What's Next - Fall 2016

I’m starting to get a bit of a pet peeve when people say “just” a 5k.  Or “just” anything, for that matter.  If you’re heading into a race saying “just” then you’re either not pushing hard enough, or selling yourself incredibly short.  Either way, that’s something people need to get out of the habit of.  I’m including myself in people, by the way.  I’m equal parts excited, scared, and embarrassed by my chosen end of season race.

 All the running means all the shoes in rotation.  Clearly I'm a vivobarefoot girl

All the running means all the shoes in rotation.  Clearly I'm a vivobarefoot girl

Excited

I’ve been looking forward to ending my season with this 5k for over seven months now.  I’ve raced on this exact course twice already this season, and my goal at the Veteran’s Day 5k is to get a new PR.  I’m running more than ever before, and feeling physically really good while I’m at it.  The BarryP plan is where its at!  If you aren’t familiar with the plan, click the link to get the full read.  In a nutshell, the plan has you running nice and easy 6 days a week.  In the beginning, you don’t increase your total volume at all, only your frequency, so for me that meant spreading 10 miles a week out over 6 days instead of 3.  You run easy, and you increase volume modestly.  Anecdotally, it seems that once your volume builds to a certain level, your paces start to come down.  Granted, I likely won’t see those paces change too much before race day, but I’m still excited to see what kind of benefits I’ll see from these eight weeks of running more.

Scared

Stepping outside of the comfort zone is always a bit scary, right?  Add to that the fact that my training times seem somehow slower than ever before (???) and I’m anxious that I won’t be able to meet my goals for this race.  I could get out there on race day and not be able to pace myself properly.  Or maybe I peaked earlier this summer, and the speed isn’t there anymore.  This is the first time that I’ve actually put time based pressure on myself.  Its an interesting experience in and of itself.  Setting goals based on feelings or actions is a very different game.  You can remind yourself during the race and change accordingly.  Had a goal to smile?  Smile!  No walking during the run leg of a sprint?  Just keep running!  But running at a particular pace?  Ooooh, now that’s scary.  Kind of a good scary, though.

Embarrassed

Just a 5k.  Sigh.  I’m quick to correct anyone who says that to me, but I still do it to myself.  Sometimes I’m clicking through my feedly, and it seems like everyone is prepping for more traditionally impressive fall races.  Even harder this week, since its Kona week!  On the local scene, there’s Marine Corps, Philly, Richmond, and all the big fall half and full marathons.  There seems to be more glory in long course racing.  Or, perhaps that just me hearing the siren call of endurance?  At any rate, I’m struggling a bit with feeling proud and confident about my goal race.  This is compounded by my paces, which feel “too slow.”  Slow and fast are such relative terms.  I’m sure there are people who would be over the moon to have a 5k PR of 30 minutes, and others who would be mortified with anything over 20.  In addition to being irritated when people say “just” a 5k, another pet peeve is when people, especially women, apologize for their speed.  Fast, slow, it seems like women can’t start apologizing for their paces fast enough.  If you’re slow like me, there’s the “Sorry, I know X:XX doesn’t sound fast, but for me it is” rhetoric.  For the speedsters, there’s plenty of “I was practically crawling at X:XX (sorry if that offends anyone).”  Can we all please agree to stop apologizing for our performance?

So that’s what’s on the horizon.  I’m running more frequently than I ever have before, and really enjoying doing lots of little miles.  There are some brewing nerves about whether or not I’ll be able to reach the goals that I’m setting for myself, but I’m going to embrace the anxiety and use it as fuel for the fire.  And most important of all, I’m racing a 5k, and I’m proud of it.  No apologies!

Race Report: Reston Triathlon

I made a goal, I worked toward it, I stumbled a little bit, I picked myself back up, and last weekend, I finally made it happen.  I finished my first Olympic distance triathlon!  

