Monday, June 24, 2013

Codorus Blast Sprint Triathlon Race Report

I kicked off my triathlon season this past weekend with a short but sweet sprint triathlon that was about 30 minutes from my house. I went into this race with the plan being to use it more as a training day and to practice being back in a race setting. It was nice the night before and the morning of the race not being super stressed out about it. Although there wasn't much info about the race on the website I thought it would have been a little more organized than it was. I didn't really mind but there wasn't even an official transition area-we just leaned our bikes up against a bunch of trees.

I knew from the previous year's results that this was a small race so going into it my goal was to place in my age group if I could but the age group was 20-29 and there were some fast girls that did it last year so I wasn't going to be too bummed if it didn't happen. One nice thing about this race was the pre-race meeting they had. It was pretty long but athletes were allowed to ask whatever they wanted and the race directors covered a lot of details. The meeting did put us behind schedule though and with an already late start of 10:00 I was ready to get started.

The Swim
The men started in their own wave with the women following behind about 2-3 minutes later. We noticed that the current was taking the men off course a little so I made sure to not make that mistake myself. I was hoping to find a faster swimmer to draft off of during the swim but within the first few minutes I found myself ahead of the group and swimming alone. Since I was going to be on my own for the swim I went more like conservatively hard so I could save enough energy for the bike and the run.

Right around the turn around buoy I started catching the men. I ended up running a few people over so I moved a bit wide to avoid running more over and to avoid crashing into the swimmers that hadn't turned around yet. I had trouble sighting because there weren't really buoys to tell you were to go on the way back and at that point the water had gotten pretty choppy from so many people swimming towards each other. I definitely slowed down at the end because I was actually starting to get a bit seasick from all the chop.

Swim: 13:46 / 1:34 pace / 1st AG / 1st female 
T1: 1:34

The Bike
Once I got out of the water I was greeted with lots of cheers for being the first female. I made the long trek over to the transition area, grabbed my bike and was quickly on my way. I could tell my heart rate was high so I tried to settle into the bike and relax for a few minutes. Since this was a very small race I hardly saw anybody during the whole bike course. I passed one guy and was able to keep one guy in my line of sight for 95% of the ride but that was it.

I didn't know how hilly the course was going to be so I tried to stay cautious and not go too hard early on but I think the adrenaline of being in first place got the best of me. There were a few parts of the course where the road was covered in gravel that caused my bike to feel like it was going to slide out from under me, and there was one big downhill with a big hump in the road that caused me to be air born for a quick second, which was pretty scary as I was sure I was going down.

As I was entering the park I was shocked that none of the other females had caught me. I knew I had a fast bike split but I didn't ride with my pace being displayed so I really didn't know how well I had done. Once off the bike I tried to ease into the run but between already racing for almost an hour and the heat of running at 11 was starting to get to me. I knew with how little I had been running that I was surely going to suffer a bit.

Bike: 38:05 / 17.5 pace / 1st AG / 3rd female 
T2: :37

The Run
Not long after starting the run I saw another girl coming in on the bike and knew she would be passing me quickly. I loved being in first for so long but I knew I was not going to win this race so I wasn't devastated when I finally did get passed. I was hoping to be able to hold on and get third but those girls were just running too fast for me. Although the run was definitely a challenge for me I was expecting to feel worse.

The run course seemed to drag on and on and I was becoming quite irritable about not being done yet. Soon enough, though, the finish line was in sight. The last half of the run was on trails so returning to paved roads felt really nice for the last minute or so. I ended up finishing 13th overall, 4th female and first in my age group. So many people came up to me after the race asking if I had won and as frustrating as it was to keep answering "no," I knew I wasn't going to win and I'm thrilled with this race.

Run: 30:05 / 9:42 pace / 2nd AG / 6th female 

Finish Time: 1:24:09

I loved getting out there and actually competing, not just participating. I am doing another sprint triathlon this coming weekend where I'm hoping to fix some of the mistakes I made.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Day In & Day Out

I can't pinpoint a reason why but my mindset has changed over the past few weeks and definitely for the better. I've always been a competitive person but when I first started running I wanted to improve as quickly as possible. I had absolutely no clue what I was doing and it showed. I had this idea in my head that if I had one bad day of training or missed a workout everything that I had done would go to waste. I would get stressed and panic about the silliest of things.

Somewhere along the way my mindset changed. Bad days happen to even the best athletes out there. They are inevitable and are no excuse to give up. It is much more beneficial to acknowledge that it is an off day and make up for it the next day. I've had quite a few days where I felt like complete crap and I got through them by telling myself that tomorrow would be better. Sometimes it was and sometimes it wasn't but crappy days don't last forever.

