Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014 Jingle Bell 10k- Crash and Burn

A couple weeks ago was suppose to be my mid-OutSeason Run Test.  I knew I'd run faster in a race than on my own, so I decided to use the Jingle Bell 10k for the test.  Well, in honor of finals week leading up to the race, I will grade this test a big, fat F.

No, the lead up to the day wasn't great.  Stress, bad/little sleep, bad eating, bad workouts.  But I still was optimistic I could see a minor V-dot bump.  I woke up at 6:30, showered (silly to do before a race, but I hadn't yesterday...), ate oatmeal with brown sugar, drank a cup of coffee, and left by 7:40.  I got to the race around 8:20, picked up my packet, checked my bag, and headed out for a warmup.  Warming up before races is still a new concept for me, but I knew that if I wanted to go out at a hard pace, I needed to get my legs going.  I ran at an easy pace for 10 minutes, and my legs felt good.  I was a little disappointed that my easy pace was slower than 9 minute miles, but that is what a warmup is suppose to be, right?  I ended up getting a longer warmup than that when I was running to the water fountain to take a pre-race gu and visit the porta-potties away from the start.  I got to the corral with just a couple minutes to spare. 

The first mistake lied in the fact that I had looked at last year's results and seen that I should be able to place.  I missed the memo that last year had some treacherous weather, and probably slowed everyone down.  Even without that, it is always silly to assume the same people will show up as they did in the past.  Based on this, I lined up with the first few rows, and went out FAST!  The first time I looked at my watch it was showing a 6:45 pace.  Umm...  I slowed slightly, as there was no way I could maintain that.  When I was a half-mile in, I was already hurting.  Heart and lung kind of hurting.  How will I do this sort of hurting.  It would have been the smart thing to drastically slow down, but I didn't enough, or the damage had already been done.  My first mile clocked in at 7:10.

By mile two, I was seriously thinking about quitting.  I could just walk back to the start...  I told myself I could slow a bit, and I did.  That was just the start of continuously slowing down.  I thought of quitting so many times, but told myself I can run a 10k, even if it isn't the pace I wanted.  The silly thing is that I just sort of flipped a switch.  If I wasn't running at a sub-7:30 pace, I was barely running.  I should have instead adjusted my goal and still gotten in a good threshold workout.  Throughout the race I kept telling myself that at said mile, I would up the pace.  That never happened.  I finished in a disappointing 50:06.

Overall, my performance was very disappointing.  It wasn't a race, and really didn't show what I was capable of.  It did expose a couple things.  Pacing is key.  Going out too hard can sabotage you.  Mental toughness is also key.  Mine didn't show up today.  My main realization is that the 5k/10k distance is really tough for me.  I am more of an endurance girl, so I'm not sure how much this bothers me, but it is still a distance that highlights my mental weakness and I'd like to fix that.  In terms of testing my fitness, it is also a much easier distance to recover from, so much more feasible to do that on a regular basis than a 10 miler or half-marathon which can put a dent in your training while you recover.  All-in-all, I don't know what the result would have been had I paced better.  Or stayed strong.  Maybe I would've had a good race, maybe my legs just wouldn't have shown up.  Win some, lose some. 

Another lesson was how important it is to value a race and have a clear plan and expectations.  For instance, I targetted the Indy Half-Marathon.  I had a good goal for what I was capable of based on my training.  I made a plan for how to pace it.  And it worked.  I exceeded by goal.  Here, and at other races where I show up, hoping to hit some speedy pace but not having the training results to back it up, and just winging it.  I always come up short, and when I'm not doing how well my dream-self thought I might, I bail out mentally.  That was the case in New Orleans last February, at the Women's Half that I DNF'd, and it was true at this 10k. 

Looking ahead, my next race is the F3 Winter Half Marathon.  As of now, I am not planning on "racing" it.  I will do it for a fun 13 mile run.  I don't think I have the run training to do well, and I don't want to lose the training time before or after with tapering or recovering.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Outseason Half Way Reflection

When I was in PT school we were often told "You don't learn from the experience.  You learn from reflecting on the experience."  I really hated that saying, as it seemed we were forced to reflect on everything, but now that I am passed the forced reflection, I do find it valuable.  So I am wrapping up weak 7 of 14 of this year's OutSeason program (Endurance Nation's kick your butt into shape, focus on intensity), and with run and bike tests on the horizon, I figure it is a good time to reflect on how it has been going.

I started the OS in week 3, as I had done the Indianapolis Half Marathon in week 1 and taken week 2 as coach-mandated recovery.  I started with good enthusiasm- new run zones set by the half-marathon, and a starting FTP from a prior test I was happy with.  The beginning of the week went well, hitting my zones and feeling good.  Then I went out of town on Friday for a conference which through a wrench in the plan, and got me discouraged that I was already off track.

Week 4 started with the continuation of being away for the conference.  I got in a couple good runs, but was feeling behind.  I got in all three bike rides this week, but missed the long run.  Since I'm doing a January Volume Camp, biking is a priority so I can survive!

Week 5 was Thanksgiving week, where again my plans fell apart.  Some is my own fault of not getting workouts done while traveling, some was not possible to predict due to family schedules.  I was proud of my Sunday workout when I got back.  I warmed up on the bike for an hour with some Z3 work to get some more bike time in, and then had a great 10 miler with 4 miles done at a good pace. 