The Quick & Dirty

2016 Reston Triathlon

Reston, VA

79℉, Mostly Overcast

1500m lake swim, 40 km bike, 10 km run

3:55:04

Overall Rank - 368/396

Age Group Rank (F35-39) - 23/24

 

 A beautiful day at Lake Audubon

A beautiful day at Lake Audubon

Pre-Race & Warm Up:

I tossed and turned most of the night, and woke up frightfully early.  Breakfast was two packs of chocolate Belvita breakfast biscuits with peanut butter, a banana, and about ⅔ of a bottle of nuun.  Black tea with milk and sugar is my special race day drink of choice, guaranteed to help clear the pipes out.  Because who really likes going in the porta potty?!  I took a shower to help wake myself up, packed up the gear bags, did a first coat of sunscreen, and made sure J was up and moving.  Dramamine and Gin Gins candy were also on the menu, to keep my motion sickness and sensitive stomach in check.  Transition opened at 5:30am, and we arrived just a few minutes after.  We weren’t anywhere near the first people to arrive!  Reston has two transition areas, so J parked at the high school and I set up T2. Since I don't have bike shoes, this basically meant weighing down my hat and race belt as much as possible so they didn't blow away.

Most people were riding their bikes to T1 at the lake, about a mile away, but I was nervous about riding in the dark, so I walked.  Warm up, I guess?  This is also where I wound up getting really impressive ball of foot blisters.  Sigh.  I used to wear these flip flops to walk Vivaldi for an hour with no issue, so I have no idea why a 20 minute walk would be an issue.  Nothing could be done at that point, so it was time to keep getting ready.  I racked my bike, got bodymarked, picked up my chip, and set up my T1.  There were plenty of athletes milling around, and I chatted with the others on my rack.  I met a girl who was doing her first Olympic, too, and I found that calming.  Reston Triathlon is full of super fast racers, so meeting someone else who was in it to complete rather than compete was wonderful.

There were no warm ups allowed in the lake, but the pool was open, so I hopped in and did a couple laps.  My REC center pool has been closed since late August, and I had gotten zero swims in the two weeks leading up to the race.  Quickly getting in 50 yards in the pool reminded me that yes, I know how to swim.  An athlete with an electric violin played the national anthem, and that was actually the first time I remembered that it was 9/11.  Before I could worry or dwell about anything they started calling out cap colors, and we lined up. The waves went out 90 seconds apart, and I was in wave 6.  Go time!

SWIM:

  • 1500m, 41:06 (2:44/100 yards)
  • Gear - Coeur Sports Lakota kit, Speedo Vanquisher 2.0 mirrored goggles
  • Nutrition - Honey Stinger Caramel Waffle
 How awesome is my family?  I actually managed to spot this sign while I was swimming

How awesome is my family?  I actually managed to spot this sign while I was swimming

It was part of my plan to swim easy, but I was really surprised at how slow my time was.  I mean, I wasn’t getting out of breath or pushing hard, but I’m not accustomed to that level of exertion equaling such a slow speed.   The wasn’t a crowded swim, but I was also always quite close to others, if that makes sense.  More people around than at Harborfest, but not some kind of underwater boxing match.  Although, around the second and third buoys it got pretty intense.  This was the point where I had caught up with the slow men from the wave before me, and was getting caught by the fast men from the wave behind. I got slugged in the head twice and kicked a few times, which was unpleasant. At one point I started kicking really hard to get some ham fisted dude out of my way. No real harm, though. Sighting was much easier with my tinted goggles, so I was glad I had them. I did sight off of the wrong buoy at one point, and got slightly off course, but not too bad.  Sadly, the open water app for the Vivoactive is quite inaccurate for distance, so it's hard for me to say how far I actually swam.  Overall, I never felt nervous, scared, or anything like that. I just felt like the shoreline was taking its sweet time to approach!

