26 June 2011

Peak weekend for Placid

This weekend last year, I was swimming here:

Biking here:

And running here:

The weekend this year was spent in a less exotic locale than the French Riviera (Poolesville, MD, the Wakefield HS pool, and the streets of Arlington/DC) but was no less tiring. Peak training weekend for IM Lake Placid (i.e., spend more time swimming, biking and running than sleeping and eating your weight in burritos every day and every night) was this weekend. Taper starts in a little over a week. Friday was a long swim - I actually managed to get the whole set in before work AND before the pool closed. Saturday I did a long (long, long, long) bike ride with Brian, who is also doing IMLP. We did two loops of the 52 mile course out of Poolesville, plus a few smaller loops to come out with about 120 miles. There were plenty of hills and flats, ascents and descents - similar to Placid. I felt good through the whole ride, taking in nutrition every 20 minutes and water every 10 minutes or so. I'm sticking with mainly Hammer gels for nutrition and, can I just say, I lost count of how many gels I ate during this ride. I don't know how I'm going to carry all this nutrition on the bike - they don't make a bento box big enough. I actually felt pretty good after the ride - not too sore, definitely tired - but in a good way. I capped off my weekend with a 20 mile run on Sunday. Now THAT was painful. I probably pushed it a little harder than I should've - I was mainly in Zone 3 - but I wanted to see how my legs would respond after a long bike ride. But overall I'm happy with the way the run went. After it was over, I managed to get myself up the stairs and spent the next 30 minutes sprawled on the floor, trying to find the motivation to get up and take an ice bath and eat some food. The food eventually happened, but the ice bath didn't. It was also a relatively cool summer day here in DC (only in the 80s), so the recovery tights made an appearance.

I actually did do a few non-training related activities. We had dinner at my aunt's house on Sunday night - spent time with my adorable 3 year old and 10 month old cousins Lilly and Xander - and OD'd on burritos (the impossible has happened - I am over my burrito kick as of today). We took Miles to the dog park and a jaunt around Shirlington on Friday - I've never seen him so excited to be at the dog park. I also made Mark watch a few episodes of Glee on Netflix with me (I think he secretly likes it haha).

Less than a month until Lake Placid!!

21 June 2011

Letter to My Younger Self

With less than three months to go before the big 3-0, I started feeling nostalgic for my youth, and opportunities I inadvertently passed up as a kid. And so, I present to you a letter to my younger self. I don't actually want to change the past, but maybe I can learn a few lessons that could be applied to my future.

To my 6-year old self: Don't be a quitter when it comes to swim lessons. Knowing how to do more than just dog paddle might come in handy one day. (psst - good call on quitting gymnastics though; 23 years later you are still as klutzy as ever).

To my middle school self: Stop obsessing about your terrible bowl cut. It is hair. It will grow back. Instead, turn your energy to something fun and creative. Learn Irish dancing, how to create pottery, photography - SOMETHING. Otherwise, 17 years later you will find yourself wishing you had something different to talk about besides swimbikerun.

To my high school self: Be nicer to your parents. Yes, they are rather strict. And yes, you would still behave perfectly without all of the extra rules - but those rules gave them peace of mind. Also, learn how to embrace athletic challenges and competitions - they are fun and not meant to cause so much angst. Oh, and put some effort into focusing and actually doing your best during practices and races - you'll probably exceed all of your expectations.

To my college self: Don't float through life during college - seize every opportunity you are presented with and always search for more. Take advantage of all the cool programs at school - go skiing, kayaking, snowboarding, hiking, camping (OK, well maybe not camping - you hate camping), take a dance class, go on community service trips to foreign countries. Once you get out of school and enter the real world, this stuff costs money and takes up time you suddenly don't have. Oh, and quit the diving team - join the swim team instead (see above note on gymnastics and klutziness).

To my study abroad self: You are going to France. To live in a medieval town. In the French Alps. Get the hell out of the student bars and go see some French stuff! Go ski. Go biking. Explore. Have your host mother teach you how to cook some of those amazing meals that just pop out of her oven. The bars and alcohol will be waiting for you when you turn 21 back in the US (and the novelty of barhopping will wear off shortly thereafter).

