Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Tomorrow I'm out to California to wonderful Wildflower! Oh, there will be hella antics.

Or at the very least an underwear run and topless aid station.

And of course beer.

Oh, and I'll also be racing. Or something like that.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Race Report: Emporia Spring Migration Tri

I'm positive that I thought of some clever way to intro this post, but I can't recollect what it was, at the moment. So let's just jump right in.

Swim: 400 m, 7:50
This was slower than I expected (slower than my seed time). The swim worked like this: we all lined up by swim seed and they sent us off on 30 second intervals. And there were about 170 people. Which means that the last person started more than an hour after the person. Crazy, huh? I was seeded number 50, and I felt pretty good about that; it was cool to head towards the front of the line. Unfortunately, most of the athletes I coach were seeded way farther back, which meant that I didn't get to see them swim.

How did the swim feel? Easy. I'm sure it didn't feel easy while I was doing it, but in retrospect it certainly was. At the Central YMCA triathlon, I felt like I was pushing the absolute limits of my pace for 400 meters. But this felt like a steady, aerobic pace. In short, I wasn't really racing. Am I happy with my time? Yeah, I feel okay about it. But the lackadaisical attitude--one that viewed this race more as training than racing (and there's nothing wrong with that)--during the swim was a theme for my day.

Bike: 12.4 mi, 41:27, 17.5 MPH
I'll get right to it: I kicked ass on the bike. 17.5 MPH isn't that fast, really, but I can say most definitely that I laid everything on the line on the bike. I kept a high cadence and a challenging gear through the whole thing, even into the 20 MPH headwinds we experienced after the turn-around. I felt like a frickin' bad-ass. And I suppose that's probably all I need to say about that.

I also nailed my transitions. Managed to start and end with the pedals on the bike, and I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who did that at this race.

Run: 3.1 mi, 28:17, 9:07/mile
This was the real challenge. The course was exceptionally hilly, and I do not do hills well. I'm not built for hills, and I don't have an opportunity to really train on hills (except for the sledding hill in Sedgwick County Park and the dam at Lake Afton). I rounded the corner off of the Emporia State campus and asked the police officer at the corner, "There are no more hills, right?" Ha!

Again, I felt like I wasn't really racing; even in the back of my head, I kept saying "It's just a tempo run." But it wasn't just a tempo run; it was a race. And I kept trying to break through the "race to train" mentality, but I don't think I ever really did; I just managed to find a slightly faster training pace.

But it was a pleasant surprise to get to the end and realize that what i thought was a 12-minute pace turned out to be 9:00! Imagine what I could have done if I had been trying!

Final: 1:17:36, 1st F 20-24, 7th F overall
I could not have been happier with these results. I could have been happier with my performance, for sure, but these results made me kind of forget about the fact that I didn't perform to my full potential. Because it was a little training race, the first of the season. And for me to do so well in the competition when I wasn't even peaking . . .

Well, let's just say I'm very optimistic about this season.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


I am so excited.

I suppose this should be obvious, but the prospect of the first real race (even though it's in an indoor pool) of the season has focused my workouts in a way I've never before experienced. I was so focused, the second half of this week (I was still in recovery mode until Wednesday) I sort of killed my cycling classes. Seriously, Thursday night, all I could think was, "Hard as you can; c'mon this is the last chance to get a really solid workout before Emporia." And by the end, I think some of the people in the Group Ride class were crying. We all had little puddles under my bike, anyway. At any rate, I think I made half the class wish I had a race every weekend, while the other half is probably hoping I never race again.

It's always an interesting experience, dragging a dozen people along mostly on your own energy. Empowering.

Talk to you after the race!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Beginners' Guide: Finding Your Focus

It's a lot to deal with, isn't it? You sign up for a race, you start running around the block, attending bike classes at your local gym, struggling across the local pool in 25- and 50-yard bursts . . . And you're getting the hang of it. You're starting to feel really good about finishing that first race. You're pretty sure that you can do it.

But you're also trolling around the internet like a madman. Madwoman. Crazy person. Whichever politically correct moniker you prefer. You're looking for articles, blogs, race reports, collecting ever scrap of advice that could possibly help you. And you're starting to feel a little bit overwhelmed.

I had the same problem, and I'm realizing that I've passed on the same thing to the beginners I coach in my club. It's difficult to separate out what resources are beneficial for the beginner, what workouts will be helpful for them, what to tell them without completely freaking them out.

What I'm discovering (I think) is that it's vitally important to find a single thing on which to focus. This holds true for more experienced athletes, as well; for example, my single biggest goal for this year is to place in my age group at Shawnee Mission. That is the primary driving force behind my training. Notice I said "primary"; it's not like I'm working harder in every tough workout by chanting "Shawnee Mission Shawnee Mission Shawnee Mission." I'm also focused on building mental toughness, harnessing more discipline, building a stronger aerobic base; I have a handful of goals that are jostling in the back of my head during every workout.

I propose that the difference between the first-timer and the experienced triathlete--even a newly-minted, fresh-from-the-first-race green horn--is that the athlete with experience knows what they want and need. Athletes fresh from their first race will know exactly what I'm talking about. As you're running the last miles of your race, or right after you cross the finish line, you think, "This is what I want to do differently next time."

