Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Training with Heart Rate

Since the beginning of 2015, I've been teaching my cycling classes some of the ins and outs of training with heart rate and power. Heart rate training isn't as cutting-edge as it was at the turn of the millennium, when Polar was all the rage and heart rate monitoring was considered the truly scientific way to train. NBC specifically mentioned Mark Allen's relatively innovative chest strap in its broadcast of the 1990 Ironman. In the years since, we've learned that heart rate doesn't provide as absolute a measure of intensity as was originally believed (or promoted by companies like Polar). In short, monitoring heart rate doesn't necessarily lead to "scientific" training; it just provides additional data to the overall picture.

Still, heart rate training remains a valid training tool, in spite of any drawbacks associated with its use. It may not be the best tool; you shouldn't use it for every application; it might not be appropriate for all athletes; but it is still a tool in the athlete's box of tricks. I think it's worth examining the pros and cons of training with (or without) heart rate.

Body Awareness
Heart rate monitoring allows you to tune out. This can be a positive or a negative, much like running with music. On the one hand, heart rate monitoring may encourage you to pay attention to a somewhat arbitrary number rather than listening to your body. Especially because heart rate can fluctuate so much based on external factors (heat, overtraining, lack of sleep, dehydration), you may end up working lighter than you could or harder than you should based on the number flashing on your wrist.

Even with a heart rate monitor, you should learn to pay attention to your body. Your heart responds differently when you're overtrained, hot, or dehydrated. There will be days when your heart rate tells you you're not working hard enough, but you really need to back off. Or maybe your fitness will improve (i.e. your numbers will change) before your next fitness test, and your body will tell you that you can work harder, even though the numbers tell you to slow down. Like with all data (yes, power junkies, ALL data), heart rate monitoring has its limits, and it can't replace mindfulness and awareness of what's happening in your body.

Delayed Response
Heart rate doesn't immediately change when you change intensity; it lags by anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. That means that on short, high-intensity intervals, heart rate tells you nothing until after the interval's over. Even worse, on longer intervals, you may be tempted to work harder than you should for the first 30-90 seconds, waiting for your heart rate monitor to show the change in effort. You end up performing the first 2 minutes of a 4-minute interval too hard, the last 2 minutes too easy, and you totally defeat the point of doing a 4-minute interval.

The best (but harder) solution is to learn to pay attention to your body and its signals. The easy (but more limited) solution is to train with a power meter, which I'll discuss next week (because training power has its own advantages and disadvantages).

Worthless in the Water
Heart rate training basically doesn't work in the water. Your vascular pressure is so different in the water that pulse doesn't accurately reflect your work rate. To determine intensity in the water, you have to go by pace and rating of perceived exertion. This link will help you set training zones based on pace. If you're water jogging or doing water aerobics, you're better off with perceived exertion.

Preventing Overtraining
One of my favorite uses of heart rate monitoring doesn't even require the fancy equipment. Just take your pulse every morning. Elevated resting heart rate is an early indicator of overtraining; it usually shows up before other symptoms, like crankiness and weakened immunity. If you keep track of your average resting heart rate, and back off on days when it's elevated, you're more likely to avoid the nastier aspects of training too hard.

For example, I take my heart rate every morning using an iPhone app. I get up, go pee (for some reason my heart rate's higher before peeing), lay back down, and take my heart rate. My fully-recovered heart rate is around 52; my normal in-training heart rate is around 56; if my first-thing-in-the-morning heart rate gets above 61, I take it easy for a day or two. Just make sure that you take your resting heart rate at the same time and in the same circumstances every day. First thing in the morning (right after peeing) is best, to make it as repeatable as possible. Even if you take it after breakfast, the results might be affected by variations in what you ate or drank.

Getting Out of a Rut
Probably the greatest benefit of training with heart rate zones, having that number handy may help knock you out of a steady-state aerobic rut--it may help you to vary your training intensity. Many (most?) cyclists, runners, and triathletes fall prey to the cardinal sin of endurance training: going too hard on the easy days and too easy on the hard days. Improvement stagnates with that training method, and using a heart rate monitor to set and train within zones helps you avoid that pitfall.

