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)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Race Day: Before it Even Started

At 3:50am I'm waiting by the garage in Adams Morgan for my ride down to set up my transition area. As I imagined, while I stood there in my tri uniform, gym bag in hand, all the partiers who still thought it was Friday night, were slowly making their way home after a night of drinking on the strip... such a juxtaposition.

I was lucky enough to secure a ride down with my coach. I'm not sure how you were supposed to get down to transition without inconveniencing a non racer. It's an issue I had with how the race was set up. Transition was not metro accessible (plus metro was closed), my bike was already racked, and the parking was minimal and quick to disappear. My back up plan was to order a cab. You really don't want to take any risks with your timing.

The scene at West Potomac Park was that of a sleepy army armored in spandex bustling to prepare for battle. Once we got down there I set up my transition blanket. We had about 30 minutes before the area closed. I also needed to pump up my tires. Since it was so hot the day before when we racked our bikes we all deflated our tires since the heat could expand the air in them and blow them out. We also needed to get body marked (numbers & age written on our arm & leg), and pick up our time chip.

My Transition Area:
  • Bike
Helmet hanging on the handle bars w/ Sunglasses & Watch placed inside
2 Bottles of liquid: 1 Water 1 Gatorade
Fuel Taped to Handle Bars: 1 Clif Bar, 1 Energy Beans
  • Bike Shoes w/ Socks unraveled and placed over each shoe
  • Small hand towel to wipe of my wet and grass covered feet
  • Running Shoes w/ laces untied and loosened
  • Spray sunscreen for easy reapplication (did I mention we had a heat warning that day?)
  • Bib number already attached to my race belt

The transition area closed at 5:15am, after which you cannot drop off or pick up anything in your area until after your swim. This means I was barefoot holding onto my goggles and cap with a disposable bottle of Gatorade and a banana. We had almost 2 hours to wait since my wave wasn't until 6:55am. So what do you do to pass the nervous time? Well first you get into the port-a-john line... with EVERYONE else. It took us a little less than 30 minutes to get through. It was a bit awkward standing for the National Anthem in a bathroom line, but at least I was there with most everyone else.

Next we decided to head down to the waters edge and see how the Sprint swimmers were doing. It was not motivating to see how many needed to grasp onto a kayak after only 100 meters. Watching them struggle through half the distance I was going to tackle made me slightly queasy and we decided to head back up to zen out with the rest of our team. This was the best part, being surrounded by people you've been training with for 6 months, people who are in the same anxious position you are in. We all seemed to have equal shares of dread and excitement... though that seemed to sway a bit the closer we got to starting.

Then it was finally time. We each got into our appropriate corrals, not that different from cattle and slapped on our caps and goggles. It suddenly got pretty quiet as we each prepared ourselves for the hours to come...

Sunday, June 20, 2010


I have official graduated from "newbie" to "triathlete"!! Y-Tri rocked it out today!!!

**Details to follow, but for now it's time to celebrate :)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Checking that list...

It's the night before my race. So far so good. I went down to the expo today and picked up my packet with the plethora of numbers I have to post all over myself and my equipment, took my mug shot (below), and headed down to the transition area to rack my bike. Took a quick peak at the swim course, just long enough to get butterflies in my stomach, and then headed home. It was amazing to have my best friend with me (who's also racing) to freak out with. We got it all off our chests and then promised to zen out, or at least try, for the rest of the day.

I've gone over my check list (below) several times, gone through how the race and transitions will go in my head, packed my bag, set up my breakfast and meet-up spots with my friends and family who will be cheering me on, etc. I'm lucky enough to live across the street from the head of our training program, so I have a ride down at 4am tomorrow morning with someone who can comfort my last minute anxieties. I think I can confidently say I'm ready. I'm not really sure how I'm supposed to get a good nights sleep when I have a 3am wake up call, but that's what last night was for...

- Triathlon bag (to bring stuff in & store a change of clothes for after race)
-Towel (spread on ground and layout gear for bike and run)
- Sunscreen (apply before race begins)
- Shorts, t-shirt, dry socks, flip-flops or sneakers for post-race change
- Post-race recovery drink and/or nutrition

- Swim suit or Triathlon race suit
- Cap
- Swim goggles (think about bringing an extra pair for backup)
- Wetsuit
- Anti-chafe stuff (for use around neck of wetsuit, and other places)

- Bicycle (with race # on it) (remember to check tire pressure)
- Helmet (with race number stuck to it, if required)
- Cycling shoes
- Socks
- Cycling pants and top (if not wearing a Triathlon race suit)
- Sunglasses
- Bike gloves (recommend not using as changing slows you down).
- Sports drink (2 bottles – on bike)
- Nutrition bars (taped to bike, in bento box, or in back pocket of jersey)
- Gels (Goo or other type of gel)
- Spare inner tube (or tubes) and CO2 Cartridge (on bike)

- Running shoes
- Hat
- Race number (on race belt – otherwise make sure it is pinned to your jersey before race starts & think about bringing a bunch of extra safety pins, just in case).

Taper (and other race week tips)

Some thoughts on TAPER (from Mark Fitzgerald):

"The period of relative rest that precedes a race is called a taper. A well-executed taper increases your blood volume, maximizes carbohydrate fuel storage, increases aerobic enzymes, and enhances tissue repair, thereby rendering you better prepared for a peak performance.

"For short races, your taper period can last four days to a week. For somewhat longer events, a week to two weeks of tapering is typical when a peak performance is sought. For long-distance events, the taper can last two or three weeks.

Reduce your training volume by 30 to 40 percent per week of tapering. For example, if you're tapering two weeks for a peak half-Ironman triathlon and you did 20 hours of training in the last heavy week before the taper, you might do about 13 hours of training in the first week of tapering and about 8 hours in the final seven days before the race."

