Saturday, July 25, 2015

Here We Go!

My mom and I got to Lake Placid Thursday afternoon, and we have been having a blast since we arrived. Everywhere you look there are athletes swimming, biking or running. I'm having a hard time not going out and doing more because the atmosphere here is so infectious. I was able to check out the course some yesterday and boy is it beautiful. During my shakeout ride I had to force myself to turn around and head back because I just wanted to keep riding. I'll take that as a good sign.

In a little we're heading over to the athlete village to check in my bike and gear bags, and then the rest of the day is all about staying off my feet and taking it easy. If you want to track me I'm bib #801.

See ya on the other side of 140.6!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Taper Confessions

Ironman Lake Placid is exactly one week from today. That's seven days, people. Normally I would assume you know how many days are in a week but I am currently one week into taper and have lost all ability to put together coherent and logical thoughts. The taper crazies, as you may have heard them called, are out in full force. If you want proof, please consult the following list of things I have done or experienced in the last week.

  • Lost any sort of an appetite. On Tuesday I ate an ear of corn and an orange for lunch and then tried to ride that evening.
  • Went to sleep before 10pm more times in one week than I usually do in an entire year.
  • Started craving hamburgers.. and I've been a vegetarian for six years.
  • Had a dance party in the front yard with my dog because it was too nice out to be inside but I'd already done my ride. (You're welcome for the entertainment, neighbors)
  • Avoided packing for both ironman and my move to Philly. Instead I made a list of all the things I need to bring with me. It currently reads "everything."
  • Had a dream about the Guinness I'll be having post-ironman. 
  • Developed the appetite of a football player. Gotta make up for all the food I missed out on earlier in the week right?
  • Fell asleep at 10:15pm Saturday night, woke up ready for my morning run only to check the clock and see it was 11:35pm.
  • Realized I've been riding with spare tubes that don't have long enough valve stems for my wheels. This might be the one useful thing I've accomplished during taper.
  • Developed an annoying habit of responding to texts & messages in all caps. BECAUSE I HAVE SO MUCH EXTRA ENERGY.

So that's how taper is going so far, and I have a sneaking suspicion that things will only become more ridiculous over this next week. See ya soon, Lake Placid.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

York YWCA Y-Tri Sprint Triathlon Race Recap

I had every intention of writing this recap on my way to the beach following the race nearly two weeks ago but it just didn't happen. And then I planned on writing it while on vacation, but again, it didn't happen. I debated not writing about it at all but figured this would be one race I would want to go back and read about during those times I question why I race.

If you're here for the short version, I won my first triathlon. And when I say I won, I mean I won the whole damn thing. I have come pretty close to top of the podium in the past, finishing 6th, 4th, 3rd, and 2nd three times. But this year, I finally got to claim top of the box and it felt really freaking good.

The great part about doing this race, at least for me, is that it is practically in my backyard. I can wake up, eat breakfast, change, load up the car, and find parking all within 30 minutes. With so many races requiring absurdly early wake-up calls, the extra sleep was a much appreciated perk. So I was up by 6am and getting body marked a little after 6:30. Another thing I really like about this race is seeing so many familiar faces. As soon as I started to set up transition I was running into former teammates from my swimming days, competitors from last year, fellow strava addicts and of course my triathlon partner in crime, Rachel. Knowing so many people makes racing feel less intense.

Swim (500 yards)

With a swim this short it's hard for anything significant to happen. All I really remember is having to ask the race director three times how the serpentine swim worked, tell Rachel that I would be happy once the swim was over and I was on my bike, and spending the entire swim feeling like someone was choking me. I found out after the race that the chlorine levels in the pool were high, which makes sense given that I was literally gasping for air. Oh, I also remember on my way to transition telling my mom and Rachel's dad that something was wrong because I couldn't breathe. When they told me to told me to take a minute to catch my breath I yelled back that I didn't have a minute. Leave it to me to turn on the sassy while running to transition.

Swim 07:34 (2/95)
T1 :41

Bike (15.2 miles)
To be completely honest, this is not one of my favorite bike courses. I don't have a good reason for not liking it, but I just don't like it. The one thing I do like, is being out there pretty much by myself the entire time because of the way the swim is structured. I am an extremely competitive person, which means that sometimes I ride harder than I should and pay for it later. There's something really freeing about being out on the road, competing against yourself and nobody else. Being alone for all but the first three miles also meant nobody was there to witness me throwing up while still trying to haul ass on the bike. I chalk this up to the chlorine and lack of air problem on the swim but regardless, I was happy that whatever it was only lasted a few minutes. The rest of the bike was business as usual. Go hard, drink when I remember, crack jokes with the volunteers at the turns, remember this is a race and try to go hard again.

