Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Beach 2 Battleship

Wow... I am not even sure where to start with this race report.  The entire experience blew my expectations out of the water and I am almost in disbelief that everything worked out the way it did.  I am still on cloud 9, but here goes... 

Going into the race, I was quite nervous because on top of the anxiety over attempting a new race distance, my last two long rides were washed out by rain and I had been sick for the three weeks leading up to the race.  Thankfully I felt 98% better by the end of race week, but I was feeling far less confident than I had been in early/mid-September. 

My dad flew down to Raleigh on Wednesday night, so Thursday was a nice relaxing day including a very short run, a pool swim with friends, and a nice carb-filled pasta dinner with my dad.  On Friday morning we headed out to Wilmington, checked into the hotel and went to the race expo.  As I was standing in line for packet pickup, it really hit me that I was about to race an ironman, and the nerves and excitement both picked up yet another notch.  

After checking out the expo we headed over to the transition area in Wrightsville Beach.  I took the bike for a quick spin to be sure everything was working well and to loosen up the legs a bit before racking the bike in T1.  From there we went down to check out the swim exit and I did a walk through from swim out to my bike and then to bike out.  

Bike check-in at T1
I planned to check my transition bags in the morning rather than on Friday, so the only thing left to do was to eat and rest.  We stopped by the Fish House and had a lovely dinner outside (salad with chicken for me while everyone else enjoyed some nice coastal seafood) before heading back to the hotel and calling it an early night. 

I was awake well before my 4:00 alarm, but stayed in bed and tried to at least rest while visualizing the race and trying to bolster my confidence by thinking of all of the training I'd put in leading up to this day.  I got up at 4, took a quick shower, and had a Clif bar, a bottle of nuun, and some coffee.  I put on several layers of body glide and my trisuit, double checked my transition bags, mixed my UCan, and left for T1 around 5:15.  There wasn't much traffic at that time in the morning and I arrived without any issues. I set my helmet, shoes, and sunglasses up at my bike and then dropped my T1 bag with a towel and arm warmers at gear check.  I put on my wetsuit, said goodbye to Monte, and boarded the bus to the swim start.

After being dropped off near the marina, I made the short walk over to the start area, used the porta potty one last time, drank my UCan, and chatted with a few other athletes.  With the breeze from the water it was a little cold just standing around, but with my wetsuit and swim socks it wasn't all that bad.  Before I knew it, it was almost time to start, and we made our way down the beach.

The full distance is a single start with nearly 700 athletes, so it was by far the largest swim start I've ever been in (previously my wave at Augusta was something like 150 women).  I know I'm not going to set any speed records in the water, so despite the lack of a start timing mat, I went out near the back of the crowd, content to trade losing a few minutes for a less frantic start.  Despite that, it was crowded for quite a while.  At times there were so many other people around me that I really had nowhere to go, so I just breast stroked and tried to scope out some space.  Though I did feel like there were a lot of swimmers around me the entire time, I eventually found a little room and settled into a comfortable pace.  I was barely kicking at all (boy I sure do love a wetsuit legal swim!) and tried to minimize my energy expenditure since I knew I had a long day ahead of me.  I actually felt so relaxed that I thought there was a good chance I was almost last, so after the last turn I picked it up a little and put a little more effort into the final yards to the dock.  

I climbed up the ladder and jogged over to the wetsuit strippers.  There was a bench, so it was easy to sit down and they just pulled it right off.  My watch got caught up in the wetsuit but the volunteers were helpful and soon enough it was off and I was up and jogging to T1.  Because my watch had been under my wetsuit, I had no idea how long I'd been in the water, and was very pleasantly surprised to look down and see 55 minutes!  Officially, my swim time was 57:36, which includes wetsuit stripping and about 200 yards of the run to transition.  With the current, the time itself doesn't mean a whole lot, but I was really pleased to later learn that my swim was 46th out of 150 women.  Given my (lack of) swimming ability, I will take finishing in the top third of the swim any day.

I had planned to at least rinse my face off in the warm showers, but as I ran through the shower tent, all of them were taken.  I decided that I'd just quickly towel off rather than waiting, so I continued on into T1.  I grabbed my bag and went into the women's tent, where I intended to just put on my arm warmers and then roll out.  Even though temps were in the 50s, the sun was out and I didn't feel particularly cold, so I decided that the arm warmers weren't really necessary, quickly wiped off, threw my wetsuit, goggles and cap into gear bag, gave it to a volunteer and headed out to my bike.  

It was congested at the mount line and I was cautious exiting the transition area.  Once I got going, I heard a very annoying rubbing/squeaking noise coming from my front wheel.  I'd ridden it right before bike check in the night before and everything seemed perfect, so I had no idea what it could be.  I pulled over to the side of the road and checked the wheel, hoping it was simply something stuck in the spokes, but couldn't see anything unusual.  My biggest concern was that there was something wrong with the wheel that would lead to a flat tire or serious mechanical problems, but thankfully it never got worse.  Unfortunately it meant over 5 and a half hours of listening to squeaks, but by the third hour I really barely noticed it anymore.  I saw my family around mile 5 and that was a nice boost and good distraction.  Shortly after that, I rode by a guy pulling back onto the course from the side of the road and he asked if it was my bike making that noise.  When I confirmed that it was, he said he was glad because he'd just crashed and thought it might be his.  Apparently he'd run into a cone and hit the pavement pretty hard.  I noticed his road rash and asked if he was ok and he said "well, not really, but pain is temporary."  That kind of set the tone for the day and I tucked that mantra away, knowing that in all likelihood I would need to remind myself of that later.

