Friday, April 30, 2010


So as I mentioned in my last post, due to travel plans, I needed to rev it up last week to make sure I was fitting in as much as possible. I found out that there is a small group (4-5 vets) who get together every Friday and do the 6am Tri Spin Class and then do this arm/ab program that has been loving named RAW (I believe it stands for: Ron's Ab/Arm Workout). So I figured "Perfect! I get an extra 2 workouts for the price of one, and might make some new friends in the process."

I was a bit intimidated doing a hard core spin class the day after a brick but what was worst that could happen? I was pleasantly surprised that after 5 minutes of warming up my muscles, that were creaking minutes earlier, they seemed to perk up to the challenge. After losing about 5 lbs in pure sweat, we headed out and the RAW group got me started. Below is what we did:

10 Regular Push Ups
Ab Set (look below)
10 Regular Push Ups
Ab Set
20 Off Set Push Ups (One hand is higher than the other. 10 for each side.)
Ab Set
20 Off Set Push Ups
Ab Set
10 Diamond Push Ups (Make a diamond with your two index fingers & thumbs)
Ab Set
10 Diamond Push Ups
Ab Set
10 Wide Push Ups (Place arms much wider than a normal push up)
Ab Set
10 Wide Push Ups
Ab Set


10 Leg Ups (Lay on your back, legs up at 90 deg. Lift butt & legs straight up)
10 Arm Reaches (Stay in same position and reach arms as if to touch your toes)
10 Leg Lowers (Stay in same position and lower legs to the floor, don't rest on floor, and back up)
30 Bicycles (In crunch position reach right elbow to left knee and alternate back & forth)
45 Normal Crunches (Feel free to improvise here and do what you feel like)

On the Pull Up Machine find a comfortable weight setting to start and plan on cutting 5-1o lbs a week.

10 Pull Ups
10 Chin Ups
10 Dips

Do this 3 times.

Follow this up with 2 sets of 30 push ups

*I am no hero and know that I have 10 times better form and will get much more out of doing "girl push ups" (knees on ground), so I do. But if you choose to do this, make sure you body is straight and not bent at the hips.

Do not be intimidated with the numbers. Take you're time and do it at any pace you'd like. It really isn't as bad as it looks... trust me!

Dealing with Real Life

The one reality I constantly am dealing with when it comes to the tri training is my schedule. Because of work or family obligations, I cannot necessarily make it to every clinic, ride or get-together. For example, this weekend I'll be up in Hartford, CT with my family to support my sister's newest theatre debut (her first time as a director!). This alone would mean a solid 5 weekdays of training to compensate for the weekend of sitting in airplanes, theatres and restaurants (not to mention the diet change). But on top of that, this Saturday the YMCA set up a Mock Tri for us to see how far we've come. How cool is that! Let's just say I'm not thrilled to be missing out, but at the same time I can't beat myself up for every time I can't attend. Training has practically become my second job. Of course there will be conflicts. The best I can do is prepare and not miss too much.

So this week I was on point:
Monday - Swim Training
Tuesday - Run Group
Wednesday - Yoga
Thursday - Brick (Spin Class & 5 mi run)
Friday - Extra Spin Class & RAW (arms/abs)

So technically I've done my two runs, and two spins, but I could only get to one swim (Each week the goal is 2 of each). But I also added yoga and weights to help balance out the cardio. Is it perfect? No, but it's darn good! Ideally I'd like another run & swim, but since I know it will be impossible for me to find a pool in Hartford, I'll have to settle for sneaking out early one morning and getting in a quick jog before the fam is ready for breakfast. (Side note: one of the only things I like about Hartford, other than my sister, is Bushnell Park, home of the State Capital building... it's GORGEOUS!)

Either way, I wanted to share what I WOULD be doing if I wasn't going out of town.

1500m swim in the pool (30 laps or 60 lengths). You will split a lane with one other swimmer. Volunteers will be there to time you and count your laps.

T1: Change into biking gear in pool lobby, take everything with you to the spin gym, leave your gear outside the spin gym (remember to leave your running stuff handy) and start the bike leg.

Bike: One hour of spin. Volunteers will track your start time and send you out as your hour is up. It would be a good idea to try to keep track of the hour on your own as well.