I use lactate threshold heart rate (LTHR) to set my training zones. To find your approximate LTHR, you can perform a 30-minute time trial on the bike or run. Warm up thoroughly (I recommend 15-20 minutes of warming up, with some light accelerations towards the end), then start riding/running at race intensity. After 10 minutes, hit the lap button on your heart rate monitor (if you have a lower-end heart rate monitor, it probably doesn't have a lap button, in which case you can stop and then re-start it with a new workout). The average heart rate for those last 20 minutes of the time trial is your approximate LTHR. Keep in mind, though, that just because your first 10 minutes don't count in the average doesn't mean that you should ride them at a lower intensity.

Once you have your LTHR, you can set your training zones at this link (zones based on a bike TT), or you can do it the old-fashioned way:

Zone 1 (recovery): <85% LTHR
Zone 2 (sub-aerobic): 85-89% LTHR
Zone 3 (steady-state aerobic): 90-94% LTHR
Zone 4 (aerobic threshold): 95-99% LTHR
Zone 5a (lactate threshold): 100-102% LTHR
Zone 5b (aerobic capacity/VO2 max): 102-106% LTHR
Zone 5c (anaerobic capacity): >106% LTHR

Keep in mind that your training zones will be different for the bike and the run; your running zones will be higher because of body position and the increased effort of supporting and moving your body weight.

That's all that I have to say about heart rate, for now. I am working on a free cycling workout to help you do a 30-minute time trial indoors on a trainer or stationary bike. Look out for that next week, as well as an article on the basics of training with power.

By the way, this is the heart rate monitor that I use.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Runner's High: No, a Real High

Every now and then, after a long, hard run, I experience a genuine runner's high. It actually feels like the kind of high you get when . . . well, never mind. Not like I know anything about that, anyway.

My working theory is that I'm running so hard that I'm killing brain cells.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Update on Strength Training

I've been reflecting on my 2014 season, thinking about what went right, what went wrong. I want to have a very successful season in 2015. I'm turning 30 and doing my first Ironman; when I look back at the end of next year, I want to feel successful.

In racing, my biggest limiter this year was endurance. I didn't have the base to have a good run after a 40k ride, let alone a 56 miler. I lacked the base because I didn't do enough training, and I didn't do enough training because I kept getting hurt.

It was a stressful year. I started my half ironman training at about the same time that I moved to Kansas City and started two new jobs. I ended up with cat scratch fever, and couldn't train for 2 months on doctor's orders. When I finally got the all-clear to start training again, I almost immediately sprained my ankle, and took myself out of the mix for another month. I missed almost all of my base training workouts during that time, and had to play catch up for the rest of the season.

The stress of last year is behind me, now, and I don't foresee any super-stressful phases of life coming my way (certainly nothing that would compromise my immune system enough that I get cat scratch fever again).

But the ankle sprain was the other monkey wrench in my training plans in 2014, and that was something that could have been prevented. Over the past 2 years, I was much more susceptible to injury: twisted ankles, shoulder impingement, I even threw out my back a couple of times. I think the main reason that I had so much trouble with injury was that I wasn't strength training consistently. Then, when I moved to Kansas City, I stopped doing yoga, too. The lack of any strength or flexibility training increased my vulnerability to injury, and thus threw off my whole training season.

That's the long way of saying that I need to do more strength training and yoga.

My goal this off-season (before I start training for a March marathon) is to build consistency in strength and flexibility training. I have a battery of corrective exercises to do, along with myofascial release, stretches, and strength exercises. Here's what I'm doing:

Perform 3x/week:
Warm up
Light jogging, high knees, and butt kickers

SMR (self myofascial release)
M: Plantar fascia, gastro, soleus
W: ITB, hip flexors, quadriceps
F: Gluteals/piriformis, pectorals, rhomboids

Corrective exercise
1-leg bridge (Cook hip raise)
VMO seated leg raise
Eccentric calf raise
Eccentric toe raise
Quick release (anti-rotational exercise)
Neck flexion/extension

Dumbbell or kettlebell squat
Assisted pull-up
TRX push-up
Plank on foam roller
Cable row + hip extension
Cable lat pullover + tricep extension
Cable high-low chop

Hip flexors

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Race Report: President Lakes Olympic Triathlon (Grind in the Pines)

Every time I go to New Jersey, something goes wrong. Google Maps drops out just past the GW Bridge; I get accidentally shunted off onto a toll road; the traffic is inexplicably terrible in the middle of nowhere . . . Things just don't go well for me when I go to Jersey.

