celebrated our accomplishments with some Mai Tais and had a great time hanging out with my fellow team mates.

Although I still can't fathom how I am going to be able to ride the mountains of Placid for 112 miles next July, I know these hills are making me stronger. And hopefully, after many more returns to the BR, I'll be ready.

Pics to follow.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A fun week of workouts

With about six weeks left of workouts before Timberman, I tried to reengerize my workouts some this week by adding some group workouts and new adventures. Monday night and Wednesday night marked my return to the Masters routine. Monday's workout was tough and included 3 500s on 2 minute or faster pace. Wednesday night also included some longer swim sets (400s) but much to our disappointment (yeah right!) it thundered and our practice was cut short at 1700 meters. I missed Masters most of May and June so it was fun to be back in the pool with friends and push myself hard in the swim.

Tuesday night I skipped out of work on the early side and headed to West Creek to meet up with the TGs and another surprise workout with Blake. I technically had a threshold brick scheduled for the night so I promised Michael to work hard and keep my HR at threshold for the ride. Given the prior Tuesday's workout, I didn't anticipate this would be a problem. And, it wasn't. Blake's directions weren't entirely clear (at least that's my story) so Karen, Shawn and I got some extra hills and mileage on Genito road. Our focus for the night was to push the down hills in a big gear as an added bonus, work on strength by riding in our hardest gear from the intersection of Manakin and Miller's lane back to the West Creek parking lot. My ride in all was much stronger than the previous week and I surprised myself by being able to make it up all the hills on the return in my big gear. Close to 30 miles averaging over 17 mph. Not a bad ride for a Tuesday. The run afterwards, like most bricks after a hard ride, sucked. I couldn't get close to the pace I've been getting on the track and 10 minute miles for 3 1/2 miles felt awful. My "not fun" run was far outweighed by the company of the group, catching up in the parking lot post ride and a great ride.

My new endeavor for the week was a trail run. In preparation for Charlottesville Oly and to appease my running coach Brenda to run less on the road, I hit the trails off Riverside Drive with TG40 and Fave on Thursday morning. Trails in general are tough and these in Forest Hill Park were no different. Spider webs, switch backs and humidity made them even more special. I hate to admit it, but spider webs and all, I had a great time. I even convinced them to give it a go next week too.

Today's a rest day -- tomorrow marks our return to the Blue Ridge. Can't wait.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Taking the Plunge

Last night Bart and I took the plunge, and booked round trip tickets to Lake Placid to volunteer at Ironman USA 2008 so that Monday, July 21st we can sign up for Ironman USA 2009.

I'm still nervous about the hills and tackling this challenging race as my first Ironman, but its time to stop waivering and doubting and just dive right in.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sunday on the Blue Ridge Parkway

First, let me start by saying, I was anxious about today's ride. On one hand, I was looking forward to it. Have grown up in the mountains in Maryland, Bart always talks about how much fun it is to ride in the mountains. On the other hand, I was scared to death. I don't consider myself a hill lover. And to add to my normal trepidation, I had just this week upgraded the components on my road bike to match my time trial bike - yes that means I no longer had my grandma gears or triple.
Around 10:30 am, we headed from our house in Wintergreen to Reed's Gap - around the 13 1/2 mile mark of the Blue Ridge and where Blake (a BR vetran) suggested we begin our ride. We left refueling supplies at the car and headed out. It was a beautiful day - the air crisp and the sky blue. Immediately we started the first climb of the day - not steep, just slow and steady. After about 15 minutes, Bart and I stopped while Bart took a quick work conference call. Here are our bikes at the beginning of the ride.

And here are the mountains that were off to the side most of the day.

After this initial long climb, it seemed that much of the next part was down hill . . . and I mean down hill. Descents were by far more nerve wracking for me than wondering if I was going to make it up the climbs. Bart on the other hand, showed no fear. I learned today that the faster he can go, the happier he is - he crouches down and pedals hard and whined slightly that he could only go about 40 miles an hour. I on the other hand, at least for the ride from milepost 13.5 to mile 1, got good use out of my new brakes. As I was going down all these hills, I kept thinking, how am I ever going to get back up?

