Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Timberman 70.3 Race Report

“Well, holy fucking shit”

(my favorite quote from my boss by the way….he generally means it out of “love” so it is a fan favorite in our studio)

How did it become mid-October and I haven’t written yet about races from July and August? Ugh….well, actually I can tell you how it happened because there is not a lot of mystery to it. Its called work, stress, working out, family commitments, travel and not enough time in the day….same as everyone else’s story right?

Well the NJ State tri in July just sort of happened….in fact more excitement happened before the race than happened during the race which is a story that needs to be told but I think one that can wait for a few minutes longer. You have waited three months…what is a little longer gonna do? But Timberman I feel like I need to tell more so for myself and just to get the story down for posterity so that I can say “remember when” I worked hard to achieve goals and then I actually succeeded?


If you would have told me at the start of the day that the finishing clock would read those numbers at the end of the day I would have called bull shit on you. In looking back and reflecting on my lead up into the race I didn’t do anything remarkable or earth shattering or especially different to enhance my performance on race day. I didn’t buy a new bike (even though I wanted to badly!), I didn’t buy race wheels and I didn’t buy an aero helmet…..but I did show up every day for training and I put in the work. In the three week build block of training following NJ State and leading into Timberman I missed two….TWO….sessions the in the block – one was a 45 minute easy spin and one was a 60 minute easy swim workout on race week in favor of some extra rest. I think that having a good plan, a motivating coach, some self motivation, sticking to the plan and executing the workouts as they are assigned is what got me to the finish line in a time that made me so proud of myself for pulling that performance out of me. So how did my day unfold you ask? Well, this is how:

Pre Race:
This was the first time I have done this race since my broken foot left me side lined last year and I think on some level the “you can not fear what you don’t know” really helped me to not over think this race. It was a HUGE race and was the first official “70.3” Ironman branded race that I have done which comes with all of the extra hype and logistics at check in and just getting around in general. I slept fairly fit-fully pre race night and woke up in a bit of cold sweats which is kind of unusual for me but basically once I got dressed, fed and was out the door I was excited and feeling reasonably well for 4:30am.

I made my way to transition to get set up, nutrition in the right spots, made sure I had everything I would need and then made my way to the water for a bit of a swim warm up. The swim start was a bit of a walk down the beach but I had plenty of time and was really in no rush since I was starting in a wave somewhere in the middle. I sort of just wadded my way into the shallow water which was surprisingly quite shallow even up to the first buoy. The lake was a beautiful temperature and nice and clear so I put my face in and started to swim a little to just get my body moving. I popped my head up at the next buoy and started to tread water and get my bearings when I look to my right and three time World Champion Chrissie Wellington is treading water right next to me! How freaking cool is that? I was a bit star struck and realized I was staring at her while she was trying to prepare for her day so I just said a quick “good luck today” to her and she smiled back and said “same to you”. So classy, and as typical she not only won but set a new course record and then stayed at the finish line handing out medals to the age group finishers as they crossed the line. This is such an amazing sport where you can be so close to the pros and race on the same course with them it really just blows me away sometimes.

Anyways…enough day dreaming. I made my way out of the water and they were starting to line up the waves so I found Marty as is typical before all of our races to wish her good luck and then made my way to the other “day-glow” yellow caps and waited my turn. I took some deep breaths and just got myself ready, I was feeling a little anxious….not really nervous, more of “I just want to go already” type of feeling.

Coach to the stars, Liz, had told me that this was her favorite pro swim so I sort of had that in the back of my mind as a calming yet motivating little piece of information. I am still not going to set any land speed records with my swimming but I have been working hard on improving and just making the most out of what I have. I did not seed myself aggressively but I wanted to try and stay in the mix and hopefully find some feet around me to draft off of. It was a long and straight out to the first turn buoy and I felt really good. I mad the turn and there was definitely a bit more chop heading in that direction but not as much as what other reports I have read described. Maybe I was still early enough in the day for it to not be too bad or maybe it just didn’t effect me as much, not sure? I have a tendency to “lolly-gag” a bit during the swim so I just kept reminding myself to keep pulling long and strong strokes and just get myself to the swim exit.

Two words….wetsuit strippers! I need to work on some alternate plan for watch management in races next year because I have now proven that it is physically impossible to remove my wetsuit over my “little orange friend”. I had gotten the top half of my wetsuit down by the time I reached the strippers but my sleeve was still caught on my watch. So I had the strippers first help me get my sleeve off over my watch and then I flopped down to have them help me pull off the legs. Lovely….thank you.

Swim time: 41:44 (3:32 improvement over Musselman swim)

T1: After the strippers relieved me of my wetsuit, I thought I could be speedy though transition but obviously I could have done better. I am always a bit disoriented so getting on socks and shoes sometimes proves to be challenging……

T1 time: 3:01

Bike: I felt like my HR was high starting the bike (which was also proved to be true after analyzing my HR data after the race) just from the general melee of getting out of the swim and onto the bike and then you are essentially climbing a pretty decent hill right out of transition.

