Tuesday, January 28, 2014

2014 Training Focuses

2014 is all about getting out of my comfort zone and trying new things. For me, this means taking my racing and training to the next level. I had a really great year in 2013 with a PR at pretty much every single race I did but I also got injured and then ran a marathon with that injury. I tried time off, I tried cross training and I tried physical therapy to alleviate my knee pain. Although my injury came towards the end of the year, my therapist and I both think that it was a culmination of a few things throughout the entire year. That and a somewhat major biomechanical issue. So while I enjoyed my training last year and saw a lot of success, I am making some changes this year to hopefully race stronger and faster, and stay healthy.

First, periodization. I took advantage of a trial period for the premium version of TrainingPeaks and put their annual training plan and virtual coach features to good use. I was really struggling with how to structure the year since my two A races are only two months apart and not even for 7.5 months. I am used to training for a race that is 12-16 weeks away and then switching to training for something else. With the annual training plan I have a rough schedule of when I should be prepping, base building, peaking and tapering. This is still something I am mentally struggling with as I won't be doing too hard of workouts for quite some time. Everything I've read about taking training to that next level talks about the importance of periodization so I'm going to trust that this will work out.

Focusing on triathlon. In the past I have trained for both running races and triathlons during one year without too much overlap. Yes I did some swimming and biking while training for the Nike Women's Half last spring but my focus was on running, and then almost half of my training for the NYC Marathon overlapped with triathlon training. This year I am putting all my eggs in the triathlon basket. Any running races that I do will be simply to see where I am with my training. I am taking a long term approach with triathlon and hoping that the more specialized training will pay off.

Strength training. I have been regularly strength training for about two months now and can see a noticeable difference in my body. Not only do I look stronger, but I feel stronger. I initially started lifting to help aid the recovery process for that nagging knee injury. Now strength training is something I look forward to each week. There have been periods of time in the past where I went to the gym regularly but this never lasted more than 2-3 months. My annual training plan has me lifting twice a week until the end of April, switching to once a week until the end of May, and then cutting out lifting until the middle of August before adding back in one day through the end of the season. I'm not sure I want to cut out lifting entirely so I may just do some exercises that are easier on the body to maintain some strength. And regular core work will be done all season.

Recovery. If you haven't noticed the theme of this post is don't get injured this year. While I certainly don't have everything in pointed down, I've noticed a trend of doing yoga every summer, stopping yoga, getting injured in the fall. My body feels so good after going to yoga and it doesn't hurt that my mind calms the eff down too. My local Lululemon store has free in-store yoga every Sunday morning that I'm going to do my best to go to, but when I can't I'm going to make doing yoga on my own a priority.

Regular foam rolling and stretching fall under this category too. For awhile I was doing both of these things daily but lately I've been slacking. I've been hearing more and more about the benefits of foam rolling before you run either in addition to or in place of after you run. My IT band has a history of getting pretty tight and wreaking havoc on my legs and hips so I'm going to do whatever I can to keep it happy and healthy.

Nutrition. It's no secret that nutrition is something that I have long struggled with. After reading The New Rules of Marathon and Half Marathon Nutrition I was able to make sense of this puzzle. After implementing some tips from the book into my both my daily life and my training I was able to notice a difference. I ate a few too many cookies this holiday season so right now my main focus in this department is getting rid of some extra weight.

I also recently picked up Racing Weight and if it is even half as valuable as his other book I know I will be making a lot of progress in this department. I'm learning what my ideal race weight is and how to best fuel my body. My biggest thing I want to have a healthy relationship with food.

Work on my weaknesses. Everybody, no matter how good an athlete, has weaknesses. I think most people try to ignore their weaknesses and work extra on their strengths because people tend to like their strengths. Of course it's hard to spend extra time on something you do not enjoy. But I really think that as much as you may hate staring at that black line on the bottom of the pool for hours on end, eventually you can turn your weakness into a strength and make it enjoyable.

So what are my weaknesses? My biggest overall weakness is the run. Even though I have less biking experience I seem to be able to hold my own on the bike better than on the run portion of triathlons. More specific weaknesses include terrible bike handling skills and a fear of descending quickly, my open water swim is not nearly as strong as my pool swim, partly because I am terrible at sighting, and anything that involves heat and humidity. I know hot and humid is not ideal conditions for a race but some people can handle these elements better than others. I am not one of them. Since triathlons are during the summer when the East coast is both hot and humid, I need to figure out a way to get better at both racing and training in these conditions.

Train to the course. Two of the triathlons I did last year were local, meaning that I was able to train on the course. I didn't realize how valuable this was until I went out of state for a race and was caught off guard by certain turns or potholes in the road. Four out of my five races this year will be on courses than I can train on, and if I could make an extra trip to Milwaukee to get in some training on the nationals course, I would. That's how important I think this is.

