Where I've Been and Hope To Be

Where I've Been and Hope To Be

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Winter Training

DC is no Boston, but we've had our share of snow and ice and cold and I'm more than ready for some warm temps and sunshine.  More than anything, the weather requires some flexibility for triathlon training.  The cold also requires a whole lot of extra motivation for me.  I just want to cuddle up with a good book under the covers and wait for spring.  So unless we are going to get enough snow to rock some awesome bike tunnels, I'm over it.

In my opinion, the most important piece of training equipment for winter is a bike trainer.  While I did get out on the bike in 30 degree temps a couple of times, generally I've needed to do my winter riding indoors on the trainer.  Without this equipment, I'd be really behind in my bike training.  Indoor cycling is boring (although not as bad as the treadmill for me) but I've been making my way through all of the episodes of West Wing and that has kept my legs spinning and spinning.  I also try to keep my pain cave decorated with things that motivate me - medals from last year, trophy from last year, poster of my triathlon hero Mirinda Carfrae.  There have been times when I wanted to cut a ride short or take the intensity down a notch.  This may be incredibly cheesy, but at those times I look over at the Carfrae poster and tell myself that Rinny didn't become World Ironman Champion by quitting and I shouldn't either.  It works for me.  Find whatever works for you.

Swimming has gone on relatively uninterrupted.  I swim indoor year round so the cold hasn't done anything except made the walk to and from the car really bitter.  But we've had a couple of snow days that have closed the pool so I've kept an extra eye on the forecast and my scheduled workouts.  So far I've been lucky and managed to keep swimming moving forward.

Running.  So much time on the treadmill at the gym.  Yuck.  I really do not care for running inside.  It is monotonous and my hips don't like it much either. 

I've had some solid outdoor runs in the cold including a 6 mile run in 30 degree weather and a quick 1 mile transition run when the wind chill was -5.  Both times the cold wasn't the issue for me - I tend to run hot and I've done well layering.  The issue is snow and ice.  I do not want to slip and fall causing an injury that will keep me from training while I recover.  So when in doubt I go to the gym and trudge through it.  Yesterday I logged 90 minutes on the treadmill.  It was pretty miserable.  I chafed, I cramped, I thought about quitting.  A lot.  I took a bunch of quick breaks.  But in the end I powered through the full workout. 

Mentally it was much harder than I expected (and I expected it to be bad).  And I learned from it.  I learned that it was terrible.  And I learned that I need to buy a pair of Yaktrax for next year.  This week my long run is on Saturday and is scheduled to be 2 hours.  My fingers are crossed for Mother Nature to cooperate and let me do this outside.  Otherwise I might go to the gym for four separate 30 minute runs.  I don't know.

Despite the challenges that winter has brought, I've enjoyed staying in a workout routine and following my training plan.  But to say that I'm ready to put the cold and wet behind me is a major understatement.  And I am not alone.  Lil Buddy's picture is worth a thousand words. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Sick. Again.

So sick and tired of being sick and tired.  I've spent the last 2 weeks fighting god knows what complete with never ending congestion and coughing.  And each time I think I'm better I train and then find myself back in bed miserable.

Last Sunday I headed out for a run while Big T was at baseball practice.  It was a sloppy run and I tripped and fell about halfway in.  As I hit the ground...hard...the very first thought that went through my head was to stop my watch.  Wouldn't want the time on the ground to interfere with my pace (hanging my head.  sheesh.)  Second thought was please don't let my running tights have ripped. I really love these and don't want to replace them.  Never fear - I both stopped the watch and ensured that my wonderful running clothes were still in tact.  Can't say the same for my knee.  It's healing slowly and this photo is about three days post injury.  Nicely scraped and bruised wouldn't you say?

To add insult to injury, I woke up Monday morning feeling like death warmed over and the crud I thought I had beat was back.  I spent this past week fighting the congestion again.  It kept me home from work for a day and a half and hacking up a lung the rest of the days.  My work back looks more like a traveling pharmacy.

