Thursday, April 22, 2010

Beginners' Guide: First Race

First off, don't worry; it's perfectly normal to freak out in the swim on your first tri. For that matter, it's perfectly normal to freak out in the swim at your second tri. I have clients and athletes who are 3-4 years into their triathlon journey, and they still sort of freak out. So don't worry; that's normal.

One of the women I taught to swim this spring just did her first race (Emporia) on Sunday. And the swim did not go quite as well as she may have hoped or planned. First off, that time trial start can be a really crappy situation for the newer swimmers because they have a poor sense of how to pace themselves. So people who should be at the back of the line seed themselves too high, and people who belong more to the middle seed themselves to the back. Bottom line, my poor friend had to pass a guy who should have seeded himself waaaaay slower than he did. So she had to pass him after less than 50 m (of a 400 m swim, mind you). Passing--even passing someone way slower than you--is hard work, and after that, she had trouble recovering her breath and regaining her rhythm. From there, she was strictly in survival mode.

My first triathlon wasn't so bad. I did a lot of backstroking and sidestroking, but overall I managed to maintain a pretty good rhythm. My second tri? Not so much. It was Pumpkinman, and it was in Lake Mead, and it was frickin' cold. I was wearing a wetsuit (borrowed, natch) for the first time. I'd never swam in a wetsuit before. I had a minor panic attack right there when the gun went off. I couldn't put my face in the water; I couldn't breathe when I did. My body absolutely rejected the notion of normal freestyle breathing. So I did the elementary backstroke for the whole swim. Longest 750 m of my life.

So it's a normal thing. But what do you do about it? How do you move past that place of panic and into a place of calm?

First off, chill out. There's absolutely nothing wrong with getting pumped for a big event, but if you're new to racing and have trouble with the swim, you'll probably be better served by listening to Sounds of Meditation than the theme song from Rocky. That initial shot of adrenaline might give you the kick start you need at a bike or run race, but in a triathlon swim, it's going to freak you out. So try to get calm and Zen instead of pumped up before the swim start. There will be time to get pumped or highly focused after you've mastered the swim start.

Second, practice. This is especially important if you're going to be doing a mass start and an open water swim. If you'll be racing with a wetsuit, practice with a wetsuit. The first time you put it on, you'll be surprised at how constricting it feels, and you don't want to be starting a race feeling constricted. Not unless you enjoy hanging on to the sides of paddle boats or kayaks, anyway. If you'll be swimming in the ocean, you damn well better practice in the ocean. Nothing's going to freak you out worse than swimming through a patch of seaweed for the first time. If you're going to be starting from a beach, practice running into the water; figure out before hand how long you want to wait until you start swimming. And if there will be a mass start (if you're swimming in a lake or ocean, there will be), practice with some friends. You know, like this:

Okay. Maybe not exactly like that.

Third, know the venue. If you can, swim there before race day. You want to know how cold the water is going to be, how far it's going to look to that first turn buoy (seeing the actual distance can be freaky, the first time), what the major landmarks are, and how the swim entry/exit looks. You'll also want to acquaint yourself with any critters who might live in the water (fish and seaweed = freaky), and be familiar with the depth at various points on the course (there's a local race where you could walk most of the swim course, if you were so inclined).

And if you do all those things and you still freak out, don't worry. It happens. Now if you're into your fifth or sixth race and you're still freaking out, you might want to try something a little more advanced. I've had athletes go for hypnotherapy; I've done guided meditation with my podcast. Those are options. When it comes right down to it, though, some people are going to feel more comfortable in water than others, and it may be something that never quite comes naturally to you. If that's the case, don't worry; you'll catch 'em up on the bike and run.

Race Report: Easter Sun Run '10

Well, this race report is almost two weeks overdue. I've been . . . otherwise occupied, and not at all interested in blogging about a race at which I didn't even perform to my potential. But the weather was nice, and there were lots of happy people, so the race wasn't a total bust. A good day, but not a great race.