There were still lots of long climbs in this first half but I learned quickly to just keep plugging away, and I would make it up them. I didn't worry about how slow I was going (it was slow) . . . my main goal was to have fun, enjoy the amazing views and finish the ride.

After a little over an hour, we made it to mile 0 and our turn around point. Here's me by the sign. Note the elevation - 1900 feet. I refueled with a Nectar Bar, changed out my water bottles for easy access to the new one and we headed back up.

On the return, we definitely saw the hills we had descended. After a long climb ascending a couple of hundred feet, we started our first descent. That's when I knew I could finish this ride, and that I am a much stronger climber than I thought. As I was going down this first descent (and still hitting my brakes), a huge smile crossed my face. "I actually climbed this hill!"

We stopped at the information center for a quick refill of our water bottles and use of the bathrooms and then prepared for the biggest climb of the day. In my estimation, the climb lasted 20 miles, in reality, it was probably around 3. I was in my easiest gear (and wishing I still had my triple) and just kept pedaling and climbing and pedaling and climbing. My heart was pounding hard, my cadence lower than it should be and the hill just kept going. Finally, at the top of the climb, we stopped, took a moment and refueled. I made it. It hurt, but I was there. . . at the top of the hill I thought for sure on my way down I'd have to walk back up. No walking for me.

Soon after our restart we stopped for a photo moment and actually ran into my friend Benton who cuts my hair who was out riding his motorcycle. Fortunate for us since we got a picture of the two of us. The elevation - 3100 feet. (It got as high as 34oo feet). We had just climbed 1200 feet!

The rest of the ride was much of the same. Long climbs and fast descents. We refueled at our cars around the 2 hour mark and headed south on the BR. I used my brakes a little less towards the end - and at some point even reached 35 miles an hour. I made it up all the climbs and even managed a 20 minute run after our 3 plus hours on the bike.

The best part, I enjoyed it! I had a great day, a hard challenging work out and spent time in a beautiful part of our state. I'm disappointed I won't be able to come back next weekend with Blake and the TGs, but I can't wait to return in July and many more weekends in the future.

My next climb to conquer? Wintergreen Mountain.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Change of Pace

I decided it was time for a change of pace, and that there is no better time than the present.

So we packed the car this morning and headed to Wintergreen.

It is refreshingly cool here.

I will ride hills not flat.

We did our morning shopping at a fabulous Nelson county Farmer's Market.

And, my blog got a much needed update.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Gotta love a man in PINK!

Go Alberto!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Great May 15th!

I think it won't matter how old I am, birthdays always make me feel like a kid. The moment I open my eyes, I know the day is different and I can't help but feel good, happy and excited. The sun seems brighter and little things never get me down or under my skin.
This morning was no different and today has been fantastic! I've felt spoiled and definitely special. First thing this morning, Bart had a wonderful card for me and and even a separate card from Lulu. He also gave me a Yurman bracelet I've had my eye on for some time that matches my blue Yurman ring. Its beautiful and I've worn it all day. He also sherpaed my bike on to the back of his car so I could take it to my VO2 bike test this morning. I also got to open up a package from my Mom and Dad that I've been eyeing for a few days - a cute new red and white outfit to match the red patent shoes my mom and I bought the last time she visited.
Then came my workout for the day. Even my dreaded V02 max test on the bike didn't seem as bad as usual. Don't get me wrong, there is still nothing good about wearing that claustrophobic mask and pushing yourself to the limit, but I tried to harness some of my positive energy to push myself a little harder. My results are still improving so I guess the hard work is paying off.
I finally made my way into the office late this morning and had a busy, but effective day filled with well wishes, cards and even a pedicure from some of my friends a work.
Tonight, since Bart had a scheduled tennis match, I'm going to celebrate with my friend Carol, who is my birthday twin. Drinks and dinner with the gals at Osaka. Can't wait. Then tomorrow its my bday dinner with Bart at Chez Max.
I am definitely blessed!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Tougher than Tough

During my long flight to LA yesterday for business, I relaxed with the June 2009 issue of Triathlete magazine. About three-quarters of the way into the magazine, Steve White gave tribute to two professional athletes that had "toughed it out" in 2007 Ironmans when their races didn't go as planned.

