Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Schooley Mill CX

What a gorgeous morning Sunday was! I got to the race and got out of the car and decided that the full bag of warm clothes I had brought, just in case, would be unworn. Short sleeve jersey and light gloves it would be.

I had actually gotten there in time for a practice lap, so I did that, then went back to the car. I decided I thought my front tire might have a slow leak so I changed the tube, ate something, and got to the start in time to take my place in the front row.

Things were looking pretty good.

Until the whistle blew.

I felt like everyone blew by me up the pavement at the start, and maybe they did. It was a little discouraging, but the race was young yet. I passed a few people out on the course, but something just felt a little off. I wasn't cornering all that confidently, but the longer I spent out there, the better I felt. I could tell a top 5 finish was not going to be in the cards on that day, but I was trying to find another girl or two to pick off before the end.

Until halfway through the 3rd lap (there would be 4). I went over a root or a rock or something on the start of a long gentle downhill, bounced off it, and ...


Looked this way over my shoulder and that way and the woman behind me passed and said, "You've got a flat."

I thought so.

Not my Actual Bike

We were well into the middle of the lap and to get a time you have to finish, so off I was for a mile or so walk/ jog down and up the hill, over the barriers, through the s-turns along the side of the hill, over the muddy bit, and back up the pavement past the judges.

I stopped along the way to chat for 5 or more minutes with a coach of one of the Juniors team, who gave me tire pressure advice, adjusted my helmet strap so I wouldn't get a concussion, and explained that when you are a coach it can be hard to turn it off. I'm married to one, so I know. Then I ran most of the rest of the way out of there and finished my race and watched all the riders go by on their last lap.

I was pretty "eh - oh well" while I was out there but once I got back to the car, I was feeling kind of bummed. I think I also wished I had brought the family with me since it was such a nice day and there was a sweet playground and we all had a good time at that race last Fall.

Anyway, I looked at the results today and somehow I wasn't last. There were two people in the race who finished after me, so that was a little surprising, but I was sure I was last by a mile, so I'll take it.

Better luck next time...

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Race for the Parks 10k

Well, I was nervous, but it ended up being a great morning.

Getting up was no problem, because of the time change, and I got downtown with plenty of time to park in a close spot and sit warm in the car for about 25 minutes looking at the news and relaxing as all the parking spots around me filled up. Easy walk to the start by the Vietnam Memorial, the Lincoln, the Korean War Memorial, and some of the most striking parkland in the region and a relaxed warm up with some pickups and it was almost time to start.

It was in the upper 40s and sunny and I was planning on wearing shorts and a t-shirt, so I waited until the last 8 minutes before the start to drop my bag and got over to the corrals.

There was a front group of young guys in singlets and bare arms so I looked for where the women started and slipped in about there, maybe a few rows back. The race started on time and we were off.

I was immediately kicking myself for not being more bold, as the women directly in front of me started off running in a way that somehow seemed to make her not even more forward, tiny springy steps, and I had to dodge her and a few more before I came out into an open space.

I felt good. I knew there was a tailwind behind me, that would become a headwind in 3 short miles, but I was feeling pretty good. My plan was to start conservative for 2 miles, maybe 7:20s, and then speed it up for the next two and try to lay it out for the last two, with the hopes that I would end up with a time that would give me a good baseline for workouts at the track over the winter.

When I looked at my watch and saw 6:55 pace about halfway through that first mile, I questioned this strategy. In the end, I finished that mile at 6:58 but decided I needed to dial it back a little but try to keep a pace that would be more aggressive than my original plan.

Although I was afraid for the first 5 miles or so that I could possibly be on the path to a terrible failure in pacing, that didn't happen. I possibly made one tactical error after we went around the tip of Hains Point and into the wind for the first time, since a woman I was running near took the opportunity to tuck in behind me and I had no one I could catch to do the same. However, after the turnaround and our return around the tip of Hains Point into the headwind home, I did search out other runners to block the wind. It doesn't help like it does on a bike; that is, I didn't feel like I could ease up and go the same speed, but I am certain it made at least some difference.

Other than that it was a pretty uneventful race. I had a touch of a side cramp in the 5th mile, but nothing like I had this summer at the NJ triathlon and I don't think it affected me. I was surprising myself at the ability to hold my pace though.

