Sunday, April 27, 2014

Training April 21-27 - aka: Stop. Hammer Time

Training Week 9 of 36. (Week 3 of Iron Fit) Twenty-eight weeks until the race.

What this week's scheduled training looked like (April 21-27):

Total hours scheduled: 8:00

Total hours logged: 7:45

Total running miles this week/total: 15.4 / 122.91

Total biking miles this week/total: 49.3 / 340.98

Total swimming yards this week/total: 5000 / 50,000

Weight: 148 (no change from last week; down 2 lbs overall)

Level of IM enthusiasm: 7.5/10 - still feel pretty good.

Nutrition elements: I'm done with UCan. I know I said I would give it another 3-4 weeks, but I just couldn't do it. IM training is hard enough (mentally and physically) without doing it feeling like you're starving. I followed all the UCan instructions and in two "long" workouts this week (1:45 bike and a 1 hour swim followed by 45min run) and in both I was just miserable. I decided I'm not willing to give it any more time, and sold what I had left.

I really want to find what works for me. At the Sprintfield Sprint Tri they handed out some Hammer products in our race bags and I got a raspberry gel. Low and behold, when I tried the gel a few days later during a ride, I actually liked it (I am not a big gel person. The consistency usually creeps me out).

I really like the Hammer website and that they seem to understand what an IM athlete will want/need. Plus a lot of their stuff is non-GMO, organic, gluten free. Moreover, many of my friends (mostly runners) swear by their products. I ordered about $100 worth of different products and samples, so I'm hoping I'll find some combinations that work for me.

Other: Took part in the Richmond Tri Club Sprint Triathlon this weekend. I realized I've got to find some hills to train on before my Augusta Half IM in September. And transitions.... I have no idea why my brain just seems to shut off during transitions.

I've also started a 5-week swim technique class with a triathlon swim coach. I took a similar one last November, and learned so much. I'm a firm believer that technique makes you a much faster swimmer than just attempting to power through. And hopefully the class will keep me from feeling how I so often feel about swimming:

Richmond Tri Club Sprint - Race Report

A training workshop originally scheduled for earlier in April got rescheduled to April 26, the same day as the Richmond Tri Club Sprint Triathlon, so I decided to go ahead and sign up for the race. It was a spring: 400m swim, 13-mile bike, 5k run

This isn't a race I'd normally do since Richmond is a couple hours away, but since I was already going to be there... Plus, the race started at 7:00, which would give me time to race, shower, change and still make my workshop by 10:00am.

But it did mean I had to leave my house by 3:30am in order to make it there, pick up my packet, and get everything situated in transition. Since I knew I would be leaving my house in something akin to a coma, I laid everything out the night before, then packed it up and had it ready in the car.

Sigh. Remember the good ol' days of footraces where all I had to remember was my bib number and to throw some clothes on? Those days are long past.

I arrived (it was cold!!) and set everything out in transition, determined to remember to face the right way on the bucket when I sat down this time so I wouldn't have to keep stretching behind me to reach stuff.  Yeah, I still didn't do very well in transition.

The Swim (400 meters)

This is a very unique swim in that it is an "open water style pool swim." It was a 50-meter pool (twice the length of the normal size pool), seven foot deep everywhere, that had buoys. They had us start in groups of 10 (based on estimated swim time). Nobody was allowed to kick off the walls as we started or as you zig-zagged up and down the pool around the buoy.

It gave me a nice taste of an open water swim without the dark cold water.  It was choppy and we were all swimming all over each other.

I loved it.

Admittedly, I couldn't go as fast as I wanted because I couldn't figure out how to get around the couple of guys in front of me for a long while. But compared to my sprint tri a couple of weeks ago, I felt so much better in the water.

For one thing, I didn't wear my heart monitor and (sorry guys, overshare) I loosened the hook on my running bra before the swim. This way I had nothing that felt like it was constricting my chest. I also was able to warm up for about 10 minutes in the smaller (25 yd) warm-up pool about 45 minutes before the race started. I'm not sure that actually did any good, but I felt like it did.

I was glad I have been working on breathing out of both sides, because I got next to someone for at least 25 yards who was splashing like a maniac on my right side, forcing me to breathe to my left. It wasn't my preference, but I was able to handle it no problem.

Everything got a little jammed up at the end trying to get out of the pool. I should've just jumped up on the wall rather than waiting to use the ladder.