T2: Outside the spin gym, change into your running stuff and head out of the Y.

Run: Five+ miles down Connecticut Ave to the Washington Monument, around the back, down and around the Mall then back up 15th to the Y:

Brick - Surprise Yourself

After feeling so sluggish on Tuesday's group run, I was not necessarily feeling uber optimistic about Thursday's brick. To add insult to injury, on Wednesday I decided to pull myself together with a yoga session. This usually helps my body come back into alignment, stretches out all the kinks, and makes me feel stronger in my core. Instead, I accidentally ended up in a higher level class then I'm used to, and before I knew it, we were attempting random poses (lots of back bends!) I've never heard of and the always feared head stands. So instead of being placed back into a calm, cool and collected state, I left banged, bruised and bewildered.

So needless to say, I was surprised how much my body bounced back and how successful this weeks brick turned out to be. After the usual 45 min. spin we did a 5 mile run, and I have to say I finished strong! Grant it a long and slow stretching session was mandatory after the last couple days, but I really felt proud of what I accomplished.

View Interactive Map on

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Oops! Last weeks run...

Last week at work was so overwhelming (Earth Week and I work at an environmental non-profit... yea...) I guess I thought I was lucky enough to get out to the run. So here is the route!

View Interactive Map on

This route was really intense simply because the entire way was an incline or decline. There was almost no flat road, so you really started working those slightly different muscles that are used to only chiming in once in a while versus constantly for long distances.

Also, there was a discussion this week between some of the newbies with concern that we actually haven't gone on a 6 mile run (race distance is 6.2 mi). I've read that as long as you train for 3/4 of the distance for each sport you'll be prepared for race day... but I'd kind of like to know that I can run 6 mi alone let alone after the swim & bike. Something to think about...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Buddy & Me!

Though I've hinted to it several times in this blog, I want to talk about the importance of work out buddies. I've been very honest with myself recently. I acknowledge that I've accomplished a lot, even if I'm just talking about rolling out of bed before 8am. But I also know that, even now, it's near impossible for me to do without knowing that people are waiting on me. I'm not a morning person, nor will I ever be. That does not mean I can't get up early, it just means I need the right motivation. For most people this is their friends or team depending/waiting on them.

When I first started this journey, before I really new or cared about the other newbies, my motivation were the two friends who I signed up with. I knew that if I were a no show I'd hear about it. Now that months have past and I've made friends with other newbies, it's my team that motivates me. Perfect example was that I had to skip last weeks brick. First thing Monday morning one of the girls in the locker room was asking me where I was. "Wow, she noticed I wasn't here" I thought. Even though I had perfectly good, unavoidable reasons for not showing, I felt guilty. This is exactly what you need when you are wrapped in your comforter at 5am with the alarm buzzing and that snooze button looking oh so tempting.

I mentioned another great example when I talked about our first outdoor bike. Long story short, it was below freezing on a Saturday morning, and NOT a mandatory session. If my coach and I had not planned on meeting up to bike down to Rock Creek together I KNOW I would have skipped out. Simply not wanting to let people down is a much stronger tool then you'd suspect.

The most recent example was yesterday morning. To put in simplest terms... I was dragging. I don't know if it was the 82% humidity, what I ate for dinner, or if I didn't sleep well, but my body was not moving. Our run (down to Key Bridge, cross and back) had almost no hills and was probably the most basic run we've had in a while, and yet I was seriously struggling. I know if I was on my own, I would have turned my dragging behind around and gone back to bed. Lucky for me I happened to be pacing with my best friend, and though he didn't pull Drill Sargent attitude with me, he was just pushy and supportive enough to talk me off the ledge of quitting. Five miles later, I was done, and though I still felt like crud, I loved that I actually finished.

View Interactive Map on

Even if you don't have a ready made group like Y-Tri, find a running group, biking group, or swim team. Just getting in the habit of doing yoga every Sunday morning with my girlfriends has been a great boost. Plus, adding a social aspect to working out takes off some of the pressure and seriousness that can weight down on your mood first thing in the morning. In the end, you're hanging out with your friends... just on the track rather than on the couch!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Breaking Records With No Breaks

Ok, so it might not be an incredible record... but I swam over a mile in this weeks training session! Usually we finish out at 1650 meters (1 mile). This week I didn't even notice that we added on an extra 150 meters and where exactly did our breaks go?