During this particular trip to Jersey, we got lost in the middle of nowhere in the pitch black after midnight and couldn't find the state park campground. Turns out that we were actually in the state park. New Jersey's signs are not well-lit.

The race itself didn't go poorly, though; let me tell you about it.

As you may have guessed, we stayed in a state campground for this race. We drove up on Friday night after work so that we could make more of a weekend of it. We had trouble finding the campground, but the park ranger was super helpful. We called ahead to tell her we were going to be late, and she left all of our papers for the camp site at the park office, which was long-closed by the time we showed up. The campground was really nice. New Jersey's signage may suck, but the state parks are beautiful!

On Saturday, we went to the race site to swim and play. The lake was small, warm, and the color of . . . iced tea? I was pretty freaked out about the water color, until the guy who was setting up the bike racks told me it's from all the cedar trees nearby.

We had hot dogs and s'mores for dinner. That's what we always have when we're camping.

We had the campground mostly to ourselves, except for another woman (in the 30-34 age group, not mine) and her mom who had the same idea. I met them in the bathhouse the next morning while I was getting ready.

This race had day-of packet pick-up, which was terrific. I like to see races that still have same-day packet pick-up. I think that's one of the signs that it's a grassroots race.

Lots of expensive bikes there, though. That doesn't always bode well for the asshole factor (i.e. the number of assholes present who think their races are more important than anyone else's).

Swim: 1500 m in 31:28
Not terrible, especially considering I was still freaked out to be swimming in a lake full of warm iced tea. It was a wetsuit legal swim, but I didn't wear mine. I would have gotten too hot, and I don't like the constriction on my chest and shoulders. I don't remember much of the swim, except that my back really hurt by the end of it.

T1: 1:35

Bike: 40 km in 1:20:36 (19 MPH)
This was, hands down, the easiest bike courses I've ever seen. It was almost pancake flat, lined with trees on both sides, absolutely no wind. The road was completely closed to traffic, too. Great course for a fast bike split. We did three or four loops of the same stretch of tarmac, though, so it was kind of boring.

The assholes were out in force, blowing past slower competitors on their aerobars with their spaceman helmets with nary a "Passing!" or "On your left!" One guy blew past me close enough to have knocked me over without making a sound. Not sure what the point of that was. Triathletes are notoriously poor bike handlers. How did he know that I wouldn't flip out when he got that close to me and knock both of us over? And really, does it consume so much oxygen that a simple "On your left" is going to blow your race performance? Is it that you're less aerodynamic when you open your mouth to speak? These are the guys who pay $1,000 to do an Ironman in Manhattan, aren't they?

I have to admit, though, that I did do kind of an asshole thing of my own. It was near the beginning of the course, winding out to the main looped section. There was a woman on an aero bike slowing waaaaay down for a corner, so I took the inside line. I yelled at her, "On your inside! ON YOUR INSIDE!" She almost clipped me, swinging back into the corner. I had to hit my brakes. As I got out of the corner, she shouted after me, "You mean on your left?" She passed me within a couple of miles anyway, so I'm sorry for being an asshole, lady in the pink tri suit. I needn't have been in such a hurry.

T2: 1:09

Run: 10 km in 1:10:12 (11:20/mile)
Ugh. Half of this run course was on sand. It was awful and I hated it. I don't know if I will come back to this race or not, but if I don't, a big part of it will be because of the awful sand on the run course. And it's not hard-packed sand; it's soft, thick sand. It really destroyed me.

Coming back towards the finish line, about half a mile from the end, I heard people cheering for the girl behind me. I knew she was pretty close, so I put on a little bit more speed and finished strong. That little burst of speed at the end won me first place in my age group, and the chick behind me got second. If I'd succumbed to exhaustion a bit earlier, those places would have been switched!

Total: 3:04:59 (1st F25-29)
Not my worst olympic time ever, but certainly not the best. This was a really fun, down-home race (even if there were a bunch of assholes there). I don't know if I'll go back or not (because sand), but I enjoyed the weekend.