I thought my data was interesting from the race, with my average heartrate for each mile gradually going up while the mile times (except for the first one) staying in the same range.

1: 6:58/ 156
2: 7:09/ 161
3: 7:12/ 163
4: 7:09/ 164
5: 7:13/ 167
6: 7:14/ 168
last .2: 6:56 pace/ 170

Dave says that the fact that I could pull out 6:56 pace for the last .2 means that I had more in the tank and could have shaved more time off. Maybe he is right, but it was work getting that pace in the end and I was suffering. I am not sure how much longer I could have held it, or if I should have just been going a little faster throughout, but I guess that is what I am trying to learn.

I ended up with a 44:38, 4th in my age group, and waited around for awards since this time would have had me on the "podium" (there wasn't one) at last years race. But it was a fast day out there so I guess I will have to wait to earn my chance at a trip to the podium in a road race. In all the age groups younger than mine, everyone on the podium went sub-40. That's a long way off.

I have my baseline to shoot for 43:30 and have learned that I have been sandbagging at the track, since I have been doing my mile repeats at about 7:12. I guess I can probably go faster than that. No real running races planned until the 10k in February, so it's time to settle in for some work.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Update: Rudy's

I just want to say that I have been reunited with my sunglasses - they came back to me just over a week after I sent them, with lovely new clear lenses that are crisper then my regular glasses (though I won't give in to the temptation to wear them all the time instead of my regular ones, because I might look a little silly). This was all in plenty of time for tomorrow's end of daylight savings time and the resulting dark bike commute home. Boo.

And, hopefully, for use when night mountain bike rides return to my life.

They also replaced all the used and abused rubber bits on my frames so the glasses that came back to me were almost like new.

Thanks, Rudy Project!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Race Week - 10k Edition

All racing is just for fun, at least at my level, so it seems a little weird to make the distinction I am about to make: my last few races, the cyclocross ones, have been just for fun, but today I am feeling nervous.

I am focusing on running at the 10k distance this winter and Sunday is my baseline race. Run for the Parks 10k in Washington. And it is 3 days away and I am already nervous. Part of this is nailing down the logistics, since the race starts at 8 am and they ask you to take Metro because parking is limited but Metro isn't opening early. The Metro schedule tells me that the very best I can hope for, if everything goes right, is to arrive at the Metro stop about a mile away at 7:38 am.

If everything goes right. And Metro isn't delayed.

That's not going to work for me.

So I am driving. So I am parking. So I will be departing early in the morning, I guess, fo my sanity and peace of mind.

But the other part of my nervousness is definitely about performance. I haven't been training a terribly long time since I decided on this goal and it is just for a baseline, but still... a hard 6 miles always hurts, no?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cross Season: Tacchino and DCCX

I kind of knew all along that I wanted to race cross again this season, and I even incorporated some cross-type intervals into my commute over the summer (I don't get to do a proper bike workout during the work week, so all work on the bike has to happen as part of my commute. Surprisingly, this did not lead to me signing up for any cross races and the morning of the first I could make it to, Tacchino at Rosaryville, I found myself (1) switching my commuting tires out for a pair of race tires and (2) signing up day-of when I got to the race.


My last minute preparations meant that I didn't get to preview the course but I could tell pretty fast that it was muddy. Luckily my new tires would help with that. It was a fairly small field, 12, maybe, so starting position wasn't a big deal. There is a new Masters Women 45+ race that they have going off with the Cat 4 women this year, so it is a little hard to tell where you are in the field unless you know who everyone is. I don't know who everyone is.

 The mud was greatly to my advantage, though, as I just dropped my elbows mountain-biking style and powered through it while lots of people were getting off. It was a slippery mess for most of the course, but I managed to stay upright through all of it. I passed some people, but felt like there were lots of women still ahead of me. Imagine my surprise then, in the last climb, when a group of spectators told me that #3 was right ahead and I should "go get her!"

That didn't seem likely and I actually thought they were teasing me, which seems like something cross spectators might do, so imagine my surprise when I crossed the finish line (legs literally shaking) and my friends told me they thought I had won the Cat 4 with the women in front of me all being in the Masters class ("Just don't go anywhere just yet," they advised.) In the end neither group was right, as there was a very young girl in the mix who everyone probably thought was a Junior but was actually Cat 4. The other 3 women were in Masters, however, so I was thrilled with my 1st cross podium in 2nd place. I got a medal and some chamois cream. Woot!