The first pro, Rutger Beke, a Belgian, walked the majority of the run portion of the 2007 Hawaii Ironman champtionship and finished in 11 hours, 13 minutes and 58 seconds. In previous years, Beke finished 4 times in the top 5. Reading the article, I remembered his post race interview on the Hawaii Ironman TV coverage. While Beke could have easily quit the race and called it a day, he stuck with it. "A lot of people in Belgium and America, they might never qualify for Hawaii. Out of respect to them, they'd love to do Ironman Hawaii in 11 hours," Beke explained at the finish. "To win at Kona takes huge amounts of physical and mental strength, but to tough it out and watch 890 athletes pass you by requires an enormous amount of courage and humility."

Similarly, Lisa Bentley toughed it out at the 2007 Australia Ironman where she initially competed to preserve her 5 year winning streak. 2007 was not her race and with 12k left to race and an injured heel, Lisa walked to the finish. Not just satisfied with finishing, Lisa stayed on to cheer her fellow Ironman competitors to the end including a fellow Ironman participant who finished just outside the cutoff time in approximately 17 hrs 9 minutes.

While the Triathlete magazine article ended there, my tribute does not. Last Saturday, I watched one triathlete, TG DJ, who tops the list in terms of toughness and if I had the option of adding another story, hers certainly would be it. From the start, her swim did not go as planned. Rather than rolling on her back and calling it quits, or even stopping in T1, she hopped on her bike and set out to do the best with the hot and windy conditions we were dealt at WL. Despite a solid bike, by the time she entered the run course, temperatures were well into the 80s and we had all been racing some time. But you wouldn't necessarily know it. . . when we passed on the run course, she still had a smile and encouraging words to pass along. Although she was forced to DNF, she never once quit. Her toughness and courage persevered and as she neared the finish, virtually every one of her teammates had stayed to cheer her on. Her own cheer was still the loudest, "Next year."

We all have a lesson to learn from these athletes. They all possess the grace, strength, tenacity and courage all of us should aspire to. Each are role models in showing us how to raise our game to the next level, respect this tough and demanding sport we compete in and to tough it out, even when doing so requires us to dig deeper than competing at the highest level. I'm glad and proud that I've at least got to know, train with and compete with one of these three athletes.

Monday, May 5, 2008

White Lake Race Report

I finished my first half! How was it? Hard, challenging, fun, uplifting, fulfilling, emotional and definitely rewarding. And, I'm already looking forward to the next. But before then, here are the details:

Despite having my usual pre-race restless sleep, I awoke Saturday morning feeling rested and my stomach, eerily calm. I ate my banana and my cup of white rice with butter and put the last minute touches on my transition bag and bike. I had premixed my Endura the night before and thanks to the helpful suggestion of TG40 even froze the bottles on my fuel belt in an attempt to keep the cold before I got to the run.

Here is the Lake Place Condo gang ready to ride down to the start, our bags packed in Sherpa of the Race Gregg's car.

After arriving at transition, I unpacked my transition bag, got my bike ready for a quick grab and rubberbanded my shoes to my bike. TG Charlotte and I shared side by side spots in transition and TGs SanDee, Lynn and Susie and Bart were close by. By now, having observed the racks and racks of bikes, my stomach decided to reach its normal, pre-race nervous state. Thank heavens for lots of port-o-potties. We then picked up our chips, got body marked (with an age a year older than I am) and headed to the water front with our wetsuits.

Bart and I exchanged good luck wishes and kisses. It was awesome to have him competing with me, help calm my nerves and to be able to share this experience. Bart was in the swim wave before me so I got to seem him start from in the water with TGs Karen, Liz and Lynn.