Morning began late for me, because I'd been out late the night before. But I hadn't been drinking, so at least my race prep was better than for this race. I rode to Sedgwick County Park with my parents. My dad was running the 10k, and my mom was going to try her hand at the 2 mile run (NOT the 2 mile walk!). Weather was perfect: mid 50s with a light wind (this being Kansas, anything under 20 MPH is light) and plenty of sunshine. I shucked my warm ups and headed out for about a mile of warming up.

As I jogged around the park, I couldn't help but appreciate the beauty of the day. I actually just stood and stared at one of the lakes for a while. It really couldn't have been a more perfect atmosphere for what we were doing.

This year's race featured "chip timing," but really it was just a chip finish. I have no idea where the start line was, or how far I ran before I crossed it. I estimated, and my finish time is based on that (the official finish time doesn't take the slightly delayed start into account). I went out hard; my intention was to set a pace of 5:20/km. My dream was to run sub-50:00, which would require a 5:00/km pace.

I did well for the first few kilometers, but my body was sending me early warning signs; the pace was not sustainable. After 3 or 4 kilometers, I was starting to be passed back by some of the people I had run by earlier. One of my cycling buddies caught me at around the 6k mark, but couldn't sustain my pace through the dirt section (most of kilometer 6 is run on an unpaved road in the park). I didn't exactly drop her, though; she stayed just about 20 yards behind me for the rest of the race, apparently. Kilometer 6 was also measured long; my split for that one was 6 something, while my 7k split was under 5.

I started trying to accelerate at 8k, then picked it up a little more at 9k. I was passing a few people, at that point. But I had run myself into a dangerous situation, from a competitive vantage point, because I wasn't with any significant group. There was a group of ladies just a little bit too far ahead to catch with a 500m surge, and no one close enough behind me to pose any threat. By that point, I was just sort of cruising to the finish in an (official) time of 54:12, an average pace of 8:43. The time on my watch was 53:44. But, like I said before, I 100% guessed as to the location of the start line. Last year's time was 54:07, so I'm in a comparable place this year. Which I'm not necessarily happy about. I mean, I was happy with last year's time; sub-9:00 pace for a 10k? Alright! But this year, I want to be better. And I wasn't, at least not significantly.

Thing is, I feel like I'm in better run shape. I've been running better. I ran a 2:02 1/2 marathon in January; that's excruciatingly close to that 2-hour mark! I'm stronger and faster than I was a year ago, and I have the numbers to prove it. I think there were two main elements that held me back at the Sun Run.

The first is that my legs were dead. I had done a track workout the week before (a recovery week, mind you) in my Vibrams. It felt good at the time. But for a good 5 days after, my calves were deathly sore. Like having trouble walking kind of sore. I could barely stand up, they were so sore. And that soreness and bone-deep fatigue were still there on Saturday. So my legs weren't as responsive or as snappy as they could have been.

The other element was mental. Maybe it was my race strategy. Last year, my plan was to go out with my heart rate under 165, then turn it up as high as I dared on the last 5k. And I had a great race, with that plan. But this year, my plan was to do even pacing at 5:24/mile, which was ambitious. There was a good chance that I would blow up with a plan like that.

But I didn't blow up; I just never seized the race and made it my own. I never found that extra gear, not just in terms of physicality (because, again, legs of lead), but also mentally. I never found it in myself to push through pain for a great performance. I had a good performance, but not a great performance.

Still, I suppose it's good that I didn't lose any ground. It sets me up well for this next season. And there will be other 10k races. Still plenty of time to set that new PR, to hit that 50-minute mark.

By the way, my dad ran the 10k in 1:02, which is an 8-minute PR for him and a 10-minute mile! Way to go, Dad! And my mom ran/walked the 2-mile in just over 31 minutes, which was a great achievement for her. She was crying when she came across the line! My mom's first running race! She still thinks I'm crazy for wanting to run 10 miles at a time, though. I guess it may take some time for that to sink in.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Spinning Workout: Quickie

This 30-minute workout fits nicely into a lunch break, or works as a warm-up before a transition run. It's designed to be used in conjunction with a separate warm-up and cool-down. You can combine it with other workouts, to make a longer workout, or use it on its own as a short spin session. This session emphasizes maintaining a constant cadence of 90-95 RPM.