Bike 50:39 (1/95, 18.1mph)
T2 1:08

Run (3.1miles- really 3.25 because of a detour)
This, this was the fun part of this race. The run in my last race was more like a death march/shuffle than a run, which left me really nervous about how things would go this time. As soon as I got my flats on and took a few steps I knew things were going to be just fine. I haven't been doing too much hard running these last couple months with ironman training so I wasn't expecting anything super fast out of my legs. It was pretty much 25 minutes of plugging away, running knowing that if I wanted to win this race I needed to get moving. The last few minutes were pretty brutal, as they should be. Making that last turn onto the track all I could think about was my dad and how proud he would have been. He is who I think about when things get hard, when I want to quit. And in those last few minutes I knew, because of him, that no matter what the outcome of this race was it really didn't matter because I raced a little more fearlessly than in the past.

Run 25:19 (7/95, 7:48min/mile)

Overall 1:25:21, 1st place

Post-race was a mix of awkward interviews where I surely embarrassed myself, cheering in friends, and anxiety waiting for results to be posted. I was 100% that obnoxious person who stalked the results wall for a solid 75 minutes. But seeing my name first was everything. And the perfect kickoff to the last few weeks of ironman training.

Monday, June 22, 2015

How Did We Get Here?

Do you ever feel like someone is pushing the fast forward button on your life, like each day passes more quickly than the last and you have no way of slowing things down? That's how the last few weeks, maybe even months have felt for me. For so long, both ironman and grad school were these things that were so far in the future that they didn't feel real. I knew eventually the time would pass but now all of a sudden I have sent in a security deposit for a studio by the Art Museum in Philly and ironman bib numbers will be posted later this week. 2014 was by far my hardest year and one of the ways I got through it was knowing that better things were in the future. All I wanted to do was leave. And now here I am less than two months from moving and I am terrified. I went from desperately trying to run away, to escape, to being the happiest I may have ever been.

I blame Father's Day for causing me to be so pensive over all this. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about my dad but some days are harder than others. As I'm checking off the weeks of peak ironman training I'm missing having him as my support system. Saturday I did my longest ride of 100 miles. I was riding along, happy as could be, thinking about how much I used to hate biking and now I can't seem to spend enough time on two wheels. I was thinking about how far I've come and how hard I've worked to get to where I am. And that's when it hit, like a wave in the ocean you don't see coming and temporarily drowns you. I felt like I was gasping for air and just burst into tears because the one person I wanted to share my successes and hardships with is gone.

100 miles later

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how much you like being on your bike) I still had more than hour before my ride was over. I started thinking that while I never really had a plan or idea of what I thought my life would look like at this point, I certainly didn't think it would look like it does now. And I couldn't be happier about that. I've been through a lot and I am stronger because of all of it. If you had asked me five years ago about racing an ironman, or even doing a sprint triathlon, I probably would have told you there was no chance. I would have laughed in your face at the idea of biking 100 miles. Yet here I am, practically begging to spend more time on my bike. Hell I even traded a trip to the beach for a new bike. And yes I did strategically look for apartments in Philly that were easiest to leave the city for riding.

I think part of the reason I'm struggling so much lately is because ironman was not just my dream. It was a dream my dad and I came up with together late one night, probably either watching a baseball game or puppy walking. Every crazy idea I had, and trust me there were a lot of them, he supported and encouraged all of them. We were such a good team because I was always trying to push boundaries and limits, waiting for someone to stop me, and he let me go as far as I wanted to push myself because he knew I could.

Post-100 miler drinks

On Saturday while I was riding through the middle of nowhere, crying because I missed my dad, I remembered why I was out there. I love triathlon, I love riding, I love going fast, I love pushing myself, I love beating the boys, I love being challenged, I love surrounding myself with badass people, I love feeling fearless and free, and I love that I am doing this for myself because I want to. As I was finishing my ride I wanted to shout "I'm baaaack" because after losing my dad, having my heart broken, and repairing it with the help of some amazing friends I finally feel like I'm back to my crazy self. And it feels fucking amazing.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Big Week On the Bike

This past week was one of the most exhausting I've had in quite some time. As peak Ironman training is approaching, my training load is reaching all time highs, and don't get me wrong, I am loving ironman training, but juggling training while planning and hosting a 5K leads to one heck of a week. I knew the week leading up to the race was going to be hectic with getting everything ready so I tried to front load my training where I could. This meant I did my long ride on Tuesday, biking 60 miles on my own before meeting up with the Gung Ho group for the last thirty.

This ride was one for the books. I had planned on doing a hilly 90 miles in Maryland on Sunday but called it quits at mile 46. Most of my rides are pretty hilly and I really do love climbing but apparently I have a limit to how many hills I want to climb within a few days. So going into Tuesday's ride I was nervous. Nervous about covering 90 miles. Nervous about riding with the fast guys at the end of such a long ride. Nervous about getting lost. You get the picture. I tried to choose a route that had a mix of some flats, rollers, and climbing. I'm not going to recap the entire ride because that would be really boring but I will highlight a few things I thought were notable.

