30 January 2013

Tricks of the Trade

It's almost the end of January, marking about a month since I've been back to serious training. Overall it has been a great month. Not perfect, but getting back into training and fitting in all the swimbikerun has been easier than I anticipated. I think there are a few reasons why things have been off to a better start than previous years.

- Combine workouts and commuting. I've made no secret of my dislike of Metro and its incompetence (90 minute commute home last night. Please note that I live 7 miles from work). I'd prefer to avoid the bus and the train as often as possible. Since purchasing Blue Seventy's brick bag from Tri360, I've been run commuting, either from home or the pool, as often as my schedule allows. When I run from home, it's about 8 miles (it would be a few miles shorter if the Pentagon wasn't in the way) and just over an hour - a beautiful run down the Mall and past the Smithsonian. When I ran from the pool today, it was less than 6.5 miles and substantially quicker than when I take public transportation. By combining the run with my commute, I'm saving time and money and sanity - it also makes it easier not to skip out on my run.

- Do not put off until later what you can do right now. I've made an effort to get in at least one of my workouts, if not both, before going into the office, whenever possible. I'm not exactly great when it comes to waking up early, but having my dog stomp all over me when he comes back upstairs after breakfast is usually helpful in getting me out of bed. If I get home late from work, it's alot easier to push off the workout to another day when I'm less tired/have more time/in the mood to sweat. But if I get it done in the morning, I have more energy during the day, my mood is better, and it's rather satisfying to fill out my Training Peaks entry first thing in the AM.

- Buddy system. I've been doing a fair amount of running and biking on my own, but I've been meeting Kendra during the week for some swimming. Knowing that she will be at the pool, waiting for me at 6:30am, is the motivation I need to get myself to the pool at a decent time. This, in turn, ensures I have enough time to do the entire swim set rather than cut it short the way I have in the past.

- Plan ahead. In the past I've looked at my next workout as I was lacing up my shoes or grabbing my swim goggles as I headed out the door. Not a whole lot of thinking ahead. This was definitely poor planning on my part - sometimes I'd find out at the last minute that the workout was longer than I had expected or it was a brick instead of just a bike ride. I'm making the effort to look at my workouts for the week on Sunday and then check my next day's workouts the day before. I haven't had to cut a swim, bike, or run short yet because of poor planning.

- No excuses. There have been plenty of nights that I've gone to bed later than I wanted and morning rolls around earlier than I'd like. Or I'm at my desk at work and suddenly it's 6pm and I still have to do TRX in the gym downstairs at the office. Or I overslept and if I do my run before work, I'm not going to make it to the office until some embarrassingly late hour. I'm not allowing myself to make excuses due to surrounding circumstances. Ninety-nine percent of the time, if I want something badly enough, I can make it happen. This applies to training as well - Overslept? Run commute and kill two birds with one stone. Wake up feeling tired? Go to the pool anyway, it will help with your energy level and you can go to bed earlier tonight because you won't need to swim after dinner. No excuses, just put your head down and do the work.

- Get excited. It is almost February which means March isn't far away and April follows shortly thereafter - and so does triathlon season. It's hitting me that I get to race in just a few short months and I'M EXCITED!  I can't wait! I still have a few races to sign up for, but I'm super happy with my schedule, especially when I find out about which of my friends are racing with me.

So that's that. My motivation level is high and training doesn't feel like drudgery. I find that I'm in a better mood when I get up and get my workout done - because after all, I don't think I've ever finished a training session filled with regret. But I know I've always regretted skipping or postponing one.

27 January 2013

Hill Repeats

Today was a hill repeat day for my run. I always do this workout on the same hill - Walter Reed Drive -  from the same Point A at the bottom of the hill to the same No Parking sign at the top. It's a good way to compare my splits from each time I do these hill repeats.

Biggest lesson learned from today - it is January and there is NO winning in January. And even if there was winning, it doesn't count because it is JANUARY. I shouldn't expect my fitness to be what it is during the summer. Even knowing this didn't make it any easier during the repeats when my mind was absolutely convinced that the Walter Reed Drive hill had somehow gotten steeper since the last time I ran it. Or that the No Parking sign at the top had been moved back a good ten yards since the last time.

Every time I do hill repeats it is a battle between my mind (the hill is steeper, the sign is further away, your legs feel terrible, why don't you cut this one short, so what if you only do 6 of the 8 repeats) and my body (quads on fire, glutes burning, you hate this workout, your form is falling apart). Fortunately there was a little tiny corner of my mind that had a louder voice which kept reminding me how crummy I would feel if I gave up, cut things short, or stopped trying. It's that whole saying pain is temporary, pride is forever. Not that there is a ton of pride in hill repeats, but you know what I mean. I hate how I feel after a workout where I mentally or physically gave up. Usually remembering that crummy feeling is enough to keep me going when I'd physically like to pull the plug.

