Sunday, October 28, 2007

All Is Well

I'm just really busy.

Things are slowly settling down. I still really enjoy work, and am finding that I enjoy certain aspects of the practice group more than others (I really like one area of law and the other is not really my cup of tea). My training is going mostly well; my volume is higher than it's been but is well-balanced, and my coach is thoroughly kicking my ass but I can feel myself getting stronger already. I raced in the Baltimore half-marathon a few weeks ago and demolished my old PR by 20 minutes. And I think I can go even faster in the Philadelphia half-marathon next month.

Being in school and basically setting my own schedule was such a luxury. I could work out, or go food shopping, or do whatever, in the middle of the day and do my work at night. That meant I could work out when it was light out, or go to the store when it wasn't super-crowded. Now that I've joined the working world I'm running when it's dark out and going to the supermarket (and standing in the check-out lines) with everyone else. Ah, well - not much I can do about it besides get used to it.

I'm really fortunate that Speedy and I share this triathlon habit. Instead of one of us running off to get a workout in after work, we can go together, and it's so much better than going from work to workout and having even less time together. Because we can work out together, we can spend more time together. Corny? Maybe. But it seems to work for us :)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I'm Looking for Inspiration . . .

. . . but really, it has to come from within. Because I've got plenty of external motivation, like all those people about to rock out at Kona this weekend. They're about to race at freaking Kona, and I'm bitching about a 3000-yard swim workout in a nice heated pool. Sigh.

Anyway, I've been having lots of trouble getting my ass in gear, especially when it comes to swimming. Even with workouts that mix things up, I can't get the motivation to go get in the pool, especially when I get home from work.

And I blew out the back tire on my bike last week, and still haven't replaced it. Or gotten the wheel trued.

But running is going well; I'm feeling good and have the Baltimore half-marathon coming up this weekend, which should be a lot of fun. It'll be me and 5,500 of my closest friends. And we're staying in a hotel right near the starting and finish lines, so we don't even have to leave too early to get to the start in time, nor will we have to travel far back to our room. Which is good, because that means I can save my legs for the walking around the Inner Harbor we're going to do Saturday afternoon :)

It'll come. Maybe I need to start planning my races for next year; that might get me going.

But, work is awesome. I was assigned to my first choice of practice groups, and the people seem wicked smart but also a ton of fun. Not only that, but they're not laughing at my stupid questions, but are giving me the time and direction I need to figure things out. Today, I had a (very basic) question about a (very basic) part of our practice, and instead of pointing out a book I could use to find the answer, one of the senior associates sat in my office and explained it to me. And then he pointed out a book I could use to get more info, but that he took the time to sit down and talk to me was great. But I'm freaking exhausted every day when I come home, which I'm sure isn't helping my workout motivation at all.

It'll come, though. Things will calm down, I'll learn the ropes at work, and things will come together again. It's just going to take some time.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Excuse me . . .

That's Cheaper Than Therapy, Esquire, thankyouverymuch.

Which means . . .


Monday, October 01, 2007

Of Blown Tires, Broken Bones, and New Jobs

My weekend started out fine.

I hadn't been on the bike in 3 weeks or so, and on Saturday morning Speedy and I went for an easy ride near our house, and it was great. My legs felt great, but my aero endurance was gone and my, um, nether regions had a rather rough reintroduction to the saddle. But it was a good ride. Until about 10 minutes left, and I went over something small and metal and had a blow-out flat in the rear tire, with a shredded tire and tube and a slightly scratched (but not severely damaged) rim. Oops. Fortunately, we were close to a shortcut home, and only had to walk ~0.5 mile back to the house. In our socks, wheeling the bikes.

From there, we were planning to go to Speedy's parents' house for the day, but as we were getting ready my phone rings. It's my mom, saying, "First, she's okay, but [Youngest Sister] is in the hospital; we think she broke her leg." She was playing rugby, and fell while her foot was planted. So I headed over to my parents', brought them dinner since they were in the ER all day, and ended up staying the night to help out because my sister was in a full-leg brace (not to mention a lot of pain). They went to see an ortho surgeon today, and it turns out that she broke her leg in 3 places, tore a stabilizing ligament, and dislocated her ankle. She's having surgery next week.

It definitely deserves mention that my sister is one of the toughest people I know. She walked off the field after getting hurt. With these terrible injuries to her leg. And wanted to stay and watch the game for a little while before heading to the ER (at that point, they didn't know how badly she was injured). Are you kidding? I'd have been curled up in the fetal position and crying like a baby if that had happened to me. She's unbelievable.

And today was my first day of my new job. I've only been working towards this for the last three years. Unfortunately, this is just orientation and is pretty slow, but I'm sure I'll be pretty freaking busy very soon.

Oh! I have a new coach. I'm quite sure she'll kick my ass from here to next Tuesday. I think I should be worried :)

Whew. What a weekend.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Public Service Announcement

I first noticed this problem at a race this summer, when I saw three friends standing at the starting line of a race, waiting for their wave to start. Something was clearly not right, and when I realized what it was, I made a mental note of it, and filed it away in my "That was strange" mental file. But I saw it again in the pool today, and people, this has to stop.

MEN: UnderArmour boxer briefs, like these:

ARE NOT SWIMSUITS. OR TRISHORTS. They are underwear, designed to be worn under clothing. Yes, I know they are black and tight-fitting, and therefore resemble most jammers or trishorts, but it seems to me that the material would be less that ideal for swimming or biking, or heading into T1 soaking wet. And the seams!!

So please, do yourself and your fellow racers and swimmers a favor, and invest in some jammers or trishorts. Or both!!

. . . The More You Know.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Hmm...apparently the resolution on these photos isn't great when they're uploaded to Blogger. Sorry for the blurriness.



Lake Geneva:

I've been trying to get these photos up for a while, but I wasn't able to figure out the embedding and I finally decided to just post them. So without further ado, here are photos of Paris:

And Now Back To Your Regularly-Scheduled Programming

After two weeks away, coming home and leaving the next day for a wedding 4.5 hours away, we are finally home and settling back into our normal routines. The trip was awesome, but it's so nice to be home.

My run today was, I think, specifically designed to kick my ass. And kick my ass it did. And Speedy's as well. It was the longest run I've done in a while, but it wasn't your standard LSD weekend run, and it was freaking hard, and I crashed and burned at the end. But you know what? It was great to get out there and run myself into the ground.

And my dad is still kicking ass in his running ventures. What a freaking rock star he is.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Rules for International Travel

During our journey, we've come up with a few 'Rules for International Travel.' Without further ado:

1. When lost, walk to the top of the hill.
2. Once there, get coffee.
3. Re-evaluate the plan while drinking the coffee, and if you still don't know where to go ask the barista.

3. When learning/practicing a foreign language, have no shame. Bring afraid of getting laughed at is no way to learn how to speak a foreign language. Besides, people are generally nicer when you try to speak their language, even if your pronunciation is awful and you get laughed at by the waitress. Not that that happened to me or anything. Oh, and don't sneer "I don't speak French!" when you're in Paris and someone asks you a question, like the woman next to me did to the poor guy trying to ask her to move her car.
4. Bring an umbrella. It's small and doesn't take up much room in your bag.

That's it. Obviously, these rules only apply when you're travelling in big cities, because the coffee rule won't help if you're in the Amazon wilderness. But aside from that, we think they're pretty solid. :)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Adventures in Travel

The masses (okay, it was like 9 people) spoke, and here we are on our fabulous journey. We started in London, and walked from Harrod's to Tower Bridge. We made it out without getting hit by any cars while crossing the street, which was fortunate because remembering to look right-left-right is not nearly as ingrained as left-right-left.

We're currently in Moscow, which is an adventure because neither of us speaks or reads Russian. But we're working on it; we know the basic words and I'm picking up the Cyrhillic alphabet pretty quickly, which should help with navigation. And once I get the alphabet down, we can use a Russian-English dictionary, which should also help a lot.

This morning before setting out for touristy things, we went for a run through a park near our hotel. It seems that working out is not something that people around here really do, and we got lots of strange looks. It was also about 45-50 degrees, and raining by the end of the run, and we were each wearing shorts. It was chilly. And deserted, and really sort of surreal, almost like we were living in a B-level spy movie. We ran by one man and practically scared the pants off of him; as we were about to pass him he caught us in his peripheral vision and jumped about a mile, dropping his bag in the process. I apologized in English, and as we kept running I could hear him yelling at us in Russian.

We got down to the Kremlin and St. Basil's Cathedral today. I took some photos which I will try to post later; I'm not sure how they turned out because the weather has continued to be cold and rainy so the photos may be pretty dreary. Hopefully those competing in IMMoo have better weather than this!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Seeing the Forest

We get so caught up in the minutia of races that sometimes, we forget what really matters and how what we do can affect others.

