Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Little Bit of Triathlon, A Little Bit of Marathoning

My mind has been all over the place lately. I have been absolutely loving triathlon training this summer and know that I want to do bigger things in the years to come. I want to go both faster and longer and really commit to training. I won't be signing up for anything until the winter or spring but I have already started to get an idea of what I want to do and I am SO excited about it. I keep trying to remind myself to focus on the present and not get caught up in figuring out things that are so far away.

I have a race this Saturday and although it's been on my calendar for a few months now I still am having a hard time coming to terms with this. Part of me is really happy about this, mostly because I love racing and can't wait to push myself, while the other part of me is sad that the triathlon season is coming to an end. After the Culpeper International Triathlon this weekend I will be racing the Keystone Sprint Triathlon at the end of August and while I plan on completely racing it, it is not a primary focus for me. I will be going on vacation for a week in the middle of August and it's still up in the air whether I will be able to bring my bike with me.

Then there's the marathon. After this weekend I need to start shifting my focus towards training for the New York City Marathon. It's hard to get on the Internet and not be surrounded by updates from everyone and their dog training for some fall marathon. With a little less than 100 days until New York it's probably time that I added in a bit more running. Because I'm very indecisive with regards to everything, I am both happy and a bit sad heading into marathon training. I am sad to be doing less swimming and biking, mostly biking, and sad that I don't have another 1.5 months to dedicate solely to triathlon training.

But I am also really excited to be training for a fall marathon. I likely won't be running another full marathon for awhile since I want to focus on triathlons and after such an incredible half marathon training cycle this spring I am excited to see what I can pull out in the marathon. I'm not exactly sure why but I've been feeling especially inspired lately and am dreaming up a big goal that I want to chase. I am not content with just training to finish and don't want to do only the bare minimum. I want to push myself because I know that I am capable of it.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Everything's Coming Together

This past week was another big training week for me, with both my longest bike ride ever and my biggest week in terms of overall hours. More impressive than the hours put in is how great each individual workout was. I feel like all of the hard work I've been doing is finally starting to show and I couldn't be happier about it, especially with my next race just around the corner. Here's how the week played out:

Monday: 2800 yd swim


~19 mile easy bike in the rain with the Gung Ho beginner ride

Tuesday: 2000 yd swim

60 min yoga

7 miles track (15 min w/u, 10 x 400, 15 min w/d)

Wednesday: 3 mile recovery run

15 min abs

Thursday: much appreciated rest day

Friday: 3200 yd swim


5 mile run with negative splits (9:35, 8:57, 8:44, 8:43, 8:34)

Saturday: 42 miles bike @ 15.8 avg

Sunday: 6.61 mile run with negative splits (9:54, 9:12, 9:07, 8:51, 8:43, 8:31, w/d)

Both Monday and Friday's swims were really strong and huge confidence boosters. I've talked about it before but I have a pretty strained relationship with swimming and am often scared of really pushing myself because I know no matter how hard I train I will never see the speeds I did when I was competing. This week I was able to put these thoughts aside and really make some progress in the pool. I'm also starting to chase some of my former training times, all in good spirit. I know I won't get back to where I was but it's fun to see how close I can get.

My long ride this week was my longest ride ever and was very enjoyable. After last weekend's super hilly ride I chose something a little flatter but with some climbs mixed in. My legs were not feeling any of the hills but felt great on the flats. I was hoping to do this ride a bit faster but my main goal was to keep the pace steady and that's what I did so I'm calling this a success. I also came up on what looked to be a pretty bad biking accident. I couldn't see how bad it was but the guy was rushed off in an ambulance. Really hoping to hear some good news.

This week's runs were the best workouts of the week. While the goal of Tuesday's track workout was more about consistency than speed I was happy to see how easy it felt to hold a sub 9:00 pace the whole time (including warm up & warm down). The real magic happened on Friday and Sunday's runs though. I wasn't expecting much out of either run since most of my runs this summer have been less than stellar. Instead I surprised myself by starting off slow and descending down to 8:30 with relative ease. Strong yet relaxed.

