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!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Eating for Success

My roommate and I have both felt a little . . . weighed down, so to speak. Before we moved to Virginia in May, we were both working low-wage jobs where high-calorie food was readily available. I ate a few too many hot dogs and taquitos, and she ate a few too many comped meals (not to mention cheesecake slices). We'd been making much healthier decisions since moving, but we were maintaining weight when we really needed to lose some.

We'd been kicking around the idea of trying a stricter eating routine for a short duration, like six weeks. We decided to take the two months until Thanksgiving to lose as much weight as we can. Primarily, we agreed to swap out a starch at dinner (I normally cook a tried-and-true combo of protein, starch, and vegetable) for a second vegetable, and choose leaner meats. We minimized processed grain options (including breads, crackers, and other flour-based foods), and tried to cut out industrialized foods as much as possible (although Emily does still take Weight Watchers frozen meals to work for lunch, sometimes). We also allow ourselves one "splurge" day per week, every Saturday. Normally, Saturdays involve pizza delivery, diet soda, and beer. There may have been a trip to On the Border, as well.

So far, the plan has been very successful! In the past three weeks, I lost three pounds and Emily lost seven. This past week has represented a departure from the plan, however; I think we're both getting a little burned out. PMS may also play a role. We've decided to have a recovery week every fourth week. We don't eat whatever we want, by any means, but we have eaten more, and we bought a loaf of bread the other night. We'll see if this week undoes what we've accomplished in the past month of hard work.

The biggest challenge for me is in balancing my calorie expenditure with my calorie intake. Especially during the first two weeks, I'd eat about the same number of calories on really heavy workout days (i.e. teaching cycling, lifting weights, and a hilly run) as on easy days (i.e. just teaching yoga). I felt weak and tired and unmotivated for a few days, until I remembered that I have to cut caloric intake in relation to my exercise level. Since then, I've felt fine.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Update on Training

This past year's training bordered on disastrous. I lost three months of prime base building time to sickness and injury. I just barely managed to get in enough training to complete a half iron distance race in September. And that was a bit of a stretch. The last 5 miles of my half marathon were sheer torture, and I questioned whether it might be better to sit down and wait for an ambulance to pick me up.

Still, I got through it, and my training has taken a turn for the better.

I did finish the triathlon season with two or three months of consistent, disciplined training. I've been able to maintain consistent running and cross training since my triathlon season ended at the beginning of September. I'm confident in my ability to prepare my body and mind for an Ironman in 2015.

After Rev3 Cedar Point on September 8, I gave myself two full weeks off. The only exercise I did was teaching cycling, yoga, and water aerobics classes. After those two weeks, I started easing back in to running, with a goal of averaging 15 miles per week for the next month. I planned to do a 5k in October, a 10k in November, and a full marathon (my first!) in March. My plan was to see if I could still run (relatively) fast, gradually build a run base again, and start marathon training at the end of November.

I did a 5k a couple of weekends ago, and surprised myself with my time (27:57, after "running" a 3-hour-plus half marathon at the end of my 70.3). It hurt, in the way that races do, but it's such a short-term pain; 5 minutes after crossing the line feeling like death, I was ready to run another one.

I plan to do a 10k the weekend before Veteran's Day, if I can find one nearby. And I'm signed up for the Shamrock Sports Weekend in Virginia Beach on March 20. I'm excited that the sponsor for the race is Yuengling. I love Yuengling lager. It's like PBR, but from Pennsylvania instead of Wisconsin (PBR is from Wisconsin, right?). That will be my first full marathon. I'm using a basic plan adapted from Run Less, Run Faster, plus a four-week build-up from my current 15 miles per week to 25 miles per week. I'm teaching two cycling classes a week and taking one water aerobics class (with a client) for cross-training. That means I'm basically getting paid to train; I'm practically a professional athlete, here.

I've noticed a lot more soreness and cramping, so I'm also trying to incorporate more weight-lifting, corrective exercise, yoga, and self-myofascial-release. You would think that it wouldn't be so difficult to make myself do these things, considering that I am a personal trainer by trade and spend a good amount of my time at a gym. Alas, it's just as difficult for me to make myself get on a foam roller or a weight bench as it is to get my clients to do it.

So that's what I'll be doing for the next six months. I'm eyeing Ironman Barcelona for 2015. I'll let you know when I pull the trigger and plunk down my 650 Euros!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Spinning Workout S&H6 - Chase & Pursuit

Taught this profile a few weeks back at my 6:00 a.m. Monday spin class. It was hit with the group, and it gave me a good workout, so I thought I'd share! Click the link below to download.