300 m - Warm Up

150 m - Zipper Drill (Drag your hand up the side of your body, and then drag your fingers along the top of the water until you reach your full extension and continue your stroke)

50 m x 3 - Sprints (Sprint the entire distance. You have 1 minute for each sprint, so your rest depends on how fast you get back.)

200 m - Kick Drill w/ Board

200 m - Pull Drill w/ Float

150 m x 5 - Non-Stop Swim w/ 15 sec breaks between reps

50 m - Cool Down

Monday, April 19, 2010

Outdoor Bike: Hill Clinic

Here's a quick summary of the tips we went over Saturday, which I hope to continue to practice--as with most things in life, you only get better with practice, and there's always room for improvement:
  1. PEDAL SMOOTH--IN CIRCLES (if you don't have clipless pedals, this won't apply so much). This means using your leg muscles all the way round the pedal stroke. The best way to get a feel for this is to find a flat area with no traffic and practice pedaling with one foot off the pedal, so that you have to move the other foot the full circumference of the stroke to keep yourself moving. Practice making this smooth with no jerks. Smooth pedaling will help you build speed & proper form in all aspects of riding, but is especially important in climbing. NOTE: Clip one foot out only after building some speed, do not try this from a standstill.
  2. KEEP THE PROPER CADENCE BY SELECTING THE RIGHT GEAR. When riding hills, you should be in a gear that is neither too easy (which will have you spinning too fast) nor too slow, which wastes energy and slows you down. Instead, let the proper gear keep your pedal speed (cadence) approximately the same as it would be on the flats. Of course on steeper hills you may be in the lowest gear and still not able to pedal in anything but a very slow cadence, but when at all possible keep up your momentum.
  3. KEEP MOMENTUM: SHIFT BEFORE YOU SLOW DOWN. Don't wait until you feel yourself barely able to spin to shift gears; it will be too late, you will put too much stress on your chain & chainring, and run the risk of slowing to a standstill, breaking the chain or the chain slipping on the ring, all of which can easily cause a crash. Instead, downshift just as you feel yourself slowing, or even just before a hill appears or gets steeper, so that you keep your momentum going.
  4. CLIMBING IN THE SADDLE IS MORE EFFICIENT. When you stand to climb, you are only pushing down on the pedals, so you don't have the opportunity to use other muscles to pull up on the upstroke. This will fatigue your muscles faster, resulting in you slowing down and losing momentum.
    • when you are on a very steep hill, you are in your lowest gear, and the only way to keep from coming to a standstill is to get out of the saddle and really pump your pedals.
    • when you feel yourself slowing too much and need/want to gain extra speed, get out of the saddle for a short burst, and when you get back down keep up with the momentum you gained while standing.
    • every once in a while on a ride (on the flats or climbing) to release numbness and pressure and to regain proper seating position.
  6. RIDE STRAIGHT. Everyone has a tendency to rock back and forth on the bike when pedaling hard (dropping shoulders, weaving the bike), especially when standing. Avoid this. When you shift your body weight to one side and the other, it takes extra energy to move the body back to center--energy that could/should be used in moving you forward. This rocking motion can be hard to avoid when you are on the very steeps (see first bullet point of #5 above), otherwise proper pedal strokes should eliminate this (#1 above).
  7. PREPARE FOR THE BIG HILL AHEAD. Most hills are directly preceded by a downhill or a long, flat section of road. Especially when you are approaching an uphill directly after a downhill, you will likely be in your middle or large front chainring. But to get up that big hill, you will likely need to be in a smaller front chainring, and switching between front rings during an ascent can be dangerous and puts a lot of stress on your bike. Instead, anticipate the hill by switching into a smaller front chainring BEFORE the hill. To keep approximately the same cadence when you make this transition, shift your front ring DOWN (easier) one gear, and your back ring UP (harder) 3-4 gears. Bike have different gear set-ups, but this rule of thumb will generally get you into the same ratio of gears, and hence same cadence as you were before. Now you'll be ready to start shifting down into successfully easier gears as the hill gets more difficult.
I was told there is nothing more satisfying in a race than to pass by someone on a hill that is in too high a gear and/or otherwise wasting their energy with poor form. If you can build up good momentum at the bottom of the hill, it will be that much easier to keep up a good pace going up the hill as you shift through the gears and keep your cadence up.