Total Time: 9:04 

Evidently transitions are just not my thing. It took me even longer in this transition than in my race a couple of weeks ago! Unbelievable.

I am proud to say I faced the correct way on the bucket this time, so I wasn't reaching around behind me trying to find my stuff. My fingers weren't working too well because of the cold (low 50s, and I was soaking wet) and I ended up hardly getting my feet dried off at all. But -- helmet and sunglasses on, socks and bike shoes on and I was ready to go.

My real problem began when I noticed my HR monitor belt laying over my handle bars as I was running (in my bike shoes -- not fun) through transition. I had made it about 100 yards when I saw the HR monitor (which I had decided earlier not to use in this race because it gave me fits last time; plus, it's a sprint -- who cares about HR?). I knew I had to do something with it; I couldn't just keep it laying over my handle bars.

Sitting here at my computer, all nice and dry and warm with no pressure, I can clearly and easily figure out multiple things I could've done with the HR belt:
  • Put it around my waist as a belt
  • Looped it around my arm multiple times -- annoying, but not problematic
  • Handed it to a volunteer and asked them to stash it at the transition tent
  • Put it in the small pouch I have attached to Shane West designed to carry nutrition or, say, a HR monitor belt that is in my way
But instead of doing any of these things, I ran (with Shane West in tow of course) ALL THE WAY BACK TO MY BUCKET, threw the HR monitor in with my stuff than ran all the way back out of transition.


A friend suggested leaving my helmet upside down on the bike with my sunglasses inside to shave a few seconds off my transition time. I will definitely do that next time, although I'm thinking a post-swim lobotomy might actually do me more good.

Total time: 2:59

Bike (13 miles)
Course was just over 20k at 13 miles. Although I couldn't feel my feet because of my cold/wet socks, I had a pretty good time on the bike except for the hills. I need more hill training, not necessarily for IMFL but for my half-iron in Augusta in September. I just don't know how to get the training around here in super flat Virginia Beach.

I knew I needed more hill work when I got to a big hill, kept shifting to an easier and easier gear until I ran out of gears. Then what was I supposed to do? Fortunately I was at the top of that hill by the time the time I bottomed out of gears, because what was my next step?  (Btw, this is a real question, if anybody had suggestions I would love to hear them. I'll take anything)

Besides the hills, felt pretty good. What goes up, usually comes down after all.

Total time: 44:27

A little bit better (not that it could be worse than T1). It was a big transition area and I had a while to run in my bike shoes, which seems so slow to me. But once I got my bike racked, I calmly put on my shoes and running hat. No problems.

Total time: 1:58

Run (3.1 miles)
Run felt pretty great for me once I made it through the first mile. My Garmin was all screwed up (had been all day) so I had no idea how fast I was going or how far I had gone. I just kept running.

Once again, I ran with my iPhone in my hand listening to music through its stereo. I had the volume pretty low so I don't think anyone could've heard it without being right next to me (although who wouldn't want to hear some FloRida while in a triathlon??)

No issues or problems in the run. It was a great pace for me. Shaved nearly 2 minutes off my race a couple weeks ago.

Total time: 28:44

Overall Race Time: 1:27:10

Overall Thoughts:
My ranking was much lower in this race than the last (89/162 women compared to last race's 101/203) which discouraged me a bit. But really my bike and run times were a little faster so I shouldn't feel that way.

Nutrition was pretty basic: drank an Ensure in the morning during the drive, along with a couple cups of coffee. Also ate a banana and peanut butter as well as some crackers. Had a Hammer gel on the bike and a couple of shot bloks on the run.

I'm glad I did this race, if only for the swim part. It was a confidence builder I needed. The rest of my Tri's will be in open water (although my next race is not scheduled until July, this was my "May" tri and June is just crazy for me with travel). Looking forward to that next challenge.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Training April 14-20 - aka: Yeah, that's my weight, don't wear it out

Training week 8 of 36.  (Week 2 of Iron Fit) Twenty-nine weeks until the race.

What this week's scheduled training looked like  (April 14-20):

Total hours scheduled: 7:00

Total hours logged: 7:00

Total running miles this week/total: 14.62 / 107.51

Total biking miles this week/total: 43.5 / 291.68

Total swimming yards this week/total:  5000 / 45,000

In a tri-suit; not skinny but not fat
Weight: X-2 or,  weight for it, (see what I did there?)... 148 pounds. There it is: my actual weight out there for everyone to see rather than the infamous "X" I've been using for the past eight weeks. (In case math isn't your strong suit, I weighed 150 pounds when I started training.) I'm 5'9, so 148 pounds is not terrible, although still 20 pounds heavier than when I got married 17 years ago.