S&H6 - Chase & Pursuit
Nothing at All - Third Day (90 BPM)
Sober - P!nk (91 BPM)
Love the Way You Lie - Eminem (87 BPM)
Fistful of Sand - The Bravery (103 BPM)
Take on Me - A-Ha (168 BPM)
Walk This Way - Aerosmith (104 BPM)
Midnight Show - The Killers (140 BPM)
Acqua 'nfunn a Via - Enzo Avitabile (93 BPM)
Toxic - Brittney Spears (143 BPM)
Even Flow - Pearl Jam (103 BPM)
Feel Good, Inc. - The Gorillaz (144 BPM)
For a Pessimist, I'm Pretty Optimistic - Paramore (206 BPM)
City of New Orleans - Arlo Guthrie (76 BPM)
One Sweet Love - Sara Bareilles (100 BPM)

Spin & Smile!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Race Report: Glory Days Grill XC 5k

I found this race in the local, free running magazine, Run Washington. One of the great things about living in such a dense, metropolitan area is the multitude of resources available to niche groups. One of the downsides is all the people. But I digress.

This 5k is held in Centreville, about a half hour drive from where we live. My roomie, Emily, wanted to do the race with me. Race day goal number one was to wake her up early enough for us to drive to Centreville, pick up our race packets, and warm up (she's not usually an early riser). The day was cloudy, cool, and rainy, which I consider perfect weather for an October XC race.

We got lost trying to find packet pick-up, because I trusted GPS for directions over e-mailed instructions from the race directors. I really need to ween myself off of Google Maps. When we pulled in to park, I realized (thanks to the signs warning that XC meet parking would be $5) that this race is held as part of a larger high school XC invitational. I love watching high school and college XC meets, so I was excited to (almost, kind of) be a part of one.

Packet pick-up included a very nice, day-glo yellow, dry-fit T-shirt and a commemorative race pin. Not bad, although the entry fee was more than I'm used to for a 5k ($35). There were a beautifully excessive number of porta-johns at the race site. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. I made use of them multiple times before, during, and after my warm-up. I'd had a lot of water (and maybe a beer or two) the night before.

During my warm-up, I noticed a stocky, Asian woman about my age. She wore running shorts with a matching singlet, and held herself in a--how do I put this delicately?--gay way. I'm serious. She was clearly a lesbian. I'd found my nemesis (please note that this was because of her age, not her supposed sexual preferences).

We got to line up in the staging area for the race. I bounced around, trying to stay warm, like a happy bunny while Emily stood staring at me sullenly. She still wasn't quite awake. We finally got the call to take our marks, then we were off. I held back in the first 150 meters, letting the faster runners go in front of me. Most of the first quarter mile went downhill, and I enjoyed stretching my legs out. The race was laid out in three loops, each about a mile long. I imagine that's because the high school races are run at different lengths for different groups. The ground was soft, not too muddy, although there were a few sloppy puddles that we all had to run around. There were a few short climbs, and some absolutely brutal long ones. It was a cool course, and I enjoyed it.

I started off at a comfortable pace, and ramped it up through the first lap. I passed a lot of people, including my nemesis, within the first mile. I never saw my nemesis again, either, so I did not choose well in terms of race-long motivation. The second mile took a lot out of me; it was mostly uphill, and some of the hills were quite steep. I made up as much time as possible on the downhills, and I was getting passed now and then. There was a little boy who looked about seven who ran right past me. He stayed within reach the whole time, but the one time I tried to pass him, he put on a little kick and kept me away. What a competitor!

One woman, a short, slight, black woman whom I passed in the first mile, came back to me somewhere around the end of mile 2. She passed me, but I kept her within reach. I passed her back on a long, downhill section, but she was able to stay in touch, too. I gradually ramped up my pace to try and drop her, but she kept with me. Finally, I had given all I could at that faster pace, and I had to pull back. She passed me and ran off. It was great, though! It felt like I was actually racing someone, and she definitely pushed me to run faster than I would have run without her!

I crossed the line in 27:57, and felt like I'd given all that I could. I used this race as a measurement tool. I've done slow, zone 2 running almost exclusively this year. My 10k times in my olympic races have been upwards of an hour, and my half marathon time at Rev3 Cedar Point . . . I don't even want to talk about it. I haven't trained myself for hard, fast running, and I've kind of forgotten how to push myself to that level of pain. So I wanted to get a reading on how fast I could run a short race, at this point.

I exceeded my expectations. I was really hoping to be able to run in the low nines, and I managed to run almost exactly nine-minute-miles at this race, on a challenging course and off-road, no less! I'm very happy with my performance. I won 2nd in my age group (F25-29, taking into account that two of the top three overall women were in my age group), and my time would have placed me well in the 30-something categories, too. The 40-somethings, though, were all 21 minutes in change. I would have been way out of contention if I were 20 years older! Isn't that amazing?