Aside from actually training on the course, I am going to train on similar courses. Most of my races are hillier, which is fine because I live in a hilly area and it's hard to ride without hills. The course for nationals is mostly flat, and while that should be easier, I am actually worse on flat courses compared to my competitors. I am a believer that training on hills will benefit you on any course so I am by no means going to be cutting out hills but I am going to do some earlier season long rides and tempo rides without hills.

Friday, January 24, 2014

I Lift Things Up and Put Them Down

Although I ended up taking six weeks off from running while at home on break, I did regularly go to the gym to lift some weights. I started lifting ~2 weeks after the NYC Marathon as part of my rehab for my knee and never looked back. I've dabbled off and on with lifting but never really had a plan. It was more like I would get to the gym and do whatever sounded good that day. I suppose it was better than nothing but it wasn't really the best idea.

When I got injured I realized I needed to take care of my weaknesses and imbalances so I did a little research about what exercises would be best. For awhile I followed the plan I had developed for myself to a tee but more recently have been experimenting a little. I'm still a little confused about the periodization of strength training but I know that what little I do know is better than knowing nothing at all. For the most part the exercises that I do are recommended for runners or triathletes or specifically for me from my physical therapist.

Depending on how long I've been doing each exercises I do 1 or two sets of 15 reps. I included the weight I use for each exercise in case anyone is curious or doesn't know where to start. I use dumbbells for everything so the weight listed is for each  dumbbell, i.e. total weight would be doubled.

Upper body
  • lateral dumbbell raises           7lbs
  • bicep curl + shoulder press   15lbs
  • bench press                           2 x 15lbs
  • plank rows                            20lbs
  • lat pull down                          2 x 90lbs
  • tricep extension                     60lbs
  • push-ups                               3 x 15 reps
Lower body
  • Bosu ball squats                     2 x 15 reps
  • swiss ball hamstring curls        2 x 15 reps
  • single leg dead lifts                 20lbs
  • single leg squats                     no weight
  • planks
  • Russian twists                       20 reps
  • Mason twists                          80 reps with 8lbs medicine ball
  • in & outs                                 40 reps
  • single leg v-ups                      40 reps
  • Bosu ball single leg balancing  5 x as long as I can balance on each leg
  • hip flexor burners                      35 reps each leg
  • clams                                        2 x 20 reps each side
Hopefully in another month or two I'll be able to report back about how much progress I've made and how adding regular strength training has helped my swim, bike, running. I've been adding and subtracting some exercises based on how I like them and to add in some more variety. 

What are your favorite strength exercises to do? I'm starting to get bored with this routine so please share!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Training Update

Getting back into the swing of training has been harder than I expected. After my dad died I stopped running, at first because I was so busy and mentally exhausted, and then because I'd gotten too used to being lazy. I've spent a few days working on coming up with a year long training plan to get me from zero to 70.3 strong and fast. In the past I have done multiple training plans each year as I trained for a variety of races each year. The biggest change I'm making for 2014 is that from start to September-October I will be working towards the same goal. My two big goal races for the year are age group nationals in August and then a half ironman in September or October.

I'm finding it hard to get motivated to train when my goal races seem so far away. I know taking a long term approach will be the best for my training but it's really easy to lose sight of why I am logging miles. What's helping is focusing on the races I have coming up this spring. Although the only race officially on the calendar is the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, I am planning on signing up for the Columbia Triathlon in May and will probably also do a local 10k or 15k as a tuneup race before Cherry Blossom.

Since last Monday I've run four times. Each time has gotten a little bit easier but running is still hard right now. I guess not running for six weeks will do that for you. I'm trying to be really careful with increasing my mileage because I'm not completely clear on the status of my knee. Although I trained really hard last year I think my knee injury was caused in part by doing my long runs too hard. Right now I'm at a point where my knee doesn't hurt at all while running but the most I've run is only three miles so I'm trying to remain cautiously optimistic. I'm making sure all of my runs are super easy for a few weeks before increasing my mileage and then eventually adding in some workouts.

All of my runs have also been with my dog whose only speeds are 10:00 miles or 7:00 miles. Running with her keeps me from trying to speed up because I don't like the paces I see on my watch. A lot of people have recommended running without a watch for my easy runs so I'm not worrying about my pace, and while I think that's a good idea for some people, it's not what I want to do right now. I need to learn to accept whatever pace my watch shoes and not let it upset me, regardless of whether it is a long run, and easy run or a track workout.

Yesterday I did an easy two miles in the middle of winter storm Janus [what kind of name is that, seriously?]. The roads had already been plowed once so there was only a few inches down. I ended up slipping twice but luckily didn't hurt anything. It was cold, it was wet, but it was refreshing. I could barely feel my face by the time I returned to my house but I loved every minute I was out there. There is something so peaceful about putting fresh tracks down as the snow is falling. Runs like these remind me why I love running so much.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Team SOAS!

