Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Turkey Day!

"Life just get's in the way"

There is a reason this is such a popular quote. Something I did not consider when deciding to train for a Spring marathon versus Fall was the holiday season. This is probably due to the fact that I was too busy whining about training in the cold that it distracted me from the immense amount of scheduling conflicts to come. Well that and denial. Anyway, the first challenge has arrived... Thanksgiving. Instead of the traditional heading up north to grandma's house and spending the week in the kitchen, my small clan (it's just my parents, sister and myself) will be heading to warmer climates... The Bahamas! At first I thought this would make my challenge of hitting my mileage easier, but that is not necessarily the case. I'm not saying it will be impossible for me to escape for a quick run here or there, but how am I supposed to run all my midweek mileage PLUS a 10 mile long run, by myself, in the Bahamas, while my family sits around waiting? Let's not even mention the track workout. The negative of being at a resort versus home sweet home, is that with all the activities planned, skirting off for a 2 hour run usually puts others in the awkward position of having to wait for you or at a minimum scheduling the days activities around you.

My solution: do what I can and don't worry about the rest! I've already made a 10 mile running date with my training partner for the Monday we return to DC so that will be my belated long run for the week (Monday versus Saturday... big whoop!). As for my mid-week total, my goal for this week, if it was normal, would be 20, but considering the circumstances I am going to aim for 18, and Tuesday the girls and I got up early and pushed a hilly 6.5, so I'm already down to less than 12! I'm thinking 3 shorter, less time consuming runs sprinkled over the next 5 days should be doable. Yes I might lose a bit of nap time on the beach, but who says that's better then running by the waters edge?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Indian Sprints

Last week was my first ever track workout. By "ever", let me clarify... I mean EVER. As in have never ever...

Needless to say, I was walking in blind and a wee bit intimidated. Let us remember that running, and especially sprints, were used as the main torture devise of every soccer coach I've ever met. So shaking that negative connotation is not easy. As a few of us slowly jogged around the track for a mile warm up, the program's head coach ended up next to me. After introductions and "so why do you want to run a marathon?" type chat, I finally asked, as nonchalantly as possible, "so what are these sessions like?" He shrugged and said something along the lines of "Oh nothing too bad, the usual long distance speed training stuff" blah blah blah and left it at that. After a minute of trying to find the right words I finally spurted out "No, I mean literally, what do we do? I've never run a track workout before so I'm completely lost." He was a bit taken aback, and then smirked and said "Ohhh..." and went on to break down some basics for me before the workout began.

Track Etiquette:
Tip #1: Run Counter Clockwise
Tip #2: If you are not pushing your pace (aka warm-up or cool-down) stay away from the inside lane. That is for people who are in the midst of their workout.
Tip #3: At the same time, if you are pushing your pace and just happen to be slower than most of the Speedy Gonzales' out there, don't mind them, stay on the inside and they will pass you on the right. So really if you aren't pushing it stay away from the inside two lanes.

First Workout: Indian Sprints (ironically one of my past soccer coaches most favorite form of torture)

For those of you who had the privilege of escaping childhood without this growing experience let me enlighten. Basically you have 5-7 people running laps in a straight line (one behind the other), with the person at the end constantly sprinting to the front of the line. So as a group you are running laps, and when the person behind you sprints to the front of the line, it is then your turn, then you get to slow down until you are at the end of the line again at which point you sprint to the front again, and again, and again. You usually average 3-4 sprints per lap (quarter mile). We were to do 4 miles.

For me the weirdest thing was that I was running with 6 people, and yet no one was talking. Grant it, it was our first time meeting and we were sprinting, but the whole point, for me, to run with others is to pass the time chatting. So when I figured out that wasn't going to happen I worried that this was mentally going to feel like an eternity. Surprisingly, between absorbing the atmosphere of the track (it seemed the entire neighborhood around this school consisted of runners who were all training that night), keeping pace, watching out for my turn and county laps, I was quite occupied and before I knew it we were half way there. By the end, I was tired, but I felt really good! I know it was my intro to track, and that it is just going to get harder from here (the track coach's speech intro was that we were here to learn how to run in discomfort because no matter how much we train, those last 6 miles come race day WILL be uncomfortable - - not a motivational speaker) but it was definitely a confidence booster to walk out day one feeling good!

Monday, November 22, 2010

It's Official!

Just bit the bullet and am officially signed up for the Rome Marathon!
March 20, 2011

117 Days to go... 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What makes a "Runner"?

The late George Sheehan once wrote, "The difference between a jogger and a runner is a race number", this supposedly delineating the difference between those who enjoy running as an activity versus sport. I disagree with this. Does that mean if you run 40 miles a week but never enrolled in an official race, you are still not really a "runner"?

There has been equal amounts of praise and criticism about the recent surge of running's popularity. Some attest that this is proof that America is finally getting healthy and highlights all of the wonderful 5K's, Turkey Trots, and running groups that have recently emerged. On the other hand, there are those involved in the elite racing division that believe this surge of amateur involvement is actually hurting America's running competitions by lowering the mean racing times and overcrowding big city races with first time competitors.

For whatever reason, I still find it hard to refer to myself as a "runner." Some of it is the leftover mentality from less than a year ago when I found it hard to get out and jog 2 miles. That is more of a personal image I haven't gotten rid of yet. But there is also that larger stigma that unless you are really great and competitive in a sport you are not truly a part of it. This seems to be the same when you refer to the cycling world or many other endurance sports. If you go for a 25 mile bike ride every weekend, but never compete, are you a biker?