Today wasn't any different. In fact, I felt my legs were made of lead and picking up my knees and hustling up the hill became a chore. I felt winded after the first two - how was I going to do six more? My splits were relatively consistent - as in, they were staying exactly the same, not getting any faster - even though I felt like I was working 10x harder with each one. By the middle of the last one I felt like I was going to implode and I thought for sure I had slowed down by at least 5 seconds. So close to giving up. But when I clicked the lap off at the top, it was two seconds faster than any of the ones I did previously. And when I looked back at all of my splits for the 8 laps, I didn't yo-yo up and down with my times, they either stayed the same or got faster. And when I got home and looked at Training Peaks from when I did these repeats last January, I found that I executed the workout MUCH better today than I did a year ago. Last year I was all over the map, several times I got slower on some of the repeats rather than consistently faster like what I managed to do today.

All in all, I initially arrived home with my tail between my legs, feeling defeated by how tired today's repeats made me feel and how sluggish I felt throughout the workout. But after mulling it over this afternoon and seeing my splits, I feel better about things. And besides, it is just a workout (not a race) and it is JANUARY for crying out loud.

25 January 2013

Random Friday Facts

- I have zero files in my filing cabinet at work. Instead there is peanut butter, oatmeal, shampoo, conditioner, and gold high heels.

- I hated wearing dresses and skirts as a kid. Now they are all I wear (thank you biking).

- Fresh (and homemade) pasta for dinner tonight, hey-oh!!

- I thought Kendra and I were both going to implode during one of those "looks easy on paper but kicks your booty" swim sets this AM.  We did not implode AND we made the intervals.

- That sign in the kitchen - about chocolate chips - that we wrote on the chalkboard a year ago?  Still there. Deterrent? Not really.

- My cats have taken over my pillows at night so I've learned to sleep without them (the pillows, not the cats).

- The whole one-space-after-a-period really bothers me, even though it is correct. Terribly hard habit to break.

- When I was 10 I was convinced I would become an Olympic swimmer and gymnast, completely overlooking the fact that I quit both sports at age 6.

- I closed down the bar scene last weekend when my friend Kim came into town for a visit. I don't remember the last time I did that, good times. Social hangover the next day, for sure.

- I miss riding my bike outside. But I don't miss it enough that I'm willing to freeze my face off.

- I had the best conversation with my best friend tonight. So much laughter.

- The leg lamp is STILL IN OUR FRONT WINDOW.

- DC is rubbing off on me. I know it is completely irrational to let an inch of snow rule me, but the large-scale DC Metro Area freakout about any snow event, including minor ones, is like a social contagion. I think I need to cure this by taking the car and joyriding down our unplowed (and icy) driveway tomorrow morning to reconvince myself that I do, in fact, know how to handle winter.

24 January 2013

Snowy Run Commute

DC received its first semi-decent snowfall late last night/early this morning. It was only about an inch, but it was light, fluffy, and enough to pretty up the trees and the ground. I had a run on my schedule this morning and decided to use it as an excuse to run commute into work. I didn't have a whole lot of faith in Metro delivering trouble-free transportation in the snow and figured running would be the fastest way into the office.

While I'm not a huge fan of the cold weather or running in it, this morning's run commute was fantastic.  The sidewalks were a little slippery, but nothing that slowing down a little couldn't fix. I initially thought that I would just run to the metro station three miles away, but as I got close, I decided I'd just run all the way to work and take in the sights along the National Mall.  Much more scenic than the Metro tunnels.

Best decision ever. As I crossed over the Memorial Bridge, I could see that the sun was trying to shine over the DC side of the Potomac and the clouds and snow were still hovering over the Virginia side. When I arrived in front of the Lincoln Memorial, I tried to take a photo with the morning light hitting the memorial that was surrounded by snow.  Sadly, my iPhone doesn't like the cold and the battery had run out, shutting it down. No photos, womp womp. Now that the construction around the Reflecting Pool is done, the pathways alongside the Pool have reopened and I ran along those, down to the WWII Memorial. This part of the Mall is my favorite - in the summer it is shrouded by trees and the views of the monuments can't be beat. And this morning it was really quiet, you couldn't really hear the traffic in the distance, just the snow crunching underfoot. I passed by the WWII Memorial and then up the slight incline to the Washington Monument. Then I continued past the Smithsonian Museums and where crews were dismantling all of the set-ups from the Inauguration. I swung by the Capitol and then up Louisiana Ave to Union Station before cooling down on the last quarter mile to the office.

There were times during this commute that I temporarily forgot that I was even on my way to work - much of my route was where I typically run during a weekend long run. This was absolutely one of my favorite AM commutes and I hope DC gets more snow this winter so I can do it again. It was totally worth the freezing cold legs (even with long pants on) and the 5 cups of tea I needed to drink to warm up post-run.

