Friday, October 30, 2009


That is what I have been. Remiss.

Not so much as a peep from me in a full week! I'm sorry!

To those of you who are awaiting response from me re: free coaching, I will e-mail before the weekend is out.

For those who have asked for a new spinning podcast, it is in the works (up in Garage Band as we speak)!

For those of you who have no requirements from me except for entertaining and informative reading . . . well, my endurance faculties seem to be hibernating. And my work schedule is cuh-razy. Seriously. I get off work at 3 p.m. today and it's *still* a 10-hour workday.

BUT! If you'd like to read what I'm reading (and some comments, besides), you can take a look at my Tumblr page: On that site, I post articles that I read and find interesting, things that I think may be helpful, entertaining, or otherwise encouraging for my fellow athletes.

You can also follow me on Twitter. And between those two things, you can keep up with me (if you want to, although I must warn you that I'm not all that interesting) until I regain my blogging mojo.

Thank you for reading! And keep your eyes peeled for the latest installment in my one-on-one cycling workouts!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Race Report: Capital Cross

At last: success!

I finally managed to get through a full cyclocross race without injury or incident. No flat tires. No twisted ankles. I still managed to fall and puncture my leg with my chainring while simultaneously bruising 82% of my shin, but that wasn't bad enough to prevent me from finishing. Truth be told, I didn't even realize how bad I'd hit myself until I finished the race and took my pants off.

Rode up with one of my Specs Racing teammates, Bob. Racing started at 11:00, and my race was one of the first (Cat. 4 women rode also with the women's open race and all the masters divisions). Having the first race on the course meant that I had the stiffest grass to contend with, and there was a ton of grass.

The course began with a nice, long stretch of pavement, but slightly uphill and with the north wind right in our faces. From there we moved into a long straightaway on the grass. The grass had been recently mowed, but it was still thick and stiff (that's what she said). Course dipped around into a ditch (riding off-camber), which led us around a tree, uphill and around another tree, then back through another straight-away the way we'd just come. Much of the course was like that: grass, tree, tree, grass. Slight uphill, slight downhill, slight turns. Two barriers in a small cluster of trees. Two separate times the course turned sharply and directly up steep hills (those were fun).

The highlight of the course was the Mound of Mercy, a banana-shaped embankment that was a moderate climb on the ends and steep in the middle. Course followed a few sharp turns around trees, then straight up the stem side of the banana. We rode steady around the banana's back, down the other side into some more off-camber section. 180* turn at the butt of the hill, then forced dismount for a barrier and a long, steep run-up. A small chicane followed the first run-up, then an even steeper downhill, another 180*, and a final run-up. Remount at the top of that run-up, then hammer back down the banana, left-hand turn, and through the finish line. 1.8 miles. And that's just lap one.

I lined up in the second row in a field of about 14 women. I'd read an article about how to get a good start in cyclocross races (because what else am I going to do at work at 5 in the morning), and I applied that new knowledge to excellent effect. I grabbed a wheel, passed, grabbed another wheel, passed, looking for a rabbit to chase. Going into the first grassy section, I was sitting in third position, with a fair gap back to the next woman. But as soon as we hit that first section, I knew that I was in trouble. The two women in front of me were much, much stronger. My body was already sending me messages: "Too much! Too soon! Abort! Abort!" I let them get ahead a little bit and tried to find a manageable pace. All my lines were good, but my power was not. I was already tasting blood, and could feel bile stirring up in my stomach. Coming through the second section of trees, the girl in fourth was right behind me. I let her go ahead, saying as she passed, "I already feel like I'm gonna throw up." This may have been about a quarter into the first lap.

I still had a fair gap back to the next two girls, two women from Free State. I probably had a 20 second gap on them. One was working her way up to me, and she passed me sometime around the second lap. Coming to the pair of barriers on the third lap, I fell while trying to remount my bike, and jammed my knee right down into my frame, between the top tube and down tube. It hurt enough that I pulled off to the side to assess the damage. My quad was definitely sore, and my shin was definitely bruised. It was stiff as I started pedaling again, but it worked out quickly. The other Free State gal had passed me at the barriers as I was pulling off to the side, and I was anxious to keep contact with her. She and I traded positions through laps 3 and 4, chatting as we passed and re-passed. I can't repeat all the things that were said, but we were both grateful when the masters men lapped us and we had a lap taken off of our race.