This week certainly left me with a lot of confidence in the work I've been putting in heading into my next race. I'm fairly clueless about what I'll be able to do given the course and the insane humidity in Virginia but I know that I did the work. Could I have done more? Yes, such as longer runs, but I was being cautious with my hip and regardless I did what I could with what I was given. Now it's time to relax and enjoy a lighter week because Saturday is race day!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

When Little Things Add Up to Something Big

I think the most rewarding thing about training for endurance events is seeing progress after training really hard. I don't want to say I was in a swimming rut but at the same time I didn't really think I had much progress to make unless I started putting in a ton more hours than I wanted to. Even if it was only for a quick 1500 yard swim I have been swimming regularly since February and was reminded yesterday why.

LOVE open water swimming

During the middle of training for the Nike Women's Half Marathon (which seems like it was so long ago!) Mike started having me swim 1-2 times a week. I wasn't thrilled about being back in the pool but figured it was good cross training since swimming is so easy for me. Some workouts I did pretty easily, some I worked harder. I pretty just went with how I felt that day. I figured getting a head start on swim training would make it easier to focus on running and biking during the triathlon season.

Just like those of you who grew up runners and know your running inside and out, I have a few ways to measure how swimming is going for me. The first is the obvious time. Yesterday I did a workout that I did a couple weeks ago but this time I did it much faster and with more ease. A month or so I was really struggling to see 100s at 1:10 but now 1:11-1:12 is a pace I can hold for 10-15 repeats. I haven't done an all out 100 in awhile but I'm betting that time would be considerably faster than the last time as well.

My second favorite type of pool

To go along with the first way, another way I measure my swimming fitness is how long I can hold a certain pace, or how strong I feel at that pace. Holding 1:11-1:12 I felt really strong and quick, like I could have kept going. I didn't feel like I was holding on for dear life and struggling. They felt strong and in control.

The last is my technique. During my swims in the spring I did some type of technique or form work during the majority of my swims. I think the best way to see improvements on the swim is by focusing on technique first, not speed, and so I did a lot of my slower swims with my technique in mind. When I first started swimming back in the spring my technique would start to waiver during longer intervals, even if they were easier. The longer I swam, the worse my technique would get. Now that doesn't happen anymore. I still make a conscious effort to pay attention to my stroke even during hard repeats though.

Besides just steady and consistent swimming I have also been doing regular strength and conditioning, focusing on my shoulders, arms, upper back and core. I had shoulder surgery a few years ago because of swimming and my other shoulder isn't in great shape so if I want to be able to swim healthily and also get better I need to take care of my body. Besides a noticeable physical difference, I can tell that all this work is showing in the pool. Seeing progress like this is what motivates me to keep training hard.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Another Big Week, Another Big Ride

Things are really ramping up around here! Last week marked my biggest week of training so far with more miles on the bike than I ever expected I would hit this year. Despite a few days of being pretty tired I am absolutely loving the higher volume of training. Oh, and remember how in my last post I mentioned that I had a pretty sluggish ride on Wednesday? Turned out both of my brakes were rubbing which completely explains why I didn't feel that bad but wasn't really going anywhere!

I was glad I figured that out before my long ride on Saturday, which quite frankly was too long. I was planning on doing the same route I did last weekend - 33 miles - but instead ended up doing 40. The added miles wouldn't have been so much of a problem except this route was very hilly. Definitely the hilliest ride I've ever done. I've been trying to do a lot of my rides and runs when it's a bit warmer out so I can get [more] used to the heat since it will likely be nearing 90 degrees during the run portion of my upcoming race.