23 January 2013

This and That

This morning was the first morning in awhile where I woke up and thought hmmm, staying in bed sounds much more appealing than going to the pool. I considered pushing my swim to the evening and just sleeping in a bit more.  But I knew if I did that, it would force me to move the run I also had scheduled for the evening to another day.  And so begins the delicate dance of trying to fit everything in as a result of one morning's laziness. A domino effect.  I always regret the domino effect and chide myself for giving in to the allure of my comfortable bed and fluffy comforter. Rarely is it ever worth it. But I never regret getting out of bed and getting the workout done. This AM turned out to be no different, and when I was getting my run done at 6:30pm after work, I was really glad I didn't have to fit in a trip to the pool afterwards.

Can we celebrate some little victories? In my swim workout this AM, I did a combined 1,000 yards of IM and I didn't wimp out on any of it, including fly.

Can we talk about how much I dislike this cold weather?  It's cold (for Virginia) and I've become a weather weenie, unable to handle much of anything below 32 degrees. How I survived living in Burlington, VT for four years, I have no idea. I'm want summer to get here FAST - I miss riding my bike to work after swim practice at Hains Point, dressed in my swimsuit and bike shorts. I miss it being light out until after 8pm. I miss going for a run outside in shorts and a t-shirt on a daily basis. I miss complaining about it being too hot. It's even too cold for smoothies and ice cream (though Mr. Sweetie would beg to differ about the ice cream part).

I'm guessing Facebook does some sort of analysis of the posts you put on your wall, etc to figure out which advertisements are most appropriate. Today I noticed an ad on my page for the Sharkbrace - "a shark repellent bracelet - www.sharkbrace.com."  I have NO idea what I have been writing to give FB any ideas that I plan on going swimming with sharks anytime soon. And I highly doubt a multi-ton shark is going to give a rat's booty whether or not I am wearing a repellent bracelet if he is hungry and I am on the menu for dinner.

18 January 2013

Swim stroke rate - who is right?

I had a moment in the pool today; an epiphany, if you will.  Maybe epiphany is too strong a word (according to Wikipedia it is a relatively rare occurrence, generally following a process of significant thought about a problem... A leap of understanding).  Maybe trying to get across the pool with the fewest number of strokes is NOT the most efficient way for me to swim.

Let me back up.  I learned to swim properly as an adult and I operated under the assumption that fewer strokes = faster/better/more efficient swim.  This is why I beat the "catch up drill" into the ground at every opportunity.  I was going to get across that pool in 16 strokes if it killed me, but I was always a little disappointed to see that my stroke rate tended to be upwards of 20.  I had to really try to get it down to 16.

Today I was watching a girl in the lane next to me swim.  She was swimming at a high cadence, definitely taking more than 16 strokes per pool length, and she was hauling.  She had good form as well, high elbows, and her catch looked great (I am not an expert, but you didn't have to be super smart to see that she was grabbing the water efficiently).  So I started to try to grab the water like she was and instead of trying to lengthen my stroke, I focused on swimming with a turnover that felt more natural.  I wasn't timing myself to know for sure, but I certainly felt like I was moving faster through the water with less of an effort.

About a month ago I measured my ape index - the difference between your arm length and your height - and I'm about a -2 (my armspan is two inches smaller than my height).  According to the Feel for the Water website, those with a 0 or negative ape index are very unlikely to have much luck in having long strokes in the pool be very efficient.  Faster turnover is the way to go for those of us with short arms.  And then tonight I did a little bit more reading on swim stroke (online reading, so take this with a grain of salt).  The Swim Smooth website claims that swimmers are realizing an overly-long stroke can be less efficient because it introduces dead spots and pauses into your freestyle.  Those pauses are exactly what I was feeling when I was trying to stretch out my stroke.  And while there is a danger of having too high a stroke rate (too much windmilling, not enough glide), I think that increasing my turnover just a bit in the pool, like I was doing today, will put me on the path to a happy medium.  This is what is so fun about swimming, there are so many little pieces to pay attention to and small changes and tweaks that can end up making a big difference.  I'm curious, especially from you swimmers, on what people think about their swim stroke and how they've improved it.     

16 January 2013

It hit me like a ton of breasts!

Senior year of college, my roommates and I had a quote wall in our townhouse.  Erin was the author of that gem in the subject line.  She meant to say "it hit me like a ton of bricks" but somehow a slip of tongue resulted in something much funnier.  Before we packed up and shipped out after graduation, one of my other roommates, Melissa, took the time to transcribe what was on the quote wall and gave us each a copy.  I still have mine somewhere and it cracks me up every time I come across it.
Strawberry Daiquiris were the bomb back in the day.  Obviously.
So where am I going with this?  Sadly, not back to college.

Training.  This morning TRAINING hit me like a ton of breasts.  I was walking up to my office from the gym and all I wanted was a NAP.  It was 9:30am and I wanted a nap.  And during my informal 10am meeting in one of the common area booths, I found myself thinking gee, this bench is awfully comfortable.  I wonder how long I could nap for before someone noticed.  I didn't take a nap, but wow was it tempting.  And I am not a napper, I rarely even nap when I am sick.