So on Tuesday as I laid in bed I made an important training decision.  Instead of impatiently chomping at the bit to get back to the swim bike run routine, I was going to take the entire week off.  Weekend too.  Not worry about missed workouts or red boxes on TrainingPeaks and just rest.  Go to work and come home and rest.  Because if I don't get healthy than I can't train.  In many ways this has been a relief.  It's been kind of nice to have one less thing on my daily to do list.  And this was the week to keep the list short because I've been in trial and coming come later than usual every day.

But on the other hand, when I'm not training a part of me is missing.  My me time is removed and all my time becomes "other people" time.  Each day this week I got crabbier and crabbier.  The grouchiness is threatening to take over.  And while it has only been one week, it feels like an eternity.  I feel like I've missed a month or more and that I'm ages behind everyone else that has been hitting it hard this whole time.  I'm crazy, right?

I saw a tweet earlier this week that really hit home:

Cindy Smith (@iTRIswimbikerun)
Early tri season training is time to focus on form and laying the base for upcoming build. Patience is a major requirement.

So true, so true.  This is also the perfect time of the season to focus on health.  I can't move forward if I'm not healthy.  Patience is a major requirement.  So despite the warmer temps this weekend and the allure of group spins, runs, and rides, I'm sitting on the couch watching movies.  I'm resting.  And I'm blowing my nose over and over trying to get the rest of it out.  I hope to get back in the saddle on Monday and make some much wanted forward progress. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Race Report: Tropical Splash Swim Meet

A year after my first US Masters swim meet I was back at Tropical Splash in Alexandria to measure my progress.  We had a great turnout for Arlington Masters with 14 swimmers in attendance.  As we did last year, we cheered each other on and had a good time at this very laid back meet.

I signed up to swim the 100 Free, 100 IM, and 50 back.  Last year I swam 100 breaststroke but I'm avoiding it since the kick aggravates my knee.  I figured I'd do the 50 back since my backstroke turns suck and one turn is better than 3.  More than anything I just wanted to have a fitness benchmark that could somewhat accurately measure my swim progress from last year.

I got there ridiculously late and did a quick warm up while the first events were going.  It wound up being plenty and I had all the time I needed before the 100 free.  When it was finally go time I dove in and went for it.  It felt like swimming through wet cement.  I even entertained the possibility that they had somehow lengthened the lanes.  How else could 100 free feel so hard?  But despite that feeling it turned out that I swam pretty well for me with a final time of 1:21.89 which is 7 seconds faster than my fastest last year.

Later in the morning I climbed up on the blocks for the 100 Individiual Medly - one length each of fly, back, breast, and free.  Typically the 25 yards of butterfly is so taxing that I spend the rest of the event trying to recover.  I put out a strong effort but made sure to stretch out my stroke as long as I possibly could.  I finished the butterfly thinking "that wasn't as bad as last year by a long shot."  I had a smooth backstroke, a passable but ugly breastroke, and then put everything I had left into the free to bring it home.  I was close to the swimmers in the lanes next to me and used them as motivation to haul ass and leave them in the dust.  Final time of 1:38.34 a full 6 seconds faster than my fastest time last year.

Finally I swam the 50 back.  I realized that I hadn't done a proper backstroke start since I was 18 years old.  It wasn't my finest moment, but it got me moving in the proper direction.  I worked on a strong solid stroke and obsessed over the turn.  While I have a lot to work on for the future, I didn't get a ton of water up my nose which is usually what happens so I call the turn a success.  Final time 44.81.  Will have to wait until next year to have something to compare it to.

It was a good day.  This meet is fun because it awards ribbons for first through third place for each age group in each event.  And here's where my faithful readers get more info than those that just follow on facebook or instagram.  I posted my award ribbons right after the meet showing that I got a first and two thirds.  And this is absolutely true.  What I didn't mention was that the first was for a relay that I completely sucked in and we only got first because we were the only all women relay - the others were mixed gender.  So we were first out of first.  The third place ribbons were for 100 free and 50 back where I was 3rd out of THREE.  Ha!  I got fourth out of four on the IM.  But really what matters is the improvement on my times.  I'm within striking distance of the times of one of the slower swimmers in lane three at practice - getting to lane three is one of my swimming goals this year.  So I'm getting there.