Just want to clarify (since last week I got a lot of comments on FB about not using training as a method of weight loss): I am not trying to use my IM training to lose weight. I have no actual weight goals when it comes to IM. Although if I'm gaining weight while exercising 10-20 hours week, I seriously have to be doing something wrong.

What I would like to do is make these seven months of training as easy as possible on myself. If I could shed 5-10 pounds, OR just get myself more lean with muscle rather than fat, I would be closer to an idea racing weight. That is optimally where I'd like to be. Of course, if I dropped 30 lbs doing that, I'm certainly not going to cry. But if I drop zero pounds, I'm not going to cry either.

But no more "X". I weigh what I weigh. Moving on...

Level of IM enthusiasm: 7/10. Just another week. Kids were on spring break, so everything was more difficult to fit in, but I did it.

Nutrition elements: Ordered more UCan. Got lemonade-crap and blue-razz-crap flavors and some of the protein. We'll see. I don't know that I can do every long workout always feeling like my tank is mostly empty. But maybe it's just a mental thing and my brain will switch over and it'll be okay.

But Lordy that stuff is god-awful tasting. Completely chilled helps a little, but not much.

Other: Starting a five-week swim technique class this week with a local Tri coach. I took one back in November and it helped me tremendously. Unlike biking and running, I believe the only way to become truly faster at swimming is to improve your technique rather than power through.

Also have another Sprint Tri next Saturday. 400m pool swim (in a 50m pool, so that's a little different), 13 mile bike and 5k run.  Then nothing on the race calendar until July.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Week 7 Training (April 7-13) - aka: Welcome to the Grind

Week 7 of 36. Thirty weeks until the race.

What this week's scheduled training looked like (April 7-13):

Total hours scheduled: 7:00

Total hours logged: 7:00

Total running miles this week/total: 12.79 / 92.89

Total biking miles this week/total:  43.50 /248.18

Total swimming yards this week/total: 5000 / 40,000

Weight: x-1 (same. always the same) A friend suggest that I might want to measure inches lost instead of weight lost. Might think about that.

Level of IM enthusiasm:  9/10. This is "real" week #1, baby! (see "other" section below)

Nutrition elements: Used UCan again before my 1:45 bike ride. I want to like this stuff (because if I can do a 2+ hour workout using only one 100ish calorie packet that contains no sugar than I AM IN!), but still am not convinced that it really works.  If you're used to working with gels/shot bloks -- you know that feeling you get just as your system is starting to tell you it's time for another one? That first moment of weakness/hunger/whatever you want to call it? That feeling where you know if you don't get another gel/blok inside you soon things will be pretty ugly a mile or so from now?

It's not ugly yet, but you can glimpse it.  ...That feeling?

After using UCan I constantly have that feeling, like I need more in my tank or I'll be in trouble soon. But then it never gets any worse, and the trouble never actually comes (in these 2 hour workouts).  So it's kind of annoying the whole time, but never becomes any more critical.  I don't know if the UCan is working and that I'm so used to a sugar high & crash from gels that I need to adjust to a more even release of carbs, or if it's all just hype and I'm tricking my own brain.

If it was just these issues, I would probably give it a couple month run and see how it plays out. But the stuff tastes like flavored chalk. No kidding. I have the new Orange-crap flavor and the Pomegranate/blueberry-crap. The Orange-crap is almost drinkable but the Pomegranate-crap is beyond gross. 

Overall consensus after writing this: I will give it a couple more weeks and also order a couple more different flavors to try. After that, if I'm still not convinced, I'm moving on.

Other: After of two weeks of my debut novel release shenanigans and vacation where training was pushed in wherever I could find time, I was ready to get back to the IM grind. And perfect timing because we are 30 weeks out. This is where the training plan I am using (Don Finks' Iron Fit) actually starts. The last six weeks were just extra (that I wish I had used doing something other than running, biking and swimming. Like crossfit or Zumba. Hindsight 20/20...)

So this is it. I will be, as much as possible, following this plan down to the letter (see the Training Calendar above it you want to know what this involves each week). I am choosing to believe if I put all the hours into the training involved in this plan, it will pay off with a successful Ironman Florida race come November.