On the heels of qualifying for nationals and laying out my goals for the next couple years I am here to announce that I will be a part of the 2014 SOAS Racing amateur team!

I first heard about SOAS through twitter towards the end of 2012. I asked for a kit for my birthday not knowing much about the company, only that I liked how cute the kits were. I ended up racing all five of my triathlons last year in my kit. The tri shorts are extremely comfortable thanks to the low-rise waist band and it is evident that the kits were designed with women in mind.

When I saw that SOAS was looking for applicants for their 2014 team, I jumped at the chance. Much to my surprise, I made the cut!

The day before I got my email I was thinking about how lonely endurance sports can get. Growing up as a swimmer I was constantly surrounded by my teammates. While there was a brief period when I preferred to be alone, lately I have found myself longing for teammates. While my new teammates will be all around the country, it is the camaraderie and support that I am looking forward to.

I am thrilled to represent a brand that I support inside and out and whose products I truly love.

You can find more info about SOAS on their blog, twitter, facebook, and website.

If the first half of January is an indication of how the rest of 2014 is going to play out I am in for one incredible ride.

Monday, January 13, 2014

And So It Begins

Maybe it's because I've been thinking about how short life really is, maybe it's just my competitive nature but lately I've been thinking about how much more I want out of 2014. Although I spent a lot of time thinking about what specific goals I want to chase this year, more than anything I want to take my racing to the next level. This was reinforced when I received this email from USAT about a week ago. Something about racing against the best in the nation makes you want to train even harder.

2014 was supposed to be the year of the half ironman and I'd known this for almost a year and a half. At some point I came up with a longer term plan that included short distance racing in 2013, a half in 2014 and finally a full ironman in 2015. Knowing I would be graduating college in December 2014 and not starting grad school until August 2015 gave me a window of time with little responsibilty and an ideal time to train for an ironman. And although some people can go from zero to ironman, I wanted to do a half before committing to a full before dropping that kind of cash on a race.

For a few months I had thought I qualified for nationals but I never received the email so I assumed I hadn't. Given that nationals are in Milwaukee and I'm in Baltimore my parents weren't too on board with me racing. Knowing that my main goal for the year was doing a half ironman I thought even if I did qualify for nationals I wouldn't ask to go. Qualifying was the hard part, I just wanted the email.

The minute that email landed in my inbox I knew I had to find a way to get myself to Milwaukee. Only once or twice before had I felt such a strong pull towards a race. For one, I didn't know when the next opportunity to go to nationals would be after graduating. The biggest reason was that I knew I couldn't find competition like this anywhere else. I don't expect to be competitive at this caliber race but knowing just how top notch the other athletes are brings my motivation to a whole other level.

Once the initial excitement of this wore off I started panicking about how to structure my training for the year. I was originally planning on making my A races an Olympic distance triathlon in May and the half ironman in September. Throwing nationals into the mix in October changes everything though. I knew I wanted to shift my focus to racing fast in Milwaukee but I felt lost and completely overwhelmed thinking about figuring out training.

Last year I worked with a coach who did all the scheduling for me. As much as I loved working with a coach I'm not sure I want to pay that kind of cash, especially since I will likely get one for ironman training. Lucky for me I found a two week TrainingPeaks premium trial for free. I used the annual training plan and virtual coach functions and now I think I have established some idea of how this year will look training wise. I don't know how long I'll end up sticking with the plan but at least it's a starting point.

And so with that, training for the 2014 season starts today. After 6 weeks of no running and minimal cross training I am both excited nervous and excited to start training again. I am going to spend the next three weeks easing back into training and getting a sense of where my fitness stands before starting base training.

Until next time!

Friday, January 3, 2014

My Big Hairy Audacious Goals for 2014

So much of 2013 was trying new things and enjoying where life took me. I started the year chasing a big half marathon PR before transitioning to falling head over heels in love with everything triathlon. I thought my big goals for 2013 would be running related so I didn't set many triathlon goals. I trained hard and raced hard and had fun. 2014 is all about triathlon. I want to train with direction and with goals in mind.

Sometimes when I'm setting goals I choose ones that I know I will achieve. I don't like failure, as I don't think anybody does. My life goal for this next year is to get out of my comfort zone, look fear in the eye and risk failure. Triathlon has become such a big part of so it's only fitting that I set goals that meet these standards when it comes to racing. I've been doing a lot of thinking over the past few months what I want for myself and my life over the next few years as well as what will challenge me to become the best person and athlete I can be.

So these are my big hairy audacious goals for 2014.

I am excited, terrified, and ready to get to work!