My boyfriend and I set around early afternoon on Saturday with hopes of not being rained out or blown away by the storms that were on their way. Luckily we only had a few drops of rain but unfortunately we had a pretty strong headwind for the majority of the second half of the ride. Despite the heat, wind, and monster hills this ride rewarded you by taking you alongside a cute and quaint part of the Susquehanna River.

Once we got to the river we took a little break to refuel and enjoy a few minutes on the water before the big 2 mile climb back towards York. The way out wasn't too hilly but we went back a different way that was just unrelenting hills. There were hardly any flat sections on this ride, making my quads pretty trashed by the time we made it back.

Although this ride was a bit more than I was expecting it was something I think I needed to do. I had been doubting my abilities on the bike and was becoming frustrated that I wasn't making any progress with hill climbing. This ride was by no means fast but I was able to do hills that I never would have even attempted had I been on my own.

3875 ft of climbing over 40 miles!

With my next race - Culpeper International Triathlon - a little under two weeks away I am starting to get nervous. I have been putting in a lot of hard work and am excited to see how I do on race day. I am starting to get excited about fall marathon training too, which I am pretty surprised about. Seeing everyone starting training these past few weeks has me motivated to pay extra attention to my runs during these next few weeks of training.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Welcome Reminder to Take Care of My Body

For the first time in years (yes, years) I am really truly pushing my body. Don't get me wrong, I trained hard for my half marathon this past spring, definitely a lot harder than I trained for my other running races. I did my share of hill repeats, tempo runs, track workouts and long runs and by no means did I skimp on them. There were times where my legs wanted nothing to do with running despite having a long run on schedule for the day. I had enough bad/sluggish runs to believe at the time that I was really pushing myself.

Yesterday I had a ride that reminded me of the feeling of exhaustion I would get about midway through the swim season. It would be during one of our 3.5 hour Saturday practices pushing 10,000 yards in one workout, and I would feel like all of my energy had been drained right out of me. No matter how hard I tried I wasn't moving very fast. I would have one of these practices sometime in December year after year and it was always the reminder I needed to take a little better care of my body.

After this past weekend's long ride I had an interval run to do on Sunday that was just plain miserable. Maybe it was this heat wave, maybe it was probably pushing it a little too hard on the ride or (most likely) it was some combination of the two. Despite running at paces I haven't seen in a really long time I still felt like crap out there. It felt like a bad run, the kind you get every so often that you plead with yourself to get through.

Knowing how rough that run was I made sure to recover well on Monday. I know that pushing myself so hard in one workout that it prevents me from doing the rest of the week's training is pointless and counterproductive. With my next race about 2.5 weeks away I wanted to be smart about my training. But then I got a little overexcited at Tuesday's track workout and probably ran too fast. It's somewhat rare for me to have runs where I feel great in the summer but on Tuesday I think I felt a little too good.

Going into Wednesday's ride I didn't feel particularly tired but that quickly changed once I started riding. I actually didn't even feel that bad during the ride, I just couldn't get up to the speeds I normally do. I wanted to do a hillier route and instead of focusing on the pace worried more about not dying on the hills. What surprised me most was normally when I don't hit the paces I want I kind of freak out. Although I wasn't happy about going so slow I was able to recognize that my body was tired and just didn't have the energy. I was also riding at 1:30 when it was 95 degrees with no shade, so there's that.

Apparently iPhone5 doesn't like these temps either

Yesterday's ride was the reminder I once again needed to take care of my body so I can continue to ask it to work hard. I know there are plenty of people who are putting in twice as many hours as me or more and handling it fine. Good for them. Sometimes I get frustrated that I used to be able to train close to twenty hours a week just fine and now I getting exhausted hitting 9-10. I have to constantly remind myself that swimming takes a lot less out of your body and is fairly quick to recover from, and also that it took years for me to build up to training that much. I'm not used to working my legs so hard and they are reminding me of it.

