Saturday, April 11, 2015

Race Report: Pacers Crystal City Friday 5k

This race served as a fitness test for me in my first week of Ironman training. I was excited to see what kind of speed I would have coming off of a marathon training plan. I had a great run at a great race, and I was happy with my fitness!

As I get older (or maybe just wiser), I find that I benefit from a longer warm-up. It may be that I was just too lazy in past years to take 15-20 minutes for preparation. I could get away with it in my early twenties. Now that I'm approaching thirty, I'm more mindful of how my body feels, and my body feels better when I take at least 15 minutes to warm up.

That said, I ran the 1.2 miles to my closest Metro station and took the train to Crystal City. I picked up my packet, stopped in at Crystal City Sport & Health (right next to the start line, thank you very much) to pin my number and have a drink, and then took another 1.2 miles to warm up. My left ankle felt tight on the inner side, just behind the ankle bone (I think these are annular ligaments that are tight and cranky from all of my ankle injuries last season). It loosened up within a few minutes, though, so I wasn't too worried.

Standing on the start line, I felt nervous. I haven't run hard and fast in many months. I remember, though, that 5ks hurt, and I was not excited about the 30 minutes of pain. I think I seeded myself well, since I didn't have to pass very many slower runners early on. And, considering the tight quarters, the pack thinned out relatively quickly.

I bought a Garmin 910XT with the leftover budget from my bike purchase; this was my first race using my new GPS watch. I ran by heart rate, trying to keep it under 170 BPM for the first mile, then shooting for around 173 BPM until the last half mile. After that, I let 'er rip, and ended up at a full (probably ugly) sprint across the line. Finished in 27:26, and didn't throw up! But it was a close call.

There was one woman who ran near me the whole time. She was probably 20 years older than me, with a similar build, wearing an Ironman cap with green stripes. We went back and forth through the whole race. For a while, I was running behind her and we were perfectly in step, stride-for-stride. I passed her with a little over a quarter mile to go, and held her off until the end. After I got a water bottle and established that I wasn't going to puke, I started looking for her. She found me first, though, and we chatted about our race together. Thanks, lady in the green cap, for pushing me to run my very best! If you ever need a running buddy, call me!

The other person I saw on-course who really impressed me: There was a woman, probably a new mother I assume , heavy-set in the way that new mothers often are. She was almost at the very back of the race, probably only half a dozen people behind her; I passed her as I was heading the opposite way, towards the finish line. She was pushing her baby in its stroller, wearing blue spandex tights, a cute, turquoise shirt, and a floppy, sparkly tutu. She had a huge smile on her face, as she walked along the race course. She looked so proud and happy to be doing this 5k. So good for you, mom with the sparkly, blue skirt, and congratulations on your 5k!

I enjoyed this race. It had a great feel to it, and it was cool to run on the roads of Crystal City, which had been closed to traffic for this race. There was an exciting mix of people: strong, fit runners, walkers doing their first-ever event, an older women (late 70s, maybe?) wearing salmon-colored jeans and a nice sweater, the mom with her sparkly tutu, and a bunch of middle-of-the-pack runners like me. Everyone seemed excited to be there, and the race was well-organized. I would definitely do this race again. In fact, I might sign up for another one! They run every Friday through the end of April. So let me know if you're going to do one, and maybe I'll see you there!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Race Report: Yuengling Marathon 2015

I did my first marathon! It hurt. It was much harder than I expected, much more painful than a half distance triathlon or anything else I've tried. But I also recovered much faster than I expected, based on the duration of the event.

My roommate and I headed to Virginia Beach at around noon on Saturday. Between bad traffic and stops for peeing and snacks, the 3 hour drive took us almost 6 hours. And then when we got to Virginia Beach, we had mapped the wrong convention center location (the convention and tourism office instead of the actual convention center). By this point, I only had 45 minutes left to pick up my racing packet, so I was super stressed. After that, we had to drive up and down the main drag in Virginia Beach looking for my hotel. I couldn't find my confirmation e-mail for my hotel, but I had in my mind it was a Days Inn that I was staying at. I was wrong. We went to both Days Inn locations on the beach, and I wasn't booked at either one. I finally found my confirmation email, and realized that I was actually booked at a Best Western. So then, of course, we went to the wrong Best Western. We finally got to our hotel--and keep in mind that we've driven up and down Atlantic Avenue 3 times at this point, and each 1-mile trip was taking 10-15 minutes, so we'd been fighting through the ridiculousness for an hour--and we were greeted by this view:

Not too bad!

