indoor cycling and other tri things

I briefly mentioned that I joined a tri team in my summer-summary post, but I failed to give this detail the attention it deserves. I officially raced in a TMB kit for the Skylands Triathlon and the Princeton Half Ironman (still have to write about that…it’s been four months…). Aside from two duathlon workouts and a course preview ride in August, I hadn’t trained with the team at all until late December, when I decided to attend a spin workout at the swanky gym at which the team has secured a special deal of sorts. It’s a little bit of a hike for me, being forty minutes north, but I soon learned it was so worth it. The first Saturday morning I knew I was getting myself into something slightly over my head, just because I hadn’t been on my trainer much lately and was very un-acclimated to warm, indoor workouts.  I somehow survived, but that first day was much shorter than the weeks that followed. I went again on Tuesday night, and missed the next Saturday due to being sick, but was eager to return the next two Saturdays. It’s safe to say that I’m hooked.

Screenshot of a video (there were no photos taken) from last week's spin workout...I always take the back left corner.

Screenshot of a video (there were no photos taken) from last week’s spin workout…I always take the back left corner (you can see one half of me).

In the zone

I’ve been using the Cyclops spin bikes at the gym; I only used my bike and trainer the first time. Most of the time we do Spinervals workouts (on DVDs), but once it was coached, and we listened to good music with race footage on the TV. I began using a heart rate monitor, and now I forget what it was like not to. I hardly ever remember the sets we do once it’s all over, but that’s something I like about it: I’m only thinking about what I have to do at the moment. Sixty seconds, thirty seconds, standing, sitting, aerobars, cadence, counting down the last five seconds, drinking water, drinking Nuun, heart rate zones, adjusting the resistance. There’s not much time to think about much else. One thing I do think about is how this is going to make me better. I’m not exactly sure what it will mean for marathon training, but there’s no doubting that an extra interval workout of 2+ hours a week with no impact is going to increase my fitness.

Strength in numbers

There’s also something addicting about being with the team. The room is filled with so many talented athletes, and it’s so easy when looking around to see why people are on this team. When I get in that room and sit on a bike, it feels like the most normal thing for anyone to ever do. This is what they all have probably always done, every winter – these hard trainer workouts. At first when I heard about a workout lasting over two hours, I thought, wow, I could never do that.  Yet here I am, sad about the 6 AM text I got yesterday morning saying that the spin workout was cancelled due to snow. Biking in my backyard shed alone doesn’t seem as normal. In that room, even if I’m crazy, I’m not alone. Suddenly what it excessive to other people who don’t understand is now just as fun to everyone around me as I think it is. There’s something really cool about this. As an extrovert, it’s like the best of both worlds to me, and I’m not leaving it anytime soon. We have our team party/meeting next weekend, and I’m really excited to meet more team members who haven’t been at the spin workouts!

Thoughts on tri-marathon combo training

First off, I’m starting to understand full Ironman training as a real, fathomable thing, which means I should probably be slapped or, I don’t know, forced to go to the pool more than once a week. Anyway, I’ve been thinking about how if I keep this up (I’m also doing some weekday trainer workouts), I’m probably not training for Boston in the same way as most runners. It obviously makes me fairly fatigued, so as I start to do longer workouts I think I’ll have to choose sometimes. But on the other hand…what if I just keep getting more fit and experienced on the bike and just do it, marathon training on top of it. I’m never going to be a high mileage runner anyway, if not by choice than by fear, so it might help make up for that. I’ll see. As of right now, I’m still operating under the mentality that cross training makes you fitter and therefore faster in any discipline.

What the heck happened to my trainer?

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Let’s look at it from another angle (ignore the black stuff, that has since gone away, it was just tire dust if that’s a thing):

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There’s a groove in there. I have since switched my back tire so I don’t ruin it, but that was unrelated to this occurrence, because I had used the Gatorskin on the trainer twice before. The groove didn’t get worse after I took my bike off and put it back, hoping the repositioning would help. The groove only took about twenty minutes to create. Twenty Facebook photo comments later and I still can’t figure it out. It works just fine and isn’t getting worse, but I really want to figure this out! Any guesses are appreciated.

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Hey, I’m alive…here’s what I’ve meant to write about since August.

A blogging hiatus was not planned at all, but it happened. I was going to write a post in late September explaining that blogging was the one thing that ended up getting cut out of my life during half ironman training, but now that it’s November (oh gosh, really?) it’s not a viable excuse.

A lot has happened. I’m going to dedicate a couple posts to specific races, like the Princeton Half Ironman and the Princeton Half Marathon, and will probably summarize the rest of my summer and fall training and racing into another. I really do miss writing, and the blogging community that comes along with it. Life always seems to get a little more complicated and a little harder to deal with in the fall, and I’m hoping that returning to writing regularly will help me keep my thoughts organized. Because there are so many.

I might as well make this post the summary one. In my last post, I wrote: “Until everything is all announced and the storm has passed, I’m counting on continuing to be stressed out of my mind and as busy as ever.” I’m pretty good at predicting things. Luckily things all came together, quite successfully, and I’m in a much better place as far as work stresses are concerned. An interesting place, because my life tends to trend that way. But a good place. Looks like I was scared about getting plantar fasciitis that day too…I still can’t really bend my big toe much but there’s no pain and I’m going to add that to my list of mysteries for the time being.