I was really happy with this course, the organization, the race amenities (the pictures they took are amazing, and free!), and the atmosphere of the race. Something about going off-road seems to make people a little more laid-back; I've noticed it at XC races and at CX (cyclo-cross) races. There was none of the preening that I've seen at other races and from other athletes (cough, triathletes, cough), and there's no high-tech or expensive gear to show off. I think XC and CX races might be my favorites.

By the way, Emily finished in 33:38 in her first 5k, her first XC race, and her second event ever!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Weekly Updates, Whatever Happened to Those?

You might assume I forgot that I ever had a blog.

I didn't forget; I just lost the motivation to post. I suddenly realized that, in spite of my earlier aspirations, I have no desire to be a social media rock star, or to have a wildly popular blog, or to achieve any level of fame at any time ever.

That said, I do appreciate those of you who read my blog, and I'll continue to post (more regularly, even).

We moved on May 17. Since then, I've done two international distance triathlons, one half iron distance, and a 5k. I'll write up race reports on those with what I can remember of each race. Here's a preview: they were all difficult, I was undertrained, my times were way slower--some of my slowest ever--but I still managed to come away with a few awards. Easy age group, I guess.

I never really got my feet under me with training this year. First there was the cat-scratch fever scare, then the twisted ankle. Between those two medical interruptions, I had absolutely no base building this season. By the time I was back to a point where I could ride and run, we were in the process of moving. After the move, I was able to train regularly--I hardly missed any workouts! There were still inconsistencies, mostly because I was trying to establish a routine in a completely new area. And after losing most of the spring to sickness and injury, all I could do was put in as many miles and as much time as possible, and hope it was enough to get me through.

It was enough, but just barely.

Anyway, I'll leave that to the race reports. I'm just realizing that I have a lot to catch up on, so I'll split it into multiple posts. Here's a preview of what I have coming:

Sunday: race report for Glory Days XC 5k (my most recent race)
Monday: a new FREE CYCLING WORKOUT! It's been forever since I've published one!
Tuesday: info on my current training plan and upcoming goals
Wednesday: info on my current eating plan
Thursday: recipe for a "semi-splurge" meal--a fancier meal that takes longer to prepare but is still reasonably low-cal and incredibly delicious
Friday: maybe a Friday Funny, like Steve in a Speedo does. We'll see.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Weekly Update: Weeks 2-4

Ah yes, training. It has not been going well.

I got sick again, and that took me out for a good week. Then I was fine, and started training again, when I twisted my ankle badly during a thirty-minute run. I stayed off the ankle completely for three days, then went back to work. It's been a week and a half since the injury, but my ankle is still black and blue and swollen. I'm not going to be running anytime soon!

Also, I moved to Virginia. My "roommate" got a job with CapitalOne--a very good job!--and so I quit QuikTrip (which did not make me sad at all) and moved out here with her. We are living in Falls Church, just outside the Beltway, in a beautiful area with plenty of trees. There's a Trader Joe's, a library, a park, and a running store just a short walk away. This area has beautiful running and biking paths, along with what seems like a vibrant running and triathlon community! One of the top women's rugby clubs in the country is in D.C. Basically, this is the perfect place for me to live.

I don't have a job yet, and my "roommate's" job pays well enough that I need not rush out to find employment. If you live in D.C. or the surrounding area and know of anything, I'd appreciate any help in finding employment.

I'm strongly considering a doctoral program in physical therapy, and will start looking into available programs in this area next week.

I feel like the world has opened up once more, and it's full of possibilities!

Thank you all for supporting me and reading my blog!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Stuff I'm Using: Saucony Guide 7

I got these shoes for free as a promotional item from Saucony. I did not pay for these shoes. I'm still trying to decide whether or not the free stuff I got through my Dick's job was worth the pain and suffering of working there.

Anyway, the Guide 7. Normally, I don't like stability shoes. I prefer to run in neutral shoes, even though I'm a moderate overpronator. Since there's no real evidence to support running in corrective footwear to prevent injury, I figure I'll run in whatever I want, and work on strengthening my lower-body kinetic chain, instead.

However, these are the best shoes I've ever run in. They have the perfect amount of cushioning for me, they have a moderate amount of stability that isn't particularly noticeable, they don't feel overly heavy or built up. My feet felt happy, running in these shoes.

I love running in Saucony shoes (even when they give me blisters), and the Guide 7 reminds me why. In these, I forget all about shoes, socks, and gear, and focus solely on my run. These shoes are what all running shoes should aspire to be.