T1:

  • 4:03
  • Nutrition - GU Triberry washed down with double strength Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix in Lemons + Limes

Eventually the swim was over, and after swimming up the super slimy boat ramp and getting a hand from a fantastic volunteer, I was off and transitioning.  I trotted over to my bike, wiped off my feet, and got the shoe/sunglass/helmet situation taken care off.  My handling skills aren’t strong enough to count on being able to eat on board yet, so I took my gel while still in T1, then headed out to ride

BIKE:

  • 24.8 miles, 1:42:04 (14.58mph)
  • Gear - Diamondback Podium 1 bike, Trek Vapor 3 helmet
 Finishing up the Second Loop

Finishing up the Second Loop

A three loop course with no real climbs or flats, just roller after roller.  It is a fun course, and the first loop started off great.  As I headed out of T1 I saw J smiling at me.  I smiled back, and never really stopped smiling for the whole first loop.  Then, somewhere during the second loop, my front derailleur stopped working.  I was stuck in the granny gear, which was okay, if a bit overkill, for most of the climbs.  I was also forced to coast much more than I wanted to.  I fiddled and fiddled, and managed to shift up….and promptly got stuck there.  That made the climbs much harder than I wanted them to be, and there was a terrible noise coming from my bike.  I was so happy to have friends and family on the course.  My parents, brother, J, and even my friend K’s mom were all out cheering for me, and it was so helpful in keeping my attitude in check as I struggled with my bike.  My bike is my weakness, so I knew I was going to lose a fair amount of ground on the bike, but I wound up losing even more than I planned.  Everything thinned out quite a bit during my third loop, and I even started to wonder if I was the last person out there.  Yet still, spectators and volunteers were at most of the corners, cheering.  It was incredible!  As I approached the high school I made a left turn, and headed down toward T2.  I was ready to run!

T2:

  • 2:46
  • Nutrition - About ⅓ pack of Skratch Labs Raspberry Fruit Drops washed down with double strength Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix in Lemons + Limes

I got a little lost coming into transition. There were so many bikes, and I got confused about where I was going. Once I found my place, I racked my bike, grabbed my hat and number belt....then proceeded to stand there and stuff my face!  Next season’s big goal is to be able to eat and drink on the bike.

RUN:

  • 6.2 miles, 1:25:07 (13:44 min/mile)
  • Gear - Vivobarefoot Stealth II shoes, Nike drifit run hat, Oakley Half Jacket sunglasses
  • Nutrition - ⅓ pack Skratch Labs Raspberry Fruit Drops, water at each of the 6 aid stations
 Favorite finish line to date

Favorite finish line to date

Once I gave myself permission to take walk breaks, my “run” sort of fell apart.  I would have been far better served if I had set up some regimented run/walk breaks for myself instead.  The run course was on the shaded trails of Reston, which meant either going up, going down, or twisting round.  So pretty!  My muscles, and even my blistered feet, felt fine. Rather it was my breathing/cardio that kept me from being able to run.  There were a couple points where my lips felt tingly.  What is that about?  I trucked along feeling fairly awful for the first couple miles, but got a great boost when I saw my parents and brother somewhere near mile 2.  Miles 3-5 went well.  When I was moving, I was feeling good and getting it done.  I walked up the small hills, as my back and shoulders had been feeling tight since the bike, and my back spasmed a little if I tried to run up the hills.  There was one last monster hill toward the stadium, and I had to climb that.  After the fact, I realized that all the spectators could see that, so next year I’ll remember to run.  But then it was down to the stadium, and a victory lap of sorts to the finish line.  And what a beautiful finish line it was.  I heard my family cheering, and smiled big the whole home stretch.  Finished!

Cool Down:

Immediately after crossing the finish line I was given an icy cold washcloth wrapped around a bottle of water.  So nice!  I also got a beautiful medal (prettiest of the season by far!) and a running hat.  I found my family, and someone (my dad?) set up a camp chair for me to sit in.  I tried to drink some of my beloved chocolate milk, but I had to stop for fear that it wouldn’t stay down.  My skin was entirely crusted over with salt.  My body felt pretty stiff, but more than anything I felt quite stupid.  Clearly I had left my brain somewhere out on the run course.  Once I felt good enough to move around, I hobbled my way to the car, and my family and I went to Be Right Burger for a celebratory lunch.  