Funny aside: you know those peeps that clip their shoes to their bike and then put them on while riding. Yeah…that doesn’t work so well when you have to climb a hill coming out of transition and you kind of need your feet to be IN your shoes to climb. I saw more than one person pulled over to the side of the road on the hill putting on shoes as I spun up the hill past them. Suckers!

Basically I just got myself calmed down, took in some fluid and gel when my stomach settled and got myself on my nutrition plan straight away. My nutrition plan basically served to break down the course into manageable chunks for me. My thinking was not “what mile am I at” but more so “when do I get to eat again?”….ha! I heard tale of the hills on this course and that it is super hard and while I will not sit here and say that it is “easy” I also didn’t find that it was totally brutal. I actually enjoyed the hills to break up the monotony of just pushing and trying to go as fast as possible. I welcomed the opportunity to get out of the saddle and push a bit to get up and over the hills and then settle back into a rhythm. I found the middle half of the race to the turn around and back by the race track to be a place where I was generally cruising a pretty good clip and feeling quite well. I was actually surprised to see my speed in the 20’s with what felt like decent effort but nothing that I could not sustain. Right around this point is also when I started to feel some rain drops. The overcast skies were keeping the brutal sun and humidity down which I was thankful for but I was hoping beyond hope that the rain would stay away.

It never poured down rain so it was not as bad as other races I have done but it would go in and out of a heavy sprinkle. I don’t think the rain affected me that much until I got back to the end of the bike where we came down one of the larger hills we had to climb going out on the bike. It was raining pretty decently by the time I hit the downhill so that the entire road surface was wet and I could also see some uneven pavement on the hill. I had visions of my bike going out from under me and my race day being over so I took the downhill SUPER conservatively and pissed off a fair number of my competitors behind me by doing so. I was trying to take the cleanest line down the uneven pavement and feathering my breaks so I did not get up an uncontrollable amount of speed. If the conditions were any different I would have bombed down that hill but I had a momentary panic attack and just wanted to be down that hill in one piece. I definitely lost time doing this and heard a fair number of “on your left” as others took a less cautious approach.

Bike time: 3:02:28 (6:23 improvement on Musselman on a much harder course plus rain!)

T2: Needed to pee at this point but basically didn’t want to wait in transition, just got my shoes on and went for it without looking back.

T2 time: 2:57 (did I stop for coffee as well….really what was I doing?)

Run: I was glad to be off the bike and on my own two feet starting the run. And apparently I my body was happy to start running because I could feel myself running WAY too fast which was evidenced by my first mile clocking in at 8:23. I jumped in a porta potty at mile two and made myself slow down and breathe….but also try not to inhale the odors for all that long. I was still moving at a pace that I was telling myself was probably too quick but it felt so easy and relaxed that I just kept going. The run course was a two loop out and back course which I originally thought was going to be painfully brutal but in the end I actually really liked. My only complaint was that the course was pretty crowded so much so that when I fell into step with a guy running around my same pace we would sort of un-spokenly take turns making our way through gaps in packs of runners that were moving slower than us. This kept me motivated to run with him until I realized that he was on his second loop and I was on my first loop when he took the straight away to the finish and I had to turn off only mere feet from the finish…that I can say was brutal.

I was still cranking out around 8:00 miles starting the second half of the run and I was literally almost laughing at myself waiting for the wheels to fall off because clearly this could not last forever. And really the wheels never fully came off. I was definitely tired and not feeling as much pep in my legs in the 11th and 12th mile and took a little more time getting up the hills and walking through the aid stations. I was well within any sort of “dream” time that I had and I might have been letting myself go a bit and not putting balls to the wall in the last three miles. The final mile I kicked it in and was just so excited to get to the line. I honestly could not believe my watch time was true, how had I done this?

Run time: 1:53:50 (11:24 better than Musselman and a PR on my open half marathon time (1:57:27) of 3:37)

I was seriously close to tears and I was in such a daze that I missed Chrissie handing out medals at the finish but I was rewarded with a big hug from Marty who had just crossed the line minutes before me. She asked how my day went and all I could say was I just went fucking sub-6…..no like way sub-6…..like sub 5:45 and showed her my watch for proof!

Total time: 5:44:00 on the dot! (and it is sort of funny to me that I was 999 overall….ha!)

I was on such a high after this race I can not even describe it. Marty and I got some food and decided we would make our way back to the “camp” to shower since we had to hit the road back to NY shortly. I texted Liz as we were waiting for the shuttle bus to tell her my race time and I was so excited to hear that her and Dave had been following along on my day even during his own Ironman training (which he did phenomenally well at) and everything Liz was doing that day to coach and take care of a brand new baby! It really just made me feel special that I could share in my moment of joy with them and that Liz was as proud of me as I was of myself for getting to the finish line in a time I could only dream about a few years ago.