This weekend, for the first time, my parents came to see me race. I didn't know they were coming. Apparently they were there for the whole race, watching the swim start, T1 and T2, some of the run, and the finish line. They said they didn't cheer for us at all because they 'didn't want to distract us,' which Speedy thought was hilarious because his parents scream their heads off whenever they see either of us during a race.

Anyway, I came across the finish line and had just taken off my chip when I heard my mom's voice, and I was totally that person in the chute who stops on a dime and I probably caused a minor traffic jam behind me. Um, yeah . . . sorry about that.

My dad was walking around the finish area, watching the competitors and interactions, and heard the finish line spectators explode a couple times for certain finishers. Now, Dad has been recovering from some health issues that gave him some problems. He's always been overweight, and these recent issues totally sapped his motivation to continue losing weight or be active, which he had been doing, and he started gaining again. So when he started talking about the different body types of the competitors, or the camaraderie among members of my tri club, or the general supportive nature of the sport, Speedy and I chatted with him about it but didn't think of it as more than general curiosity. Imagine my surprise and delight when my dad asked us if we thought that this race was something we thought he could do next year!!

That's right. My dad was so inspired by the race that he wants to do a triathlon next year. How freaking great is that?

It's been a while since he's done anything more active than walking, so he's starting with the Couch to 5K, and called me to tell me about his first day back on the treadmill. I've also sent him links to forums and blogs of people who have done the same thing (ahem, Dan) in hopes that seeing people who have undertaken the same goal and are succeeding will provide some lasting inspiration for him.

I'm so proud of him for taking the first steps!! (And yes, I've told him that.) And I think it's a great reminder that you never know who you can inspire, even when races/training seem to be going poorly. If anyone has any advice about how I can keep encouraging him, I'd love to hear it.

And . . . big changes coming my way on October 1!! Stay tuned for more details :)

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Marlton Lakes Tri

I don't have much to say in this race report.

This was a very disappointing race for me. Things just didn't come together the way I had hoped they would. I'm not sure why, really - whether I ate something that didn't sit right, or or drank too much lake water, but my stomach was off during the run and really slowed me down. And I felt good on the bike but it turns out I was much slower than I thought I'd be. And my swim was just a mess.

But the good news is I finally got my transition act together, and managed to recover some time, especially in T2. Too bad my overall rank didn't match my transition ranks!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Operation Keebler

I need to preface this post. Before you say "Oh, cry me a river" or anything like that, hear me out. And if that doesn't work, well, I apologize for the general obnoxiousness that follows.

When I am on a schedule, my nutrition generally clicks along nicely. Breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, snack, dinner, snack. There are some meltdowns here and there, like a big chicken cheesesteak, fries, and a beer for dinner, but these are generally few and far between because they wreak havoc on my training the next day. Lately, though, there has been no schedule, because I have not yet started working. I wake up whenever I please, which is generally around 10:00, putter around for a bit, go do some training, work on projects around the house, and so on. But because there's no schedule right now, my eating has totally gone off track in a big, major, catastrophic way.

Here's my issue: I'm losing weight, and have lost about 10 pounds since graduation in May. Big deal, right? But I don't have much room for error - at graduation, I was 118 on a 5'6" frame, which means that a few days ago I was 108. This is as bad as if I had gained 10 pounds, but instead of carrying around extra weight, I feel like I am losing strength, especially on the bike. I feel like the endurance to push the big gears isn't there like it should be. My long ride this past weekend wiped me out far more than it should have for the speeds I went. My clothes are falling off, and I refuse to buy anything new because I shouldn't be this light. This has to stop, and NOW.

Bring on Operation Keebler.

I can 100% attest to the fact that if you stop snacking and keep up your workouts, you will lose weight. Doing so in the weeks before your new A race, though, is a bad, bad idea. So I am making a giant effort to make sure I get those snacks and extra calories in. I'm taking all the diet tips and turning them on their heads - drink only water? I'm drinking as much juice as I can. No mid-morning snacks? I'll have two giant handfuls of trail mix, thanks. No eating before bed? It's Ben & Jerry's for me.

And it seems to be working. I'm up a couple pounds over the last few days. Hopefully in the next few days I can rebuild some of my calorie stores and get my act together. Because this is ridiculous.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Overcoming Doubt

As I've said often, I am my own worst enemy when it comes to sports psychology. I don't need Athlinks, or competitor lists, or really anything in order to get psyched out about a race or my speed/lack thereof. I can get into my head better than any competitor.

I think there are a couple of explanations for this. First, I've never thought of myself as anything other than the 'long slow distance' type. I was on soccer and crew teams, sure, but I was a goalie and coxswain. When I finally got into running, I did it for the physical benefit but also for the mind-clearing aspect of it as well, and I immediately pushed out any thoughts of competition/pressure/anything that would make running anything other than relaxation. I was also slow. The second possible explanation is that I have asthma, which I control with multiple medications, and this recent change to speedwork has left me unsure of how hard I can push without getting into trouble.


Every now and then the stars and planets align, the birds sing, the flowers bloom, and things fall into place. This past weekend was one of those times.

My swim on Friday was the best swim I've had in months; I felt strong and set a new PR for 200 yards.
On Saturday, Speedy and I went out for what we knew would be a tough brick, with intervals on the bike and a race-pace track run afterwards. We had a tailwind on the way out, and since the intervals didn't start until we turned around, we knew we'd have a tough ride back into the headwind. And it was tough, but we actually upped our average MPH during the way back, despite the headwind. Maybe we were just dogging it on the way out :) The run kicked my ass; I got through the first 5 of 8 laps without too many problems and then halfway through the 6th felt that familiar tightness in my chest. I told Speedy that I wasn't sure I'd be able to hold the pace. Instead of letting me stop, he all but tied a rope between us and towed me around the last 2 laps. He lived up to his nickname, pacing me around the second mile 10 seconds under race pace, and I didn't have an asthma attack. I can push the "how far I can push" line back just a little more now.
On Sunday, we went out to Wissahickon to run some trails, and I felt great. I led most of the way on the single-track trail. This was the first run ever that Speedy has told me that he almost had to tell me to slow down. (Note: he didn't tell me to slow down, but just the fact that he was willing to tell me he was considering it was pretty cool.)

Weekends like this help me to remember that I am not, in fact, turning to mush, and even though I no longer have Iron ambitions, I am making some great progress towards my new goal. These training sessions go straight into the bank, sure to be withdrawn during my next tri-related existential crisis.


SiteMeter lets me see the general traffic on my blog. I don't have ads or anything fancy; it's mostly just for my own curiosity, and is generally boring. But sometimes it's funny or weird.

Here are two recent searches that have led people to my blog. Suffice to say that I doubt either person found what they were looking for:
  • "Driving a Porsche in the rain" (Thank you, Speedy-as-contributor)
  • "Young Speedo Pictures" (um . . . ew?)
Like I said . . . I doubt either person found what they were looking for.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Shout-out to the Small Ring

I was out for a ride today on a loop close to home that I know well. Its a four-ish mile loop that runs alongside a river with wide shoulders on one side and fairly minimal traffic on the other. There's a small bridge crossing the river at each end, and both bridges are on fairly busy roads. So as you can imagine, this loops lends itself well to interval rides.

Today, it was 4 minute intervals. Ride up the North side, recover on the bridge, ride down the South side, recover on the bridge, repeat. As usual, the wind was blowing down river. Headwind on the first, tailwind on the second, and so fourth. Makes for an interesting interval workout, because its difficult to maintain a similar level of effort from one interval to the next.

The intervals on the North side were fun. Cruising along in the big ring, goin fast, the scenery is a blur; this is what riding a bike is all about.

The intervals on the South side were just hard. Spinning in the small ring at over 100 rpm, just trying to keep the pedals turning over, sweat blowing in my eyes, hunching my shoulders down to get them out of the wind; its the anthesis of the other side of the river.

Somewhere in the middle of a four-minute slogfest into the wind, I got to thinking about what what makes me stronger as a rider. The answer: the small ring. Its not entirely intuitive until you do a ride like today's, but its an inevitable truth.

The big ring is a luxury. When the conditions are nice and the road is flat, nothin beats the big ring. Its like driving a Porsche with the top down.

But lets face it, the small ring is the workhorse. When the going gets tough, you're gonna be in the small ring. Riding up a mountain? Small ring. Twenty-five mph headwind? Small ring. If you're facing adversity on the road, chances are you're in the small ring. Races are won in the small ring.

And you're not gonna be driving that Porsche in freezing rain.

So, Small Ring, here's a shout-out to you. Thanks for making me faster.

