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!