For those interested in practicing more hills, here's the route we did today:

And here's the other tough hill on Grant Road, with directions up Broad Branch from where we started out today:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Shopping for a Sport You've Never Played (Part 4)

Guess what I just got in the mail?! MY WETSUIT!! It's so pretty... and smooth... and mine! Ok, I need to calm down and back up. So back when I attended a Y-Tri Gear Clinic, it was very heavily advised that we plan on using a wetsuit for race day. The combination of the water temperature, the buoyancy and speed the suit will give you, and the fact that pretty much everyone wore one made it more of a serious disadvantage not to have one, than an advantage having one. Got it... I need to wear a wetsuit.

Option A: You can rent. Actually more locations rent out suits than you'd think. For example, many bike shops in the area, who don't sell wetsuit or anything to do with swimming, do rent them out. Who'd of thunk! Deal is that it cost somewhere between $25-$35 to rent for a couple days or week. Not to much right? Well, if you add in the 3-4 open water training sessions we'll have in the next 2 months, plus race day, it can add up.

Option B: You can buy. Initially I was told a good basic suit would run about $200. Now this would be just a tad over what I'd spend renting, but then it would be mine. And if I continue on with triathlons in the future (here's hoping) I'd end up saving in the end. But then I started shopping. First of all, at least in this area, it's next to impossible to shop in store. So you go online. As a novice I got really intimidated really fast. Ever picture of a suit looked exactly the same, and to be honest so did the descriptions, but the prices went from $100-$$$$CRAZY! Well I don't want to spend even $100 if it turns out I might be buying garbage. So I asked a close friend who has ties in the Florida triathlon community and she came back with XTERRA Wetsuits. Not only that, she also said that for what I needed there was one discounted to $100!! Whoo hoo!

So this is what I ended up with: Xterra Women's Volt - $99!

PS: Putting this thing on might take as much practice as my front crawl... and once it is on I could be mistaken for Cat Women... just wow!

Picking Up the Pace

This week we did our second timed run. Before I sat down to write about this, I went back and read my post on the first timed run. Oh how things have changed! Mostly I'm speaking to my mentality. My whole perspective has changed. I was almost excited for this one, to see how far I've come. I felt prepared, both mentally and physically for the challenge. I used the 1 1/2 mile jog down to the reflecting pool as a true warm up, versus wondering why we were running such a distance even before the stop watches started.

I ended up running with a friend who's pace nearly matches mine. She happened to have her Nike+ with her which was a great motivation. Having her being able to update me on our pace and time seemed to push us to keep it up.

At the end we finished 2 miles in 19:54min. Under 20 minutes!! That means I shaved almost 4 minutes off my original time. All in under 2 months! Needless to say, I'm a happy girl...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Quote of the Day:

"Obstacles are those frightening things that become visible when we take our eyes off our goals."
--Henry Ford

Adding Distance

I remember a time, when we were doing so many drill and variations of drills in our swim group that there was no possible way for me to keep track and record what we accomplished each week. Now it's more common to top out at three drills a session and just expect much longer reps. The change from base building to focusing on pushing our endurance has become much more obvious!

This weeks session:

300m Warm Up

3 x 150m Kick w/Board

3 x 150m Pull w/ Float Between Legs

200m Swim (consistent good pace)

2 x 50m Sprint (Sprint the entire distance. You have 1 minute for each sprint, so your rest depends on how fast you get back.)

150m Cool Down

Total 1650m = 1 mile

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sunday Funday!

I have decided that I really cannot finish a week of training and be ready for the next without at least one yoga session. This is odd, because before Y-Tri, I really wasn't that focused on yoga. I was a fair-weather yogi, if you will. Now, if I don't get my weekly fix my body becomes way to tight to start off a new week of training fresh and focused. My solution is "Sunday Funday."