Not signing up much in advance came back to haunt me more at DCCX, which is, it turns out, a huge race. By far the largest field for the Cat 4 women that I have been in in my vast experience of 6 cross races. Again I had not managed to get there in time to pre-ride the course (darn you Army Ten Miler and your road closures), but I kind of remembered the course from the clinic last year so I hoped it wasn't much different and went in blind. Unfortunately, the fact that I signed up week-of the race placed me in the last line for the start. Though honestly, the girls didn't seem to be very good at lining up by number despite the officials telling them to.

I seem to be learning that a lot of the time in cyclocross, you make your own luck. That is, my live and let-live attitude out on the course that probably comes from only racing bikes in the context of triathlon does not seem to be the norm. We'll leave it at that.

So the start was crowded, but I passed a big group of other women in the first couple of hundred yards, which felt good since last season everyone just seemed to pull away at the start. 

This course was dry, and I wasn't convinced that was to my advantage, having been able to pass a lot of people in the muck at Tacchino. I also thought the course was really quite hard, starting with almost a full lap that, as my friend John pointed out, "Didn't even count" since it was only almost a full lap. The lap had 2 sets of barriers and another spot where you dismount to run up some enormous stairs then mount at the top just to go straight down and do a 180 and go straight back up. I guess that's cross, because that happened a few other places on the course too.

Let's just say that when I went by the judges the first time and the lap counter said 3 laps to go, I might have let slip an expletive. But I checked my watch and yup, that painful lap had only taken 9 minutes, not the 15 it felt like.

So I just kept powering on, for what felt like eternity. (That might be hyperbole, but it felt like a long time.) I picked off a few more of my competitors and went back and forth with one woman in knee high bright pink socks.

Is the knee sock thing at cross a fashion choice or a performance choice? I haven't been able to figure that out...

Actually, after the first lap, I had hardly any jostling around the corners and tight spots and was pleased that the only places I had to put a foot down was when I got off the bike for the barriers and the stairs. Until the last lap, when going into the final uphill turn I made the mistake of thinking, "Last hard turn!" at which point I ran into the tape along the side of the course, got tangled up in it, and had to dismount. Whoops.

It was a really fun race and I ended up 9th, which I was ok with, since it was a hard course with a big field. Anyway, out of 29, being in the last row meant I started behind 20+ of them from the start.

A few more races to go this season, and maybe I will sign up not at the last minute. If I'm smart.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Living Without...Briefly

I am bracing myself for a short time without my prescription Rudys.

You know how sometimes someone new to triathlon might ask you what your favorite piece of gear is, for me it is a tough call, but the Rudys are right up there.

But I am getting a new pair of prescription lenses, clear ones for riding at night, for fun night mountain bike riding, if I ever do that again, and more practically, for commuting this fall and winter.

They said I would only be without for 5-7 days.

I hope so!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


There are all number of things I could have spent all day doing on the 1st day of the government shutdown. I did some of those things from the time my "orderly shutdown" ended and noon.

Then I went mountain biking.

Because that's more fun.

Monday, September 9, 2013


I have started quite a few posts in the last month and a half, but never finished them, including a race report for my final triathlon of the season, Luray, which was in mid-August and which was beautiful and tons of fun, if a little lackluster on the performance side.

The swim was pretty poor - I think I was out to lunch, though it didn't feel terribly slow. I was quite happy with my bike and the run was average. BUT, what a beautiful and fun course, particularly the bike. And we had a terrific day to do it. Cool. Cool? In August? I'll take it.

I plan to go back. Hopefully armed with a 10k faster than 50 minutes.

Which brings me to my next topic: moving forward.

I've had a couple of weeks of easy going, a terrific vacation in the Adirondacks, and another week of pretty easy going, so it appears to be time to get back to business.

I have been pondering the months ahead and have determined that I should work on speeding up my run for the Oly, so my plan is to run an open 10k in February and try to blow it out.

I don't even have a PR for an open 10k, I don't think. I have run several in Olys and I have run 10 milers and halfs and 5ks and more 5 milers than I can count and even a marathon, but I don't think I have ever run a 10k road race.