After the meet I needed to do a 35 minute run.  It was warmer out then I expected so I headed to Haines Point so I could run outside but also have access to a bathroom.  I arrived, went to the bathroom, and began my run in clothes that were woefully inadequate for the temps.  It was about 50 degrees, but Haines Point is right on the water and it was chilly.  About a quarter mile into the run I realized I grabbed the wrong car key when I locked up the truck and was now locked out of my car.  I had to stop, beg a stranger to call Hubby, and then finish my run while I waited for him to show.  And with my luck this of course happened while Lil Buddy was napping so a sick Hubby had to wake a sleeping toddler to come rescue me.  Hardly ideal.  But despite these interruptions I ran a steady 3 miles at a decent pace despite being pretty worn out from the swim meet.

The day ended cozy on the couch fully exhausted but satisfied with the days efforts.  I'm very pleased having these fitness markers so early in the season and knowing that I'm just getting started for the year.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Odds and Ends

I've been meaning to post for over a week.  And I've had a number of different thoughts I wanted to write about, but life got in the way so I'm going to throw it all together here and move on.

Last Friday I went shopping for new work clothes.  I have to laugh at how much money I have spent on workout clothes in the last year but zero on decent clothes that help me look professional.  I desperately needed a wardrobe update - not because things don't fit, but because they are really old and sad looking.  So Hubby, Lil Buddy and I headed off for an afternoon at the outlets.  I usually have really good luck at the Banana Republic outlet.  When they have sales they have SALES and I can load up for a decent price.  Sure enough, they were slashing prices, but nothing fit!  Even though I have plenty of their clothes at home in sizes 12 and 14, none of the current clothes in those sizes fit.  So frustrating!  It made me feel really gross and dumpy and miserable.  I tried to tell myself that it was just the current styles not being cut for my shape, but still - when nothing in one of your regluar stores fit how can you be anything but disappointed?

Off we went to another store where I had better luck including buying a dress in a size 10!!  But rest assured, I'm not confused about my real size - that dress was freakish.  Because there were plenty of 12s and 14s in that store that didn't fit either.  Some did and I was able to walk away with some new stuff, but man it was not the productive Pretty Woman shoppping spree I envisioned.  Mostly it was me getting really sweaty while stripping off item after item with Lil Buddy sitting in his stroller screaming his head off.  Sounds awesome, right?

This week was extremely hectic at work with one trial after another.  A stressful work week was punctuated with Lil Buddy vomiting on me every half hour all night on Monday night, maintaining his middle of the night wakeup routine on Tuesday night, and getting up for the day at 4:30 am Thursday morning.  Exhausted doesn't even begin to describe how I feel.  I was preparing for trial on Tuesday and missed my scheduled workout.  Had a travel baseball team meet and greet for Big T on Wednesday and was feeling really run down so I missed that scheduled workout.  By Thursday I was a train wreck and angry with everything and at everyone.

Finally last night at 9:15 I climbed on the bike trainer for a 50 minute spin.  I couldn't believe how much I was looking forward to an indoor trainer ride.  And I couldn't believe how quickly into the ride I started to feel better.  By getting back into my routine with an activity that was strictly for me my head was put in the right place in a matter of minutes.  If this isn't the perfect evidence of carving out time for yourself I don't know what is.

In a stretch of time where I'm facing a bunch of annoying life challenges and frustrating circumstances that are completley out of my control it is really easy to be frustrated, angry, and negative.  I have been all of those things this week.  But getting 50 minutes to myself with the sweat pouring and endorphins flowing made it easier to take a step back and get my mind in a better place.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Why Should I Join a Triathlon Team/Club

When I first starting researching triathlon I knew I would need some information and support.  I quickly came across the website for the DC Triathlon Club.  They had quite a range of classes and clinics and training groups to help newbies jump into the sport.  I had also heard of local group Team Z which I understood was a very large and social group with structured training plans and workouts to suit your training needs.  I also came to learn of Ignite Endurance which is a team of elite racers.  Lots of triathlon activity just in the Northern Virginia area alone.  And then along came Team Tri360.  Already being familiar with the store and doing my triathlon related shopping there, I was eager to see what would be involved and if I would be eligible to join.