Week 6 was plagued by a lot of stress at work with preparing for my first final exams in the teaching role rather than student role (it isn't much better on this side of things).  This was coupled by a bum knee (and hip?).  I went out for a run on Tuesday, and my whole left leg killed, but mostly my hip.  It felt very similar to the hip pain I had on my right side last spring/summer, so I was very nervous about heading down that long road of injury again.  Thankfully the hip pain was short lived, but I spent the rest of the week with knee pain.  And not just the "hurts when I run" pain but hurts when I walk, go up and down stairs, have any added weight I'm carrying (backpack- ahh!).  I think it was a round of colitis arthritis, as I was having some very minor GI issues as well.  So I had the excuses of working non-stop and pain, but I will admit to just calling it quits.  I was able to get on the bike Saturday (FTP workout) and Sunday (VO2 workout), and with no pain! 

I went into week 7 knowing it was the last week before testing, and wanting to do it right.  Unfortunately finals week brought me some long days that tried to derail me, but more than causing missed workouts, just exhausted me.  I got home late Tuesday, and definitely didn't have time to both bike and run.  I decided to go out for a short run at least, and surprised myself with a lovely 5 mile run.  On Wednesday I learned that while 15 minute FTP intervals may have felt manageable last week, 18 minute intervals are killer.  I came home exhausted yesterday (Thursday) and the same holds true today.  I took today off because of 1) so. freakin. tired; and 2) race tomorrow for run test- need rested legs! 

A few things I've noted on workouts:
1) Apart from this weeks 2x18' FTP intervals, I've been finding the FTP bike workouts quite manageable, but feeling like I was going to fall off the bike and die on the VO2 work.  This seems to be opposite of what I remember in past years.  A minute and a half has never seemed so long in my life.
2) I doubt my ability to hit run paces, but can rise to the occasion when I don't let myself off the hook.  Even if a run feels cruddy at the start, some fast paces can make it actually feel better!
3) I have difficulty locking into a pace on runs.  I have slow (normal) and then fast.  I have tended to overachieve on most running intervals just due to being a horrible pacer, even with a Garmin!
4) I am starting to use heart rate and amazed/scared at how high mine is during workouts.  I think where it is during tough intervals is to be expected, but it seems higher than I would've thought for warm-ups and easy runs as well.  I've been good at biking with the HR monitor, but still haven't found a super comfortable way to wear it while running.
5) I tend to really enjoy the challenge of these workouts once I am doing them.  Getting myself to start them is the bigger issue.  

Apart from specific training observations above, I am reaching this half-way mark somewhat disappointed.  This was the start to my season and I wanted to start this "big dreams" season off well.  Looking at TrainingPeaks and writing this up shows a lot of holes.  I am disappointed both because I feel like I've missed out of the benefits of these training sessions, and because I am disappointed in myself for not having better habits to get workouts in.  Two doses of travel definitely through me off, but that is real life and I need to learn to adapt.  Same with being busy at work, as that will just become a bigger problem as workouts get longer.  Eating also needs to be cleaned up.

The good news is that this is early- just half-way through the first training block of the year.  There is time to improve my habits and myself.  The two things I really need to focus on outside of training is sleep (6 hours is my norm and not good!) and eating.  Within training, I need to hold myself accountable and trust that I am capable.  I need to stop telling myself I can tone down the intensity without trying the prescribed zones first, but remind myself that a workout at a lower intensity is better than none at all.

Tomorrow is the Jingle Bell 10k.  I'll admit I chose this race looking at last years results and realizing I can be competitive.  I am nervous because, well, 10k's hurt, and I am unsure how it will go.  I truly have no idea if I can expect a gain since Indy, or if I've lost run fitness (don't think this is the case).  My goal, rather than time goal, is to really push hard, and be ok with being uncomfortable.

Next Tuesday will see a bike test, which I am dreading, and the start of the second half of the outseason plan.  I am resolved to do better, and have the good motivation of getting myself in shape for the January camp.  I will be doing an additional bike ride each week and extending time on the others to get ready for more volume at camp.  I also need to get myself in gear for some 90 minute swim sessions at camp, so next week (or this weekend) will see a return to the pool.  Lots to do, but so much to gain!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon Race Report

Race Weekend: I worked a half-day and then took Megabus to Indianapolis. My fantasy of being able to run in shorts and a t-shirt was dashed by all the snow I saw out the bus windows, and the wind that was making the bus sway a bit too much for my comfort level.  I was trying to carb up all day, oatmeal with banana and peanut butter for breakfast, quinoa chili for lunch, and of course, that handful of candy corn was totally intentional.  I got in to Indy at 5:30pm.  I met my friends I was racing with at the hotel (Omni Severin) and we went to dinner at PF Changs.  Had some fried rice for the carbs, realizing that everything there was going to be somewhat greasy regardless of if it had "fried" in the name.  We went to the expo and picked up the packets.  Walking outside was another eye opener to how cold it was going to feel in the morning.  I went to bed worried about the weather as well as a sore throat I'd had all day, but was still able to get a decent night's sleep.

Race Morning: Woke up at 6:30.  I was worried, as I didn't feel that usual race day energy.  I felt groggy but didn't want to have coffee.  My sore throat was definitely becoming a cold, and I felt pretty stuffed up.  I started to have those thoughts of "just do it like a training run" but kept telling myself that I owed it to my training self to see how hard I could go, regardless of the circumstances.  I ate a cliff bar and downed a bottle of water.  I ended up wearing my warm tights, Underarmour mock turtleneck, gloves, and a jacket I planned to toss along the route.  My friend also gave me handwarmers.  We were just a few blocks from the race start, which was convenient.  Let the hotel at 7:25 for an 8am start.  We checked our bags, had a gu, and lined up.

