30 June 2013

Blood, sweat... but no tears!

I'm tired. I don't even know if that's an adequate descriptor. I took a nap today - I nap maybe a handful of times a year. And my legs - it's as though they are ringing, like how your ears ring after a really loud concert. This was a really loud training weekend. And the chafing, holy heck. My thighs, my arms, my lower back, my upper back (I KNOW, the chafing on my back is the last straw). Between last week's Diabolical Double ride/long run Saturday/Sunday combo and then this weekend's long ride-longest brick run ever/long run Saturday/Sunday combo - please stick a fork in me because I am D.O.N.E. Also, I'm not someone who dislikes rest days - I love them. And I love them even more when they come after hard weekends. Rest Day Monday, I love you and you are a glorious way to spend one-seventh of my week.

Saturday I rode the SkyMass loop with Sarah and Mindy. This was the first time I rode it this spring/summer and only the second time I rode it this year (the first being in March when it is substantially colder - pro tip: arms warmers aren't sufficient when you are biking through snow). No arm warmers were needed this weekend - it was hot and humid! We met at the high school at 8:30. I thought maybe I would get out there early (haha) and try to get in some extra miles early in the day so I wouldn't have to ride an extra 25 post-SkyMass loop to meet the 110+ mileage I was supposed to do on Saturday. Sadly, I didn't get out there early enough (is that even a surprise) but it turns out that trying to get somewhere early put me there right on time. So, extra mileage post-loop it was going to have to be!

We rolled out of the parking lot around 8:30 and headed for Skyline Drive. I say the same thing every time, but I absolutely love this ride - beautiful views, challenging climbs, decently long descents, lots of rollers, and a whole lot of satisfaction when you are finished. The first 4-5 miles straight out of the gate are up, up, and more up. We stayed together through the climb, the chit-chat making it pass by quickly. I started in on my nutrition and hydration immediately - these long days are a good simulation of Ironman and a great way to perfect your nutrition plan for race day. I drank bottle after bottle of Skratch Labs Lemon-Lime and Orange, drinking an average of 1.5 bottles an hour. I also had some gels and Clif MoJo bars. But the real treat were the French Toast bites I made on Friday night from the new Skratch Labs Portables cookbook. Those were money. I'll be making those again as snacks for riding - and snacks for everyday consumption. Skyline Drive was beautiful, as always, and there was surprisingly little traffic. We passed by a few bikers during our ride and I saw Val out there training for IMLP (Hi Val!). After the first hour I had some intervals to do, which worked well with all the climbing because I had no problem keeping my heartrate in the target range. I think one of the things I've come to realize this season, and I feel very dense for not having this epiphany many seasons ago, is that I tend to override my bike - I bike so hard, much harder than I should, during races that I leave nothing left for the run and this is probably why craptastic can be used on so many occasions to describe my run during triathlon. So I'm experimenting this season with taking things easier on the bike, riding more within my limits, so I have something left in my legs for the run. The NUMBER ONE thing I want to get out of Ironman Lake Placid this year is a good run, I want to end that race on a high note. And if that means sacrificing some time on the bike, so be it. It was a longshot that I would go sub-six on that bike course anyway, so what's some extra time when I'm already at 6+ hours? It will take ALOT of self-discipline NOT to ride that bike course too hard. Every year I've done it, I've run out of steam on the second loop into Wilmington, because I started off by riding my bike like I stole it, and then dreaded the inevitable death march that was the marathon. Ironman is a long day - not always about who can bike the fastest but who swimbikerun the most consistently for the longest period of time. So that's what I've been doing on my rides, paying close attention to my HR and NOT overriding the bike. I've also been using my little ring more - there was no big-ringing the climbs yesterday, it's all about saving the legs.

We all regrouped around mile 25ish at Elkwallow, refilled our bottles, ate snacks (I didn't give in to my terrible Combos craving this ride - miracles do happen!) and tried not to think about the fact that we still had hours and hours of time in the saddle before us. The descent into Luray was a nice break and a good speed-pick-me-up. We cycled through the town of Luray, had the self-discipline to pass by a sign advertising FREE ICE CREAM (who are we?), and then started in on the rollers that preceded the Mt. Massanutten climb. This time the Massanutten climb actually felt OK - there have been times that I've done that climb where I thought toppling over like a topheavy bug was a distinct possibility, but fortunately yesterday wasn't one of those days. I did need to pick out landmarks ahead of me, especially when stuff got steep, to focus on just to keep moving forward. And the top was ALWAYS a welcome sight.

Looking towards Skyline Drive from the top of Mt. Massanutten
After the climb we were rewarded with a nice long descent and some flats with some minor rollers. It was during this time, around Mile 60, that the ride seemed to be flying by - like Ironman training, I was in the thick of it, just going mile by mile, and suddenly the miles were adding up and there DID seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel. I WAS going to make it though this ride. Around this time we also made our final rest stop at this roadside store in the middle of nowhere and they sell gallons of water for less than $2. I also can't figure out if they are going out of business or just choose not to put in large supply orders, the shelves were practically bare, save some tins of Spam and fridges full of beer. And not a Combo in sight, sigh. I did, however, pound a V8 tomato juice and felt like a new person afterwards. The rest of the ride was relatively uneventful, it was hot, we were all smelly and desperately wanting a shower, and I think all of us were thinking about how great it would be to get off our bike saddles and eat real food somewhere. We rolled into the high school parking lot where our cars were parked after about 85 miles in the saddle. And one of the hardest things I had to do all day was roll back out of the parking lot while Sarah and Mindy were putting on their running shoes and do another 25ish solo miles. I knew there was a loop that I thought was about 20 miles so I headed out to do that. About halfway through I realized it was only about a 10 mile loop and I'd have to do the loop AGAIN if I was going to have any hope of hitting 110. At this point, I started thinking that maybe I would just do 100-105 miles, I had no mental willpower to do the loop a second time. I told myself I could get off my bike after 6.5 hours, even if I was not at the mileage I wanted to be at. Then I took in some more food, started to feel better, and began doing little out-and-backs on any flat sideroads that I saw (those are hard to come by in that area). The miles started to add up, my speed picked up (amazing what some flat roads will do for speed!), my mood lifted, and I ended up rolling back into the parking lot at exactly 111 miles. DONE!