Of course, I'm leaving myself room for changes that will have to be made because of life (family, travel, illness). But otherwise this training will be happening almost every day of every week for the next 30 weeks. 7 1/2 months.

Sweat is for those who know that winning is a choice, not an accident. Welcome to the grind.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Week 6 Training (Mar 31-Apr 6) - aka: Wetsuit for the first Time

Week 6 of 36. Thirty-one weeks until the race.

What this week's scheduled training looked like (March 31-April 6):

Total hours scheduled: 7:00

Total hours logged: 6:51

Total running miles this week/total: 15.4 / 80.1

Total biking miles this week/total: 29.45 / 204.68

Total swimming yards this week/total: 5000 (ahem, bs!) / 30000

Weight: seriously, I've given up on this.

Level of IM enthusiasm: 4/10 -- vacation and book release week. So IM training took a back seat. Way, way back.

Nutrition elements: Eating everything possible while on vacation? Is that a nutrition plan?

Other: My training was pretty much crap this week, so let's just talk about the swimming, the only thing significant.  I didn't do either of my scheduled 2500 yard swims. But I did do three important swimming events this week which allow me to cut myself a little slack:

1) I did my first open water swim while on vacation in Ft. Myers, FL. I don't know how far my swim was (I just kept going out to a buoy and back, that I think was probably around 100-150 yards away), but I did it. The water was cold just in my bathing suit, but I felt okay.

Struggling with my arms
2) I did my first open water swim with my wetsuit. That was scary. I'm pretty claustrophobic, so I bought a used DeSoto two piece wetsuit off Ebay a few weeks ago, having read the two-piece nature of it would help a little. This was my first time using it.

The good news is, I didn't freak out. I got both pieces (the bib, long-john type piece that goes on the legs and torso and the jacket which covers the torso and arms). And I made it into the water and began swimming.

I'll be honest: I didn't like it, although I must fully admit that was because of ME not because of the suit. My shoulders felt constricted, I couldn't get into my grove swimming. It was all just yucky-feeling. It didn't help that all my friends were on shore watching, worrying that I might have some panic attack and flip out  (but, of course, they all had their phones handy so they could record it all and put it on YouTube if that happened -- as friends should).

Trying it in just the Bib
I swam probably 200-300 yards then decided to try it without the top jacket part and swam in just the bib. Having freedom in my arms felt MUCH BETTER, although the DeSoto bib is not meant to be used alone -- it created drag. I might look into purchasing the DeSoto Speedvest to go over the bib that would leave my arms free.

I would call it a successful first attempt at both open-water swimming and wetsuit usage. I definitely need more practice with both, especially getting past that 300 yard range where swimming becomes much easier and less sucky. The first 300 yards are always the worst, even in a pool -- I need to give myself a chance to get past that in a wetsuit and THEN see how I feel, so I'm comparing apples to apples. I'm excited to do that.

Looked a lot happier than I felt

Finished this week with the Smithfield Sprint Tri -- making me officially a triathlete. Race report is here.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Smithfield Sprint Triathlon - Race Report

As part of my preparation for Ironman Florida, I registered for the first local (southeastern Virginia) triathlon of the season: the Smithfield Sprint Tri.

My first triathlon! (Yeah, those are pigs on the shirt)

It was a baby tri, even in the Sprint world: 300meter swim (in a pool), 10-mile bike, and 5k (3.1 mile) run. I do more than this amount on any given day of training for my Ironman. But I wanted to practice stuff like swimming and biking around people, and transitions. Turns out, I needed it.

It was a beautiful day for a tri -- sunny and mid-60s. I arrived at the race to get my bike racked in the transition area by 9:30am. Taking some good advice, I used a 5-gallon bucket to carry my gear in (so it could be flipped & used to sit on while putting on bike/running shoes).

My transition area
I tried to set everything out the way I would need them as I came in to the transition area both times. In front: hand towel, bike shoes (with socks in them), sunglasses on top. Helmet sat on my handle bars. In back: Running shoes, favorite running cap, running belt with running number.

Number 281
I headed off to get myself all marked up: race number on both arms and the front of both legs. (That wasn't so bad, I've gone to Tough Mudder races where they write your number across your forehead because it's the only place it won't come off).

But seriously, I'm getting to the age where that little number on the back of my calf is bugging me just a little. Sigh.

Because it was a pool swim, they started people every 15 seconds (based on submitted swim times). I was starter #281, which meant I began my swim at 11:24am. So, a couple hours of sitting around, but not too bad.