The rest of the day and that night was sort of a blur. Let’s just say that the torrential rain that had held off on the course now greeted us for our drive home. So basically I made it home at the wee hours of the morning, packed my bags with whatever was clean in the house, dumped out my race bag of dirty wet clothes in the bathtub and left it there, got about one hour of sleep and then was at the airport and on a flight to Vegas at 6am the next morning. I can honestly admit that making it through that flight and not being able to get in any sort of position that was comfortable long enough to fall asleep might have quite possibly been harder than the race! But the party in Vegas was fun and MUCH DESERVED. :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Race Report: Musselman Half Ironman

Summer race season is coming and going faster than I can find time to crank out race reports so here is one from last weekend’s half ironman with a report from this upcoming weekend’s Olympic distance race to come soon!

One word (or I guess more appropriately…two initials)…..PR….bitches!

I was super excited to get back to this race as it was the scene of my very first half ironman two years ago and for some reason I have decided to chose courses that beat my brains in with hills/technical issues and more hills ever since this race. Also, can I just say that I *heart* this race? The whole freaking town comes together and really embraces the athletes and this race. For example….we stopped to get gas on our way home before leaving town and I went into the gas station to get beverages for the road. The woman behind the counter “wow, did you just do that race? You must be really tired, I am so impressed that you could do that!” How awesome is that to hear no matter how good or bad your day was out there?

Marty and I decided to drive up to the race early on Saturday morning which actually worked out perfectly for me since I had a million and one things to do before leaving so it was nice to have the extra night to do so. We made it to the packet pick up with little to no traffic issues and scored some major loot in our race packets. Reason #1023280 why I love this race, it is almost half the cost of the “70.3” races and you get the best swag: arm warmers, long sleeve tech shirt, wool running gloves, Musselman chocolate bar, small shampoo/conditioner bottles (perfect for your gym bag!), Hammer nutrition products, Cliff shot blocks….probably more that I am forgetting but all given in a re-usable bag.

We checked into our room at the college of Hobart & William Smith College where they offer dorm rooms on the cheap for athletes to stay, while I must say that this is nice I think it can be fully and truthfully stated that I have reached the age of “too old” to stay in a dorm room comfortably. But it is only one night and really how much sleeping do you really plan to do the night before a race? From there we had to go to a mandatory race briefing which was given at an old/historic opera house in the center of town. Last time the briefing was in the auditorium at the college so this was a nice and interesting change of venue. The race director for this race is great, I said to Marty that he is the type of guy that I would be friends with…super laid back, funny and down to earth. He gives a really clear presentation and tries not to laugh too hard at athletes that ask questions like “do both of your water bottles on the bike have to have water in them or can one of them have sports drink?” Yes, someone actually asked that…..

From there we decided to skip the athlete’s dinner at the college cafeteria (although it is free to athletes and another nice perk of the race we just couldn’t handle dorm living and dorm food in the same weekend…..) and went to an early dinner at a local pub for some sandwiches. After dinner we racked our bikes in transition and took a short walk around transition and down to the swim start to survey the scene. I felt calm, excited and ready to race…..all good things! Oh, and not to keep going on about how great this race is but one other cute things I wanted to point out was each bike rack was numbered with a sticker with your name and your mantra that you had to give when signing up for the race….mine read “remember the first five minutes are always the hardest”. Marty and I wandered through the racks for a bit reading and laughing at some of the other athlete mantras. We finally made our way back to the room to get set up for the next morning and as I said I tried to get some sleep but all I was really doing was “resting” until my alarm went off……RACE DAY is here!

Pre-race things went fairly well….I was having trouble choking down my oatmeal but who really wants to eat at 4:45am…..ugh. We got to the race site with no issues and I systematically set everything up with plenty of time to spare. I made my way to the water to get in a little warm up and before I knew it they were calling everyone out of the water and lining up the athletes to start.

I was in the 3rd wave out of 7 which is great position for me as I knew there would be swimmers around me the whole time. You had to wade out into about waist deep water to the starting buoys and with only three minutes between waves there was no time to think about it and get nervous…you just had to GO! I know the swim is by far my weakest sport so I was not going to kill myself knowing I had a long day ahead of me but I still wanted to work hard the entire swim and try to come out of the water with a respectable time. They changed the swim course a bit from two years ago and I think this new course suited me much better. You swam a big sort of rectangle in the open lake and then you turned into a canal which is essentially a boat launch/docking area with protected water and a bit of current in a helpful way. I came out of the water feeling like I worked hard but still felt fairly good.

2008 swim time: 1:01:46
2010 swim time: 45:16 (over 16 minute swim PR!)