I have a goal, but I am not certain it is reasonable. I want to do 43:30 or better, which would be 7 minute miles. This is a real stretch, but I have 5 months so I am hoping it is doable. I should know better about halfway through, I guess.

I wanted to run an earlier 10k to gauge where I was, but I am amazed that I can't seem to find one, so I think I might run an 8k in December and see where we are.

So that's the long-term plan.

But first I might have to race a few cyclo cross races. I mean, I did just buy new cross tires for my bike. But it would be just for fun. (I am trying to forget how much they hurt last year as I say that....)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

NJ State Triathlon

A little over a week ago I was starting a post about peak and taper period. I guess I never finished that one with all the preparations for a weekend away and two kids and all that. And it is moot now. So on to race day!

NJ State Olympic Triathlon was this past Sunday. It was basically my A race for the season, the one I built all my training since Kinetic around, and now it is in the books. I really liked this race and thought it was really well organized and run and recommend it to anyone. There was an issue Saturday when we were trying to wait for the awards ceremony because we thought Dave might have gotten something and it ended up going off an hour late, but that is pretty small potatoes. It is a big deal when it is 12 pm and you have 2 small kids, but in any other situation, probably not a big problem.

Going into the race I set my goals. I find the Oly to be a tricky distance -- too long to just go all out but too short to hold much back. I tried to set realistic goals that wouldn't set me back on the run. The weather was slated to be hot too, so that was going to throw in another variable. Triathlon in July, you know. 

I was on my own for pre-race, driving alone down to the race and setting up and doing my warm up. Which is just how I like it. When we were part of a big triathlon team I always saw people hanging out at the tent for ages before the swim start and never understood where they found the time. When all was said and done, I was there in transition pretty much until they kicked us out. I didn't do much in the last 10 minutes I was in there, but there always seems something to tweak or some sunscreen to put on or something.

After my warmup swim I saw the family and Holly, who was there to watch after racing her 2nd tri at the sprint the day before (6 weeks after breaking her collarbone in a bike accident! There's something to put any race-day suffering in perspective.) I got my pre-race kisses from the munchkins, got a pep talk from Dave (I believe it went something like, "It's going to be hot out there on the run--remember that suffering is going to be the order of the day") and left them in time to spend a minute getting my head in the race before getting in the water.

1500 meters
27:00 , 1:39/100 yards, 7/69 AG

The swim was hot. 89 degrees. It actually didn't feel that bad right when I got in, but I was pretty nauseated the last 200 yards. I thought I might actually be sick in T1. Happily that didn't happen.

I often have a problem on the swim that I lost focus in the middle third or so of the race, especially in an Oly. One of my goals was to not do that this time. I started out in the second bunch of women in the wave and was thrilled to get some feet to draft off of for the first couple of hundred yards. They disappeared, however, when we started hitting the wave in front of us. At this point I spotted a woman from my wave with a bright blue tri top on. She was just close enough that I thought I might be able to catch her and draft so I turned it on a little and tried. And tried. And tried. I never quite got her, but the effort helped me meet that other goal of staying focused. Once I lost blue-shirt, I was well within the last third of the swim and just put my head down and focused on getting to T1. And not throwing up.

My goal for this swim had been 26 minutes, which would be 1:35/ 100 yards. In the end I had to settle for 1:39/ 100 yards, but I feel ok with that.

2:56  9/69

In my defense, there was a really long run out to the mount line. The fastest T1 in my division was 2:18.

22.5 miles
1:01:49, 21.8 mph, 7/69

Ah, the bike. It was a flat and fast course. Apparently not as fast as it usually is since they had to alter it (and shorten it from 25 miles) to work around some road construction and ended up adding quite a few turns. Now I want to ride the original course. 21.8 mph is really fast for me. 

I had high hopes for the bike. I was shooting for a 20 mph average and had done it for long intervals on several training rides, so felt it was possible. The course was impeccably marked and policed With 2 laps, the course was quite crowded (starting in the 5th or so wave never helps with that) so there was a lot of passing nonsense, particularly one guy who wanted to leapfrog me but always took a little break after passing. Why? Just tell me why? I finally got rid of him toward the beginning of the second lap.