  • Starting a long ride at 1pm = HEAT
  • Nothing tastes better than Coke during those last hard miles
  • Riding with friends will always make the miles go by more quickly
  • Climbing the biggest hill of the day at the end of your ride will suck, there's no other way to put it
  • I need to eat and drink more on these long days
The rest of the week was a mix of scrambling to get everything done for the race and fitting in training whenever I could. I had another pretty hilly ride on Thursday, where one of the guys was teaching me how to descend and corner faster. Maybe one of these days I won't be the last one down the hill. My descending skills are so embarrassingly poor that we were joking that I was like a cat stuck in a tree. I can go up the hills but then can't get back down them. At least I know this is my weakness and can work on making improvements.

Saturday morning capped off my biggest week on the bike so far of 160 miles over 10.5 hours with over 10,000 feet of climbing. As I was riding it started to hit me how far I've come over the past few years. Even last summer 45 miles at 15.5mph would have been a pretty decent long ride for me and this year it is my recovery ride. During my ride on Tuesday I rode part of a route I did a few years ago when 30 miles was my long ride. It can be so easy to forget where I used to be and only focus on how far I am from where I want to go.

Speaking of where I want to go, we are officially six weeks out from Ironman Lake Placid. This is both terrifying and exciting. While I'm not sure that I will ever totally feel ready for such a day, I am confident in my ability to finish. Things are starting to feel real. I have my first century ride coming up this weekend and then will be racing in a local sprint triathlon the following weekend before heading down to Chincoteague, Virginia with my family. When we get back it will already be July and there will only be a few weeks left before the big day!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Rock Hall International Triathlon Race Report

This past weekend I officially kicked off my 2015 triathlon season at the Rock Hall Olympic Triathlon in Rock Hall, Maryland. It was hard to know what to expect out this race, as it fell smack in the middle of ironman training. Despite knowing that I was coming off both my biggest bike and run weeks of the year, I was still hoping to be able to pull of a PR. I'm lucky in that throughout my few years of racing triathlons I have always PRd. All of my races have gone pretty dang well and even my worst races have still been pretty good. I took things easier in the week leading up to the race but still put in two solid bike rides with quite a bit of climbing.

Friday evening I drove down to Columbia, Maryland to stay at my sister's place for the night so I didn't have to pay for a hotel. It was so nice to spend that time with her but what was less nice was the 4:00am wakeup call to make it to the race site by 6:30. I do have to say that driving over the Bay Bridge with no other traffic was pretty cool. Parking, checking in, and setting up transition were all a breeze, and before I knew it I was making the trek over to the marina for the swim start.

Swim (1500m)
Despite not being in the swim shape I wanted to be in, I was really excited for the swim because it would be my first time trying out my new wetsuit. Except the water was 79 degrees meaning no wetsuits. The plus side of this is that I am a strong enough swimmer not to really mind swimming sans wetsuit. I debated getting in the water to warm up some but didn't want to deal with standing on the deck shivering while the guys began.

In the past I have positioned myself in the front of my wave, gotten clobbered when the gun went off, and then proceeded to pass all those women who swam over me in the first 100-200 yards. Moving to the second row of women was definitely the smart thing to do, at least for me. By the time I reached the first buoy I could hardly see any women from my wave around me, which led to an internal debate over whether I was having a great swim or a terrible one. Before I had time to settle this debate I hit the wall of dudes, otherwise known as all the men from the previous waves that are slower swimmers that I have to navigate around.

I couldn't help but laugh to myself about how great I felt in the water, since my swimming has felt pretty crappy lately. I'm going to chalk it up to how choppy the water was-- at times I felt like I was swimming in the ocean. To be completely honest, the harder the swim conditions are, the better it is for me. Nothing will prepare you better for the swim leg of a triathlon than an overcrowded swim meet warmup. Needless to say, I was pretty happy with how things went and was excited to be heading out for my first race on my new bike.

Swim 25:31 (4/194, 1:27/100yds)
T1 2:17 

Bike (24.5 miles)
Like I said, this was my first time racing on my new bike. Once out of transition there are a few turns and then you can really settle down into aero. And that's what I did. I was nervous about riding aero for the first time with other people near me but was having too much fun to give it much thought. I got to work passing more of those dudes who started before me. I remember looking at my garmin for an idea of what pace I was holding and seeing a number I had no business riding at. I debated easing off the gas but I felt so good that I kept at it. It wasn't until maybe halfway and we turned into a headwind that I realized we had been riding with a nice tailwind. Oh well, It was still fun to pretend I could hold 22-24mph.