Since I'm a poor non-profit employee, and am already spending every spare cent on tri gear, I've taken advantage of lululemon's free yoga. It's great! The location closest to me (Logan Circle) has theirs every Sunday morning at 10am. Every week you get a different instructor who usually represents different studios around the city, which helps keep the class fresh and new. You never really know what kind of workout to expect. Though the difficulty is always welcoming to all levels, I have learned at least one new move a week since starting. So now, every Sunday, I have a standing date with my girlfriends, Abby and Alex, to meet up for yoga, followed by a chat about our week over brunch. Perfection: a bit of a work out, lots of stretching, and socializing with some great girls.

Your Goal of The Week: Make your homework fun!

Friday, April 9, 2010

My Mini-Breakthrough

I have found the word I was looking for in my last post! Remember how I was saying I had decided to skip training and catch some much needed shut eye, and then I just could NOT go back to sleep? I was exhausted, I wanted to sleep, but I just could not get this little... no no... loud... very loud voice out of my head saying I was SO going to regret this. Something was different. I have skipped MANY a planned work out in my day and never thought twice about it. Why, suddenly, was I so overwhelmed with this feeling of guilt, or disappointment, or... (fill in the blank)?

Let me back step here for a second. Last week I decided to check out literature on triathlons. I figured it couldn't hurt to learn more, and if I could fill in any of the blanks that Y-Tri was leaving, I'd just be that much more prepared. Turns out, there were not so many options. So I took my small stack to the coffee shop in the book store and started leafing through. I have to say I was really disappointed. 99% of these "books" were just work-out/training plans. Calendars and charts of what to do, but absolutely no explanation as to why or differentiations for different people. No one talked about strategy, transitions, race day... anything of substance. Just how many miles to run and push ups to do. Well, I've already got a work out plan.

Then I came across the book I am reading now "Triathlons for Women" by Sally Edwards. I have to say, when I read the title I thought it was going to read more like a Cosmo magazine than a helpful guide. Sorry, but so many "women" focused fitness books sound like they were written by a character in Clueless! Anyway, it turned out to be JUST what I wanted. So far, it has talked motivation and reason for doing a tri, history of tri's and women in them, the science behind how they developed their workout plans so you can either adjust them or create your own... it has it all! So expect more blogs inspired by my further reading.

So back to what I was saying earlier. In my reading I came across this wonderful word that fully described the phenomenon that happened yesterday morning: "patterning". Here's what Sally said:

"Plain, old-fashioned, nothing-fancy discipline is a big part of a winning plan that gets you to go faster. By planning the workouts and working out according to plan, you are practicing what sports psychologists call "patterning." Patterning is repeating an action until it is so ingrained that your brain doesn't have to make a decision: Your brain (and your heart) just follows a natural course, and the action becomes routine."

That's it. My body, my brain, my heart... myself has become so accustomed to training, to the process, that not doing it was more wrong then getting sleep. So that was my mini-breakthrough of the week. Just wanted to share.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Perfect Morning

Well, it didn't start out that perfect. Because my apartment complex rocks (dripping with sarcasm) they have yet to turn on the AC. This means, last night when I was dutifully going to bed at 10pm (Thurs are my earliest trainings) it was a balmy 82 deg in my bedroom. Long story short, with the heat, my windows open, blinds rustling, sounds of the city plus a ceiling fan that squeaks like a scared piggy... I did not get much sleep. Come 5am when the alarm went off, I was firmly set on not going to training. It was going to be a long day and I needed to grab as much shut-eye as possible. So I stubbornly lay there willing myself to fall back to sleep. But the guilt! Oh the guilt would not let me lie. So after a full 10 minute argument with myself about how much I was going to regret this, I finally sprinted out of bed, through on clothes and off to the bus stop.

Needless to say, I'm SO happy I did. I wasn't going to get much more sleep anyway, and the endorphin high will have a MUCH higher probability of getting me through the day.

Brick #2
Today's brick was very similar to last weeks. We did a 45 minute spin session, very heavily focused on strength training which means lots of hills and peddling through peanut butter (For a moment I actually thought I pulled a butt muscle!). Followed by a run. But instead of the 30 minutes (3 miles) we did last week, we did 4 miles.... a hilly 4 miles. But again, it surprised me how much easier it was to get to my faster pace due to the fact that there was no first mile struggle to warm up your body after just getting out of bed.