That next time is your focus. Until you've got that focus, all of your internet trolling, your message board questions, your desperate search through the library to find a triathlon book that was published more recently than 1998 is nothing more than guesswork. You might know roughly what you need to do (i.e. learn to swim), but as far as the kind of nuanced training suggestions you get from training guides (i.e. setting up complicated schedules based on percentages of time spent in each of five training zones) will be pretty useless to you.

With that in mind, I'd like to suggest the following focal point for the n00b: get through that first race. I absolutely guarantee that after that first race you'll have a much better sense of what you need to do. After that first race you can work on taking flying leaps onto your bike, setting up your transition area just so, shaving off seconds on the bike with advanced aerodynamic techniques (not to mention shaving your legs, men), and finding the perfect suit to wear.

Also keep in mind that even the first Ironman athletes were pretty dorky (see some of the early Kona experiences in Becoming an Ironman for a perfect example). None of us are going to laugh at you if you're wearing basketball shorts, your race shirt, and your son's bike helmet; I've been passed by people dressed exactly thus while riding a beat-up mountain bike--believe me, there was no laughing when they pushed past me up the hills at Pumpkinman a couple years ago.

My point is that you just need to get a race under your belt, then take it from there. Then after you've done that first race, post a race report somewhere online; not only will you probably get helpful responses from fellow athletes (and a big welcome to the community), you'll also have a better sense from writing out your experience what you want to do next time.

Triathlon is a sport that rewards attention to detail and dropping big bucks on equipment, but almost all of us did it the hard way first. If you read Becoming an Ironman (which I highly recommend), you realize that everyone--even the most elite competitors--started at square one, not knowing this sport or how to handle it. And there's something beautifully poignant about that initial confusion, the first few tentative steps into what is a very complex and intimidating world. Think of it as a coming-of-age.

And as rites of passage go, it sure beats a bris.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Moments in Tri

Note: I was going to title this entry "Moments in Tri-me," but I thought that might be just a little too much.

We have some pretty amazing moments in our sport, captured on video and preserved for posterity. Most famous? The 1982 Kailua Kona Ironman where Julie Moss collapsed 30 yards from a first-place finish.

The drama of this moment catapaulted the sport into the public eye, prompting millions (just kidding; at that point, there were probably only a couple thousand crazies) to internally ponder, "I wonder if I could do that."

Great moment in the sport. No question about it.

Then there's the Dave Scott/Mark Allen "Ironwar" of 1989 (and I know that the commentary on these is inane and annoying; sorry).

You guys might already know that I really enjoy watching the ITU World Cup races; it's a great way to take in the sport as a spectator (because Ironman isn't terribly spectator-friendly). My favorites to watch are the battles between Vanessa Fernandez and Emma Snowsill. Example:

No doubt about it; the visual stimulation to our triathlon sensibilities is pretty well fleshed out, electronically speaking.

Now you wanna see my favorite moment, the greatest moment ever in triathlon videography?

Now doesn't that make you want to hop out of your seat, a little? Doesn't it make you pull up your calendar and check again how many days/weeks/months you have until your next event?

Isn't that kind of excitement what it's all about?

I love this video because it captures so completely the reason I still do this crazy sport. It's exciting. "How many minutes to go? Two? EEEE!" It might be the challenge, the bombastic, "Heck, I can do that if she can!" attitude that drew me to the sport in the first place, but it's that intense excitement, the endless attention to detail to eke out every bit of speed and skill, the constant nitpicking and readjustments to training the schedules, the sleepless nights before a race . . .

That's what keeps me in this sport.

Do you have a favorite moment in triathlon history, be it video, audio, print, or personal? Share in the comments!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Triathlete's Non-Sand Cookbook

Props to SpeedRacer for her recent foray into a thriving lifestyle. Like (I would estimate) many triathletes, Speedy would be totally willing to eat sand (or at least food that tastes like sand) for the next ten years if it meant she could be competitive, like really competitive (actually, come to think of it, how competitive, Speedy? Like qualifying for Kona competitive or like qualifying for the Olympics competitive?).

But Speedy is a much better person than I am. I would much rather not eat sand and be slow. But I think it's because I believe that it's possible to have the best of both worlds--that is, you can eat well for your body while still enjoying your food. To be sure, this attitude takes some readjustment of your taste buds. Personally, I can have a great time with a bowl of brown rice and some steamed vegetables without even salt and pepper. But I know that not everyone has such a highly developed palette (read: boring taste buds), so I submit a few of my favorites for your non-sandy dining pleasure.

For breakfast, I mix plain yogurt (if you get vanilla or some other flavor, check the ingredients for nasty additives like high fructose corn syrup) with a handful of berries (I currently have fresh blue and black) and a handful of nuts (currently almonds). The berries lend sweetness, the almonds add crunch. The yogurt is an awesome source of complete protein (sorry, vegans) and vitamin B12 (very important for athletes!). Bonus is that it's very filling.