Heading out on the bike. Only 5 hours in the saddle to go!
My goal for the bike was to keep my power in the upper 130s and hopefully finish under 6 hours.  I don't have speed showing on my watch, so I didn't know how fast I was going, but with the headwind I just felt very slow.  A few times I clicked my watch over to speed and saw numbers like 16.8 or 18.3.  I knew I needed to average over 18 to get in under 6, so I was tempted to push a little harder, but my coach had said that if I felt like going harder than my planned power I should remember that it was going to be a long day, and with that in mind I just stuck to the plan.  About an hour into the ride I realized that I'd done a great job of hydrating, and despite my desire to not make any stops on the ride I opted to pull off at the second aid station around mile 40 to use the porta john.  I also took that opportunity to reapply some anti-chafing cream and despite losing a few minutes I think that stop was definitely the right decision.  

After that it was mostly smooth sailing.  I was passed by a few guys and one woman, but for the most part I was just sticking to my plan and picking people off.  The course was mostly flat, and with the exception of a section around mile 80-90 that was rough and full of seams, the pavement was pretty decent.   I was pleasantly surprised to see my family again shortly after I hit 100, and yelled to them that I felt great so far and all I have left is a marathon.  Even I had to laugh at the fact that I could say that and really mean it.  

Passing guys around mile 105
I guess that headwind finally turned into a tailwind at the end, as I was still riding on target but averaged over 23 mph for the split from mile 105 to 110.  I spun it out for the last couple of miles, which had a bunch of turns anyway, and though I was not sad to see the dismount line, I actually felt really good.  In the end, I averaged 138 watts on the bike - exactly on target - and a speed of 19.9 miles per hour.  I kind of wish I hadn't stopped because then I would have been at 20 mph, but I guess that will give me a nice even number goal for the next one :)

I gave my bike to a volunteer and ran into the convention center.  It was definitely the nicest transition area I've ever been in, largely because it was inside and there was a real restroom available.  I grabbed my T2 bag off the rack, went into the changing tent, laced up my running shoes, used the restroom (apparently I did a fantastic job of hydrating on the bike), threw my helmet and shoes in the bag, gave it to a volunteer, and took off on the run.  As I started the run, I flipped my watch over to the total race time display and was really surprised to see that I had made it through the swim, bike, and both transitions in under 6:45.  My stretch goal was about an hour on the swim and under 6 on the bike so I could give myself 4 hours to break 11.  My goal pace for the run was high 8s/low 9s, so I realized that I had a chance to finish in the 10:40s if I could just put in a solid run.  I think I did that math over and over about a dozen times because I really couldn't even believe it!  

The hardest part of my transition runs in practice was slowing down to my goal pace (8:40s-8:50s).  Though it wasn't a huge deal in training when the brick entailed a 4 mile run, I knew that going out too fast could really cost me later, so I did my very best to slow it down.  Despite my best efforts, and despite the fact that I felt like I was barely moving, my watch kept showing low 8s.  I took my coach's advice to walk through the aid stations, even though I didn't feel that it was necessary.  I started out drinking Heed and would just walk briefly enough to take a few sips, throw away the cup, and then start to run again. Even with the walk breaks at every mile, my splits were consistently in the 8:20s and I still felt fantastic.  It was a double out an back run, so I cheered and encouraged all of the half IM runners that I passed as well as the IM leaders as they started to come back.  I tried to count how many women were ahead of me, but it was difficult to tell because of the relay teams, who also had purple bracelets.  

Around mile 10 my feet and legs started to get a bit tired and I didn't want more Heed or anything other than water, but I was pretty excited to have made it through over 8 hours of the race before those feelings even hit me at all.  Mentally I just told myself I had another 2 miles before seeing my family again, then 1 more to finish lap 1, then 10k out, 10k back, and I would be an Ironman.  I finished my first lap in 1:50, and knew if I could just hold onto 9 minute pace and run the last half marathon in under 1:55 I would finish my first 140.6 a full half hour faster than my best case scenario goal of 10:59.  As I headed out on the second lap, it felt a little harder, but my pace remained in the low 8s and even with the walk breaks, my splits were under 8:30 until mile 18.  That's when it really started to get tough, and though I largely kept my moving pace in the mid-8s, my walk breaks were getting longer each mile.  I started taking ice and drinking coke, and would then tell myself I just had to run one more mile and I could walk again. My splits edged up into the 9s, and it was discouraging to feel like I was working harder and harder yet going slower and slower.  I pulled out all of the motivational mantras and thoughts that I'd tucked away for such an occasion, and was determined to not let 9 hours of hard work and a shot at 10:30 go out the window.  Just. Keep. Moving.  