Well, not completely. I now had a 1:15 transition run ahead of me. I will say this, it is easy to blow off a 15--20 minute transition run (NOT that you should, just that it suddenly becomes easy to justify it because what is 20 minutes? And for some reason those 20 minute transition runs seems to last absolutely forever) - but it is NOT easy to blow off a 1 hour 15 minute transition run. And knowing that, it was actually relatively easy to put on my running shoes, plug the iPod into my ears, and set off with a full waterbottle in tow. I had some HR zones I was going to need to hit and it actually went surprisingly well. The weather had cooled off to the low 90s (this according to the bank thermometer) and the hills looked worse than they actually were. And I was so, so happy to be out running and have my legs feel so good after that long, hot ride. And my stomach felt good - everything felt good, making me think that THIS is the way I need to ride the IMLP course - conservative and consistent - and this is how I need to fuel during the bike - Clif bars, a few gels, LOTS of salts, and plenty of water. The only low point in my run came when I tripped around mile 7 in the middle of town and slid/rolled down the sidewalk, skinning my right knee. Awesome. I tried to wipe up the blood that was rapidly dripping towards a pair of favorite socks using leaves from a nearby tree and that worked well enough. At this point, I looked like a dirty, muddy, bloody and sweaty version of myself. Thankfully I had a clean shirt in the car that I could change into for the ride home/pitstop at the grocery store to house some watermelon and protein smoothies. I finished the run at an even nine miles, leaving me with 120 miles for the day. I also came back to the car to the best text from Mr. Sweetie - making homemade pizza for dinner tonight. He knows the way straight to my heart. Saturday night was spent parked on the couch, icing my knee which had stiffened up on the drive home, eating pizza and ice cream, before going to bed. I ended up getting out of bed around 11pm to eat more snacks because the beast was hungry. 

I woke up this morning and my knee was stiff and sore. Sigh. Not the way you want it to feel when you have a long run staring you in the face. It was humid as all heck outside, even at 7-something in the morning. Mindy and I traded texts when we woke up and headed out the door at roughly the same time to meet on the bike path. Having a run buddy to commiserate with on how sore your legs feel and how much you are sweating and how you desperately want watermelon makes things seem not nearly that bad. We did the bike path loop of 4-mile run to the Mt. Vernon Trail (the breeze along the water was so nice - and the Potomac looked inviting - that is when you know it is hot outside when you consider a dip in the nasty Potomac), and up the hills on the Custis Trail, and back down the W&OD. I'd say Mindy and I felt pretty rusty for the first 4-5 miles and then we got into the zone and kept a relatively consistent pace that was speedy compared to how fast we felt like we were moving. The chit-chat stopped as we climbed the Custis trail out of Rosslyn and up to Ballston. We found our legs in Ballston and ticked off some miles a little quicker than we intended (at this point we just wanted to be done as quickly as possible) and I think I burned a few too many matches at this point because at mile 16, my legs became dead weight and the thought of four more miles ahead of me was daunting and slightly terrifying. My muscles were tight, I could feel the chafing happening (damn you, humidity!), we'd gone through so much water, I had ditched my shirt at this point because it was soaking wet and shellacked to my torso, gross, and my gosh what I wouldn't do for a popsicle at that point. Also, my fingers on the hand holding my disgusting shirt were getting pruned, like they'd been submerged in water for too long.  Again - humidity. Hitting "stop" on my Garmin when it turned over to 20 miles has never ever ever felt so good as it did today. After a quick trip to the Dog Park with Miles to meet up with Aaron, Brian, and Travis and their dogs (Miles was a jealous hater when they all went swimming and I wouldn't let him because bathing him was not on my to-do list for today), I spent this afternoon laying in bed eating ice cream and then napping. I had all these grand plans to do laundry, clean, do something constructive but none of that happened. I did just eat one of the best pasta dinners ever - homemade pasta with pesto made out of swiss chard (if you put enough garlic in the pesto, you can pretty much use any green plant for pesto and I will never know the difference). I exercised some self control and saved my third helping for tomorrow's second lunch. Can we talk about how I excited I am to not set my alarm tomorrow to go to the pool?! Rest Day here I come! And even more importantly, I think I see the light at the end of the Ironman Peak Training Tunnel. Not that I'm not enjoying it - because I am - but my gosh, I don't think our salaries will be able to support our grocery bills if this keeps up. I feel good and deliciously tired in the best way possible. I'm so excited for race day. I'm so excited that so many of my friends will be on the race course racing and so many others will be there cheering. Here's to hoping that the third time is the charm and I'll finally learn how to master this race!

A quick, non-triathlon related note: HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my mother-in-law Lori and to my sister-in-law Steph! I hope you both had wonderful birthdays! And a big congrats to my sister-in-law Allie for finishing nursing school! We wish we could've been out there to celebrate with you and eat some of that awesome cake! Love you all!

28 June 2013

Gearing up

This is it - I'm in the thick of Ironman training, it doesn't get longer, more sweaty, or more hunger-inducing than this. Last weekend was the Diabolical Double, this weekend a long ride along the SkyMass route with Mindy and Sarah and we'll probably see Kristin out there. Party on Skyline Drive in the summah. Then Sunday is a long run. When I'm in the middle of training builds like this, I just put my head down and try to get it all done. It doesn't always happen the way I want it to, here and there I'll find myself on the bike at 9pm after getting home from work late. Or I'll play the pro/con game of which swim practice do I go to the next morning - the 5:30am or the 7am? The 5:30am one is always smarter, but it sure doesn't feel that way at 4:50 when my iPhone is blaring its alarm at me. And then there's the whole eating enough to sustain everything. I was very, very happy to get my hands on the Skratch Labs Portables recipe book this evening. Within the hour of ripping off the plastic wrapping, I had my first recipe in the oven - French Toast Cakes. French toast in portable form - best idea ever. These will be taking up residence in my jersey pockets tomorrow morning. This is how my Friday evenings are now spent - baking and then sampling the goodies. The last time I sat in front of the TV and zoned out was Sunday when I was catatonic on the couch post-Deep Creek Lake trip.
And we'll just briefly touch on the meltdown city that happens here and there. Not usually during training. No crying allowed on the bike. Typically the meltdowns are triggered by silly #firstworldproblems. Tonight it was a combo of getting home late, getting caught in a downpour (which stopped when I arrived at my door), finding out that kebabs, not pizza, were for dinner (3 bagel Fridays just don't give no satisfaction), and then my Kindle breaking on me - again - after I just downloaded a new book. See, no big deal, but the smoke filling up the house while we grilled the kebabs on the stove because we had no more gas for the grill was the last straw. No, realizing we were out of dishsoap and had a sink full of dishes, THAT was the last straw. I haven't worn this pair of super cranky pants in awhile. Good thing tomorrow is a new day. And I have french toast cakes to fill my jersey pockets, girlfriends to ride my bike with, and a husband who loves me despite the meltdowns.