I am making sure to hydrate like crazy, get enough sleep, fuel properly and take my recovery workouts super easy, especially in this heat. Today I am heading up to a state park to get in some open water swimming and then to the gym for some shoulder stability exercises and core work. Between Friday, Saturday and Sunday I have a trail run, an interval run, a long ride and a swim to fit in. Hopefully the severe storms they are calling for on Saturday will pass. I'm hoping some time in the water will be exactly what my body needs to get ready for more training.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Big Day On the Bike

Yesterday was a big day for me. I had a two hour ride on the schedule and was very nervous about it. It was going to be my longest ride, done by myself, and done on a completely unfamiliar to me course. I didn't want to be so nervous about it but I was. To try to minimize my nerves some I decided to follow the route for a 30 mile ride that took place back in June. I figured the organizers of this ride probably chose roads that weren't very busy, plus I knew it was a popular ride meaning people had to like the route.

It was raining when I woke up so I decided to postpone the ride to around 12:30 which was not my smartest move. I normally have no trouble riding in the heat that wasn't the case today. It probably didn't help that I didn't drink anything before I left for the ride. Stupid, yes. Something I'm working on, also yes. I know it sounds silly but I really do forget to drink sometimes.

Despite a few things going wrong, I really enjoyed this ride. The ride went something like this: first ten miles I was smiling ear to ear, second 10 miles I was getting annoyed with my directions, last 10 miles I was ready to be done but still loving being out there. Even though I had the directions clipped to my bike, they were very confusing and I had to keep stopping to figure out where to go. Plus I ran out of water with about 6 miles left.

Looking back I feel silly for being so nervous. I enjoyed [almost] every minute of this ride, which for someone who hated riding last year, this is a big deal. It's kind of weird, when I'm riding with others or near cars I'm fairly anxious and nervous but when I'm out there all alone I'm completely at peace and happy. For most of the ride I had the road to myself and felt so good out there. The nice thing about being so new to riding is that I feel like I'm making so much progress with every ride.

33.31 miles - 2:03:14 - 16.2 mph

When I was so nervous about this ride to try to calm myself down I would say that I could do this ride easy and not worry about pace. Ironically I rode my longest ride to date at one of my fastest training paces to date. Funny how things work out. Next week I have another two hour long ride on the schedule and I'm planning on doing the same route. Despite my issues with the directions I really liked this route. It was the perfect mix of hills and nice flats.

My plan next week is to eat a bigger breakfast before heading out, start hydrating the night before, and bring a mix of gatorade and water with me. I also want to see if there is any place along the route to stop to fill up my bottles.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Progress In the Pool

After I quit swimming a few years ago my return to the pool was anything but graceful. I felt like I was flailing/drowning and was embarrassed by how slow I had gotten. I've been very open about my struggle to come to terms with all this, which I know sounds pretty dramatic of me but it was really hard to go from being a swimmer for 10 years to absolutely nothing.

Since quitting I hadn't swam regularly until this past spring. I started swimming 2-3 times a week while training for the Nike Women's Half Marathon but I wasn't doing anything too hard or long. I started noticing that the more I swam the more I actually liked it. It felt good to be back in the water but I had no desire to push myself because I knew the times I would see would leave me upset.

So after a few months of just getting used to being back in the pool and focusing on my technique I'm finally ready to put in some work. I am nowhere near where I was when I swam competitively but my times have certainly been getting faster. I am noticing that I can go harder for longer without dying off. I've also learned that I don't speed to spend a whole lot of time in the pool to see progress.

Yesterday I had a swim workout that consisted of 2 x 150 moderate, 3 x 100 hard, 6 x 50 max, with a 300 in between. One thing that I've gotten really good at with swimming is knowing what a certain pace feels like. I am terrible with this with running and biking, but swimming, good to go! Based on paces I've previously held I decided to do the 1:50s at a 1:20 pace, 100s at 1:15 and 50s at 1:10 or faster. In the past anything between 1:20-1:15 was a good pace but faster than 1:15 was pretty challenging.