For many of these sports, there seems to be a reservation of sorts by the elite competitors. There's a kind of intimidation factor that comes across as "if you're not serious/professional about running/biking/etc, then get out of our way and don't waist our time!" I do understand that it must be frustrating when beginners who don't understand protocol get in your way, potentially could cause injury/accidents, or don't take it as seriously (I mean I get mad when people don't understand the stand to the right, walk up the left concept on the Metro!). At the same time, it's a shame that so many people do not attempt these great endurance sports mainly due to lack of encouragement or access to knowledge. Though I am an admitted book worm, there is only so much you can gain from pages, rather than being immersed in the actual culture. If it wasn't for the Y-Tri program holding my hand, matching me up with veterans, and having patience for my silly questions/mistakes I would NEVER have attempted a quarter of the things I have this year. I mean I grew up riding a beach cruiser (thank you Florida). I had no concept of gears let alone clip-less shoes/pedals, the appropriate bike fit... hell, the appropriate bike!

This is the number one reason I began this blog. In the weeks before my official triathlon training began, this shy, anxious, "I really don't want to make a fool of myself" girl spent hours online and in bookstores trying to find answers to basic questions like: what do I wear for winter running?, do you wear sneakers to spin class?, can anyone translate these swimming workouts to English? What I found was only training advise for the already experienced athlete, all in terminology that might as well have been Russian. There was no true beginner basic information. That was the niche I was hoping to fill here for the next couch potato who wanted to dip there toe in the world of endurance. I wanted to ease the fear of "what the hell are they talking about", and encourage the "oh I get it now!"

So call yourself whatever you'd like. The one thing you can be sure of is that there will always be someone faster, always be someone slower, and you will always have more to learn!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Road Runner Training Schedule

DCRRC Spring Marathon Program
Training Schedule
Targeting end-of-March Marathons


Wk Ending
  Weekly Totals  
  MidWeek Totals  
(SAT)   Low Mid Adv   Low Mid Adv   Long Run

10 16 26
4 10 20
14 22 28
6 14 20
18 26 30
8 16 20
27-Nov   20 28 30   10 18 20   10
22 31 32
10 19 20
26 34 39
12 20 25
27 35 40
12 20 25
25-Dec   26 32 37   14 20 25   12
27 35 38
14 22 25
30 36 44
16 22 30
28 33 42
16 21 30
32 39 46
16 23 30
29-Jan   36 41 48   18 23 30   18
32 39 44
18 25 30
38 43 50
18 23 30
34 35 49
20 21 35
26-Feb   37 38 52   20 21 35   17
40 41 55
20 21 35
28 29 38
15 16 25
21 23 29
12 14 20
32.2 33.2 36.2
6 7 10

Sunday, November 14, 2010

At the Beginning... Again...

Welcome to Tri-ing to Break Away... The Marathon Edition:

After making the commitment to do the marathon, one of my biggest issues was guaranteeing myself running buddies throughout this winter. I have already acknowledge my issues with training alone, and though right now I have a wonderful group of friends always available for a run, come the nasty cold winter I needed to make sure I'd have someone there to push me through those long double digit runs. Luckily, my best friend and tri training partner has also decided to tackle a March marathon! So even if everyone else decides they don't want to brave the freezing weather, I'd at least have him to count on. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that with running 4-6 times a week and truly hating running alone... ever, that this was a lot of pressure to put on one person.

Since the Y-Tri training program worked so well for me, I started looking into marathon training programs. After some researching, asking around, and avoiding programs that I had no way of affording, I came across DC Road Runners. This seemed like the perfect amount of training, for an affordable price. Their format allows you to be as involved in their process as you'd like. As a running group in general, they offer group runs throughout the week at different locations around the DC metro area. More specifically for their marathon training program, they also offer Wednesday night or Thursday morning track training session, and a Saturday 8 am long run. For me currently, I have my own running group that I can do my midweek mileage with, but have no structured track training, or weekend long run. So for now, I can join in for the Wednesday night track workouts and the Saturday long runs. Then when we get deeper into the depth of winter, if my running buddies decide to pull back a bit, I can always join in on one of the many Road Runners' groups as a backup plan to help meet my midweek mileage. Also, if that wasn't enough, Road Runners has partnered up with Pacers so just in case your schedule is particularly difficult, you can always join in for one of their "fun runs." Perfect!

Road Runners' program also matches you up to specific coaches depending on where you are with your running. Though you are able to work with all of the many coaches, and from what I understand they expect you to, you will also have a specific coach that works with you to personalize your training schedule and outline you're individual goals. This is where I find great value in participating in the program. No matter how many books, articles, and advice you find, outlining and analyzing your unique training program and goals is always where I seem to have the most questions... and astonishingly enough, no matter how many I ask, the books never seem to answer back. Basically, this program adds that human touch my massive amount of research was lacking.

Well it has officially begun. Here we go folks, on with this next adventure!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Gaining Speed

As I've mentioned in several posts, since my triathlon in June and the end of this years Y-Tri Training season, a couple girls and myself, who happen to live in close proximity and pace together perfectly, decided to create our own little running group to keep moving during the "off" season. Because this was such an organically created and organized group, I don't think any of us knew what to expect. Though we had discussed different goals and strategies... we ended up just running. At the time, that is exactly what all of us needed. Tri training had been so structured and serious and once the tri was over and summer was here, we all just needed a break and were mainly concerned with running off each of our individual lazy summer vacations.