24 June 2013

Summer Nights

Remember those nights when you were a kid and you'd be playing outside with your best buddies until the sun went down and the fireflies lit up the evening? I just enjoyed the adult version of that and it made me feel like a kid again. Perfect summer night, stopped at Mindy's on my bike commute home, let myself in through their back gate and joined the impromptu burrito and chocolate cake party in the backyard. Chatted and laughed with my friends until the sun sank low into the sky. Chased the last moments of daylight on my ride home down the bike path and watched the fireflies grow more numerous with each passing mile. It was a beautiful, perfect summer night in every way possible.

23 June 2013

2013 Gran Fondo Diabolical Double Ride Report!!

This Saturday was the Gran Fondo Diabolical Double ride out in Deep Creek, MD - 125 miles and 16,000 feet of climbing. Oof. I did this ride last year and the parts that I remembered being horrifying weren't nearly as bad this year - but then other parts I completely forgot about were prominently hard-as-heck this year. I also needed at least 3 hands to count all the salt tabs I consumed and probably the same number of hands to count the number of cookies I ate.

We had an awesome house this year right off the lake thanks to Sarah's family - 6 bedrooms and 13 people and it didn't feel crowded at all. One of my favorite parts of the weekend was hanging out at the house with everyone - Sarah's family was wonderful - so welcoming and fun and it felt like being part of a big extended family for the weekend. So thank you Littlefields! Can't wait to see you at Lake Placid next month! Mindy and Bart, Dawn and Mike also stayed in the house and as Mindy would say, we crushed pizza and pints of ice cream like it was our job.

Sarah and I headed out of DC on Thursday night after the pm commute traffic died down, allowing us to have all day Friday (which also happened to be the first day of summer) to enjoy this:

The dock we swam off of at Deep Creek Lake
We had a lazy morning, I slept in until 7:45, which was fabulous, and then I lost count of how many pancakes I made while Sarah and I chit-chatted and ate the pancakes as they came off the griddle.  We originally went to the State Park to do our open water swim, but the lifeguards wouldn't let us swim outside the little swim area marked off by a buoy line so we went to a friend's dock in a low-boat traffic cove to open water swim instead. We had planned for an hour, but after swimming to the other side of the cove and back and then treading water for awhile, it only came out to about 45 minutes, but whatever. The water was a little chilly at first, but I warmed right up and it was great to do some open water swimming, and on such a beautiful day. I drafted off of Sarah for the first half and then her and her super swimming skills dropped me :) We stopped off at the local market for subs on the way back home - so good. We stopped by packet pickup to grab our race numbers and then headed back to the house while everyone else arrived in town. I cleaned a year's worth of bike-commute dirt off my roadbike and lubed up the chain so at least it wouldn't sound clanky up and down all the hills. We had a big pasta dinner and went to the Creamery for some of the best ice cream ever, as well as a pretty sunset.

5:20am came early Saturday morning. I ate as many pancakes as I could (pancakes + nutella = winning). I made a huge batch of pancakes on Friday afternoon so I would have something substantial to eat pre-ride on Saturday morning. We were all sorely disappointed that I didn't finish the whole plate. Maybe next time. I actually managed to get my stuff together and get out the door with Sarah for an on-time 6am departure and we arrived at the top of Wisp and snagged a pretty great parking spot. I kept reminding myself that this was just a ride, not a race, and there was no reason to be nervous, but riding in Deep Creek always brings out the excited butterflies, whether or not there is a stopwatch on the line. I made sure my tires were pumped, waterbottles were filled with Skratch Labs, and jersey pockets and sports bra were stuffed with nutrition (this is what happens when you forget your bento box. Hooray for being a girl and needing a sports bra, saved the day!). I had made some Feed Zone savory bread cakes, I had an insane amount of Clif MoJo bars, as well as various flavors of Gu. We lined up at the start and I saw all my Ignite Endurance teammates/buddies.

Dawn, Sarah, Mindy and I at the start. Seb and Mike photobombing. Nice :)
The ride starts with about a 5 mile descent where you can pick up some pretty decent speed. I prefer to hang off the back and let the Speedy McSpeedsters race down the mountain while I roll down at a more manageable speed without worries of being run over. Sarah, Dawn, Mindy and I chatted on our way down and I think they all wanted to drop me by mile 5 so they wouldn't hear me call out every mile marker. Doing that 125 times can make for a long day, ha! The weather was sunny and cool, definitely warmer than last year, but with the sun still low in the sky, it made for a very pleasant start to the ride. The downhills at the beginning lull you into complacency, until you make a right-hand turn around mile 10 and the first steep uphill slaps you back to reality. But the views once you got to the top of the climb and then descended down into the valley where Aid Station 1 was made it all worth it. Dawn and I rode together to the Mile 1 aid station where we regrouped with Sarah and Mindy and caught up with AJ and listened to the steel drum band while we stuffed our faces with M&Ms, cookies, and goldfish.