My one issue with these shoes: I loathe the colors. I think it's the pink. I don't mind the blue so much. But they feel so good on my feet, I'm willing to overlook the colors, and plan to do the majority of my running in these shoes for the foreseeable future (I have a pair of Mizuno Wave Sayonara for speed training that I'll review soon). And when I wear out my free pair, I will buy another pair (in a different color). Thanks, Saucony, for changing my mind about stability shoes.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Back To It!

I got the go-ahead from my doctor this morning to go back to training! She did restrict me to 30 minutes max of cardio, though, and I have to stop again if my lymph node grows or gets painful.

I drove to the downtown KC airport this afternoon for a 45-minute bike ride. I figure 45 minutes of cycling is the same as 30 minutes of running, right?

The wind was brutal, and I was super slow, but I don't even care; I'm so excited to get to train again!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Weekly Update: Back to Week 1

Today, I started my training over again after 3 weeks off on doctor's orders. I see my doctor tomorrow, and hopefully she'll give me the go-ahead to work out. Otherwise, I'm going to need to re-evaluate my training goals for the next two years. If I can't start working out this week, the Rev3 half-distance in September will move out of my reach, which means a full-distance race next July may be too big a stretch. I still have a hard lump in my armpit from an inflamed lymph node, and the elbow lumps are sticking around. They're small, though--I hope small enough that my doctor won't continue my no-exercise therapy.

I finished with Dick's Sporting Goods, as of Wednesday. I have never experienced such a negative working environment. Everyone (almost) that I talked to, at least all the other "associate" (retail monkeys) felt the same, but they didn't have better options. My over-arching feeling while working there was, "I can do better than this." The worst part was the walkie-talkies that we all wore. Managers would call down employees on the walkie-talkies on a daily basis. That's just terrible management. If you have an issue with an employee whom you supervise, that should be addressed in a private manner; public humiliation does not make for proper discipline in a professional environment. What's worse, when employees would explain their actions on the walkie-talkies, the management wouldn't take their concerns into account; they maintained their derogatory position, even if it didn't make sense, based on new information. Heaven forbid a manager should admit to making a mistake! Aside from publicly criticizing employees, they tried to delegate and direct employees without knowing the full landscape. One day, two managers told me to do completely contradictory things. When the first manager came back and asked why I was doing something other than what she'd instructed me to do, I told her I was directed otherwise; she was surprised, and put me back on the original task (which, honestly, was the one that made more sense). You'd think these managers would talk to each other and craft priorities as a group, but no. Each one of them knows best. Except that none of them knows best, because none is particularly intelligent.

So the management was the worst of it, but there were other things. I quickly became (in my own opinion, at least) the most competent person in the footwear department. The most competent. Within a month. It's more proof, first of all, that I'm too good for that job. But it's also an indication that no one really cares, or wants to work hard. That comes from the top down; part of the reason the managers rarely knew how to direct us properly was that they were never working with us. And I imagine that managers higher up the corporate chain set that unfortunate example for the managers of my store.

In short, I now think that Dick's is a terrible company. I don't know if I'll shop there ever again. There are plenty of other big-box sports retailers, and I prefer to give my money for biking and running to locally-owned merchants, anyway. I'm much, much happier, now that I'm done with Dick's. QuikTrip is a great company--one of the most positive work environments I've ever experienced. And the schedule will allow me more time for training, anyway. There are much better prospects for advancement. And I enjoy my job. Thanks to those of you who left encouraging comments for me. I know I seemed down after my last post. I'm in a much better place now.

My dad did his first marathon on Sunday in Abilene, Kansas. Maybe I can get him to do a race report for me! I'm super proud of him, although I'm jealous that he beat me to that distance!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Weekly Update: Week 9

I gave my two weeks notice at Dick's. It's a relief to be done with that job. It was a poor fit for me.

I've also re-tooled my training schedule to focus on shorter races during the summer, then build to the Rev3 Half in September. It will give me plenty of time to build my fitness up, without getting injured. Hopefully, I'll get the go-ahead from my doctor to get back to training next week!

I'm a little concerned about money; I was very excited about the amount I was making working two jobs, but with just QuikTrip, it's going to be tight. I feel like I'm better than this. I'm in the 98th percentile, in terms of intelligence. I became the most competent person in the footwear department at Dick's in a matter of weeks. How am I just scraping by nearing age 30, while plenty of people (who are not nearly as smart or capable as I am) my age are settling comfortably into the middle class?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Weeky Update: Weeks 7 & 8

The armpit lumps and elbow lumps did not go away. In fact, they got larger and more painful. Last Monday, I went to see my doctor again. I kind of (totally) broke down and cried in her office. I'd been feeling teary all weekend. I'd been stressed and overworked. I haven't had time to train, or the energy to train, and when I did get to train, it was crappy. My armpit hurt so badly that I couldn't stretch my arm overhead to swim. My running and biking was suffering from the overuse injuries, a result (I think) of a combination of too much training, not enough recovery, and too much time on my feet at both jobs. In short, training had not been pretty.