The swim start sounded for my wave and I was off. I tried to get in a quick rhythm early, stay at the front of the pack and find some speedy straight swimmer to draft off of. I soon found a swimmer, no wet suit, whose feet I drafted off of for a significant portion of the first leg of the swim. Then we turned, and my rhythm seemed to disappear. I started seeing purple caps (the wave behind me) and I wondered if I had moved to the back of my wave. The crowd seemed to get rougher too and I got elbowed hard and swallowed a good gulp of White Lake. After a few breast stroke strokes, I collected myself, and went back at it, hoping to find my straight, wetsuitless swimmer to draft off of again. I never did, but soon I rounded the corner and started to push it again to the swim finish. Finally, after what seemed like a long time in the water, I was out and I headed to transition.
As I ran into T1, I was relieved to hear some girl yell out to a spectator, "How many blue caps are out?" The spectator responded, "Not too many" and I knew I had at least had a solid swim. I pulled out of my wetsuit, put on my helmet and sunglasses and ran out of T1.
After a fairly successful flying mount, I struggled with putting on my cycling shoes as I pedaled down the road. My left foot kept getting stuck and didn't want to easily glide in as I had practiced. Finally, however, I was settled, shoes fastened and I then began to take inventory of my HR. The plan was to ride in zone 3. At first check from the swim, I was high. So as I winded through the center of WL, I took the opportunity to take it slow, settle in and just get my legs at a high cadence. I purposefully picked a Garmin screen that showed no distance or speed... only total time, cadence and HR. My goal for the bike - stay in zone 3 and pedal around an 85 cadence as much as possible and not drop below 80. The bike, despite some very windy head winds at times, was definitely my favorite part. My legs felt strong throughout, I stuck to my nutrition and hydration plan and I kept a fairly even effort, even passing lots of folks towards the end of the ride. The scenery was nothing spectacular, but I kept myself focused and just enjoyed it. Other than the wind, the only negative was that towards mile 45 the road had a bunch of seams and I was already suffering in the female sensitive areas, so every bump hurt. Once back in WL, the bike finish quickly neared. I had decided the morning of the race after looking at the dismount area not to stress about the dismount and to just undo my shoes on the bike, but dismount like a normal person without the "flying" part. Thankfully, taking off my shoes was much easier than putting them on. I successfully dismounted sans shoes, without falling or stubbing a toe, and I was back in transition.
Although I tried to be efficient in T2, I did take the time to wipe my dirty feet off and put on socks with my running shoes. I tried to be speedy and carry my running belt as I exited, but kept losing water bottles so ultimately stopped, put it on and then ran out of transition. Just as I was finishing the exit chute, I remembered my Garmin, which was safely stowed on my bike. The quick strap I had worn all race was empty. After a frustrated expletive, I headed out to the run with no HR monitor and nothing to judge my pace.

The run was HOT and my body struggles with heat. Early into the first lap, I got goosebumps and slightly chilled and I knew the run was going to be a battle between my willpower and my body's desire to call it a day. I felt nauseated and as hard as I tried, I couldn't find my rhythm. My saving grace? Cold towels and a bunch of familiar faces. Because the run essentially consisted of two out and back loops, I got to see Bart and a bunch of my TG friends often. And their smiles and their own determination kept me going. Quickly after the start of the run I had to deal with the cards this race dealt me and my goal soon changed from a 10-10:15 pace to just keeping it going between the water stops. I got a wet cold towel at virtually each station and managed most times to make it. After each station, however, I really had to dig deep and push myself to go again. As I got to the final "back" leg of the run, it was clear I was going to finish, and I tried to get myself into a rhythm. Less than a mile from the end, TG Lynn darted past. She was having a phenomenal run and it pushed me to finish strong. I laugh now, but as I passed the final aid station, I must have looked rough. One of the volunteers shouted out "Are you ok?" and repeated his question two more times until finally I answered not with a nod but with a convincing "yes."
I quickened my stride into the finish and as I rounded the corner and saw the finish line balloon, my emotions started to take over. I was so overwhelmed with the day, my accomplishment and the physical effort my body had put forth. And, to top it all off, waiting at the finish, with his big blue eyes and the biggest smile ever was Bart. I know my eyes teared as I crossed the line and he gave me a hug. Without sounding odd, at that moment, I was so proud of myself for trying something new, pushing myself beyond my comfort zone, sticking with my training and finishing the half. I had finally proven that my non-athletic and non-sports oriented image was definitely in the past. As I grabbed Bart's hand, I knew too that I was lucky. I get to share the experience, training and love for this sport with my husband who understands me and all my emotions about this day perfectly.
After I finished, Bart helped me hobble over to the lake to try and cool off. The water felt great but every step in the sand caused my toes and feet to cramp miserably. After a banana, a water and many attempts to walking off the cramps, I finally left the lake and rejoined the group to watch some of the others TGs finish.
All in all it was an amazing day. The smiles and strong positive attitudes were certainly infectious and reiterated why I TRI.
My stats:
Total time: 6:26.25 (101/203 overall women; 24/45 age group)
Swim 42:09
T1 2:15
Bike 3:11.05
T2 2:35
Run 2:28.23