First aid station. We all look happy!
After aid station 1 is where the climbing really begins. It was also starting to get warm and one of my main focuses of the day was to make sure I ate enough (I usually ate a MoJo bar each hour and then had a buffet at the aid stations) and took in enough fluid and salt. I did well with this early on in the ride and felt good. I also knew it was going to be a long day so I didn't try to push the pace. Dawn and I rode together and we all regrouped at Aid Station 2. Between Aid Station 2 and Aid Station 3 is where two of the most major climbs were - Bowman Hill and Killer Miller. I shamelessly used my granny gear for these climbs (and basically all the other climbs). Bowman Hill was longer than I remembered and steep enough that I saw someone in front of me tip over. At Aid Station 3 I ran into Bob Young who was on the fence of doing the century or the double and I successfully convinced him to keep me company on the double. Last year on the double I rode the second half on my own, after Karen split off on the century, and it was a little lonely and easy to fall into a dark spot. Bob is a superstar cyclist and I had no hope of keeping up with him on the hills, he is a machine. It was great to have the company. Soon after Aid Station 3 we hit the gravel road section that I hated from last year. It was less muddy this year and it went substantially better. There were a few instances where I thought my back wheel would spin out, but I managed to hold it together. The next few miles were a welcome relief from climbing with some flats and rollers, but around mile 70, we hit more serious climbs as we reached the top of Big Savage Mountain. The descent into Westernport was another part that freaked me out last year. I remember having to stop partway down the steep descent to give my hands a rest from squeezing the brakes. This year I figured out the trick - get into my drops and hold the brakes. Worked like a charm. I was still feeling pretty decent when I reached Aid Station 4 at mile 80-something in Westernport. The dark, dark part of the ride happened between Aid Station 4 and 5 where the climbing did. not. end. Ever. Well, that is an exaggeration, but it really felt like the climbing wouldn't end. This was also the hottest part of the day and I fell off the wagon of taking in enough salts and water/Skratch Labs. Last year my Garmin died during this leg of the ride, but no such luck this year - I got to watch my average speed slowly sink lower and lower as I did the climb from miles 95-98. I hit aid station 5 at mile 100 in low, low spirits, low sodium, and dehydrated. Awesome. Bob put it best when he commented that we pulled ourselves out of the depths of Aid Station 5 - I ate a ton, drank a ton, took more salt and within a couple miles, I felt like a normal person again. I completely and totally did not remember all the climbing from Aid Station 5 to Aid Station 6 from last year, so, so much. So traumatic I must've blocked it out. It was at this point that I just looked at the pavement under my wheel and NOT up the neverending hills. Aid Station 6 marked the end of the hard stuff; with the exception of the final climb up to the top of Wisp, everything else was flat and rollers. At this point, my goal was to get my average speed back into the teens, 13mph was the magic number. The cruelest part of the ride was going by my house at mile 119, there was a bit of temptation to make a hard right into the driveway :)

Rockstar Bob Young and I at Aid Station 6 - so close to being done!
Team Z had an awesome cheering squad halfway up the climb and it was such a boost. My teammates Andy, Mike, and Brian were driving down the mountain as I was climbing and they turned around and drove back up to the top just to cheer me on, they rock! I crossed the finish line and according to my Garmin, my time in the saddle was 9:33, average speed 13.1mph. Getting off my bike never felt so good. I did a quick brick run down to the Team Z tent to thank everyone for their encouragement and cheer for other people climbing. I saw AJ and Mindy and ran back up to the finish to meet up with them.

AJ, Mindy and I - so glad to be off our bikes!
Mindy and I made a beeline for the grocery store where we bought three pints of ice cream and a box of Magnum Bars. Priorities. And we ate a ton of leftover pizza back at the house. It was glorious. Afterwards, I barely remember falling asleep and slept like a rock until 6 the next morning.

I woke up starving at 6am, ate more leftover pancakes, grabbed my running shoes and headed out for a 2.5 hour run. I didn't take the Garmin because I didn't want to run on pace, but rather on feel. I expected to feel terrible on my run, but my legs felt surprisingly good. I thought about running to the base of Wisp, but ended up doing an out-and-back past the mountain. I learned that there are no flat places to run in Deep Creek. I hit a bit of a low point in my run around mile 15, but that only lasted a mile or so, probably related to hunger, and felt better once I took a gel. I think I got in about 17-18 miles. I felt better than last year, probably because I didn't try to run up Wisp. Sarah and I thought about going for a swim for a hot second but decided we'd had enough and headed back to DC.

It was an awesome, awesome weekend. Loved riding bikes and eating ice cream with some of my favorite people. Shout-out to Skratch Labs for the hydration mix, which definitely helped save my day; and ZocaGear for a comfy kit. I think the most sore part of my body are my forearms. I know, strange. Apparently you use your arms quite a bit when trying to pull yourself up hills. And now I'm off to bed, feeling deliciously tired and ready to sleep at least 9 hours!

17 June 2013

It's All About GO GO GO GO GO

The past two days I've been home and awake for maybe a whopping 3 hours each day. I guess this makes up for my world class laziness on Saturday wherein I did my brick workout (ever run 15 miles after riding your bike for awhile? After about mile 12 it gets a little less fun. Especially in the middle of a warm day. I've never thought about popsicles so much). Saturday after the brick I was a waste of space for no particular reason. Hate days like that. I just wanted to go to bed so I could get a re-do on a new day and maybe be a little more productive next go-around.

Sunday was much, much better. I got up at 6ish, which was terribly confusing for those first seconds I was awake - was I getting up for work? Why is the alarm going off? It took a minute but then I remembered I was getting up to ride my bike. The day's bike workout was going to serve double-duty: 1) the weekend bike workout (captain obvious here); and 2) a ride out to my Aunt Amy's place in Loudon County to watch her kiddos, thus avoiding any and all traffic on 66. Win-win-win all-around. I rode out on the W&OD trail, taking it out past Leesburg before doubling back to meet my aunt near our Rt 50 meeting spot. The first ten miles I have no idea where my legs were, but they were replaced by bricks and I was moving a whopping 14mph average speed even though I felt like my effort level should've warranted at least another mile or two per hour. Things picked up though after that and I ended the ride on a high note. Also, there weren't a ton of people out on the trail, starting early has its perks. Then it was marathon babysitting duty of my adorable little cousins. Last time I babysat them, much time was spent tearfully looking out the front window until mom and dad came home. Traumatic enough experience that the Lilly tells me to go away whenever I come visit, automatically assuming I'm there to babysit and mom and dad are leaving. Needless to say, I was a little concerned this babysitting stint would be a bit of a setback in our relationship. BUT - popsicles saved the day, I distracted them with popsicles as mom and dad walked out the door and it was like magic. We ended up having a great time, going to the playground, taking a wagon ride, playing in their playroom. They napped hard (I was tempted to nap too - kids are tiring - but there was some serious kitchen pantry raiding that needed to happen - goldfish, cereal, all sorts of good stuff we don't keep at our house because we have no self control). Sarah stopped by for a visit and Mr. Sweetie came out too; the cutest part of the night was when he and Xander were intently watching golf (Xander is 2) and Mr. Sweetie brought in his clubs from the car and was showing Xander how to putt the ball. Xander's words - ohhh, shouldn't we be doing this outside? Ever the stickler for rules, ha! I went promptly to bed as soon as I got home - the kiddos were always on the go!