After lap 4, I was still in the lead over the FSR chick. I hammered through the tarmac, trying to put as much time into her as I could. I backed off the gas once I got into the grass, then focused on taking the best line and doing whatever was necessary to hold her off. She was within 10-15 seconds going into the Mound of Mercy for the last time, and I thought she was going to catch me on the final run-up. Fortunately, I was willing to suffer enough to hold her off, and once I got onto the last downhill, I was golden. Crossed the line in 6th place, after 5 laps and about 48 minutes of racing.

As often happens in these maximal exertion type races, everything has kind of blurred together into one long stretch of vague pain. I remember my one little fall. I remember the few passes. I remember a few of the lines I took on the off-camber portions, and the run-ups on the Mound of Mercy. I remember letting one girl pass me, because I figured she was racing as a junior. Silly me, the juniors' race didn't start until 12:15, so this girl (maybe 13-14) was racing as cat. 4 woman. I felt totally stupid when I saw the results, because I could have ridden the girl down--I was passing and re-passing her the whole time--but I didn't bother because I didn't think that it was worth it.

This course was tough for me. All that grass was really draining. Talking to another athlete after the race, she mentioned that it was "a real power course." I hadn't thought about it in those terms, before, but she was right. And the need for constant power really took its toll on me throughout the race. But the greatest limiter to my performance in this race was the inability to keep contact with the next rider, mentally. I found myself in no-man's land several times in the race, and its because I lack the mental toughness to pull a few extra watts out of my legs to hand on to another cyclist's wheel. If they're tough enough to pass me, then they must be tough enough to keep going. And I guess that in my head, I'm not that tough.

My goal for next weekend (Smithville Cross Festival) is to better maintain contact. If the course is anything like last year's, it should be good for me. A start on the pavement, some tricky handling work, a little bit of singletrack, and a good set of barriers. It's got that one steep run-up, so I'll need to find the lugs for my shoes. And it wouldn't hurt to practice a few steep run-ups at Sim Park cross practice this weekend.

Okay. I know what I need to do next time. I'm set.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Runners' High: De-stress

I don't want to go into the details of cortisol production and clearance in the body and how that all relates to weight loss, weight gain, eating habits, working out, and so on. Part of that is because it takes too long to explain, and part of it is that I don't really understand it myself, and you can Google it just as easily as I can.

But while I may not understand the details of stress hormones, I do know when I feel that stuff pumping through my blood. I know it makes me want to eat, and it prefers sugars and fats to get its kicks.

Tonight, someone made me mad. They hurt my feelings and pissed me off. I'd already been working for 13 hours, and still had one hour left to go (on a Friday, by the way). I wanted to cry but couldn't. I wanted to call a friend and vent my spleen, but didn't have time, since I had one more appointment to make it through.

My last client of the day was what I call a Baby Swimmer--someone who is so new to swimming that she still fears to put her face in. Working with these swimmers is a very hands-on process, which means me in the water, sometimes lending a hand when Baby Swimmer says, "You're not gonna let me sink, right?" Point is, I was active. I was moving. I was in the water and (sort of) swimming, but at the very least using my body.

And I didn't really start making connections until I got out of the pool, into the shower, and started thinking about the situation that so greatly upset me in the first place. I was considering sending a nice, private e-mail, making sure my feelings were understood, and that everyone was on the same page. And as I was mentally composing this e-mail, I realized that I was thinking sensibly and rationally and reasonably and I was no longer feeling the flood of stress in my bloodstream.

In other words, a gentle workout helped to clear that shit out.