I might have passed someone early on in the bike, but then didn't see anyone else in my age group until near the end of the first lap. She had a red and white top and was going just about my speed it seemed. I passed her, trying to be convincing, as always, and kept on down the road. A few miles later, another girl from my age group with an aerohelmet on came whizzing by, just as I was caught up behind some guys going just a bit slower than I was. Red Top followed Aero through and I saw them pulling away. I got out of my traffic and followed them as best I could. In the next couple of minutes it became obvious that they were going to be doing some shenanigans so I decided to let them have at it and I would just try to keep them just ahead of me and stay with them. This worked for a while, but eventually they pulled too far up. I don't remember if I slowed or got caught in more traffic or if they just were going to fast, but I lost them. In the end Red Top did the bike just :12 faster than mine, but went on to win the race with a 43 minute 10 k (spoiler, I didn't win).

I didn't see anyone else in the age group after that and just thought about racing my race and trying not to go too hard for the run. I am always thrilled to get through the bike with no mechanicals or anything like that, but I was really thrilled with this bike. I am not sure I would have thought that I could have done 21.8 mph for an hour but now I do, so the bar is set.

1:15,  5/69

10 k
50:44,  8:11 min/mile, 8/69

My goal for the run was a sub-50, which would have been 8:03 min/mile, so I didn't make my goal, but I can honestly say that I left it all out there on the run and didn't finish with anything left, so I can't feel too bad about it.

Fake-a Smile
I had gone hard on the bike, but I was hoping not too hard. I think I might have messed something up with my nutrition, though I didn't think 2 gels on the bike was excessive. Regardless, I started the run with a massive side cramp on my left side. This kind of cramp is so annoying. It was excruciating but I repeatedly reminded myself that there was no reason it should slow me down and that it was going to hurt with every step regardless of whether I was moving quickly or slowly. Since I wasn't planning on stopping, I might as well stick to the plan.

The run was on park running paths and wasn't quite flat, but pretty close. There was a fair amount of shade, though more on the first half than the second, which was unfortunate. And it was well supported, with lots of water stops. And Heed. Not my favorite. Other than that it was just kind of narrow. It also was designed as 3 out and back spurs, which meant you could see everyone around you, in front and behind. I didn't adore this layout, but maybe would have if I had been feeling stronger. Anyway, it is a fairly minor complaint.

Despite the cramp, my first mile was fast, about 7:25, and the next two were just under 8s, at 7:55 or so. Things slowed down after I went back past transition at the 5k mark and headed out on the second half. There was a long sunny stretch and my shoes were starting to feel sloshy (I can't believe it, but despite my intent to wear Swiftwick socks, which are awesome when wet, I somehow grabbed a pair that weren't. Still paying for that mistake with recovering blisters).

As I said, the second half of the run was slower than the first, which is a little disappointing, but I know that I was putting out everything I had. I know that because when I did cross the finish line, I got my bottle of water and then squatted down and held on to the finisher chute barrier for about three minutes (the volunteer was very worried about me, asking several times if I wanted Medical). Then after a few more minutes I went and stood in the "misting tent," in quotes because instead of mist, they had the cold water coming down in torrents, like you were standing under three hoses at once. It was excellent.

Overall: 2:23:45, 5/69

All in all, I am really happy with the race, even though I missed two of my time goals. For the run, I think what it comes down to is proper form off the bike, when I am trying to go fast and I am thinking I may have to do some training specifically to address that in the next month before the Oly at Luray, which will likely be my last tri of this relatively small tri season for me.  Nutrition (i.e., cramping) and pacing are other possible culprits for the run.

I want to thank everyone who was cheering me on - my parents came down and cheered and helped out with the kids, Dave was everywhere and took the photos, Holly came out and cheered as well. It was a great course for spectators and they were all over.

I also want to thank the Ignite Endurance sponsors, particularly Tri360 for making sure my bike was good to go the week before the race, Zoca for their great kit (I didn't notice it at all during the day - if that's not evidence of a great kit, I am not sure what is), Blue Seventy for my swim goggles, Skratch Labs for their drink mix and cookbooks, which fed us in the weeks and days before the race, Gu for my fuel on the bike, and Rudy Project for my all-time favorite sunglasses that I wear biking, running, skiing, and any other time.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Skratch Much?