So what gives?  My body has that I'm in the middle of Ironman training feeling but I've done no workout lasting over 90 minutes this week.  A couple runs, a few swims, a bike ride, a TRX session (that literally whooped my sorry glutes).  While I've been doing all of my prescribed workouts over the past month or so, I've really made it a point to focus and do everything the workout says this week - every interval, hit the right intensity level, no cutting swims short, and FOCUS during TRX.  My body is probably in a bit of shock right now and thinks I'm being super mean to it (don't worry, I feed it chocolate every night to placate it. Best idea ever.).  I've also been total crap in the sleep department this week and I think that is catching up to me. However, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't enjoying this tired feeling. When I do finally go to bed, I'm asleep within minutes of my head hitting the pillow - the kind of falling asleep where you are so tired you find yourself drooling (or is that just me?) and you can actually see the previous day slip further and further into oblivion as you fall deeper into sleep.  I feel like I'm EARNING that jar of peanut butter that has sat on my desk all week (opened on Monday, mostly gone by COB today).  So happy to be training again.

And with that, I'm off to bed!    
  

15 January 2013

Ignite Endurance - It's ALIVE!

Thanks to techie-extraordinaire Sebastian, the website for our triathlon team Ignite Endurance is up and running!  I'm super impressed with how it looks, showing our twitter feed, a rotation of race photos, a race calendar, etc.  We have our roster listed and it will soon be supplemented by athlete bios and photos (see if you can pick me out.  I'll be the one with the chocolate cake).

I know everyone on the team is really excited about our partnerships with some pretty fantastic companies:
- Tri360 - recently voted best triathlon shop in the mid-Atlantic!  Hosts weekly rides and runs out of their shop.  Super helpful and knowledgeable staff and they carry some fantastic products.

- ZocaGear - All these years that I've been wearing triathlon shorts with the grippy bit at the bottom of each leg.  The ZocaGear tri shorts do NOT have that and it is all sorts of awesome.  I'm super impressed with how comfortable their stuff is and I'm really looking forward to racing in it this year.  I'm even getting a pair of bibs for the bike.  Fancy-schmancy.

-Pete's Pizza - carbs for some post-ride/run goodness.

- Gu - I'm pretty excited about the wide range of flavors they offer in their gels AND the various products they carry (gels, chews, etc).  Perhaps it will make eating on the bike a little more palatable.

- Blue Seventy - wetsuits and speedsuits, oh my!

- Naked Mountain Winery - It will be great to spend a couple hours kicking back with a glass of wine after a long bike ride down in the blue ridge mountains.  Combining the social with the training is one of the best parts of the weekend.

- Rudy Project - I'm looking forward to trying out their helmets.  I've been borrowing Mr. Sweetie's since mine has kicked the bucket.  I hear the sunglasses from Rudy Project are pretty fantastic too.

-Skratch Labs - I am super, super excited about using Skratch Labs this year!  I've already started training with their hydration mix and I WILL master the art of fueling and hydration during an Ironman this year!

I know everyone on the team is really excited for what 2013 will bring!  I am already truly impressed with how much time, work, and effort my teammates have put in to making Ignite Endurance a reality.  I feel really lucky to be racing with such a great group!

14 January 2013

Athletic Goals for 2013

Part of this whole triathlete thing is setting goals at the beginning of the season so one has a purpose behind all the swimbikerun that is done through the course of the year.  It raises the motivation level when it comes to getting up early and going to bed early.  I think I've mentioned in previous posts that sometimes a time goal isn't always the best thing to set - race courses and conditions can change, slowing down times.  But on the other hand, just having the general "get a PR in everything" isn't always the most satisfying.  I'd like to set some specific goals that I feel are outside my realm of comfort - and I don't 100% know if I will be able to achieve them.  While it's a bit daunting to put pen to paper (or electronically type this out, haha), I feel like I've done better and exceeded my expectations when I go after something that seems a bit out of reach.  For example, I stagnated for YEARS in breaking the 5:45 barrier in a half Ironman.  YEARS.  It wasn't until 2011 when I said THIS will be the year I break 5:45.  And it was.  And in 2012, when I was tired of my predictable 35:xx half Ironman swim time, I made it my mission to do something - anything - better than 35 minutes.

Lesson learned: you need to scare yourself with your goals.  And then believe the impossible is actually the possible.

- Do you know how effing awesome it would be to do a sub-5 hour half Ironman?  I believe the proper equation is: 4:59 = (effing awesome) x 1,000,000,000 (if you couldn't tell, math was NOT my forte growing up).  Do you know that I hemmed and hawed all day about putting that in writing?  That goal has been years in the making.  And maybe I should just stick with Break 5:10, but that won't be as satisfying as a 4:59 (or faster, haha).