I needed a nap and a butt-load of water at that point, though.

My parents arrived shortly after we did, and we settled into our room. Once we figured out the sleeping arrangements, we headed to a popular Italian spot for dinner.

I woke up at 5:30 (3 hours before race start) to try and get my breakfast in. I brought a huge bowl of steel-cut oatmeal with protein powder, coconut oil, and raspberry jam. I ate most of the oatmeal, but 2 cups of steel-cut oats is a lot. I figure I ended up with about 500 calories for breakfast.
After breakfast, I tried to go back to sleep, but I was too excited. I ended up staying up and watching the weather channel. My dad got up and around sometime after 7 to keep me company, and we took off for the the start line (a little over a mile away) around 7:45.
It was chilly before the race, but I was kitted up in sweat pants and a jacket. I chose to wear my favorite running shorts with a short-sleeve shirt, arm warmers, gloves, and a thermal cap. The only thing I didn't keep for the whole race was the gloves, because there was a cool breeze, and I kept having to put my arm warmers and cap back on.
The course was great. Flat as a pancake, with some really interesting sights. We got to run through Camp Pendleton, and a great group of soldiers were cheering us on as we ran through. There was a long, boring stretch from mile 13 to mile 19, where we got onto Fort Story, but it was still very pretty. And Fort Story was kind of a drag; the roads were bad, and the only spectators to speak of were armed guards. Still, much better than running on McConnell Airforce Base in my first half marathon!
I felt good through the halfway point. My sartorius often bothers me on really long runs; I get a sharp muscle pain at the tendon, right up at the attachment near my hip. It feels like the tendon is trying to pull away from the bone every time I lift my leg. It started bothering me around mile 14, worked itself out after a few miles, but came back in the last 10k.

At halfway, I tried to pick up the pace a little bit, which I think was a mistake. I should have stayed steady until the last 3-4 miles. I had a very rough time from around mile 17 to . . . until the end of the race, actually. Maybe if I'd kept it slow at mile 14, I would have felt stronger throughout the second half.
I did well with my nutrition plan. I took a gel or chews every 30 minutes, drank Gatorade and water at every water stop, and drank from the water bottle I was carrying every 5 minutes. I never got stomach upset, although I did have a little bit of cramping in the second half; it went away when I had Gatorade. I think in the future, I will carry Nuun instead of water, and only drink electrolytes. I've been doing some reading on isotonic fluid replacement, so I may see if I can get more scientific with that. I've also never done a sweat test (where you weigh yourself before and after a hard workout to see how much sweat you lost), and that might be helpful before my next big race. Taken as a whole, though, I was very happy with how my nutrition plan worked for me. I'm glad I practiced it in my training.

I'm not very happy with my pacing. I was able to restrain myself early in the race, but my plan to pick up my pace in the second half was not wise. Now that I've done a marathon, I think I'll be able to develop a better race plan and pace more consistently. I was counting on a negative split, but a better strategy would have been to keep things easy until the last 10k, or even later.

I experienced virtually no chafing, though I did stop at about the 17 mile point to put some lube on my little toes. But I had no blisters on my feet at the end of the race, no raw spots that surprised me during my first post-race shower. Normally I get chafing under my arms and in my . . . personal area. Aquafor and chamois cream, and lots of practice on where and how much to apply, served me well.
The most surprising thing to me was how much muscular pain I experienced. My back and legs seized up so much by the end that I could barely hobble across the finish line; I literally could not lift my feet more than a few inches off the ground. I'm not sure why that happened, but I assume it was a lack of overall strength. I know it's a little crazy at the paces that I run, but I think I would feel much more confident with a few 26-mile or longer training runs leading up to a marathon. Around 16-18 miles is where the wheels started coming off for me, and I did a lot of runs at those distances. My theory is that I built up a resistance to that point in training, and if I want to feel good throughout the race I'll need to do some 26-milers.

