Friday, June 25, 2010

Back in the Game!

So.... I had a friendly visit with the doc on Monday, just to make sure I was getting better. Turns out I had bronchitis, so I got myself a brand new collection of pills, including 5 days of antibiotics and some chastising for running on Saturday. Whoops! On the happy side of things, he did compliment me EXTENSIVELY on my nice and slow heart rate, low blood pressure and high spirits. So all in all, a very pleasant visit. He did ask me not to exercise for a couple more days, at least until the icky cough was gone. So today, Millheim Tri D-1, I went to the pool to make sure I still knew how to swim. Mission accomplished. 1,800 slow yards later, I am getting excited about participating (not racing) tomorrow. The doc said to take it easy, and I will. Sorry I did not make it to anyone's blog this week, but I finished the first draft of my dissertation. I will catch up this weekend! :-)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

How Not to PR - Race Report

Sooooo... If I ever uttered "the sentence "it's JUST a cold" please forgive me. I was ignorant. I have not been sick in sooooo long. My last really nasty cold was November 2008 (Thanksgiving with my in-laws). My last flu was in 1998. That was also the last time I had a fever. It all started with a sore throat on my flight back from Vegas. Then came the cough, then the very painful deep cough, then the congestion, the sneezing, more painful coughing, and finally the bouncing headache. From Sunday to Thursday it kept on getting worse. I even skipped work on Thursday afternoon and went home. And I know it's JUST a cold, and a lot of people have it so much worse. But I don't remember ever feeling this bad. It did not help that I was working 12 hours days trying to finish my dissertation.
Tussey Mountain Ski Area Pavillion

But today... Today I felt better. So I ate a huge greasy breakfast and made my way to the Clearwater Conservancy Strides for Nature 6K. I had convinced my good friend Dan to sign up, and felt bad to let him run it alone. So, I went there, with zero expectations, just excited and happy to be out and about and able to run again. This is how it went down (and down it went)...

My only attempt at a "race" outfit was my awesome BondiBand

The course was gorgeous. Loads of trees, birds, cute little creeks. A delight. The course was also very well marked, which was important since most of the time I was running alone... There weren't that many people, which was very nice.I could just go at my pace.

I started really well. My legs were raging to go (no exercise in a week, worse than a tapper). Sadly, I blew up pretty much straight away since I am still very congested and loads of gunk is coming up from my favorite lungs. It did not help that it was all uphill until the halfway mark. So after 14 minutes I told my friend Dan to go and I WALKED... Yes, I did that. Am I proud? No! But my HR was at 197... I walked for about 1 1/2 minute, until Dan was far enough that I would not try to catch him. I got passed by others but that was OK. I was just happy to be running again.

I ran until the aid station, got some water, started running straight into a monster climb. I decided that my pride was already gone, and I might as well walk that hill too... Just walking the hill made my HR shoot up to 197 again. I think I walked for about 5 minutes, until I got passed by two high school girls. They stopped to walk at the TOP of the hill, when I decided to start running again. I never saw them after that. I was on my own, on a single track trail, in the forest. Very cool.

I was running pretty comfortably. It turns out that you don't need lungs to run downhill. However, it was very steep, with loads of lose gravel, so I wasn't going very fast anyway. I almost fell a couple of times. This was really not a course to PR on.

The last section was back on the road, and was mostly flat. I could see one woman ahead, that had passed me when I was walking the hill. But I did not have it in my heart (or lungs) to even try to catch up. It was just too hot, my belly was complaining, my lungs were screaming...
I love laying on the grass...

So... I don't know my exact time. I forgot to stop my watch. Something around 42 minutes for 4.25 miles... And even though I have never run a 6K, I will not claim this as a PR. I was not prepared,and the course was really tough. So I did not race this, so I don't deserve a PR. But I did have a great time. I really enjoyed hanging out with buddy Dan and meeting new people, the post-race food was excellent and the organizers amazing. So, I'd still call it a great day :-)

I will try to catch up on blogging after Tuesday, when my dissertation draft is submitted... Happy training y'all!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Fabulous Las Vegas

So this week I was at a conference in Fabulous Las Vegas, NV. I flew there on Wednesday and back on Saturday. After last week, I was determined to stick to focused workouts, none of that improvisation stuff I had been doing so far. Before my trip, I researched the facilities at my hotel and BINGO! the hotel had a pool and a gym. So I figured, I could get my swimming done in the hotel pool, my biking in the hotel gym, and my running outside, very early. Did that work? NO!
The pool was beautiful but a bit of a joke. It looks pretty big on the picture (trick photography) but it was less than 10 yards long. Flip turning on one end pretty much guaranteed a bump on the head on the other end... 

