Thursday, December 31, 2009

Xmas 2009/Garmin Forerunner 305

After several southern-style breakfasts, complete with cheese scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, biscuits, muffins (and fruit and yogurt - I promise), as well as beef and cheese fondue and Chateaubriande, I made it a priority to stick to my running schedule this holiday. Fortunately, one of my Christmas gifts was an old-school Garmin Forerunner 305. I say old-school because this thing is rather large. Its appearance to our ever-texting and "tweeting" Generation Y is probably analagous to the way we'd now feel watching that Saved by the Bell episode with Zach and the giant cell phone. Nonetheless, the 305 has a multitude of great features and is resilient enough to handle multiple sports (though it is not waterproof).

Th. and I set out on a 1:15 run the day after Christmas. We went down to one of the Chattahoochee River trails (can't recall the name of this one - there are 60+ in the Atlanta vicinity) and began our run. All of the food I'd consumed over the past few days certainly made me feel well-fueled and fresh. I am also starting to think that perhaps I perform better with a few pounds more weight on me (at or around 144-145 vs. 140-142). I'll have to start documenting this better. Anyway, the Garmin worked very well, even without the heart rate monitor strap - which I forgot to bring. There is a bit of lag time starting out; I'd start out at a 9:00 or so warm-up pace, but it would take 'ol Garmin about 30 seconds to warm up himself (the display reads 18:00 min/mi, for example, and gradually decreases). It seemed about right on pace after that, and as I've bemoaned in many a prior run, Th. was constantly pushing the pace. I kept on bringing him back, thanks to Garmin, to our 8:40-8:45 easy run pace. This was supposed to be a Zone 1-3 run, after all. It became clear to me how easy it is to move between Zones and pace brackets without realizing it. I'm sure it will be even more clear to me when I actually remember to wear my HR monitor.
I wore the Garmin again for our hill run the next day. Again, we were pretty much on par. Definitely a bit slower than the day prior, and the hills were unlike any I've run before (hey, I didn't grow up in Boulder, Colorado or Park City, Utah). It was interesting to see how much slower one is with that kind of substantial hill resistance (we were in the 9:20-9:30 range). We were also able to measure our mileage very accurately. Not sure how well this will work in Chicago with all of the big buildings, but I shouldn't have a problem in Evanston.
Today is an easy day - 45 minute swim and New Year's Eve celebration! Looking forward to it.
Happy New Year, everyone!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ironman Florida 2009 Race Report

I woke up at 3:30 or 4 and tossed and turned a bit, but managed to fall back asleep. I then awoke to my alarm at 4:45, got dressed and ate my bagel with cream cheese, a Go-gurt (I am a kid in an adult's body) and half a banana. My sister accompanied me down to transition and body marking, which didn't take much time at all since I had dropped off my bike the day prior (Good story there - the boyfriend and I misread the schedule and thought the cut off for bike drop-off and bag turn-in was 5 pm, but it was 3 pm. We ended up with a mere 10 minutes to get all of our things put together and situated in transition. Not pretty.).

After making sure everything was ready to go, I headed back to the hotel room (we were at the race site hotel, which was very convenient) to put on my wetsuit. With about 30 minutes until race start, we walked out to the boardwalk area to meet Th. (the boyfriend) and to head down to the water.
The Swim: 1:13:31.
Th. and I were suited up, so we bid our familes adieu after taking a few photos, headed over the timing mat and packed in with the rest of the sardines. We decided to head to the right side of the beach, thinking this way we could pick our line in to the buoys and avoid some of the mass melee. As it turned out, we did not go over far enough and ended up getting sandwiched, but more on that later. I practiced the breathing techniques I learned at VQ earlier in the season and felt surprisingly calm. A few butterflies were lingering in my belly, but they were all flying in the same direction, so that was good. :) I expected the cannon to go off randomly, as Erin H. had warned me, and sure enough, it did (it would've been nice if they had given us a 2 minute warning or something). They played one of my favorite "get fired up" songs ever - Van Halen's "Panama" - as we were walking into the water across the sandbar, and that put a big smile on my face. I figured it was a positive omen for the day.
For that entire first stretch of the swim, which was oh, probably 800 meters, I got totally clobbered, swam on top of, hit in the face, pushed; you name it, it happened. This was the most brutal swim I've had yet - and the thing that confirmed it was when some guy literally ran into my right shoulder head first and knocked it right out of socket. I yelled a certain four-letter profanity, looked around for kayaks, and when I saw none, I decided to just sit there for a moment (while in excruciating pain) and let it work it's way back into the correct position. Fortunately, it did just that, but not without some tears and additional profanity. Fortunately, the pain lessened a bit as the swim continued, and I pulled through the first half of the swim in 33 minutes, much faster than I had expected. I got a quick sip of fresh water and tried to wade through all the people that were cutting off the first buoy on the second lap. I was amazed that so many people felt it was okay to cheat. I dolphin-dived my way into the second lap and slowed my pace a touch (perhaps a bit more than I had to).