To my post-college self: The defense contracting industry is not for you. Don't wait 5 years to finally come to this realization. Set goals. Make a plan. Don't wait 4 years to go back to grad school. Master the art of non-procrastination before you start grad school - otherwise, it will be 2.5 years of very little sleep. Make an effort to show your friends and family you care about them - life is busy and gets in the way, but that's a shoddy excuse. Marriage is about compromise - as nice as your husband is, you are not going to get your way every time. Get over it. Mac and cheese is not a food group. PS - triathlon is expensive. You might want to consider getting a second job to support your growing habit.

To my current self: Stop procrastinating on taking that photography class or Irish dance lesson - do it now. Embrace each day and never forget how lucky you are to be living your life the way you are. Take responsibility for your actions, reactions, and future - only you can influence and ultimately decide those outcomes. And stop comparing yourself to others - circumstances and abilities differ and no two people are the same.

One more thing - go to bed earlier. I'm going to take my own advice and sign off.

19 June 2011

Joys? Wonders? Confessions of Ironman training?

I was this close to wearing my recovery socks to brunch this morning. My legs were that sore post-long run. But then I decided to save my husband and his sister from the embarrassment of being seen with me clad in knee-high socks, and opted to put them on in the car immediately following brunch. Those things are amazing.

We met up with an old friend for dinner tonight. He was the one who got me to do my first (disastrous) triathlon, which we had a lovely time reminiscing about. Someday I'd like to get back into doing some mountain biking and off-road tris.

I'm starting to wonder if your hair can grow mold if it is never, ever completely dry. It's 10:30pm and my hair is still wet. Between the sweat, visits to the pool, and showers between workouts, I don't remember the last time my hair was completely dry.

I'm starting to give up on girly. Not that I've ever been really girly, but I always used to make it a point to wear a dress or something cute to race expos and bike check-ins, you know, just in case anyone forgot I was a girl since most of my time was spent in sweaty workout clothes. Now I'm starting to forget what cute dresses and skirts I own, but I can tell you all about my favorite tee-shirts and such. I even bought a dress made out of wicking material... and I wear it all the time. It's also a black dress, so you can't tell if I get bike grease on it. I can't say that about any of my Lilly Pulitzers...

Today's run was... hard. But in a good way. I think my body is still getting used to the idea of running more than 13 miles, seeing as it starts to get noticeably sore around mile 15. It better get used to the idea quickly because Placid is in a little over a month and there's definitely more than a 15 mile run involved with that race.

Next week is a monster training week. I don't know if it is a peak week and then the taper starts, but it's definitely up there. The hours are literally like having a part-time job. I'm also hungry all of the time. And I mean all of the time. Do you know how much willpower I had to exert tonight in order to not grab the breadbasket off the restaurant table, cradle it in my arms, and croon "Mine, mine... my precious, my precious." I also bonked in the pool. Who bonks in the pool? Especially when they JUST ate not too long before going to the pool. Next time, I'm going to be armed with snacks, signs prohibiting food on the pool deck be damned!

Oh, and before I sign off - a very important message! Happy father's day to my dad! As well as my father-in-law (who officially became a triathlete in May!) Love you both!

18 June 2011

Training thoughts

With Allie in town visiting this week, I wanted to get my weekend workouts done as quickly and early as possible so we could get on with our day. This meant doing my 3 hour ride on the bike path. I haven't been doing many of my bike rides on the bike path because it's crowded and not very Lake Placid-like (i.e. - it's pretty flat). In fact, it seems like all of my training rides so far this year have been stupid hilly (Skymass, Skyline Drive, Lake Placid course, some Poolesville MD hills. The only thing missing is the Ascension ride, which I will NOT be using for my 120 miler this year). Soooo, this morning's ride was a nice change of pace, especially once I got out of suburbia and the crowds. The 1.5 hours out passed quickly, with a few gels and a PowerBar. Same for the ride back. Then a short brick run and I was finished - all before 11am! My legs don't really feel like they did a 50+ mile ride this morning, probably due to the lack of major hills. Maybe next year I should do a flat Ironman - the rides are over faster and your legs feel less chewed up at the end.

I have a few goals I'd like to meet over the next few weeks as Ironman approaches:
1) Go to bed earlier. I used to be good at this, until grad school ruined me.