Once I got back to downtown, there were tons of spectators and I knew all I had left was a nice little downhill, a run on the boardwalk, and then I would see the finish line.  With the rush of adrenaline from knowing I was about to finish and my pace back in the low 8s, I actually felt strong again through the last mile.  Making the last turn and seeing my family and the finish line was such a great feeling.  It was such an emotional last 0.1 mile run... I was overwhelmed by how well the day had gone, by the fact that I was actually finishing an ironman, and by the realization that I had absolutely crushed even my stretch time goals.  

Down the homestretch with the finish line in sight
A second lap split of 1:53 gave me a marathon time of 3:43:53 and an overall race time of 10:27:42.  I kept looking at my watch and at the clock, but still couldn't believe that could be right, and even as I write this I am not sure how that happened! 

I made my way through the finisher chute and was greeted with congratulatory hugs from my family, walked back to the hotel, and took the longest shower ever.  I followed that up with a nice little session in my new Normatec recovery boots and then we went out for dinner around 8:30.  I was shocked to find that I felt ok and was pretty much walking normally, so even a mile+ walk to/from dinner didn't seem that bad.  As usual, I wanted a burger, so we found a place where I could get that and a post-race beer.  We sat outside and watched as runners were both coming in and going out on the run course, and as I sat there wearing my finisher pants and drinking a beer I realized what an epic event it really is.  

I did in fact wear this out to dinner at a restaurant
After dinner we walked back to the finish line to return my chip and check to see if I'd placed in my age group.  Based on the results from the last few years, I knew that I had a good shot at an age group award if I finished under 11 hours and getting on the AG podium was one of my goals at the beginning of the year, so I was pretty excited to see how I'd placed.  The overall results were scrolling on a TV, so we had to wait a bit and then I would just have to count how many women 35-39 were ahead of me.  The top three were pretty close together (9:25-9:33-9:40) and then there were a bunch of male results before I saw the next F come up.  To my surprise, that next female was me! I thought I must've missed some or counted incorrectly, so we stood around and waited for the results to go all the way through again, and sure enough... 1, 2, 3, me!  I was soooo happy.  As an added bonus, there is a cash prize purse for the top 5, which meant I ended up with $250 and a really cool award.  The other 4 women in the top 5 are all professional triathletes, and to be the only amateur on the podium in my first full distance race was definitely beyond anything I'd ever even imagined.  The race was also the USAT mid-Atlantic ultra distance regional championship, so now I can add age group regional champion to my (very short) resume as well.  

Official splits:
Swim: 57:36 (46th)
T1: 4:44 (8th)
Bike: 5:37:22 (19.9 mph; 9th)
T2: 4:10 (8th)
Run: 3:43:53 (8:32/mile; 6th)
Total: 10:27:42 (4th)

I thought after the very long training cycle and finishing my first 140.6 I would want to take a break from triathlon for a bit, but now I am more excited than ever for next season!  I am recovering surprisingly well and actually felt a lot better than I did after Boston.  After this week off I will resume light training, and I can't wait to see what my coach has in store for this next training cycle :)

Thank you all for your support throughout this journey, for the many good wishes before the race, and for all the sweet congratulatory messages - I am lucky to have such great friends and to be a part of such a phenomenal racing community! 

Friday, October 9, 2015

In the homestretch

September totals were down a bit due to an easy week leading up to the Patriots Half, some dreadful weather that put a damper on my plans to ride outside, and me coming down with a cold in the last week of the month (most likely due to the aforementioned dreadful weather).  I am still not feeling 100% as I write this, so it's hard to feel good about the recent training, but at least I'm sick now rather than race week.

September totals:
Swim: 16.4 miles
Bike: 533 miles*
Run: 138 miles 

Total time: 63:15:47

Total miles: 689
Total calories: 36,594

September started off with a bang - totaling the most miles I've ever done in a single 7 day period (218.4!), including a century ride on 9/5 that included two passes through the spot where I crashed last year and an 18 mile long run that ended with 30 minutes at 7:30 pace on 9/6.  The following week was a lighter week leading up to the Patriots Half and then it was right back to it.  Unfortunately back to back long rides and a scheduled open water swim were washed out by rain and then I came down with this cold, but at least the majority of September was solid.

Oktoberfest 8K
34:57 (One day after a 6 hour brick!)
1st F35-39, 4th female overall
UCI World Championship
Team Time Trial
Richmond, VA
Getting some inspiration...
These guys are so fast and some clearly had
their pain faces on but were pushing through
I can't say I'm entirely where I want to be, but hopefully this last week of taper will go according to plan, my health will return to 100% before race day, and things will all work out... 

T minus 8 days! 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Patriot's Triathlon

Saturday I raced the Patriot's Half Ironman in Williamsburg.  Though it was primarily a tune-up/fitness check in my training for B2B, I did want to put in a strong effort and hopefully come out of it with a new PR.  My previous PR (5:20:45) was in Augusta in 2013, and that race had a current assisted swim and a standard distance bike (the Patriots bike course is 58 miles rather than the usual 56), so even though my goal of a sub-5:20 finish wasn't that big of a difference time-wise, it would actually reflect a pretty significant improvement.