I've also started to realize that some progress is better than no progress, or worse, losing fitness. On Wednesday I had a ride on the schedule. I wanted to get out and practice riding the course for the triathlon I'm doing next weekend. I've ridden the course in full or a variation of it twice before and there are some winding downhills and sharp turns that I really need to work on.

At the end of the ride I was bummed that I didn't ride faster, despite a lot more wind than I'm used to and legs that were pretty darn tired. I rode the course about 10 minutes faster than previously but was upset I didn't go even faster. I quickly realized how ridiculous I was being and that I need to celebrate making progress. I am not a very patient person but I'm learning that putting in the work every single day might lead to small bits of progress in the beginning, but after awhile those small bits of progress can add up to some huge improvements.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

Somewhat going along with Monday's post is the idea of getting out of your comfort zone. I like to be comfortable, as I'm sure most people do. Trying new things stresses me out and for the most part I would rather just stick to my habits and continue on my way. I've been trying to change this way of thinking because I don't want to miss out on opportunities because I was afraid to get a little uncomfortable.

I have a vocal cord disorder that when I start getting really stressed or anxious my vocal cords close up, making it sometimes impossible to breathe. I have learned the signs and can identify when this is starting to happen so I can hopefully make some adjustments. The worst thing about having this disorder was for years when I would start feeling my vocal cords closing up and my breathing becoming labored I would freak out even more, which only made things worse. It was a vicious cycle that for the most part I know how to control.

It was for a short time but I never thought I would see that pace

The first few times I went out biking this year I could feel my vocal cords closing as soon as I would start riding. I was way more nervous that I had any right to be. Once I got out on the road I quickly realized how much fun riding is. I have since had the very-obvious-to-everyone-else-bu- no- to-me epiphany that the only way to get more comfortable riding is to ride more. Duh!

This past Sunday I went on a group ride that previewed the course for an upcoming triathlon I'm doing. A few miles into the ride I noticed how much my mental game has changed when it comes to riding. I used to be terrified of riding with a group but yet here I was with 14 other riders climbing hills I always thought were too big for me. Instead of being nervous about the ride I was excited to be trying something new.

I might not be the best cyclist (trust me, I'm far from it) but the more I ride the more I'm improving. The funny thing, to me at least, is that last summer I would try to plan routes based on the hills. This summer I'm doing the same thing except instead of trying to ride as few hills as possible I'm constantly trying to challenge myself and find a bigger or steeper hill to climb.

I've quickly come to the conclusion that the things we fear the most and are so afraid to try are often the things that turn out to be the most rewarding.

You Might Surprise Yourself

I have learned so much about myself both as a person and as an athlete this year. I am a control freak and when I cannot control things I get very anxious and irrational. My big resolution for 2013 was to be more risky and take more chances though. I don't want to have regrets or miss out on things because I was too busy being OCD about every little thing. There have been countless things that I swore I liked or disliked only to find out that the opposite is actually true.

Friday I had a swim workout on the schedule. 3 x 500. Going into the workout I was not looking forward to those 500's. If it were up to me (it's not), I would do shorter repeats like 50's or 100's. I thought anything more than a 200 was terribly boring. After I finished my warm up, I got to work on those 500's. I had spent the entire warm up thinking of ways to mentally entertain myself so I wouldn't get insufferably bored.

Those 500's were something I needed to do, not only because I am in the middle of triathlon training and need to swim regularly, but because I felt like myself for the first time in years. Yes, years. A part of my heart will always belong to swimming and the pool will always be my home. When I quit swimming I felt like I didn't belong in the water anymore. I felt like a fake. 

During those 500's I felt so at peace yet so fired up at the same time. I felt strong and graceful. I realized during those 500's that although I will never be the swimmer I used to be I am still a swimmer and have every right to be in that pool. I may never be as fast as I once was but I am still a heck of a lot faster than most people will ever be. I know how my body works in the water in ways that most people will never figure out.

This pool will always give me butterflies in my stomach

I spent years resenting swimming and avoiding it like a math exam but after Friday's workout I can say that the pool and I are on better terms. During high school the 500 was one of my best events. I knew how to pace it and it was the perfect distance for me. I loved everything about the 500. While I was doing my 500's on Friday I had that indescribable feeling where you know that you are exactly where you are supposed to be and that everything is going to be okay.