Recently though, we have noticed our routine becoming a bit dull. We have pretty much plateaued in our distances, 6-9 miles (there is only so far you can run in the morning before work without having to wake up before 5am... at that's just not an option!). Plus there are only so many interesting routes you can map out, especially now since we no longer have the sunlight which allowed us to attempt different trail and park runs. So what can we do to mix it up? Well if we can't work on gaining distance, we could always try gaining speed. From the beginning, one of the best assets our group had was similar pacing. Nobody felt held back or left behind... it was all inclusive. At the same time, it probably has not encouraged us to push our pace. Adding speed training (fartleks, track workouts, hill repeats) would allow us to try something new, improve our speed, and exert as much if not more effort in a more compact time slot. Win win!

So now, for one of our running sessions each week, we will be doing some form of speed training instead. Our plan is to run down the to The Ellipse (just over a mile), complete 3-4 laps of 1 minute push, 2 minute recover, and then run just over a mile back up. It would total between 4.5 and 5 miles. Over time, our goal would be to increase push time and decrease recovery time. We'll probably alternate these fartleks with different forms of hill repeats every couple weeks to keep things fresh.

This is also specifically advantageous to me since I will need to add some form of speed/track training  to my routine once I begin marathon training (beginning of Nov). This way I don't have to suffer through it alone. Plus, one of the best forms of motivation is trying to catch the girl ahead of you!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My Fall Funk

Between the title and my lack of posting I'm pretty sure you have a clue as to what this post is about. Fall is not my friend. Yes, I concede it is beautiful and on these first few days in October the weather is fresh and crisp and all that jazz. But something about this season always throws my world just slightly off kilter. I'm sure part of it is the Florida girl inside of me that is mourning the loss of summer and dreading the next 6 months of layers, slush and cold. I also just began my masters program. Yet again I am trying to find my footing: making a schedule that I can stick by, readjusting to working at home, figuring out which of the 5 computer labs on campus actually have the stupid statistics program I need for class...

Also, my runs with the girls have gone from fresh summer morning jaunts to trudging in pitch black coldness.Those adventurous trail runs are now out of the questions since we can barely see our hands in front of our faces let alone watch the path. I also had to dig in the back of my closet to pull out running layers. Instead of just throwing on my tank and shorts, I now have to check the temperature each morning to decide what to run in.

Then there is planning out my training for a marathon next march. I've compared and contrasted a zillion training programs and have been devouring as many tips and training articles I can on top of my readings for school.  When I finally started to feel confident on what I needed to do and how I was planning on doing it, it hit me that I was going to be doing all of this during the winter. I mean I KNEW it was going to be winter, but it suddenly occurred to me what that really meant: layers of running gear, mostly running in the dark, less running partners to choose from, and God forbid we get hit by another snowpocalypse!

*sigh*   Ok, that is the end of my rant... I will now move forward and suck it up!

Friday, September 24, 2010

50 States Ride Tomorrow!

Just in case you didn't know, the 50 States Ride, it takes place tomorrow.  

The route covers each state named street through all 8 wards and 60 miles at a casual pace with a couple pit stops, lunch at Eastern Market, and drink specials at The Grill from Ipanema.

Check it out!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Packing Up!

I'm getting ready to head down to Virginia Beach for the Sandman Sprint! A girlfriend and I signed up for this as the perfect end of summer beach weekend. It's enough of a goal to keep us moving, but not something so extensive to stress over. Also, where better to end a race then on the beach? (Typical Florida girl!) September is also the perfect time of year for such an excursion: the tourists have all gone home, fall responsibilities haven't gotten too out of hand (Labor Day wasn't THAT long ago), and the weather is cool enough for race day with enough sun for beach time. It's truly the best of both worlds!

Though I'm very happy with my running lately, I have to admit my biking and swimming have fallen short. This is just another testament to workout buddies. With the girls I run with, one of us will always pick a route and time and all I need to do is show up (which is expected). With the swim and bike, I have to either find a partner for each outing, plan a workout, and/or get down to the gym for a class. Not that any of these options are tremendously difficult, just rather that they are up to me to execute. This will be an experiment to see just how much muscle memory can come into play come race day.

One last minute note included in a recent email that gave me pause:
"We know that Hurricane Igor is out in the Atlantic.  The current weather forecast is for sunny skies and a high temperature of 80 degrees.  The storm has the potential to cause rough surf.  No determination concerning altering or canceling the swim will be made until race morning." Yea... we'll have to wait and see how that goes.

Time to review my check list, pack up the car, and get ready for the fun weekend ahead!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Book Review - "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall

At the beginning of tri training, back in March, one of my running coaches sent out her weekly email discussing our runs for the week and what to expect, but in this one she also included the following quote:

"Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn't matter whether you're a lion or gazelle - when the sun comes up, you'd better be running."

She had just begun reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and was raving about it. She wanted us to get as inspired as she was. The difference was she was a marathon runner who had already bought into the theory of enjoying to run ages ago, while we were newbies wondering if you could die from running 3 miles. So my first thought was more along the lines of "well if something was chasing me I might actually finish one of these crazy runs!" But extra motivation couldn't hurt so I downloaded the digital version and added it to the library on my e-reader... and there is sat. Life was moving fast between work, masters applications and tri training, so my to-do reading list was not necessarily at the forefront of my mind. Then when I took off on my recent adventure I was looking through my digital library to find something to distract me on my first 13 hour flight, and there it was.

Recently I found my reading juggling back and forth between fiction (ex: The Life of Pi Yann Martel) and fact (ex: The Paradox of Plenty Douglas Boucher). One thing I loved about Born to Run was the balance between science and storyline... I got the best of both worlds! It was like a recipe with a sprig of anthropology, a dash of biology/genetics, a dollop of adventure, and topped off with comedy and life. On top of everything else, it inspired.