The swim is in the brackish James River, with part against the current, then cross-current, then with the current.  Or so they say.  As anyone who knows me knows, swimming is BY FAR my weakest of the three disciplines.  Really, my swim goals are typically (1) do not die, (2) do not use up too much energy, and (3) try to minimize the amount of time you lose on everyone else.  This is usually assisted by my wetsuit, but unfortunately the very hot summer yielded a water temp of 81, which meant no wetsuit for me.  I knew that also meant adding another 5-8 minutes to my goal swim time, and most likely ended my shot at a PR.  

When I started the swim there was absolutely zero visibility and my heart rate skyrocketed. I am glad to have had the experience prior to my A race, but it just wasn't super fun. So I slowed down (even more, as my best pace is already slow to begin with) and tried to calm down and get myself together.  Maybe 5-10 minutes in, I felt more comfortable and settled into a slow but tolerable pace.  Unfortunately I realized I was the last swimmer in my wave, and that was demoralizing.  On the plus side, I wasn't being kicked in the face and had plenty of space to do my own thing.  After making the turn to head out toward the middle of the river, the chop really picked up and it was probably the roughest open water I've had to swim in throughout my incredibly limited open water swimming experience.  At least I was heading back in the right direction.  I hit the lap button on my watch as I exited the water and though I was disappointed to see 47+ minutes, I was also a little surprised because it seriously felt like I'd been swimming for at least an hour. 

Swim start the day before the race.
On race day, it was actually overcast and much choppier
The run to T1 was actually fairly long (.34 miles according to my garmin) so I had a little time to get my bearings.  As expected, my bike was all alone on the rack, and the majority of bikes in all of transition were already gone.  I actually try to look at this as the bright side of being a very slow swimmer - my bike is easy to find, I have plenty of room to get my shoes on etc, and the whole field is already in front of me, so I just need to get out there and chase them down.

I got on my bike about 51:30 into the race, which put me over 12 minutes behind my PR race.  Between that and the 2 extra bike miles, I decided a PR was off the table and just focused on staying in my target power zone (upper 150s/low 160s).  The course is not pancake flat, but there are no real hills either, and the skies were still overcast but it hadn't started to rain, so both course conditions and the weather were pretty favorable.  I stuck right to my plan and kept my power in the 150s and found that I was catching and passing people very quickly.  I don't have speed on my garmin display because I ride by power, so I had no idea how fast I was going, but I didn't feel like I was working that hard and couldn't believe the way I was flying by people.  The first 5 mile split popped up at 14:16, and I was very surprised to see that I was riding over 20 (which I know to be a 15:00 5 mile split) while feeling so comfortable.  This continued throughout the entire race - keep the power around 160, fly by people like they're standing still, get a boost when the 5 mile splits pop up in the 14s (or 13s!), repeat.  And all the while I really felt great.  I initially thought that a sub-3 hour bike split would be pretty solid (I rode 2:56 in Augusta and this was 2 miles longer) but around mile 50 I realized that I could come in well under that.  I didn't think it would hurt my legs to push just a little harder so I decided to pick it up through the 55 mile mark and then ease up/spin it out for a few minutes before the run (50-55 split averaged 168 watts and over 22 miles per hour).  I hit the 56 mile mark in 2:39 and started doing all kinds of fun math, including figuring out that I'd made up enough time to still have a shot at a PR.  The last bit was on a narrow gravelly trail, which made it necessary to slow down a bit, and I took that as an opportunity to briefly spin out the legs before getting to T2.  After 2:45 on the bike, part of me was happy to get off my bicycle (you can probably guess which parts) but at the same time I was a little sad that it was over because it was such a great ride. 

Holy crap, did that really happen?

I quickly changed my shoes, racked the bike and helmet, and headed off on the run.  My coach told me to come out of T2 relaxed and then settle in to something around 7:40 pace, so I worked hard to slow down my legs and not do anything I'd pay for later.  This was going to plan through the first mile (7:34) and a into the second mile (7:40-something), but then we turned off onto a trail through the woods and my GPS decided it didn't care to cooperate.  Without confirmation of my pace, I think I may have been running a little too fast, but my watch and the mile markers were way off so I really wasn't sure.  I tried to just run easy and I think for the most part I was close to the prescribed pace.   It was getting warmer and I started throwing some ice in my trisuit at the aid stations, which ultimately melted, ran down my leg and into my shoes, which made squish-squish noises for the last half of the run.  By mile 10 I was feeling fatigued and was definitely ready to be done.  My pace slowed for the last couple on the trail, but once I got back to the road I did all I could to pick it back up.  I knew that if I could run a 1:40 half marathon I would get my coveted sub-5:20 despite the horrendous swim, long run to T1, and extra 2 miles on the bike. With a final mile in the 7:30s, I very happily crossed the finish line with 5:18:55 on my watch. 

Official splits:
Swim: 47:46 
T1: 3:29
Bike: 2:45:33
T2: 1:36
Run: 1:40:37

2nd Female 35-39
6th Female Overall
Despite the terrible swim, I am really pleased with my race effort and am even more excited for Beach 2 Battleship.   T minus 33 days!!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


Training is ramped up almost to the max and yet I've really been loving the entire process. It's so exciting that almost every week I'm hitting new milestones, and that even when I've read my schedule for the week and thought, "there's no way I can do all of that" it's gotten done.  This month also marked my first century ride and my first 200 mile week (6 in the pool, 159 on the bike, and 35 run).  I've had a little knee pain here and there, and some occasional muscle soreness, but overall I've held up pretty well throughout the summer training and really have no complaints.  Honestly, any negatives pale in comparison to the enjoyment I've gotten out of this experience and the progress I can see myself making each week.