During the last 500 was when I realized that this was the most I've enjoyed a workout in the pool. There was actually a moment where I said to myself "I can't believe how much I love doing these longer sets. I thought I hated workouts like this." I know it's cheesy to say that triathlon and running are metaphors for life and blah blah blah but I never would have expected to learn so much about myself from this sport. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Turning Point

This past weekend marked a turning point for me. When I was swimming it was very easy for me to set goals for myself. I knew what I was capable of and I was passionate about the sport. When I started running I tried setting goals but it just wasn't the same. I hadn't been running long enough to know what kinds of goals to set and for awhile I just kind of ran with no sense of direction. At the start of 2013 my goal was to break two hours in the half marathon. I had done enough halves to know that with some work it would be possible. Training went better than I could have imagined, mainly due to working with Mike, and I found myself setting new goals.

I started thinking that I could run under 1:55 and then I set the goal of running under 1:50. I didn't tell anyone about this goal because even though I thought it was possible, a part of me thought it was a completely outrageous goal. When I crossed the finish line of the Nike Women's Half Marathon with a time of 1:49:57 I was ecstatic. I was so proud of myself and smiled ear to ear for the following week.

At the same time something was missing, I just don't think I realized it at the time. Over the past couple weeks I have been getting more and more excited about my triathlon season this summer. Instead of thinking about racing with fear and nerves, I kept wondering how soon I could go do a race.

Over the weekend I found out that a former teammate and good friend of mine did a triathlon. When I found out I was shocked at my reaction. Normally when friends of mine would race half marathons or other running races I would assume they would beat me and I would feel defeated. This time, however, I felt competitive. I can't explain what happened but all I kept thinking about was how much I want to race.

It took almost an entire day for me to realize what was happening. After doing only 2 triathlons last year I never thought I would feel such a connection to the sport. I still have so much to work on and I am by no means fast but I don't feel like a fake calling myself a triathlete. Sometimes I never feel like I will be a runner, but a triathlete, now that sounds great.

For the first time in years I felt a passion that I hadn't felt since swimming. I may not be very good right now but I want to be great. I also like the idea of actually racing versus being one participant among thousands of others. I like competing and I forgot just how much. The ironic part about all of this is that for a few days I thought about bagging triathlon entirely this year and just focusing on running. Good thing that didn't happen!

Friday, June 7, 2013

I Think I'm Starting to Like Cycling

After how much I enjoyed riding over the weekend I decided to attend a beginner ride that a local bike shop was hosting on Monday evening. I went to the ride once last summer and had a great time so I was looking forward to returning. When I went on the ride last year there were only two other riders but this time there were fourteen of us in all. I was really nervous when I saw how many people were there but it turned out to be not such a big deal.

For the first few miles of the ride I hung towards the back since I didn't know how fast everyone else would be going and I didn't want to get in anybody's way. After the first few minutes my nerves went away and I was able to relax a bit. One of the things I really liked about this ride is the general lack of cars. After hearing of a few too many bikers being hit by cars down by school I am extra picky about where I will go riding. Although there were a few roads that were a bit more busy, for the most part we were able to take the whole road without thinking twice about it.

Once I got comfortable riding around so many other people I started to work my way up the pack. Since I had absolutely no idea where in York County we even were I didn't want to be too close to the front but I also didn't want to go slower I had to. What surprised me the most was how well I did on the very few hills. I have always thought of myself as the worlds worst hill climber but I am starting to think that maybe I just don't know how to pace myself on hills. Even though the ride was on the slower side for what I would have liked I am hoping to go back at least for the next few weeks since I had such a great time.

Wednesday I also had a great ride. I took my road bike out for the first time by myself and did so much better than I expected. Since the roads near by house are some big roads with some crazy driving I typically drive somewhere else to ride, and on Wednesday I decided to go up to Pinchot. I did a lot of training at Pinchot last summer so it was nice to go back to see what kind of work I need to do.

I ended up doing the course for the Keystone State Sprint Triathlon, which is 2 laps of a 9 mile loop with 2 big (for me) climbs each loop. I tried to take the first lap easy and then go harder on the second lap. While the first lap wasn't entirely easy because of the two climbs, I still felt like I had plenty of energy going into the second lap. Although I struggled a bit on the climbs during the second lap the whole ride went incredibly well.

Not only did I ride faster but I also felt a million times more comfortable on the bike and even hit 33 mph on a downhill (which scared the shit out of me). Last summer I would typically average between 40-45 minutes for one lap while my lap splits on Wednesday were 34:22 and 33:21. This was also the first training ride I've done where the total elevation gain was over 1000. These might not seem that magnificent but for me this ride was a big deal. My confidence on the bike is starting to rise and I am excited to see how much improvement I can make before the end of the summer.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Making Dietary Changes

I try to eat healthy and I would say that I probably eat healthier than the average 20 year old but I've been noticing lately just how much my diet affects both my training and my daily life. I don't eat any meat and haven't since I was 16. I do eat seafood and dairy though. As a child I was pretty allergic to dairy and I think I still have minor dairy allergies today (after eating dairy I can't stop coughing and clearing my throat). Because of this I generally try to stay away from eating a lot of dairy. I also have a tendency to overeat, especially when I'm bored, so I try to keep only healthy foods at my apartment.