AND we were running right to my house! AWESOME! I was able to run four miles and end up at home. I forgotten how much easier/enjoyable it is to shower and get ready for my day at home rather than a locker room during the 8am rush. Not only did I just jump in the shower and go... no no... I had time to do a nice yoga/stretch session on my patio AND cook myself a pretty impressive looking omelet to enjoy while reading my new book and sipping tea. It rocked!

So this morning was pretty perfect morning... and I think it actually makes it that much more awesome that it all started with me pushing myself up and out when I really really really just wanted to skip. *Pat on the back*

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Going the Extra Mile

For today’s run we were supposed to “keep it easy” and do 4.5 miles down and around the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and then back up 15th. By the way, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to 4.5 miles being referred to as “easy”.

Long story short, we ended up following a pack of guys (from Y-Tri) who either have a horrible sense of direction, or wanted to add on some extra mileage. Either way, I didn’t realize what was going on till it was too late. By the end, it looks like we ended up running just over 5 miles. Now this might not sound like such a big difference from 4.5, but a) when the coaches say we are running 4.5 it usually ends up being closer to 4.25 b) I have yet to run over 4.5 miles… since high school. So hitting and surpassing the 5 mile mark was pretty cool!

Here is what we ended up running:

View Interactive Map on

Checking My Form

So yesterday our swim coach, Callie, was out, so instead we borrowed Taylor from one of the speedier swim groups. It was interesting, and kind of refreshing, to have someone new come in and "tweak" us. First of all, their styles were obviously pretty different. Callie has been really focused on getting us to commit to longer uninterrupted distances, while Taylor had us work a bunch on form and drills. She even pointed out that I was focusing so much on getting the longest reach possible, that I was sacrificing my arm form when entering back into the water. Instead of the angular arc, my arm was practically belly flopping... Ok, that might be an exaggeration but you get the idea.

So if you want to mix it up here was yesterday's line up:

4 x 75m - Moderately swim 50m and then 25m streamline (kick face down with arms overhead, hands overlapped in a streamline position - work on long arms, kicking from the hips, flexible ankles and alternate side breathing)

3 x 50m – Streamline Only (see above)

4 x 50m – Pulls (use bouy between your legs and only use your arms)

100m – Moderate Swim

50m – Build (slowly speed up your pace and end in a full sprint)

100m – Moderate Swim (active rest)

100m – Build

100m – Moderate Swim (active rest)

50m – Build

100m – Moderate Swim (active rest)

4 x 25m – Look Ups (Practice checking a spot point every 11 strokes or so to get in the habit so when open water swimming you stay on course and down waist energy zig-zagging)

Total Distance = 1350m

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Beginning Bricks

For several weeks now, the coaches and vets have been preparing (read: warning) newbies about the start of bricks. Bricks being when you pair up two of the sports training sessions back to back, to start practicing the transitions. Up until now, with the exception of the very first run, I've been generally excited about Y-Tri training and all it encompasses... until now. All the tales of wobbly knees and pure exhaustion gave me no confidence in my first brick being a positive experience.

That said... I actually had a great time! I know, I sound sick. 6am I was in the spin room ready for the usual grilling course. Today we focused on strength training, which meant lots of hills, jumps and peddling through peanut butter. After 45 minutes, we jumped (read: crawled) off our bikes and headed out for a 30 minute run. Putting my Pollyanna hat on: usually on runs the first mile is always the hardest to push through, working to get your body warmed up, but since our bodies were good and warm, I found it nice starting out at a faster and much looser pace.

The coach said "We'll just run up 16th for 15 minutes and turn around". To someone who doesn't know 16th St, this sounds like a fair idea. For those of us familiar with 16th, just north of Dupont, we know that that is a sneaky sneaky request. Let me fill the rest of you in. Heading north on 16th from Dupont will lead you straight into Merridian Hill... the steep hill that we lapped around on our 3rd week. This is no "slight incline"... this is a full on steep hill. *sigh*... Surprisingly enough, I didn't find this run particularly more difficult than if I had not had a seriously grueling spin class before hand. I seemed to find my pace ("beat" if you will) that much more efficiently because my body was already in full cardio mode.

We ended up going all the way to Columbia Rd and then back down. 3 miles. Not half bad for a morning where I thought my existence might come to an end.

View Interactive Map on