August totals:
Swim: 21.7 miles
Bike: 572 miles (average speed 18.6 mph)
Run: 136 miles (average pace 8:12)

Total time: 69:08:06

Total miles: 730
Total calories: 37,731

The month started with the UNC Wellness Super Sprint Triathlon.  I've done this race twice before, and despite it being my first triathlon since September 2013, I felt confident that I could break my old PR.  The goal was to swim comfortably (it's only 5 laps in a pool, so the time gain based on a higher level of exertion is minimal), go pretty much as hard as possible on the bike (9 miles with several speed bumps, turns, and hills), and then just survive the 5k run.

Set a new PR for 20 minute Max Avg Power (206W)

Thankfully things went exactly according to plan, and though I would have liked to finish the run a little stronger, I took about 3 minutes off my previous PR and finished 3rd overall.  While I've won my age group before, this was my first overall podium in a triathlon, so I was pretty happy with the result.

Swim: 5:09 
Transition 1: 0:51
Bike: 27:28 (2nd fastest female bike split)
Transition 2: 0:51
Run: 20:56 (3rd fastest female run split)
Total: 55:14, 3rd Female overall

A few other highlights from August training... 

Open Water Swim Practice at Jordan Lake
I had to start early to get in my Wednesday bricks
(on this day it was a 22 mile ride + 9 mile run) before work,
but sunrises like this made it easier to get out at the crack of dawn
Sweat Angel
No one ever said training in southern summer humidity would be pleasant

On August 21 I headed north to visit my family in upstate NY.  My travel plans mandated a rest day, and I realized it was my first since July 13.  Thankfully I have a wonderful family to keep me occupied ;) 

Of course I checked the race calendar when planning my trip, and found the Tour de Force Half Marathon/10k/5k about 20 minutes from my hometown.  It was a flat, out-and-back course near the lake, and I knew I'd have a long run that weekend anyway.  Because they also had shorter races, I was able to talk several of my relatives into joining me, so it worked out splendidly.  Coach said to run 1:33, which I thought would be challenging but doable.  Shortly after the start, I started talking with a young military guy who was stationed nearby.  We ran together and chatted for the first 4 miles before he started to slow down and I went off ahead.

Miles 1-4: 6:58-6:58-7:20-7:17

Once I was on my own, I just took in the lake views, cheered on the leaders (including Paul who was in 3rd place), and focused on making it to the halfway point.  At the turn I knew I was the first female, so I kept an eye out for the women behind me.  By my estimate, I had about 2 minutes on the 2nd place female, and my immediate goals became (1) stretching that gap and (2) catching the one guy I could see up ahead of me. 

Miles 5-11: 7:12-7:12-7:04-7:00-7:14-7:10-7:11

Mile 12 is the only incline (+56 feet, so it doesn't qualify as a hill but it didn't feel flat) other than in the first half mile or so (which I hadn't even noticed thanks to race start adrenaline and fresh legs), and I started to slow a bit.  There was no one around, I was right on my pace target, and I was struggling to find motivation.

Mile 12: 7:22

Just as I was contemplating using the last mile as a cool down jog, I saw Chris running toward me on his post-10K cool down.  It was definitely the boost I needed, especially since he's a high school XC coach and consequently a master motivator ("You can catch that guy!" "Once you make that turn there's only 1K to go!" "After that building it's all downhill!").  The only runner in sight when Chris joined me had seemed pretty far ahead, but I was able to catch and pass him fairly quickly once the fire was lit.  Then with about half a mile to go, I could see another guy ahead and Chris told me he'd been struggling.  With my family waiting near the finish line and the end in sight, I decided to follow Chris' advice and "go get him!"  I made a move and went by in what I thought was a pretty solid move, but unfortunately he found another gear (perhaps driven to avoid being "chicked" or losing his spot in the top 5 overall) and re-passed me right before the finish line. 

Mile 13: 6:31

I was a little disappointed that I couldn't hold him off, but my mile 13 was the fastest last mile I've ever run in a race (even a 5k) and the last 0.1 was run at 6:12 pace, so I am satisfied that I gave it my best effort.  I ended up as the 1st female and 6th overall in 1:33:10.  That's actually my 3rd fastest half marathon ever, but with the exception of the mile 12 lull, it really didn't feel that difficult and I am kind of amazed by that.  It's a great feeling to see all of the hours of training I've put in this year paying off. 

Adam and Dad running the 5K
Sarah, Heather, Dad, me, Adam, Chris, and Paul
What a great way to spend a morning with family!

On to September...!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sum sum summertime

It has been the hottest, most humid summer since I've moved to North Carolina (this was confirmed by the Weather Service - I am not exaggerating!) and despite having to work extra hard to rehydrate, I am absolutely loving Ironman training at this point.  I may be singing a different tune once I start getting closer to 20 hour weeks, but to say "so far, so good" would be an understatement.   