Friday, May 2, 2008

Whose legs are smoother? Barts' or mine?

Beyond Expectations at White Lake

So far my White Lake experience has been beyond my expectations.

Accommodations - SanDee, TG40 and I road-tripped on Wednesday. From the pictures on the various website, we anticipated a run down lake area and nothing special. Much to our delight, our condo is awesome - decorated very comfortably, right on the lake and less than a 1/2 mile to the FFA center for the start. The town of White Lake is charming - certainly a step back in time, but really cute.

The weather - Initial forecasts predicted nearly constant thunderstorms. After we arrived, the forecasts changed and now predict low 80s, partly cloudy and NO rain.

The lake - I had heard the lake was clear and not deep, but nothing could have prepared me for this lake. It is FABULOUS! For any pool swimmers who don't like open water because they can't see the bottom or fear creatures, this is your PERFECT race. The water temperature is ideal too. I could have spent hours in the water yesterday in my wetsuit. I had none of my usual open water panic moments. Now.. if I could only have lane markers so I didn't have to sight.

The course - Flat, flat, flat. I had heard this but still expected a rolling hill somewhere. There were none. Not on the run course or the bike course. Now this does mean no variety in pedaling on the course, it also means NO HILLS!!! Right now, I'd rather have the later.

The experience - I've spent the last two days catching up on R&R, relaxing with great friends, starting a good book and sharing great meals. We've talked nutrition and race strategy and I've done my last few workouts in the surroundings I will race in tomorrow. While I'm sure I will still have race day jitters, I am so lucky to have enjoyed these few perfect pre-race days.
Bring it on White Lake. These TGs are ready!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Its Almost Here!

After over six months of preparation, only 5 days until race day.

Tonight, I made one trip to the grocery store to start gathering all our pre-race food needs for 5 days at White Lake and then I started to pack.

Only a handful of taper workouts on my schedule. Nothing hard, just a few things to keep my body "fine tuned" as Michael describes it and my mental edge alert.

I'm feeling excited, calm, nervous, prepared and scared all at the same time if that's possible.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Race Report - Kinetic Sprint

Cold, wet and muddy. These three words about sum up my race experience at the Kinetic Sprint.

Bart and I entered the Kinetic for one reason only - to practice race day conditions (particularly our new transition techniques) and to help Coach Harlow fine tune our race paces for the upcoming Half. Post-race, I'm not sure we achieved any of those goals.

When we arrived at Lake Anna Sunday morning, it had already began to rain. We picked up our race packets in a slight drizzle, got body marked (an ugly "36" for me) and headed back to the car to get our gear to put in transition. By then, the rain started streaming down at a faster pace. We prepared as much as possible at the car - adjusting our tire pressure for the rainy conditions, applying our race numbers, etc. I donned the fashionable trash bag and we headed with our bikes over to the racks.