Marty had mentioned on Saturday that the first bit of the bike is deceivingly hard because it is a “net” uphill with generally some decent headwind into your face. So you feel like you should not be working so hard but in reality you are working fairly hard. I am glad we talked about that because I was not feeling good for the first bit of the bike. My quads felt tight and I just didn’t feel like I had any zip….but I was hoping that I could come good soon enough so I just focused on nutrition and following my plan. I saw a rider cruise past me on the left and when I glanced over I was fairly shocked to see Marty! She had started the swim 9 minutes after me so I thought I might have a chance to stay away from her if I had a good enough swim but I know she is a better swimmer than me so I knew it would be close. We were kind of leap frogging a bit on the bike but as I said my legs were not feeling so great so I just let her go and focused on my own race. Thankfully my nutrition kicked in and I started to feel more comfortable on the bike. This course is really beautiful, it has long sweeping roads of gentle rollers that you can just put your head down and work. A faster bike and a set of areo bars would have been fantastic but that is a whole ‘nother story.

One thing that happened to me on this course two years ago that happened to me again was I started to get some fairly severe pain in my left knee on the last quarter of the bike course. Hashing this out with my coach after the race the likely reason for this is the shear fact that you are pedaling the entire 56 miles of this course. Unlike the hill fest half ironmans that I have done recently there are no down hills to recover on….it is all constant pedaling. Also, your position on a road bike forces you to use more of your quad muscles so likely my pain was caused by an over-use of quad which caused quad cramping that led to the quad pulling on my knee. The last bit of the bike on the way back to transition is through a state park with a pretty crappy/bumpy road. I saw Marty in the “group” just ahead of me on that stretch but could not surge over the road conditions to catch her again. I came into transition literally just behind her.

2008 bike time: 3:15:53
2010 bike time: 3:08:51 (7 minute bike PR)

My knee was hurting starting the run but it was the sort of pain that you could just “run through” and holding a steady/consistent pace seemed to make it not feel any worse. I caught and passed Marty about half a mile into the run and we shouted some words of encouragement at each other, if it was a training day I would have run with her but I knew I really needed to focus on my race and nutrition so I had to let her go. It was full afternoon sun starting the run and I knew it was going to be a long hot day out there. The volunteers at this race are awesome….you shouted out what you needed as you approached the aid station and they responded immediately. I was taking cups of ice and dumping them in my sports bra to try and keep myself cool and it worked amazingly. The only small annoying thing was the ice was clanking against my heart rate monitor strap and anyone that knows me or has run with me knows that I have huge pet peeve of mine when people run with their keys and then clank them while they are running. I don’t know what it is about that sound but it is like nails on a chalk board to me….thankfully it was freaking hot enough out that the ice did not last long enough to be annoying! Ha! It was also around this time that I may or may not have peed my pants…..just don’t get anywhere near my running shoes and you will never know….

I felt like I was running well and just tried to hold a steady pace, I was not thinking about it as 13 miles but aid station to aid station. I got a little behind on salt and nutrition because the aid stations were not spaced out at exactly every mile. My stomach was also starting to revolt against the gels and sports food but that did not come to full fruition until the last few miles of the run. At mile 7 you turn onto a rocky trail and then you climb a fairly significant grade and this is where my knee cried uncle. As soon as I turned onto the rocky and uneven trail my knee totally gave out. I stopped for a bit a stretched it out, then I found the flattest and most even part of the trail and started to run slowly again. Thankfully you are not on the trail for that long and as soon as I turned back onto the pavement I started to run well on it again. My stomach however was taking a downward turn. I tried to take some coke at the mile 10 aid station as I heard that helps in settling your stomach but it only succeeded in tying it more in knots. I’m not going to lie, the last two miles were pretty much a death march for me. The course takes you back along the lake which is nice and flat but it is also in the blazing sunshine with no relief in sight. My stomach was officially done with this race even though I had two miles to go. It felt better when I stopped and walked but when I started to run again it was SUPER painful so I just tried to keep moving forward albeit slowly. Unfortunately I saw my goal of going sub-6 hours on this course also fade away in these last two miles, but in the end I can’t really complain because I did have a pretty good day out there.

2008 run time: 2:14:12
2010 run time: 2:05:14 (9 minute run PR)

2008 overall race time: 6:38:33
2010 overall race time: 6:04:08 (34 minute race PR!)

I can’t really be “upset” over this race performance since I did take over thirty minutes off my race time and got a new half ironman PR but it does leave a bit of a bad taste in your mouth that for the second race in a row I was mere minutes from reaching my goals. I guess that is motivation to get out there and do it again next year….to chase down those elusive four minutes!

I goes without saying (but I am going to say it anyway) that I would not be seeing improvements like this without the help and support of my wonderful coach, husband and family. Thank you for being there for me so that I can enjoy a really amazing break through race and surprise even myself with my performance.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Griskus Photos

These are all obviously stolen.....but generally I'm a good kid and I follow the rules....