Just a reminder, then, of something we all probably know already: exercise makes you feel better. The next time you feel the tides of cortisol corroding your brain, make time for a little workout. Guarantee it'll clear your head, clear your heart, and clear your blood of those nasty stress hormones.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Next Step: Coaching

First off, Joe Friel (author of the Training Bible series) just did a few blog posts on how to choose the right coach; you should check it out.

As for me, the economy has not been kind to personal trainers (or not to me, anyway, but my sales skills are pretty paltry), and I can't afford a coach. There's nothing wrong with coaching yourself; that's what most of us do anyway. But there's no denying the efficacy of hiring a good coach to make you faster.

With that in mind . . . 

I've been giving some thought to something that Speedy said . . . something about not wanting to waste $200/month just to have some schmuck who's read The Triathlete's Training Bible impose rigid periodization on her. Or something. In other words, someone who's learned things from experience and from Triathlete Magazine; someone who's had success as a coach, but also as an athlete; someone who's actually (you know) been there.

Well I've been there in terms of personal training, but not in coaching.

Sure, I've coached plenty of athletes to their first triathlon, their first half marathon, even their first half ironman. But I haven't really taken an athlete and made him or her faster and stronger through my ingenuity and their hard work.

Which is why I need you.

I need experience, and you need coaching. So I'm extending an offer of 6 months of free coaching to two athletes (don't want to spread myself any thinner than that). There are a few requirements for this coaching. You have to have done some racing before (you need to be at the "next step" phase of training). You have to be willing to work hard. You have to have a good amount of patience with me, as I'm going to be figuring my coaching process and style out. And you need to live at least 50 miles away from me (so we don't run into trouble with my non-compete contract).

If you're interested in being one of my two coached athletes, send me an e-mail (jamielynnmorton[at]gmail[dot]com). Include your name, e-mail address, a phone number where I can reach you, and why you want to be coached. And we can go from there.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Race Report: Chris (Cris?) Cross '09


This is my first DNF. First time I haven't been able to finish a race.

But at least it had nothing to do with my ankle.

I will admit outright that it's a little ridiculous to make a 3-hour drive (each way) to do a 30-minute race. Quite ridiculous. Especially when it's cloudy and cold, with sub-freezing wind chills, and threatening rain.

It makes very little sense, additionally, if you've driven all that way and your front tire appears to be a little bit squishy (when you'd just filled it up that morning) to air it up beyond the pressure you'd normally use and roll it anyway. Especially when you have an extra tube. But that's exactly what I did, and I certainly paid for it later.

The course was well-planned, championship grade, and very tough. The loop was almost two miles long, and it took me somewhere around 12-15 minutes to do one circuit. In a 30-minute race, that means only twice around. Course began with about 100 meters uphill in the grass. After cresting the hill, it dropped you down through a snaking, flowing section that weaved back and forth through trees at a downhill speed. There was an off-camber turn, a long stretch on hard-packed dirt, a slight ditch, then a long, flat, grassy straight-away. A slight downhill led into the first set of barriers (which I really slowed down for, believe me!), then up into another off-camber turn. Another hard-packed section, more winding back and forth through trees, then a steep off-camber turn, followed by a sharp incline (run-up, for those of us with a little less muscle and a little more weight). Last 300-400 yards of the course were on cobbles, with a steady uphill gradient. That section led to the finish line or (for those brave enough to tackle the beast again) a sharp left into a grassy section, the wheel pit, and a second set of barriers, before tackling the initial incline a second time.

I was still having trouble unclipping from my SPD pedals on Thursday, so I decided to run a pair of platform pedals on my bike with trail running shoes. There were a couple points on the course where that ended up being a great decision--I fell out on one of the off-camber turns, and if I'd been clipped in, I might have done some serious damage to my ankle. But of course I lost a ton of power, especially on the initial uphill. I'd gotten the chance to run the course before my noon race began, so I knew if I could just make it all the way up the hill, I'd be fine. Coming to the top of that hill, I was dead last out of all the women. Then I got over the hill, and bombed it. Passed three chicks straight away who weren't interested in taking all the curvy-windies at speed. Started chasing 'em down, confident that my handling skills and power on downhills and in the flats was the best (or among the best) in the field. I handled the first set of barriers with finesse (passed a girl and a masters rider there), fell out and changed the off-camber turn into a run-up (thank goodness for the platform pedals), and cut loose on the hard-packed dirt. Maintained speed going through another twisty-windy section, and tried to maintain speed in the grass. That next big off-camber turn was also a run-up for me, and the masters guy gained on me there. The cobbles were so tough, with that constant grade! Second set of hurdles were no problem, but I wasn't looking forward to tackling the initial climb again.