2) Eat fewer Magnum Bars. Eat fewer sweets in general. I'm better at this than I used to be, but I've still been known to go on a sugar bender here and there. It's getting to be that time where I really need to save the bender for post-ironman, you know - as a reward.

3) Get all my workouts in. This is tied to goal one - if I went to bed earlier, I probably wouldn't oversleep and have to reschedule my morning workouts.

4) Make triathlon and training a priority every day. This will help with accomplishing goals 1-3.

5) Don't cut workouts short, don't slack, and stay focused.

Happy training!

16 June 2011

Training. More training. Even more training.

I am living in my workout clothes. I've forgotten that I own anything besides work clothes and workout clothes. My laundry basket is full of ONLY gross, nasty, dirty workout clothes. My wonderful sister-in-law, Allie, who is out visiting us for the week, just offered to do some laundry for us tomorrow when she does a load of her own clothes. I told her no, I'm too squeamish at the idea of anyone else touching the disgusting workout clothes spilling out of our hamper.

During these past few weeks, I've started to feel like Ironman training is taking over my life. I don't remember feeling like this during past Ironmans (or maybe I've just forgotten this is how it feels). I literally eat (and eat and eat), sleep (not enough, never enough), swim (I smell like chlorine 50% of the time now), bike (my rear end hurts at the thought of my bike commute tomorrow) and run (no complaints there, strangely enough), and go to work.

And you know what... I love it. I love getting into the office at 9am, knowing that I already worked out for more than two hours. I love getting home at 8pm, because I stopped off at the pool on my way home for an after-work swim. I love being so tired at 9:30 at night that I'm already almost asleep. I love having a goal and doing what it takes to work towards it. Yes, there is always something more I wish I could be doing training-wise. Alot of the time, I feel like there aren't enough hours in the day, or I'm not focused enough, etc etc. It's something I'm working on - I need to become better at time-management, because it will make the whole work-life-training balance a little easier to achieve.

Now I'm off to put on the one set of non-workout/work clothes for the day (pajamas!) and try to get some much needed sleep.

11 June 2011

Bike Commute Bonk and Other Adventures

I've been fed up for awhile with the inefficiencies (and high cost) of Metro, so a few weeks ago I started biking to work. My commute now takes less time AND I'm in a much better mood when I arrive at my destination. The commute is about 22 miles round-trip... and this means I'm burning about 800 additional calories a day... which means I need to eat more. I figured this out firsthand when I didn't eat an afternoon snack on Friday and on my commute home, I could feel myself starting to bonk. All I could think about was food and I was rapidly slowing down - soon I found myself being passed by kids, elderly ladies, guys riding stunt bikes 5 sizes too small for them.

Saturday I did one of my favorite bike rides with some good friends - Skymass. The first thirty miles are up, up, up Skyline drive. This is followed by a fun descent into Luray in the valley, which is quickly followed by a steep, terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad climb. But you feel really good when you get to the top. Unless you're like me and fall off your bike when you reach the top... because you didn't unclip fast enough. The rest of the ride is downhill, rollers, and a fast ride back home. We biked in a pace line, which I've never done before. I'm still skittish about riding so close to someone's wheel, but I think I'll get more comfortable the more rides I do like this. Plus, it makes you go FAST - I did this ride 30 minutes faster than the last time I did it. 80 (hilly) miles in 4:56. It also always seems to rain at the end of the ride. We got caught in a downpour about 10 miles from our cars. Oh well, cooled us off. There was thunder and lightening too, so I decided to drive back home and do the remaining 32 miles of my ride in Arlington - good choice because the storms never followed me home.

Today was a long run AND my first ice bath of the season. My legs are still sore from the weekend, but I think they'd feel worse if I didn't do the ice bath. Mark arrived home on Friday night and it has been great to have him home. Not only do I have someone besides the dog to talk to, he makes a mean burger and a mean enchilada - I have missed him (and his cooking :) )

The weather finally cooled off tonight, so I baked up a storm. I've been going through baking withdrawal since our AC broke and it's been so hot - the last thing you want to do is run the oven. I made my mom's strawberry bread recipe (but in muffin form). These muffins have ALWAYS reminded me of summer. We (my mom, really) used to make them in the summers after we went strawberry picking. Strawberry season in NH is in June, so we'd always have these muffins around the end of school and when we'd go up to the lakehouse. Lots of good memories associated with my mom's strawberry muffins.