This is Kristin and I either listening to the national anthem or only half paying attention to the pre-race briefing...

Exiting the water....still struggling to get my wetsuit off over my watch

Leaving the park for a hilly 25 mile ride

On to the run....not to brag or anything but I like how "jacked" I look in this picture, clearly an optical illusion....

Is this over yet? Really starting to hurt but trying to stay strong....what are my hands doing by the way?


Kristin and I post race and post beer cheering for some of her friends to come in!

Race Report: Pat Griskus Olympic Distance Triathlon

My UK fan base is clamouring (yes, I intentionally threw an extra ‘u’ in there) for more updates so I wouldn’t want to disappoint them….or my grandpa.

I raced, I raced, I RACED!
(Can you tell that I was a bit excited to finally race again?)

The Pat Griskus tri is a really nice, low key, no frills type of race that I love but it is also a challenging little kick your butt and keep everything fair type of course. I did this race two years ago for the first time and was happy to come back again this year especially since I made the wise decision not to race an early season half this year which is the reason why I didn’t do this race last year too.

This course is notoriously a bit long or maybe it is just the fact that you basically have to swim the entire perimeter of the lake in order to get in the race distance so it just feels long but whatever the case is I feel like I am in the water forever. Thankfully the water is nice and calm and the temperature is on the cool side which is perfect for me since I was nice and comfortable in my wetsuit the whole time. I stayed with some packs of people for the most part on the entire swim and got swam over a bit by the men from behind but it was all good for the most part. I was ready to be out of the water by the end but I was happy that I pushed my swim effort and had a decent time (for me).

2008 swim time: 50:01 (blah)
2010 swim time: 38:57

There is a long run up to T1 out of the water in which I struggled to get my wetsuit off over my watch for most of….good times. In the process I also managed to push every button on the watch so I no longer had my overall race time….also, good times. I struggled some more getting out of the rest of the wetsuit at the rack and took a mental note that the guy racked next to me was still in the water since his bike was still there. I played the “how long can I hold him off” game on the bike and I almost made it the whole ride. Socks, shoes, helmet and GO!

2010 T1: 2:10 (damn wetsuit….)

I did not feel great coming onto the bike. I was pretty tired coming out of the water and felt a lot of soreness/tightness in my shoulders, triceps and arms from working the swim. I was a bit dizzy with a bit of a headache since we were sighting into the sun for most of the swim. I focused on getting some fluids in and started to feel better quickly especially since the first part of the bike is mostly rolling hills or down hills so I could focus on settling into the ride. I took a gel about 15 minutes into the bike after my stomach had settled and I could tell that my legs were coming around.

My goal was to keep the climbs under control so that I had some legs left to have a strong run off the bike. I have mentioned before that I have a tendency to mash up the hills instead of gearing down and spinning up them but not this time, I promise! This strategy really helped as I was able to gear up at the crest of the hill and pass a number of people over the top of the climbs that had burned a few too many matches while climbing. I felt good on the bike and my legs definitely came around for me. The small disclaimer to the bike course is that they did cut it short by about two miles because one of the roads was just chip sealed and thankfully did not want us to ride on the loose gravel. But the detour included a climb from hell where I saw more than one person get off their bike to walk it up the hill so I feel justified in my bike time comparison even though it is not exactly a side by side course comparison.

2008 bike time: 1:34:52
2010 bike time: 1:28:50

2010 T2: 1:18

I felt zippy and ready to run coming off the bike….maybe a bit too much so. The first mile is all basically down hill and I could feel myself moving! That is one of the best things that I learned at camp this year was to not let up or recover on the down hills but to run hard to make up some time that you knew you were going to lose on the up hills. The run is a double out and back loop so the down hills at the start of the run were some pretty decent climbs on the way back to the finish line. This is also where I was really bummed that I did not have my overall race time on my watch because I felt like I could have dug a little deeper on the run in some places had I known how close I was to breaking three hours. I find it mentally tough to really push myself when it starts to hurt and my mind is telling me to just slow down or just walk for a bit. I did feel like I ran hard and maybe if I would’ve pushed harder on the up hills I wouldn’t have the speed on the flats/down hills that I did but it is hard to say in the end.

2008 run time: 55:25
2010 run time: 50:54

Overall race time:
2008: 3:22:27, 5th in my age group
2010: 3:02:08, 5th in my age group

Overall I was happy with my race. This definitely shows improvement and hopefully I can learn from this race to really hurt on the run and dig deeper for my goals. The other fun fact to this race is that according to the recap email from the race director I have also qualified for the age group national championships since I was top five in my age group. I haven’t gotten anything official but this is what the email said:

This 2010 Northeast Regional Championship race qualified the top 33% per age group (or top 5 in each age group) for the Age Group Nationals in Tuscaloosa, Alabama onSeptember 25. Congratulations to all of our qualifiers!