Half ironman training, the final month

Training went well, overall. I was doing long rides once a week and made sure to make them worth it by doing a brick run afterward. Some weekends I would do a regular long run the following day, too. I remember my first long ride (50+ miles), I was really sore later that day and the next day. By August they felt no different from the aftereffects of a 10-12 mile run, which made me confident that I was in fact getting stronger and more comfortable on the bike and that the race was going to go okay.

I joined a tri team.tmb

I joined the TMB Tri Team sometime in July I think, but I obviously wanted to meet everyone and do a workout with them before officially considering myself part of the team. It’s a huge team full of really inspiring athletes off all ages, and enthusiastic coaches. I finally went to meet the team for a duathlon workout in Bedminster the third Wednesday in August. It had its complications, obviously, as I was freaking out for 48 hours before that my summer of racing was over due to developing a very infected bug bite on my calf (I’m not kidding…it was scary, I have witnesses). But I made it, and had so much fun!

Me chasing down a runner at the du workout at Far Hills Fairgrounds.

Me chasing down a runner at the du workout at Far Hills Fairgrounds.

I went again the following week and had an even better time, even with 90 degree, humid weather. Being the first one on the bike from the first run portion (we did a shorter running workout before the bike, a ~13 mile bike, and then a longer running workout), I was discouraged at first at how easily everyone seemed to catch me on the bike, because I felt like I was going almost at a racing effort. The second time I went I averaged 18 mph though, so it was good to see that I wasn’t really that slow, relative to my solo rides. I have a long way to go in cycling though! More on that later.

Princeton 70.3 course preview ride

On Labor Day weekend, the team was getting together to preview the Half Ironman course, so I made sure I was free for that. It was quite the adventure. First off, I had never been on a ride with more than one other person ever, and here I was riding with a group of twenty or thirty. I knew the course a little bit but I trusted the guys who were leading the ride to provide directions. Honestly, I expected to be falling off the back and trying to get a glimpse of the turns up ahead. That was definitely not the case though; I managed to stay up with the front of the subgroup of ten or so riders I was with, and it felt pretty easy. There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the course at nearly every turn though…and there were a lot of turns. Around mile 40 or so, Brian and I hastily decided that everyone was going the wrong way and we were going to go the right way, and we broke apart from them for the rest of the ride. Slightly bonking from lack of adequate nutrition and sleep made the park a welcome sight after…62.4 miles. Oops. Averaging my fastest ever (for a non-race ride of significant length, 17.2 mph) for my farthest ride ever certainly made me happy though.

Skylands Triathlon

The next Sunday, I decided to do the Skylands Olympic Tri. It was at Spruce Run, the same location as my first tri of the season, Jerseyman. I registered for a few reasons: 1. I got an awesome discount, 2. it would be my long brick workout for the week, and 3. I really hadn’t been swimming enough. At all. This race had a one mile swim which would be great practice for the big race in two weeks. The swim was pretty choppy and I felt slow for most of it…but I got it done. The bike…well, let me just say that I’d been doing 50+ mile rides in some really hilly areas and all oft hose hulls did nothing to prepare me for the giant mountain in the middle of this one. And I had to do it twice.

skylandstrielevationIt was so steep there were people – fast cyclists – walking their bikes to the top. Someone was playing “Eye of the Tiger” for us as we climbed, and there were a number of clever signs. It was truly brutal. Hence my 16.4 mph average for the 28 miles, in a race….The course was honestly not great overall; part of it was on a 4-lane highway and there were sharp turns. The sprint tri began after the Olympic but we all ended up on the bike course at the same time. I saw Brian heading out as I was heading back from my first loop, who I wasn’t sure was even going to be at the tri, so that was nice motivation. An incident on my second loop had me really worried  though. I was coming up on a group of people doing the sprint (ST was written on their calves), we were going uphill slightly, and I knew there 20140907_071117was a sharp turn ahead and then a bigger hill. At the turn, I could see a cop car, there to alert traffic, etc. There was no room ahead to pass them at that turn because of the cop car, and I didn’t think I could do it at the time, so I planned on passing them soon, after we had turned on the hill. I didn’t want to get too close, so I was trying my best to follow the rules and stay three bike lengths back. I ended up having to brake more than I planned, slowing down from 16-17 mph to 12-13. That kind of sucked. To make things more complicated, the course marshal, this woman on a shiny red motorcycle, was definitely patrolling this part of the route. She came so close to my left at one point that I wanted to ask her, “excuse me, where should I go right now? I definitely can’t pass because you’re now boxing me in, and I’m braking as much as I can.” To this day (okay that sounds funny, it was only two months ago…) I still think the only way to avoid the 2:00 bike penalty she gave me was to just pull over and literally stop in the middle of the race. Why would I have thought to do that though?! I didn’t know I had a penalty until it was almost time for the awards. The run went better than I expected, besides some minor nausea at the end. It ended up being 6.4 miles according to my watch, and I ran splits of 6:38, 7:03, 7:01, 7:06, 6:59, 6:58 and finished at 6:23 pace for a total time of 44:38ish. It was confusing (but also made the time go by faster) to figure out who was on their first lap, who was on their second, who was doing the sprint, and who was doing the run part of a sprint or olympic relay. Phew. Post-race, I heard someone tell me, “Nice job! You were fourth!” Shortly after, I heard another girl from my team tell me, “What happened? You were third but you got a penalty, that sucks!” WHAT. Long story short, that woman on the motorcycle could not be convinced that I did not draft, or that she impeded me from passing. I let Brian find her and try to appeal because I was too mad. We left shortly after claiming age group awards (which you had to wait in a line for?!) and I reasoned with myself that in the end the race didn’t matter much. It would have been cool to “podium,” and I still don’t know what else I should have done in the situation, but oh well.

birthday run, birthday fun

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Friends and a magic wand, can’t get better than that.

