Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Racking up the Yards

Now that base building is done, our swim class is incorporating less drills and more yards per exercise. Basically working to get us used to less breaks. Yes, technically we swim about a mile each class, but there will be no shallow end, or side of the pool to take a breather at in the race.

Here's what we did yesterday:

300 yard warm up

150 x2 Continuous Swim (20 sec rest between sets)-make sure not to pause in any way when changing directions at the end of the pool.

150 x2 Kicking w/ Board (30 sec rest between sets)-
face in the water, taking a stroke when you need to breath. Long arms, kicking from the hips, alternate side breathing.

100 Kicking on your Back w/Board-clutch board to your chest and focus on kicking from your hips

150 x2 Pulls (20 sec rest between sets)-Place a float between your legs and only use your arms, focusing on form.

50 x4 Sprints-
25 yrd sprint at 100%, 25 yrd swim back at 75%. You have 1:30 to complete, whatever time you have left over is your rest before the next 1:30 starts.

150 Cool Down

Yardage = 1650 = 1 mile!

Monday, March 29, 2010

1st Outdoor Group Bike

As I mentioned last week, this last Saturday was Y-Tri's first outdoor group bike. I've been looking forward to this for a while now, and all I asked was for no rain. Well it didn't rain, so that was definitely a plus. What I didn't expect was the below freezing temperature. After the previous weekend, who would?! It was 32 deg when I left my house at 8:30am to meet my coach (who I've recently discovered lives literally across the street from me). Dressing for that temp is hard enough without taking into account the wind chill you'll be creating racing through Rock Creek (which is also known to usually be around 10 deg cooler then the rest of the city). Awesome!

On Thursday when Larry (head of Y-Tri program) subbed in as our spin coach, we happened to discover we were neighbors. So he offered to bike down to Pierce Mill in Rock Creek Park (meet up location for group ride) together Saturday morning. I have to say it was a good thing he did, because if I didn't know he was waiting outside for me, there is a very slim chance I would have left my very warm comforter. (Look forward to me writing about the benefits of the buddy system!)

Anyway, after getting over the fact that most of my appendages where numb, the ride was pretty great. Just being able to bike outside, within itself was rewarding. Lets be serious here, the spin room is just not that motivating. Since we did a bit of an intro before hand and were just getting used to the process we ended up only doing 16 miles (which was enough in that weather) instead of the 25 we'll be doing from now on. We started at Pierce Mill and went up Beach Dr till we hit the East/West Hwy and back.

Another great thing about taking your bike out for an actual ride rather then just errands around the city, is you can analyze what's going on with you machine. For example, I now know that both of my derailleurs need to be adjusted. Since I never tend to use my 3rd (most resistance/outer) gear in the city, zipping around from store to store, I hadn't realized that my derailleur actually fails to be able to move into that gear at all. This is a quick fix, and since I need to go back to The Bike Rack later this week to get new cranks (metal distance between gears and pedal - supposedly mine are the length appropriate for a 6 ft+ person, placed on my Women's Small bike... weird!) it should be no biggy.

This ride also helped me finalize my decision on getting bike shoes. It became obvious just how much energy and momentum I was losing using my "cage" pedals with runners.

Gear Mandatory for a Outdoor Ride -
Flat Kit: spare tube, CO2 cartridges with a dispenser head, and tire levers in a seat pack
Water/Sports Drink

A Good Idea to Have-
Some form of eye wear to protect from both sun and wind.
Power Bar

Friday, March 26, 2010

Base Building - Complete!

This week (week 6) represents the end of our base building period!! Now that I know what that means, I figured I'd give you a snapshot of what that has looked like for me, training wise.

Below is an average swim segment from the last couple weeks:300 yd Warm up

150 x 2 swim (don’t stop the entire 150 yds, no touching the bottom at all! Take a 25 second break in between the two sets.)