- Every year, EVERY YEAR, the IMLP course breaks me.  Hands me the biggest slice of humble pie known to man, in the form of 18 G.D. Hammer Gels.  I'm signed up for my third go at this damn race and I swear, I am going to spend every waking moment this season figuring out how to beat the crap out of that race.  While 2011 and 2012 were not horrendous showings on the course (nothing compared to the 2010 implosions that were IM France and Ironman Wisconsin), I was simply dissatisfied with my effort and my mediocre result in 2012 (in 2011, I was happy to have not completely blown up on the run, so I wasn't as pissy about that finish).  I have GOT to get my nutrition dialed in.  2012 showed me that an all-gel race plan doesn't work every time, especially when you start gagging by the time you reach the 10th gel and still have 8 more to go.  Proper hydration is also key.  I'm excited my team, Ignite Endurance, is sponsored by Skratch Labs in 2013.  I'd heard about their products, as well as their cookbook The Feed Zone over the past year, from several athletes.  The cookbook has several "on the go" training and race nutrition recipes that I'm going to try this season.  It will be nice to change it up and see if adding a little variety to my usual gel race day diet will help.  Oh, and what do I hope to achieve with all this?  A sub-11:30 finish at IMLP this year.  I'd give my right arm for that kind of finish time.  I want to walk away from the IMLP finish line with a satisfied and euphoric feeling and - unless the day is horrendously bad with downpours a la 2008, hypothermia, or 100 degree temperatures combined with a summer flu - the only way I'm going to walk away feeling thrilled with my race is if I finally break 11:30 (hell, it would be great to break 12:00, but I'm trying to really scare myself with this 11:30 business).

- Sub-4 hour marathon at IMLP.  This would just be... amazing.  And if I'm not dry-heaving my way along the run course, it could happen.  I also need to suck it up and not be a big baby by walking giant segments of the run.  You can dry heave while running, no shame.

- Sub 1:43 half marathon in a half Ironman.  The 1:45 barrier has NEVER been broken by yours truly - the run has become my nemesis, but I think I'm finally learning how to tame it.  Positive self-talk while on the bike to prepare for the third leg: You love to run!  You're the best runner out there!  Running is your favorite!  And also knowing that I'll feel like pooooooo during parts of the run, a fact of life that simply comes with the territory.  Accept it and, even more, embrace it.

- And can I get a holla for a sub-6 hour bike at IMLP!  Yup, I'm greedy this year and I want that in addition to the sub-4 hour marathon.  SO MUCH WORK TO DO.

- Oh, and here are a few other goals to keep me busy in between these time-oriented ones:

1) Do a 10k swim.  Jump on the 100x100 bandwagon or go swim across a lake a few times, whatever, I don't care.  I just want to do it.

2) Place well in my age group.  Make it onto the podium more frequently than not.

3) Do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT melt onto the pavement in Vegas.  Suck it up princess, it's a race.

4) Race every race - big races, little races, short races, long races, run races, swimbikerun races - each race is an opportunity to learn how to become a better and more competitive athlete.  They are all chances to see how to perform under pressure, figure out what makes you tick and how to brush aside any self-defeatist talk in your head as you hear another girl hot on your heels, pushing yourself faster instead of letting her pass you and shrugging well I guess she's simply faster than me.  WANT IT MORE.

5) Continue to ride with fast people, swim with fast people, and run with fast people.  Chasing makes you better and stronger.

6) Keep up with the strength training routine that has been established.  It's actually kind of fun.  This will be the year of killer abs if it's the last thing I do.

7) While these aren't actual athletic achievements, they are pretty darn important - MORE sleep and eat well.  As much as I tried in 2012 to get myself on track with early to bed and early to rise, I was kind of a failure in that department.  And tonight I'm doing myself no favors as I sit here typing this at 10:35pm.    I know how important sleep is, and I do love waking up without an alarm because I went to bed at a sensible hour the night before.  But there's just so much else I want to DO, so much else to read, to write, to think about and sleep just gets in the way of it all.  And the nutrition stuff is a post for another day.  Reading and hearing about all of these different ways to eat - Meat is bad, Paleo is good, Grains are terrible, Carbs aren't so bad, Dairy is evil, Cheese is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy - sometimes I don't know what to think anymore.  If it isn't florescent orange and I can figure out - and pronounce - the ingredients, can't I just eat it and be OK with it?

8) Would it be terribly vain to set a goal of having some halfway decent race pictures happen in 2013?  Right now the bar is set so low that I could be mollified with any photo where I'm not stuffing my face with food or dumping ice cubes down my sports bra.  And if we're asking for the moon AND the stars, I'd like to not look like death warmed over (I'd also like my frizzy hair to be airbrushed into something sleek and sassy while you're at it).

So, that's what I want to do with myself in 2013.  I'm actually quite excited now that I wrote down these goals and they are staring me in the face.  Quite excited indeed.

12 January 2013

Race Report - Shooting Starr 6K

The shorter the race, the faster you run, and the higher your pain threshold needs to be.