My new favorite thing to take for lunch is a tomato soup (actually, it's kind of like gazpacho, now that I think about it) I make by combining one can of tomatoes (the kind that are pre-seasoned, either with Mexican or Italian seasonings) with whatever frozen vegetables I have around. I cook it until it's hot and the vegetables are cooked, then eat it. It's a great way to get a ton of vegetables, and it tastes awesome. You don't have to add any additional spices, either.

I also really enjoy making wasabi peas by microwaving some frozen peas then mixing in some wasabi and soy sauce. Delicious. I obviously use quite a lot of frozen vegetables. Not raw, sorry; if I'm going to go raw for lunch, I just eat a salad. Always keep ingredients for a salad around. Quicker and easier and more healthful even than whole grains.

I can't think of anything quick and easy that I do for dinner (by the time I get home from work, it doesn't make sense for me to eat a full meal, anyway), but I'll give you a quick recipe for a snack: green smoothie. Mix whatever fruit you have around in a blender (this morning I used an orange and a handful of frozen strawberries), adding enough water to get your preferred consistency. Then throw in 1/2 cup to a cup of leafy greens--I prefer spinach or romaine lettuce; Kale tastes funny to me. The color will be unpleasant, to say the least. Also, be very sure to add enough water to thin it out; otherwise you will want to vomit with every sip. Bonus points for adding superfood powders like spirulina, chlorella, maca, etc. (this morning I used some hemp protein powder). The key for the smoothie is to start with a good base of fruit that you'll enjoy.

For more ideas for healthy, quick, and easy recipes, check out Ben Greenfield's article on Trifuel. Those are all great ideas as well. Sound off with your favorite quick, easy, and nutritious recipes in the comments.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


About 1/2 a mile from my place of work, there is a hill. Please understand the significance of this statement; I live in central Kansas. This might be the only hill within a 5 mile radius (not including highway on-ramps and the sledding hill in Sedgwick County Park). It's not a particularly big hill or a particularly long hill. But this morning it was enough to set me off. I was driving up this tiny hill after lunch when my mind shot out of my body and onto the race course at Shawnee Mission.

The Shawnee Mission Triathlon bike course is somewhat notorious in these parts, a gruesomely hilly 4.5 mile loop which competitors (on the long course) must repeat four times--a q
uartet of cardiac-arresting climbs, followed by a brief 1/2 mile of flat terrain before repeating the whole thing. Okay, really it's not that bad. The total elevation gain is like 400-450 feet per loop (1800 total feet climbed), and I've definitely raced more difficult courses than that (Pumpkinman, for one, and soon Wildflower). But it feels like a lot of climbing, especially when you already know what's waiting for you on the next three loops.

All of which is beside the point. Because when I was driving up that teeny tiny baby hill this afternoon, I wasn't thinking about how difficult all that climbing will be, or how much it's going to hurt, or how lame I am for thinking 400 feet of elevation gain is even that much. In that moment, I got that sinking, bubbly feeling in my stomach that's sort
of like being slightly too buzzed.

It's the feeling of simultaneously thinking "I can't believe I get to do this again!" and "Why the hell am I doing this again?" It's the same feeling that you have the night/week/month before a race when you know you need to sleep but you can't seem to. It's the feeling that makes you pace and posture and get to transition two and a half hours before the race starts.

It's the feeling that fills port-a-johns.

And it's here, already, more than three months away from Shawnee Mission, still two weeks out from my first race of the season.
I really want this one, guys; it's what it's all about, this year.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Podcast . . .

You know how difficult it is to do Tabata intervals on the bike by yourself? It's a frickin' pain in the butt. I did a set the other day, trying to balance my stopwatch so I could see it the whole time, trying to push through every interval when I was ready to stop after two, trying to look at the time through the pain.

So I thought I'd give my fellow cyclists a little help in this respect. Set your bike up on the trainer and get ready to work!

(For more on Tabata intervals see the following:

Tri Harder Podcast: Tabata Intervals

Looking for more workouts? Go here!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

50 Degrees

First open water swim of the year! Woohoo! It was frickin' cold, so cold that when I put my face in I got an instant headache. Brainfreeze. But after I got warmed up, it felt pretty nice. And I finally got to use my new wetsuit (which works beautifully).

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Quick Notes

Thanks for all the responses about the pain in my ass!  I saw a physical therapist today, who suspects that the problem is my SI joint, with unrelated pains coming from trigger points in my piriformis and gluteus medius.  Cool.  No bulging discs, no ruptured or torn anything . . . and I can still run (although he instructed me to start at a mile and gradually build up, mile by mile, over the next several weeks) and can still bike (but he told me to stay out of the aerobars), so all's well, right?  Oh, and I'm also not supposed to bend over at the waist.  So no more straight-leg deadlifts.  Anyway, that's that, and I'll go out for a mile run tomorrow (although it hardly seems worth it for a mile, eh?)

I booked my flight to sunny California for Wildflower tonight.  Anyone else going to be there?

This month is National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo)  Which isn't really related to this blog, but it's fun and I thought I'd throw it in.  My poetry lives over here (in small, very strong cages; I don't want it to get out), just in case you need a little break from the tri lifestyle (or tri-ing, if you like).

Be back in a few days with a surprise podcast!