Last night Ignite Endurance got together and made a bunch of different portables recipes from the cookbooks to fuel our weekend activities and taste test a variety of different options. SkratchLabs is a team sponsor so we are all getting into it.

Our household made the fig honey rice cakes and the original rice cakes, which are delicious but I still can't seem to get them to stick well as a cake yet. Won't keep me from eating them. After tasting other creations, however, I will definitely be making the french toast cakes AND the macaroons sometime soon (doesn't worry me that Dave doesn't like coconut-less sharing, you know). 

We rarely do team events as a couple since it requires a babysitter, but we made it happen last night and had fun.

This morning I made the sweet rice porridge to fuel my 12 miler (in 80-some degrees pushing 90, but that's another story) and it was delicious! As I was making it, Ben asked for his "new favorite pancakes." You guessed it, from the Feed Zone cookbook. Finally, for dinner I made the sweet potato egg burritos, even though they are supposed to be a breakfast dish. Again, quite good, though I am left wondering what "liquid amino acids" are and where one gets them.

Basically, I'm getting my money's worth out of this cook book.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


I didn't exactly feel fresh heading out on Sunday morning for my ride, a scant 12 hours after finishing my 11 miles at dusk on Saturday (how do you all train for Ironman?!!), but I was getting the legs warmed up and they were starting to turn over faster and with less stiffness (I don't remember this kind of stiffness when I was in my 20s).

I was just getting going about 9 minutes in when something whacked against my helmet.

Oh, ok, some kind of bug.

About 10 seconds later I almost rode off the shoulder as the bug, clearly a bee, stung my left temple.

"Crap!" Or possibly something worse, I don't even remember, and I swerved toward the side of the road and tried to rip the helmet off my head.

How did that thing even steer inside the vent? Why? Stupid bee.

It has been almost 10 years since I got stung by a bee, so as I hyperventilated on the side of the road I thought about how people sometimes develop allergies over time and wondered if I should pull my phone out just in case. But that wasn't what was going on, I was just panic breathing from pain and surprise and managed to take it down a level in about a minute and went out and finished the ride without any problems (though my throbbing head didn't make me feel any fresher).

And now, 2 days later, it doesn't hurt anymore but it is kind of itchy up there. The unconsidered dangers of cycling.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Overnight Recovery

Today, what with balancing kids sports, a birthday party, grocery shopping and a neighborhood party (can you say 35-foot slip and slide hill), I didn't get out for my long run until about 7:15 pm.

And I didn't think until I was out there that my long ride/brick tomorrow will probably start at about 7:15 am.

So, with an estimated ten and a half hours recovery between them, I might just sleep in these compression tights.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Day By Day

Not much posting going on these days, as I feel not much is going on worth commenting in my training life. Workouts are getting done, miles are being run and cycled and, more slowly, swum, but nothing unusual or particularly noteworthy.

I am riding a little longer than I have in a couple of seasons, it feels like. Since I am a bit of a short distance specialist, sprints and olys, having only done one half-Ironman back in 2009, I don't feel the need to ride particularly long. I like long weekend training rides, but since I don't exactly have time for that kind of thing these days, short distance is working out for me and I can feel good about the days I get 40 or 45 in, even while my Ignite teammates are all banking 80+ mile  rides, something I have never actually done.

Those long days in the saddle on gorgeous summer days out in the Virginia countryside actually sound kind of fun, but so is being at home with the family, so I make the choices and I am often riding out the door in the early morning. But I love beating the crowds!

Monday, June 3, 2013


Today the stars aligned and Dave and I were able to go to the track together --without any children-- for the first time in...maybe more than five years. The stars aligned even more for me because he raced yesterday and, therefore, was willing to do my workout instead of running his paces, quite a bit faster.

So we ran over there and set out to do 3 x 1 mile repeats. He said he would go my pace, but it was painfully obvious after a 400 that I was having trouble finding my pace. I was too fast, too fast.

At my request, he pulled in ahead of me and slowed us down. As I felt the pace, it occurred to me that although I have been loving my 800 repeat days at the track, whenever I have longer intervals, it has been somewhere on the spectrum of wildly uncomfortable (rather than the pleasantly uncomfortable that a hard track workout can be) to complete disaster.