50 x 4 streamline kick (work on long arms, kicking from the hips, flexible ankles and alternate side breathing. 10 Seconds in between sets)

50 x 2 torso rolls (kicking on your side for 6 beats, then 3 strokes and 6 beats on your other side. Working on long body; hips, torso and head all facing the same direction; alternate side breathing. 10 second in between sets)

150 x 2 kick with board (face in the water, taking a stroke when you need to breath. Long arms, kicking from the hips, alternate side breathing. 40 seconds in between sets)

50 x 2 sprints (25 spring at 100%, 25 swim back at 75%. 25 seconds in between sets)

50 x 2 underwater (25 swim as far as you can underwater, then until you run out of breath then sprint remaining distance to the wall. Swim 25 back at 75%. 25 seconds in between sets)

250 cool down

Yardage = 1650 = 1 mile!

Biking is much harder to report on since distance and resistance isn't measured on our stationary bikes, but here it goes:

Warm-up on flat road

Jumps (3/4 turn resistance, getting up and down out of your saddle for the entirety of an average song at different intervals from 2-8 seconds)

1 Leg (pedal with only one leg, focusing on the full circle... pull up with your hamstrings as much as you are pushing down to complete a full and smooth rotation)

Hill (For the entirety of an average song, slowly add resistance till at the end you feel like you're peddling through peanut butter. For the next song, just as slowly, remove resistance and pick up cadence)

Fingertips (Peddling with heavy resistance, up out of your saddle, with only your fingertips lightly touching your handlebars to keep balance. The point of this drill is to hold yourself up with only your legs, prevent bouncing, and force yourself to focus on the entire peddle rotation. VERY HARD!)

Rolling Hill (This is similar to the previous Hill drill, but, as in the description, you are not only going up and then down, but rather continually adding and subtracting resistance for a longer period of time)

Jumps (refer to above)

Sprints (Every coach does these differently. My favorite are when you do 10 seconds of "hard", 10 seconds of "very hard", 10 seconds all out "sprint", and then 10 seconds recovery. You repeat this over and over for the entirety of an average song.)

All of this take approx. 45 minutes. This is very difficult to accomplish on your own. I would say to simply take a 45 minute spin class since most cover all of these basics, and will push you much harder then you could push yourself.

As for running, you can review the maps of each week's run in this week's earlier post. The maps include distance and topography.

So all in all, for my first 6 weeks, I did each of these once a week, and added one day of yoga and an extra run as homework. Hopefully this gives you a pretty good idea of what base building looks like. Now I have to get prepared to ramp it up for next week!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Getting Excited!

This Saturday will be the Y-Tri's first outdoor bike! I have no idea why, but I've been so excited for this. I guess I'm always jealous of the bikers I see out in Rock Creek or down by the Potomac on the weekends. They just seem to know what they're doing. I mean, I know how to ride a bike... sure, but if I get a flat, a chain breaks, or any other usual wear and tear, I have NO idea how or what to do. So I guess I'm mostly excited for all this great "insider" knowledge I'll be gaining. There will be a basics and rules of the road review before the ride this Saturday, and then in two weeks the great people at The Bike Rack (a sponsor of Y-Tri, located @ 14th & Q) will be hosting a bike clinic to go over bike maintenance. I've also signed up for a similar clinic (free) at the Fairfax REI. (SIDE NOTE: Check out all the great free clinics your local REI offers... you'll be surprised at what a great resource they can be!). Sure, there might be a bunch of overlap in information, but this is the kind of thing that you need to hear and practice over and over again to be able to do it efficiently on your own on the side of the road... in the middle of a triathlon. I'm laughing to myself, having flashbacks of my dad making me take perfectly good tires on and off my car, over and over again before I left for college. Anyway, keep posted for updates on if I make a fool of myself or not.

Quick Note: Dear Mother Nature,
Please please please let it not be raining, at least for those few hours on Saturday morning... please!

Tri-ing to find the beat...