Karma is a Bitch

A couple of years ago, I volunteered to adopt a dog from a friend of a friend when she could no longer keep the dog. This dog came with warnings: he was on Prozac and something else (I don't remember what), wore a choke collar and an electric shock collar, and had a behaviorist. I gave it a try, and collected the dog, crate, remaining food, various collars and leashes, medications, and so on, and brought everything home. That night, the dog was (voluntarily) in his crate, and when my cat approached the crate for a sniff he nearly bit the cat's head off. Later that same night, while the dog was laying on the floor, I approached the dog to pet him, and he growled at me. I called the friend-of-a-friend to ask about this and whether his growling was common, and she proceeded to blame his growling on me because, obviously, "Everyone knows you shouldn't go up to a dog that's laying down!" She also promised to call the dog's behaviorist to try to find some explanation. Later that same night, the dog again growled at me, and I ultimately decided that this pairing wasn't going to work. He just had too many issues - after all, what sort of dog needs Prozac and a behaviorist?

About that karma thing: Meet Sadie:
We adopted Sadie in late December, when I saw her at the shelter and just had to take her home. She's a great dog; she's smart and loyal and makes funny faces at us. But she's also got ridiculous separation anxiety. And by 'anxiety,' of course, I mean 'unholy terror of a dog who rips apart our house when we're gone.'

Her haul, so far, includes:
  • 4 throw pillows (including two nice big Crate & Barrel feather pillows)
  • 2 couch cushions
  • 2 TiVo remote controls (both replaced via overnight shipping from Best Buy)
  • the corner of our couch
  • multiple flip-flops (and generally only one of any given pair)
  • 2 coasters
Why don't I just keep her in a crate? That would solve all the chewing problems, and give her somewhere secure to stay while I'm gone. Right? Well, no. She's also chewed up two of those plastic pans that line the bottom of dog crates, and has tried to bite through the wire crate, and I'm worried she's going to seriously injure herself in a fit of panic. So no crate.

So my options are: crate her (not really a viable option), make sure one of us is home with her at all times (not practical), or keep her confined to one room while we're gone and hope that she does not destroy anything or injure herself while we're gone (currently the frontrunner). Because we don't have any good options, I've been talking to her vet, and while they've been great, they finally told us that they didn't think they could be of much more help (which is okay; they're really great in all other respects). They referred us to the veterinary behavior clinic at Penn, and in the meantime, to help with Sadie's panic when we leave, have prescribed her an anti-anxiolytic. On the plus side, though, when I talked to the people from Penn they sounded like they see cases like this a lot and can probably help us. Which is good, because the other alternatives are not so appealing.

My dog has a behaviorist and takes drugs. That karma; it'll get you every time.

Straight Out Of A Commercial

I recently ordered a new suit from Splish, and knew from the tracking email that it would arrive today. I've been waiting not-so-patiently for the FedEx truck (I love Splish suits).

A small-ish Budget rental truck pulls up to my house, and a uniformed FedEx guy gets out and drops off the package on my front porch, ringing the doorbell and yelling "FedEx!" through the screen door.

Yes, FedEx is delivering this route today with a Budget rental truck. How long before this becomes a commercial?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My Brilliant Idea

Speedy and I celebrated our first anniversary on Saturday by going to Cape May for the weekend. We stayed at a small bed-and-breakfast, of which there are like 100 in the town. It was nice.

We kicked off the weekend in classic style:

On Friday evening, we decided to go to dinner at a place about 1.5 miles from the B&B. It seemed like a lovely evening, nice and breezy and shady, and I thought it would be nice to walk there. Speedy didn't really agree, and wanted to take the beach cruiser bikes that the B&B keeps for guests. But he decided that if I really wanted to walk, we could walk. You won't be surprised to hear that he was right; walking was a bad idea.

It was indeed nice and breezy and shady - on the tree-lined street that the B&B is on. Turn off of that street, and it's 90 with a hot breeze and bright, hot, unrelenting sun. For the whole walk. I had tried to pack light, which I am not really very good at (what if I need that? and that? and that? I better just bring it all...) and I had only brought a pair of flip-flops and a pair of flats. And my bike shoes and running shoes. Since I determined that my flip-flops would not be supportive enough for the walk, I chose to wear my flats. This was an ill-advised decision. I've worn them before, but really only for walking to and from class, nothing like a 1.5-mile walk with sweaty feet.

By the time we stopped on a little drawbridge near the restaurant, my feet were on fire. I had gotten three blisters - one on each heel and one on the top of my left foot. I could barely walk by the time we got to the restaurant, and my light-gray cotton shirt was gross with sweat. Speedy was also sweaty, but had worn socks and comfortable shoes, and was wearing a t-shirt under his black polo shirt, so he was not as obviously gross as I was.

We were given a table in a dark corner of the restaurant, and given our collective grossness I think the hostess probably deserves a raise for her wise decision. Once seated, we each drank two tall iced teas like they were the best thing ever.

We called a cab for the way home.

Go us. We know how to party.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Well....It's Complicated

Warning: Totally undeserved and somewhat entitled rant ahead. Read at your own risk.

Many relationships are complicated. Romantic relationships, family relationships, friendships - all have their share of occasional (or frequent) drama, punctuated by things as mundane as grumbling to yourself or more invidious like silent seething, or the out-and-out battle of wit and will.

But a relationship with a coach? Now, that's supposed to be simple. You tell your coach your goals, you work together on the big plan, the coach sets out the details like the workouts and taper, you do it, and you go fast. Right? Right.


Now, let me preface all this by saying that I know I'm not the easiest person to work with, especially when I'm stressed. Speedy is a saint (a fact that my family likes to note on a fairly regular basis). I've been very surprised by how my relationship with my coach has formed. After going back and forth with the idea of working with a coach for a little while, and then using a one-size-fits-all online training plan, I connected with a young local coach who was just getting his coaching business going. I figured this was perfect - I didn't mind that he didn't have a ton of experience, I liked his coaching philosophies, and his prices were very good.

And so it went. I love not having to plan my own workouts, and I love getting faster. But, um . . . I don't like being told what to do. Yes, I know that this is fundamentally inconsistent with the fact that I pay a coach to tell me what to do. It generally works out okay, until I have a crappy week of workouts, or I 'feel slow' (how's that for an arbitrary and nebulous description?) or I don't race well.

My last few weeks have been rough, tri-wise. The week before the bar, I was tapering for a sprint. The week of, I took the testing days off. Last week, I was recovering from that 'hit by a truck' feeling, and had a bad race. This week I am finally feeling better, and getting back into speedwork. But I can't shake the feeling that there's an element missing, like my coach and I are not connected in a way that we need to be.

It's ridiculous, I know. I've been really busy and extraordinarily stressed out, and he has tried very hard to accommodate me by setting out doable workouts. Not only that, but my focus had been a Half-Iron, and is now a sprint, which makes my weekend workouts a good bit different. And what do I do? I bitch. And grumble. And silently seethe.

Fortunately, cooler heads (aka Speedy) prevail, and remind me that:
  • stress,
  • a significantly changed focus,
  • generally good race results, and
  • an overall increase in speed
mean that really, my coach is serving me quite well, and I'm misdirecting my bad-race frustration at a totally undeserving target. Fortunately, rather than shooting myself in the foot (now that would ruin my season) by having this conversation with my coach, I have a top-notch sounding board in Speedy, who (more often that I would like to admit) keeps me from doing something stupid. So instead, I grumble to myself while doing 1000 repeats around the track, since that's what my coach told me to do. (The repeats part. He didn't tell me to grumble while doing it.)

Sigh. I thought this was supposed to be easy.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Speedy's Brigantine Race Report

Disclaimer: Ok, its not the shortest race report ever. If you get tired of reading, you can always petition Cheaper than Therapy to revoke my access :-)

Brigantine Island Triathlon
August 4, 2006
Swim .25, Bike 11, Run 4


This race is about at close to a home course as you can get. My parents live in Brigantine, and I’ve spend plenty of time training on the roads that the course used. I also anticipated seeing lots of South Jersey types that I knew from my high school days. So I should have been really excited for this race, but the whole week leading up to the race I was flat. I think it may have been the post A-race letdown after New Jersey. I’d had a few really good weeks of training, I did a good taper, and I raced really well, exceeding my goals for the race. So there wasn’t a lot of mental energy left for Brigantine.

I finally started to get excited about racing on the drive down to my parents’ house on Friday afternoon. Race morning we slept in (relatively speaking, or course) til about 6am. Got up, ate some breakfast, threw the transition bag over my shoulder and (get this!) rode my bike the 1 mile to transition. No loading the car, no looking for parking… it was great.

The Swim

The water was warm, but the RD allowed wetsuits anyway. I decided not to wear mine because I was already feeling pretty buoyant in the salty water. The swim was basically a trapezoid with the first leg into a strong current. My plan was to go out hard and take advantage of the tough conditions.

Waiting for the swim to start, I experienced what seems to be a common theme in the races I’ve done. You’ve got a bunch of guys in their twenties and thirties, all fired up and ready to race, and acting like meatheads in the water. Invariably I end up thinking to myself “oh man, these guys are hard-core maybe I should start off to the side in the second or third row…” So the swim starts and everybody takes off and typical swim-start craziness ensues.