The Race:  We moved pretty quickly once the gun went off, crossing just 2 minutes after.  There was a lot of zig-zagging around folks to start, tough to find my stride.  The first few turns were very tight.  I was not focused on pace at all because of this.  I ended up being near the 3:30 (marathon) pace group, and hung near them for a bit.  Despite a somewhat detailed pace plan, I was running mostly on feel.  My first mile was spent mostly frustrated at the crowd, but I was shocked at how quick the mile marker came.  My Garmin was about 0.07 miles ahead, but seemed to be accurate after this point.  Around 1.5 miles the course got less crowded and I was able to find my stride.  My left quad had felt off since we started, I think just stiff from the cold.  A longer warm-up could probably help this.  I skipped the first couple of aid stations, didn't feel the need to drink in the cool weather.  I was ahead of the pace group by mile 2.  My pace was faster than I planned but comfortably hard.  I was having doubts about keeping the pace by mile 3, but also didn't feel like I was crashing and burning.  Based on the later miles, I probably should've gone out more conservatively as I had planned.  I ditched my jacket after a couple miles, and one of my gloves came off with it.  I tossed the other one a few miles later.  Towards the end I was wishing I had kept them on. 

The cold was significant.  It took until mile 6ish to really feel warmed up. The miles to this point weren't easy, but I was hanging in there.  I took a gu right before mile 5.  It had been suggested to just do one gu, but I had trained with 2 without a problem and based on how groggy I felt that morning, I figured the caffeine could help.  At the aid station I walked just about 15-20 steps and was running again.  That mile was slower but since I wasn't stopping at every aid station I wasn't too concerned. 

Around mile 6.5 I started to have a bad stomach cramp.  I focused on my breathing but it didn't seem to help.  I kept telling myself it would go away, which was true, just not until mile 10 or 11.  I did take a few water stations and walk a few steps for some temporary relief (more psychological) and it was definitely getting tougher mentally.  I kept telling myself that this is where I build mental toughness.  Looking at my splits I significantly slowed from miles 7-10 but kept going.  I focused on a mile at a time, and made even smaller goals of something in the distance to focus on.  It didn't help that we had a headwind for much of this either. 

I took my second gu around mile 10 and focused on how soon it would be done.  I had had to pee for the second half of the race, but the feeling was intensifying.  Even with just a few miles to go I considered stopping at a porta-potty I was so uncomfortable, but made myself keep running.  Looking forward to peeing became the big motivator to get to the finish- whatever works, right? 

My plan had been to empty the tank in the last mile.  I didn't seem to have any kick, though my splits show a slight acceleration.  The last mile seemed to go on forever.  I was sure a quarter of a mile had passed, only to see less than a tenth.  I was ready to be done.  Once the finish line was (finally) in view, I tried to kick it up a notch, but didn't have much left.  I guess that is a sign of a good race?

The end result was a 1:42:44.  Unfortunately I didn't accurately remember my prior PR so I missed a PR by 22 seconds.  However, I am very pleased with this result.  I've had a rough past two years and am working back to the runner I use to be, so this is a big step in the right direction.  That PR had been set in 2012, when I was 15 lbs lighter, a whole lot less stressed, and running 40ish miles/week.  In comparison, last February I ran a disappointing 1:55 half marathon, so the improvement this year is very satisfying.

Here are the splits.  * indicates I was slow moving through aid station to get in a gu:

Mile 1
Mile 2
Mile 3
Mile 4
Mile 5
7:56 *
Mile 6
Mile 7
Mile 8
Mile 9
Mile 10
Mile 11
8:16 *
Mile 12
Mile 13
Mile 13.1

Post Race: Besides really having to pee, I felt pretty decent after the run.  I got my post-race food, met up with my friends, and we went back to the hotel.  Then my stomach began revolting.  The rest of the day was spent largely in the bathroom.  It was reminiscent of some of my worst Crohn's days, but I was pretty certain it was all race related.  I have had issues in the past after high intensity longer runs, but never to this extent.  Were the gu's to blame?  The PF Changs?  Just a cost of running hard?  By the time I went to bed I was feeling much better, and woke up Sunday starving.  Time to replace calories! 

Thoughts: Overall, quite please with the result.  Indy is a nice city, and the race is well organized.  It doesn't have the big crowd support of the Chicago Marathon but besides the crowds at the start, no complaints.  I think if the weather had been 10 degrees warmer it would've gone even better.  Some things I learned and want to improve on:

1)    I've made gains in mental toughness but need to keep working on this with tough training runs.

2)    Nutrition- try to not be so freaking sick in the future.  I'll play around with pre-race nutrition and nutrition on the run. 

3)    Pacing- need to be conservative at the start.  I don't like to be a slave to the Garmin but need to train myself what a slower pace feels like even when I have race day adrenaline. 

4)    Heart Rate- I need to start consistently wearing my HR monitor (which means finding out how to not be chafed to death by it) and learn to utilize that data.

I'll be doing another half-marathon at the end of the Outseason and want to break 1:40.  I think it is doable, though this is the Winter Half Marathon in Chicago so bad weather could complicate things, but I'm ready to give it my best shot. 