On every single repeat I either finished in my goal time or was one second faster. With only 10 seconds rest between each repeat I was nervous that I wouldn't be able to hold those paces but to my surprise I held them with relative ease. I definitely wasn't going easy but more like a controlled comfortably hard pace.

Throw back to districts, sophomore year!

I know I'm never going to be back to the speed or endurance in the pool that I used to be at but its really nice to be going in that direction. It's also nice that no matter how hard the workout (unless it's more than 10,000 yards but hopefully I will never see that kind of yardage again), swimming hardly takes anything out of me. I may not be the best running or cyclist out there, although I am making a lot of progress, its really comforting and exciting to have swimming completely taken care of. Now to continue the streak of being first out of the water at all my races this summer!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Triathlon, I Love You

I know I've mentioned this since starting triathlon training a few weeks ago but I am surprised how much I am loving this sport. It makes sense, considering I grew up as a swimmer and have been running for a couple years now. Last summer when I trained for my first triathlon, I wanted to love the sport but truth be told I didn't. I hated biking and was still at war with the pool since quitting swimming. My first triathlon was somewhat of a nightmare due largely to temps well over 100.

I enjoyed the race but felt very intimidated by all of the faster athletes with all of their fancy gear. My second triathlon was my first glimpse into how much I would come to love this sport. I had a plan and despite having a mechanical error that had me sidelined for a few minutes I was able to really push it on the bike and still hammer on the run. I very quickly jumped into a half-assed marathon training cycle that has left me still nervous about training for another marathon.

After I quit swimming I took up running because I wanted something else to do. I had identified as a swimmer for the majority of my life and suddenly I was no longer a swimmer. After watching coverage of the NYC Marathon from my tiny dorm in Pittsburgh I decided I wanted to be a runner. Even though I had always been terrible at running it seemed logical to me at the time and so I started my journey to becoming a runner.

This past spring I trained for the first time for a running race with a true goal in mind. I worked really hard and crushed my goal but something was still missing. I had to really force myself to do a lot of the training and even though I told myself I was loving it I really wasn't. Don't get me wrong, there were a lot of things I did love about training but finding the motivation to get out and train every day was more of a struggle than it should have been. And despite running a marathon and five half marathons with my PR being a 1:49 I still didn't feel comfortable calling myself a runner.

I wanted to be a runner but I didn't feel like one. I felt like I didn't love running enough to be a runner. I also didn't think I had the experience or was fast enough. I blamed this on swimming. I was a good swimmer and swam for almost 10 years. I earned my right to be called a swimmer. For a while I accepted that I would never be a runner but rather a person who did running races (yes there is a difference).

Then I started triathlon training. Under Mike's guidance I feel like my training has a purpose and a plan. Between the last few weeks of training and my two first races of the season I feel amazing. I had a breakthrough in the pool and am finally able to enjoy swimming again, and I am loving biking. Last year I dreaded riding and this year I'm practically counting down the days until I can ride again.

I am excited about training every single day and look forward to putting in more, harder work. During this weekend's race was when I noticed the transformation though. I was nervous before the race, but not because I was nervous about failing to meet my goal, but rather because it actually meant something to me. As soon as I got in the water my mind calmed and my body just knew what to do. And on both the bike and the run I couldn't help but think that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

I doubted, and still do I must say, my abilities as a runner. With triathlon it's different. I want to be good and I'm not scared about finding out how good I can become. I want to do the work and I believe I am capable of a lot more. I can't quite put into words why but I feel completely at ease calling myself a triathlete. Despite having minimal racing experience both my mind and my body somehow knew what to do on Sunday and I trusted that because it felt so right. I haven't felt this at ease or natural with something since swimming and I am excited to see where it takes me.