Review by Washington Post

Monday, September 13, 2010

The "M" Word

I have been asked to do a marathon. Me… the girl who 6 months ago almost fainted at the thought of completing a 4 mile jog. I guess this is the same mentality that makes me deny the fact that I’m a “runner.” I mean what constitutes a “runner” anyway. Well, that’s for a later post. It’s not like I have not been approached with the idea before. I have several friends who are runners and swear that completing a marathon is one of life’s greatest achievements. I’ve just never had the desire. The triathlon, though it scared me to death, also had an intriguing factor. There were new sports to be learned, and different ways of training and types of equipment. I mean look at this blog! It literally kept me on my toes. A marathon just has always seemed so… well, boring. You’re doing one thing… running. You’re training is just… running. There really aren’t any fun gadgets or techniques. You are just putting one foot in front of the other over and over and over again. As the last year of change has proven, I don’t seem to do well with monotony. So have I now somehow been wooed over to the dark side? Not sure yet.
Let’s just say that there have been many new positives to the situation that have recently revealed themselves. For one thing, my mentality towards this type of challenge has changed. Thanks to the triathlon, I don’t seem to question “Can I do something” anymore but instead “How do I do this” or “Do I want to do this.” The triathlon, to me, represented something that I considered impossible to accomplish. Now I feel like that word “impossible” has been erased from my vocabulary. In my mind I’ve done the impossible.
Another recent epiphany is that, without trying to or planning to, I’m already a quarter, if not a third, of the way there. I am now regularly running 8 miles. I recently had this conversation with one of the girls I run with who agrees that we have no idea how we got here. Obviously we “know” how we got here, but meaning this was not planned, or a goal. It just happened organically. I’m by no means implying that going from 8 miles to 26.2 will be anywhere close to as easy, but by realizing how far I’ve come in respect of running as a whole, a new world of possibilities has recently opened up before me that I truly never thought possible.
One of the greatest encouragements is that my best friend/tri training partner has recently had a similar breakthrough. After being asked to join, I went to him with this idea for some constructive feedback. He was, as usual, completely supportive and the one who brought up most of the pros already mentioned, but did not show any particular interest in joining me on this expedition. Then this morning, it just happened for him. He had a breakthrough 9 mile run and was tantalized by the same concept completing the triathlon gave me… “I can totally do this!” Knowing that I not only would have a training partner, but specifically the one who went through this last taxing journey with me, start to finish (literally), and all that it entailed, is invaluable.
There is also the point of view, turning a con into a pro, that doing a marathon would be something totally out of the ordinary for me, hence the opposite of monotony, and yet another check off the old bucket list.
This does not mean that I have not, and am not, still considering my list of apprehensions. For one, my knees have always been the first to revolt in the face of endurance, and out of the three sports I’ve trained in this year, running is definitely the knees arch nemesis. I would have to be uber cautious and proactive in training and strengthening to prevent injury. There is also the time commitment. I have a better idea of what I’m up against after my tri training, but at the same time, it has been nice getting my social life back. Am I ready to place it on the back burner again for another 6 months? And will running be enough to keep me entertained? I know that the second I lose interest or enthusiasm for such a goal, the chances of my accomplishing said goal diminishes significantly.
What needs to happen, what always happens at this stage of my decision making process, is research. I will now proceed to bombard myself with marathon facts and statistics until I’m blue in the face and cannot take anymore. At that point, the decision will be made.
Oh, and did I mention this marathon will be taking place in Rome?! Who says “no” to Rome?
Off to the bookstore!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Leave your watch behind...

It’s become way too common for us to get caught up in the pace. We are so focused on our speed, time, and distance that it is all too easy to forget to actually enjoy running. I know I’ve never been a huge advocate of the joy of running and usually look at it more as a dreaded school paper that I know I’ll leave for Sunday night to write, but turns out, if you leave all the pressures of performance behind, you might actually find yourself having… dare I say… fun.  
This beautiful Saturday morning I rolled out of bed, laced up my shoes and headed out. First of all, I almost never run without someone else. Without someone to talk to, how do you pass the time? Yes, I’m that chatty runner. Second, for the first time this year, I didn’t map out a route and calculate a distance/time goal. I just followed wherever my feet wanted to take me: Rock Creek down to the riverside, across to Virginia and back and then to explore the set up for tomorrow’s Nation’s Triathlon. I bumped into my running coach and stopped for some scenic stretching on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I didn’t focus on my speed and made sure to stop at my favorite cafĂ© for a latte before heading home. Sure training goals are important, but some days you just need a break!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Runner's Toe

Last week I was so swept up in the fact that I kept up and cranked out 15 miles in 2 days after my vacation that I didn't stop and consider the possible side effects. After the longer runs it's not unusual for one or both of my knees to be slightly sore for a day or two. But after Thursday's run not only was my right knee pretty tender, my right big toe nail felt slightly bruised as well. I shook it off and assumed the weekend would put me right.

When Sunday's usual yoga and brunch date with the girls came around I barely noticed that I was still feeling that weeks running endeavors. Until I was in a full front bend, staring at my toes and noticed that my right big toe nail was raised compared with my left. At closer inspection I confirmed that my right big toe nail was actually lifting off of the nail bed. Gross! Left alone it had no discomfort, but when touched it felt like I was poking a dark bruise, though the coloring and everything else visually looked normal. I figured I hadn't run since Thursday and I wasn't planning on heading out again till Tuesday, so as long as I made sure Tuesday's run was a bit more conservative, I would be giving my toe ample healing time. Nothing seemed to change between Sunday and Tuesday morning, so I kept my plans for a short 3 miler. I wrapped my toe in gauss to offer some cushion and headed out. Everything felt fine for the first mile but then suddenly it just started throbbing. Once I hobbled my way home I saw that not only had the area underneath and around the nail bed swollen up, but for the first time there was discoloration. My toenail was officially turning purple. Awesome.