My doctor called me off of training. No exercise. None. I felt relieved, though; now I don't have to feel guilty about missing workouts, because I'm not allowed to do any.

I also had a sonogram, and I may have to have surgery to have the lump removed and biopsied, still, but they're pretty sure that it's cat scratch fever (stupid cat). I went back to the doctor today, and she told me to keep resting for the next two weeks. With this long lay-off in training, the lack of training before, and the lack of time after, I'm watching Ironman 70.3 Kansas slip away. It's just not going to happen. The best option is to focus either on a shorter race or one farther away, build base and lift weights until that one, then target the Rev3 Cedar Point Half hard in the fall. There's still a chance that I can make it to IM Zurich next July. This is just a hiccup along the way.

I feel much happier and much better this week. I haven't felt stressed or sick or weepy, like I did last weekend and last Monday. I've determined that it's best to quit my job with Dick's. It pays better than QuikTrip, but the commute is longer, and the working environment is way worse. I'll talk more about after I give my two weeks; I don't want to say too much now, while I still work there.

Maybe I can volunteer at IM 70.3 KS. If I do, I'll still see you there.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Stuff I'm Using: 2XU Compression Socks

I got the yellow and teal pair.
I got a pair of 2XU compression socks to try out from the 2XU rep who works with my Dick's Sporting Goods. They were free. I love my job more and more.

I've always been skeptical about the value of compression socks. Besides which, I thought they looked ridiculous on all the triathletes and long-distance runners who adopted them about four years ago.

I may be changing my mind, though.

I've only run in them once. It was a brief run, cut short by soreness in my calves (which I attribute more to a day spent on my feet than to the new socks). They didn't seem to help much, or make much difference.

But I've been wearing them to work, where I spend 8-12 hours at a time on my feet. And they make an incredible difference. I feel significantly less pain in my calves and feet when I'm wearing my compression socks. I can see how they would make a big difference in a long day. I don't know that a marathon--or even a 70.3--is long enough. But an iron-distance race? I could definitely get behind that.

I have a pair of the running socks, which differ from the recovery socks in positioning of support and compression. I gather that the recovery socks are better for walking and standing, where the running socks facilitate activities where more plantar flexion is involved. I may just go and buy myself a pair of recovery socks! I've worn the pair I got for free so much that they're starting to stink!

2XU has done a fantastic job over the past few years of widening their reach. They've moved from a niche brand marketed almost exclusively to triathletes to the kind of mainstream brand that you can find at a big-box retailer like Dick's.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Update: Weeks 6 & 7

After my first week of epic work schedules, I got terribly, horribly, awfully sick. I skipped every single workout of week 6. Every single one. And it was the right thing to do. I needed the recovery badly. I missed several days of work. The lumps in my armpit and elbow got much bigger and much more painful, so painful that they kept me awake at night. So I went to see a doctor last week, and she put me on antibiotics. She said it's most likely just an infection in the lymph glands; it happens sometimes; she's seen it before. It could also be something more serious, but she suggested that we try antibiotics first, and go from there.

So that was week 6. Stayed home from work, and did absolutely no exercise.

Week 7 brought recovery again, which was a good thing. My first day back after being ill, I meant to do a short hill interval session, but my body felt weak and tired after the warm-up, so I kept it to a 45-minute recovery ride. Got a swim in on Wednesday. The swim felt reasonably good, and my times were passable, but something felt a little off. I felt like my arms were weak, not from sickness, but from lack of strength training this winter. So I did a long pull set! My Wednesday night run didn't go well at all, though. It had been relatively warm during the day, so I didn't dress warmly enough for the icy wind and snow that began shortly before my run. It was my first run in the Brooks Ghosts, and my achilles tendinosis made itself known in the first quarter mile. I'm not blaming the Brooks; it could just as easily be lack of warm-up, or the fact that I'd spent the whole day on my feet.

Speaking of which, standing all day takes a toll on my body. Plantar fasciitis, achilles tendinosis, and a wicked case of piriformis syndrome that's shooting pain down my left leg. I'm not sure what to do about it, though. I've been rolling on a tennis ball and stretching. I don't want to prop up my aching body with insoles; that will just make it worse in the long run. I may just need to work in more therapeutic exercises.

My armpit lump is still swollen and painful. I swam today, and I can feel the lymph node stretching painfully every time I raise my arm overhead. I'm worried about it. My roommate thinks I need to take it easy with my training until the lumpy armpit resolves itself. I don't want to take a break, of course. After all, exercise is supposed to be good for you!

