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 Active.com "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: "Hey...you 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!
Thanks to new blogger Speedo Guy, I have figured out how to post a race picture. And so, here I am, apparently hamming it up on the run. I swear I was going hard at the time!

Friday, June 01, 2007


Ahh! So there are race pics up, but I can't figure out how to post them or link to them. Any ideas?