Quickie (30 minutes)

Say Aha (Santogold) - 185 BPM
19-20-20 (The Grates) - 184 BPM
Suddenly I See (KT Tunstall) - 100 BPM
Could've Had Everything (P!nk) - 96 BPM
You Turn the Screws (Cake) - 95 BPM
Queer (Garbage) - 95 BPM
Ringa Ringa (Slumdog Millionaire Soundtrack) - 98 BPM
Everything I Want to be (Save Ferris) - 98 BPM

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This is one of my paid workouts. Looking for the free workouts? Go here!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Race Report: Emporia Spring Migration '10

Thanks to my Photographer for putting together this video and taking all these pictures. I'm really lucky to have such a wonderful and talented . . . Photographer.


That's what you need to know, straight off. 2nd place, female overall. Podium, baby.

This has been my first time making it that far up the ranks, and it was my primary goal for this race. Go for it, go all out, and get into the top 3 overall. And I did it.

Still, I'm not quite content. The race was smaller this year than it has been previously. I don't feel like the field was as competitive, especially on the women's side. A lot of familiar faces were missing, including a few friendly rivals. And (as always) I know that I could still go faster. So there's still room to improve.

A certain special Photographer came with me to this race, and it was wonderful to have some company on the ride up, and some support as I readied myself for competition. Also interesting was seeing triathlon in a new way, as I introduced someone new (a tri virgin, if you will) to the wonders of multisport. It makes everything more fascinating; lets you see it through new eyes.

Registration and body-marking were straight-forward. There was only a slight breeze, but it was chilly (not as chilly as last year), and the sky was grey. The main thing that struck me--and I could not get over this--was how few faces I knew, and how the familiar faces were conspicuously absent. It was kind of sad, really. Still, there were a few that I recognized, and I got to chat with some of the folks I've met casually at other races, or in previous years. Also? Got to introduce The Photographer.

Warm up was 15 minutes on the bike--very chilly!--followed by a mile on the track. And several bathroom stops. My stomach was roiling with nerves. Between the bike, run, and bathroom, I ran out of time for a swim warm-up. I went to stand in the snake between numbers 46 and 49 (48 was a no-show) and waited for my turn to come.

Swim: 400m in 7:36 (1:53/100m, 7:35 in '09)
I always feel very restrained in a triathlon swim. I'm definitely not giving my all. Just trying to stay within the pack, within a good effort zone, maximizing every stroke, and trying to set myself up for a strong bike/run. Should I be working harder? I don't  know . . .

Didn't get passed. Didn't pass anyone else. Felt strong and fluid throughout. And time is almost exactly what it was last year. Probably have some room to improve on this leg.

T1: 32 sec (52 in '09)
Estimated about 32 seconds, based on the discrepancy between my official bike time and the time on my bike computer. Did I mention that I did this race without so much as a watch?

Bike: 20 km in 36:40 (20.3 MPH, 40:30 in '09)
For the first year EVER, there was almost no wind at this race. Notice that I said almost.

The bike was where I did my best work, at this race. I was focused. I was intense. I was competitive. I was counting down the women as they passed me on the out-and-back. I was a hunter.

But I still feel like I should be faster.

T2: 57 sec (57 in '09)
Oh my goodness, what a mess this was. I was using my new Giro aero helmet for the first time at this race, and it's much tighter than the old one. So I had to put my sunglasses on over the helmet straps. Well when I went to take the helmet off, I forgot about the sunglasses, and ended up getting sunglasses, helmet, and hair all tangled together. I wasted a good 30 seconds standing there and swearing and trying to yank my hair out of my head, if that's what it took. My apologies to the parents of young children who were standing nearby; you may have to explain to your kiddos what some of those words mean.

Again, note that the T2 time is only an estimate.

Run: 5 km in 25:00 (8:02/mi, 25:48 in '09)
I don't think I've ever felt this good on a tri run. My legs felt good and strong and capable. It was like the hills weren't even there. No one passed me on the run, for once! There were a few muscles that felt like they might cramp, but they held off.