Even with a few days off around the Utah Valley Half Marathon and a mostly restful 4th of July weekend trip to Atlanta, I've been steadily adding more miles and reaching new milestones each week, and July marked my first-ever 600 mile month.  With all of the training, I've come to have an all new perspective on workouts... 2000 yards in the pool or 50 miles on the bike no longer seem "long" and the idea of a 4 hour brick is not particularly daunting.  It's kind of crazy to think about that, but it really is amazing how your body and mind can adapt given proper training.

June totals:

Swim: 11.7 miles
Bike: 382.3 miles (average speed 17.6 mph)
Run: 100.9 miles (average pace 8:01)
ElliptiGo: 10 miles

Total time: 46:05:44

Total miles: 504.82
Total calories: 26,914

July totals:

Swim: 15.8 miles
Bike: 451.3 miles (average speed 18.5 mph)
Run: 118.6 miles (average pace 8:13)
ElliptiGo: 18 miles

Total time: 57:19:06

Total miles: 603.68
Total calories: 32,929

I was curious to see how this compared to last year, when I was gearing up for Powerman Zofingen.  Despite dropping my number of days per week on the bike from 4 to 3 in most weeks, I ended up with about 50 more miles each month, and an average speed over 3 miles per hour faster than what I was averaging in 2014.  It may not sound like much, but it makes a huge difference - compared to the same two month period last year, I spent over 4 hours less time riding my bike, but covered over 100 more miles. 

Other highlights from the million-degree days of summer... 

Peachtree Road Race
Ran the race as a tempo run in rainy conditions.
Not the day I'd envisioned because of the weather,
but fun nonetheless.
43:56 - 29/3418 Female 35-39
One of the largest races in the world - nearly 55,000 finishers.
I took this photo after finishing the race, walking about a mile 
to MARTA, 
taking the train back to Buckhead, and walking back to 
our hotel 
near the start line, where 4 or 5 more waves had yet to even start!
Lil Uno One Mile Open Water Swim - Jordan Lake
My first swim-only event (followed by a run in the crazy mid-day heat)
35:14 - 4/20 Female 35-39
Made it out to few open water swim practices in Jordan Lake
T-minus 12 weeks and counting!!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Utah Valley Half Marathon

I decided to run the Utah Valley half marathon for a few reasons.  The course profile appeared to be a solid net downhill, but not so much elevation change that it would shred your quads (*spoiler alert: that assumption was incorrect); I had nothing major on my calendar until fall; and visiting Utah's National Parks has been high on my bucket list.  The race also offers Clydesdale/Athena divisions (males over 200 lbs and females over  150 lbs), making it an even more attractive option for me. 

We flew out to Salt Lake City after work on Tuesday, picked up our rental car, and checked into a hotel by the airport.  Wednesday morning I went for a little 5 mile run with some 200m pickups to feel out how the altitude might affect my running.  It went pretty well and it was actually lovely to run without 90% humidity.  After a shower and breakfast, we made the 4 hour drive to Moab and visited Arches National Park.  What an amazing place!

Turret Arch - Arches National Park

Thursday was a rest day on my schedule (a what?!?), so we took the opportunity to head back to Arches for a sunrise hike to Delicate Arch.  We beat the crowds and made it back to the car just as it started to rain, so the early morning adventure was definitely a success.

Delicate Arch - Arches National Park
On Friday I did a quick little shake out run and then we ventured over to Canyonlands and drove through the entire park.  With the exception of one small hike, we mostly just stopped at overlooks to take photos and didn't do anything overly taxing.

View from Mesa Arch - Canyonlands National Park
From there we headed up to Provo for packet pickup.  I stopped by the information desk to find out if they were doing weigh-ins for the Clydesdale/Athena divisions (Hartford had a mandatory weigh-in prior to the race) and just happened to end up talking with the race organizer, who kindly invited us to the VIP dinner.  Dinner was great, we met some other runners, and I got a picture with Ryan Hall, so that all worked out splendidly.  Plus I figured eating the same pre-race meal as the American half marathon record-holder couldn't hurt!  After dinner we drove the course.  I'm glad we did - there were significantly more uphill sections than I'd envisioned, so I was happy to know that ahead of time rather than finding out mid-race.  It also helped to know that after each hill was a nice downhill, so I felt much more prepared mentally after the course preview.

Unfortunately I could not sleep on Friday night thanks to some serious sinus congestion.  I couldn't breathe through my nose at all and was hoping that the cold appearing out of nowhere wouldn't impact my race.  Not really ideal, but I was awake before my 3:15 alarm and went through my usual morning ritual without feeling rushed.  At 4:00 I left the hotel, and found the temperature outside to be quite pleasant.  I'd worn a light jacket that I planned to leave at the start but decided I didn't need it and might as well save it for my next cold weather race, so I ran back to the room and left it.  Now in just my singlet and shorts, I made the 10 minute walk to the buses at Towne Centre Mall and was on board and heading out around 4:15. We took a very round about way to the start, so though it was only 13.1 miles away, it took about 30 minutes to drive there. I was actually happy for the longer ride, since we had to be on the bus so early, and had a nice chat with the BYU student sitting next to me (side note: everyone in Utah was extremely nice!).  We got off the bus at 4:45 and it was FREEZING at the start. I figured it would be a little cooler at than it was when I left our hotel given the 700 foot elevation difference (starting at 5,269 and ending at 4,564), but it was very cold and I was wishing I'd kept that jacket.  Live and learn.