Had the head of Y-Tri program (pure cyclist at heart) sub in as the spin coach this morning. It was a ridiculously hard class with ridiculously bad music! So hard to push yourself to limit when all you can think is "what the heck am I listening to?" And as nice as it was to mix things up, I had a nagging feeling in the back of my head reminding me that next week we start bricks. So after crawling off the bike next Thursday, we all get to head out for a 30 minute run. Don't get me wrong, I do get the importance of this. One of the horrors I hear most often about tri's is the physical transition from bike to run. Your leg muscles get all confused after pushing certain ones for 40k and them asking them to use a completely different set immediately after... "Jello Legs". I can't help but think "Am I really ready for that?" At the same time, have I been "ready" for any of the hurtles I've tackled thus far? Like everything else I'll just have to go along and see what happens... wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Running Routes

One great thing I appreciate about our running coaches is that the evening before each weeks run we receive the route, all mapped out, in an email. Something about this just seems to make the whole process easier. Just knowing the distance, terrain and where we are going, seems to calm me and allow me to focus on my form rather then which way to turn or the fear of being left behind and lost.

This morning I realized, since I have all of my runs already mapped out for me, why not share them with you? So I am! Below I've included all of the runs I've done thus far. Starting next week I'll make sure to post them weekly.

Week 1 - Washington Monument & back
View Interactive Map on MapMyRun.com

Week 2 - Timed 2 mile run
View Interactive Map on MapMyRun.com

Week 3 - Meridian Hill Climb
View Interactive Map on MapMyRun.com

Week 4 - Calvert Hill Loop
View Interactive Map on MapMyRun.com

Week 5 - Mall to 7th St
View Interactive Map on MapMyRun.com

Week 6 - Mall to Lincoln Memorial
View Interactive Map on MapMyRun.com

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Perfect Pair of Shades

Spent today shopping around for a nice, affordable pair of light weight sunglasses that would be appropriate for both cycling and running. Unfortunately for me I have the curse of almost never finding shades that don't make me look like a circus freak or bug. I realized that there doesn't seem to be one location where I can just go and try on a bunch of glasses. This is where the internet, I feel, has made our lives inconvenient. Instead of running out, trying some things on, and going home with the perfect fit, you have to order one pair, try them on, probably return them and pay shipping, and do it all over again and again until you find the perfect pair. *Grr*! So long story short, I've made my first order, and the process has begun. I did find a review of "Best Sunglasses" for running from Runner's World that helped me on the right track. Let me know what you've found and if there is a tangible location that might get me out of this shipping world mess.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Shopping for a Sport You've Never Played (Part 3)

This is the one area I’m following the “wait and see” motto. Cycling is a sport that can be as expensive or economical as you make it. For example, right now I’m just going to be using my running shoes rather then invest in clip-less because I'm still learning their advantages and what I need to look for within my tight budget. Thankfully, I invested in a great Schwinn bike last year when I found my perfect frame size (woman’s small – next to impossible to find!) on sale. If you don’t have a bike yet, my best advice to you is to go to your local shop and ask the professionals what exactly you need (basic-no frills) for what you want to do, and if they know of any used bikes available. Last year a friend of mine was shopping around for a new road bike after his was stolen and after looking around the store for a new one, ended up buying one of the mechanics used ones off him for a great deal. Since he was getting it from a bike mechanic, he knew it was in good shape, and got a free tune up.

When you are purchasing a new bike, make sure they include a "bike fit". This is more then just adjusting the height of your seat. I've been told adjusting anything on your bike by centimeters can completely change the feel, and since you'll be booking some serious mileage in the upcoming months, avoiding chronic injuries is a must! The most important thing is that you train on whatever bike you will be racing with. Bikes have very different feels, and you don’t want to be thrown off your game race day by introducing a new piece of equipment.