I'm also surprised by how quickly I recovered. I had a hard time with stairs on Monday and Tuesday, but by Wednesday I felt like I'd just come off a week of recovery: snappy legs, no muscle soreness, I was rocking my commute! And I didn't get the horrible stomach upset that I often feel at the end of triathlons. So marathons are much worse during, but much better after.

I can't decide whether I'll do more marathons . . . For sure I won't do one again until after my Ironman in September, but I'm not sure if I ever want to do that again. I said the same thing after my first triathlon, though; I imagine that the challenge of figuring out the training and racing puzzle will draw me back eventually.

Final: 5:10:39 (11:51/mile)
F25-29: 121/153
Women: 707/946
Overall: 1763/2185

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Pre-Race Nerves

Tomorrow I run my first marathon in Virginia Beach.

I've been slightly nervous all week. I haven't felt this nervous before an event in years. It's nice; feels like a challenge again! I go into it thinking, What if I can't do this? I don't really believe that I'll try and fail; I recognize that I'm pushing the limits of what I've done before, and it's possible that I might not be able to do it. Can I run 26.2 miles? I don't know! I've prepared well, but there's still a thrilling niggle of doubt.

So cheers to chasing the unknown! I'm off to Virginia Beach to pick up my race packet!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Ooh, Shiny!

Look what I got!

Technically, this is a reward for finishing my marathon, which I haven't finished yet.

So hopefully I don't totally poop out on Sunday, because I'm pretty sure that Tri360 won't take it back!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ironman Mallorca

It's official! I am going to Mallorca for the 2nd iteration of the Thomas Cook Ironman!

Sunday, February 22, 2015


Ironman Barcelona sold out.

I already had plane tickets, but hadn't registered yet.

Sad face.

Fortunately, There are plenty of races still open. In fact, IM Mallorca is still open, and it's only a week before. It's still in the same part of the world, I can change my plane tickets for less than 100 USD, and I can still see everything I wanted to see in Spain and the surrounding area. Flights to the mainland from Mallorca are less than 50 Euros, one-way.

I was never going to Barcelona for Barcelona; I arrived at that race primarily by a process of elimination. My roommate wanted to go to Western Europe, and Spain was going to be a lot less expensive than Zurich. The time of year is perfect. It's a beautiful part of the world, a part of the world I've never seen, and I can easily see Spain, southern France, Portugal, and maybe even Italy!

The one big change between IM Barcelona and IM Mallorca is the course. Barcelona's bike course is pancake-flat, but Mallorca has a pretty significant climb. From what I can see on the course map, there's a 15 km climb that peaks at 600 m. The descent is technical, too. I'm a little concerned about my ability to make the bike cut-off with that big climb in the mix.

On the other hand, I finally live in an area with some hills, so I can train properly for a hilly course. I was thinking of signing up for Challenge Poconos for a warm-up race, and the course will help prepare me for Mallorca better than for Barcelona. I'm planning to buy an aero road bike, which will be better suited to a climbing course than to a flat course like Barcelona. And I'm excited to have a more challenging course for my first Ironman (because my first Ironman isn't challenge enough in my brain, apparently).

So I was bummed for a couple of hours last night, but now I'm excited to switch to Mallorca. It'll work out, either way.

Saturday, January 31, 2015


That alphabet-soup title translates to Lactate Threshold Heart Rate Time Trial, for those in the know. Here's a 60-minute workout that will help you approximate your LTHR for the bike (keep in mind it will be different on the run, and LTHR isn't an accurate measure to use in the pool). You can also use this workout to estimate your functional threshold power (FTP), if you have access to a power meter. There's a 20-minute warm-up to get you ready for the time trial, and the time trial is 30 minutes long. You should go as hard as you can for those 30 minutes. If you're testing heart rate, hit the lap button 10 minutes into the time trial; your LTHR will be the average heart rate you sustain for the last 20 minutes of the time trial. If you're testing FTP, take the average for the whole 30 minutes (so you'll hit your lap button at the beginning of the time trial).

Click the link below to download the workout:


Spin & smile!