If you're considering signing up for this race and you have more questions about it, please leave a comment!

Friday, October 31, 2014

My First Time on Hokas

Have you seen (or worn) Hoka One Ones yet? They've been on-trend in the running community for the past year or two, sort of a backlash to the minimalist running movement. I've seen them at a few races, and in stores and magazines. I don't agree with the premise behind them, that cushioning is good and more cushioning is better, but I like how much research and experimentation they put into the initial prototype. And there are some (non-sponsored) people I'd met or read who like them.

The running store next door has weekly runs on Tuesday nights, and often they'll have tech reps from running companies come with their kit for us to try. Last Tuesday, it was Hoka's turn, so I decided to try them out, so that I could offer a more informed opinion on these shoes. I didn't want to disparage something I hadn't even tried.

I ran 3.5 miles in them, and I hate them. They were excruciating, especially on downhills. I felt like they absorbed all of my momentum with each step. I could feel myself landing noticeably harder on the downhills, and I had trouble getting my body weight over my feet instead of behind them. When I'm doing short runs (6 miles or less), I try to keep my feet awake; I try to feel what my feet are doing, so that they stay engaged. Hokas made this mindfulness exercise impossible. The shoes are designed to let your feet fall asleep. They're designed to make your feet stupid.

All of the little niggling aches and pains that show up from time to time (usually when I'm weak, tired, or overtrained) came out at once: my knees hurt, my hips hurt, my back hurt, my Achilles tendons were in agony. By mile 3, I wanted to walk, and seriously considered it, because I feared I might do damage to my body by continuing to run in them. When I got back to the running store, I took off the Hokas and experienced instant relief in my achy joints. I walked home barefoot, because even my Brooks Ghost (which I wear to walk around and for recovery runs only) were too cushy for how my feet were feeling.

So I do not like Hokas, but there are people who do (this guy gives a more unbiased rundown of the advantages and disadvantages), and they seem to be great for running on rough trails. Of course, that's because they soak up all the natural feeling of the ground, increasing the inability of your feet to do functional work . . . Can you tell I'm still a minimalist at heart?

I'm not saying they're bad shoes; they're just terrible shoes for me. Also ugly, but that's a matter of taste as well. I'm pretty set for shoes right now (Saucony Guide 7 for long runs, Mizuno Wave Sayonara for tempo work, Brooks Ghost 6 for recovery), thanks to my short stint at Dick's. It's nice to try some new things, though, for the next time I'm in the market. I'm happy to have had the opportunity to try the Hokas, even if they did ruin my Tuesday night run.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Race Report: Rev3 Cedar Point Half

This race wasn't very fun, at least the day of. I was severely undertrained, and it showed. The experience was similar to my first olympic distance triathlon, but twice as bad (because twice as long). Still, I enjoyed my time in Sandusky, thanks mostly to my family and friends, and the experience reminded me that no matter how many triathlons I do and how fit I think I am, I still need to train to be successful. This experience reminded me to respect the sport, especially at these longer distances. In that way, I think this race prepared me for my Ironman, because it will inspire me to be more serious about my Ironman training (rather than assuming that my general fitness can get me through).

The Weekend
Emily and I drove to Mansfield, Ohio, on Friday night to stay with my Uncle Dave and Aunt Lori. My dad also drove up from Kansas to be present for my race. My mom, unfortunately, couldn't get the time off of work, so she missed it. I love my aunt and uncle, and of course my dad, and we had a great time on Friday night hanging out.

On Saturday, we had a yummy breakfast with Dave and Lori, then drove to Sandusky. We stopped at a Walmart along the way to get the fixings for a family barbecue that night, then continued on to Cedar Point. I reserved a cabin at Lighthouse Point (part of the Cedar Point resort complex) for the night, and I'm very glad that I did. The cabin was within a mile of all the race activities. Close enough to walk, but not conveniently. The cabin had a deck with a beautiful view of the lake and a fresh, bracing breeze. The beds were comfy and the cabin was spacious enough for five or six people. We had our own coffee maker, a mini fridge, a grill, and a microwave. The kind ladies at the Lighthouse Point office even let us check in 4 hours early, so we dropped all of our stuff off at the cabin and then went to the race expo.