Today was early swim practice - made it just late enough that I missed a few of the 50s from the first set. I ended up leading my lane for most of practice - I'm at that awkward in-between lane speed where I'm kind of a sandbagger for staying in my current lane (but everyone in the lane is super nice and it was the lane I was in last summer - I am comfortable there); but I could probably just barely hang on to the feet in front of me if I moved up a lane. I'm always watching that lane as I'm going up and down to pool, comparing my speed to the people over there - some quick swimmers over in that lane. I might give it a go later this week. We'll see. I made it to the office by 7:30, had enough time to do my 30 minutes of strength training in the office gym, and was at my desk before 8:30am, which allowed me to leave early enough so I wasn't speed-racing my way to Tri360 for the Monday night run. I got there early enough to buy new running shoes. I'd bought a pair of hot pink KSwiss shoes back in February. They were the lightest shoes I've ever run in and I think they served me well, but I could feel it in my shins and knees that I had run those hot pink shoes into the ground and it was time to invest in some new ones. I went with a brand that I just recently heard about and that Tri360 has started carrying - "On" running shoes. I took them out for an inaugural spin on the group run tonight and overall I thought they were really comfortable. I'm looking forward to continuing my Ironman training in them.

This coming weekend I am so, so, SO excited about riding the Diabolical Double at the Garrett County Gran Fondo with some of my favorite people! Many of my Ignite teammates will be there, and so will some other friends from Snapple and Team Z. This was one of my favorite training weekends from last year and I always look forward to a chance to visit Deep Creek Lake in western Maryland where it is at least 10 degrees cooler than DC. Also, there is a super yummy ice cream shop right on the lake. I think Sarah, Mindy, Dawn and I will be stopping there at least once, if not twice, this weekend! Will bike for ice cream. And fig pizza. I cannot contain my excitement, squeeeeee!

11 June 2013

Things that go by the wayside

My training gal pals and I were trading emails today about trying to fit it all in - IM training, full-time jobs, commutes, keeping our homes from looking like we completely neglect them due to training, and being social. It's a balancing act, for sure, and not one I feel like I excel at. I've done an Ironman every year since 2008, so we're moving into year 6 of this nonsense. It has simply become a way of life, and I feel like it only becomes an invasive monster for the 2.5 months leading up to the race. Rather than asking how I do it, the better question to ask is how does Mr. Sweetie put up with this? Most of the time I feel like I am flying through each day by the seat of my pants and there are many days that I wish I could just work from home because the commute time could instead be used for something more fun and rewarding, like extra sleep. My time management isn't the greatest (but I seem to manage it better when I have alot on my plate, so I guess this whole IM training isn't a bad thing) and a fair number of things fall to the wayside...

- It looks like Banana Republic and Spandex spawned all over our bedroom, due to the three weeks worth of clean laundry strewn about that desperately needs to be folded and put away. I'm searching through two hampers of clean clothes just to find a pair of bike shorts.

- I'm cheap and bike/tri shorts can be expensive and I barely have enough pairs to get me through the week. Therefore, on days where I ride the trainer, I wear my old shorts that are so worn out they are indecently translucent. But I'm biking by myself in the basement where only the cats can see me and they lick their own behinds, so I think their threshold of indecency is even higher than mine.

- I had a mini meltdown when I couldn't find any more Skratch Labs lemon-lime mix in my nutrition box in the pantry (I eventually found it) and then had an even bigger meltdown when I couldn't adjust one of the screws on my trainer (turns out I violated the lefty-loosey law). This was all so I could ride my bike at 8:15pm because guess who needed her beauty sleep and slept until 7:30 this morning, wiping out any chances of getting this trainer workout in before work. Sigh.

- My bike is a permanent resident of our reading room upstairs by the front door, even though there is a perfectly good hook in the basement for it to hang out on. Some days it feels like too much work to lug the bike up and down the basement steps so I just leave it out.

- The dish fairy neglects to put away the clean dishes sometimes. She is probably the sister of the missing laundry fairy.

- There is more but it is late and I'm going to bed.

10 June 2013

Monday, Monday. Isn't that a Title of an Oldies Song?

Today was Monday at its finest. I'd say most-special-moment-of-the-day award goes to when I put on my bike shoes for my commute home and they were still wet and gross from my AM commute and smelled about 10x worse than ever, if that is possible. Close runners up for this award goes to flatting on my way to swim practice, when I was already cutting it close, but at least now I had an excuse (and layers upon layers of bike grease all over me to prove it); getting caught in multiple downpours both to and from work (that takes talent and timing on both my part AND Mother Nature's); and re-covering my hands in bike grease on my PM commute just by touching the handlebars that were still grimy from this morning's debacle. I'm also a fan of that moment when I was furiously pedaling down by the Smithsonian as the sky got grayer by the minute and then, beyond the Washington Monument, I saw a giant sheet of rain covering Rosslyn as it slowly marched my way and there was NOTHING I could do about it - it was inevitable that I was going to get drenched. Sigh.

Silver linings?
A nice older gentleman helped me change my tire AND he even pumped it up for me so I didn't have to wrestle (and probably lose against) my CO2 cartridge. Thank You Good Samaritan!

Getting caught in the downpour helped wash away the nasty sewage I biked through, as one of the sewers along 4 Mile Run was obviously having a problem. Disgusting. Arlington County needs to do something about that hot mess.