Next week looks like it will be a good week - lots of good training, my sister-in-law Allie is coming to visit, and we're planning on going to a winery and doing some stand-up paddleboarding next weekend!

07 June 2011

Rev3 Quassy Half Ironman - Race Report

I like hills. In fact, you could even say I love hills. But after Sunday's race, I also believe that hell is paved with hills (you would believe this too if your last mile in a 70.3 race was uphill...). I had so much fun at Wildflower that I didn't want to wait until August to do another half ironman. That 5:40 barrier has been staring at me in the face for the past few years and I wanted another shot at breaking it and I was too impatient to wait another three months. So, I signed up for Rev3 Quassy at the last minute. I read the course description, and there were words like "challenging," "rolling," and "hills," but I still found myself surprised at just how hilly the whole course was when I drove it the night before the race. Visions of big PRs weren't dancing in my head any longer. But no matter, I was there to race hard and test out my nutrition in preparation for Ironman Lake Placid.

In the days leading up to the race, I wasn't as focused and plugged in as I wanted to be. Mark was still out on travel and it had been a somewhat craptastic week (see previous post about Broken AC and Heat Wave). The cherry on top came on the day before the race when, upon my arrival in Connecticut, I found a text from my friend/co-worker who was watching Miles our dog. Apparently Miles had been sick all night, was hacking up a storm, and my poor friend took him to a vet (which was quite an adventure in itself, seeing as she had to take him by taxi since she doesn't have a car - apparently cabbies aren't big fans of sick dogs) and was told by her landlord the dog would have to go. I was almost ready to turn around and head back to DC to get Miles and bag the race - but my wonderful aunt Amy saved the day and took Miles for the rest of the weekend (thank you Amy, you are the best aunt EVER!!). Once this situation was sorted out, I picked up my packet, did my pre-race brick, and drove the bike and run courses. I'm so glad I drove them because it gave me the opportunity to mentally note the hills, condition of the pavement, turns, etc. There would be no surprises on race day. Finally got to the hotel after a fruitless hunt around town for a decent italian restaurant (found none, ended up eating a bagel and bakery breadsticks with hummus from Stop and Shop) and watched tv before falling asleep.

Race morning came and I woke up feeling... kind of like crap. Like I was coming down with a cold. There was lots of nose stuff going down the back of my throat and I kept hacking it up (Miles and I were kindred spirits, channeling each other). I'd had a similar experience with nose crap at Kinetic 2010 and that did not end well at all - but today was a different day and a different race and I was determined to have a different (read: better) outcome. I ate a bagel and drank water, got my stuff together and actually left my hotel EARLIER than I had planned - I had heard the race site parking was really small and I was picturing hoards of Type A triathletes clamoring at the parking gates at 3:30am to ensure they got a spot. Imagine my surprise when I rolled up to the race site, 15 minutes before the 5:15am transition opening, to find that the lot was practically empty. I snagged a spot right next to transition, which was good because I ended up going back and forth between my car and transition about 10 times because I kept forgetting important things like my nutrition and such. I parked myself next to the pro area in transition to put on my sunblock and wetsuit and simultaneously gawk at the pros (multi-tasking). Then headed down to the water in my sleeveless wetsuit (if it wasn't super cold the weekend before in Lake Placid's Mirror Lake, I was pretty sure Lake Quasa-whatever in Connecticut would be too warm for a full-sleeve).

The Swim:
I got down to the lake too late for a practice swim, so I contented myself with dipping my toes in the water and congratulating myself for going with a sleeveless. I started towards the front on the right side. It was a triangular swim and for part of it we'd be swimming towards the sun. My biggest concern was whether or not my fancy goggles would decide to leak, which they have a tendency to do. My wave started and I found some clear water and fast feet pretty quickly. I stayed right in line on the way out, got a little off-the-beaten path when we turned towards the sun, and then stayed on a good line on the way back in. I sighted every 5 strokes or so and focused on shoulder rotation and pulling hard. I couldn't really tell how many girls from my wave were in front of me, and it didn't really matter, I just needed to swim hard. Looking back, I think I could've pushed harder and focused a bit more, but I have come a long way from when I first started doing triathlons and just focused on surviving the swim. I felt like I was out there for awhile, so I was pleased to see my time when I got out of the water.
35:30 (1:50/100m), 13/54 in AG, 57/228 women. Next time I want to break 35.