I had a run test scheduled for today and I've discovered that these little gems are best done as part of a race.  Running your heart out for 20 minutes while trying to catch the people in front of you is way more fun than running hard for 20 minutes on a treadmill set at a 1% incline.  Mid week I figured I'd better pick out a race - I wasn't worried, 5Ks are a dime a dozen, right?  Surely I'd be able to find one in the DC area no problem.  I searched RunWashington.com, Active.com and didn't have any luck finding a 5K close by.  Then Allison told me about the 6K she was running on Saturday up in Wheaton, MD - the Shootin Starr 6K put on by the Montgomery County Road Runners Club.  The website billed it as a low key race - race day registration only, $10 for non-club members, and an 8am start.  Perfect!

The main point of doing this race was to gauge my fitness level and get an idea of my HR zones for the coming year.  I decided that I'd simply turn the Garmin off after the prescribed 20 minute run (which I would use to get my HR max and average) and finish the race, using the race clock to get my final time.  I arrived at the race site around 7:30am, registered, paid, and picked up my bib within 5 minutes.  We're having a warm spell this weekend so I had a short sleeve shirt, armwarmers, and capris on and was perfectly fine.  I ran into Allison while I was doing my warmup and finished doing a light job with her and one of her CAR teammates.  I didn't have super high expectations for myself at the race.  I consider myself more of a triathlete than a runner and there are alot of runners out there who can RUN.  FAST.  And there's no swimming or biking beforehand to wear out your legs and give you any excuses as to why you aren't running faster.

The run course was two loops, mainly on a paved trail and sidewalks, with a little lollipop stick in the middle.  Mainly downhill and flat for the first half of the loop and some uphills on the back half.  Rinse and repeat.  I lined up towards the front and started running hard right from the beginning.  The first quarter mile was a little sketchy, as it was crowded and everyone was trying to squeeze on a sidewalk as we raced down a hill before turning into the woods on a paved trail.  At that point, things spread out a bit and I felt like I was able to get into a rhythm.  I felt like I was working hard, but not hard enough to be earning the 6:42 showing as my average pace on my Garmin.  Definitely still on a slight downhill.  We hit a small incline as we went out to do the lollipop stick part of the course.  At the turnaround I was able to see that I was in the top-10 girls overall but the gap between me and the girls in front of me kept growing, not shrinking.  As I made the turnaround, I saw there was another girl a few paces behind me and I ran the rest of the race convinced that she was hot on my heels (turns out by the end she wasn't, but the fear of getting passed is always great motivation to not let up).  I saw Allison and she looked strong and then the course made a right hand turn up a hill.  During the first loop it felt like the hill wasn't going to end.  Then we turned left and continued going up for another block or two before hitting a downhill.  At this point, I was a little worried that I had gone out too fast, gotten a little too carried away.  I blocked out of my mind the fact that I was going to need to run the whole course, minus the lollipop portion, once more.  We looped by the finish line, with the timer reading a 14:xx as I passed by.  Back down the hill, into the woods, much less crowded now.  And wouldn't you know it, my legs and lungs were alot more tired this time around.  There was never serious thought about giving up, but a little glimmer of an idea - once my Garmin hit 20 minutes, turn it off and just walk, your work is done - entered my mind before getting promptly kicked out.  I'd turn the Garmin off so I didn't screw up the data by having it record longer than necessary, but obviously I'd keep running to the finish.  I hit 20 minutes at mile 2.90, happily pressed the STOP button, and kept on running.  I was breathing really hard at this point and I could tell my run form had started to go to heck as I trucked uphill.  At this point I was nowhere near catching any of the girls ahead of me and I was just running hard with the notion that there was a fast girl right behind me, ready to chase me down and pass me when I least expected it.  I tried to push it hard on the downhill and then up the final uphill before going across the line in 25:31, which comes out to an average pace of 6:52.  I'm really happy with my finish time; I ended up being the 8th girl overall and 2nd in my age group.  They had chocolate chip muffins and peanut M&Ms at the finish, all of which I devoured before 9am.  While I don't love the lung-burning, quad-zapping, heart-pounding-out-of-your-chest types of races while I am actually out there doing them (I prefer the longer races where you pace yourself a little slower so you don't explode in the middle of the course), I do like how I feel afterwards.  Sore, tired, and done well before breakfast is over.

10 January 2013

Back into it. And happy to be in the thick of training.

When I started getting back into training last month, I was a little worried about how I'd adjust to getting back into the routine.  I'd enjoyed the off-season more than usual with all the sleeping in, chocolate, staying up late, blah blah blah.  I wasn't in any rush to start training again and truthfully, that made me a bit nervous.  Was I burnt out?  Why wasn't I chomping at the bit to start training again?  I wasn't overly excited about my potential 2013 race schedule.  What was wrong?!

Nothing, apparently.  After a month of regular workouts, I don't miss the laziness at all.  I'm happy, enjoying being back in a routine, watching what I'm eating (both quantity - if you can believe it - and quality).  After posting my 2013 race schedule, I found out about so many fun people who are signed up for the same races I'm planning on doing and that has gotten me really excited for my upcoming races.  I love my swim workouts (and seeing the progress I've been making), it feels great to get out and do a double-digit run workout, and I'm not minding the trainer that much (I know it hasn't been super cold out, but I'm a wimp with even lightly chilly weather).