The bike commute and all it's little issues was still better than using WMATA. Metro, take note, you are lower on the totem pole than a bike commute filled with flat tires, bike grease, heavy rain, and sewage.

The Hains Point outdoor 50 meter pool of awesomeness is back in business for the season! I did the Morning Masters last summer and it was so great that I thought about it all winter while I was swimming laps in the high school's indoor 25yd pool. The 90 minute swim practices were helpful last year in building my endurance and I'm convinced they helped make me noticeably faster, as I got a 7 minute PR in my IM swim (I'd always been in the same 2-3 minute window and never had a major breakthrough until IMLP 2012). I also learned all the strokes last year and learned to do them well enough to get me up and down the lanes. I do notice that I'm more sore after these practices than I am when I swim in the 25yd pool - you take alot more strokes in a long-course pool than short-course. The first day or two my left shoulder felt a little crunchy, but it feels much better today so I think I was just getting used to the higher volume of swimming. I'm seeing familiar faces in my lanes and each day I've been to practice so far, I've stayed to the bitter, bitter end, being one of the last out of the pool. The practices go by quickly, we stay on task pretty well and rarely sit at the wall and chat, as Flanagan will call us out if we do that, he runs a tight ship. I usually have just enough time to catch my breath and then it's time to push off the wall again. I'm getting in an average of 3,500-4,000m of swimming each practice, hopefully the extra volume will translate to faster times :)

Obviously not taken today. There are no downpours.

09 June 2013

Ironman Training is Better with Friends (and brownies)

This weekend was spent on the bike, in my run shoes, and at the dinner table eating enough food to make up for the caloric hole I dug myself into. Each week the training rides get progressively longer and suddenly you find yourself riding your first 100 miler of the season when it feels like just last weekend 50 miles was a far ride. But I will say this - my legs were feeling the 17 miles of running I did today MUCH more than they felt the 100 miles of biking I did yesterday.

Mindy and I had originally thought about riding Skyline but then decided that we didn't want to prolong an already-long day with an extra couple hours of driving to and from the Shenandoah Valley. Instead, we rode from our front doors, down the DC cyclist superhighway of MacArthur Blvd (to borrow the term from Kathy) and out to Poolesville. The weather was perfect, perfect, perfect for a bike ride, especially in the beginning when it was cloudy with a light breeze and in the 70s to low 80s. We both used this training ride as an opportunity to practice nutrition strategies so I ate alot of Clif Mojo bars, PowerBars, a few gels, and numerous bottles of Skratch Labs raspberry, a bottle of water and then Gatorade when I'd blown through the rest of my fluids. I think this strategy is working, as I didn't come close to bonking and felt really good on my transition run.

We had SO much fun on this ride! Chit-chat mixed in with some IM paced intervals and we ran into numerous other cyclists that we knew, which made the ride go by even faster. We both climbed Sugarloaf for the first time (I'd tried climbing it once before but took the wrong road which turned into gravel and I gave up after about a mile). The climb up wasn't too bad, a good strength workout for your legs and hips and glutes, and I was surprised at how slow the descent was with all the switchbacks, it took almost as long to go down as it did to go up.

It was about mile 95, as we were biking down the Mt. Vernon Trail back to the house, when I realized just how good my legs felt - they did NOT feel like they had ridden almost 100 miles. Maybe this is partly due to being in the middle of heavy training and my body is finally used to this sort of mileage. But I also didn't redline the ride, pushing the pace for a few intervals but I didn't feel spent - I'm wondering if it might pay dividends on my Ironman run if I take the Lake Placid bike course a little more conservatively. Food for thought. Oh, I also think I'm going to ditch the aerobottle as I'm starting to believe it might be the cause of my upper GI/indigestion woes, because during training rides I just use my cage waterbottles and never have any problems - but I often have problems during races and that's when I use that aerobottle.

Anyway, Mindy and I finished the ride feeling good and thrilled to be off the bike. We did a 35 minute T-run with some intervals mixed in and both our legs showed up to have a good day. I did spend most of the run thinking about the popsicles waiting for me in the freezer at home.

Today I had a 2:20 run on tap, which I figured would be about 17 miles. I ran into my friend Jess at the beginning of my run, it was so great to see her. She's back in DC for the summer and I'm looking forward to some solid training sessions with her. Mindy and I ran together and it was beyond awesome to have company on the run - I do so many of my runs solo that I forget how nice it is to run with someone. We chose an out-and-back on the relatively flat W&OD to 4-Mile Run to Mt Vernon trails. It was funny, at the beginning of the run, Mindy was telling me about her long run last weekend where the last three miles felt like an eternity. I had the exact same feeling during the last few miles of my run today. The first 14 felt pretty darn fantastic, I hit the prescribed interval splits and our moderate pace didn't feel effortless but it did feel sustainable, which is really all you need. Right near Mindy's place, we ran into Jason and Julie and chatted for a few minutes before continuing onward. After Mindy split off to go back home, I had about 2.5-3 miles left to do solo. And they lasted FOREVER. I was counting down the minutes and so were my poor legs, which suddenly felt like they had been through a meat grinder. Such a great feeling when I finished and had that popsicle I was thinking about all morning.

This weekend wasn't just full of workouts, we had some good eats, good company with friends, and got some stuff done around the house. Mr. Sweetie and I checked out Union Market in DC today - I had seen a quick mention of it in Food and Wine magazine and lo and behold, this gem is literally a few blocks away from my office. It's a market in a big warehouse building with lots of vendors selling locally sourced food and goods - I had some fantastic salted caramel gelato and we split a yummy sandwich and picked up some fantastic loaves of bread. I plan on making some trips over there for lunch in the near future, definitely worth the few block walk. We had our friends Karen and John over for homemade pizza last night, it was so nice to have a chance to catch up with them. And tonight I made peanut butter chocolate nutella blondie brownies, which are very tasty chilled rather than warm.
We took a trip to Home Depot this afternoon, in an attempt to be handy and domestic. We've decided that we're not going to be those neighbors with the crummy looking front yard any longer. First step - we bought a hydrangea bush with light blue flowers (the same color hydrangea we had in our wedding, I will forever love that color). Mr. Sweetie planted it this afternoon. If we manage to keep the hydrangea plant alive for a few weeks, we may go hog wild and plant a few more flowers. Baby steps. No use getting overzealous and buying a bunch of plants that may not survive the summer due to our lack of green thumb.