I got stuck in my wetsuit again. To add insult to injury, it was caught on film by one of the Rev3 camera guys swooping around transition. He was asking me things like "how are you feeling" and "what do you think about the race" to which I grunted in return and asked if he'd like to be my stripper (wetsuit stripper - get your mind out of the gutter!)
2:22 - better than Wildflower, but pretty much anything is better than my Wildflower transition times.

The Bike:
I was excited about the bike course. I was also wondering if it would seem as hilly on my bike as it did when I rode it in my car the day before. The answer - yes, it felt hilly, but not as bad as I thought it would be. The three mile uphill from 25-28 wasn't all that terrible. I started off aggressively and figured I'd do what I could to hold that pace through the race. Though, I had no idea what my pace or HR were because I don't have my Garmin programmed to show me that stuff - it's all about keeping my head out of the game; it gets in the way when it overanalyzes data. I took in a gel every 20 minutes and I only had one bite of PowerBar - this is the first time I've done a 70.3 with basically just gels and it worked really well. I tried to drink water every 10 minutes (I remembered most of the time) and I had a Nuun tablet in some of my water, so I alternated that with regular water. The weather was absolutely perfect and I felt really good during all but the last 5 miles (those were slow, uphill, and never-ending). I played cat-and-mouse with two women on the bike (both not in my AG) and was only passed by one girl in my AG - she passed me like I was standing still and I think she won our AG, so I don't feel all that terrible about not being able to stick with her). The bike course was super pretty, well-marked and the volunteers were great. The roads were in decent shape too in most spots. I did a better job at staying focused for the whole bike at Quassy than I did at Wildflower, so I'm pleased with that. I focused on pedal turnover, my goals, why I was there, and catching any biker that looked like a girl. Unfortunately, I didn't get the sub-3 that I wanted, but I blame that on the hills.
3:01:16 (18.54mph), 4/54 AG, 21/228 women.

2:06. I made it a point to grab my visor and race number belt and put them on while I was running, rather than standing around like a fool putting them on and wasting time.

The Run:
I did my best not to think about the run while I was on the bike. I also tried not to focus on the fact that I had a lot of nose crap dripping down the back of my throat, and was it a bad sign that I was already coughing and spitting on the bike - usually I save that for the run. The first three miles of the run are basically downhill. I ran out of transition and felt... pretty good. I settled into a pace relatively quickly and actually managed to catch two girls before the first mile marker. I expected them to stay with me, but they did not, and I kept plugging along. At mile 2, my Garmin informed me that, unfortunately, my lap database was full and it would now spend the next 11.1 miles beeping and buzzing angrily at me. It was amusing to watch the people in front of me check their watches in confusion when they heard me and my Garmin approaching. I tuned it out and it really wasn't a big deal - I just would have no idea what my mile splits were. Miles 4-8 were mainly uphill. Long, steady uphills. A few flats and a couple small downhills to make it interesting. There was a short out-and-back which gave me a chance to see where I was relative to the other girls. I passed both girls I had played cat-and-mouse with on the bike. The two worst miles in this race were miles 7-8 and then the last mile. All uphill. I drank a little water every other aid station. I started eating a little bit of a gel around mile 6. And every mile I would hack up a bunch of stuff, and while that's disgusting and I apologized to everyone around me, it made me feel alot better, and my pace would pick up until I'd have to do it again. I was surprised at how good I felt during the run. Both mentally and physically. Yes, it was uncomfortable, and towards the end I was suffering, but I enjoyed it. I never had the desire to walk or stop. I was in it - this was how I'm supposed to feel during a race. I was 100% plugged in - I focused only on the positives, not the negatives, and I just kept moving forward. The last two miles were a struggle. My legs were tired and I was ready to be done. That last mile, because of the hill, was the hardest of the day. I could see on my Garmin that, if I pushed it hard on that last half mile, I was going to break 5:30 (!!!!!). So, I ran like heck, told my legs to shut up and work, and I crossed the finish line in 5:28:54, a 15 minute PR! Just like when I qualified for Boston, I went from never being able to break that 40 barrier and then breaking that one plus the 30 barrier.
1:47:39 (8:13 pace), 4/54 AG, 18/228 women. This was one of my fastest runs in a 70.3 race - I think Mooseman 2009 was the only one that was even close.