On the edge of the rectangle - cutting across to head back in to the beach - there was some major chop, but other than that, the waves weren't nearly as bad as I had expected them to be, though most of the pro male and female times were about 3 to 6 minutes slower. Considering that, and the fact that I dislocated my shoulder on this swim, a 1:13 is pretty damn impressive (for me at least)! I took 10 minutes off my IM CDA 2008 swim time.
The Bike: 5:40:18

Starting out on the bike after a pretty crazy transition, my legs did not feel as they had felt on my training ride two days prior. I pushed my pace and sailed past a lot of folks, aiming to keep my power between 170 and 180 as Cortino and I had discussed. The terrain was very flat and this course is completely lacking on the technical side, so I had that to my advantage. However, once I got to mile 40 or so, I was not feeling so great. My stomach felt fine, but in general I just did not have the endurance I'd felt on a lot of those long rides with VQ. By about mile 70 or 80 when I caught up with Th., my power average had fallen below 160, which was not good. In retrospect, I did not fuel particularly well. I dropped my salt tabs, drank mostly water out of my aero bottle (I had Gatorade in my other bottles but did not use them very frequently), and had mush in place of broken-up Chewy and Nutri Grain bars (I will never use the "breaking up bars into halves" strategy again). I did eat three bananas and 5 gus, which helped considerably, but overall I was not particularly thrilled with my bike split. By mile 100, I could not ride in my aero bars anymore as my neck muscles could no longer hold my head up. Something was just not right. I was really, really glad to get off my bike in T2.

That said, I took an hour and forty-four minutes off my IM CDA bike time last year. CDA has a much more challenging bike course, but even so, 1:44 is nothing to sneeze at.

The Run: 4:50:18
By the time I got to T2, I was feeling pretty cooked. I kept telling myself that I could start slow and find my legs, get some nutrition and everything would be okay. But the thoughts were definitely there - "Why am I doing this?" "Why don't I just call it a day and tell people I felt awful (which I did)?" I guess being persistent (STUBBORN) has its advantages, because as soon as I got to about mile 3, I thought, well, I've come this far, so I might as well keep going. And somewhere in the back of my mind (and trust me, it was in the back of my mind because at this point I was hurting) I knew that I would really hate myself if I wound up with a DNF.
So I toughed it out and ran 5, walked 1 (or walked 2 when necessary). Occasionally if I was feeling really bad I would run 3 and walk 1 or 2 (minutes). This strategy ended up working pretty well; I must have been running at an 8:50/9 minute pace when I was running because in the end I averaged an 11:04 pace. I didn't fuel very well again, mainly because my stomach was sloshing around. I did throw up twice as well, which hasn't happened to me before. Not once throughout the entire race did I have to pee, which is a good confirmation I did not take in enough nutrition; to boot I think I may have had 1 gu throughout the entire run, plus a few grapes, then I drank mostly water because I could not stomach the Gatorade.
The only really challenging aspect on the run otherwise was that it got dark early due to daylight savings and the state park was REALLY dark. It was very difficult to see the orange cones that were out there.
On the last few miles, I knew that I could finish in 12 hours if I jogged the last mile or so, so I did. The home stretch wasn't quite as fun as Coeur D'Alene's, with the 400 meters or so downhill into the finish line, but there was definitely some fantastic crowd support. A lot of people bemoaned the "spring break" atmosphere with the dinky clubs and silly head shops, but I thought it was kinda fun. I'll take palm trees and the ocean any day. ANY DAY.
In the end, it was a fantastic day, and it always is crossing that finish line. I'm so excited to do it all over again, hopefully with an 11:00 or 11:10 finish (at Ironman Louisville in August 2010). In the meantime, I will take some R&R time, and then start up with some marathon training for the Rock 'n Roll Mardi Gras Marathon at the end of February.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Goals for IM FL

So I've been away for awhile (mostly due to 15-20 hour training weeks + crazy job), but thought I'd check in with some updates and plotting out my goals for Ironman Florida, which is 6 weeks away (11/7/09).