I have been going out too fast. Just like I did today Like I am doing another 800 instead of a mile or longer. But without someone to check me and help me correct, I have just been like, Ok, I'm holding this pace now - let's see if I can keep it up.

That's not very smart. And I never put it together? That's really not very smart.

Whereas today, the first repeat felt easy, too easy. The second felt like a little bit of work, and the third was a bit more and then we opened it up a bit in the last 800, and that was quite a bit of work. I tried not to just tuck in behind him and let him block the wind, but I did go ahead and just trust him on the paces and let myself not think about that so much.

I don't think my pacer will be able to be with me every week, as he meets his running partners early morning and goes then, but hopefully I will carry the lesson along with me. At least for about 6 more weeks until my next race. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Problem Solving

The legs are bonkish about 20 minutes into my long ride this morning.

I am a bit grumpy at the kiddos in the morning.

Too tired to be the patient mom I want to be. Too tired to make proper use of the training time I have.

Time to find a way to go to bed earlier again.

(Though the bonk could have been partially caused by the lasagna I thoughtlessly had for lunch yesterday. Darn you, cheese!) 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Something New

A number of friends have embraced the Skratch Labs rice cakes for fuel. They are an Ignite sponsor and I have been hearing about these cakes a lot. Curious, and with some recipes printed off their website, I made some Friday night. My husband and I both had rides scheduled for the weekend that we would be bringing fuel for, so I gave it a shot and made some apple cinnamon flavored ones.

(I had my eye on the Blackberry Mint flavor, which sounds amazing, but I had everything on hand in the house to make these ones, so I went ahead with them first.)

Apple Cinnamon Rice Cakes
After The Taste Test

The whole deal with these cakes are that they are made from real food and aren't processed. There are 5 ingredients in this flavor: rice, apples, cinnamon, brown sugar, sea salt. And they tasted terrific. 

This is a half-batch from the recipe I had, but the recipe was so simple that it was easy to scale. I wrapped them up on Friday and had one before my run on Saturday and one on Sunday before my ride as well as a couple more on that Sunday ride. (And maybe one as a snack.) Dave took some too on his weekend ride and they were easily gone after all that. 

We both agreed that they went down really easily while riding but Dave said he was still hungry after he would eat one. I had one before my ride, one at :35, and was hungry at 1:15, about the time I had scheduled my second. I didn't want to have anything after that because of my scheduled brick run. Like I said, they tasted great and I didn't have any problems on the ride or the run, except fumbling with the wrapping - have to work on that. 

I like the convenience of the packaged foods and they work well as fuel for me, but I really like the idea of eating more "real" food whenever possible, so I will definitely be experimenting with more of the rice cake recipes. I just put in my order for the Feed Zone Cookbook, which should have more things to try, so hopefully we'll find some recipes that are more filling to sustain Dave on his rides (always longer than mine). 

Or else I could just cut them bigger. 

Monday, May 20, 2013


A very old friend of mine ran her first triathlon this weekend.

Unlike my first race, which was pretty much a guerrilla race with a pool swim, a bike loop on totally open roads with no cones or police and a run on sidewalks, and I am pretty sure, no permits, her first race was legit. (Also there were about 30 of us, I think, and the post-race food was pot luck - it was a pretty awesome first race).

Anyway, it has been a lot of fun going through the process of getting ready for a first triathlon with her as she asks all the questions that we all had that first time and tried to figure out registering and logistics and what all this stuff triathletes have is. It really brought me back to my first tri season and how every race was a little bit of an adventure and every day of training and racing felt like it taught a dozen lessons. That was fun.

Some of that remains, particularly when a race I have never done makes its way onto my schedule, but now I want to do well and that requires limiting the mystery factor a little, through research on the course or checking it out ahead of time. Of course, you never quite know what you are going to face on race day, so there is that part of it to embrace.

Know what was also fun? That after all that training and planning and, yes, worry, she pretty much rocked it. I wasn't there for the training or for the racing, but I know how it feels when those hours pay off, and I felt good about it from here.