My birthday was the first day of Girls on the Run. I didn’t want to get up really early to do a long run, but I knew I wanted to run pretty far. It was my favorite running weather to start: overcast, breezy, and not super warm. I started at 1:00pm and didn’t try to find a running buddy since the time was so random. But I found Greta on a hilly road about four miles in! I was feeling tired and wasn’t sure if I would slow her down, but I took the chance and turned around with her. We ended up dropping the pace to 7:15-7:25 for most of the run, totaled 12ish miles, and ended in a downpour. I love picking up friends mid-run, it was a lucky day for sure! Later of course I celebrated in other ways, and I have to say it was one of my best birthdays ever. I even found a magic wand. Or rather, I was so intrigued by the fact that a woman had a wand at a bar (from a wedding that day…) that she ended up giving it to me for my birthday. Lucky indeed.

And then…it was Half Ironman week! The week was pretty low-key, but it included 50 hours of work and some last-minute tune-up lessons on fixing a flat and the like.

Underwear run

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you know that this happened. On Saturday the 20th, the morning before the race, we hosted an underpants run, like the one that began in Kona before the Ironman World Championships and has since become a pre-race staple at many Ironman events. We tried to promote it well…but the first time for something is bound to be small. So there were six of us participating. We read the official underpants run oath in front of the store, and ran down to the Princeton stadium tiger sculptures and back. It was pretty…liberating, naturally. I’m glad we all had each other, and especially Pat from RunBucks, who was a big reason the whole thing happened.

Just a normal Saturday morning pre-race stroll...

Just a normal Saturday morning pre-race stroll….

The rest of the day was pretty chill, aside from expected night-before-my-first-half-ironman stress buildup (basically I thought I was getting sick after having dinner at Triumph and decided to lay on the floor until it went away, worried I wouldn’t be able to race…only last 20 minutes or so). Pickup at Ironman Village went smoothly, and by the end of the night I was ready for Sunday!

20140920_145429Up next: Princeton 70.3 race report!

It’s good to be back writing, thanks for reading. 🙂

Reality, renewed for another season: training updates & limbo confessionals

Most people know that I do not have cable television, nor do I feel the need to. I had Netflix for a couple months when I was watching House of Cards on the bike trainer in my shed, but as soon as it was warm enough to bike outside I unsubscribed. I haven’t watched a movie in months and have not watched a TV show alone since March. This isn’t a conscious decision, I just actually forget visual entertainment is an option because I can think of a hundred other things I want/need to do instead. Furthermore, who needs a TV show when I have the ridiculous plot twists that make up my life? 

I haven’t blogged in a month simply because this (life) is an exciting show, and every day there seem to be new challenges, catches, and decisions with unknown resolutions not solely in my control that leave me utterly exhausted at the end of each day. Sometimes the exhaustion occurs because of productivity, and sometimes because of total physical and mental stress.

Playing catch-up is annoying at first, but then fun, because there are so many things I have been itching to blog about (but then, like I said, I go to sleep instead)!  

From a training standpoint:

I raced the NJ State Sprint Triathlon for the third year in a row on July 19th.

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…and finally placed in my age group!

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I bought bike shoes and clipless pedals.

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I have the inevitable embarrassing long bike ride mishap story to share (or not?).

Scattered Thunderstorms

(HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO PLAN A 3 HOUR RIDE WITH A FORECAST LIKE THIS?!?)

I did some long rides to pretty places (but still have a long way to go…pun intended).20140713_113618

I learned how to climb, finally!

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I ran another 5k PR & clearly earned a last-minute entry in the contest for my grittiest finish photo ever.

 

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These things don’t sound too crazy. That’s because I’ve failed to mention the non-training-related portions of the past month. I don’t believe in jinxes, but it would seem as though the “crazy” in my quest for a “summer of crazy” took on a different meaning.

Confessions in limbo, part two: sometimes you change your mind. Or realize your 14-year-old self knew what you wanted more than your 23-year-old self. Or maybe, you just gave it one more shot and it was enough to realize it wasn’t what you thought it would be. At the end of January I wrote a truthful, personal post about my career goals as well as a resolution to reach them. Reading back over it now, I feel like my decision to change those goals for practical and personal reasons, with no outside influences by anyone else persuading or dissuading, was the right one. It is exciting and relieving to re-focus my sights on becoming a teacher, not a physical therapist. I will probably go into more detail in another post, but for now I’ll put it simply: it was what I decided, and I have quit my PT job since realizing it was stressing me out more than benefiting me or anyone else. I also needed to do this because….