My solution? To do what any other straight thinking person this day and age would do... I went online. What I found was that this was common and referred to as runner's toe. Good news right? Sure... except for every article I found said that if you felt like there was pressure (hello, it felt like my toe was a balloon being filled with water) you needed to release the pressure to relieve the pain and avoid infection. Suddenly thoughts of prehistoric techniques for headaches like drilling holes into ones temple ran through my head... and I wasn't far off base. Each of these articles described how to do this "procedure" at home. Since I doubt you'd believe my description of these torture methods, I've listed some of my sources below. Basically they were advising me to take a paperclip, sterilize it under a lighter flame until red hot, and then place it on the area of the nail where the discoloration is. This will immediately melt the nail leaving behind a hole where the fluid can escape. If you’re “lucky” and the fluid is located more on the edge of your toe nail, you can instead use a needle which you will stick in the delicate skin around or underneath your toe nail to give the fluid a way out. I’m sorry but isn’t sticking bamboo shoots under ones nails considered torture?!
Full disclosure: when it comes to medical procedures, I am a complete and total wimp. So there was no doubt in my mind that these “at home remedies” were not an option. Instead I called up a Podiatrist, who couldn’t see me for another 2 days, but told me until then soak my toe in warm water and Epsom Salt for 20 minutes twice a day and then bandage with neosporin. Like a good patient, I followed the doctor’s orders, and also didn’t attempt to run, bike, swim or even put on a closed toe shoe. By the time my appointment came around, the swelling had completely gone away, and all that was left was the purple discoloration. What needed to be done was basically what all my research had told me… it needed to be drained. At least a professional was doing it. The doctor pulled out a drill that had a rounded sandpaper head and started to work. He slowly sanded down the purple section of my toenail until it was paper thin, and then with a tiny tap of the drill head the nail cracked and the toe started to drain. With a Philips screwdriver looking scalpel, he assisted in making the crack a bit larger and then massaged my toe to make sure all that needed to be drained was removed. As mortifying as the procedure looked, it was surprisingly pain free. I mean, it was tender and I didn’t really want to look at the deformity that had become my big toe, but all around not as bad as I expected.
Even though the pain from the pressure build up was gone, I still had to wait four days until my toenail was healed enough to feel comfortable back in my sneakers. I ran 3.5 miles and so far so good. Now to play catch up… again…

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Keeping Up

One negative of not running alone, and having become dependent on my running girls is that I cannot always set the pace, distance, etc. So even though I've been out of commission for 3 weeks doesn't mean they have. In fact, they have been really pushing it and upping their distance, which is great, except it makes playing catch up a bit more intimidating. Tuesday they planned on revving it up with our favorite 8 miles down across the Potomac, around Roosevelt Island, and back over Memorial Bridge.

View Interactive Map on

I agreed to go along, but figuring I'd turn around 1/3 of the way in. Instead, I only cramped up once and, though there was plenty of huffing and puffing, end up plowing through the whole thing. Needless to say I was surprised.

I was promised a shorter run for Thursday, since I expected to really feel those 8 miles in the form of seriously achy calves. It was technically shorter, though not as much as I expected. We ended up doing a 7 mile run which included Massachusetts Hill and trail running through Georgetown.

View Interactive Map on

Not only was I not in as much pain as I thought I'd be considering Tuesday's 8 miler, but again, I kept pace as if I'd only been gone for a week rather then almost a month! It shocked me just how fast your body can bounce back and the amount of muscle memory you obtain. Moral of this story, don't take it easy because you think you can't.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Getting Back in the Groove

Enjoying the view from the Bosphorus River in Istanbul

Three continents, eight flights, nineteen days and one hell of an adventure! Back in the States in one piece and already missing my nomadic lifestyle. After being awake for 24 hours of traveling I got home around midnight and could barely sleep a wink considering it was 7am in Turkey. So I caught maybe 3-4 hours of sleep and then was up at 6:30am for a short "get back in the groove" run with a girlfriend of mine. We did an easy 3.5 run and I definitely felt it. Yes we walked a ton when abroad and didn't really have time to laze around with all the exploring, but I also wasn't able to run once in the 3 weeks and had just sat in one cramped seat after another for almost 24 hours straight. I was a bit tight to say the least. But all complaining aside, it felt really good to get back on the road. Was it frusterating that before I left we were doing 7 mile runs with ease and now I was huffing after 3.5? Of course! But what are you going to do?

Many of my friends thought I was crazy to rush back into my early morning routines. "Why don't you sleep in... you're exhausted!" Honestly, I think my main motivating factor was fear. Fear that I was going to have time to think about how long it had been from my last run, and how hard it was going to be starting back up again... a fear I'd choose to procrastinate that first run to avoid the inevitable pain. Basically I didn't want to fall back into my old bad habits. I needed to rip off that band-aid FAST before I gave myself the chance to fail. Did I need to do it less that 7 hours after being back in the country... I guess so!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Another Resolution Accomplished

(Me in front of the Giza Pyramids during our last trip - 2004)

I am checking off yet another New Year's resolution this week: I'm traveling to Egypt and Turkey for a 3 week vacation!