06 June 2013

Bike Commute Throwdown

Have you ever been challenged to a bike race on your commute home? Yeah, I never had until yesterday. And I won't really even say challenged as much as scoffed at. I was biking down the W&OD, a couple miles from home, minding my own business and just focused on getting home when I came to an intersection and waited for the light to turn. As it did, this middle-aged guy in a local triathlon shirt and a roadbike with clip-on aerobars skirts by me, looks at me, shakes his head, and mutters something along the lines of oh, so you think you are speedy and then furiously pedals off (while biking on the wrong side of the bike path, blocking me from passing him). WTH? I hadn't even seen him on the bike path before and I don't know how long he had been riding behind me to make that kind of observation. So I pedal a little harder and stay just behind him. Two can play at this game. We come to another stoplight a few blocks later, I had managed to pass him because he finally decided to move over and I rolled up to the intersection and while I waited for the light to turn, he maneuvers himself in front of me. The light turns and we are off - he goes bombing down the bikepath, taking a sharp turn a bit wide and recklessly (luckily there was nobody coming around the corner the opposite direction), while I hung back, waiting until the straightaway to pedal harder. I can see he is slowing down, the 120rpms burning up his legs (ha!), I zing by while he groans in general irritation that he was passed by a girl. By the time we get to the next light (and my turnoff to my street), I was breathing pretty hard but tried not to let it show, talk about reaching lactate threshold. Maybe in the future the middle-aged guy will think twice about scoffing at a female cyclists - sometimes we can be on the speedy side, watch out!

05 June 2013

20th Half Ironman in the Books! Rev3 Quassy Race Report

It wasn't my best day on the race course, but it wasn't my worst (see: Vegas and my many attempts at Kinetic). Rev3 Quassy WAS my 20th half ironman and I think that was pretty cool, especially coming exactly 5 years after my first ever half ironman. So there's that.

I initially signed up for this race because I got shut out of Eagleman (and of course this year Eagleman's weather will probably be cooler than Quassy's. Le sigh). It was going to be my third year doing the race and I hoped to break my very consistent 5:28 finishing time streak. As race day got closer, I got more excited - my parents were coming to watch, I was going to spend the weekend with Mindy and Bart and Bart's family (thanks to Bart's parents for opening their home to me and feeding me a yummy pasta dinner!), my friend Stacey was also doing the race, and my teammate Leslie and her fiance Nate were also there - it was going to be so, so nice to see familiar faces out on the course. Plus it's comforting to know a course well enough because you've done the race so often that you don't need to preview it. The East Coast was experiencing its first heat wave of the season last week and I'd hoped that the weather would be cooler in Connecticut, but alas it was not. I'd had about zero days to acclimate to the hot and humid weather so I figured it would be best to race the other girls in my age group and NOT the clock since we all know how well I do in hot races, but a course PR was still in the back of my mind. I'd had a weekend of relatively easy workouts immediately prior and my legs felt fresh. But unfortunately, sometimes you just feel flat on race day and you simply have to make lemonade out of the lemons you are handed.

Pre-race: the first year I did Quassy, I was so paranoid of getting to the park too late to find parking and then getting stuck at the shuttle lot, I arrived 15 minutes before transition opened and was the first one there. Talk about rockstar parking. The second year, I arrived a little later and still found parking in the main lot. This year I rolled in kind of late and managed to find something in the lot across the street. At this rate, next time I will definitely find myself in the shuttle lot. I forced down one bagel and gagged down one bite of my second bagel before tossing it out - if only I could have my Bagel Friday appetite on race mornings, I would be set. I set up transition, made sure my tires were pumped and my wheels were on straight (I have definitely done a race with flat-ish tires and crooked wheels). I set up my new aerobottle, crammed my nutrition in my bento box and checked over my transition area about 20 times before I deemed it all set. I eventually made my way down to the swim area, splashed around with Mindy for a little bit, choked down a gel, and watched the 30 minutes of swim waves go off before me. I saw Stacey as I got into my corral and I told her I knew I would see her in T2, as she was starting in the wave behind me and she's a rockstar swimmer. She laughed, but I totally saw her pink cap zoom by me a little before the swim exit, ha!

The Swim: 33:48 (9/50 in AG)
Both times that I've done this race before, I've finished in 35 minutes. It's a triangular swim in crisp, cool water - basically my favorite leg of the race. My plan was to find fast feet, work hard, and come out in under 35 minutes. I found clear water quickly, though things got a little crowded around the buoys, and during the first section, I stayed right on course. When we made the first right turn, we were heading directly in the sun and I couldn't see any of the yellow buoys. Brilliant. Everyone else was in the same boat and I decided I'd just follow the splashes rather than waste time trying to shade my eyes and see the buoys. It was during this section that i figured I'd lost the most time and maybe I'd be stuck with a 35 again. I picked up the pace after the second turn when I was no longer in the sun. I focused on my form and rotating my hips and torso and pulling hard. About 400m before the exit, I found myself neck and neck with another girl in my wave and we were going a similar pace and each time she surged, so did I and vice-versa, good motivation to push it hard to the end. It was about this time I saw Stacey's pink cap zoom by me :) I got out of the water in under 35 minutes and was quite pleased with myself.

T1: 2:19. I will be perpetually stuck in my wetsuit in T1. Full-sleeved or sleeveless. It doesn't matter.