Event Thoughts:

Overall, I recommend the event.  The volunteers were plentiful on race day, and always seemed to know exactly the right thing I needed to hear to keep pushing.  There were some information issues that could use improvement.  I couldn’t find any information about water stations on the run, so asked on Facebook.  I was told there was water at the turnaround, so imagine my surprise when there were actually 3 water stations on the out and back course, making for 6 opportunities for water or Gatorade.  Asking on Facebook was also how I found out when transition opened.  While I appreciate how promptly my questions were answered, it would have been preferable if I hadn’t needed to ask at all.  Having two transition is a bit annoying, and it’s lame that we can’t swim in the lake except during the event.  Back on the bright side, can we talk about the swag?! All told, I got a New Balance long sleeve tech shirt, tech socks, Scattante Bliss sunglasses, a multitool, a washcloth, and a finisher hat. And did I mention the really pretty medal?

 So. Much. Swag!  And so much of it is stuff I can actually use! Well done, Reston Tri

So. Much. Swag!  And so much of it is stuff I can actually use! Well done, Reston Tri

Goals & Race Post-Mortem

Goals for this race were as follows:

Swim Smooth

Ride Smart

Run Strong

Smile

I’d say two out of four.  I swam smooth, and I definitely smiled.  I thought I was riding smart, but my mechanical issues had me working harder than I wanted to.  Looking back at my HR data, my average HR was 169 bpm for the entire leg.  Based off the zones I set up from my bike LT test, that’s Zone 5.  Way too hard.  No wonder I wasn’t able to touch my goal of “Run Strong.”  Kind of hard to run when you’ve completely depleted yourself on the bike, no?  At least the most important goal (SMILE!) was easy to meet.

For my race O.W.L. based on my time goals, my 3:55:04 earns me a grade of Poor.  You’d think that would make me unhappy.  I guess there is a part of me that is disappointed.  Sure, I wish I’d been faster.  On the other hand, how can I not be happy?  There’s nothing like a finish line, and this was the best day ever!  I can’t wait to improve my bike and run fitness over the winter.  I’m also looking forward to racing next season, improving my execution on the bike leg so I can actually run the whole 10k next time.  My brain is crowded full of exciting plans, not the least of which is that since this is a local race, I get to come back year after year to gauge my improvement!

Race Expectations: Reston Triathlon

Tomorrow's the big day.  First Olympic distance!  Race nerves are in full swing already; this is the first time I’ve gotten them this early.  My brain is going wild - one second I'm second guessing my training, the next I'm convinced that I’m injured, and the next everything is perfectly fine.

As has been the case all season, setting goals is tough.  The first time doing a new distance means I have no idea what to expect.  I have a few ideas of how I want my day to go, so I’m using them as my guide.

  • Swim Smooth

    • I don’t want to push, but just enjoy the swim and get nice and warmed up for the rest of the race

  • Ride Smart

    • I need to ride my own race, and not get overly excited by the speedsters on the course.

  • Run Strong

    • Ease into the first few miles, then really bring it home hard.  No point in leaving anything out on the course!

  • Smile!

    • Don’t compare my performance to others, and just get out and PLAY.  Have FUN!

  • Goal Times – I have no idea how reasonable these times are, but they’re in my head, so they’re getting written down.  

    • Outstanding –  < 3:25:00

    • Exceeds Expectations – 3:30:00

    • Acceptable – 3:45:00

    • Poor -  4:00:00

    • Dreadful – > 4:15:00 (anything longer than this and they close the course)

    • Troll – DNF

 Everything is all laid out and ready.

Everything is all laid out and ready.

I’m buzzing with nervous energy right now.  This last year has been all about building my fitness, and I’m stoked to let it rip and see what my hard work can produce.  Almost go time!

Anyone else is racing this weekend?

 

Some Bike Milestones

You wouldn’t know if for what little training has been going on in my life the last couple weeks, but this month I’ve had some good cycling milestones.  Giving some thought to these milestones is just what I need right now.  After admitting to myself that I was feeling exceptionally blah, I thought that would be the kick start I needed to get back into the swing of things.  It wasn’t, and I actually spent four days last week doing absolutely nothing, save a bit of senseless crying.  Now I’m trying to head into the next two weeks before Reston with a renewed sense of vigor.  You know what goes really well with vigor?  Self-congratulatory reminiscing about bike stuff!  In the last month I had a bike birthday, the longest ride ever, and my first puncture.