 The itsy bitsy tiny swimming pool (max 10 yds long)

The gym was similarly sized: 2 treadmills, one elliptical, and one RECUMBENT bike... I went there on Thursday morning, around 4.30 AM. Needless to day, I only lasted 20 minutes on the treadmill (the bike was being used by someone else), before succumbing to claustrophobia. So I called it quits (I was giving a conference presentation that day so I did not want to try anything too adventurous).

On Friday morning, I went for a run at 5.30 AM. I woke up at 4, but had to wait until daylight. Jetlag is awesome that way: my run felt like a midday stroll, without the scorching heat! I ran for 6 miles along the Strip and felt like a champ!

I passed all the famous Las Vegas landmarks: including Paris.
A Paris...

All the drunk individuals walking home were cheering along and trying to high five me. I humored some of them. Boy, those were the shortest 6 miles ever (6.6 to be exact).
Local Superstars (during my 6PM sightseeing stroll)

Saturday, before my flight, I went for another 9 miles at 5.30AM. Those were slightly more adventurous, including a drug bust along the route (not me, I promise). All in all, this was a good trip. Too little working out, quite a lot of work, and a bit of sightseeing...

Today, I woke up with a cold that could become nasty. I decided to take the day off from working out and SLEEP! My hubby is taking good care of me and letting me indulge.

French Pastries from Bellagio

Monday, June 7, 2010

(Over)Training Update

Being a newbie attempting her first half-Ironman this year, I am slightly petrified of not doing enough. I built up my training to about 10-12 hours per week very quickly, after just a few months. However, I think I have hit a wall in terms of quantity. These past few weeks, and after the half-marathon, it has been very difficult for me to maintain those 10-12 hours and I find myself frequently too tired. As a result, I skip some workouts and cut others short. I think part of it has to do with the heat, but some of it is probably related to over-training. Lately, I have been neglecting my swims, either skipping them or cutting them short. I have been enjoying my rides a lot, usually going out 2x per week for 40+ miles and doing one indoor 15 to 20 mile session on the trainer. I have been struggling with my runs, usually cutting them short after trying to go out too fast. Also, I have not been giving my recovery weeks the respect they deserve.

For instance, this weekend while going over my training "plan", I realized I was finishing what was supposed to be a recovery week, yet I did not do any "recovery". So I decided to skip my long run and second long ride of the week, and take an easy weekend. And not so surprisingly, my Saturday run was one of my best ones post half. The Sunday ride was nice and relaxing, and this morning, I had my best swim so far...I did 3,800 yards of which 3x800 in 14:08, 14:00 and 13:32 (!!!)

So... What did I learn from this? That I need to focus on doing less and doing it better... I still enjoy all my workouts (when I don't, I quit and go home). And sometimes doing a bit less, means I can do it better. I need to separate short/fast runs, from long/slow runs. I need to learn for shorter bike rides, not all of them need to be over 40 miles. Even though I love going out in the mountains for 3+ hours every change I get, my body gets trashed. And, I need to remember, that even if I neglect my swimming for a month, it's right there waiting for me, with very little loss of fitness, so no guilt trips...

I also need to remember to use sunscreen. I have accumulated a crazy amount of tri-gadgets that have helped me ward off the elements (helmet, sunglasses, X-Terra wetsuit...) but have been neglecting the very basics: protection from the sun.  I am lucky to have a nice Mediterranean-style olive skin. However, I am already at my FOURTH sunburn of the season. Nothing major, just a bit of painful redness that dissapears within 24 hours. I did not even really lose any skin. But I know the sun can be harmful, and along with the olive skin I have a gazillion cute little moles that do not like the sun. So if you have some good sunscreen to recommend, that is not too icky, please let me know.