I had a pretty good swim and found some feet to follow after the first turn. After the second turn we were swimming with the current and moving quickly. The final turn was into the swim exit and required swimming across the current. I made it to the swim exit and saw your host Cheaper than Therapy standing along the fence waiting for her wave to start. She yelled to me that I was fourth out of the water. Fourth?!? What happened to all those guys meatheading it up at that start? Anyway, it was a good swim and I was happy with it.

Time: 6:59
Rank: 22

T1 was a fairly long run down a narrow transition area. I saw my parents as I was running up to my rack, that was pretty cool. Put the helmet and sunglasses on and I was outta there.

Time: 1:13

The Bike

After the typical craziness of the swim, the bike was the total opposite. Starting at T1, it was a lonely day out there. I got passed by a guy who looked pretty strong in the first mile of the bike. After that, I was alone. I hate starting in the first wave.

The first couple miles of the bike course was into the wind, and I just tried to keep my cadence up. After the turnaround at the southern end of the island, I was able to put it in the big ring and really crank for a while. The bike went by quickly and next think I knew I was back into the windy section of the course with only about a mile and a half to go.

Time: 29:33 22.3 mph
Rank: 39

T2 was nice and quick. I was surprised to see how many people were just coming into T1 as I was running through T2. Saw the parents again, its nice to have a cheering section.

Time: 1:13 (consistent, eh?)

The Run

Off onto the run course and still nobody in sight. My legs were feeling ok but not great, and I told myself to just treat the first half of this run like a 10k. The sun was hot and the canting of the road was brutal. I got through the first aid station and still nobody around. I kept thinking that I was probably gonna get run down at some point, but nothing yet. Sometime around the aid station, the bike course turned and joined the run course. That was definitely the coolest part of the run; I was really surprised by how my people shouted encouragement to me as they passed on their bikes.

I made the turn in 13:30. I was a little disappointed that I wasn’t moving faster, but why should I be; I spend the whole run telling myself to treat it like a 10k. Immediately after the turn I was on the lookout for guys behind me. Passed the closest guy going the other way at 14:15. So I had him by a minute-thirty. And he was gonna have to run 6 flat to catch me. This was not the stimulus I needed. Instead of pushing the last 2 miles like planned, I backed off. That welcoming invitation of easing off the gas was too much to resist.

The last two miles still went by slowly. Every few minutes I’d give a glance over my shoulder to see if anyone was coming. No one did. Making the right hand turn into the long finishing chute was actually pretty cool. I started in the first wave, so I was 4th person to cross the finish line.

Time: 27:23 6:51 min/mile
Rank: 22

Time: 1:06:20
Rank: 18/501 overall, 1/38 age group

Despite being almost alone out on the course, I have to say that the fan support was awesome. For such a low key race, there were a lot of people out there. And the volunteers were great too, apparently there were 200 of them. Every turn on the bike course had 3 or 4 volunteers telling people where to go. And getting the age-group win was pretty nice, too. So all things considered, a pretty good race on the “home course” which I’ll definitely do again.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Conversations with Speedy

Preface: When he's feeling unimaginative, Speedy will train with me, doing the workout my coach has put together for me. We generally discuss this in advance, so I know whether or not to wait for him to get home before I go run or ride. For much of last week, I was feeling like I had been hit by a Mack truck, as a result of the bar. One of those days, Speedy and I had agreed that I would wait for him to get home so we could ride together, and upon his return the following conversation took place:

Speedy: How are you feeling?
Me: (Yawn) Tired . . .
Speedy: So, are you still planning to ride this afternoon?

And just like that, I felt steam start to come out of my ears. Why? Because he asked me if I was "still planning to ride," as if there was an equally good chance that I might just blow off the workout as that I would actually do it. He asked me if I was still planning to ride, and I heard, "You're not gonna wimp out on me because you're a little sleepy, are you?? Are you, Princess?"

I'll admit to missing a workout here and there when I was studying. But, um, I was studying. It's not like I make a regular practice out of skipping workouts just because I'm tired.

And, of course, by the time we actually got out onto the bike I had worked myself into an indignant huff, which meant that our planned easy ride turned into hard intervals until I was thinking a little more rationally.*

Yes, I'm still planning to work out, thankyouverymuch.

*Because I am apparently incapable of doing an easy ride on my local roads (what? I get competitive when I get passed!) my coach has relegated me to the trainer for my recovery rides. Oops.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Hello, bloggerland!

At the behest of your intrepid host Cheaper Than Therapy, I have signed on to be a contributor to this blog. You can expect the occasional race report, training update or indignant rant, written with all the mastery of the English language one would expect from an engineer.

Thanks for reading,

Say Hi to Speedy!

Speedy has graciously agreed to be a contributor to the blog (read: we both talk way too much, and this is a good outlet). Be nice to him!

Not All Races Are Good Ones - Brig Tri

Yesterday was the Brigantine Triathlon. I went in with big goals; I wanted to match or beat my paces from NJ State, and in doing so I was hoping to place in my age group. Unfortunately, neither of those things happened.

The Swim: This was a bay swim, and the current was moving along pretty good. The water was a little choppy, and one particular person kept running into me (or me into her), but the real problem came when we turned around the buoy and into the current. I misjudged how fast the water was moving, and instead of heading back on the diagonal into the beach, I ended up going out too far and had to make a 90-degree turn back into the beach, and in doing so I lost a decent amount of time.

T1: I tried to rush through transition, and tried to put my helmet on forgetting that my sunglasses were in it. The sunglasses went flying, and one of the lenses popped out, so I had to fix that before I could get on my way. After having problems in T1 two races in a row, I think I need to be more methodical (but not slow) in T1 and make sure I am doing things step by step.

The Bike: For an 11-mile bike, this was surprisingly hard, due to bumpy roads, lots of turns, and a fairly decent wind blowing. I averaged 19.8, which I was pretty disappointed about. I had been hoping to be above 20, and at or above 21 mph, so ending up under 20 was a bummer. In fact, I averaged around 19.x in one of the tris I did last year, before I started working with a coach, so to not see any improvements for this race was very frustrating. But, on the up side, I got some good racing experience going back and forth with someone in my age group. She passed me when I was getting my feet into my shoes in the first mile (I remembered to put them on my bike this time!), then I passed her at about 3 miles in, she passed me again about a mile later, and I kept her in my sights and passed her with about 2 miles to go.

T2: Went fine. Got my bike in the rack, shoes on, race belt and visor in hand, and off I went.

The Run: Sucked. The course is a 4-mile out-and-back, on very canted roads with little to no shade. Given that I ran 7:20s at NJ, I was hoping for 7:30s or so. Nope. I ran 8:21 miles. And it was hot. But, like the bike, I got some racing in, running down someone who had passed me at about the halfway mark.

Overall: This was a very disappointing race for me. Looking at the results from the day, if I had hit my goal paces I would have placed in my age group, but instead I ended up 6th, coming in 6 minutes behind someone that I should only be about 2 minutes behind. I know that not every race can be a good one, but I've been racing well this season and it was a big let-down to have a crappy race. But, Speedy had a great race - he won his age group by quite a margin, taking on and beating some good competition in doing so.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Getting Back Into the Swing of Things

I feel like I've been living in a hole for a while. Speedy tried to engage me in a discussion about the Democratic presidential candidates, and it lasted about 2 minutes before I pleaded ignorance. That's pretty embarrassing - I just graduated from law school and I can't have an informed discussion about presidential candidates? Yeah, me = head under rock.

But things are slowly getting back to normal. I'm catching up on things that have fallen to the wayside in the past few months, including mundane things like cleaning my house. Boring, I know, but I hate feeling like I'm living in squalor.

I'm also getting back into training. This week is fairly easy in terms of intensity, and I am really liking the shift in focus from the Half-Ironman to the sprint race. Not only is it much more in line with my training right now, but it's more in line with my current strengths. I was planning to one-and-done this Half-Ironman, and spend the winter and next season trying to focus on getting faster at the sprint and Olympic distances. I think I am going to continue down that road, and put off the longer distance for a few years. I know, it's practically blasphemy in the tri world to have something other than an Iron-distance race as a goal, but that's where I am right now.

Meanwhile, I am freaking exhausted. The exam wiped me out, yes, but apparently my mom and sisters have also been unusually tired for the past few days, so I'm wondering if I picked up a low-level virus or something. Either way, I am feeling better each day. And I'm going to continue to claw my way out of this hole.

Race Report - NJ Sprint

I went back and forth in the weeks before this race, not sure whether I should race or not, because it was the weekend before the bar. I finally decided that I wouldn't be missing out on that much study time at that point, and the race would be a good distraction. Given all else I had going on, I didn't have any great expectations, but was hoping to place in my age group, since I thought a lot of the really strong competition I usually face would be doing to Olympic race.