I am sick for the first time (excluding that awful food poisoning prior to what was supposed to be my longest bike ride of the training season) this season but am keeping my wits about me and trying to stay focused. Hopefully I can shake whatever it is in a few days. Boyfriend is sick as well so that doesn’t help much.

So, anyway – we’re down to the last grind, the toughest part. I have a hard weekend ahead – 5 hour ride Sunday and 5:45 brick (3:30 ride plus 2:15 run, including 15 x 800’s at 8:00 pace or faster. Given that I just made the transition back to land running 3 weeks ago, a 2:15 run at that pace ain't bad - guess that mindless aquajogging paid off). I must stay focused now because this is my last opportunity to let my body adapt to heavy endurance work. More importantly these three weeks prior to my three week taper allow me to gauge how my body has developed over the course of the summer.

The following are my goals (at least now) for IM FL:

Swim: My swim has progressed a bit this season, but I have had some bad luck with spotting at smaller races due to weather issues and/or infinitesimal buoys. Fortunately at Ironman the buoys are ginormous. Unfortunately, I will be getting clubbed in the head. Point is, if I could swim 1:23 last year without even trying (and with very little training), I can swim 1:10-1:15 this year (and my 2 mile open water swim back in June indicates that I was well-prepared even then). X-factors: weather, surf, tide, jellyfish and number of athletes. Could very well be a more challenging swim than IM CDA’s was.

Bike: There is no reason I should hold back on the bike (well, perhaps a little bit since I have to run a tad afterwards). I have come so far with my cycling and there is no reason I shouldn’t be able to finish in 5:25-5:30 given all the hard work I’ve put in – even if there is wind/heat. This course is flat, flat, flat and I am now pushing 215 (3.33 W/Kg) for my LT power. I have no excuses (except for laziness ;) ).

Run: The run is a big X-factor. I’ve been pulling through and am getting there despite the injuries, but I have no idea how my body is going to respond to that distance. My longest run this season will probably be about 16 miles. That’s it. But I can reasonably hold on to an 8:45 pace for that distance, so there is no reason, if I am trying my hardest, that I cannot run this marathon in 4:20-4:25.

T1 + T2: The thing many people don’t understand is how tough it is to perfect a transition. I need to work on mine for sure. Especially in Ironman, it is so tempting to just “take a break.” Not happening this year. Will be sure to bring Visine this time around, as well as extra contacts and gum. Shooting for 11 minutes max total.

TOTAL TIME: 11:05-: 25

Of course, if I can go faster, I will! I’m not going to pressure myself – just going in with an idea of how I should be performing. I can only do my best, and I will keep asking myself that – am I doing my best? Am I pacing myself well? Am I fueling myself appropriately and being kind to my body? Because that is all I can do.

Last crunch!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

VQ 40 min Supermax Test

At today's workout we did a Supermax test to assess how I've been improving in terms of my power output. When I first came to VQ with the interest in trying it out to see if it was a good fit, we did a real Lactate Threshold test, finger pricker and all. This was back at the end of January. I never would have guessed how out of shape I was then, but when I think back on it, I was really only getting 6 hours of training in a week. That's what "normal" people do. ;) Anyway, Robbie and Max both worked with me and my LT was a measly 153, as you will see in one of my earlier posts. I did have good core strength and flexibility, I guess!

Today we did the VQ Morgal Bismark II TT course ( on the Computrainer for 40 minutes. There were 3 major inclines, the third *quite* major. Coach Cortino advised me to take the first two at an 8.5 RPE and the third at a 9.5. The part that was actually the trickiest was maintaining my power output on the downhills - this means there are NO breaks. Darn. I had to upshift on each to maintain. I managed to maintain 204 at first, then I cranked it up slowly over the third hill and pushed hard during the last 4 minutes (which felt like forever) to where I was pushing out 230-250 W. Overall I averaged 207 (~19 mph on a tough course), which comes down to 3.2 W/kg for a 65.5 kg-er like me. Coach has advised me to watch my diet just a pinch more and try to be more consistent in an effort to get down 3-5 lbs. This will help me toward my goal of 3.4 W/kg, which is in the 90th percentile for the VQ chicks.

So yeah, I blew that 153 right out of the water. Awesome! Now I have to contend with some of the awesome Vision Quest cyclists... ;)

Here's another good article on LT:

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Photos from Racine

Since they won't let you save or copy the damn photos anymore... 40 bucks for a "HD" digital image??? Yeah freakin' right.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Spirit of Racine Race Report

So I'm a little late on this post, but I figured I should definitely write a race report for Racine this year so that I can remember it later.