There are BIG changes happening at the store. New leadership, new staff (basically chosen by yours truly and they are going to be awesome), new community involvement, and new responsibilities. Interlaced with this is an emerging conflicting relationship between people I have known and trusted for years. Until everything is all announced and the storm has passed, I’m counting on continuing to be stressed out of my mind and as busy as ever. Most days I am pretty excited about what’s happening though, and if you are part of the Princeton community, you should be too. I am learning more about myself as a person and a potential leader these past few weeks than I ever have, and regardless of what happens and how quickly it happens, it’ll count for something. 

Working as much as I did on my feet this week, continuing normal training, and then racing, however, does do a number on your body. As of the past 24 hours I’m faced with the beginnings of what seems to be a form of plantar fasciitis (never had it before), with more stiffness than actual pain right now….I’m pretty sure this was triggered by the time I had Lace Locks on too tightly in late May (my left foot felt off after that for a long time randomly on some runs, but I had since stopped feeling any discomfort the past couple weeks) plus stepping straight onto a pointy rock a few weeks ago while running on a trail (which I was super worried about and cared for like there was pain, but there was never any pain). It was hard to curl/bend my big toe after I was done running for the day yesterday, and in trying to do so I felt tension near my Achilles too. I’ve been icing it like crazy and wearing Superfeet, but I’m sure there’s another overtime week waiting for me so I really hope it goes away. :/

So there you have it: pretty much every aspect of my life has been turned upside down except running…not necessarily turned into a state of chaos but definitely turned in a way that prompts questioning the why, when, and how. 

 

I plan on recapping my triathlon and the other things I mentioned in detail soon, so stay tuned!

(Please note that I choose to share what I want on this personal blog, and would never disclose any information not already known to the general public regarding business-related information. So, I have not done so in this post, in case you were wondering.)

 

 

 

Jerseyman Triathlon race report

jerseymanlogoOn Saturday the 17th, I ran the Jerseyman Triathlon, hosted by TMB Racing at Spruce Run Reservoir in Clinton. To say I was under-prepared for competing in a tri less than a month after Boston and so early into the “tri season” is on paper an understatement. Looking at the numbers, this race marked my: fourth swim of 2014, third ride on my new bike, first open water swim of the year, first time wearing a wetsuit, and second hard-effort run since Boston. My goal was to have fun, see where I was starting from before seriously triathlon training, and further testing out the new toy bike. And of course, I was itching to race, so I was looking forward to getting back in the competitive spirit.

I was exhausted from a week that included a lot of work, pre-dawn wake-ups, and training, but all of the above motivated me for just one more 5 AM alarm for the drive up to the park for race-day registration. In addition to learning last-minute that Brian (of biking in the shed and delicious beer adventures, who also owns this bike) was going to be there after all. I ended up seeing a familiar face (Pat of RunBucks) at the registration table, which was nice. I am very social pre-race, and when I don’t see anyone I know I get more nervous. Transition was closing sooner than I thought, so I didn’t have time to do a [running] warmup before. I decided the 24-mile bike would do the trick anyway…I should focus on putting on my wetsuit and feeling it out down at the lake before the first wave went off. The water was surprisingly not too bad, despite the rain that had occurred nonstop the previous day. Just as I was freaking out that I wouldn’t survive (this always happens to me), I found Brian – a difficult feat considering everyone was in wetsuits.

JerseyMan-Swim-Course

As pictured above, the swim course was a long rectangle that fortunately did not appear long from where I stood on the beach. Brian and I were in the same wave, since we both registered on race day…along with females 40 and over. Waves were three minutes apart and there were seven or so of them, so by the time I began I was already dry again after my initial dip in the water. Fun fact: in all of my tris (three…), my wave has always been assigned white caps. How boring is that? Anyway. It was my first time running into the water for the start, but it was sort of fun. Right before I entered the water, I saw Pat, who said, “Have fun,” probably after realizing how nervous I looked. I lost some time at first because I panicked over the neck of my wetsuit…once horizontal in the water, it felt like it was strangling me. I cursed myself for not getting up early the day before and testing it out in the pool like I’d planned. I told myself, you’re just out for a swim. To have fun. That calmed me down immensely, and I got on with it. The wave of people was much smaller than I’m used to, which was so nice. The turn buoy never seemed too far away, and I was there before I knew it. I found myself a “lane,” albeit a but farther over from the buoys, to get out of everyone’s way and make up some ground. There, I was able to keep my head down more and speed up a lot. This was such a good idea, I thought. This is really fun. My back started to spaz out towards the end from only breathing to the right (I was trying to see the buoys and not go off course), but I made it to the beach and it felt okay.

The first transition involved running over the beach, on some concrete path, over the parking lot, and into the transition area. I felt a little dizzy, and managed to accidentally rip part of my bib off of the shirt I’d pinned it on. Fail. I wasted time pinning it back on, and then more time shoving Shot Bloks into my shorts pocket, since I don’t have a bag on the front of my bike and didn’t want to drag the Bloks through the water with me, obviously. I knew T1 was taking too long, but…ugh. I got through it, and got on my bike.