So that is a bit crazy.....I am not sure if I will do the race but it is nice to know that I qualified!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Camp CHICA-go

Wow....what an intense/fun/hard/interesting weekend I had. It was definitely not your typical Memorial Day weekend which is generally filled with drinking too much and eating too much (which I guess still holds true for me but in the form of Acclerade and sports food instead of beer and burgers). My first beer of the weekend was consumed at the airport waiting for my delayed flight on Monday night and it had me so loopy and then consequently so tired that I passed out on the plane as soon as we finally took off. But I am jumping ahead, how did I get so tired....well let me explain....
Oh....and all photos are obnoxiously stolen from Molly since I forgot to bring my camera and she is a photo taking superstar.

Photo from the welcome dinner at Jen's house with Kristin and I talking to Liz who we just met finally after working with her for over two years!

Kristin and I got in early Friday morning and decided to head to one of her college friends homes in Naperville, IL for a fun brunch and shopping before the craziness of the weekend started. It was nice to have a little chill time (the calm before the storm) before we headed further north for the start of camp. We met for a little "meet and greet" at Jen Harrison's home who was the other coach for the camp along with my coach to the stars Liz with some additional coaching help from the lovely Cat. We were borrowing bikes from Liz so that we didn't have to deal with traveling with them so after dinner it was quite the comedy of errors getting the right combo of pedals, bike and rider together. It came together finally but Kristin definitely gets the camp award for making it 60 miles in a bike that was way too small for her! We made our way back to the hotel and packed our bags for the next days activities and tried to get some sleep for the long day that we knew we had in store for us.

Have you ever seen an 8 month pregnant woman look this adorable in a wetsuit? This pretty much sums up the amazingness of my coach!

Saturday started with a 1.5 hour open water swim in a protected lake. I started the day out with Liz learning various techniques and tips for swim starts and even got a special shout out for my sighting skills! Then our group set out to swim the perimeter of the lake with Jen and wouldn't you know the exact thing that happens to me in races happened to me in the swim workout. I got dropped by the fast group so I was killing myself to stay with them to try to draft off of them but couldn't close the gap but I was swimming faster than the slower girls so in essence I was swimming by myself and working way too hard.....awesome. On top of that awesome-ness I forgot to body glide my neck before I put my wetsuit on and since I was sighting frequently to keep Jen and the faster girls in sight I got a really lovely wetsuit hickey on the back of my neck....sexy!

Lovely IL farm country and FLAT country rodes for our bike ride

After the swim we hopped out of the water, had a lovely breakfast and got ready to roll. On tap was a 60-ish mile ride with a +/- 30 minute run off the bike. The sun was starting to blast through the morning and it was shaping up to be a sweltering day. We said we would roughly break up into three speed groups and Liz said I could go wherever I felt comfortable. I saw Jen and Carrie start to take off up the road so I went around a few girls thinking they would jump on my wheel to close the gap. Ummmm....no one came with me so for the first 10 miles or so it was only three of us which was sort of cool to be able to ride with Jen in such a small pack. We stopped at one of the turns and a few others caught up to us but it seemed like it was just three or four of us off the front for most of the ride. I was SUPER impressed with my riding this weekend. I have not put in as many miles as I usually do in the spring but my last few rides leading up to this camp have felt peppy and good. It also helps that we were in "flat town, USA" for this ride and I am used to having to climb much more elevation gain on my rides. Still it was a really good confidence booster for me to know that I could hang with the faster girls even when the head wind kicked up.

Post yoga group photo....ready for a shower and a "proper meal" containing real food and not sports food

Off the bike I did a quick car clothes change into some running shorts and stopped by to see Liz for some advice/pep talk to go out into the heat of the day for a run off the bike. Like the goddess that she is she told me to only run ten minutes out and ten minutes back. It was still pretty hot and miserable with some nice little rolling hills mixed in to the run just for fun-sies. I was super hot and tired getting back to home base and thankfully Holly had brought a cooler with some ice so I downed a couple bottles of cold water and gatorade to get myself hydrated again. Next up was some yoga in the shade by the lake. I have never been a big yoga person and I don't know if this experience helped in convincing me into any more than my previous experiences. I knew we still had a lot more activity to come in the next few days and any new strength/stretching moves tend to make me quite sore so I basically "half-assed" it enough that I got a good stretch but didn't hurt myself. Stick a fork in me I was DONE and ready for a shower and food....group dinner here I come!

Saturday night dinner with the coaches and all of the athletes

Sunday morning came an hour later than Saturday had come but we were in the pool and ready to rock out a 90 minute workout from go time. I swam in the middle lane and felt pretty comfortable but straight away Jen is telling me that I am working too hard. One of these days it will hopefully click for me to get that right balance of form, speed and efficiency but for now I'm still looking for that zen swimming state. Liz video tapped my swim and gave me some great tips during the workout and more post camp so it is just something that I will keep working at.