My three thoughts on tapering:

1. You've trained -- no amount of training you will add this last week will improve your performance;

2. Don't do a "drop dead taper" -- using this as an excuse to stop training altogether -- you want to grade your taper (gradually reduce training intensity and length) to zero by the day before;

3. Get plenty of rest (sleep) on race week…and hydrate well (small amounts of fluid regularly throughout the day) -- these two things are probably worth as much as any training you will do during this week.

Basically, if you have been eating reasonably well, there is no need to do anything different the week before the race. Two nights before the race, get a well-balanced meal (protein, plenty of vegetables and fruit, complex (low-glycemic index) carbohydrates) – this will create the stored energy you will need for the race. Get to bed early.

The night before, eat early and eat light – you want this meal to get through your system before the race starts – you don’t need something heavy sitting in your stomach all night while you are trying to sleep. Make sure you get breakfast in the morning before the race.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Course

Click HERE to learn more about the DC Tri

Permission to Freak Out!

Today was my last training day with my Y-Tri team before the race... in two days. I'd be lying if I said there were not fleeting minutes of panic that enter my head on an hourly basis. But the reassuring thought is that just as often I get really excited for this day to have finally come. On top of the fact that I don't think I could keep up this pace much longer, I'm so excited to accomplish this huge goal I set out to achieve 6 months ago.

Looking back, everything is in a healthier perspective. When I started this project I was a heart broken girl tediously trudging through masters application after application with no clue where I'd be or what I'd be doing 6 months down the road. I signed up with two great friends to start training for this race that seemed impossible, but so far away, and such a great distraction that I just jumped in head first. Starting off from couch potato status did not make the beginning any easier, but definitely made the pay off that much greater.

Today, I am getting ready to run an Olympic Triathlon in our nation's capital. I have been accepted and enrolled in one of my top picks for Masters programs which I'm starting come Sept 1st. I'm taking a month off before said start date to check off another New Year's resolution: Travel. My sister and I are going to Turkey! And I've never felt more confident in who I am or what I'm doing in my entire life.

Have I done enough? Will I finish? Well I guess we'll find out. But I know that I've done everything I could to prepare myself and I am really proud of that fact alone. I have trained for 18 weeks, and have not quit... even when I REALLY wanted to.

Race or no race, finish line or no finish line, through this process I have made new friends, set new goals and found out what I am really made of.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Beginning to Taper

(Photo: Actually me!)

With less than a week to go, we are FINALLY tapering. Tapering basically means slowing down the training so you're body is well rested and good to go come race day. Now this does not mean stop working out and training all together. That would actually be a detriment to your goals. What you want to do is complete your usual workouts, but with much less gusto. I'll be learning as I go so whatever hints the coaches hand out I'll make sure to reiterate here.

Saturday we completed our final brick, but since it was a week before our race, instead of doing the 25 mi bike and 6 mi run, we cut it back to a 15 mi bike and 3 mi run. What we wanted to get out of this was training our bodies for the physical transition from biking to running. You feel like you must look like your running with flippers on or something. It takes me a good mile to feel like I'm actually running, versus just flailing around with no control of my extremities.

With 5 days to go I'm bouncing between calm & cool versus totally freaking out. It will almost be a relief for race day to finally be here. Have I done enough? We'll find out.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Just What I Needed

I ROCKED my morning run! This is exactly what I needed. We did a 6 mile loop down the mall, around the Capital building and back up the mall towards the gym. But instead of just running, we worked in some speed training while running the straight away up the mall. It was simple, 2 minutes on strong race pace, 30 seconds of active recovery. I don't know what I did right, slept well, ate the right thing, or whatever, but my body was just in the ZONE and I took off! It wasn't long before it was only me and one of our coaches Trish on our own heading towards the Capital. But of course, Trish was not willing to settle for the fact that I was running ten times faster than ever before. She loves to do little games, like "let's catch up to that girl in the pink tank", or "lets sprint up this hill", or "around this corner", and God help you if she sees a stair case. Usually this is the point where my motivation consists of imagining different ways of torturing this perky blond toothpick, but today I reveled in it. It was awesome! I mean, it was ridiculously hard and I could barely spit out a single syllable, but instead of feeling like I was going to die, my body seemed to respond positively to this form of torture. This is what I've been waiting for. This is the positive morning everything seemed to click back in place and where I have restored my motivation for this project I blissfully begun 5 months ago.

And perfect timing too: 10 days to go.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Motivation... where art thou?

As you can tell by the break in my posting, I have been struggling with motivation these last 2 weeks. I can't explain it more than I am just overall exhausted. Not just because of physically pushing myself, but also juggling work, training and life, getting up early almost every day, and having to get everything done before my embarrassingly early bedtime. After pulling this off for 3+ months with gusto... I feel like I'm finally hitting the wall. I'm over it. But I've come so far, and, like the smart girl I am, have set up parachutes for myself for such anticipated situations. For example, I made a point to tell anyone who would listen early on that I was training for a triathlon. So now people are constantly checking to see how it's going. The only thing harder than pushing through training with no motivation is telling your friends and family that you quit. This blog in itself is another example of that. Also making a point to befriend people in my training program helped. Now I don't only see them at the gym, but out socially. Surrounding yourself with your team and people who are going through the same issues is always helpful. Everyone has solutions to offer, or at least a shoulder to lean on. Plus it doesn't hurt that you can't face going to happy hour if you skipped the run group that morning... you know they'll ask why.

So the solution: go through the motions until the motivation returns and remind myself why I started this, where it will take me, and how awesome it's going to feel when I can say I did it!