This race got me a Vdot of 43, my highest, and the zones look scary.  But scary makes you fast, right?  I’m starting to feel like a runner again, and that makes me happy!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Indy Half Marathon Training Summary

I'll post my half marathon race report shortly, but first I wanted to summarize the twelve weeks of training leading up to the race.  After looking at a range of plans, I decided to take the DIY route.  I spent a couple hours mapping out my detailed plan- a mix of long runs, tempo runs, intervals and track workouts, as well as some core work, yoga, biking, and swimming.  Then I spent the last 12 weeks largely ignoring the plan.  No no, this isn't another "I didn't do my training" post, just the training went differently than planned.  Perfectly?  Of course not!  But I ran a race I was proud of and remained healthy, so that is a win!

Week 1 started on a high note of getting on the podium at the Naperville Tri.  I had that "anything is possible" feeling on Monday, ready to kick off training.  I had a pretty sluggish swim that turned into drills.  I did my first track workout in a LONG time (years?) on the new track at Montrose.  I was amazed at how beat up I could feel after 4x400.  I got in two bike rides- one with shortish FTP intervals, and then a long ride with disappointingly low power, but enjoyable none-the-less.  I topped off the first week with a 12 mile long run at an 8:52 pace before leaving on vacation.  Solid first week!

Week 2 was mostly spent on family vacation in Cape Cod.  I got in four runs but they were far from stellar.  I ended up dropping an planned speed work as my legs felt fatigued and my hip felt not quite right.  The week was capped off by a miserable 10 mile run, where I had absolutely no energy and just squeaked out a sub-9 minute race.  Some R hip/thigh pain had me worried as well.  The enthusiasm/"can do anything" attitude of week 1 was over.

Week 3 was a pity party.  Monday through Saturday saw no workouts.  Yep, that's right, I did nothing.  I justified it to myself as saying I was doing the Magnificent Mile Half Marathon on Sunday, which would re-boot my training.  You can read about that DNF at mile 4 here. 

Week 4 I started to get my butt back in gear but was discouraged.  I got 4 runs in during the week, though all under 5 miles and pace around 9 minute miles, with legs that didn't feel great. Then I went up to Madison for the Ironman on Saturday.  I rode a loop of the course on Saturday and fell back in love with the sport.  My planned run for Sunday went out the window.  I was exhausted from lack of sleep and spectating (harder than the race, I swear!).  Eating was also a disaster.  I was motivated to train, but discouraged at where I was at.

Week 5 ended up not being much better, though I have the excuse of being in San Diego for a conference.  I did get a nice 10 mile run on Monday night, that while it was just an 8:51 pace, it felt much better than recent runs.  I got two slowish 5 mile runs in while at the conference, and was reminded of how much hot weather sucks to run in. 

Week 6 was the turn around point in my training- things started to come together.  I ran over 28 miles and started adding in a few miles at more of a threshold pace.  I got in an 11 mile run at an 8:43 pace (improvement!) including 1.5 miles at a sub-8 pace.  I also got in a swim this week.  I'm sure swimming every few weeks is great for swim fitness!  My nutrition was also on track this week!

Week 7 might be my favorite week.  27 glorious miles of running!  My easy pace was starting to be faster and faster (4 mile easy-ish run in 34:13), and I nailed some fast mile repeats (7:37-7:46 pace).  I also did two swims, one of which was my 1000 yd time trial, and was amazed at the result (18:39!!).  I did a bike test as well and was shocked with an FTP of 150!  I finished off the week with the Apple Cider Century 60 mile ride, which was pure enjoyment. This week was week 2 (and last) of good eating habits!

Week 8 was an intentional cut-back week after killing the legs.  My shins flared up big time, where walking was excruciating.  While I swam on Tuesday, no running happened until Thursday.  My runs Thursday and Friday felt sluggish, probably due to tired legs and then several days of nothing.  I was overjoyed with a 10 mile run that progressively (and seemingly magically) sped up with each mile, netting me an 8:08 pace.  I was feeling like a real runner and started getting more excited for the race.

Week 9 didn't quite go as planned, and ended up being another low eek.  I had two decent runs of 5 and 7 miles during the week and a bike workout, but then my weekend came up with nothing.  On Saturday I tried to run and got a block away- my legs were totally dead.  Sunday I was on my feet all day volunteering at the Chicago Marathon and had no energy to run home. 

Week 10 was my last real week of training before I tapered.  I started my week with a 5 mile easy run and bike VO2 workout.  Followed it up on Tuesday with a 7 mile run at a decent (8:27) pace, though my legs were dead tired.  I had a fun speed workout on the track Thursday- 400 hard/400 easy; 800 hard/800 easy; 1200 hard/1200 easy; 1600 hard/1600 easy.  With running to and from the track, I got in almost 7.5 miles.  I ended the week with my longest run- 14 miles, with 3 at a "hard" pace.  The run was overall an 8:20 pace, and my confidence was high. 

Week 11 started the taper.  I originally had hopes of a harder week, but it was clear my legs needed rest.  A planned track workout didn't pan out with cement legs.  I did an 8 mile run on Sunday as my "long" taper run. This week brought the usual taper worries, though you never remember that they are normal and freak out.  My legs felt dead.  I wasn't eating/sleeping/doing core work like I ideally wanted to.  I couldn't do any speed work.  I had aches and pains.  Disaster, obviously. 