Pre-Race: When Speedy and I went to packet pick-up the day before the race, we also checked out the transition and bike mount and dismount lines. When we saw that transition was long and paved, and there was a good bit of running required, we decided that I should do a flying mount and dismount, rather than trying to run that distance in my bike shoes. Only problem: I don't know how to do flying mounts and dismounts. So we got home and took the bikes out to the street in front of our house, where we ran back and forth practicing. It went pretty well, but the tongue of my shoes kept getting stuck, so we also cut out the tongue of the shoes. That makes me 3 for 3 this year with making drastic last-minute changes to some essential piece of gear the night before a race. Yeah, that adage about "don't make any last-minute changes!" seems to have gone in one ear and out the other.

Morning Of: We woke up early for the drive to the race, and got out of the house without any major catastrophes. Once we were all set up in transition, I headed down for a warm-up swim, but as it turns out warm-up swimming was only being allowed 1/4 mile away, at the swim start. After wasting about 5 minutes debating to myself whether I should walk down there or not, I finally realized that I should get my butt down there and go swim. So I hoofed it down there and got my swim warm-up done, and also determined that I had left my transition area in fine shape and I didn't have to go back before the race started. The swim start had lots of nervous energy. A minor gripe: the music playing at the swim start was Evanescence. It's not exactly the best get-up-and-go music, you know?

The Swim: There was a lot of space between the starting buoys, so I seeded myself in the front row. This wasn't an awful decision, but I definitely need to work on sprinting out of the gate a little more, especially in sprint races. I was moving along fine, had a few people run into me and I almost ran over someone from the wave before mine who was doing sidestroke. I felt bad about that; if he's doing sidestroke he's probably not super-comfortable, and having me nearly run into him couldn't have helped. I was sighting every 2-3 strokes at this point, though, because I was nearing the swim exit, and I swear this guy came out of nowhere.

T1: I tried to get that flying mount down. Which makes it really unfortunate that I forgot to put my shoes on my bike before I went down to the swim start. Rookie mistake, I know. So I shoved my feet into the shoes, rushing too much and getting the sides of the shoe all bunched up under my foot. Then, when I got to the bike mount line, I was that girl who kept shoving her foot onto the clip and I just could not get in. It was bad enough that when I finally clipped in, the volunteer standing there said something like, "There, you've got it. Now just relax and have a good race." Sigh. Not my best T1 ever.

The Bike: Fortunately, I made up for many T1 sins here. I felt strong. I didn't know how fast I was going, because I've found that when I can see my speed it gets in my head too much, so I race with my computer on cadence and distance, and focus on keeping my cadence around 90-95. I felt good, though, and was passing a lot of people, and only got passed by a couple of guys who appeared to be studs. The course was well-marked and overall not bad at all.

T2: This went much better than T1. I started to take my feet out of the shoes almost a mile out from T2, which was good because the course ended up being a little short by my computer, so I had plenty of time. The flying dismount went pretty well, except that I kicked my flat kit out of my rear bottle mount. Oops. I was a little worried that I would get a time penalty for that, but I got lucky and didn't, and went back to get it after the race. Bike shoved in the rack, and shoes on, visor and race belt in hand, and I was on my way.

Run: I went harder on the bike than usual and my legs had the standard jelly feeling for the first half-mile or so, but I was happy to notice that it didn't take them too long to feel pretty good again. I didn't get passed by any women, and only a couple guys. I felt good. The path was narrow, though, and there was one guy who wouldn't let me pass him! When I tried to accelerate around him, he'd speed up too, so I was running directly off his shoulder for a bit, but I was finally able to make my way around him and continue on. When all was said and done, I looked at my time and realized I was running 7:20 miles! That's the fastest I've ever run in any race, and to do that off the bike was awesome.

I had no idea what the finish line announcer was saying, but it must have been good because there were lots of people cheering. This is the second race that I have completely zoned out on what the finsh line announcer is saying, apparently at my last race he identified me by name and I still didn't hear him. As it turns out, I was the third woman across the line.

Overall: As I said in my brief post-race check-in, the unofficial results had me listed as third female overall, which was awesome. As it turns out, though, the unofficial results didn't accurately reflect the wave timing, and I was actually 5th, so no cool overall award. But! I won my age group! That was awesome. And Speedy had a great race as well, coming in 2nd in his age group in the Olympic. Overall, it was a great race.

Next up: Brigantine Triathlon, this Saturday.

Friday, July 27, 2007

And I'm Spent

Okay, so I know that the bar isn't supposed to be easy. But the practice exams are wayyy easier than the real thing. But it's over, and now I just have to hope that I passed and won't ever have to take it again. We'll see, fingers crossed.

And now I can get back to the people, places, and things I've been neglecting for the past two months. I can spend time with my oh-so-patient-and-understanding husband, and I can go see my family, and we can travel, and I can train. All without that cloud of "I should be studying" guilt hanging over my head.

Monday, July 23, 2007

It's HERE!

I'm leaving today for the hotel. Tomorrow is Essay Day #1, Wednesday is multiple-choice questions, and on Thursday I'll be back here for Essay Day #2. And then it will be over. And I can't wait.

Yesterday Speedy and I raced - I did a sprint, and he did an Olympic. I considered doing the Olympic, but was concerned that I would have too much residual fatigue leading into the bar if I did, so the sprint it was. We did pretty well! I won my AG (whoo-hoo!!) and Speedy came in 2nd in his. I had a brief moment of disbelief and euphoria when the unofficial results placed me at 3rd woman overall, but as the wave times got worked out I was actually 5th or 6th. But I will definitely take the AG win. I'll put up a race report later this week.

See you on the other side!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Four Days and Counting

I want it to just be over already.
Crap, I need more time to study!
I want it to be over already.
Crap, I need more time to study!

Yeah, I'm feeling a little nervous. I go between 100% "Okay, let's get this show on the road" and 100% "Shit, I am SO going to fail." There's no middle ground.

Given this possibility of traveling, and my general training over the summer, I think I'm going to refocus my efforts onto a late-season sprint race, instead of a Half-Ironman. So no, I am no longer chasing Iron dreams. Yeah, I know - Half-Ironman to a sprint? Come on now.

Well, as you can probably tell, I may have been a little over-ambitious with my goals this summer. The bar exam, and then a Half-Ironman 5 weeks later? Noooo problem. Anyway, since my priority had to be studying, my training has suffered. My long workouts have been slogfests (and I didn't even finish my bike ride this past weekend), and my speed workouts have been less than 100%.

I have no doubt that I could have gone out to Diamondman and finished, but I don't think I would have been happy with how I did. I won't be as ready as I could be, and that would be incredibly frustrating to me. In contrast, though, I've made a lot of great gains in speed over shorter distances this year. Thus, my coach suggested that I focus on a sprint race. He thinks I can do more for a sprint distance race in the 5 weeks after the bar than I can for a Half, and I agree.

Is it an ideal solution? No. But as I get faster, it's kind of fun to see where I stack up against local competition. I had a great time in my first race of the season, which was a sprint. But in my Olympic race, I felt like I was dragging my ass along after a while. And that would almost certainly be the case if I continued with my current plan to do Diamondman. And that's no way to end a season.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


First, while there is one person who thinks I should race, most people say go travel. That is my feeling as well right now, even though the trip is not a definite by any means.

On to spoilers. Unless you've been living with your head under a rock, you know that the Harry Potter book is coming out this weekend. As you also know, I am taking the bar next week. These two facts do not go together very well.

I've bought into the Harry Potter thing - not in the huge costumed fanfic way, but in that I've read them all and did at one point own them all, until I loaned them out to various folks, the books never to be seen again. I love a good read, and am of the sort who will stay up all night to keep reading a good book. To avoid any temptation, I'm having the book sent straight to my in-laws, where we will be the day after the exam.

Thus, I cannot be anywhere near the new Harry Potter until, at the earliest, next Thursday night. This puts me almost a week behind every 13-year-old girl who will go to Barnes & Noble on Friday at midnight, stay up all night to read it, and be squealing about the ending by noon on Saturday.

Let me say this: I'm gonna be pissed if someone spoils it.

Well, I'm going to be pissed if someone intentionally (with malice aforethought, if you will) spoils it. When I was in high school, I took a class on "Analyzing Influential Films" or some such. We went through lots of the classics and well-knowns, including, of course, Citizen Kane. We're about halfway through the movie, and my mom makes some comment during a conversation about (SPOILER AHEAD) "That's like saying Rosebud is a sled!!" MOM!!!! But in her defense, that was a totally unintentional disclosure on her part. Unintentional spoilers, or spoilers online that are labeled as such, are not my concern.

Next week, I'll be spending two nights in a hotel with hundreds of stressed, angry, nervous bar applicants. It is not unimaginable that someone who has totally freaked out will try to spoil the book for everyone else. That will suck. A lot. For said applicant who's flipped her shit, and for the rest of us who are waiting not-so-patiently for next Friday. But for the time being, I've got enough Crim-Con-Evidence-etc. to worry about that I can't even think about the book.