Around 5:30 I made one last porta-potty stop, did a short 15 minute warm up with some strides, and made my way into the corral.  There weren't any pace signs or assigned corrals, so I found the 1:35 pacer and figured that was as good a spot as any.  Before I knew it, we were off.

My primary goals coming into the trip were to run a new PR (my previous best was 1:33:01 in Hartford back in 2012 during my NYC marathon training cycle) and win the Athena division.  After looking at the race guide on Friday night, I learned that the course record for Athenas was 1:33:14, so that was an extra incentive to run under 1:33.  My stretch goal was 1:31:32, which is an average pace of 6:59.  I don't know why 6:59 sounds so much better to me than 7:00, but I really wanted a half marathon pace starting with a 6!

The 1st 3 miles were mostly flat/very slight downhill with a couple of little hills just after the first mile. I had to do a little dodging around other runners at the outset, but I found myself running along with only a few people in no time.  Much of the first half of the race is on curvy roads, but with only one or two runners near me at a time I was able to stay very close to the measured distance and my Garmin splits were almost right on the mile markers.  Concentrating on the tangents and looking ahead through each curve also made the initial miles go by very quickly.

I didn't know how the altitude would affect me, and my coach had warned against going out too fast, as it would be hard to recover from oxygen debt at altitude, so I was cautious to keep things in check, especially up the hill in mile 3.  Overall I felt great, and the only issue was my sinus congestion.  Though I don't necessarily need to breathe through my nose when I'm running, I realized that it is very helpful to be able to do so when trying to drink gatorade while running through the aid stations.  But things were going well and I wasn't going to let a little thing like lack of air slow me down. 

Miles 1-3: 6:51-6:52-7:07

Miles 4 and 5 each had moderate hills with gains of about 100 feet over a quarter mile, but the rest was downhill, with some relatively fast descents and a net loss of almost 300 feet over these 3 miles.  I tried to increase my cadence up the hills and lighten my footfalls on the way down, while also being cautious to avoid red-line territory.  To my surprise, even with the hills, mile splits well below goal pace continued to pop up on my Garmin.

Miles 4-6: 6:50-6:36-6:40

Other than a short and relatively steep hill leading up to the 7th mile marker and a matching descent, miles 7-10 were all a very slight decline and a pretty straight shot out of the canyon.  Somewhere in these miles my legs got heavier, and I had a feeling I might have to pay for the too-fast miles I'd run so far.  But PRs don't come without taking risks, and my mental math told me I could run 7:10s and still hit my goal time, so I stayed pretty positive despite the slower mile splits.  I got an added boost when I hit mile 10 in 68:??, which would have been a significant 10 mile PR and was my first time getting running that distance in under 70 minutes. 

Miles 7-10: 6:48-7:02-7:01-7:08

Mile 11 was mostly on a slight incline/false flat, similar to the section of the ATT leading to Scott King Rd. When we drove the course, I had mentally prepared myself for this to be my most challenging mile.  Though the earlier hills were much steeper, I knew that at this point in the race even the slight incline was going to feel pretty tough, as Scott King usually does at the end of my training runs.  

Mile 11: 7:19

From mile 12 to the finish is a straight shot on a modest decline (loss of 50 feet over 2 miles) but I was really starting to feel fatigue in my legs and struggled to get the pace back.  Thankfully I could see some of the larger buildings in town, and having the finish line in sight was really helpful.  I really felt like I was pushing myself to my limit, but I just could not get those 6s back.  More mental math, and I knew I had a PR and the Athena course record in the bag, but that I had to keep my pace right around 7 if I was going to get in under 1:31:32.

Miles 12-13: 7:06-7:03

As I approached the finish line I heard Monte cheering for me but was completely focused on the clock and the finish line.  I gave it everything I had left, and crossed the line with 1:31:31 on the clock.  By my watch I ran 13.17 at an average pace of 6:57, and my chip time was 1:31:25 for an official race pace of 6:59.  Not exactly crushing the stretch goal of 1:31:32, but I did it!  

1st Place Athena and a new Athena Course Record
Just missed top 10 females, finishing 11th out of 1,005
After the race we spent the day in Park City and then caught the red-eye back to NC.  My quads are killing me, and I'm still sick and exhausted, but it was worth it.  

16 states down, 34 to go!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Spring training

Though March started with a run in the freezing rain at a temperature of 33 degrees, the remainder of the month brought some pleasant and (finally) springlike weather, which has made training a lot more enjoyable!  I'd almost forgotten how nice it is to run with shorts and even with the chafing and sunburn that accompany warmer weather running, I am definitely not going to complain. 

The nicer weather also brought the opportunity to finally test out the new Zipp 404s and Powertap on my tri bike.  Between the new wheels, a more aggressive bike fit (thanks, Durham Cycles!), and the many winter hours spent on the trainer, my easy-ish ride averaged over 17 mph so I am feeling pretty optimistic about the coming race season!