In the meantime, happy training and enjoy the sunshine!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Fly by Night Duathlon Race Report

So... The Fly by Night Duathlon... was AWESOME! My hubby and our friends were all living it up in Europe (albeit separately), so like a big girl, I loaded the car, drove the 3 hours to Watkins Glen, setup my bike, raced, re-packed the car, ate, and drove back. That does sound pretty easy doesn't it? Well it wasn't.

Morning of...
I was helping out a friend on Friday night, so I got home pretty late, carbo-loaded (as if I needed it) and went to bed. I tried to sleep in, but I was wide awake at 6.30, so got up and had breakfast. I was planning on leaving between 9 and 10. However, at around 8.30 I started having some digestive issues, either because of pre-race nerves or my new and improved diet. I think that by the time I was done, there was zero fuel left. I tried to drink a lot to make up for all the "losses" but that also did not go as expected. For a 3 hour drive, I had to stop 2 times to use the bathroom.

At the Track
My trusted friend, Tom-Tom, got me to Watkins Glen without a hitch, through some beautiful scenery. Sadly, I have no pictures since I needed to hold the steering wheel. I got there around 2 or so, in plenty of time to watch the Porsche Clash. The Glen was closed to the public, but I got a cool Pit Pass bracelet, which allowed me to oggle the Porsches up, close and personal.

 Oggling the Porches... I still like my ride better though...
The Fly by Night Duathlon is an evening race, and was to take place after the Porsche Clash. So I watched the last Porsche Clash start and then made my way back to the car to get ready. Let's say that part of the trip did not go very smoothly, and I greatly missed the hubby...

I had managed to get the bike in the car, while only removing the front wheel with the quick release skewer, so putting it back together wasn't such a big deal (although I was petrified that the wheel would pop out during the race). Being the good little athlete, I had also brought our floor pump (and five extra tubes, "just in case") and attempted to pump the front tire. Suffice to say, that did not work out as planned. Three nice people took turns helping me out (2/3 were unsuccessful) and we finally managed to get my tires to some acceptable yet undocumented level of pressure. The bike was ready to go! Now me!
Lady is ready for her race, and is definitely sexier than a Porsche

After the bike (which I am thinking of naming "Lady") was ready, I changed into my racing outfit.I normally don't care too much about what I wear, as long as there is no danger of chaffing. However, I needed padding for the bike that would not get in the way of the run. So I used the cute little triathlon outfit that my in-laws got me for the Azalea Triathlon with a very generous service of chamois cream... My new Bondi Bands also came in right on time. I got five of them using Molly's at I'm a Sleeper Baker, FIVE for twenty-five code and I made sure at least one them would match my triathlon outfit and glasses. I got the crazy glasses during Tall Mom's Silent Auction, and they counted as my birthday gift from the hubby.  The outfit was completely great, even if I looked pretty dorky. The Bondi Band kept my hair out of my face AND fit really well under my helmet. The glasses made it much more comfortable to ride during the sunset. And I never thought of my lower half, either during the run or during the bike.
Geeky yet very PRACTICAL outfit
Soon after I was ready, I made it over to transition, which was to be set up in the pit lane (how cool is that?). Since the organizers had to wait until the cars were done, we had to wait until transition was set up. That is also when we got our timing chips. Quite a few people mumbled about having to wait, but I liked how laid back everything was. I biked one practice lap, and ran for about 10 minutes before the start. That's when I realized I was in trouble. There was zero juice in my legs... Nothing, Nada, Zip. I don't think I've had this feeling since I started training in January, so that was new.
 A picture from last year's transition: it was exactly the same this year

So this is getting pretty long, and I haven't even started the race... 

The Race
The race director announced that the race was going to start 15 minutes late, to give everyone a chance to find a spot in transition, make a practice lap, and get their timing chip. So at 6.20 we all lined up for the start. Since my legs were completely dead, I decided to start at the back of the pack, and not let myself be carried away. After all, I had FIVE sprints to do. I was listening to a few women chit chatting and completely missed the start. So I started running and tried to start my watch at the same time. I did not take the Garmin or a heart monitor to the race, since I wanted to race based on my perceived effort.

Run #1
(1.75, 1.8 or 1.86 miles, depending on who you ask)
This was baaaaaaad. It was still pretty hot. One minute into the run we had to go over a bridge (the one that says welcome to... in the picture above. Since it was so quickly after the start, there was a traffic jam and I had to stop and walk up the bridge and only started running again on the other side. For the rest of the first run I was mostly passing people (the advantage of starting at the back), yet going very slowly. The final part of the run was a pretty long hill, and that completely destroyed what was left in me.