Maybe I should just go stick my head under a rock.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Vote - Travel or Race?

Blogger has made it easy to put polls on blogs, so check out the sidebar for my poll - should I travel or race?

Yes, I'm procrastinating.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Keeping Perspective

I (may) have the opportunity to take a very cool international trip in September before I start working in the fall. This cool trip, however, will necessitate that I miss my planned A race (ahem...that is, my triathlon A race), a half-ironman.

My view right now is that there are more races, and I can do a 70.3 next year, but I might not get this chance to travel again. So I should take it, and if I miss the race, then I'm out the entry fee but plus one (hopefully very cool) experience.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

On the Rollercoaster

My "A" race is coming up quickly. I've been training hard for a long time, putting in long hours (years of base-building and more recently, some hard intervals) and I think I'm ready, but there's still that lingering hesitation. Did I do enough? Will my training come through when I need it? It's going to hurt, that's for sure. But I'm lucky. Speedy has been the greatest sherpa I could ask for, willing to put up with me, cook for me, and take care of me. He listens to me complain when the training gets hard and I get tired, and then he encourages me to take a break or push through, depending on which he thinks I need more at the time. Hopefully, all of his work and mine will be rewarded soon, and then the rest and recovery season begins.

Yes, that's right. The bar exam is in 12 days.

I am going back and forth between, "I've done lots of hard work and will be fine" and, "I wonder what kind of jobs I can do with a law degree that don't involve passing the bar . . . ." This is standard taper talk, right? For the most part, I am sticking with the more positive view, but it's tough when burn-out starts to set in. As anyone who has taken the bar exam knows, studying for the bar is a job in itself, and it's not one that you can leave at the office. Fortunately, only a little longer and it will all be over, hopefully with good results.

In the meantime, I'm trying to fit in my training around my studying. The workouts I'm really enjoying now are the hard intervals, because I can't think about studying when I'm too busy trying not to puke. That's not to say long rides don't have their advantages during studying. For instance, during my ride this past weekend I finally made sense of a minor issue of Constitutional Law that had been confusing me, but my hard workouts are the ones that really help me clear my head and get ready for the next stretch.

This is the final push of a more-than-three-year season. I just have to keep at it for a few more days, and rock out when it's time. I'm trained. I'm ready. Now I just have to pass.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Does Your Family Get It?

This whole tri thing. Or even general fitness and working out. Do they come to your races, support your training, or just understand why you do it?

Mine doesn't.

I had a short conversation with IM Able a few weeks ago, a couple days before the Philly Tri. She asked me if my family was going to be at the race cheering for me and Speedy and I told her no, that they really didn't get my triathlon habit. And that got me thinking.

Of the six people in my family, all were athletic in some way at some point, mostly in high school. My mom played raquetball, my dad wrestled, all of us kids played soccer, and my brother and two sisters ran track. We weren't great athletes, but we were out there doing something. Today, though, I'm the only one is committed to something active. And it sort of bothers me that they aren't, and that they really don't seem to understand it. Right now, and likely for a long time in the future, triathlon is a big and important part of my life, and it stinks to feel like it's not supported by the people who are most important to me.

I'd love to see them start working out again. Even walking the dog would be a great start. But they're not interested. Actually, though, my brother's girlfriend recently started running again and is training for a race, and my sister's boyfriend has been making some noise about getting back into running (he ran in college). Hopefully they'll bring my siblings along with them for the journey.

I've tried to get them involved. I've invited them to races, but they're not really interested in coming. I've offered to run with my sister, but no go. Add to that a dose of, "Have you lost weight? Your belt looks tighter," from my Italian, food-is-love mother. No, Mom, it's in the same hole it's been in since I got it.

These conversations are really frustrating. Maybe I'm just not trying the right methods to get them going.

But even more than that: My grandmother's health has recently deteriorated a lot. She has never been very active, and part of me thinks that if she had been more actively engaged in some healthy habit she would not be going downhill as quickly. Knowing that these genes have likely been passed onto my mother and me and my sisters worries me, and while I feel like I'm trying to put up a good fight against my genetics, it worries me that they aren't. (Yeah, I know, they'll probably live till they're 95 and I'll keel over of a heart attack at 50. We'll see who's worried about whom then, right?)

I've sort of lost my point, I think. But if you have a good support system, don't take it for granted. Realize how lucky you are and be sure to tell those people what their support means to you and give them big thanks.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Swimming Lessons

First, Happy Fourth! We got a lot of rain here, but hopefully some of you were able to enjoy some fireworks.

Today I was back in the gym pool for the first time in a while. I feel like I haven't been there in weeks. I am a total creature of habit, and it showed today. Usually, I grab my towel, suit, and flipflops, put them in my bag, and off to the pool I go. But recently, I've been doing lots of open-water swimming and long-course meters, and haven't been to this pool in a while.

Walking in, I realized I forgot my watch, and my workout today was timed intervals. Unfortunately, my pool has no lap clock, just two standard analog clocks high up on the walls, and I am blind as a bat without my glasses. So after each interval I stood at the end of the lane squinting up at the clock, trying desperately to find the second hand so I could head out for the next interval at the right time. Later, I finally figured out why my bag seemed less bulky than usual - no towel. So yes, today I was 'that girl' standing there drying off with paper towels. Yuck. Fortunately the locker room was basically empty. It's not likely I'll forget my towel again anytime soon.

During my absence, I'd forgotten what sorts of characters this pool attracts. While I was swimming, two different people got in, did 50 yards of breaststroke, and got out. A third person was doing some sort of lunges in the water. A fourth got in and looked like he was flailing around doing freestyle, but was actually moving really fast. He swam 25 yards of really fast, splashing everwhere freestyle, and then 25 yards of very slow breaststroke. Continuously. For a while. It was interesting - I'd pass him while he was doing breaststroke, and as soon as he turned and started swimming crawl again he took off past me like a shot.

All that said, it was good to get back into a measured, controlled environment again, just for comparison purposes. I have no intention of spending too much time there this summer when I have a long-course outdoor pool I can use. But I found that while I'm able to get down the lane in fewer strokes these days, I still need to work on my endurance at speed. It didn't take me too long to fall apart in the water, with my stroke count shooting up and my kick not getting me anywhere. I was okay for the first of two sets of 150s and 50s, but the sets were broken up by a 500 and I generally find it really tough to get back into a groove for faster intervals after something longer. In fact, I barely made the interval for the last few 50s. Like I said, I've got to work on endurance at speed.

Say it with me . . . If you don't do it in practice, you can't do it in a race. If you want to race well, you have to train well. I'm learning. It's just taking me a while.

Monday, July 02, 2007

A Photo Essay

Cheaper Than Therapy, usually:

Cheaper Than Therapy, during studying:

(Make your own here.)

Be Nice!

This week is "Be Nice to New Jersey" Week.

So no "Jersey - Only the Strong Survive!" t-shirts this week, okay? Thanks for your cooperation.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Race Report, Part II

The bike was hard. There were eight hills in all. Most were pretty void of spectators, except for Lemon Hill, where there were a few people cheering, and a climb off of West River, where there was a guy all done up in red body paint and holding a triton, like our very own El Diablo. It was really cool, and while I said something to him on the first time up the hill, the second time I was too busy sucking wind to get anything out.

Just after the second-to-last hill on the bike I started to feel fatigued. Not like "Wow this is really hard" fatigue, but more of the deep in the bones, 'I'm gonna curl up on the side of the road and fall asleep right here' fatigue. I've got to say, that's not such a great feeling when you've still got one more climb and a 10K to go in a race. I all but trudged through the end of the bike, getting passed left and right. I had been watching ages as people went by, and it wasn't until this point that I really started getting passed by people in my age group; before this, it had mostly been men in the 30-44 range.

The transitition area was situated at the bottom of a descent, but far enough out that you could still bomb down if you wanted to. I ended up behind someone on the descent who was taking it just carefully enough that I decided that trying to pass her would be a bad idea, especially considering we'd be rolling right into T2.

T2 was okay. I ended up at my rack at the exact same time as the girl right next to me, which made for some interesting times as we both tried to shove our bikes onto the rack and get out of there. Again, because the transition area was so long, we had to run a fair distance with the bike to get back to the rack.

The first part of the run was on grass, as the course fed behind the transition area onto the road. The volunteers were great with directing us and warning us about curbs. The start of the run was ridiculously painful, and it didn't get any better. I felt like I was just slogging along, and was really surprised to see after the first mile that my pace was around 8:30. I was really happy with that, considering how I felt. Although my legs seemed to feel less tired for a little while, the combination of general fatigue, running on grass in Mile 2 and the very canted road surface took its toll, and all in all my legs were not happy.