The transition area had already started to get muddy. The day before was the Kinetic Half and the grass had been worn away in lots of places, including the area where I was to rack my bike. I chose a great spot next to one of the dividers and laid out my new simplified transition equipment. I made a last minute decision due to the conditions not to perform my new, still shaky bike/shoe mounts and dismounts under the rainy and muddy conditions and included my unclipped bike shoes in the transition area. Bart and I covered our transition mats with plastic garbage bags to attempt to keep things as dry as possible, and then headed back to the car to stay warm.

With about 20 minutes before race time, we took our wetsuits to the changing rooms and prepared to race. I've never had issues getting my wetsuit on before, but with my legs cold and wet from the rain, it was quite a challenge. However, for the first time that morning, with my wet suit on, I was warm.

Swim - I was disappointed I was in the last wave of swimmers. For me, I knew it would mean having to deal with traffic in the lake and traffic on the bike. Plus, the anticipation is never good for my nerves. The horn sounded for my wave, and I was off. Running and then dolphining my way out into the water. The water was very cold (around 65) and I struggled as a result getting into any rhythm until the first buoy. However, each time I sighted, I knew I was towards the front of my wave and I could see my Tuckahoe Y Masters buddy swimming right next to me. After the first turn, we hit the traffic in the water. I kept trying to find someone to draft off of, but everyone in front of me, it seemed, was from the waves before and swimming a slower pace. So I ultimately gave up on the draft, and just aimed for the straightest line. I never was able to feel my pull the way I do when I am swimming strong at the pool and really stretched out. My sighting techniques pretty much stunk and I reverted to my 10 strokes free, one quick breast, technique to sight better. This is something I definitely need to practice. But like everything with a sprint, the swim was over quickly, I stripped down the top of my wetsuit, and headed for transition.

T1 - Already transition was a muddy mess. The spot next to my bike (which was not the spot I originally picked thanks to number 441's "friend" moving my bike and transition stuff off the nice spot near the divider I picked and further into the mud - I think I would have complained post race if she hadn't quit after the swim) was all mud and after stripping my wetsuit completely, it was impossible not to step in the gooey brown mess. I then put my muddy feet into my tri shoes, without socks, and started to negotiate my way towards the bike mounting area. I couldn't run to the start for fear I'd go down in the mud, so I quickly walked my bike to the mount line.

Bike - The first part of the bike was about a mile and a half ascent out of the park. Prior to racking, I had shifted into an easier gear and the ascent out seemed easy. I was already passing folks and my legs felt great. By now, however, the rain was a constant pour and the traffic on the course was extremely busy. There were cyclists everywhere - many with no clue of the rules of the road - i.e., if you are not passing at the moment, stay to the right. My race plan said to stay in zone 4 of my HR, but I was having trouble seeing my HR since I couldn't get my Garmin to switch directions on my wrist so I could read it. In addition, with all the traffic and the extremely wet roads, I played it conservative - using my brakes a bunch on the descents and being cautious passing traffic around me. I caught a couple of glimpses of my HR throughout and each time was close to the right zone but many times was low. The 18 miles went by quickly. I'm not sure if it was because I was so on edge due to the wet roads or just in the moment. Soon we were descending back towards transition - for me the scariest part. The descent by now was all wet, and I feared that if I didn't take it cautiously, I would end up missing the turn before the dismount and careening into the transition area. So yes, in a race, I again applied my brakes multiple times. I was thankfully able to stop at the dismount area, get off my bike safely, then wade through the mud bath towards my bike station. My favorite part of the bike - all the comments along the lines of "Love your bike! Awesome paint job!" I received along the way.

T2 - I missed my rack and went down the wrong isle. Next time I need to remember a bright cap to put on my rack area. So I trodded back up through the mud and went and down the next isle. I racked the bike, took off my wet muddy bike shoes and started to put on my running shoes. My wet muddy right foot didn't want to go into my right Newton. After what seemed like a minute struggle, I finally had success and dashed towards the transition exit.