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I wasn’t sure what my pacing plan was for the bike. I hate holding back in a race situation, but I knew this was 24 miles of rolling hills. I wouldn’t say I “held back” at any point exactly, but first of all, I was still getting used to my new bike and the gears and whatnot, and second, I’m just not in tune with what that means yet like I am with running. I also had no bike computer or anything on the bike, and was saving my Garmin to use for the run, so I didn’t know how fast I was going at any point, or what mile I was on. The bike course was definitely challenging, but also very scenic, which was a plus!

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I had all the Shot Bloks periodically except for two, because they were starting to make me feel sick and I’d choose less energy over feeling sick on the run any day. I went through the second transition in less than a minute, and headed out to hunt people down. This is my absolute favorite part of the tri. My only complaint/worry was that I could not feel my feet at all. I hadn’t been able to feel them on the entire ride either – I guess they were numb from the water and never warmed up since they weren’t getting much blood flow on the bike. It was the weirdest feeling, and I was concerned that I would end up injuring them, from stepping wrong and not feeling it at the time…like maybe my tendons and muscles wouldn’t support them or something. A strange thing to think about mid-race….The run course was fairly flat, with a slight uphill on a trail at the beginning. It was an out-and-back to the boat launch on the paved paths on the park. We ran along the beach that we had started the race on, which was cool. I passed Brian and Joe when they were on their way to the finish and I was heading out. I kept waiting to feel tired and slow down, but I was very comfortable at 6:40-6:50 the entire time (except for the numb feet…). Four miles felt incredibly short, mentally. After the part along the beach, there was the same path up to the parking lot that was part of T1. I saw a woman ahead of me. I could see from her bodymarking that she was 25, so, just shy of my age group. I debated if I was too tired to try to catch her anyway…I thought of Boston, and how I was definitely nowhere near that level of fatigue, then went for it. This happened just as we entered the parking lot area, and I could hear people I knew who had finished cheering me on. There was another woman just ahead, so I sprinted after her and caught her too. The finish line was at a strange angle – I knew it couldn’t be over just yet – and sure enough, we had to run down and turn around at a cone before heading straight toward the finish line. This is hard to explain, but basically, the cone thing was such a tease. Regardless, I was pleased with the final push I gave at the end. I forgot to stop my watch right away, but the splits for four miles I have from my Garmin were: 6:49, 6:43, 6:47, 6:25.

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The results…

A triathlon isn’t really over until the results are published. That’s when you can over-analyze everything for days and figure out how you really did….

Overall: 2:12:51 Place: 114/240 
Swim: 18:26 Pace: 1:45 Place: 148 
T1: 3:05 Place: 175 
Bike: 1:23:30 Speed: 17.2 Place: 145 
T2: 0:54 Place: 56 
Run: 26:56 Pace: 6:44 Place: 23 
F20-24: 1st

Random thoughts: There is definitely room for improvement on the bike. No one who finished ahead of me overall had a slower time than me on the bike. I am very happy with the run. I’ll have to figure out how to make my feet not go numb in the future, but otherwise I ran faster than I thought I could after a hilly 24 mile bike. I should probably work on my 10k PR now….I also had the fastest female run split (by a second). T1 was worse than I remembered. Overall, I had so much fun in this race despite not being totally prepared and despite what my race pictures would suggest. Sorry I look angry when I race, I’m really just having a great time, I swear. I need to pick my next tri now, since I now have a conflict with the one in a couple weeks I really wanted to do…I’ve definitely got the fever. Now, it’s time to ride.

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Ironman 70.3 Princeton

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On Tuesday, I was checking Facebook briefly when something caught my eye. My entire newsfeed is dominated by running-related updates, so I was bound to find out about this the day the news was released….The Ironman 70.3 series is holding its 24th event next September: in Princeton.* Holy crap. 

A half Ironman has been on my radar since last summer after I participated in a 5k open water swim at the shore. Having really enjoyed that, plus doing “brick runs” out of necessity on a daily basis (including today actually), plus just generally being able to run hard through fatigue have caused me to get that tingling, excited feeling when I think about what I could potentially do in a half Ironman. Aside from the 56-mile bike (more on that issue later…though I discussed it before), the distances seem just right in terms of a balance between speed and endurance. In other words, I think the event could be an ideal event for me. Okay, let me take that one step further: I think, with proper training, I could place very well in my age group in such an event. Training for a half Ironman next September does not sound that difficult to me: race Boston, rest up, train all summer. I swim and bike as part of training for running-only races anyway. The only thing in my way right now is…well, a rather huge obstacle, not going to lie.

Money. On December 16th, registration opens and the cost will be $275. If you don’t get in on the first day, I believe it goes up to $300, with incremental price increases after that if it doesn’t sell out beforehand. And, it looks like it will. At first I was thinking of trying to find some way, any way (well, legal way I mean) to get this money by the time registration opens, because I feel compelled to do it. Perfect timing, perfect location, perfect distance.

At first, this was going to be an angry post, about how it’s not the triathletes who work hard or have talent that get to become great, it’s the ones who have the means by which to make the first steps to get there: register for the event. Buy a road bike. But now, it’s just become a sort of surrender. That’s the way it is. I could train as hard as I could on my hybrid bike, and go out of my way to sneak into accessible pools. I could put the registration on my credit card and watch as it takes months and months and months to pay off, while I cut back further on groceries and other priorities. In the end though, don’t others win? Maybe I should wait. I guess another half Ironman will come around at a time I’m also ready to race it, and I have the money to spend on it. So that’s where I’m at now. It’s not an option. I have to tell myself that.