Week 12- the final week!  I had planned on three short runs Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  The reality- one 3.5 mile run on Wednesday, then nada until the race on Saturday.  I also got a massage on Tuesday night.  My eating sucked, and sleeping was sub-par as well.  I felt a little less discouraged than the previous week, but had a lot of pre-race doubts. 

Week 1- 25.0
Week 2- 29.1
Week 3- 4.04
Week 4- 15.3
Week 5- 20.2
Week 6- 28.2
Week 7- 27.0
Week 8- 20.3
Week 9- 11.7
Week 10- 33.6
Week 11- 17.3
Week 12- 16.7 (race included)

The race went well (see race report coming soon), but I have to admit that I had thought training went much better before I actually wrote it out in this post.  My mileage was quite minimal now that I look at it- only 5 weeks at 25 miles or higher.  Who know's what would have happened if I had tried higher mileage though- I am coming off an injury plagued year, and I may have just self-destructed.  It was quite apparent that my legs had trouble handling the work- the fatigue I'd feel after a hard week or two, and that I felt during taper, was significant.  I think part of this is that I didn't have a good run base coming in.  In the future, I hope to keep up a base so my legs can handle this work and recover more efficiently.  I also clearly failed at keeping up swim or bike workouts.  I'm ok with this.  I am doing 2 Ironman races this year, so there will be a time and place when all my spare time and energy goes into training.  This was a half-marathon, and not that time.  It is important to stay balanced for as long as possible. 

The training has me itching to run more.  As much as I love triathlon, stand-alone running is also wonderful, mostly for it's simplicity.  I really enjoyed the tough workouts, pushing myself and seeing what I could do.  I am pumped up for the OutSeason, after another day of rest!  

Saturday, September 27, 2014

And suddenly it all clicked...

Common themes on this blog to date (and the frequency of which I complain about these are why people don't read it...):
1) Bad eating.  And with that, the "diet starts tomorrow/today/next week".
2) Missed workouts.  Sometimes legit excuses, often not.
3) Being slow and therefore unmotivated. Not feeling like the athlete I was.
4) Injuries and pain.

Well folks, no more.  In the past two weeks, something has just clicked.  Two weeks ago, fresh off a red eye flight and probably delirious, I decided to give this whole "healthy eating/breaking bad habits" thing another go.  I don't think I even took myself seriously, given how frequently I've told myself this time will be different.  I thought about imposing harsh "no sugar" rules or doing a 30 day challenge or something, but went with simplicity.  I logged back into myfitnesspal and started tracking.  A few days later, I realized I was still on track, and surprised myself.  A few days might not seem like a big deal, but I am coming from a really bad place where a streak of a few days without binging is something to celebrate.  Then I hit a week.  I was confused.  What was different this time? Really, nothing, but something just seemed to click.  I am now two weeks binge free.  Some days I am over my alloted calories on the tracker, some days under.  I am making healthy decisions at least 90% of the time, but not feeling paralyzed when a friend suggests getting frozen yogurt.  I have not had even a temptation to binge.  I feel like a new me.  And, it is showing.  My belly has shrunk down (I had one of those moments in a dressing room where I wanted to cry based on how I looked 7 months pregnant) and the scale is showing numbers I haven't seen in almost 2 years.  Yes, I have a ways to go, but I really feel "healed." 

Something has also clicked with my motivation.  I've been hitting workouts, and looking forward to them.  I almost skipped my swim yesterday, and ended up rocking it.  I am not shying away from hard intervals.  And since I'm eating healthy, I don't have the "ugh I ate too much" problem causing me to sit like a lazy bum instead of get out there.  Best of all, the workouts have gone incredibly well.  Last weekend I ran 11 miles- one of those magical runs where the miles tick off and you don't know where they went.  I even surprised myself with some fast miles.  This week I did a six mile run including 3x1 mile hard.  Those three miles clocked in at 7:30-7:40 pace.  Where did that come from?  And I was enjoying it!  I didn't do my old thing of "just skip the intervals." I pushed myself and loved seeing how my body responded.  Today I did a 13-miler.  My last run that long was the New Orleans Half Marathon in February, that I did in a disappointing 1:55.  Today- 1:50, and not racing.  I even did 4 miles at a sub 8:20 pace.  LOVING IT! It hasn't just been running either.  On Tuesday I put my bike back on the trainer and did an FTP test.  Man, it was hard, but I did it, and found out my FTP is just where I left it at the end of the outseason last January. This turbo charged mode even applies to swimming.  I did a 1k time trial yesterday and was two minutes faster than last year! I feel like I'm on fire and I'm thrilled.  It has been so long since I felt this way, and now I remember why I love this sport!

And as for injuries, I'm feeling great.  I feel tightness in my hip at first, but it stretches out by mile one, and then I feel no pain.  Can you tell I'm feeling invincible?