Second time around, everything felt tougher. I couldn't believe how hard I was having to work on the first uphill. A juniors rider passed me, and one of the six (or so) women I'd passed earlier re-passed me. I gained ground on her again in the downhill stretch, hit two bumps in the off-camber turn HARD. Tried to really push through the hard-packed section. Cleared the first set of barriers, but was really slowing down. Passed another masters rider at the barriers, but then completely slid out on the off-camber turn. Like totally fell down and slid a little bit. Pushed uphill, remounted, and managed to stay neck-and-neck with the old guy. He gained on me in the second hard-packed section, and the woman who'd re-passed me had broken the elastic and was out of reach by this point. Coming into the grass section next to the lake, I looked down and realized that I was riding on the rim on my front wheel. I kept riding it, because where else was I going to go? Slid out on the next off-camber turn, fought through the twists and turns, but hopped off when I got to the cobbles; no way was I running my rim on that bumpy brick road! Walked my bike back up to the finish. DNF.

I was absolutely bummed to have my first ever DNF, and to have missed out on yet another cyclocross race. But once I'd gotten past the initial ohmygoshthissucks part of it (and I at least didn't actually cry this time), I felt okay. My calf was definitely stiff by the end of the first lap, but my ankle handled everything fine, including the running, jumping, mounting, dismounting, and all that. I think I'm ready to run with my SPDs for next weekend, and that will give me more power.

Also, I think I need a different set of tires. My current tires are 700x26, and they're so narrow that they tend to sink into anything soft. And that'll slow you down, because it's like your tires are constantly rolling uphill. So I wasn't something wider and knobbier and more supple that'll spread out a little bit and give me less rolling resistance. The Specialized Infinity tires I'm currently running I'll keep on my road rims as a spare wheelset (lesson learned!) and I can use those for the dirt road series coming up in November.

Best part about this race was that it reminded me how flippin' fun this sport is. I love cyclocross. I can't wait to do it again next week.

But if something goes wrong this Saturday at Capital Cross, I'm scrapping the season, listening to the voice of the Universe, and cutting my losses before I wind up with something broken!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

As it Stands (and looking to the future)

First of all, the ankle is getting much better. It's not ready for running, yet; I want to give it at least one more week before I try any impact on this poor achilles tendon. But it's to the point where I can walk normally, and do most activities. I can even unclip my right foot from my SPD pedals, as long as I take it slow. Next week, I'm going to try a few miles on the elliptical, and I've been water jogging as well. Swimming is going (ahem) swimmingly. I'm hoping I'll be back to running within the next two weeks, and Chris Cross (next Sunday) is looking like a good possibility.

Now for what comes next. If Chris Cross doesn't or can't happen next week (that is if I decide that a cyclocross race isn't worth compromising the long-term health of my ankle), I'm ready to just scrap the cross season. There's always next year, after all.

This next week begins a long-term training plan for me, building up to a 26.2 mile journey in L.A. on March 21. I've always felt sort of ambivalent about marathons. Everyone does them. They don't seem like that big a deal, anymore. It's like a 4-minute mile: still impressive, but not superhuman. At any rate, I wasn't really interested in running one.

But after finishing at Lawrence, my mind started wandering here and here, and even here. And I knew that in order to make those dreams reality, I would (almost) have to run a marathon. (Quick note: I know people who have gone Iron without ever having done a marathon; it's possible, but not something I want to do.)