It’s hard to be patient when I’m not injured…who would have thought! I think what’s happening is it bothers me to have found a setback to racing and training that is not an injury. I’m not complaining though, obviously this wouldn’t be a frustration of mine if I didn’t feel physically capable of such a race in the first place….I am grateful to have gotten this far. To future 70.3s!   <cringe>

*Note: It’s not really going to be in Princeton. It will be at Mercer County Park in West Windsor, where the NJ State Tri and the Perfect 10 are held. CGI Racing is actually partnering with Ironman 70.3 for the event as the race directors.

NJ State Triathlon Race Report

I ran the New Jersey State Sprint Triathlon on Saturday. This is proof that I did indeed survive in one piece: dsc3571 I’m going to begin this post by saying that my attitude going into this race was unlike any race I’ve done in the past. I started running again seventeen days before, after being in pain for seven weeks. Even when I was back to running, I was skeptical about if it was a fluke or if the pain-free state of my “test runs” would last. I was biking and swimming regularly, but I was hating biking, and not confident in my swimming because I was trying not to irritate my leg the entire time. The point is, as I stated to many people last week, I was doing this triathlon. Not racing it. Brennan talked to lectured me on Wednesday, telling me I was not to get competitive, think I needed to pass everyone, and go try to accomplish anything other than finishing the darn thing without pain. I told her not to worry, that was my only goal! She didn’t believe me at all, but I knew Saturday was going to be one of those days I planned as I went along according to how I felt. Because honestly, nothing was making any sense, so that was the only way this was going to play out.  I”m not saying I had no goals or plans whatsoever. They were something like this: Swim: Be strong. Don’t back off. Don’t let anyone swim over you. Don’t let anyone kick you in the face so you’ll get knocked out and drown. Don’t choke on water. Don’t kick too hard and irritate the IT band. Hammer it in after the turn.  T1 & T2: Don’t stress, make sure the ITB and everything else is in check and ready to go – stretch if that’s necessary in order to do so. Bike: See how fast these new tires can go. Average a faster speed than last year. Don’t irritate the ITB for the run. Run: Relax. Just do it. Don’t be in pain at any point. Think of River to Sea and Hood to Coast.

The line to the parking lot at 6 AM. Pretty sunrise!

I got to the park pretty early. Apparently it was a good time to get there parking-wise, and many people had already arrived, but for my sanity, it was a bit too early. Oh well. I just wanted to start the darn thing. I usually see a lot of people I know, but I only saw a few before the start. I’m usually an extrovert pre-race – chatting with people calms my nerves and gets me pumped up for the race. I know lots of other runners who prefer to listen to music off in some corner alone…while I understand the concept, that is not me. I set up my spot in transition and then finally made my way to the swim start, where they were just starting to allow practice swims to the right side of the actual start. The water was ninety degrees. Ugh. It didn’t feel too bad during the practice swims I took, but I noticed my arms were pretty tired.

Setting up in transition.

Setting up in transition.

SWIM. My wave began at 7:47 AM. Last year, I was just with the F20-24 age group. This year, they merged two age groups so that F20-29 had the same start wave. This scared the crap out of me when I read it, and with good reason. That meant twice as many people were starting in the water at the same time. Twice as many chances to get kicked. And die (sorry, dramatic). As soon as I started swimming, I felt like something was off. There were swim too many people around me. I couldn’t breathe. I scolded myself, reminding myself of all the time I’d spent in the pool this summer, and the open water swim I did in June that felt totally fine. Even so, I kept looking up, more than I’d intended to, and seeing the buoys with the distance markers on them – 200, 300. I couldn’t believe I was going through such a crisis on the swim. I wanted air, that was all. I wanted to quit and be on my bike immediately. I felt like I was doing horribly. I rounded the big yellow buoy without any trouble, and then the crows in front of me thinned out. I was able to keep my head down more and actually swim normally, to an extent. Everyone seemed to slow down at this point, but it was my plan all along to speed up, so…I did. It was more of a “get-me-out-of-here” motive, however. I hit the ramp and ran out of that ninety-degree lake like it was on fire. T1. To put things frankly, I didn’t really give a crap. I felt like I almost died during the swim from a panic attack (later I would realize it was totally because I wasn’t used to 90 degree water and all those other people…). I had a stomach cramp and I was shaky. I put on my shoes and everything but also didn’t rush too much because I couldn’t catch my breath. Should I have? Well, yes, But again, I didn’t have expectations for this race. More on that later. BIKE. The first part of the ride was mad frustrating. I wanted to fly, because I felt like I completely blew the swim. There were so many people in my way though, and I wasn’t sure how to apply the passing rules when we were still in the park and so many people were riding slowly right in front of me. I was braking a lot, which was annoying and loud, since I just learned my brake pads are now nonexistent. I finally got into a groove when I left the park road, and was holding over 20 mph whenever I could. My max speed got up to 25.7, on a slight downhill. I was picking off people on road bikes with aerobars, and Camelbak vests, and tri shorts, and clips and bike shoes every minute, and it was awesome. I’m pretty sure with all that fancy equipment they should be biking faster, I would think. And then I’d pass them, to show them my broke self was fit, and they could get over it. Disclaimer: these were my actual thoughts during the race, and as bad as they sound, I’m just getting you, the reader, into my head. Cycling angry is an exhilarating feeling. Try it. 