Alan (captain of the KSRVTC) was waiting for me about a half mile from the finish. He cheered me all the way in (as he does every year), and helped me to a strong finish. I came across the line feeling like I was going to toss my cookies, but knowing that I'd done my very best.

Total: 1:10:45 (1:15:42 in '09)
Fastest time I've ever posted at this race. 2nd F overall. 36th overall with the men. I'm pleased. But now I'm anxious to see how I'll do at a bigger race, one with a little more depth (especially in the female field). Although looking at the results from last year, I would still have placed 2nd overall with 1:10. And I've done it, now: I've been on the podium. The real podium. The overall podium. And I'm pretty happy about that.

Happy. But not content.

Spinning Workout: High Intensity Set

This workout gives you 17.5 minutes of pure intensity. It's meant to be used modularly, with a separate warm-up and cool-down. It can be used on its own, for a quick workout, or in conjunction with other tracks, to lengthen a workout.

High Intensity Set (17.5 minutes)
Blister in the Sun (Violent Femmes) - 194 BPM
Hey Mama (Black Eyed Peas) - 75 BPM
Toxic (Brittney Spears) - 143 BPM
Good Thing (Fine Young Cannibals) - 165 BPM
Dance This Mess Around (B52s) - 153 BPM (with acceleration)

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This is one of my paid workouts. Looking for the free workouts? Go here!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Spinning Workout: High Intensity Suffering

This is a high-intensity, 17.5 minute workout, designed to make you suffer. It's meant to be used modularly, in conjunction with other warm-up and cool-down tracks. You can stack these short workouts together to create a longer-duration workout, or you can use them as quick sessions, when you don't have much time.

High Intensity Suffering (17.5 minutes)
Long Line of Cars (Cake) - 100 BPM
Wind Up (Foo Fighters) - 73 BPM
Waiting Room (No Doubt) - 81 BPM
Keep This Fire Burning (Beverley Knight) - 100 BPM
Harder to Breathe (Maroon 5) - 75 BPM

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This is one of my paid workouts. Looking for the free workouts? Go here!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Spinning Workout: Warm Up Only

This 10-minute workout is a warm-up track, meant to be used in conjunction with more workout!

Warm Up Only (10 minutes)
Black Horse & the Cherry Tree (KT Tunstall) - 104 BPM
Supertones Strike Back (O.C. Supertones) - 193 BPM
Sober (P!nk) - 91 BPM

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This is one of my paid workouts. Looking for the free workouts? Go here!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pre Race: Emporia Spring Migration 2010

Tomorrow's forecast:

"Mostly sunny. Highs around 64. Southeast winds 5 to 10 MPH."


Spinning Workout: Cool Down

This is an 8.5 minute track meant to be used as a cool down in conjunction with other workouts.

Cool Down Only (8.5 minutes)
You're the Ocean (Teitur) - 95 BPM
Falling Away With You (Muse) - 95 BPM

Purchase this workout

Note: After purchasing the workout, I will send you an e-mail with instructions on how to download.
This is one of my paid workouts. Looking for the free workouts? Go here!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lactate Swim

I just had what may have been the best swim of my life. Okay, well that might be an exaggeration, but it was a good one, at any rate. Hey! You wanna try it? Here:

100 SKIPS (swim, kick, IM, pull, swim; can be shortened to SKP)
8 x 25 drill (I did one-arm, fist swim, and quick catch)
8 x 75 w/ :45 rest (I went on 2:00)
200 kick w/ fins
8 x 50 w/ :30 rest (I went on 1:15)
200 kick w/ fins
8 x 25 hypoxic (don't breathe until you're touching the wall)
100 choice (not free) to cool down

Fun, huh?

Note: 100 SKIPS is short-hand for 100 swim, 100 kick, 100 IM, 100 pull, 100 swim. It's my standard warm-up. A shorter warm-up is 100 swim, 100 kick, 100 pull. But then I don't get to practice my fly ;-)