I have also just signed up for the Sandman Sprint in VA Beach for Sept 19. The race is a month after I return from the Middle East. I'm hoping that this will be perfect for refocusing and whipping my body back into shape. After all the hard work I've done, the last thing I want is to slip right back into bad habits. Many people talk about how to squeeze in workouts while abroad. Though it would be great, I am also trying to be realistic. Plus for the two weeks we are in Turkey I have us so booked we'll probably be averaging 4-5 miles of walking a day. I'm not overly concerned about how much endurance I'll lose during the trip, but rather jumping back into the game come my return.

What ever I am able to squeeze in or any tips I pick up along the way, I'll be sure to post once back in the states. Until then...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Accepting Your Weaknesses

No matter how far I've come in the last 6 months of training, I have to accept the fact that I do not do well training alone. I consider it my Achilles Heel. Yes I can physically do it. I'll get up and go through the motions, but I don't push myself nearly as far as I do when in the group/team atmosphere. That's why, even though training is officially over, I've focused on creating my own workout groups.

For example, two of the girls I ran with all season happen to live quite close, so we try to meet up about twice a week for a run that always ends up at our favorite coffee shop as our little reward. It's a great pairing because A) Location: we can workout in the mornings versus fighting our after work schedules B) Pace: everyone feels included and comfortable with our speed C) Goals: we don't just want to "jog" but also mix things up with hill/strength training, distance runs and speed training (fartleks).

There are also swim groups that have emerged out of the original Y-Tri swim classes. On our Y-Tri website there is a huge amount of swim workouts posted for our use that you can print out and take down to the pool to orchestrate with whoever you choose to join in with. It's nice that so many people are interested so it's not impossible to find someone the same or similar speed.

The most recent development has been morning rides. So far they have been a bit casual (route below), but starting next week it looks like I'll be joining up with a more serious group that actually does drafting which I have absolutely no experience in. I plan on being dropped quite early on, but am excited to learn and gain the experience in a familiar environment of friends, especially when the biking community in DC can get quite aggressive and does not always seem the most welcoming to newbies.
View Interactive Map on
A great benefit of mixing in these new found circles is also the free training advice. For example, one of the girls I run with, I met as my spin coach this season. On top of her spin experience though, she also is a pilates instructor, which is something I've never attempted and am quite curious about. Another friend I've made in the group was one of the favorite swim coaches. After the tri, I felt like the one area I had the most room to improve in was the swim, so I asked if she'd be willing to spend a couple minutes in the pool observing my form and giving me some pointers on what to work on. Instead, she ended up spending almost an hour and half in the pool with me, going over drills and form exercises, and finished up with filming me swim a couple lengths so I could look back and see what she was seeing. Usually the only way to get attention like that is paying through the nose for a personal instructor. (Post with details to come...)

Then there is my Sunday morning yoga and brunch dates with two of my very best girl friends who, refreshingly, have no involvement in Y-Tri at all. This brings up the all important point that not all workout groups need to be serious. You are not always in "peak" mode. Relax and enjoy the social side of this community as much as the physical benefits.

These groups can be as formal or casual as you need them to be. The only thing that matters is what motivates you. Be it just you and your roommate doing online yoga every day after work or 15 of you heading out for a 30 mile bike this weekend. The key is to understand your weakness and set yourself up to enjoy succeeding.

A Hairy Issue

So it might not be the first thing you think about when considering a triathlon, but as a women with a significant head of hair, I had no idea what I was supposed to do with it to keep it out of my way for the three stages of the race. Separately, the three sports did not pose a styling issue. For swimming my hair is always in a tight bun under my cap, for biking a low pony tail or knot to accommodate my helmet and for running in a tight pony tail. But how do I get it from high bun to low knot while in a quick transition dealing with a wet mop of hair? The last thing I want to worry about during a transition is doing my hair. So how can I secure it in a way that fits under both a swim cap, a bike helmet, but is also off my neck for the run? Umm... Mom?!

Luckily for me my Mom was in town to support my first tri and when we were kids it didn't matter if we were traveling the world or going to the beach, her go-to safety hair style for us was pigtail french braids. They looked cute, held on during our manic play dates, and prevented tangles. Perfection!

You can also see here that even at the end of the tri, my huge amount of layered hair was up, out of my way and not looking half bad!


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Race Day: Injuries

As much as I want to promote the fun and satisfaction of competing in a triathlon, one still must be aware of the possible dangers. Within my own Y-Tri team, we had at least three injuries that I know of that occurred on race day.

The most heart breaking for me would be Arthur's story. Arthur was a newbie, like myself and his positive energy and great motivation has already been mentioned in this blog. He was always the first to show up early with a smile on his face and something nice to say. He worked harder then any other team member. On the morning of the race, he was placed in the wave immediately before myself. When he jumped in the water to get in place for the start, his foot hit the bottom of the river and was sliced open on what we assume was a broken bottle or other similar form of pollution (*plug to keep your rivers and streams clean people!). He was taken to the medic tent and ended up having to receive 8 stitches. After six months of training Arthur didn't even make it past the starting horn. It was torture to watch and not the most motivational thing for me to witness seconds before jumping in the water myself.

The next accident I witnesses was that of one of my running coaches. About 4 miles into the bike I turned the corner to see her on the side of the road being attended to by the ambulance. Turns out someone had cut in front of her and when she had to slam on her breaks ended up flipping over her handle bars and breaking her collar bone. This is an example of not depending on your experience to keep you safe. She is a marathon and triathlon vet. You never know what outside variable is going to affect your race, so keep vigilant.