No secrets or surprises, as I've written before, I did join Team Tri360.  It was open to anyone of any ability level that was interested in adding themselves to a triathlon group.  Dues and participation requirements are minimal and although there are no super structured training plans, there are plenty of opportunities for group runs, rides, and swims.

But regardless of which team or club (and all of the ones I mentioned are great options depending on your level and interests), the real question is why to join one at all?  For me it has been an issue of support and camaraderie.  We have a private Facebook group where I can post idiotic newbie questions without feeling like an idiot.  The team sponsors both social and educational group activities that allowed me to meet other local athletes and learn at the same time.  Seeing a friendly face (or even carpooling with one) at a race takes some of the nerves and jitters away and adds a ton of fun.
And I can promise you that a ridiculous butt busting 75 minute trainer ride of simulated hills followed by a 15 minute transition run is WAY more fun with almost 20 of your teammates then alone in your pain cave at home.

Group rides and runs are scheduled as a way to add a social aspect to what could otherwise be very solitary training.  And we all volunteered at Ironman Maryland together which was an awesome way to give back to other athletes in our sport.

The bottom line is that everything is more fun with friends and I've been lucky enough to meet a terrific group of people that make this sport a blast.  Whether you are looking for a strict training schedule or a loosely organized group, there is a club or team out there for you.  Getting involved will only enhance your training and racing experience.  And if you are a seasoned triathlete, a club or team will give you an opportunity to give back by helping a newbie.

If you are local to the DC metro area and interested in Team Tri360 there are two information sessions this weekend.  Join us at 2121 N. Westmoreland Street, Arlington, Virginia at either 5 pm Sunday, January 18, or at 10 am on Monday, January 19th followed by a quick group run.  We'd love to meet you!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Lifetime Fitness Indoor Triathlon

This past Sunday I participated in an indoor triathlon at Lifetime Fitness.  Lifetime Fitness partnered with Ironman to put on wave after wave of indoor triathlons all over the country on the same day encouraging people to "Commit to Tri."  A group of Tri360/Speed Sherpa athletes competed in the 10 minute swim, 30 minute bike, and 20 minute run.

My wave started at 8 am so I arrived about an hour early to check in and get organized.  We were given our swim cap and race number before we headed into the cycling studio to lay out shoes and towel for the bike segment.

The swim was held in a 2 lane 20 yard indoor pool.  Four people were scheduled for each wave so we were divided 2 in a lane.  I shared a lane with my friend Matt and the next lane over had Dave and Sara.  The goal was to complete as many lengths of the pool as possible within 10 minutes.  Last year at my indoor triathlon I completed 19 so I was pretty excited to complete 27.5 this year.  Dave broke the event record with a whopping 41!!!  Matt and I only "high fived" once when we slapped each other accidentally while passing each other in the lane.  Oops.

After the swim we had 10 minutes to transition and get ready for the bike.  Thankfully they had fit us on the bikes in advance so my seat was already adjusted to the correct height and I could just hop on and start warming up.  We had 30 minutes to spin as many miles as possible.  I started out a bit conservatively to make sure that I had enough juice to finish the bike and still complete the run.  By the end I regretted not going out a bit harder.  I definitely could have started stronger and faster and still had enough energy in the end.  But I was pleased with my final 9.6 miles.  Pre-season events like this are the perfect time to play with effort exertion and adjust before the real races of the season.