I got my packet, timing chip, and goodie bag, took a look at the Rev3 kit (a very impressive spread, although not quite as impressive as what I've seen at actual Ironman events), and caught part of the athlete meeting. The goodie bag was the best I've seen in a long time! It came in a musette bag, and had lots of great things in it, rather than just coupons and pamphlets. In all, the free kit at this race made the whole affair a great value, especially when compared to IM 70.3 races that I've done (the entry fee on this one was about the same as IM KS 70.3, and included a T-shirt, finisher's visor, finisher's medal, saddle cover, and the musette bag).

Most of my dad's family lives within an hour drive of Sandusky, and all of them drove to Cedar Point to have a cook out with us that evening! We had a great time eating hamburgers and hot dogs, cheesy potatoes, and peach cobbler. Then we played board games and chatted together. Most of the family wasn't returning to watch me compete (it was a fairly long drive at a fairly early hour, and they all had church the next morning). So the time spent with them was really valuable! Having the opportunity to get together with family was the main reason that I chose this race as my 70.3 for the year.

Two of my cousins, Abby and Nancy, stayed at the cabin with me, Emily, and my dad. I let all of them sleep in the next morning while my dad and I went to the transition area to get me set up. I completely forgot about bringing stuff for breakfast (rookie mistake--one of many!), so I gummed down some leftover hot dog buns and one hot dog from the night before. I also had two cups of coffee, timed so that I would get my morning poo out of the way well before the start of my swim wave.

I set up my transition easily. I know it's silly, but I felt a little intimidated by all of the expensive bikes around me. It happens at every race, but it's a let-down to park my $350 Fuji Road Ace next to all of the sleek, carbon, TT bikes. I know that the engine matters more than the chassis, but I still feel like a poser with my little aluminum road bike--I don't even have aero bars on it!

I warmed up with a light jog around the area, went to the bathroom a couple of times, then headed to the beach with my dad. I put my wetsuit on and jogged around a little more to get the rubber loosened up. I haven't swam in my wetsuit in over a year (another rookie mistake), but Lake Erie would be unpleasantly cold without it, and I needed all the buoyancy help that I could get.

The water was ROUGH. Painfully rough, at least for a lake. Not as bad as Venice Beach in September, but still decidedly unpleasant. I even heard the elites talking about it (in the med tent, but we'll get to that later) after the race. No one had a great swim that day. I haven't dealt with waves (well, a little bit of chop in June in the Potomac river, but that didn't even compare) in . . . Well, it's probably been since I left L.A. (2007). But it's not like I wasn't going to do the race because the water was a little scary. They called my wave to line up, and I shuffled into the water with the other women under 40.

The Swim: 1.2 miles in 50:06 (11/17 in F25-29)
I had not done enough swim training. In particular, I hadn't done any long-distance swims, I hadn't done any open-water swims, and I hadn't swam in my wetsuit. And the waves. I know there is a way to swim in really choppy water, but I've never been good at it. As a result, I spent the first third of the course (the part going straight out from shore) swimming about 8 strokes, stopping to catch my breath and look around, then swimming another 4 strokes. I didn't take on a ton of water, but much more than I'm used to swallowing. Fortunately, Lake Erie is much cleaner than it was 10 years ago (and I should know, since I have an uncle who works at a water treatment facility on Lake Erie). The waves were probably 3-4 feet high. I've swam through higher (but again, not well). But I wasn't prepared or trained to keep swimming after a sudden drop of 4 feet. It was slow going. But you can tell from my position in my age group that it was slow going for everyone. There were still plenty of white swim caps around me, and I was passing swim caps from previous waves.

Once we turned the corner it got a little better, in that I could get into more of a rhythm and try to relax. But by that time, my low back was starting to bother me. Now that I'm not teaching yoga regularly I tend not to do yoga regularly, and my body's been paying the price. My right quadratul lumborem (low back) gets really tight, and it gives me trouble when I swim more than about 800 meters. It was bothering me on race day. This swim wasn't even about getting a decent time; it was 100% about making it through the swim.