The Swim
So, it was a 300m swim. Basically, up one length of the pool, then back down, then duck under the rope and do the same thing on the next lane, for six lanes. It was a giant zig-zag. Pretty well organized for 500 people and one medium-sized pool.

I knew the swim wasn't going to be awesome for me. It normally takes 300 yards of SHEER MISERY for me to get warmed up in my swim. I am convinced I am going to drown in the first 300 yards every time I hit the pool, but by 500 yards I hit my stride and have no problem for the rest of 2500-3000 yards.

Today was no different with the misery. But had a couple of extra problems to boot: swimming in my tri-suit (and sports bra) and with my HR Monitor on for the first time.

You know that old adage about never doing anything new on race day? There's a reason for that.

Stupid, I know.  I KNOW.

Problem was the restriction I felt my sports bra and HR Monitor put on my chest -- I really felt like I was having difficulty breathing during the swim. It could've all been in my mind, but it was still not fun.

Anyway, made it through water, up and out of the pool and into the transition area.

Total time: 6:36 (Ranked 89/203 women)

Okay, so evidently all my preparation, still didn't help me too much. I sat down the wrong way on my bucket, so everything was behind me. (Somehow couldn't figure out just to spin around, so kept reaching backwards. Duh.)

I still had my swim cap and goggles perched on my head, so I didn't put the sunglasses on right away. Instead I threw them in my small bag, which later meant I had to hunt for them, costing me probably 30 seconds.

Dried off my feet, got my socks and bike shoes on. Helmet on and immediately clicked (no DQ for me!!). Finally found my sunglasses and I was off, awkwardly running my way through transition in my bike shoes.

Total time: 2:46 (Ranked 162/203 women -- wth?? I've got to work on my transition skills)

VERY HAPPY WITH MY BIKE RIDE!! I do not have much experience riding around other people, or in any sort of hills or turns. This was just the sort of experience I needed. Not too crowded, but enough to make me really be aware.

Hills were challenging and fun -- I actually had to change gears (compared to oh-so-FLAT Virginia Beach)!!! At the end of 10-miles, I would've gladly done it the course again, possibly two more times.

And I proudly did not fall off my bike when coming back into transition. Repeated my dismount mantra in my head: "Butt off seat, unclip bent leg". (I say that ever since I couldn't quite get my feet unclipped a couple of weeks ago and took a tumble)

Total time: 36:49 (Ranked 90/203 women)

Got the bike on the rack, bike shoes off and running shoes on. Sat down on the bucket the wrong way again. Sigh.

Spent at least 20 second trying to decide if I should clip my iPod shuffle to my running cap. I knew it was illegal, but didn't care. I decided not to, but regretted that decision a mile or so later.

Total time: 2:15 (Frakkin' 180/203 -- what the heck was I doing? How long can it take to change shoes for goodness sakes?)

Run was okay. Coming off the bike, I felt like I was going slow. But really, for me, I wasn't doing too badly -- averaging around 9:40 min/miles. Wished like heck I had my iPod. I finally pulled out my phone and got some music going. I was just listening out of the phone speakers -- no headphones. It was like a little tiny boombox.

Course was out and back, a few hills, but nothing unmanageable. Whole run was pretty uneventful.

Total time: 30:33 (Ranked 111/203 women)

Overall total time: 1:19:02 (Ranked 101/203 women)

What I learned:
1) I've done lots and lots of races in my time, but not triathlons. I can't just show up for a tri like I do a running race. Transitions for tri's take practice and organization. I need to think that through more. And get faster in transitions!

The dreaded tri-suit
2) Ahem, don't try anything new on race day. Nuff said.

3) I thought there was nothing less flattering for "normal sized" women athletes than running clothes. I was wrong: tri-suits are worse.

4) Nutrition: I'm still experimenting. I used a Generation UCan drink 30 minutes before the race. I felt fine in the swim and bike, but felt hungry during the run. Ended up eating a couple shot bloks. The UCan should've held me for the entire race -- not sure if that's a physical or mental thing.

5) I should try to do some sort of a warm up before a swim. 100 jumping jacks or running in place. Something that gets the heart pumping and breathing harder BEFORE getting into the water.

But I did it. I'll admit after this tiny race I feel woefully unprepared for my Ironman in November, even knowing I still have 7 months to train. But I am one step closer today than I was yesterday. Today, I am officially a TRIATHLETE.