I arrived with K.S. from VQ on Saturday afternoon around 3 - fortunately my favorite little Honda didn't die on us, nor did our bikes fall off my Saris bike hitch, which is missing two bolts. ;)We rode about 12 miles of the course, just to get a feel for what things would be like Sunday. The Racine course is pretty flat and easy, but there are a few bumpy patches (literally - the roads suck) and a few minor hills. After our ride, we registered (I bought a few things per usual at the expo), checked our bikes in transition, changed and met some friends for dinner at Salute, pretty much the only Italian restaurant in town, and had some pasta. M.A. tried to order a vegan meal but the waitress pretty much didn't know what that was. It was amusing. After dinner I drove to my hotel all by my lonesome and laid out all my stuff for race day while watching Mission: Impossible. Next time I will definitely plan ahead and stay with some friends. It was lonely out in Sturtevant (BFE, Wisconsin).

On race day I awoke before my alarm, per usual, and ate my PB & J bagel, a Chewy bar, and an apple. I had all of my transition stuff in bags so I was prepared for set-up. By 6 am I had everything ready to go, and walked toward the swim start with some VQ friends at 6:30. My wave went off on time at 7:13 and I started to feel anxious about my race. The Racine swim is fast, but what I don't like about it is that it is shallow - so eveybody stands up and dolphin dives. It is hard to establish a good cadence when you have people landing on top of you. I also got pulled out by the current a few times and didn't spot very well. Nonetheless, I finished my swim a good 3 or 4 minutes faster than last year in 29:45.

I ran a good .25 miles up the beach to transition and awkwardly pulled my wetsuit off. The water was 63 or so this year, so my feet and hands were a lot more mobile. Fortunately I'd remembered to down shift my bike for the climb out of transition. I felt fantastic on my bike after the swim and was moving along out of downtown Racine at 21-23 mph. The Racine course is pretty uneventful, save for the few hills and bumpiness I described earlier, so in other words, it is fast. My goal was to maintain a 7/10 RPE throughout the whole race, and this worked very well. My bike split was 2:42, a good 15 minutes faster than my previous bike PR (and 8th in my AG).

I came into transition ready to run and fortunately the temp wasn't too hot. I threw on my shoes, fuel belt and hat and headed out. Several VQ-ers were there to support and take pictures, so that was awesome. What isn't awesome is the two hills on the run course (well, I guess they're not that bad). I made myself run both of them, though I was slow. The Aquaphor-sponsored girl I passed on the bike steadily passed me back on the run. Alas, I am not a strong runner, but I suppose I am getting there. On the first loop I did pretty well, but my pace slowed on the second. Perhaps my aid station walks were a little bit longer than they needed to be. ;) The one thing that kept me moving along pretty steadily though, was "Oh shit, I can hit 5:20," "Oh wow, I'm going even faster than that, I can do 5:18..." and then I'd close my eyes, let my legs do the work, and pretend I was in Hawaii, relaxing on my back in the ocean (the next day I went on vacation to Oahu!) Overall run split was 1:58.

I ran toward the finish with a big smile because I'd blown away my goal time and surpassed my previous PR (my first tri ever, the Gulf Coast Half IM) by 43 minutes. I finished in 5:16:02, and 11th in my age group. IM Florida, you better watch out.

Monday, July 13, 2009

18 Weeks Until IM FL!

So... 18 weeks isn't actually that far away. November will be here before we know it.

This month I decided to go ahead and hire a coach through VQ. His name is Cortino, and he is to be feared. Having a coach is good for me (or anyone) because there is accountability and I am afraid of the consequences if I slack on my workouts. ;) Anyway, he really knows his stuff and was on the elite ITU circuit for awhile.

The fantastic news is that I am already in better shape than I was just prior to IM Coeur D'Alene last year (it is sad that I was that out of shape then!). My run is progressing a lot, though according to Cortino I am still pretty behind on my mileage. I have new orthotics, which have been helping out a lot (they should at $500 a pair), but I am worried they will not hold up for as long as my podiatrist claims (2 years). We will see.

My swim has also improved a bit and my bike is, er, getting there. I get so bored on the long rides by myself, and thus get lazy. This weekend I drove out to Algonquin, IL for a 4 hour ride. Some of the hills and scenery were nice but there were some dodgy areas - I almost got run over twice due to the crappy cue sheet I found online. Cyclists beware - do not ride on Algonquin Ave. or N Quentin unless you want to die. Overall it was a good ride but I was tired from my Saturday run and the hills. Excuses, excuses.

We'll see what this week has in store for me. I feel good!