I am not sure what my pace was. According to the website, each lap was 1.8 miles. I ran it in 15:41 which is about a 08:43 pace. However, according to the official results, my pace on lap 1 was 8:58, which assumes they used 1.75 miles to calculate the pace. I compared last year's paces to this year's paces, and either the fast runners have gotten much slower (to the tune of 00:30 to 00:45 seconds/mile slower) or the course was longer than 1.75 miles. I'm just sayin'... I knew my legs were trashed, but to run a 1.75 sprint slower than my half-marathon pace... Curious to say the least...

Either way, by that stage, I really did not care about my pace. I felt so slow and could not imagine doing that 2 more times, let alone bike. I went through transition pretty quickly (47 seconds), grabbed helmet and bike, and went on to the bike.

Bike #1 (3 laps)
I started the bike pretty slow, figuring I should save some energy. However, I quickly started accelerating. The same thing had happened at the Azalea Triathlon. The longer I bike, the stronger I get. The course was pretty exciting. After all, it was a car race circuit. However, I don't know about you, but when I think car circuit, I think flat... Not to be... There were quite a few hills. The sad part was, that, while I kept on passing people on the hills and flats, most of them would pass me right back on the downhills. There were two epic downhills, that ended with steep turns. I was too petrified of missing the turn, so I held on to the brakes for dear life. It was fun yet dispiriting at the same time to constantly pass the same people going up, only to be passed again on the way down. I already knew I was a wimp on the downhills, but I have been practicing (which is why I am so good at climbing, because to go down you have to go up). 

The Bike Course
Either way, after three laps I re-entered pit lane and made my way to transition. I made sure to slow down and spin my legs during the last 1/2 mile to make the run a bit easier, despite the hill (yup, same hill as the running). I finished the second bike in 35:47, for a very decent 17.5 mph average. Transition 2 was also pretty speedy, clocking in at 41 seconds.

Run #2
Nothing special happened on run #2. It had gotten a bit cooler, so I was feeling a bit better.  The liquids in my belly were still sloshing around, making funny noises. I focused on keeping a good pace, and told myself that, after run 2 was done, it would be mostly over. I did run #2 in 15:57, a 09:07 pace according to the official results. Transition 3 took me the longest because I was very thirsty, and stopped to drink. I also had trouble getting my helmet on. So I wasted some time there.

Bike #2
I really enjoyed bike #2. It took me a while to recover from the run, but I quickly perked up again. I did take this one a bit slower, but I still was passing people left and right on the hills and flats, and getting passed on the downhills. However, I noticed that, when I hammered on the flats after the uphill, I could put enough distance between me and the others not to be passed again. I think a lot of people relax at the top of a hill, while I like taking advantage of my high heart rate to push a bit further. I was very glad I was wearing sunglasses, because by then, the sun was really low. So this split was 37:17 for an average of 17mph. The last transition took me 38 seconds. I was ready to be DONE!

Run #3
I tried, I really tried. But my legs were gone, in a land far away, and without me. I guess that's what happens when there is no fuel in the body. I tried to keep up a good pace, but I wimped out and walked the few steep hills. On the final hill, I looked back to make sure no woman was close enough to pass me, and took a final walk break before running to the finish. The last lap took me 16:10 (an official pace of 09:14). The grand total for the day was 2:04:05 which was good enough for second in my age group (there were only five of us...), 14 out of 44 females, and 126/190 overall. So pretty average, but I got a fun trophy to show off, and some great and very unusual racing experience. 

 The Bondi Band stayed in place the WHOLE time!

So what did I learn: first, if I am going to race, I need to prepare! That includes nutrition, technical issues, digestive issues, and most importantly tapering. I did not do any duathlon specific training for this race, I have not done any spring training since at least my last 5K, and I worked out pretty hard all week. However, I think my digestive problems were mostly to blame for the lack of energy, so I am not sure about what to do better next time... I guess I'll have to think about that one for the few weeks. I have three races coming up at the end of the month: the Millheim Pool Sprint Triathlon, the Happy Valley Sprint Tri, and the Firecracker 4K. So I guess I need to go work on that speed....