I am 5 weeks away from the Indianapolis Half Marathon, and feel that a 1:45 is within reach.  Then it is right into the Outseason Training Plan and then the craziness of a two Ironman season.  I'm not sure what finally clicked, but I really couldn't be happier.  I just want to go around screaming "I'M BACK!!"  2015- let's do it!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Magnificent Mile Women's Half Marathon- My First DNF

I've been dealing with the whole DNS thing a lot this year due to injuries, but today I had my first DNF.  I registered for the Magnificent Mile Women's Half Marathon a few weeks ago as I planned out my half marathon training.  It would be 9 weeks before my target race of the Indianapolis Monument Half Marathon, and I thought it would be nice to break up long runs with a race, and also get a feel for where I'm at timewise.  My plan was to treat it somewhere in between a training run and a race- pushing a bit but not all out where it would take a while to recover.  My excitement about this race went down this week when they released the final course maps- while it would have a bit on the Mag Mile, the majority of the race would be on the lakefront path.  The original maps showed a course going through the city, following a lot of the marathon course.  I generally don't sign up for races along the path because paying $90 to run where I always run doesn't really interest me.  It is also very crowded during races and remains open to all users, so you have bikers trying to get through crowds as well.  People definitely took to Facebook to complain about the course, and while I know it was probably a permit issue beyond their control, I share a lot of people's frustrations.  Regardless, I tried to still see this as a good training opportunity. 

After the first two weeks of half marathon training went well (post coming soon), this week was a zero.  I came back from vacation to a long run I cut a tad short (still 10 miles) and a nagging hamstring (thinking tendonitis).  Couple that with a lack of sleep, a conference, work deadlines, and fighting off sickness (at least that's what my body feels like), and I got nothing in the way of workouts done this week.  I was going to run yesterday but told myself to just stay rested up for today.  The past few days I've been exhausted, despite being totally lazy.  Hence why I think I'm fighting something.  Nutrition yesterday was so-so.  I definitely stayed off my legs but didn't get in bed til close to 10:30. 

This morning I got up a few minutes before 5am.  Weighed in at 131.2 lbs.  I ate an Allen Lim rice cake and sipped Perform on the way down to the race.  I was on the train by 5:40, and got excited with the arrival of more and more racers at every stop.  It was nice to see mostly women.  However, even on the train I was feeling sluggish and unmotivated. 

The race is staged in Grant Park, and they get a big plus in my book for having race day packet pickup (though signs about which letter of the alphabet was where would've been helpful).  It also seemed like porta-potty lines went much faster than usual.  I made one potty break, dropped my stuff at gear check, took potty break #2, and then proceeded to the corrals.  I was in A corral based on projected time, and they were crowded!  Before the gun, Lauren Fleshman gave a few words about how recent it is that women were fighting to run distances.  This is the sort of thing that would usually get me psyched up, but again, just felt blah. 

I started running and could tell right away I just wasn't in it.  My hamstring was nagging me, and I started worrying that I was heading down another road of nearly four months of no running.  NOOO!  I just told myself to wait for it to loosen up, and it did, though I never felt like I totally had my running legs.  The first part of the course is the "iconic" part that runs along the Mag Mile.  Meh, wasn't too exciting.  I started thinking about ditching the half and going with the 5k.  Then I talked myself out of it and kept going where we diverged.  Once onto the Lakefront Trail, I started getting miserable.  It was hot and the sun was directly on us with no shade.  The path felt crowded, though I think that was more mental than it really was.  The 1:50 pace group went by me and I slowed down.  I didn't have a real time goal before, but I was still disappointed to see them pass me. 

Around mile 3.5 I was really unhappy.  And there wasn't a really good reason for it.  My body didn't feel great, but nothing really hurt.  I had to pee, but that isn't race ruining.  I was hot, but I've run in hotter.  I just wasn't in it.  The though of going almost 10 more miles made me miserable.  I pulled off into the grass and stopped.  A few people told me to keep going.  After maybe a minute I did, and ran about a quarter of a mile more.  We were almost to Museum Campus and I decided I just didn't want to go on.  I quit because I just didn't want to run.  

A few hours later I'm processing if that is a decent reason or not.  When I went to gear check to get my bag, there was a woman there who said she also just quit because she wasn't having any fun.  Judging by appearance, I'd say she is a pretty serious runner.  That helped me feel better about my choice.  On one hand, this is suppose to be fun, and it isn't, why do it?  I am pretty certain that I would not have enjoyed the remainder of the race, and pushing through would only be to show I could (and I'm the only one who cares).  On the other hand, I know I need to get use to that mental and physical discomfort.  Running hard (not the case here) hurts.  I am going to feel far worse in the marathon at CdA or Madison next year, and I won't quit then.  It might be hot, I might be in pain, so shouldn't I get use to dealing with that?  However, if I kept going, I might have aggravated this hamstring a whole lot more, or needed more recovery which would've thrown off this week of training.  My biggest fear is that one DNF will make it easier to quit when the going gets tough in the future, and I don't want this to be a habit.

Steps to Prevent the DNF Habit
1) I need to be excited about a race, which I wasn't this time around.  Whether there is something unique about it, or its a big event on my calendar, I need to care about it. 
2) I need to work to earn my races.  I went into this as mostly a training exercise.  I hadn't worked hard for it.  I had nothing to lose or really prove.
3) I need to set specific goals.  Again, had no goal or target, which made me lose mental focus. 
4) I need accountability.  I could walk away so easily because only I knew.  I need to have people supporting me, whether in person or who know I've got this big race I'm psyched for.  I won't want to let them down or myself.
5) I need to build my mental edge.  While this is my first DNF, there have been MANY times I've mentally checked out of races, walking or slowing down.  I need to get use to being uncomfortable and learn to enjoy pushing my limits.  For starters, in training I need to push intervals, even when I "don't feel like it".  If I let myself off easy in training, I will do the same in racing. 