Molly and I having perhaps a bit too much fun between sets :)

A quick shower and wardrobe change later we were outside back in the sweltering heat (are you sensing a pattern?) for a hilly run workout. I had to laugh at what constitutes a hill in the midwest....highway overpass, anyone? We did four repeats up and down the hill and then two more at max effort. I was pretty cooked after this run and was again in search of ice when we got back to the health club. I think I scared the poor woman working at the smoothie bar enough with the amount that I was sweating that she did finally break down and give me ice even though it was against their policy. I cooled down enough to head out for some additional run drills lead by Liz and then we broke up for lunch.

Running up the overpass for another round of hill repeats

We rounded out the afternoon with various strength workouts, core based exercises with Liz and a new torture device called TRX with Jen's personal trainer Kate. It was interesting to learn some new workouts and to realize that the strength workouts that I have been trying to keep up since my broken foot debacle are actually paying off.

Kris rocking the one legged upside down bosu ball squats....I was not so successful at this maneuver!

Molly rocking the TRX workout with Kate
From here we had an optional shorter recovery ride with Jen if wanted and honestly I could have gone either way. Jen asked the group who wanted to ride and I think only one person volunteered! Really my hold up was that I just wanted a bit of a break before starting another workout and with Jen you don't get any breaks. Liz offered for us to come by her house that night since we were on our own for dinner so that we could hang out and chat for a bit more. That also gave us the option to take a cruise around the Arboretum for a recovery ride which sounded down right fabulous to me. Give me shade and a beautiful setting in the early evening any day over another hot afternoon ride.

Ladies cruising on the bike path....Kristin on her midget bike! :)
After the ride we had a fun time just sitting around and chatting. Gossiping about the tri community and how Kristin and I have only three degrees of separation between everyone that Liz coaches (not really but it seems that way!) Liz's husband Chris made the most amazing dinner and I can't thank them both enough for their hospitality and giving us the chance to pick their brains a little more about racing and training.
Multisport Mastery girls post shower and pre-amazing dinner by Liz's awesome husband Chris!

Food is fuel right? Cat and I are showing off our skills of optimal cake to icing ratio when eating cupcakes!

Monday morning started off early, hot and humid once again. We were set to race the local 5K in Elgin, IL and I would like to take this time to thank my coach yet again for telling me to sign up for the 5K and not the 10 miler like I had originally thought of signing up for. I realized after the race that this is shockingly the first stand alone 5K that I have ever run so I guess I can chalk up a 5K PR to this crazy weekend as well. And I guess I should say that it was not only a 5K PR but 3rd in my age group! I was 3rd out of 61 in my age group with a time of 26:15, 8:28 minute per mile pace. No great speed records there and I will attribute my age group placing to doing a non-NYC race so the competition was not that deep and the fact that the faster I finished the race the faster I could sit down!
Standing around pre-race trying to remember how to actually race :)

Just past the starting line, and starting to pull away just because I hate running in crowds

Post race we had a little wrap up that was cut short since some pretty nasty storms started rolling in. Kristin and I drove back to her friends house to hang out a bit more where I got fed another amazing meal. I was fairly exhausted by this point so I started to get anti-social and I just wanted to be home. We set out for the airport thinking that our flights were only slightly delayed only to find out that they were significantly delayed once we got to the airport. We set up camp at a bar near our gate and had a few beers and chatted about the weekend. I finally hit my pillow back at home around 1am and almost cried when my alarm went off for work on Tuesday morning.

My final thoughts on camp are first and foremost that I am really glad that I went. I found out that I am actually pretty good at this sport. You sort of take that for granted living in such a big city where you are constantly surrounded by people that are better than you but I have been doing this for a number of years now and I think I've figured out a thing or two but like everything else in life I also still have a lot to learn. Nothing really replaces working with your coach one on one. I was really highly motivated for her to see what I could do and get her feedback on what I could be doing differently or better. I think that feedback will prove invaluable as I build up toward my big season races. She knows I can do it, I know that I can do it...now all I have to do is pull the performance out of me. And finally, after riding Liz's Cervelo P2 all weekend it is pretty much a given that I am salivating I want a new bike so badly. I can really tell that my bike performance is being limited by my equipment and given all the time and money I put into training I don't want some average Joe that hasn't trained but has expendable income to pass me on the bike just because he has a nicer bike. The wheels are spinning.....literally.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Going to Meet the Wizard

We are rapidly approaching Memorial Day weekend and instead of the usual yearly pilgrimage to my in-laws second home in Pinehurst, NC where I try to sneak in as much training as possible and not get accused of skipping out on family time, I am doing something a bit different this year. The seed was planted in the dead of winter this year when I was coming off of my broken foot and looking for some motivation to get back into training and get my fitness back. My coach sent an email saying she was hosting a women’s triathlon camp over the weekend and my immediate response was “I want to do that!” So I rounded up my triathlon partner in crime to do the camp as well and cleared the skipping out of the family weekend with my hubby and I was in.