March totals:

Swim: 10.2 miles
Bike: 184.2 miles
Run: 118.5 miles
ElliptiGo: 27.5 miles

Total time (including strength training and yoga): 51:16:02

Total miles: 367.45
Total calories: 26,179

Cooper River Bridge Run 10K: 15/1999 Female 35-39 (44:13)

April totals:
Swim: 8.6 miles
Bike: 263.8 miles
Run: 100.4 miles
ElliptiGo: 16 miles

Total time (including strength training and yoga): 43:16:07

Total miles: 388.8
Total calories: 27,050

Footprints in the sand: Training run in Turks and Caicos

Tar Heel 4 Miler: 3rd Female Overall (29:10)
May totals:
Swim: 10.6 miles
Bike: 346.4 miles
Run: 104.6 miles
ElliptiGo: 22 miles

Total time (including strength training and yoga): 54:50:25
Total miles: 506.4
Total calories: 28,372

Cary Duathlon: 3rd Female Overall
2.5 mile run (17:00)
18.3 mile bike (53:29)
2.5 mile run (17:19)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night...

Mother nature did her best to make things difficult this month, following a lovely 70 degree weekend with some snow, then ice, then another snowstorm.  In addition to making running difficult, the winter weather led to several closings and delayed start days at the pool, so I missed out on a few swim workouts.  Thankfully I have the bike on the trainer, and despite the weather issues was able to average about 92 minutes per day through February.  My running fitness and speed are not returning as quickly as I'd hoped, but I do feel like I'm making progress on the bike and I am definitely getting much stronger in the pool.  221 days to go! 

February totals:
Swim: 8.25 miles
Bike: 224 trainer miles and a spin class
Run: 81 miles
ElliptiGo: 19.3 miles

Total time (including strength training and yoga): 43:35

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

And so it begins...

December brought a gradual post-injury return to running and the holidays brought a hectic schedule and extra insulation due to cookie consumption, so I was definitely ready to get the ball rolling in 2015!  Total training time is averaging somewhere between 8-9 hours a week and I am running without pain in the first time in recent memory... so far, so good!

January totals:
Swim: 10.9 miles (personal record for most miles in a month)
Bike: 234 trainer miles and a spin class
Run: 85.5 (including the Bahamas Half Marathon)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

2014 in review

All in all, it was a great year.  I didn't accomplish all of the goals that I'd set for myself at the end of 2013, but I had experiences that I hadn't imagined at that time and am so grateful for how everything worked out.

Training Summary

Running: 1088 miles
Cycling: 2756 miles

Including swimming, cross-training and ElliptiGo-ing, I spent just over 400 hours exercising in 2014 and covered over 4,000 miles.  Total calories burned (as calculated by garmin): 260,961... that's a lot of beer and cupcakes!

Race Summary

Half Marathons: New Orleans, Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Phoenix, Tobacco Road, Ottawa, Covered Bridges (VT), Rock and Roll Raleigh, and Chicago

Marathons: Boston and Berlin

Duathlons: USAT Long Course National Championship and ITU Long Course World Championship

Goals for 2014
1. Sub-3:20 marathon (success!)
2. Sub-1:30 half marathon (fail)
3. Sub-13:00 Ironman at Beach to Battleship (deferred)

Goals for 2015
1. Sub-12:00 Ironman at Beach to Battleship
2. Age group podium at the Patriots Half Ironman and B2B
3. Sub-1:30 half marathon

Despite ending the year having accomplished only 1 of my top 3 goals for 2014, I am happy with the year as a whole.  Running a sub 3:20 was my #1 priority, and I accomplished that.  My goal of becoming an Ironman was pushed back a year when I decided to add Powerman Zofingen to the schedule, but I have zero regrets about racing for Team USA, and though it wasn't 140.6, that race was significantly longer than anything I'd ever done, so I am still calling that a win.  Plus, now that I've checked off my marathon goal (for now) and have the experience of finishing an ultra-distance event, I will be able to work through the year with the goal of racing B2B, rather than just finishing it.  Not that I expect to be "fast," but my time goal has dropped significantly and I would like to be in contention in my age group.  

I've also added that elusive 1:30 to the list again.  At this point, it seems unlikely to happen this year, as my training and focus are all on B2B, but I have a mostly downhill summer half marathon and the 5:19 mile I ran this year shows that gravity is my friend, so I am not entirely ruling it out.

Special thanks... 
To my husband for supporting me, taking care of all of the things I don't have time for when I'm training for hours and hours a week, standing outside at races for hours just to see me go by for 2 seconds, and for everything else!

To my family.  Thank you for your endless encouragement and support! I love you guys!

To the best group of training buddies I could imagine.  You inspire and motivate me every day, listen to me go on and on about my training/racing/goals/setbacks, and really make this journey more enjoyable than I could have ever envisioned. 

To my coach for working around my (maybe slightly) crazy schedule and still getting me to the Powerman finish line in one piece and to my coveted 3:1X!

To Bull City Running Company and the Bull City Track Club - y'all have definitely made me faster!

To Esprit de SheNuun, and Honey Stinger for the Ambassadorships.  

I am excited to see what 2015 will bring!!  Happy New Year, everyone!