Run - Like the bike start, the run start was all up hill. About halfway up, I decided to look at my HR. Crap! I realized then that my Garmin didn't start and that my HR was sky high almost at my max. Slow down. I forced myself to slow down which gave me a chance to at least adjust my Garmin, get the right pace and HR screen and keep running. Right around this time, a guy came up from behind me and said, "Are you the one with the great paint job?" My reply, "The pink polka dots?" His response "Yes, that is an awesome bike. I recognize your number from watching it from behind during the bike." My reaction - huge smile. Love my bike and I love having a fairly in-shape man say I was ahead of him the whole bike. By the time we reached the top of the hill, I was feeling good. My running legs were beneath me and I knew I could push myself on the run. It was now downpouring at such a rate that I just laughed out loud. I stayed within my target for the next mile and then during the descent back to the lake started to push my pace. For the first time in the race, I felt like I was racing the race I was supposed to practice. Soon, the finish line was there and I pushed it to the end. Time on the official clock 2:0something.

I had no Garmin time, no HRs recorded to feed back and I have never been so happy for the finish line, a silver warm blanket from the medical tent and to gather my stuff from the transition area. Nothing felt good about the race except for the fact that I knew I had the mental toughness to finish and I felt that I had at least had a good run. As for the rest, I was not looking forward to the results. I knew I didn't have the strongest swim and my bike was conservative all the way. We loaded up our muddy wet equipment into garbage bags and left the site as soon as possible. The warmth of the car was great and the hot shower and time on the couch post-race, even better.

Last night the results came out. In the end, not as bad as I expected. Surprising in some ways and what I expected in others. The official stats:
Swim: 17:18 (82nd)
T1: 2:54 (30th)
Bike: 57:08 (40th)
T2: 2:58 (141th)
Run: 28:35 (110th)

Total: 1:48.51 (63/192 overall finishers; 5/25 in age group)

Post-race reflections: I need to work on my transitions. The conditions definitely contributed, but I am leaving easy time on the table here. Swim - in an area where I'm usually much stronger, I wasn't Sunday. A few open water practices and more efficient sightings will hopefully help this. Surprise- my bike was actually my strongest and I averaged around 18.9 mph. My legs felt good and I felt like I left a lot out on the course due to conditions so hopefully this bodes well for race season. Run - even though my ranking here is the lowest out of the three disciplines, I was still really happy about my run. Compared to last year, I have taken about a minute and 20 seconds per mile off of my pace.

Overall, a wet start to the tri-season and by far, the most miserable race conditions ever. But I have one under my belt going into White Lake and that, for my nerves, was the goal. So if it pours on May 3rd, which hopefully it won't, I'm ready.

Friday, April 18, 2008


As I sit here in the Atlanta Airport counting the minutes down until I can finally board that plane to Richmond, I realize that although this past week in Germany was a wonderful experience, I am definitely homesick.

I miss Bart more than I could ever describe in this silly blog;

I miss Lulu's wagging tail and snuggly personality;

I miss vegetables not prepared in any sauce and normal salads;

I miss the routine of my normal training (and, since I've only been able to run for a week I really miss the diversity of swimming and biking);

I miss catching up with my training partners on a regular basis, whether in group workouts, phone calls or emails or the forum or blog exchanges.

It is wonderful to be back! Can't wait to see everybody!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Rain, Rain Go Away

The rain was supposed to stop today. But it never really did.

We delayed our fun ride around Ashland with TGSanDee and Gregg first an hour, then another. Then we cancelled. Bart and I still had to get our 3 plus hour ride in but, for a while, I crawled back in bed.

Finally, around 1, we knew the day was not going to get any longer, or the weather much better, so we packed up our gear and drove out to West Creek. After debating some alternate routes, we decided on our usual 27ish mile tour of Goochland on our road bikes. It was drizzling, the wind blowing, my legs completely flat from yesterday's race and post-race swim, and my mood extremely grumpy. I wish I could say it improved, but it didn't. As we came back towards our car, I felt frozen, disappointed in my turtle-like slow ride and called it quits for outside.