T2. It seemed to be all-systems-go on the IT band. I did a little stretching and jogged to the starting mat after racking my bike. I’d gotten my Garmin all set with a couple miles to go on the bike. Why I took the time to put on my Garmin in T1: to make sure I wasn’t running too fast. Coming back from an injury and being in a triathlon, I had a feeling my pacing would be way off at the start of the run. I wanted to make sure I kept it under control. RUN. I saw 6:36-6:40 on my watch the first half mile of the run. What? No, no, no, slowww down! How is this 6:36 pace, it feels like over 7?! I talked myself into relaxing and slowing down eventually. The run hardly felt like a brick, which was weird but way more…um, enjoyable, than last year’s run. I hovered in the 6:50-7:05 range for the rest of the run, thinking about how I felt the whole time so any pain or discomfort in my ITB wouldn’t be ignored. My splits were: 6:53, 7:05, 6:55, 57.47 for 0.16 (5:59 pace). I was surprised at how easy a sub-22 5k in a tri right after an injury felt, but I was pleased with it.

 

 

 

Overall:

Note: the bike was 10 miles this year (11.5 last year). I learned this…at the start.

There was a QR code on our bibs that I scanned right after, and it displayed really incorrect results. It said my swim time was 14:55, which made me think that it must have been as awful as I thought. I decided to skip the finish festivities, mostly because last year all the sun and bad food and announcing and party music had just made me overwhelmed. This year especially, I didn’t think I was close to placing in my age group at all, so I might as well get my stuff, take some pictures, and leave knowing I had accomplished what I wanted: I wasn’t hurting! So, you can imagine my surprise when I was at a diner with my parents and checked the official results to find out I had placed fourth in my age group. I think my mom was really confused as to why this made me so angry at the time, but I’m sire some of you will understand. I’d wanted to place last year and was fifth. This year I was hardly trying – for the first time ever, it wasn’t on my radar! What if I had really took it seriously, ran faster and made my transitions faster? Ahhhhhh. I knew exactly why I didn’t do that this time around, but it was still frustrating in a weird way. Then, I found out I’d gotten a medal for being the second New Jersey resident age group finisher…but I wasn’t there to receive it. Oops. This race report is a mix of strange, conflicting emotions, I apologize for that…however, that appears to be most of my blog?  Let me take a time-out by sharing some other pictures from the tri…

The start banners were from the Unite Half…ha.

Thinking that I’m in the clear pain-wise and can sprint it in now….

Bottle opener medal FTW!

Bottle opener medal FTW!

Another "I-survived-the-swim" picture. I'm not as concerned with getting water out of my ears in this one.

Another “I-survived-the-swim” picture. I’m not as concerned with getting water out of my ears in this one.

Transition area.

Transition area.

Overall, all silly frustrations aside, I learned a lot from this race. It was a huge confidence booster for me, not just going into the races I have planned the rest of the summer and the year, but for myself as a runner and athlete in general. It’s good to know I can come off an injury strong, hold myself back, and still do well. It’s good to know I can compete with the other cyclists in tris, now that I can average 19.5 mph on my new tires. It’s good to be back. 🙂

The cheapest triathlete ever

Go ahead and challenge me on this, but it is likely that after reading this post, you will agree that I am actually the cheapest triathlete ever.

Let’s start at the beginning. I have only done one triathlon, the New Jersey State Sprint Triathlon last July. I didn’t change my training very much because swimming and biking are as much a part of my typical training week as running, by necessity of staying healthy. It has been this way since my senior year of high school. In college I did more swimming and biking than ever, unfortunately because I was injured more than ever. Anticipating biking more when I moved into an off-campus house before senior year of college, I decided to buy a better bike than the one I’d gotten at Dick’s a few years back. With the intention of getting a road bike, I ended up leaving the bike shop having purchased a hybrid, which I was somehow convinced was good enough for the use I would put into it (rides of 25 miles or less, commuting 11 miles to and from work occasionally). Only a year later, I realized I should have just gotten an entry-level road bike, because the truth was always there: I wanted to compete in triathlons. Not just finish them, but race them.

Tough luck. I was stuck with what I had given my very tight budget. I raced the triathlon with the thicker tires the bike originally came with, averaging 17.9 miles per hour on the flat, 11.5-mile course. I think I came in around 645th of 1100 for the bike…and 62nd in the run? Something crazy like that (the swim was in the 400s). It was really clear that despite my efforts, I was truly a runner, and also that my bike was not cutting it for my goals. I came in fifth in my age group, and the top three got to the podium. I ran faster than the second and third place women, I think, and had the fifth fastest run time for females overall. And let me tell you: I wasn’t saving a darn thing, I biked hard. For a lousy 17.9 mph.

Last year’s results (kind of blurry…). I am highlighted in yellow, 5th in my age group. Cycling-related frustration ensued.