As with my last race, the run was mostly a mental game. I looked at the faces of people heading in the other direction, and told myself that they were all hurting as well and that it was supposed to hurt, and if I wasn't hurting, I wasn't going hard enough. This got me through past Mile 4, but when I didn't see the Mile 5 marker I started to get into my head again. I knew it couldn't be too much farther, but I wasn't seeing any hints as to where I was on the course. At the last water station, I asked the volunteer how much further it was, and she told me it was just about a mile. That right there nearly kicked my ass, as I checked my watch and couldn't believe I had slowed down so much. But, lo and behold, about 100 yards past the station was the 6 Mile marker, and soon after I could hear the finish line announcer. Whew! I'm not sure what's worse: being told by cheering spectators "You're almost there!!" at Mile 2, or being told there's still a mile left when you're at Mile 5.9.

I had a little left for a kick, but not much. I was passed in the chute by a guy who went flying by me at an all-out sprint, and there was no way my legs were going to do that.

Speedy had caught up to me near the end of the run. While I was a little disappointed by this, as I had been hoping to finish before him (his wave started well after mine), I was happy for him as he was looking fast and strong, and it was nice to see him right at the finish line.

We both realized that we needed Band-Aids; Speedy for blisters and me for a cut on my leg, probably from my chain ring when I nearly fell. We stopped by the med tent to get some bandages, and the staff was top-notch. Instead of just handing us Band-Aids and sending us on our way, they patched Speedy's blisters with Second Skin, and cleaned and bandaged me up, and only laughed a little when I told them I thought I cut myself on my own chain ring (note that the cut is on the outside of my right leg. Yes, the outside.).

Some things I learned:
- I need to do more race-pace training. This pains me to say because I love my aerobic base-building workouts, but the workouts that will make me faster are not the relaxed and conversational ones. I need to get my ass in gear.
- Racing while stressed and sleep-deprived is not the greatest idea ever. That said, I'm sure that's a lesson I'll learn many times over in the future.
- I should get tri shoes; transitions would be much easier.

All in all, the race itself was great, and I was sort of pleased with my result. It'll go down in my books with an asterisk, as in *this race completed while in full-swing bar-study mode. As I told Speedy, I think I raced well with what I had available to me. I didn't leave anything out there, but although I did empty my tank, I didn't start with a full tank.

When I saw Speedy at the finish line, we both gasped about how we were NEVER going to do another one of those, it was so painful, and so on. You won't be surprised to hear we're both already planning for our next.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Race Report, Part I

(This is taking longer to write than expected; here's the first part.)

First, the nitty-gritty: 2:45 overall.

Second, that was really freaking hard. It's twice as long as a sprint but four times as hard. The hilly course was tough, tougher than I'd expected it would be, even having gone over the course in a few training rides already. Racing it was much more difficult.

I was pretty nervous going in, given that this was my first non-sprint tri, but felt mostly confident in my training. What I didn't account for was how much my general fatigue and stress level affected my race, even with a good taper last week. Speedy, on the other hand, rocked the course and did very well, especially considering this was also his first race at this distance.

Preface: I have been having lots of problems with my wetsuit. The legs are slightly too short and end right at the belly of my calf, and each time I've worn it in training swims this year my calves have cramped up. I also spend too much time trying to get it off, which I think cuts into any time savings gained from wearing it. I explained all this to Speedy the night before the race, and put the suit on around my legs so he could see what I was talking about. In his infinite wetsuit wisdom garnered from years of surfing, he suggested I cut the legs just a little so they weren't so tight. After notching about one inch into each leg, the suit felt must better. Okay, onto the good stuff:

The Swim:
The water temperature was 76, making a wetsuit allowable, but really probably not necessary. I decided to wear it and give it a shot with the new cuts in the leg and hope for the best. Most people in my wave were grouped around one bouy to start, and I started near the other bouy to try to get some clean water and avoid the crowds. My plan worked pretty well for about 500 meters, until I convinced myself that they probably knew something I didn't and I should really get my butt over there. Yeah - lesson learned. I knew where I was going, I was on course and had clean water, and I should have just stayed my course instead of voluntarily entering the washing machine.

For the first 1100 meters or so, the target was a bridge, which made sighting pretty easy. I looked up every 3-6 strokes, which looking back was probably too often. I could have eaasily gotten by sighting half as much, especially on a course that I know as well as I know this one. After the bridge, and leading into T1, there was a lot of congestion as the course narrowed, and I was bumping into people and getting hit pretty often. I'm happy to say I was able to handle it all pretty well, and not get freaked out by the amount of contact with others.

Overall, I think I could have gone faster, had I stuck with my original line and stayed out of my head, instead of joining the crowd and getting distracted a few times and then finding myself not going as hard as I should be. I have a tendency to zone out when swimming, which works really well for getting through long training sets but clearly doesn't work so well for racing.

T1: Pretty smooth, the wetsuit came off with relatively few problems. I spilled some Nuun out of my bottle trying to make thre turn around the rack, but overall it was fine. A minor gripe: the transition area was really long, and the bike in and out were at the same end, which meant that those closer had to do less running with their bikes and those further had to do lots. Although the racks were numbered by age, this still created some inherent unfairness for those in later waves, racked towards the back, who may have been going for overall ranking.

The Bike: As soon as I got on my bike, I realized my computer had somehow come off in transistion. Shit! It was literally hanging from my handlebar by the wire. While I wasn't planning to use it for speed, I was planning to track the distance and monitor my cadence. Instead, it hung limply. About the course: Whew. I've seen these hills in training, and they were still freaking hard. Those who didn't scout the course, or who just assumed that the course would be flat because it's in the city, were in for a surprise. The first hill on the two-loop course is also the steepest, and I wasn't quite ready for it after my swim, especially considering on training rides it's usually the second hill we do, not the first.

After the crest, I realized my bike was making a funny noise, and since my bike computer was already off, I was expecting the worst, and I slowed down to check for a flat. I pulled over to the side of the road, and unclipped my right foot. Unfortunately, the road at the point canted steeply, and I started to tip over to my left. With an 'OH FUCK' so loud I'm lucky there were no marshals around, I started to fall over. Fortunately, I have pretty good reflexes, and was able to get my arms out and catch myself on the (rusty, metal) barrier protecting the side of the road from the hill we had just come up not too long ago. I am certainly lucky, since if I hadn't caught myself I'm pretty sure my head would have made contact with that same barrier, probably ending my race. I righted myself, and checked my tires, which were (of course) still properly and fully inflated, making my stop, lost time, and near-fall wholly unnecessary. But after restarting, my bike was still making a funny noise, and in looking it over I saw something that looked like paper stuck in the front brake. I have no idea what it actually was, because I reached down to remove it and it went flying. But the problem was solved; no more funny noises from my bike, and on my way I went.

Friday, June 22, 2007

I Think I'm Going to be Sick

I've been feeling pretty good about things tri-related lately. Training is going pretty well, I've gotten much faster than I was last year, I have a fun and fast new bike, and so on. But every now and then, something slips in there and makes me feel like a total newbie again.

My race is still two days away, and I'm so nervous I think I'm going to puke. This is bad. I need to eat so I don't fall off my bike on Sunday. But I'm nervous.


I don't know. The stakes aren't very high. It's not like I'm going to win anything, and since this is my first time at the distance, I'm really just establishing a baseline. And I'm very familiar and comfortable with the swim course, as it was where I rowed in college, so that's not really an issue. I've done the bike course a few times, so that's not the problem. The run is freaking me out a little, because while I've done long runs and I've done fast runs, I haven't really done any long fast runs. But that will come; I know it will.

Putting it together is what's got me in knots.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

CRS Syndrome

Enough with the acronyms already. I know, I know. And, I apologize for the quality of past and future posts, studying for the bar is frying my brain.

As Speedy can attest, I've done nothing for the past three weeks but study and train. I went for a deep-tissue massage last week (which was awesome, by the way), and the therapist asked me what I did to relax, and my answer was something along the lines of "You're looking at it." Sigh.

Due to the studying, other details about things are completely missing from my brain. Speedy is traveling this week, and I think I've asked him 10 times when he's coming back. And, 10 times, he (patiently) reminds me. And so armed with this knowledge, I go and make plans for us to go see one of my friends - the night before he gets back. Go me.

Which leads me to CRS Syndrome. A few years ago, back before law school, my boss at the time would always refer to her CRS Syndrome. I didn't want to be insensitive, so I just nodded like I had any idea what the hell she was talking about, and went on my way. Finally, I got the (not subtle, by this point) hint that she wanted me to ask her about CRS, so I did. Turns out it's "Can't Remember Shit." So, um, yeah . . . my CRS Syndrome is flaring up big-time. Think I can take something for that?