So here's the run-down on Jamie's future: P.F. Chang half-marathon in Phoenix in January. L.A. Marathon in March. Then depending on how that marathon feels . . . well, if it totally kicked my ass, then I'll see you in Lawrence in June. If I finish and I feel good and I feel strong and I feel excited . . .

Then I'll see you here in September.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Next Step: Chasing it Down

It's not enough for you to be able to swim, bike, and run faster than you are now; hell, it's not even enough for you to go faster than the competition. Your best pace in a tempo run, your smoothest technique in the open water, your fastest speed on your bike isn't going to matter a lick if you can't call upon it (and a little more) when race day rolls around.

Triathlon is an inherently painful sport; all endurance sports, actually, entail more suffering than most humans (at least humans in our culture) are comfortable with. So when the intense discomfort of racing near your limits smacks you in the face, what do you turn to? How do you ensure that the hard work you've put in leading to your A race doesn't fizzle out when you need it most?

One way is to establish a rival. This is what I did for the Boathouse International Triathlon. I checked the list of registered athletes for women in my age group; I looked up their USAT rankings and previous race performances, trying to determine which ones would pose a threat. I found race pictures of them online and posted them above my desk (note: this creeps people out) with their times from races I'd also been at last year. Seriously. Ask my co-workers and clients. I had to look at those pictures every day, and before going out on training runs, I would see those photos and get a surge of adrenaline that told me, You want it more than they do.

Another method I've used with great success is focusing on a mantra--a phrase you repeat to yourself constantly to drown out the noise of pain and stink of lactate in your body. The best one I've found so far is "Trust the work"; that's what brought me through my first 70.3. But you can use any phrase that you find appealing. Works best when it's short, succinct, and burns an image in your brain. One of my athletes likes to use "Slow and steady"; another took herself through her first tri with the phrase "Home stretch." Keep it appropriate to your goals, though; if you're looking to podium for the first time, "Just finish" is probably not going to be immensely helpful to you.

My favorite method is to get a song stuck in my head. This can be tricky, if you're not a particularly musical person. It can also disrupt your rhythm if you try to match your cadence to an inappropriate song. And I've found that I can't always choose what song ends up swirling around in my brain (it's been this one in every workout I've done for the past two weeks, which is downright annoying). But when your brain hits on the right song--maybe something from your pre-race playlist--and it keeps coming back to (again) drown out the noise of your body, it's golden.

A key thing to note is that different methods are going to work differently for each individual. Personally, the rivalry thing doesn't prompt me to push myself into the realms of true pain. Speedy, on the other hand, thrives on that kind of competition. "Trust the work" brought me to a new half marathon PR, because I knew that I could run 2:15, and I just had to stay on the pace I knew I could run. But when you're racing against other people, it's less effective, because you have to trust that your work is also better than theirs. My most successful method is the song, because I can completely let go and take my brain out of my body. I still have to maintain enough focus and awareness to keep the legs turning over, but I no longer have to think about how bad it's hurting or how much I want it to be over already.

At this point, all I can do is offer you these three strategies, with examples of how they've worked for me. But I'm sure there are other strategies out there. Best bet is to ask more experienced athletes what they do to push themselves through the pain to the next level on race day. Experienced athletes, do you have anything to add? How do you mentally prepare for and execute your race in order to get the most out of training?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Head Position in Freestyle

So yesterday I was swimming with a pull buoy (because what else can I do with this damn bum ankle?). And I was doing drills and generally enjoying the feel of slipping effortlessly through the water. At any rate, I had my moments. And at one point I lifted my head just a little bit to look slightly ahead in the water. As soon as I did that, I felt my speed increase. It was instantaneous. It was amazing!

It's been a long time since I felt that kind of improvement in my swimming. Crazy thing is that I already knew to do that. I distinctly remember a clinician telling me to look 45* in front of me at a workout in college. And then after I got into Total Immersion and a different clinician told me to get my head down, I started focusing more on streamlining. I just assumed that was the fastest way to swim.

And it might be the fastest way for some people to swim. But apparently not for me.

And then tonight I read this article about it. So enjoy. I hope my little journey helps you in your swimming.