I'm really glad I did this race, even though it was a long drive up and back and the drama with the dog. I'm thrilled to have finally broken 5:40, and to have managed to pull it off on such a hilly course. It makes me want to do a flatter course, just to see if I could go faster and by how much. I REALLY want a sub-3 bike. I've never gone that fast before, but I know I have it in me, I just need to figure out a way to coax it out. I'm happy I stayed positive and mentally plugged in during the race - with my gagging and spitting, it could've become a repeat of Kinetic 2010, but I'm pleased with myself that I didn't let it. Besides Savageman, this 4th place is the best I've ever placed in my AG in a half ironman, and it was a relatively large race (larger than Savageman, anyway). Nobody in my AG was in the top 3, so I didn't get bumped up to third - too bad, as there were some good prizes that were being given away. Motivation for next time, I suppose :) I would totally do this race again and I'd recommend it to anyone - it's a super well-run race. Now it's time to focus on Ironman Lake Placid... though I might try to slip in one more Oly race if possible... This season has been so much fun with lots of races!

02 June 2011

Placid, Broken AC, Heat Wave

All I've been doing these past few days is think about cold water. Cold air. Cold anything. Having a broken AC during the middle of a 100 degree heat wave will do that to you. I spent all Memorial Day weekend up in Lake Placid, seeing the town, biking the course, running the course, and swimming in Mirror Lake. Apparently Lake Placid is the place to be Memorial Day weekend if you are a triathlete - I was rarely alone on the bike course Saturday and I saw scores of people on the run course Sunday. Spandex, compression socks, and wetsuits were a pretty common sight - it almost felt like a race weekend. So, the course - LOVED IT. The bike course (even with the bad pavement in spots) was amazing. Amazing. The perfect amount of hills, downhills, and flats. This is the first time I've pre-ridden a course before an Ironman and it has given me a boost of confidence. The 5 mile descent isn't nearly as scary as I pictured in my mind, and none of the ascents are too heartbreaking. And it was beautiful - rivers and fields. The group of us rode the course on Saturday and unfortunately got caught in a massive thunderstorm at the very end of the second loop. I'm not going to be surprised if it storms like that on race day. Sunday we ran the course - again, hills, downhills and flats. I can't wait to see what it's going to look like on race day with all of the spectators. And Mirror Lake is gorgeous - the water temperature was perfect for our swim on Sunday afternoon. I wore my full-sleeve wetsuit, but probably could've gotten away with my sleeveless. The whole weekend was a blast, made even better by the fact that there was a great group of us sharing a house together and training together. We were walking distance from a bike shop, ice cream shop, the lake, and the main street.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end - and I traded the clear, cool Adirondack mountain air for a heat wave, broken AC and an 89 degree house when I returned to Virginia. The only upside - Bissell has been too hot and lazy to even be bothered to jump up on the counter. Just when I was reaching my breaking point last night, rain and a cool front moved through and I can happily report that my house is a very comfortable 81 degrees at the moment.

I have lots of pictures I've been meaning to upload, from Tucson to Lake Placid... if I could get them off my camera.

Oh, and a quick random/amusing story. As a married girl about to hit 30, I've been getting some questions on when we're going to have kids (short answer: not anytime soon). The most recent came from the AC repairman. As he's dismantling our AC to figure out the issue (massive leaks, need to get the whole thing replaced), he was making small talk - he asked if I was married (yes) and if I had kids (no) and how long I've been married. When I told him 5 years, a look of shock passed over his face. I thought he was going to say, "oh, well you look far too young to have been married for 5 years already." And I was totally going to take that compliment. But instead he says, incredulously, shaking his head, "5 years and no kids?! That is bad, very bad." and goes back to work.

Everyone has their own opinion, I suppose!