Nine weeks until the next half marathon.  Time to put in the work!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Now and Then: Naperville Sprint Triathlon

On Sunday August 10, I did the Naperville Sprint Triathlon, which came with a good dose of nostalgia as it was my first triathlon ever six years ago.  It seems only fitting to do the race report with some "now and then" type comparison.  Spoiler alert: I've come a long ways!
When this race happened six years ago, I'd been dreaming of a triathlon for over a year.  I'd even done a training plan a year before just for kicks, with no race at the end of it.  I actually credit that for beginning to get me into shape.  When I found out about the Naperville Triathlon when I moved to Chicago, it seemed perfect.  My training leading up to it consisted of bootcamp fitness classes three times a week that were really kicking me into gear, bike rides on weekends, and occasional swims.  The week before the race put me in a panic, as I realized I actually was clueless.  What do I wear? How does transition work? What do I attach my number with?  I read "Your First Triathlon" cover to cover, at least once.  I vividly remember driving out to Naperville (on back roads because Chicago expressways terrified me) to pick up my packet, listen to the course talk, and buy my first tri suit.  At least I solved that "what do I wear" dilemma.  I was even assured by the race director that there would be a table to leave my glasses on during the race.  Talking to my mom the night before, it was obvious that at the time for me, this was a big deal race.
When I signed up for the race this time around, I was planning it as a fun departure from Ironman training to compare my abilities now to when I was a newbie.  Then I crashed on my bike four weeks before, withdrew from Ironman Chattanooga, and hadn't swam or biked since. My shoulder drastically improved in the week leading up to the race, which led to me thinking that maybe I could have some fun at this race after all.  I tested out biking around the block on Saturday, and while it was a tad sore, I could definitely tolerate the weightbearing through my arms.  I didn't have a chance to try swimming, but I had my full pain-free range back, and let's be honest- my pull is nonexistent, shoulder injury or not.  Worst-case scenario- it is a 400 m "pool" swim, so I could get by with one-armed swimming.  At 3pm on Saturday, I rented a car and was off to Naperville for packet pickup. Unlike six years ago, I knew exactly how packet pickup would go, and was able to pack my race day bag in just a few minutes without doubting if I had what I needed. 

Race morning also brought another dose of nostalgia, and realizing that just in terms of logistics, I’ve improved a lot! Back in 2008 it took me a good 20 minutes just to figure out how to take a front wheel off my Cannondale hybrid to fit the bike into the trunk of my car.  Race morning I had to have someone inflate my tires, as I had no idea how to do so. This time around, my fancy Penelope, my (new) Cervelo P2 was prepped and ready to go.  I adjusted the breaks, switched out the front wheel for one that wasn't slightly warped from the crash, and inflated my tires to proper pressure.  I even prepared a diluted Perform concentrate, knowing that full strength might be too much for high intensity.  Six years ago I had no clue about such nutrition.

The Swim:
The swim is a time trial start, with 6 athletes entering the water every 15 seconds.  There are signs up to help seed people, and I lined up with the 6-8 minute folks, targeting an 8 minute swim and figuring I'd rather be swum over than do the swimming over.  It felt like an eternity until I got in the water, though in reality it was probably about 15 minutes.  During this time I realized the Garmin on my bike was turned off- rookie mistake. 

The swim is 400 m and great for first timers, as it is in an old quarry, making it not quite an open water swim but not just a pool swim either.  It is an M shaped course with large buoys marking the turns.  I ran into the water and then started swimming.  Did I mention these were the first strokes I'd taken in over a month?  I was so relieved when I didn't feel pain.  That being said, I don't think I had much (or any) power behind my pull.  In general, the swim felt better than it actually was.  I was definitely breathing hard and probably had way too high a stroke count, but for not swimming in weeks, I couldn't complain.  I was passing a good deal of folks, which made me feel like I was putting in a good split.  Turns out people just seeded themselves with false expectations.  I was able to quickly navigate around the buoys at the turn, which is a skill I’ve picked up over the years but never really been able to execute well before.  Improvement!

My swim time was obviously disappointing but I can’t complain given the shoulder.  I would have been 100% ok with it if I hadn’t seen that it was over a minute slower than six years ago.  I’m seeing some low hanging fruit in the swim department!

Swim Time Now: 8:36       Swim Time Then: 7:14

The run to transition was on the longer side, as I was at the far end of transition.  It is always disheartening to get to your rack and have your bike be the only one there.  Yes, I know they may have started before me, but still it hurts.  Turned on my bike computer, put on my bike shoes (no socks), helmet, race belt, and I was off.  I'm not sure if my Garmin had totally found the satellites or not yet, but oh well.  Overall, not the smoothest, but not awful.  Thankfully I was close to bike out so it was just a short jaunt running with the bike.  

T1 Time Now:  3:08        T1 Time Then:  3:33

Despite now six years of experience, I was really clueless as to how to go about the bike.  The general plan was: hard.  But what is my hard these days?  It was only the day before that I’d found I can ride my bike again without the shoulder revolting.  I started the bike with my heart rate through the roof (note to self: need to buy HR monitor to start looking at that data).  I backed down a bit but kept steady pressure on.  I made sure to toggle to the screen with just lap time, 3s power, and lap power so I wouldn’t focus on speed.  For nutrition, I made a bottle of diluted Perform- just 2 scoops instead of 3- thinking that at high intensity I wouldn’t want full strength. 