After a 5 minute transition we hopped on treadmills and ran for as many miles as possible in 20 minutes.  Just like the bike, Dave, Sara, Matt, and I were grouped together.  As we ran along Dave suggested when to ramp up the speed and when to hold steady.  But in the last five minutes it was game on.  We each ramped our individual speed up a notch - at first every minute, but then turned it into a game of poker.  One of us would shout "up one."  Someone would answer "I'm up two!"  So we'd all follow suit until it was "I'll see your three, and go up five!"  In the last minute I was running all out at top speed and FLYING.  It was so much fun and took all of the boredom out of treadmill running.  Again, I was kind of disappointed that I hadn't gone out faster in the beginning as I had plenty of energy left when our 20 minutes were up and I only accomplished 1.9 miles.  Just a touch faster in the beginning and I would have recorded a solid 2.

Regardless of results, it was a really fun morning with fellow teammates.  Other teammates were in the waves before and after ours and we made sure to get a group photo before heading off to breakfast together.  Our lovely teammate Mindy got fun video of each of us during each leg that was fun to watch back later.  I don't look anything like I imagine while I'm swim-bike-running.

This morning was a really solid workout for me and made me feel pretty confident about my off season condition.  I'm not in race shape, but not as out of shape as I feared.  I left the event feeling really good and strong.  And then I saw the photo above.  And I was not pleased.  I hate the way I look in my race kit.  I hate how chunky and fat my legs look.  How could legs that feel that strong and work that hard still look so bad?

I've been stewing over it all week.  I keep looking back at the photo with disappointment.  Until tonight.  As I was sifting through photos looking for these to include in the blog I came across this other photo that I saved a while back:

And I remembered that at the end of this triathlon I felt like a badass.  And I knew that with my planned training I would continue to feel like a badass during the upcoming season.  I'm still disappointed in how my legs look, but not in how they performed.  That will have to do for now.

In the meantime, the team kicked ass.  Dave won the whole damn thing, Sara placed 2nd in Open Women, and David E. took 2nd in Masters Men.  Team Tri360 continues to be an amazing group of friends and an inspiring bunch.  Can't wait to see what badassery we all pull off this season!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Race Report: Fairfax Four Miler 2014

Final race of 2014 was cold and blustery at the Fairfax Four Miler.  I ran this race in 2013 and had a really good time with it so I made sure to add it to my list again.  In standard fashion, I was running incredibly late and made it to the port-o-potties only 7 minutes before the 6 pm start time.  The one advantage to getting there incredibly late is not having time to get nervous or wonder what type of warm up is appropriate.  Instead its a quick trip to the bathroom and then in the crowd to get started.  My plan was to run it like a solid 4 mile training run and not like a race.  This proved to be just the right attitude.

The race starts uphill and about a quarter of a mile up the road until the route takes us onto the campus of George Mason University.  From the start this race didn't feel great.  My watch told me I was on a steady pace, but every step felt like a major effort with really heavy feet.  It was a stark contrast from the Jingle Bell 5K where I felt like I was absolutely flying. 

The good news is that even though it was a slog fest, the next thing I knew I was approaching a very identifiable point on the route that I remembered from the previous year and it seemed to come up very quickly this year.  It was a nice reminder that my training throughout the year paid off and I am faster by a fair amount one year later.  After that I just focused on staying strong and steady and ignoring the fact that it wasn't my favorite run of the year. 

Overall, I'm pleased with my steady pace throughout.  My mile splits were 11:00, 10:15, 11:05, and 10:47.  This is a nice improvement over 2013's paces of 11:55, 11:25, 12:28, and 12:10.  My final time was 44:24, again a solid improvement over last year's final time of 48:49.  Its fun to see my hard work paying off and I'm looking forward to more improvement next year.

After the race I went to the Pacers Running Store where I met up with my friend Matt who helps out with a ton of their fun runs and was organizing a New Year's Eve toast for store friends and family.  It was nice to enjoy a toast with a few of the other runners after our cold run.

After a glass of sparkling cider I was headed home for some NYE tv festivities and a pathetically early bedtime.  But the best part of the evening was the awesome smile from my Lil Buddy Hubby sent to me after bathtime.  This face will be one of the best parts of 2015.  Happy belated new year to everyone!