The last third of the swim course, with the current at my back, wasn't as quick or easy as I'd hoped; I was counting on a little more help from the current than I got. Still, I was doing better than the people around me, who were disoriented by the feeling of push-pull from the waves. The last 400 meters seemed to take forever. I slipped on the beach exit, and was no help at all for the wetsuit strippers. I was glad to be out of the water and on to the bike, though.

The Bike: 56 miles in 3:34:05 (15.69 MPH, 12/17 in F25-29)
The bike course was lovely. Mostly flat, not as much wind as I expected so close to the coast of the lake, and a very nice temperature. Honestly, I don't remember much about it, other than just trying to enjoy myself. I brought three Honey Stinger waffles and two packs of Honey Stinger chews for my nutrition, and I lost two of them trying to get something to eat in the first 800 meters of the bike course. I'm glad I didn't get a penalty for littering, but I was very sad to see those waffles go. They taste much better than Powerbar gels.

I only have room on my bike for a single down-tube bottle. The frame is too small to have a seat tube bottle holder, and I won't use behind-the-seat bottle cages after my experience at my last 70.3 in Kansas (I lost most of my nutrition at that race, and it destroyed me). Fortunately, there were aid stations every 10 miles, so I got a full bottle and a gel at every station. That had me drinking 20 oz. of water and taking in 100 calories about every 45 minutes. I supplemented that with my remaining Honey Stinger chews, and ended up with 200-300 calories every hour. Based on what I've done in training, that was my goal.

My riding slowed down more and more as I got closer to the end. In the final five miles, I was (once again) focused solely on making it through. I already felt tired and spent; I had no idea how I was going to make myself run right off the bike.

The Run: 13.1 miles in 3:21:39 (15:24/mile, 14/17 in F25-29)
I surprised myself with the amount of energy that I had coming out of T2! It actually felt good to run. I was flummoxed, but enjoying the feelings. I did my best to restrain myself, because I knew that if I ran as fast as I felt I could at that point, I would pay for it later.

The first few miles of the race weren't bad. I walked the aid stations and took in as much as I dared at each one. At the mile 3 aid station, I passed up the opportunity to put on more sunscreen (another rookie mistake, and I paid dearly for it later!). Around mile 3, we got away from the lake and into the town of Sandusky. The blacktop was boiling hot, and there was no shade anywhere. I was not happy with the race directors for choosing this particular course.

Things took a turn for the worse around mile 5. I started feeling some GI distress, and I couldn't get any food or water in. I stopped at a toilet, and that helped a little. I walked for a while, and that helped a little. But my body was still too hot, and now I had a serious calorie problem, because I couldn't get any food in. I could barely get water in. I walked for the next mile or two.

I was able to start running again between miles 6 and 8, and I started to feel more optimistic. At that point, we were running through "downtown" Sandusky (more a Main street than a downtown, and totally deserted). There was a little bit of shade, here and there, and I ran in it as much as I could. I was starting to feel . . . crispy. I realized then that it was a mistake to pass up the sunscreen, as I was going to be out there much longer than I'd planned.

I was still having trouble taking in calories; even water felt like too much. I walked a lot, getting passed by people I'd passed earlier. Still, I saw plenty of people with half-distance numbers walking, too, as some of them were on their way out while I was on my way back. So at least I wasn't DFL. I was able to run off and on between miles 8 and 9, but I could feel the lugnuts coming loose. The wheels were going to come off; it was just a question of when.

By mile 10, I was toast. I was able to put on some sunscreen at an aid station around that time, and it probably did some good (since the last 3 miles probably took about an hour). By this point, I was checking my watch and doing math, trying to figure out if I could still make it in under the cut-off.
Those last 3 miles were brutal. I considered sitting down on the road and waiting for an ambulance many times. I walked the entire time, almost tripped on more than one occasion, and was preparing myself for the possibility that I might need to crawl part of the way. The last 30 minutes passed in a blur. Even during the last mile, I was still questioning my ability to finish.

I did finish, and was even able to muster a job for the last 200 yards through the finishing chute. I crossed the line, got hugs from my dad, Emily, and Dave and Lori, then headed straight for the medical tent.