The Bike: 3:00:52 (11/50 AG)
I'd gone under 3 hours on the bike last year and it was my goal to go faster - by 5 minutes or 5 seconds. Whatever. Just get to T2 faster. I hopped on my bike and immediately felt meh. I wasn't tired, I wasn't hungry, my legs were rested from a relatively light week, but I just felt flat and there was no pep in my step. I felt like this for about the first half of the race, then I felt like I found my legs for awhile and picked up speed (and happiness) and then during the last five miles or so, I felt flat again, and tried to pedal harder in a desperate attempt to come in under 3 hours. I could feel the heat of the day early on in the bike (and it's not even like it was that hot, but it had been a chilly spring and I'd still been biking with arm warmers and gloves well into May) and I was focused on taking in enough fluids so I didn't get dehydrated. My aerobottle was filled with water and my three waterbottle cages with Skratch Labs of various flavors. My plan was to drink every 10-15 minutes and eat something (either a bite of a powerbar/clif bar/gel) every 15 minutes for the first hour and every 20 minutes for the second hour. This was the strategy I used in Kinetic and it worked well, but towards the end of the Quassy ride I was feeling more thirsty than I thought I should so I downed more water. I was also worried that maybe I didn't eat enough (1 PowerBar, 1 Clif MoJo bar, 1 Gu) so I tried to make sure I finished my MoJo bar and that meant eating more than every 20 minutes. This is probably partially where I went wrong because I had the world's worst indigestion on the run. Bleck. Anyway, I saw Stacey and Mindy on the bike and I also ran into Meg, a girl I was on Team Z with a few years ago before she moved to Boston - I love how small the triathlon community is. Meg had a great race and she would crush me on the descents and I'd make up time on the hills, but she eventually dropped me about 10 miles from the finish. Speaking of descents, I'm not a nervous descender and I have fun going fast - I am cautious and will usually tap the brakes to make sure I don't get too out of control - but everyone and their mother passes me on the downhills. It was to the point where I was looking forward to the uphills during Quassy (and fortunately there are alot of them) because that's when I made up time and caught people. I put forth an effort to pedal in the big ring on the downhills, rather than just coast, to see if that helped. It did, maybe a little. So, any tips on how to go down hills faster would be much appreciated! For the most part the bike was uneventful - the scenery was beautiful, I could tell it was getting hot, especially towards the end, I didn't flat or wreck (always a plus), and there were always, always people to chase. A few girls from other age groups passed me like I was standing still and so did one girl in my AG early on in the bike - I played leapfrog with another girl in my AG for most of the course, and she was getting on my nerves because she was blatantly blocking others from passing her by riding right next to the yellow line. Even when I'd holler on your left she wouldn't budge. So I'd pass her on the right and hope I didn't get penalized. I heard from others that she was also blatantly drafting off some of the men. The drafting is annoying but the blocking was dangerous - as it forced other riders to pass on her right. She didn't even move over for cars. End rant. During the last few miles of the bike, I kept checking my watch and knew I was cutting it super close to 3 hours. I tried to make up time in the last few miles (many of which were uphill, womp womp) but came up short in the end. The last three miles of the bike go by the first three miles of the run and I saw Leslie hammering away, already at mile 3 on the run. She looked like she was one of the first amateurs out there. I saw my parents as I rolled into T2, which was always a boost to the spirits.

T2: 1:32. I flung my bike on the rack and tried to make sense of all my crap strewn everywhere, eventually running out of transition with my shoes on, visor and racebelt in hand.

The Run: 1:56:17 (13/50).
This is where it gets ugly. I can usually tell in the first mile if my run is going to be pretty or if it's going to be ugly - and it is almost always dependent on GI condition. If my stomach is feeling OK and manageable, I can usually count on a good run; if things aren't feeling so great, the run can turn into a hot mess. I could tell my run at Quassy was going to be a hot mess right from the start. I don't know if I ate too much too fast on the bike or if drinking out of my aerobottle was the culprit, but it felt like someone was sitting on my chest and my upper GI/chest/throat felt really full, making running feel miserable with all the jostling. Quassy was the first time in awhile I used my aerobottle and this was the first time in awhile I felt like this on the run so maybe it was to blame. Not sure. Anyway, the first three miles of the course are mostly downhill and that's where I ended up having my one and only sub-8 minute mile. The rest of the run was a slog, getting slower by the mile. I found a rhythm and felt my best between miles 3-7, this was where there were some uphills and some rollers with an out-and back. I saw Mindy and she looked so strong and happy on the run. Around mile 7 is where the wheels started to fall off. It was a long uphill to mile 8 and it was hot out, I wasn't feeling great, and I became laser-focused on simply moving forward. Walking was never an option, of course, and I feel like that is a small victory in itself because in seasons past, I definitely would've been taking walk breaks feeling the way I did. My legs and pace never really recovered after mile 7. I saw my parents around mile 9 and they told me afterwards that I did not look happy. From miles 9-12 it is flat to downhill and I kept telling myself that I only had a handful of miles left and it would all be over. I held it together pretty well until the steep, long hill at mile 12. Mindy passed me there, hopping up the hill like it was nothing (she also negative split the pants off that run, simply amazing) and at that point I knew I was nowhere close to breaking 5:28 so I just chugged my way to the finish line, just feeling an overwhelming urge to be done. I wasn't enjoying myself at that point - you know how sometimes during a hard race it hurts, but you still feel strong and capable and find alot of pleasure in pushing through the pain? OK, I felt the opposite of that. Sigh.

Finish - 5:34:47 (13/50 AG)

Of course I'm disappointed in my finish time, especially because my legs weren't that sore the next day so I know that my craptastic run wasn't because my run legs didn't show up - it was probably more attributable to the hot weather, the indigestion, and my lack of focus during the run. And when I started the run feeling crummy, I didn't try to pull myself out of the rut and gave myself a pass to just survive rather than race. This is a problem that I know I need to work on. Quassy has become a race that attracts a super competitive field - it's a hilly, difficult course and many ladies (including Leslie, woo-hoo) went sub-5, which is really impressive. But with a big, competitive field comes an awesome group of spectators - I was a fan of the guys dressed up along the run course near the start/finish who were chasing the runners and goading them to go faster to the finisher chute. And then there was one dressed in a cape and crown with a microphone and he'd chase various runners to the finisher chute, screaming into his microphone. The race has gotten more notice in the community too, as I saw several people out in front of their homes along the bike course to cheer the racers on. This is truly a great race and Rev3 does a fantastic job running it. Thanks to all my team's sponsors, especially Tri360, Skratch Labs, Gu, who help make every race a good day to be out on the course, even if things don't go according to my race plan. And thanks to my parents for coming down and cheering! Congrats to my friends out there who all had solid times on the course, it was so fun to see everyone!