Last August I bought a used Linus Dutchi 8 from a friend.  It was meant to be my safe and friendly introduction back into riding.  Swoopy and upright, with an internal hub and fitted for all my grocery getting needs, I named her Peggy, and she came through like a champ.  I remember being scared going downhill the first time, riding the brakes the entire way down.  I remember riding to the top of “the hill” and feeling like I’d conquered Everest.  Best of all, I remember how great it was when I really started enjoying my time on the bike.  I’m an anxious and nervous person, and being on a bike made me feel wobbly, out of control, and like I had a target on my back.  Lots of times I still feel that way on my road bike.  But one day, on Peggy, I realized I felt good.  No big deal, just me and my bike, out doing bike things.  While I haven’t put nearly as many miles in as I thought I would, I still look forward to spending time with my swoopy steed.  Happy Birthday, Peggy!

Dutch bikes are wonderful, but they aren’t going to get you far on the bike leg of a triathlon, so most of my time this year has been on my road bike.  Given my anxiety and wobbliness, it should come as no surprise that during the week I get most of my rides in on the trainer.  On the weekends, in the early morning when the sun is just coming up and the traffic is light, I hit the roads.  Earlier this month, I got in my longest ride ever: 30 miles!  In addition to this being a milestone ride, it also helped me get the monkey off my back with regard to covering the race distance, since I added in a 3 mile run to make it a brick workout.  I started out in a bad place for that ride, with some saddle pain less than an hour in, and aching shoulders for the last eight miles.  By the time I hit the red caboose in Herndon, I was feeling better, and I was in a more mentally positive place on the way home.  As I cruised into the apartment complex, I realized I had gone 29.8 miles, so naturally I did a quick loop around the complex to bring home in 30.

 I've been working all year toward this picture!

I've been working all year toward this picture!

I had no idea when I finished up my milestone ride that I had picked up another– my first flat tire.  It had to have been a slow leak, as all systems were go as I parked that day.  My bike leaned against the dining table for the next two days, and it wasn’t until Tuesday night that I realized the front wheel was completely flat.  A quick inspection, and I discovered a teeny little sharp piece of rock wedged into the tire.  Thank goodness I got to practice changing the puncture at home instead of on the side of the road.  After a bit of back and forth online with people who know way more than me, it was determined that I needed a new tire, since the rock had sliced all the way through.  With my race just a few weeks away, did I really want to have the added anxiety of riding on a patched tire?  No, no I did not.

 This is my confident face. &nbsp;No, really.

This is my confident face.  No, really.

That’s when the mechanical shenanigans really got going.  With the replacement in hand, I settled down to get the tube changed and put the new tire on.  Friday night done right!  I am in complete awe of the people on youtube who can zip through a tire change in a couple minutes.  It took me quite a bit of time to muscle the tire off the rim.  And getting the tire back on after the tube is replaced?  Maybe practice makes perfect, but if that’s the case, I’m really good at swearing now.  So there I was, finally ready to pump up the tire.  I was getting some weird hard and soft spots, and then the tire popped off the rim.  Turned out that the tube had some kind of defect, with spots that ballooned up and others that wouldn’t inflate.  No worries, I had another spare tube…

Except I didn’t.  Well, I did, but it didn’t last.  J decided he wanted to give the tube changing a go.  He likes to mess with stuff like that, and I was crazy busy playing Sudoku on my phone.  Anyway, long story short, pinch flat and blowout.  Whoops!  A few hiccups and missteps, but before long I was the proud owner of 5 properly sized inner tubes.  Installation went well, the new tire was put on, and finally (finally!) I was good to go.