Total: 70.3 miles in 7:51:02 (13/17 F25-29)
I don't know whether the cut-off was at 8:00:00 or 8:30:00, but I'm glad that I didn't have to find out. This time embarrasses me. I can't believe that it took me almost as long to cover 13.1 miles on foot as it did to cover 56 miles on a bike. I didn't train well enough, and I didn't respect the race enough. I neglected my swimming (especially open-water swimming), and lacked the endurance base to have a successful 70.3 experience.

But I did finish, and that in itself was a valuable accomplishment. And the experience and perspective that I gained was valuable. I don't think I've ever had to (or been able to) push myself so hard to finish a race. I'm empowered by having to dig so deep to get through the race.

I spent about 15 minutes in the med tent. Someone came over and checked my pulse, blood oxygenation, and blood pressure. They were all a little bit off of normal, but not dangerously so. I stayed horizontal on a cot, drinking as much water as I could, while my vitals came back down (or up, as the case may be). After 10 minutes, they checked on me again, and the numbers had improved. About that time, I got really cold, so they got me a blanket and a big cup of hot chicken broth.

I didn't realize this, but hot chicken broth is apparently magic. As soon as I started drinking that stuff, I felt instantly better. I felt warm, and my stomach settled down. I could get up and walk around. I had a little bit of energy. I knew that hot chicken broth is a staple of ultra endurance races, from the Ironman on up to ultra marathons, but I'd never experienced its healing power myself. It's magic. I'm going to remember that for next year.

I ended up with a pretty good sunburn, but it wasn't as bad as I expected, based on how I felt on the race course. It was sore for a couple of days, especially around my neck and under my right arm. After two days, it faded into a tan, and I didn't have very much peeling. With my fair skin, I was surprised at how quickly and painlessly it cleared up.

Although I liked this race, I did not enjoy the run course at all. It was boring. It was too exposed. And it offered too few opportunities for spectating and cheering. I think the run course should be altered in the future.

I didn't take advantage of discounted Cedar Point tickets, but I wish I would have! On Saturday, Cedar Point was closed for a private event (I think held by Honda for their employees), but racers and their families could get in. It would have been awesome to get to ride some rides and not have to wait through super long lines! I decided against doing that because I didn't want to be on my feet a lot the day before a race. If I had to do it over again, though, I would definitely have spent some time riding the roller coasters.

I'm very glad that I stayed at a Cedar Point resort, rather than off-site. It made getting around the morning of the race and after the race much easier. We also got validated parking, which saved $15. The cabins were great, with very nice views and wonderful amenities. They were also nice and quiet. Or at least our neighbors were quiet. We weren't, because we were playing board games.

I am considering doing this race again next year, but as an aqua bike instead of a triathlon. It will be about a month before Ironman Barcelona, so I think it would be good preparation if I did the full aquabike. Besides, cutting out the run would mean that I can spend lots of time on my feet at Cedar Point the day before!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

German Salisbury Steaks

I made this recipe up, loosely based on Salisbury Steak and German meatballs. It turned out to be delicious!

1 lb. ground beef (I used 85/15)
1/4 cup caper juice with a few capers
1/4 cup oatmeal (quick oats or regular)
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp thyme

Salt and pepper to taste
Start with 1/4 cup of caper juice with a few capers (~12) in a big bowl. Add in the oatmeal, and toss to absorb the juice. Add 1 lb. ground beef, onion, and pepper, and mix with hands.

Mash the butter into the egg, along with some salt and pepper. Add the thyme, garlic powder, and salt and pepper on top, then mix again with your hands.

Divide the meat mixture into 4 equal parts, and form them into oval-shaped patties. Preheat a pan on medium-high heat. Add the patties. Allow them to cook 3-4 minutes on each side.

If you'd like to make a sauce, use wine or wine-based vinegar to deglaze the pan. I used white wine vinegar, cut with a little bit of water and a dash of worcestershire sauce, but I think red wine vinegar or cooking sherry would be even better. Scrape the pan to release all the browned bits. Add some sliced mushrooms, green bell peppers, and capers. Simmer until the sauce reduces by half. I added in some corn starch at the end to thicken it up. Finish the patties off by cooking them in the sauce, or pour it all over the top.

I served these with sliced, roasted sweet potatoes and sliced, baked zucchini. Delicious!