Now that I'm living at home for the summer it is a lot easier to eat some less than healthy foods. The first weeks being home I tried to eat mostly healthy but had the occasional junk food. I figured having a small portion wouldn't be that big of a deal. After a week or two of being home I started to feel like crap though. I felt like I had no energy and by late evening my stomach hurt really badly. One night after eating a bowl of ice cream I came to the conclusion that what I was eating explained why I felt so terrible.

Since I haven't been tested for food allergies since I was a child and as of now I don't think it is necessary, I am going to experiment with what I eat. A few years a friend of mine cut out common food allergens such as dairy, soy, nuts, corn, etc each one week at a time and kept a journal of how she felt each week. By the end of the experiment she had figured out which foods were causing her trouble. While I don't think this is at all necessary for me since her experiment (which was given to her by her doctor) was pretty extreme, I do think a variation of it could prove to be helpful.

For a few weeks I am going to try to eliminate as much dairy and processed foods as possible. While I don't think this will be very challenging at home it could get tricky if I go out somewhere or if I'm at my boyfriend's house. My hope is that if I don't eat dairy or processed foods for a few weeks I will feel better and know they are the cause of me feeling so crappy. If I don't see changes then I have no idea what I'm going to do but I certainly won't be happy.

*When I say processed foods I mean foods you find in your pantry such as crackers, white bread, chips, etc. I am not eliminating carbs from my diet but will be choosing whole wheat options and quinoa. I do not think that eating gluten is the problem so I am not eliminating it. Also, I have taken nutrition classes and will not be doing anything stupid. I will be consuming a healthy amount of calories and protein. The point of this is to cut out unnecessarily crappy foods and hopefully start feeling better.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Training Update

Since the semester ended and I came home for the summer I've been making the switch to triathlon training. I was a little hesitant about jumping right back into training and even more hesitant about this whole triathlon thing. I tried to get myself excited about it but it just wasn't happening. Not to mention my running for a few weeks was pretty nonexistent and when I did run it was just terrible. Although I swam competitively for 10 years, I don't always love swimming now and then there's biking. Oh, biking. Biking does not come naturally for me at all. I've always known how to ride a bike but besides the basics I have very limited knowledge. Couple all this together and you get one uncoordinated and unmotivated triathlete.

Things have been starting to get better during the last week or so. I was riding and swimming consistently and even started strength training again. Running was still the problem though. Friday night I needed to get a run in and decided to head to a local park to do some trail running. Trail running = no pressure to go fast. This was not an easy run but I felt pretty good. There were a few times I had to walk because the trail got too technical but in general I felt much better than I had been feeling during runs. And I more than made up for the lack of hills I've been running. I'm pretty sure I ran straight uphill for the last half of my run.

Saturday marked another turning point for me. I finally took my road bike outside for a ride. I've ridden it plenty of times on the trainer and had been riding my hybrid until I could bring my road bike back home. HOLYOMG what a difference! I wanted to take the bike out for the first time with my boyfriend since he bikes pretty regularly and would be able to help/answer the millions of questions I had. We drove up to Pinchot State Park, about 25 minutes away, to ride somewhere I felt comfortable. Although there are some decent hills, there are generally not many cars and a wide shoulder making me feel a lot safer.

I should've probably mentioned that biking kind of scares the crap out of me. I have no idea why but it does. Once we got there we rode around the parking lot for a few minutes and then headed out. I couldn't believe how much faster I was going. Especially on the downhills, which still terrified me. And the uphills, which normally would destroy me were not nearly as bad. By the end of the ride (which was only a short 10 miles) I actually felt comfortable on the bike. Now all I want to do is ride! As my boyfriend says, I got bit by the biking bug.

Back when I got my bike. I'm pretty much 
obsessed with it now

I am around 4 weeks out from my first race of the season and am really excited to get to work and see what I can do. I'm still not entirely sure which races I'm doing this summer but I've definitely decided on the York YWCA Women's Sprint Triathlon on June 30. I will most likely do the Culpepper International on August 3 but am not completely sold yet. I also just discovered a small sprint triathlon about 20 minutes away the weekend before the Women's Sprint. I might do both but do the first one as more of practice. The water will be 67-69 and I don't have a wetsuit so that could be a deciding factor.