The bike was mostly uneventful except when I dropped my one and only bottle of skratch around mile 5. I debated going back to get it but by the time I realized I should probably get it I was already down the street. Lesson learned. I should also mention that my legs were starting to feel all the climbing I did the week beforehand in those last few miles. Nothing too bad, just enough to remind me I was in no way fresh coming into this race. All in all I ended up with a 4 minute bike split PR.

Bike 1:18:21 (63/194, 18.7mph)
T2 1:22

Run (6.2 miles)
Remember when I said I dropped my only nutrition and liquid in the first 15 minutes of the bike? Yeah, that came back to bite me in the butt. Big time. I started the run desperate for water. Oh, and remember how I said this was my first time racing on my new bike? Well my back was not even close to ready to staying in aero for that long and then running at any kind of respectable pace afterwards. I was pleading with myself to suck it up and get moving but I just didn't have it in me. What started out as trying to PR quickly turned into survival mode. I was downing Gatorade at every aid station, and eventually even walking aid stations to relieve some of the pain in my back.

It didn't take long for me to realize this run was going to be a sufferfest but ironman is pretty much synonymous with sufferfest. As hard as running those 6.2 miles was, I knew I would be able to get through the marathon of ironman. I do understand this probably makes no sense but ironman is about continuous forward progress, not going fast. I didn't have a problem trotting along slowly, I had a problem throwing down sub 8:00 min/miles.

Run 58:28 (80/194, 9:25/mi)

Overall 2:45:57 (38/194)

In the end I missed my PR was 5 minutes, most of which I added during the run. But when I dissect the race I am really proud of both my effort and my performance. I know I have a lot of work to do before ironman but the work is what excites me. The long days in the saddle, chasing the fast guys and then passing them climbing hills, running in circles during the hottest part of the day.. these are what keeps me going. Because at the end of this journey it's not about the race I have. It's about pushing myself out of my comfort zone and reaching goals I never thought possible.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ironman Lake Placid Training Update

How is May already almost over?! Wasn't it just Christmas?! Ironman Lake Placid is just around the corner and I couldn’t be more excited.
Training has been coming along nicely the past few weeks, with some new distance PRs being set.
After a rough start to the year I am focused, moving forward and, most importantly, having enjoying the process. I never expected to enjoy Ironman training as much as I am now.
A few thoughts on how training’s been progressing… 

I wish I could say I've been nailing my swims and am as fast as Ryan Lochte [Lochte > Phelps] but simply put, I can't. In March and April I skipped a few too many swims and it shows. The good news is that my pace is somehow faster than it was at the beginning of the year despite spending a few weeks away from the pool. The bad news is that I feel like total shit while I'm swimming. Growing up as a competitive swimmer, having good technique has become ingrained. I'm trying to trust the process that it will eventually come back, and crossing my fingers that it's sooner rather than later.

In more exciting news on the swim front, I get to test my new Blue Seventy Helix I got at the Rev3 70.3 Poconos in September. The kind folks at Blue Seventy sent me the wetsuit back in February, after which I tried it on and then promptly put it away until it warmed up. Since the forecast is calling for temps in the 90s this week I would say it has warmed up. My first race of the season is coming up this weekend and I thought it would be a good idea to try the wetsuit beforehand, because nothing new on race day right?
Where do I even start?! When I first started doing triathlons I was nervous about moving up in distance because I hated biking. Fast forward a few years and biking has easily become my favorite of the three sports. In my opinion, any day on the bike is a good day. I'm also really happy with how my bike fitness is progressing. I did a lot of hard trainer rides during those cold winter months where riding outside wasn't really an option. And honestly, it's really hard to tell how your fitness on the trainer is going to translate to the road but each week I am seeing little buds of strength, speed, power, grace popping through.

This past weekend I completed my longest ride ever at 75 miles and can really truly honestly say that I loved the entire ride except for the one mile climb through my neighborhood to get home. Last weekend I rode down to Maryland and conquered the hills of Northern Baltimore County. It was a beautiful ride with over 4,000ft of climbing but it also marked my first bike crash. Luckily the only damage was a few scrapes and I was able to continue riding.

I've been complementing my weekend long rides with Tuesday and Thursday rides with my local bike shop. Tuesday night I've been going to what I call the fast guys ride because the only gals there are the shop owner and myself. I kind of love riding with the guys though. These rides are surely going to be missed after I move.

My favorite place for easy miles

Running has also been going really well! My longest runs so far have been 10 & 12 miles and while they were both challenging runs, I know building up each week won't be so bad. I've also been doing weekly track runs to help with my run speed before my race this weekend. With each workout I finish I am gaining more and more confidence. I haven't been doing anything too intense but the ease of hitting each interval is showing me that all my hard work is paying off. I never thought running at certain paces would feel so comfortable.