The third and final was the most nerve racking for me simply because it was my best friend. Before the race we figured out our estimate timing. He used to compete in swimming so we knew he'd kick my butt there, but he also was super new to biking and we figured I'd at least catch up if not pass him during that. Then for the run we assumed we'd be together if not extremely close. So about 6 miles into the bike I was actively looking out for him. Then there he was, on the side of the road, standing over his fallen bike looking extremely shook up... though in one piece. I yelled to him if he was OK or if I needed to stop and he waved me on saying he was fine. What happened was someone yelled to him that they were passing on the left and he looked over his shoulder to make sure he was out of their way. When he turned back facing forward, someone had come to a complete stop directly in front of him, forcing him to slam on his breaks and flip off his bike. Luckily for him he just ended up scuffing up his elbow and hip and was able to jump back on the course and continue with minimal delay.

Be safe and be aware...

What's Next?

"Four months before, I had asked, I wonder if I could do this? Answering it had cost me money and sweat and time. But now I was asking that other question, the one that has always gotten me, and you, into real trouble: I wonder if I could do this faster?"

"Triathlon Training Crash Course" by: Peter Sagal

Monday, July 12, 2010

Race Day: The Finish Line

I completed my first triathlon in 3 hours and 14 minutes!

Immediately after crossing the finish line you walk through a barrage of volunteers: there are the photographers, someone's giving you a medal, another handing you a bottle of water and cold towel while yet another is fishing around your ankle to remove your time chip. All in all, considering what you just went through it can be a tad over whelming. Plus there is your family and friends screaming for you at the end of it all.
The first person to meet me was my mother followed by the rest of my family and friends. After expressing how proud she was the second thing she said in an appropriately worried Mom tone was "What do you need?"

"I need to get these shoes off!" My feet felt as if I had taken up walking on coals. We walked to the tree lined curb, where I sat down and ripped of my sneakers and replaced them with a pair of Reefs. I sat there for a minute or two, catching my breath, drinking my water, and enjoying the shade. I could literally feel my body do a little crash and reboot.
Then it dawned on me that my best friend/race partner was just behind me. So with a sudden surge of energy from who knows where, I jumped up and joined the crowd at the finish line. A couple minutes later, there he was and from that moment on, the rest of our day consisted of celebration.
*The pictures in this post are of my actual race and me (#2589)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Race Day: The Run

I knew coming into this adventure that running would be my Achilles heel. Not only have I never been a strong runner, but I've never enjoyed running. This was an area I really surprised myself in the process of training. Did I fall in love with running? No. But I realized I could do it. Back in February when our coaches said we'd start with 4 miles, I though I was going to die. Then only 3 months later I was running 7.5 mi with the girls no problem.

Also, transitioning between swim and bike was simple. Transitioning between bike and run on the other hand... your body goes through the awkward phase where you don't feel quite in control of you appendages.

When I pulled into the transition area on my bike, it was pretty easy to switch shoes, throw on my bib and just take off again. And as I mentioned in my last post, my endorphins were flowing which helped push through that initial "dear God, who took my legs and replaced them with gummy worms" feeling.
No matter the training, the first half mile of the run will always take some getting used to. The key for me was to just not think about it. As the saying goes, "just put one foot in front of the other" and everything will slowly work itself out. Once you begin to feel normal again you can focus more on picking up your speed, but being cautious that not only do you need to pace for 6.2 miles, but 6.2 miles after completing two thirds of a tri.
At this point I was still on my high and feeling good. My body felt good, my mind felt amazing, and I was surrounded by my Y-Tri team and our family and friends who cheered us all on. It wasn't until just after the 3 mi mark that I started to feel it. It was high 90's that day with a heat advisory and we were running on major city roads with no shade and an awful lot of concrete. Suddenly each step took effort, each water station was that much further away and at that point I was running in a section of closed off freeway so there were no supporters along the roadside to help boost our energy.

In the last transition I had half heartily stuffed a Cliff Shot (Gel) in my back pocket, mainly because everyone kept saying it was necessary. Up until now I had yet to use anything like that and really didn't think I would need to. But there at mile four, when my once feather light legs felt like anvils, I figured it couldn't hurt to try. So as I was coming up to the water station, I gulped it down. I didn't really know what to expect... Was this the equivalent to Popeye and a can of spinach? I trudged along with only the cheers of my teammates as fuel and then I slowly felt the my energy renewing. Did I feel like I could sprint the next mile? No. But I felt like I could keep going, which at that point was as close to a miracle as I was going to get. This pick me up only lasted about another mile but it dropped me off right where my family was waiting for me and seeing them and how excited and proud of me they were was exactly what I needed.
Then came mile 6... my nemesis in this event. The gel energy was gone, the cheering subsided, and in front of me was Capital Hill. Dear God who's idea was that? I looked at it and for the first time in the entire race, considered the possibility I might not finish. "Screw it!" I thought... "I'm walking this hill..." and just as that thought was going through my mind I heard her. Screaming like a banshee half way up the hill at the water station was Trish... my "Yoda" running coach. From the very beginning of training, Trish had singled out my hatred for hills. So every time we did hill repeats or hill strength training, she would find me and push me through while telling me why hills are so great and that I should approach them with love not hate. How appropriate, here was the ONE person I couldn't bare see me walk up this hill. So I continued on. Even in the midst of this exhaustion, you could not help but perk up and smile at Trish's ridiculous enthusiasm. She made it sound as if I were in first place crossing the finish line.

Once past the station I had the top third, most steep and unshaded section of the hill to complete. The soles of me feet felt like they were boiling and bubbling from the intense heat. For the first time in the entire run, I allowed myself to walk. Taylor, one of our swimming coaches, appeared on the side lines and she started to walk with me as she asked how I was. I just looked at her and could tell from her expression that my face must be conveying EXACTLY how I felt.