That's where I am right now. I'm disappointed with the lack of consistency in my training, and fearful of the prospect of missing even more. So we'll see how this week goes.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Spinning Workout: Variety Workout

I put this workout together for a Springsteen fan, so it has plenty of music by The Boss. The workout profile follows the same pattern I use for a standard spin class. It gives you a good, high-intensity workout with plenty of variety.

Variety Workout
All the Old Showstoppers - The New Pornographers (93 BPM)
Dani California - Red Hot Chili Peppers (98 BPM)
You Make Me - Avicii (124 BPM)
American Land - Bruce Springsteen (140 BPM)
The Monster - Eminem (111 BPM)
Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen (148 BPM)
Always - Erasure (103 BPM)
Born in the U.S.A. - Bruce Springsteen (117 BPM)
Hall of Fame - The Script (85 BPM)
Further on up the Road - Bruce Springsteen (138 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!

Well poop.

I got sick. I think I've been working too hard, and too much. The stress made me susceptible to sickness. And now I'm sick, unable to workout! Currently, I'm on my second day of sick leave from both jobs, and my third day of missed workouts. Hopefully, I'll be well enough to go back to work tomorrow, but I'll probably take my training easy for a few more days.

So boo. Stupid sick.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Update: Week 5

Hurray for recovery! I feel much better after a week of relative rest.

This week, I began incorporating higher-intensity intervals, like short hill climbs, track speedwork, and fast 25s in the pool. I've never experienced such a dialed-in training plan; I feel like every interval workout challenges me the perfect amount--the first half are easy, the next quarter are tough, and the last few are almost unbearable. It's like I can feel my fitness increasing! I'm not sure if it's because I've got more room to improve, after two years of sporadic triathlon training, or if this is what it feels like to transition from the high-power, high-speed fitness that I associate with youth to the endurance peak in the mid- to late-thirties. I'm not even thirty yet, but I feel like my body is changing.

My training this past week wasn't perfect, unfortunately. I've mentioned previously that I got two jobs. One is full-time with Dick's Sporting Goods. The other is part-time with QuikTrip. Both companies hired me almost simultaneously, though, so both had my schedule as full availability. The result? Two fourteen-hour workdays in which I worked from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Dick's, then from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. at QT. I considered hitting the YMCA for a swim/run combo on Friday morning, but thought better of it. Twenty-eight hours of work in a 48-hour period stresses my body enough without adding two workouts, even of only moderate intensity. I missed three workouts this week--one in each discipline. I think I've got my availability tuned in for both jobs now, but it won't take affect until next week, which means that this week will be another bruiser. Still, at least I'm working and making money! I see a new bike, lots of races, and a trip to Switzerland in my future! Oh, and the opportunity to pay off some student loans.

I'm already experiencing one of the benefits of being a running specialist at Dick's: complimentary promotional shoes! I got a pair of Brooks Ghost 6 running shoes to evaluate! I'm liking this job more and more. If you live in the Kansas City area, come see me at the Zona Rosa Dick's sometime! We'll talk tri!

In other, somewhat-related news, I have a large, painful lump under my right armpit, with smaller lumps at my elbow. I think they're swollen lymph glands. The armpit one has been there for about a week, the elbow lumps for less than a week. This worries me. I speculate that the lymphatic pathway down my right arm is reacting to . . . something. No idea what. Something potentially serious, I fear. Or not. My roommate thinks it's just stress from too much work and exercise, not enough rest. I'm giving it another week or two, and if it doesn't go away, I'll get it checked out.

Additionally, my right shoulder, which I messed up in the business of being born, has slipped over into full-on shoulder impingement. Expect an article soon on how to deal with shoulder impingement. If I can get to it between two jobs and half-ironman training, that is.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Week 4 update

My body felt very tired after three weeks of exercise. After this first meso-cycle, all the others will be three weeks instead of four, so I hope that this is as tired as I'll be this year. I missed most of my running the third week because the weather was so gross. I know that sounds pretty lame to my readers who are buried under three feet of snow, but I didn't have access to a treadmill, and there were no safely cleared paths on which to run. So I didn't run. I also skipped a bike ride.

Week 4 provided some much-needed recovery. I skipped two of three swimming workouts, because I've had pain in my shoulders. After two years of minimal swimming, I think I've shocked my body with this sudden onset of swim training. So I gave my shoulders a break and skipped a couple of swims. My legs felt tired during my bikes and runs, too, but I got them done!

I hit my 1000m swim test, though; I did 1000m in 17:55! I know it's not a world-record time or anything, but it's one of my faster times. Not bad, considering I just started swimming again a month ago!