Monday, June 18, 2007


This morning, I went to our local municipal pool for the opening day of the summer season. Today was the official start of the free early-morning swimming that the pool offers, which means I got to get out of the gym pool, which is a 4-lane, indoor, short-course yard pool, and out into the eight-lane, long-course meters outdoor pool. And for a little while, I was the only person in the whole pool. It was awesome.

But hard. Geez, I had forgotten how much harder it is to swim long-course meters; I've gotten so used to the rhythms of my gym pool. At the gym, I know that the yellow square on the wall should appear when I breathe to my right on the 12th stroke, and that if it doesn't show up again when I breathe to my left after my flip-turn I didn't push off the wall hard enough, or my first strokes were lacking. All that is gone in the outdoor pool; I have no landmarks or stroke counts to rely on (yet). That will come. For now, swimming outside in a huge pool is just freaking awesome.

Actually, all things considered, where I live is pretty good tri-training land. It's hardly Austin or Boulder, and nobody's going to move here anyime soon just for the training quality, but for those of us here already, it's got:
- an outdoor LCM pool that is FREE during the early morning;
- a local park with a nice paved path;
- a decent loop for riding shorter rides and intervals;
- a river (not exactly swimmable, but good for scenery);
- proximity to Philadelphia and Fairmount Park for riding; and
- proximity to Wissahickon for great trail running.

I'll take it. Visitors always welcome. :)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Fitness Magazine

This is a rant. You've been warned.

I have a subscription to Fitness magazine, thanks to that "Would you like a complimentary three-month subscription?" button, my inexplicable agreeing to that, and my subsequent laziness in cancelling it.

Most months, I get the magazine and read through it quickly, griping to Speedy about what sort of fitness activities the target readership must be doing in order for some of their 'tips' to apply. This month, though, Fitness included a helpful guide, entitled "How to cut 100s of calories...and Not Even Miss Them!!"

These tips include:
1. Eat 1/2 cup Egg Beaters for breakfast; they're just 60 calories and a great way to start your day (60 calories???!!??? I eat more than that any time I put food in my mouth, and for me a good breakfast has at nearly 10 times that! Honestly, though, who can even have the energy to walk out the front door when their breakfast is only 60 calories?)
2. Instead of eating an apple, drink apple juice and cut 45 calories (please take special note of the Mott's two-page pull-out ad immediately following these helpful, and clearly impartial, tips)
3. Eat bran flakes and blueberries for a mid-day snack (not too bad a tip, until you realize that they suggest eating it without milk)
4. Replace the cream in your coffee with fat-free evaporated milk (ewww)

I am all for eating better. Really. I eat way too much pizza, and should not eat Pop-Tarts for breakfast nearly as often as I do. But the thought of anyone taking these tips seriously is a little terrifying.

  • 60 calories for breakfast? That's a foolish and dangerous weight-loss strategy, especially for anyone who is even remotely active. And it's pretty much a guarantee of late-night snacking, thus negating any benefit.
  • Forgoing the fiber and nutrients in an apple for apple juice? Come on. And following it up with a big Mott's ad does nothing for their credibility.
  • Dry bran flakes and blueberries? Yes, fiber is good, and blueberries are indeed delicious. But dry bran flakes? I might as well just eat the paper out of my study binder.
  • And really . . . evaporated milk in coffee? Okay, this is just a preference, but ewww.

I find it insulting that these are being presented as legitimate nutrition tips, especially in a magazine purportedly aimed at active, fit women. In the latter pages of the magazine, they include a continuation of a sprint triathlon training plan. That's awesome; but how are people supposed to do these (or any) workouts on a 60-calorie breakfast? Come on now.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Pacing for an Olympic-Distance Race

As I said in the post below, I am my own worst enemy in terms of getting into my head before a race. And today, you get to come along for the ride!

Next weekend is my first non-sprint triathlon, and I'm getting worried about pacing. For a sprint, I can go pretty hard the whole time. I'd imagine that for my Half-Ironman in September, it will be more of a slower and steady pacing. But what about Olympic distance? Since I've never done one, I have no baseline to use to set my goal paces.

I'm worried that I'm going to go to hard during the bike and crash hard on the run, which would suck, or not go hard enough overall and be left with too much in the tank, and then I'll be disappointed that I didn't go faster.

Seriously, this is a big concern for me.

So what should I do?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Recovery Weeks

I think I have a love/hate relationship with recovery weeks.

I love them because it's a chance to rest and recover (yes, I know, my powers of deduction are simply sensational) but I hate them for two reasons: First, I can swear up and down that I am going to turn to mush during my recovery week. Mush. As in, lose all muscle and fitness I've gained. And if it's this bad during a recovery week, wait till I start to taper.

And the second reason I hate recovery weeks? My weekend long workouts are invariable crappy.

As a point of comparison, last week Speedy and I rode 38 miles, including lots of hills and some Speedy-induced sprints on the flats (Speedy, last weekend: " gonna let that guy just pass you like that? You should totally go get him and show him what's up..."), followed by a short but hard run, and felt not too bad. Yesterday, we did 21 miles of flat roads, no brick run afterward, and I thought I was going to fall off the bike. It was so. freaking. hard. And since I'm really my own worst enemy (see point #1 above) (I don't need my competition to get in my head. I do it just fine by myself, thank you very much), the minute I have a bad workout I start thinking I'm getting slower.

Bad swim? Clearly all the work I've done in the pool is for naught, as I am slower than slow. Bad bike? Disregard the months of training I've put in, I'm clearly going to fall over going up the hills during my next race.

Recovery weeks might be good for my body, but they are seriously bad for my psyche.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Epic Battles of Good vs. Bad

The Good: Nice open-water swim this evening.
The Bad: it's probably a little too early in the year to go sans wetsuit, as I decided to do during said open-water swim.

The Good: Fun interval workout on the bike this afternoon; passed another rider and held him off for a while
The Bad: Other Rider caught up to me when I rode over a small stick, which impaled itself into my back tire and tube, puncturing both.

The Good: I (finally) learned how to change a flat a few weeks ago.
The Bad: I learned on my old bike, and the new bike has horizonal drop-outs, making replacing the wheel more difficult, especially when it hasn't been practiced.

The Good: Other Rider was nice enough to stop when he rode by me a second time and helped me finagle the wheel back on. He didn't know how to do it either, but turns out two heads are better than one.

The Good: Yesterday during my ride someone passed me and then slowed down. I was able to pass him and hold him off until I got to my turn-off. It made an easy ride more like an interval ride, but was really freaking fun.

The Good: My rowers made it to Nationals, and are competing this weekend. Whoo-hoo! I'm so proud of them!

Good = 6, Bad = 3. Good wins!!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Good Trails in Philadelphia?!?!

Yesterday, Speedy and I went into Philadelphia to run some trails in the Wissahickon Valley. Philadelphia always boasts about Fairmount Park; it's the largest urban park in the country and it really is a pretty cool place to run and ride. But as we learned yesterday, it's got nothing on Wissahickon.

The last time we went to run in Wissahickon, a few months ago, we ended up on a trail that was closed for maintenance, so we didn't get to see much of the park and ended up running through Manayunk. So our hopes were not too high for yesterday, but my shin has been hurting lately so we went looking for some softer surfaces for our long run. We thought maybe we'd end up on an easy dirt path or something; not super exciting but still a change of scenery.

I love trail running. Love it. Give me some technical single-track any day and I'm a happy girl. But, alas, single-track trail is hard to find in Philadelphia, and the most recent good trail running I've done has been on the Austin Greenbelt or the Berkeley fire trail. Until yesterday.

These trails kicked my ass. We should have known we were in trouble when we first turned onto a side trail (the Yellow trail) and saw it go straight uphill. There were lots of hills, and the trails were rocky and narrow. It was awesome, and I was loving it. We had no idea where we were going, and while we took some wrong turns, we knew that we couldn't get too lost because there are pretty definite boundaries to the park. We saw a few hikers and a bunch of mountain bikers, including some pretty crazy teens bombing down a hill not wearing helmets.

We got to our turnaround, and decided to head back on the Orange trail, which looked (on the trail map) like it might track closer to the water and therefore be flatter. We were so wrong. Turns out there is a pretty darn good reason the Orange trail is closed to mountain bikers. It was still really hilly, and much less well-marked than the Yellow trail. And rocky. As in, giant boulders that we had to climb up and over to find the rest of the trail on the other side. And some of trail went up short but steep hills, so that we had to hold onto tree branches to get up. And halfway there, we came across what looked like a giant block party in the middle of the park. Devil's Pool is a small area where water pools before it spills into the river, and there were tons of people out, yelling, shouting, jumping off of rocks into the water, and just generally having a good time. It was very cool to see, but sort of surreal since it almost appeared out of nowhere in the middle of our run.

It was just a great run, and so unexpected. We had no idea the trails were so tough; some of what we ran on rivaled what we've seen in Austin, which is like my holy grail of trail running. My legs were trashed at the end, but it felt great. I can't wait to go back!