Which bring us to today.  August is almost over, and I feel like I’m walking around in a fog.  Sometimes each day can be a bit of a struggle.  You take things one day at a time, and suddenly its 10 weeks later and you don’t really know where the time went.  I’m going through a rough patch right now, so it’s nice to be able to put together some thoughts about things that are going right.  Not that a puncture is ever right, but I’m excited to celebrate every single milestone available to me.  One day I’m going to look back at this and laugh, because 30 miles will be a quick ride, and changing a flat will be easy!

When Consistency Falters

This past winter I wrote about motivation, consistency, and discipline.  It’s really funny that, as someone with less than one full season under her racebelt, I thought I had any right to speak authoritatively on the subject.  Not to say I don’t agree with everything I wrote then…I still do!  But consistency looks a lot different during the back half of the season.  I can only imagine what I’ll have to say on the subject a few years from now.

The fact is that I’ve been slipping.  Nothing terrible.  There have been missed workouts, but the wheels haven’t come completely off the bus.  If you were to just analyze my training graphs from the last year, nothing would really seem to be out of place.  In fact, July was my biggest month ever, volume-wise.  But still, I can feel myself cracking along the edges.  Truth be told, I never really got my mojo back once I got back into training after the Reston Sprint.  And therein lies the problem.  I can see it, staring at me: I never took an off season.

 Monthly Training volume - YTD 2016

Monthly Training volume - YTD 2016

I had this big plan, starting as a resolution in January of 2015.  First I was walking, then in May 2015 I added swimming.  August brought Peggy and time on the bike, and October was when I started adding run intervals.  Then it was headlong into sprint training over the winter, getting up to speed on the road bike, and suddenly it was June 2016.  I toed the line at Reston Sprint feeling almost over prepared.  I took a full week off after that race, and then eased back into training as I prepped for my first Olympic distance.  When you count strength training sessions, I was clocking two workouts a day more often than not.  Oh, and rest days?  Hardly ever took one.  “Easy swim!” I would declare.  “My volume is low, so I don’t need a full day of rest.”  In race terms, I went out too hard, overcooked it, and now I’m limping my way toward the end of the season.  I’m constantly rearranging my schedule, trying to find the combination that feels fun, and keeps me from feeling exhausted.  After all, it wasn’t so very long ago that I was completely sedentary, spending every waking minute sitting in a chair at the office or on the couch at home.  Did I really think I could be Instant Athlete – Just Add Water without consequences?

Consequences makes it sound so dire.  I’m not injured, I’m still getting most of my workouts done, and I have every confidence that I’ll finish my Oly in style.  Slow style…but hey, it was never part of the plan to be speedy this season.  Mentally I’m just done, though.  It is a lot harder to get up in the morning and make it to the pool, and sometimes I have to really argue with myself to get on the bike.  Running is a little bit easier because I don’t have to drive to the pool or concentrate like I do when cycling.  In fact, I’m really looking forward to the fall running season.  It used to just be part of the routine to hit the alarm, get out of bed, and start my workout.  Now I have to play mind games with myself to get going.  I remind myself of my goals, both long and short term.  I reread old training logs from years ago, when I did nothing but make excuses.  Do I want to be like that again?  Of course not.  Yet sometimes the idea of spending a very large chunk of time laying on the couch watching Star Trek sounds really good.  In case you’re really interested, I went with Deep Space Nine.  For an entire weekend.  And you know what happened?  I didn’t feel any better.  Between this mental fog and my missing weekly training recaps, I had reached a tipping point of mediocrity.

What’s the point of mentioning the lack of consistency if it hasn’t been particularly noticeable?  Accountability, I suppose.  That, and I try my best to keep things in perspective, which often means working through stuff like this.   Like I said, I’m healthy.  We’re not hugely wealthy or anything, but we’re living a pretty good life, and it feels wrong to whine when in the grand scheme of things, I have it pretty good.  Boo ooh, I don’t feel like working out for the expensive race I voluntarily signed up for?  Ridiculous.  Yet the feelings are there, so I must share.

And there we go.  A bit of a ramble, but I think I got there eventually.  Takeaways:

  • I’m not a robot, and rules about rest do apply to me. 

  • I’m looking forward to structuring my season better for next year. 

  • My life is pretty great. 

That is all!