Helmet is a must, easy to find, and shouldn’t be too much. As for the clothes, tops can be the basic wicking tank paired with bike shorts. I’m still not sure about the padded bike shorts versus not padded. I already had a pair of all-sport capri tights I’ve been using, and I would be lying if I said my derrière was not a tad soar the next day, but I don’t know how much the padding will actually help, and when in doubt hold onto the money and wait.

I'll be attending a couple free bike clinics this next month, so keep posted for updates (read: what they talk me into buying).

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Beginning of Homework

During orientation we were told that outside of the three mandatory morning training session, we should add another day on our own and make sure we are getting at least one day of rest (no arguments here!). For my first week, I was more concerned with surviving and didn’t really give the whole “pick-up” day much thought. Turns out that that weekend my sister was in town and we ended up doing some ice-skating at the Sculpture Garden and for a first week, I thought that should count.

For the second week, I decided I should take the homework a bit more seriously. I figured, out of the three sports, running is where I would reap the most benefit spending more time. Decision: Saturday I was going to go for a run. Then Saturday came… and I felt awful. I mean truly gross. I had been having issues getting a full nights sleep all week, I was physically and mentally exhausted, suffering some severe sinus pressure from this horrendous season they call winter that wouldn’t just roll over and die already… not good. But, I didn’t want to fall any further behind in my running group then I already felt I was. I had to run. So I made a deal… I’d run, but not the 4 miles I was planning on suffering through originally. Ok, that’s a good compromise. If anything it will teach me that no matter what I should always push through… blah blah blah (insert moral clarity here).

So I ran. I put on what I refer too as my “running uniform” and headed out. First, it was so nice to run in the afternoon for the first time in forever. The sun was out, I wasn’t yawning, the city was buzzing... everything seemed a bit easier than the harsh morning runs. Secondly, I got to listen to my awesome work out mix. One of the “rules” for the Y group runs is no i-pods, which I have to say, makes pushing yourself further much more difficult. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the safety issues and that if a coach is trying to communicate, they need to know you’re listening. I get it, but that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t suck. I also veered away from the usual route. Discovering a new path and exploring parts of the neighborhood I have never been to kept me so mentally entertained that it distracted me from feeling like the walking dead. By the end of the run I had covered almost 3 miles. Sure, it wasn’t my original goal, but a thought hit me: the last time I ran here, outside in my neighborhood, was late fall when it was finally getting too cold, and at that time I was struggling to reach 2 miles. So yea, I might not have done the 4 I wanted to, but I ran 3 miles while feeling like hell, with a certain amount of ease. Hell, I even incorporated a hill I had been avoiding like the plague.

I realized that it is important to keep your goals and accomplishments in perspective, and not be afraid to pat yourself on the back for the small wins along with the big.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Week of the Hamstring

I proclaim this, the week of the hamstring. Between Monday's extra kicking drills, Tuesday's steep uphill run, Wednesday's many downward dog splits, and Thursday's single leg peddling drills, it feels like if I bend forward in any amount, my hamstrings might start snapping like over tuned guitar strings in some old school cartoon. Going to be taking advantage of this day of rest!!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Timed Run

Everything about getting an accurate baseline measurement establishing where we are now makes sense. We need it so we can measure the rate of our improvement later. That concept did not, however, make me feel any better about having to do a timed run. I was still getting used to the whole running outside in winter thing and now you want to throw a stop watch at me? Needless to say, I was anxious about the whole situation. I considered my big success during our first and only other run not turning into a human popsicle, so can you blame me?

As a warm up we did a nice dynamic stretching session at the Y and jogged down to the Reflecting Pool. My confidence was not building when I struggled keeping up with the group during the “easy” warm up pace. Once there, we were to complete two laps around the reflecting pool and the WWII memorial which would equal 2 miles. The coaches would record out time for both the 1st and 2nd mile.