Then the guilt came. I am headed for Germany on Friday for a week with little options for training and I knew that finishing my scheduled time on the bike was important. So, when we returned home, as much as I wanted to crawl back in bed, Bart and I changed to dry clothes and got on our trainers to finish our rides. While slightly warmer, I still was not having a good day. We watched part of a movie and then somehow, while watching the pros grind up the huge climbs in the Tour of Flanders, I was able to get through the rest of my session on the trainer. Finally, I was done with my workout. It was not fun or easy but I finished. And finally, with that thought, I found my smile.

Some Sunshine on a Rainy Race Day

Despite the rainy drizzle, yesterday's Monument Avenue 10K was definitely a sunny race for me. Pre-race, TG40, TG SanDee, Bart and I met up in the fan and walked down to the start sporting stylish large trash bags in an effort to stay as dry as possible before the start. At Monroe Park, we made our last minute trips to the port-o-potties and then headed over to corral H for the start.

We ran into a whole sea of pink in corral H, including TGs Lynn, Molly, Sharon, Kate, Jill, Mary, Debbie and Shawn. A bunch of the girls had already put in their morning workout of an hour and a half on their trainers and a run to the start.

Soon we were off and running. TG40 and I had our race plan - start the first mile at 9:30 pace and drop 5 seconds with each mile - and our Garmins were activated and ready to help pace us. TG Lynn also joined us from the start - with the promise that if she paced with us, she would talk and/or sing.

From the start, the miles ticked off quickly. We all felt good and Deanna and I abandoned race plan A for race plan B (holding a 9:15 pace) which was reserved for "if we felt good." We often found ourselves looking at our Garmins saying "too fast." After the first mile, I tried to stay in my HR zone 4 for the majority of the race. Towards miles 4 and 5, my heart rate kept creeping up towards my AT range and I was afraid I was going to burn out before the finish. But, we were headed down towards the finish and the crowds and numbers of racers were inspiring. It was great to have my weekend training partner on one side and another TG friend on the other side, occasionally singing out a little "Kung Foo Fighting" or pointing out someone on the course. TG40 pushed me through a hard mile 5, and then all three of us picked it up for the finish. With the finish in site, TG Lynn turned on her rocket burners. I was determined to not lose ground and TG40 and I put in our final kick and crossed the finish line together. The results - PRs.

All smiles we met up with Bart and the other TGs at the "T" in the park for some photos and race story swapping. Then, it was on to ANNNs for the official post-race celebration. She outdid herself with plenty of pink champagne and yummy chocolate covered bananas and marshmallows. A perfect sunny ending to a great race day.

My official time - 57:04. Ave pace 9:11. Place in my age group - 261/1818.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Icing on the Cake

My husband emailed me this picture at work today! ZIPP-A-DEE-DO-DAH!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Life is Good

As Lulubelle and I took a late afternoon stroll around the neighborhood today, the sun was out, daffodills and tulips in bloom and the sky blue and clear. I had just finished a tough training week on top of a tough work week. But for some reason, none of that weighed on me and my step, while sore, felt light. One message kept echoing through my head, "Life is good."

I have a husband who trains with/or at the same time as me and doesn't think that spending 4 hrs to exercise on a Saturday followed by the need for huge nap is anything other than normal.

My new time trial bike McQueen felt fantastic and responsive on my 3 hr ride yesterday and I finally found a new seat, the Specialized Tritip SL Gel 50, that will take me through the half-ironman.

I have wonderful friends like TG40 to help me through a run (like mine today) when I'm not feeling motivated and my muscles not fresh.

I watched 3 hours of cycling on TV today - a previously taped Prologue for the Tour de California in the am and Sunday cyclismo on Versus as I write this blog.

I have a loving dog, Lulu, who takes pride in her morning ritual of getting the newspaper from the end of the driveway and would rather snuggle next to me than spend time anywhere else.

And... eventhough some weeks my job is tough and hard, it affords me the ability to do some of the things I love. . . like try out a new bottle of expensive wine for dinner, ride the exact bike I want, or be spoiled by Rosa who makes sure that every Friday when I return home from work, my house and laundry is clean and I can just relax.

Yes. . . life is good!