Once at the top, I began to run again. Pulling up next to me was one of my teammates who I used to pace with during many of our morning runs. We fell into stride. Every couple minutes one of us would find the energy to say something motivating while the other grunted in agreement. The finish line was finally in front of us, and my friend looked at me and said "Let's sprint this out!" and we did.
I finished my first triathlon in 3 hours and 14 minutes!

*The pictures in this post are of my actual race and me (#2589)

Race Day: The Bike

Once I reached the transition area after the swim I plopped myself down on my towel, wiped my feet with the hand towel, slipped on my socks (not extremely easy when wet) & bike shoes, threw on my helmet, watch & glasses and took off toward the exit. One thing that so many people get penalized for is mounting their bike before the official area. They mark this with a thick yellow line and large signs... I mean it was pretty brain dead.

Once on, I focused on getting my speed up slowly and finding the right gear. This is where it's important to have made sure that you racked your bike in an appropriate starting gear. Then it hit me: I had just finished the longest open water swim I've ever attempted. With all my training both in the pool and Bay, I had yet to attempt a full non-stop open water mile. That small accomplishment just revved me up and, unlike the swim, I felt I started my bike really strong. Also, within my first 1 or 2 miles, my family was waiting for me curb side, camera in hand and cheering.

*Important Note: I understand that triathlons are not an appropriate spectator sport. I get that. But I cannot tell you the immense motivation you get from seeing friends and family cheering you on.

Even though you are feeling good you need to make sure you pace yourself. I heard stories of some of our best veteran runners having to walk/run the last leg because they hadn't gauged their effort right. Think of it as a 7 out of 10 in effort.

The bike course was relatively flat, but since we were getting on and off the freeway there were some ramps and slight hills. This, ironically, made the ride much more fun for me. You were able to play with your gears to pick up speed up hill and fly down the other side. Though serious hills could be an issue, I imagine a completely flat course would get quite boring. Plus it seemed to work more areas in the leg rather then simply chugging along on the "usual suspects" and seemed to ward off muscle exhaustion.
After the first 12 miles or so I did have to pull myself up out of my saddle now and then to stretch out. On top of the usual kinks you get from working in the same position, during a race, with all that adrenaline, you can unintentionally grip your handle bars which causes extra and unneeded stress to your neck and shoulders. Getting yourself off of your saddle can remind you to reexamine your positioning and focus on what your muscles are doing.

Something else to remember is this is really the only time you have to refuel & hydrate. As mention before, I had 2 bottles of liquid: one water, one Gatorade. I tried to make sure to switch between the two and my goal was to mostly finish both, even if I didn't feel thirsty. I also had a Clif Bar and Jelly Belly Sports Beans taped to my handle bars. Though I didn't finish either I made a significant dent in both and you really do feel it kicking in, especially when the adrenaline starts to peter off.

By the time I came to the end of my bike my adrenaline rush from the morning had disappeared but in it's place had come the most intense endorphin high I have ever experienced. I was flying and my body felt like it reached a place that I've never physically been before. It was by far one of the most amazing feelings I've ever felt in my life. That alone made this entire process worth every penny and ever drop of sweat.

*The pictures in this post are of my actual race and me (#2589)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Race Day: The Swim

The rule, when it comes to wetsuits, is that they are allowed as long as the water is 78deg or cooler. If it's warmer and you choose to still race with your wetsuit, you are not eligible for placement and in some races, including mine, you have to wait for the last wave of the day. Since the water was well over 78deg on my race day I decided to go sans suit. I knew I was not going to come anywhere close to placing, but the idea of starting any later (I already had to wait around for almost 2 hours) was not appealing.It was nerve racking to think that I was about to jump in the river in a tri uniform I had only received 4 days prior and never experimented swimming in. Walking down to the water in my wave seemed more like I was walking the plank. They had installed a floating dock that stretch out into the river. Once the wave before you had started you walked down the dock and jumped in the water. There you and the rest of your wave, tread water for almost 2 minutes waiting for your start.
As corny as it sounds, you could cut the tension with a knife. Suddenly the ever chattering girls had all become silent. All I could think was "Why did I get myself into this? Why is this so important? And how can I get myself out of it?" It seemed like such a bright idea 6 months ago. It was that way for about a minute until we all started to cheer ourselves on... good lucks and whistles flew through the air. Then the horn sounded.
Though it was a mess, it was not as scary as stories had made it seem. I did not get a foot to the face, and no one attempted to swim over or under me. Once we reached the 100 meter mark we all had pretty much sorted out our own space and seemed to finally get into the flow. That was until the wave behind us began. This is a complaint I have about how this race was organized: who's idea was it to put the 25-29 guy's wave right behind the 25-29 women's wave? They set us up to become a human speed bump! I finally felt like I was getting into my rhythm when a wall of neon green swim caps came hauling over us. These are the guys you hear the stories about. Though a bit more unnerving then the start of the race, I still survived sans black eyes or near death drowning incident.
I was having a hard time though. I just could not calm down and get comfortable in my stroke. I felt like I needed to breath every full stroke and had to break my glide to look up and double check I was still on course with the buoy. It wasn't until the 700 m buoy (almost half way) that I truly felt like I fell into my rhythm. Though it was frustrating that it took so long, once I found it, I felt like I was flying. Before I knew it I was at the end and clambering out of the river.
I found it hilarious that on the short run back to the transition area they had us run through a hazmat rinsing station... like that was going to protect me from the crap in the Potomac I had just submerged in for a mile.

*The pictures in this post are of my actual race and me (#2589)