I also joined the YMCA in Kansas City last week. I wanted to join the community center where I've been swimming up until now, but their hours are more limited, and I've got two jobs now. The Gregg/Klice pool is open from 10:45 to 5:30, and I'm sure there will be days when I can't get there during those times.

It's nice to be making money again, and to have a job where I work certain hours and get paid for them. Self-employment exhausted me, as much as I enjoyed setting my own schedule and self-directing. It's refreshing to have someone else tell me what to do, at least for a while. I don't know how long I'm going to be able to combine two retail jobs, though, not to mention half ironman training. I may be overly ambitious.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Stuff I'm Using: TomTop Underwater MP3 Player

I got a job offer on Tuesday! But it's just for a part-time job with Quiktrip. Great company, great benefits, but not enough to fund my triathlon habit.

So I'm trying to monetize my blog just a little bit more. Please forgive the blatant commercialization.

I can't bear to endorse just any product, so I'll only profile things I actually use.

TomTop Waterproof MP3 Player

I can't believe how much these things have come down in price! I first used the Finis SwimP3 for underwater music, and it cost around $125. Then I got a cheap, made-in-China player a few years ago from Amazon, and it was $45, and the cheapest I could find. Now you can get one for $20! It works perfectly well, too. I don't imagine it will last for very long, but that's to be expected. Besides which, my expensive SwimP3 only lasted for 18 months, before the chlorine and water corroded the connections. A cheap, waterproof MP3 player makes a nice investment for long, endurance-y swims.

Runner's High: Game Day

Best part about running long on Superbowl Sunday afternoon?

You get the roads all to yourself.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Trihardist Workout: Pre-Season Yoga Part II

Last time, I shared my lower-body pre-season yoga routine. Here's the upper body routine. It focuses primarily on ameliorating my shoulder impingements and fixing my jacked-up right shoulder, elbow, and wrist. Being born messed up my shoulder, as that was the first part of my body that entered the world. I hyper-extended the elbow a few years ago playing rugby. In my first game ever. During warm-ups. Rugby didn't start auspiciously for me.

Anyway, here's the routine:

Ardho Mukha Svanasana for 6 breaths (Downward Facing Dog)
Plank for 6 breaths
Chattaranga Dandasana for 6 breaths (Yoga push-up)
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana for 6 breaths (Upward Facing Dog)
Repeat with 3 breaths, then with 1 breath
Dhanurasana (Bow)

Uttkatasana (Chair pose) + shoulder opening routine
Garudasana (Eagle's Nest)
Vrksasana (Tree) + Gomukasana (Cow Face) arms
Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III) + Gomukasana arms
Setu Bandhasana (Bridge)
Purvottanasana (Reverse Plank)
Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow)
Eka Pada Setu Bandhasana or Urdhva Dhanurasana (One-Legged Bridge or Upward Bow)

Parvatanasana (Pyramid)
Padmasana (Lotus) + Garudasana arms
Padmasana + Gomukasana arms

Bandha practice, pranayama, seated meditation

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Half-Ironmman Training Plan 2014

I'd like to share my training plan for the first part of this year. There are plenty of sources for free training plans, of course; the one I've used in the past with some success is, but if you search online, you'll find a dozen sites offering a similar, free service. I purchased Triathlete Magazine's Essential Week-by-Week Training Guide by Matt Fitzgerald several years ago. Best $30 I've ever spent on triathlon. I have a few other training books, too: Triathlete's Edge by Marc Evans and The Triathlete's Training Bible by Joe Friel. I base all of my training plans around Fitzgerald's format, modifying based on Evans's and Friel's advice and my own experience.

I modify my training plans for my own needs, but if your needs are similar to mine, you may find my 2014 half-ironman plan helpful. Some details about my personal plan:

  • I borrow heavily from Fitzgerald's interval recommendations; the base training plan is his, not mine.
  • I write all my own swim workouts, but derive the substance of main set intervals from Fitzgerald's book.
  • Most training plans follow a 3 week on, 1 week off pattern--that is, you spend every fourth week recovering. I've found that my body works best with a recovery week every third week. So my training plan gives you 2 weeks on, 1 week off. 
  • It's a 20-week training plan, but (as you may notice) 20 does not divide evenly by 3. So the first training block is 4 weeks: 3 weeks on, 1 week off.
  • There's a 2-week taper before the half-ironman race.
My training begins next Tuesday (Jan. 21); if you want to do Ironman 70.3 Kansas with me, yours should too! Here's the first training cycle; it covers the next four weeks.