Then we were off! Though I obviously wanted to clock the best time I could, I also wanted to focus on finding a pace that would prevent me from cramping up half way through. My biggest challenge lately with distance running hasn’t been cardio, or muscle fatigue, instead it’s been cramps: specifically one hell of a one on my right side at my lowest rib. It ends up crippling me until I say “Uncle” and walk it out for 3-4 minutes. In a timed scenario, this would not be good.

The first mile I clocked in at 11:19. I found this ironic because when we registered for the program they asked how long it would take us to run a mile. I had no idea, so I just guessed and wrote 11min. Guess I was right! Phew! Second mile I finished at 23:33, which I was fine with. Great? No. But embarrassing? No. Leaving room for improvement? Oh yes.

At the end, I was just glad to get it over with. I hate to admit it, but it is really nice to have a perspective of where you stand at the beginning and where you can expect to be in few weeks.

Thursdays are my Jekyll/Hyde days. They are my earliest training session of the week, BUT I get an amazing 45 min stretching session afterward.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Shopping for a Sport You've Never Played (Part 2)

Swim Suit: Let’s just say that trying on Speedos might not be the best confidence building exercise, but it sure is motivating! If you are not an avid swimmer who knows exactly what size you are looking for, it probably would be helpful to suck it up and head out to your local sport store to try some on. Even if you don’t find exactly what you want, you can at least get an accurate idea of what size you should order online.

Goggles: pretty easy to find, and one of the few things that are usually honest when they say “one size fits all”. Plus all come with different size nose separators – check!

Swim cap: ladies – DO NOT believe what the packaging tells you. The lycra (cloth) caps that swear they are specifically made for long hair… not so much. I honestly couldn’t even get it over my head! Yes, the latex might pull a bit, but it will hold in place and keep way more chlorine out. Another helpful hint is to slather some conditioner on your hair before dawning the cap. A) Think of it as a conditioning treatment B) Since you’re hair is absorbing the conditioner it will be able to absorb less chlorine. If you’d rather skip the conditioner, sticking your head under the shower and getting your hair soaked with non-chlorinated water helps avoid chlorine absorption too. After each swim shake some baby powder in your cap to help minimize pinching next swim.

Also, if you plan on swimming on a pretty regular basis, it might not hurt to invest in some chlorine removing shampoo & conditioner. Winter’s already giving my locks a run for their money, so why not.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Cycling 101

I was really excited to pick up cycling simply because it seems to be a sport where certain knowledge is crucial and I’d never seen a “Biking for Blondes” (read: Cycling 101 – Super Basics) offered anywhere. Though I’d enjoyed my 40+ miles rides to Mt Vernon and back, I had never taken a cycling class, or learned much more than the bare basics of riding. Heck, I just learned about gears when I moved to DC four years ago as I grew up riding a Beach cruiser in Florida where breaking occurred when you peddled backwards and of course there were no hills to climb.

Each class is 45 minutes and the first day we spent 15 minutes just learning a) how you should feel and be positioned on your bike b) how to adjust your stationary bike to find that position. This was awesome! It was simply explained, there was no assumption of previous knowledge… someone was holding my hand and walking me through the basics.

The three main adjustments were: the height of your seat (when your pedal was at 6 o’clock your knee should still be slightly flexed and not locked), the distance of your seat from your handle bars (when your pedal is at 3 o’clock your knee should be directly over your ankle), and the height of your handle bars (the weight of your upper body should not be resting on your bars, you should feel like you are basically sitting up on your own and only leaning slightly forward).

Once that was all settled we did a nice 30 minutes of basic riding, learning the 3 stances (I’m still figuring those out) and playing with resistance. The only part I didn’t love about the whole process was the resistance. It just seemed so ambiguous having this knob that you turned a bit here and there. I never knew if I was working hard enough or working way too hard and tiring myself out. I’m sure it’s something I’ll just get the hang of but in my “learn the basics” paradise that was this class, it was the only part that wasn’t crystal clear to me.

All in all, it was a great experience! Like the swimming, I can’t wait for the next class in order to learn more about this sport that until now was nothing but “get on and go”.