I needed that long break I took over the holidays and I'm so glad I'm not signed up for any serious early-season races because that extended break allowed me to sit back and recharge.  I'm excited to swim with Kgo tomorrow and have a bit of social kick time.  I'm even excited for my run fitness test on Saturday.  I know I haven't written a post yet on my athletic goals for 2013, but I can tell you that my top goal is to finally, FINALLY conquer the IMLP course - all three disciplines - and walk away from that race with no what-ifs, no excuses, no desire for a do-over.  This year IS my do-over.

08 January 2013

Keep on swimming... faster!

Every year, at the beginning of the triathlon season, the lovely Jen has me do a swim speed test.  It's a great way to gauge where I stand with my swim fitness and the progress I've made over the past few years.  Granted, I'm not usually thinking these positive thoughts during the swim test itself because I usually feel like my arms might fall off.

Today's swim test was the fourth one I've done since 2010.  Swimming has almost always been my weakest of the three sports (except in those instances where I completely implode on the run) and I'm always thrilled with any progress I make, even if it's small.  And I know that even now, even with the improvements I've made over the past few years, my times still aren't super fast.  But if I keep doing what Dory says from Finding Nemo - just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming - perhaps one day I will be a super fast swimmer.  For now, though, I'm just going to celebrate the small victories.

The swim test always consists of 10x100 max effort with exactly ten seconds rest in between each interval.  Take the total time, subtract out the rest intervals, and you get your average pace.  It's a fine line, that balance between the max effort that is sustainable and the max effort that pushes you over the edge and you fall apart.  It's taken me four swim tests to find that balance.  I did my first swim test back in January 2010 and I knew I typically swam 100yds in the 1:40-1:45 range, so I was thrilled to figure out that my average speed for my swim test was 1:38/100yds.  Ten months later I did another swim test, dropping my average down to 1:31/100yds.  In January 2012 I did another swim test, squeaking in at an average of 1:28/100yds.  And then during today's swim test, I managed an average of 1:26/100yds.  Two seconds doesn't sound like much improvement over a year, but in looking back at my notes for all of my previous swim tests, I recorded that my swim form went to heck by the end and I struggled to finish.  Today I didn't have those struggles.  I didn't feel great on intervals 2-4, but when I hit the halfway point, I hit my stride, my form didn't fall apart and I didn't lose a ton of speed between my 1st and my 10th interval.  I think that is an even bigger victory than the two second improvement over my last swim test.  I think that swimming at least 3 times a week has helped, I do drill work and sets that focus on form nearly every practice.  I believe that learning how to do the IM strokes has helped too.  It doesn't hurt that the swim workouts I do are far from boring and I almost always look forward to getting in the pool.      

04 January 2013

Random Friday Facts

- Our dog turned three this week.  Technically he isn't a puppy anymore but he still acts like one.  Did I mention he unwrapped all of my Christmas gifts a few days before Christmas?  Little brat.

- I don't drink enough water.  I also don't drink alot of soda or coffee, but that's not such a bad thing.

- UK friends - is there such a thing as caramel flavored tea??  When I studied abroad, a British lady was our program coordinator and she kept a fantastic stash of tea in her office and I swear one of the flavors was caramel.  I can't find that flavor ANYWHERE in the US.  Shame because it was pretty darn good.

- I've not yet finished my first book of 2013.  I'm in the middle of reading Jane Austen's Emma and it is NOT a short read.

- On Thursday, one of the chilliest days DC has seen all winter (30's so not terrible), I was desperately missing summer weather and being able to ride from the pool to the office in a soaking wet bathing suit and bike shorts.  Those were the days.

- I want to go back to Africa.

- Our guest bedroom is a disaster.  I need to organize my life.

- I'm long overdue for a visit to the eye doctor.  Pretty convinced I need glasses, judging by all the things I can't see properly if they are far away.  Last time I had glasses I was 6.  Giant purple frames.  Let's hope I have a better sense of style this time around.

- We have one tv in our house and it is in the basement.  I always thought I'd want a tv in my bedroom, but that's actually overrated.

- Taking down Christmas decorations is one of my least favorite things to do.

- I'm still not completely sure what all of my goals for the 2013 season are.  Been thinking about this alot.

02 January 2013

Dedication

I love reading the blogs and tweets of people who are super dedicated to triathlon and taking their sport performance to the next level.  They make time for their training, they don't complain about it, they look forward to the hard stuff, and they balance out the rest of their life in such a way that they manage to become the best athletes they can be.  I know we really shouldn't compare ourselves to others, but I do think it's beneficial pull a little WW[insert athlete initial here]D when you're faced with that moment where you don't want to roll out of bed and go to the pool.