I was only keeping one eye on power, as I didn’t even have a goal since who knew what my FTP was at the time of the race.  It seemed I could keep it in the 150s, so I sort of aimed for that.  With my last FTP test being 162, I was happy with this considering I hadn’t ridden in 4 weeks.  There were a few 180-degree turns that required significant decelerations, and a few times the course got congested, so my overall average power is probably artificially a bit low.

I finished the first loop in 16:58 with an average power of 156.  Having the first loop down made it easier mentally going forward, as now I had expectations and knew it was just going to be 16-17 minutes until it was done.  I also realized that I could bike in 34 minutes or less, which gave me motivation and a goal.  I probably overdid it a bit in the first lap, as my power dropped a little and hovered more right at or below 150.  I just focused on the fact that it would be done soon, and tried to see it in four-minute blocks.  I also thought about Timothy Jenks, the son of one of my EN teammates who was killed cycling, and thought that I needed to ride hard as he would. 

As the second lap came to an end, I tried to push hard, chasing a few people down.  My legs were definitely tired but not destroyed, so I am pretty sure I could have pushed harder.  It seemed to be more cardiovascular limitations, with a very high RPE at the start.  I also had suffered from some nausea early in the bike that never quite went away, resulting in me only drinking half the bottle.  However, as I reached the dismount line, I was pretty satisfied with the bike leg.

What I love about this race is that there is the whole gamet- the folks wearing swimsuits with running shorts on mountain bikes, to aerohelmets on fancy schmancy tri bikes.  Six years ago I was the girl on the hybrid who had just bought her first tri suit the day before.  I don’t think I even had toe cages on the pedals.  This year I rocked the tri bike.  I honestly don’t remember too much from the bike six years ago, except that my training journal says “bike was the hardest part.”  I remember being exhausted on the bike ride, thinking it was long, and I remember a hill.  I’m not sure if there really was a hill and the course has changed, or if it was just a slight incline that didn’t even phase me this time around.   Looking at my times, this was the biggest improvement for me.  I’m sure a lot is due to better equipment, but I think the engine is stronger as well!

Bike Time Now:  34:54             Bike Time Then: 54:40

T2 was pretty uneventful.  My legs felt good just running the bike in.  Socks and shoes on, grab the hat and go!  Unfortunately it was a long way to run out!  I’m guessing the slightly longer T2 time this year is just a function of where I was in transition (and I didn’t have to change shoes back in the day!).

T2 Time Now: 2:07                        T2 Time Then: 1:26

The Run:
I always feel a sense of relief when I get to the run of a triathlon.  It is the sport I am most comfortable with and at that point, no mechanical can hold you back.  I had my running legs right away, none of the brick feeling I was expecting, and I’m not sure why.  Perhaps a higher cadence?  However, I still did feel that I was going steady, nothing too fast.  I just had a regular sports watch, so I didn’t know my pace and didn’t even note the time I left to do the math at the mile markers.  I’d assumed I was in no chance of placing, so I wasn’t necessarily pushing the pace. 

The run seemed familiar from six years ago.  It starts off on a path before winding through some neighborhoods.  It has been a long time since I did a sprint tri, and knowing the run was only 3.1 miles was huge.  It seemed to go by so fast.  Mile 1 was there before I knew it, and from there, a measly two miles left!  This was far from the attitude I remember back in 2008, where the run seemed to go on forever. 

At the two aid stations I grabbed some Gatorade and water.  Probably around the half way mark I tried to push it a tad more, still nothing crazy.  My legs were feeling good, but I think I just lacked the motivation.  When I got back to the path heading in, I figured it was about a half mile left and tried to push a little more.  I passed a few more people, including one in my age group.  Knowing I was going to break 1:15 gave me motivation for a bit of a final kick across the line.

Run Time Now: 25:08          Run Time Then:  27:14

Final result- an improvement of over 20 minutes from six years ago!
Total Time Now: 1:13:49          Total Time Then: 1:34:06

After grabbing some food, I saw that folks had printouts of their times.  I went to get mine and as the girl printed it out she said “nice job- congrats!”.  I looked at it and saw 2nd place!  What?  I was shocked.  I’d been very happy with my time, but didn’t think I’d placed!  I know it’s a local sprint and that many of the more competitive folks were racing USAT Age Group Nats or Racine 70.3 that weekend, but I still felt so validated by that result.  Six years ago I was a total newbie, trying out this sport for the first time.  Now I was seasoned, comfortable and confident in a sport I’d grown to love, and I was a legitimate athlete.  I called my mom and told her “Well, the bad news is that I have to wait around for awards.” 

Turns out that was bad news (though I can’t complain.)  It was about two hours from when I finished until awards, and I didn’t have much to pass the time with.  Still, I wasn’t going to miss my first triathlon podium!  Turns out I was third, seems like there was a chip mishap with the girl that ended up being first.  But still, third place!  Without swimming or biking for a month! I’ll take it!

Division (F25-29) Place Now: 3rd of 71       Division (F20-24) Place Then: 35th of 61

1)   Much to improve on the swim.  For starters, swim. 
2)   Time to invest in a HR monitor to start using that as a measure as well as power.
3)   Work on smooth transitions- every second counts if I want to be competitive.
4)   Need to learn how to mentally race, embrace the suck!
5)   I’ve learned so much in the past six years and these results show it.  Motivated to see what more hard work can bring!