And a few notes to help you interpret it:
  • There are 3 workouts in each discipline each week.
  • S=Swim, K=Kick, I=Individual Medley, P=Pull, so SKIPS means 100 swim, 100 kick, 100 IM, 100 pull, 100 swim. It's my favorite warm-up.
  • I recommend always doing backstroke for cool-down, to try to reverse some of the repetitive stress on the shoulders from so much freestyle.
  • The third sheet in the file has a chart for your heart rate intensities, but it's up to you to determine your training zones; do a quick online search, and you'll find plenty of articles on how to do it.
  • This plan uses time instead of distance to set run and bike volume.
If you have any other questions, e-mail me or leave a comment below!

Monday, January 13, 2014


Friends are a nice thing to have.

I want to immerse myself in triathlon.

I'm re-booting my fitness regime. I have big races on the horizon. In 2015, I'll turn 30. Five months before I do, I plan to complete my first Ironman in Zurich, Switzerland. To prepare, I plan to do two half-distance races this year.

I feel excited to train and race again. And I want to re-engage in the online triathlon community.

The problem is, I don't know how! I used to go to Trifuel frequently, and I've used Ontri, Buckeye Outdoors, and Beginner Triathlete to log my training. But all of those sites seem less popular and less active than they used to be. Most of the triathlete blogs I used to follow haven't been updated since . . . well, since I last updated mine. I feel like Tom Hanks in "Sleepless in Seattle," completely clueless about how to date women in the '90s ("When was the last time you were out there?" "Uh, Jimmy Carter? 1978.") Where do triathletes go to hang out online, now?!

Can anyone help me out? Where do you hang out with other triathletes?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Racevine Re-boot

Way back when I was blogging regularly (I'm trying to get back at it), I mentioned Racevine, a site that provides a forum for athletes to review races and events. In previous years, I've used to find races. Racevine provides a community-driven source for events, plus reviews of events that may help you determine on which ones you should spend your hard-earned dollars (or euros or pounds sterling).

Racevine just re-launched their website with a nicer UI and more features, including over 35,000 races (they add them manually), new user profiles, a new race search (helpful for discovering new races nearby), and new event information.

I've never found a site that provides a good aggregate of race information, which seems strange to me, given how many triathletes are involved in IT and web design. I imagine it has more to do with the transience of many races--especially small, community-based races and events (5ks, 10ks, road rides, crits); and most sites rely on event organizers to report them. Racevine attempts to feel that space, and does an admirable job by using crowd-sourcing techniques. It's not quite there yet--it doesn't include cycling events, which are admittedly more of a niche activity--but it's a great resource. Check out their new site.

By the way, I did win a few canisters of salt tablets in a Racevine race report competition, and they sent me a free technical shirt by way of promotion. That was several years ago, and I haven't had any contact with the site directors since then. I'm just promoting the site because I think it's a cool resource.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Trihardist Workouts: Pre-Season Yoga

I haven't trained intensively since my half marathon in 2012. I've done races since then, but I haven't competed; I haven't reached for a PR or chased a podium since then. And, since I've left Genesis, I haven't gotten as much strength and flexibility training. Retrospectively, I don't remember working out that much as a personal trainer. But then, I suppose doing 2-3 reps of 8-10 exercises 4-8 times per day enhanced my fitness more than I realized at the time.

All that to say that I'm out of shape.

Okay. Relatively.

I find it difficult to lift and carry heavy things. My fingers no longer reach my my toes. My pants are tight. If I'm gearing up for a 70.3 in June, I need some preparatory work.

I sat down with a notebook to pencil in what I need before I start my training plan in March. Here's the low-down:

  1. Reduce and prevent inflammation in plantar fascia
  2. Loosen and reduce inflammation in piriformis
  3. Align shoulders, especially the right one
  4. Stabilize ankles and reduce/prevent achilles tendinosis
  5. Stabilize core and lumbo-pelvic area
To accomplish all that, I put together a yoga routine. It's short; takes less than 20 minutes, and that includes time to lay around and meditate. And, being the generous, loving trainer and coach that I am, I recorded my routine for you, so that you can join me!

I provide cues for proper alignment and activation in the workout, but I don't tell you how to do the poses, step-by-step. If you're not familiar with yoga, you will need to study these poses to get the most out of the workout:

Ardho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
Crescent (High Lunge)
Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II)
Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I)
Trikonasana (Triangle)
Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon)
Parsvakonasana (Side Angle)

Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch)
Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolving Triangle)
Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana (Revolving Half Moon)
Hasta Padangusthasana (Hand to Big Toe)
Parsva Hasta Padangusthasana (Side Hand to Big Toe)
Parivrtta Hasta Padangusthasana (Revolving Hand to Big Toe)
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (Extended Hand to Big Toe, arms overhead)

Savasana (Corpse)

Download and enjoy! I hope this helps each of us prepare for our next big race!