After five full seasons of triathlon, I'm still finding that there are a plenty of things I could do to improve, plenty of things that need improvement.  You'd think that after this long I'd have stuff figured out, that I would've learned the magic trick to get myself out the door at 5:30am on a chilly morning for a run in the dark.  But judging from my lack of o'dark thirty run workouts accomplished, I obviously have yet to solve that mystery.

But I am learning that, at least for me, dedication needs to come in small pieces.  I get overwhelmed with trying to fit together lots of big pieces all at once - No More Recreational Sugar!  Be in Bed By 9pm Every Day!  Get Up at 5am Every Day!  Get to the Pool by 5:30am!  Write Down Daily Goals!  Update Training Peaks Daily! Etc!  Do Every Single Workout!  Stay 100% Focused for the Entire Duration of Workout! - and inevitably I end up dropping the ball on one thing which leads to a domino effect of ball dropping and I simply give up for a bit before regrouping and trying again.  Part of dedication is focusing on what I can do right now to become a better athlete, to do that workout right, to set myself up for a good tomorrow.  Today dedication meant not wimping out on the combined total of 1,000yds of IM in the pool.  Will perfecting my 'fly and backstroke make me a more awesome Ironman swimmer?  Oddly enough, I actually think it will.  Much to the relief of my fellow swimmers, I will NOT be doing butterfly during the swim leg of a triathlon; but learning how to do it in the pool, mastering a hard stroke or a technique I don't particularly enjoy (hypoxic swimming, weakside breathing, fly) will make me a stronger swimmer.  One who is more aware of how my body works in the water.  And overall, I think that is going to translate into a better swim time.  Dedication also meant getting on my trainer at 8pm after work when I would've much rather gone to bed.  There is rarely a day where I finish a workout and think to myself Well golly gee, I really with I hadn't done that bike ride.  It made me feel like absolute crap! 

And according to Training Peaks, dedication tomorrow is going to mean the dreaded before-the-sunrise-alarm to get outside and run in the dark.    

01 January 2013

It always looks easier on paper

Mr. Sweetie and I had a fun New Year's Eve celebration with friends last night.  We were the only ones who either were not pregnant or already had children existing outside the womb yet we were one of the first to go home to bed.  We were walking in our front door at midnight.  Lame?  Maybe.  But it was quite nice to get a decent amount of sleep before heading out for a run this AM before Mass.

It was one of those run workouts that, when written down on paper, looks like a piece of cake.  Fartlek run?  I was expecting something a little harder to kick off the new year.  Famous last words.  Fartlek, according to Wikipedia (which, as we all know, is a prime source for information) means "speedplay in Swedish.  It's a training method that blends continuous training with interval training.  The variable intensity and continuous nature of the exercise places stress on both the aerobic and anaerobic systems."  I don't remember if I've already complained about this, but my HR monitor is currently driving me batty.  It is giving me ridiculous readings like 232 bpm while I am running at a conversational pace.  Or walking.  There isn't even a HR Zone assignment for a heart rate that high.  And judging how I usually feel during true Zone 4 or 5 threshold efforts, holding a conversation at that intensity isn't typically in the cards.  So I've either gotten horrendously out of shape during the offseason.  Or my HR monitor has gone off the deep end.  Maybe the fix is as simple as a battery.  Either way, it was difficult to be a slave to my HR during my warm up this AM when it was giving me these ridiculous readings.

Anyway, the main part of my workout mixed bursts running at a hard effort with easy recovery efforts in between.  I felt a little creaky for the first few intervals, during the middle I felt like I had found my pace.  The music was cranking, I was one of very few people out on the bike trail, it was a beautiful morning, and I was pretty thrilled to be out running.  The last couple of intervals felt a little rough around the edges.  I was more tired than I had expected to be and I was really taking the "recovery interval" to a whole new level with my slow shuffle.  Speaking of recovery intervals, I always found it tempting to "power through" the recovery time - didn't want to see my average pace creep up or fall off some fast feet in the pool!  But - you guessed it - I had a hard time truly going hard during the high intensity intervals.  Everything flattened out into something mediocre.  This was really brought home to me earlier last year when I was in the pool and swimming in a swim lane a bit outside of my comfort level.  One of the triathletes I was swimming with, Chris Wren, is twice my age and he is twice as fast as me in all disciplines.  In short - he's the illustration of rockstar.  Anyway, during one of the swim workouts we were doing some high intensity effort swims combined with recovery intervals.  I would be all up on Chris' feet during the recovery sets, thinking to myself look at meeeee!  I'm keeping up with Chris in the pool!!!  I'd also be in Zone 4 during these "recovery efforts" and get my butt dropped during the fast sets because I burned out too fast from not taking recovery seriously.  I've learned my lesson.  I now shuffle during all recovery sets and savor every minute of it.

So that was my morning - I kicked off the new year 7.5 hours after the ball dropped in Times Square with a run - no hangover, no procrastination, no laziness.  And a run that definitely kicked my rear, even though it looked easy on paper.