The last “sports” camp I went to was cheerleading camp the summer before my senior year of high school and even though we did win the coveted spirit award I think this experience is going to be slightly different….. It is going to be three fairly intense days of racing and training and I am feeling a weird mix of excitement and apprehension leading up to all this. But I think the thing that I am most looking forward to is finally meeting the woman behind the plan.

Up until now my coach has been this mythical “wizard of oz” hiding behind the curtain who I have been blindly following and trusting with my training and racing for the last three years. All of our communication has been over the internet, she puts the work into training peaks and I do the work….simple as that. And I will fully admit that I would not be nearly as prepared or have the performances that I have had without her help and guidance. But what I am really hoping to get out of this weekend is a more personal connection. To see first hand what it looks like to have a beautiful swim stroke and what I need to do to achieve it. To know what it feels like to enter the pain cave running off the bike and really try to break through. To not be afraid of going fast!

Like all things related to my triathlon life I am hesitant to tell the outside world exactly what I am doing this weekend. This “crazy” triathlon training and racing that I do is like my secret double life. So I prefer to tell people that I am having a “girl’s weekend” in Chicago for the holiday weekend which is not exactly a lie, no?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hello Brave New World

So I’m just going to move past the fact that nothing new has been written in this space for two months and just get on to the talking about something interesting, m’kay?

Let’s start with the injury report. Things are actually looking up in this area thankfully. The road rash has healed and now I am left with a lovely looking scar on my left forearm/elbow but that is sort of hardcore right? Ha…well, I don’t think I am in danger of intimidating anyone at this point but at least I am no longer seeping bodily fluids. The broken foot is also now healed, yay! It sometimes feels a bit stiff and sore still especially after long workouts but I think that is the new “normal”. Some of this soreness could definitely be attributed to the fact that I need new running shoes but I hear that Santa might be bringing me some so I will hold out. I have been taking the running very cautiously, other than a mishap of “run commuting” turning into a much longer run than I wanted every other run has been less than an hour. Dear God…I love me some off season.

So what have I been up to you ask? Well, thanks for asking. I have just tried to stay consistent over the last couple of months and get my body moving again at a regular interval of exercise but not take things too seriously at this point of the year. I realized during my forced “rest” period with the broken foot that I really function a whole lot better when I exercise. I was grumpy, I was moody and I was sick of sitting on my bum and doing nothing. I need the activity in order to relax….crazy, I know but it works for my lifestyle. When I had the broken foot I took the opportunity to take any sort of abs, core or pilates class that I could find where I didn’t have to use my feet.

Those few weeks sort of spring boarded me back to age 12 when my sister and I lived in a gym probably more than young girls should training for gymnastics. We outgrew the local gym in our hometown and started traveling 30+ minutes one way to a larger gym with better coaches. My sister was always better than me at the skills so I just sort of tagged along because she was doing it although I started to lose interest. The one thing that I was really good at was strength and conditioning and I actually liked it because I was good at it. At the end of every workout session we would go through a series of strength exercises that most girls would grumble about doing I would painfully enjoy just because I had spent the whole workout beating my brains in trying to throw tricks that I couldn’t land but sit ups and L-hangs on the wall…that I could do!

Clearly my core is still not anywhere close to what it looked like as a 12 year old but I have found the joy in the pain again. So I have made it my goal to try and incorporate the core strength and conditioning in my training schedule again this year. In my quest to try every strength class available during my down time I found a couple of lunch time abs, core, leg, butt strength classes by a really great instructor that I have made it my business to get my butt too every week if I don’t have any work/meeting conflicts preventing me from getting there. It has been fun and I am seeing the progress which is always a good thing.

Other than strength I have been doing a lot of swimming recently. I am going to masters twice a week for the most part which has been fun but hard. I think I have finally started seeing improvement in my stroke and the new “technique” is finally sinking in. I ordered a present of a new Splish swimsuit when I saw on Bree’s blog that they were having a sale. I think the smile I get out of wearing the new suit has made me get to the pool a little more….I mean, who wouldn’t want to wear this suit? Ha…so silly but great.

Rounding out the strength and swimming is a sprinkling of running and spin classes to complete the swim-bike-run triumvirate. I am still flying solo with my training plan without the boss lady until after the new year. I am headed to Buenos Aires the week after Christmas for a friend’s wedding so I thought it would be best to get all of the traveling out of my system before focusing my training again with my coach. Right now I am just having fun being active again and getting myself back into some sort of cardio shape so that “training” is not such a shock when it starts again. Plans for the 2010 season have almost been chiseled in stone so I will be posting the schedule soon.

It feels good to be back.