That fact left me frustrated, and I decided to see what I could do to make my bike faster. A trip to a bike shop left me with slightly thinner tires and a bike computer. So, you know, I could beat myself up when I bike up hills slower than I would run….I have been going on longer rides this summer, however, and it just doesn’t feel like it’s enough. Biking has felt like a chore. Like the definition of the word chore. Like I’d rather wash my kitchen floor some days. So, I went to another bike shop at the end of last week. Going to a bike shop is an experience.  As someone who works in a specialty running store, I get it. I get that you often need to spend money to get something that is going to provide you with the best experience and fit possible. I feel like a hypocrite every time I go to a bike shop for this reason. This time was no different – I felt like that customer who wants to extend the life of her shoes that already have 700 miles on them by adding a Spenco insert. It doesn’t work that way.

My conversation with the guy at the shop went something like this:

Me: “I want to make my bike easier to ride, and go faster, but I can’t afford a road bike right now. I’m riding 30+ miles on this and it just feels slow.”

BG (bike guy): “That’s about as much as you will get on this bike. You really need a road bike.”

Me: “I averaged 17.9 mph in the tri last year and would have placed if I had gone faster, I think.”

BG: “You rode 17.9 on that thing? Well, you’re clearly a good cyclist. You just need a road bike.”

Me: “On rides through the Sourlands I have averaged about 16, but it just feels like such hard work up the hills.”

BG: “You’re riding through the Sourlands?” (shakes head) “You just need a road bike.”

It was kind of awful. However, I got a new set of tires that are even thinner, and they do feel awesome compared to the old ones. As in, I’m almost excited to see what I can do Saturday! Specifically, how close I can get to 20 mph now that I have hit those speeds on regular, easy rides I’ve done since then.

I also bought bike shorts. I’ve worn them twice – whenever I wasn’t going to hop off and do a run right after. They are definitely a nice change but sometimes don’t provide quite as much relief as I was expecting. So this was a nice little rant about how I’m the cheapest triathlete ever. If this summer had begun differently coming off the marathon I would have considered saving money for a road bike more seriously, but now that my focus is on the two relays, I will be thinking about that more later. I arranged to bike the race course tomorrow morning with three other people, so I’m looking forward to that!

Running update: I ran 3 miles Sunday! However, I ran a little less than 2 today in preparation for running 3ish with a group (!!!) tomorrow and then waiting until go-time Saturday to give my leg a rest and it did not feel so great. There seems to be some sort of knot that has traveled higher up my quad and is giving me pain when I sit down and rest my leg fully. It didn’t bother me running until after I finished today…so I’m being super, super cautious now because I really expected to be all set to go Saturday after my successful run two days ago.

In work-related news, we received an unexpected visit from a Nathan rep on Thursday for our group run. He provided optional sample hydration belts and handhelds for the runners…and beer. I wanted to stick some bottles in a hydration belt for a fun photo op, but not everyone cooperated with my silliness that night. He also brought some posters and stickers, one of which said something like the following:

…except it said that dehydration is THE leading cause of running injuries. I am very curious as to if that is the case. Could you really be slightly dehydrated on a normal run and end up injuring yourself? I will have to do some research on it. In my somewhat-injured state I’m interested in figuring out exactly how that works.  

if things in life were easy…

cgiready

I’m glad somebody’s ready to race….

Me? Sure. Sure, I can be ready. I will be ready. “It’s only a sprint tri” might sound like an awful thing to say, especially to someone who has never done a tri before, or someone who is scared to death of it but has been on a strict training schedule in preparation for it for months. However, it’s what I’m telling myself. I never really stop training for triathlons, all year. It is true I don’t necessarily train very hard like I do for running-only races on the road. I could definitely train harder – do bike workouts, swim workouts, ride more than 30 miles, swim at a certain pace, actually count my laps in the pool. It’s cool to think that I haven’t experimented with that yet, because it means there is so much more to accomplish and challenges to tackle.

Let me break it down for you. I have been swimming and biking regularly the entire time I’ve been injured, plus lifting, doing physical therapy exercises, stretching, and erging. I feel in shape. I’m up to 1.5 miles (at 7:32 pace, oops) as of this morning without much ITB discomfort. When I race, I race. If the triathlon on July 20 was a 5k or 10k instead, I wouldn’t do it; there would be no point if I couldn’t run it fast. However, I’ve been biking and swimming and I ought to just try. I promised to myself I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize being pain-free for all 16+ miles of Hood to Coast at the end of August, so I will do the tri if I can physically run 3.1 miles on July 20 without pain, and without any consequences to my ITB after. For the first time, I will hold back and not be discontent with running above seven minute pace. I signed up, if I can physically run and  not get set back, I will show up and do what I can. My training, and my ITB’s response, is totally unknown for the next twelve (crap, crap, crap) days, but I’m just going to take one day at a time, enjoy what I can do and not think about what I would want to do if I was luckier/things weren’t as they are at this moment, and just not stress. 

I find myself in these tricky situations very often, in all areas of my life. But in the end, if everything worked out perfectly all the time and things were exactly as I planned and expected all the time, what fun would that be in the end?

If things in life were easy it would leave far too few things and moments to be appreciated.