Monday, July 1, 2013

York YWCA Ladies Sprint Triathlon Race Report

Triathlon #2 for the year is in the books! I wasn't entirely sure what to expect coming into this race, especially after racing just last weekend and having a less than stellar run, but this race exceeded all my expectations. I would definitely recommend this event to any girls looking to do a triathlon in south central Pennsylvania.

Since the race took place less than 5 miles from my house I was able to sleep in some, waking up at 6:10 and arriving at transition around 6:40. I'm not entirely sure why but I was so nervous for this race. I can honestly not remember the last time I was this nervous for anything so needless to say my stomach was not too cooperative. I was nervous about how little I was able to get down. About 20 minutes before the race start I headed over to the pool to get in a warm up.

Before I knew it it was time to line up for the race. Since the swim portion was in a pool things were a little unusual. The first swimmer would enter the pool and do a 50 in each lane and then swim under the lane line to the next lane until they reached the other end of the pool, with the next swimmer entering the pool in 20 second intervals and following the same pattern. Although I was slightly annoyed not being the first seeded swimmer it really helped that a former teammate of mine got that honor and I was able to relax a bit.

The Swim (500 yards)
I didn't feel too great during the swim, partly because my SOAS racing kit (which I am obsessed with) was creating a whole lot of drag, particularly when I pushed off the walls. Instead of panicking about feeling slow I told myself to let my body what it knows how to do best. I relaxed into the swim and zoned out and with a couple laps to go I was closing in on the girl in front of me. If I would have pushed it I could have caught her but I didn't want to start the bike with a higher than necessary heart rate.

Swim + run to T1: 7:38 / 1st AG / 1st overall
T1: 1:07

The Bike (15 miles)
I was pleasantly surprised that on the [long] run to transition that I was able to actually run without feeling dizzy or nauseous. With one biker in front of me I set out in pursuit of taking the lead as quickly as possible. Since the race is so close to home I have trained on this route before so I knew what to expect. I'm not a big fan of this bike course but was prepared to not let that get in my way. Within the first few miles there is a pretty big climb where I was able to pass some of the duathetes, who's race started 15 min before the triathlon.

Given how nervous I was before the race I was shocked with how calm I was during the race. My mind was calm and somehow I just knew what to do without thinking too much about anything. Once I got past the two big climbs on the course I started to pick it up. With around 5 miles left I had passed all of the duathletes and was now leading the bike. Without even realizing it I was in the same situation heading into the run as I was in last weekend.

Bike: 54:10 / 16.7 avg / 1st AG / 9th overall
T2: :33

The Run (3.1 miles)
After last week's run I was determined to not let that happen again. I was excited to be out running but had no idea how close any other participants were. I was hoping the staggered swim start would give me enough time to make it across the finish line first. Again I was much calmer this time and all of the breathing issues I had last weekend were a thing of the past. The run course takes place on one of my favorite running routes that I know inside and out. I didn't wear my watch so I wouldn't get upset with my time, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Although I was certainly tired out there I felt really strong. Not that I know much about running form but I could tell that even that was pretty good (for me at least). The race finished with a lap around the track, which also happens to be the track I train on. I was really hurting by this point and just wanted to be done but as soon as I entered the track it was like I had another gear. Something about the track just makes me run faster.

Run: 24:29 / 7:54 pace / 1st AG / 5th overall

I ended up crossing the finish line first with a time that I had never thought I could do. After getting a drink it was time to play the waiting game and see how I would place. While waiting I was interviewed by the local paper which was pretty cool. I was anxious to find out my run time too. I was thinking I probably ran something around a 26:00-26:30, only to find out I was cruising much faster than that. My run split was probably the biggest shock of the day.

Finish Time: 1:27:57 / 1st AG / 3rd overall

This race confirmed how much I love this sport. I know I'm not the fastest out there but it comes so naturally to me and just feels right. Now I have a few weeks before racing an Olympic distance triathlon down in Virginia on August 3. I'm ready to put in some solid training and see what I can do with a bigger field and more experience under my belt.