There was something else though, something I might have guessed at but haven't had put in front of me so clearly before. It became clear in several of our conversations that triathletes don't have the reputation of being the most welcoming group. I don't think of myself or the triathletes with which I associate as people who would judge a first-timer or someone who is asking questions on race day or riding the bike they happen to have, but it occurs to me that as a triathlete, maybe people think I would be like that. I am not sure where this reputation comes from, and maybe it has a basis in reality, but I find it isn't a wide-spread attitude.

I just have to make a bigger effort to be obviously not like that. If first-timers are nervous on the day of their first tri, shouldn't it be because of the physical task they are about to do, not because they think the other people in transition are looking down their noses?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Kinetic Sprint: short race, long race report

I feel like I have been racing for ages, with 6 running races since the beginning of March, 6 races in 10 weeks, but Sunday was my first triathlon of 2013, so I was excited and nervous. On Saturday I learned that all 7 of the members of my tri team, Ignite Endurance, who traveled down to do the Kinetic Half that day had stood on the podium (and gotten awards, just to be clear). When I have done this race before, I got an age group 3rd in 2007 and an age group 2nd in 2010, but last year I missed the podium by two spots. So a spot in the medals wasn't out of the question, but the Igniters had thrown down the gauntlet to be sure. 

Kinetic is a 1:30-2:00 drive, depending on traffic and all that, but race start wasn't until 9am, so I was driving down Mother's Day morning. Although I severely missed seeing the family on the course, we decided that subjecting the kiddos to the early departure (5:30 am) and all that driving didn't make sense when it was unlikely Dave would even get quality cheering done with both of them sure to run in opposite directions as soon as we got to the race site. I travelled alone.

If you have never gone to a triathlon with two small kids in tow, you have no idea how relaxing race day can be when you go solo. Maybe relaxing isn't the right word, but I think it is. Lonely, but relaxing. I discovered this in the past few years about flying as well.

I got to the race site in plenty of time for getting all my things in order, warming up, rearranging all my things, sending a photo back to the homestead, and getting into my wet suit. Twice. Because I didn't like how it went on the first time.

Now that I am in the "older" cohort of women, I guess I have to get used to starting in a late wave. We were 6th yesterday, behind the men 55+ and in front of only the novice racers. I don't care for starting that far back. It makes the swim and the bike uncomfortably crowded as you have a lot of passing to do. We were 4 abreast at times on the road passing and there were times I had to slow down to avoid drafting when the road was too busy for me to make a pass. I guess I have to file it under things out of my control, but I don't have to like it. On  the plus side, we didn't have to wear pink caps - that was for the wave of younger women.

Swim: 750 m/ 14:04
I had been worried about the water temperature all week, but it turned out to be beautiful to race in. High 60s, warmer than the air at the start, and my sleeveless wetsuit was the perfect choice.

I felt bold and started near the front of the wave and on the inside. Open water swimming has never made me anxious so I don't mind being in the middle of everything. Plus, I wanted to podium, so I didn't want to give up any unnecessary time to anyone. Physically I felt alright on the swim, but I got run off course a couple of times and was never able to grab onto a pair of feet ahead of me. It felt like an ordinary swim, one might say, and looking at the time confirms that feeling.

In addition, the swim itself was pretty choppy and the word at the start was that the second turn buoy was loose and being held in place with a rope by the boats. This didn't slow down the winner of my age group who swam 11:48 or the overall winner for the woman, who swam sub-10, however, so I can hardly blame it for my slowish swim. The culprit could be the fact that I am currently self-trained on the swim and probably don't do enough. That sounds more reasonable. I wish I could do a Master's program but I can't figure out a way to make it work right now, so I have to muddle along for now and hope not to lose too much time on the first leg.

T1: 2:26  (battle with my left wetsuit leg and my left shoe- boo)

Bike: 15.5 mi/ 45:18
I love bike commuting, which I do the two days a week I go into the office, but more of my training than I would like takes place during those hours. I don't ride my race bike as my commuter and the miles are not always quality ones, though I often do intervals to make them more so. However, I had a confidence-building weekend workout a few weeks ago on which I held 20 mph for 40 miles and had a solid run afterwards, so that speed was my goal for this race.

They changed the bike course for this year, cutting about 3 miles off and making it flatter, so I made a point to drive it before going to the race site in the morning (you can do that when there are only 9 miles outside the park). I made note of the hills and pavement conditions and noticed that except for the ride out of the state park, there was only one longish hill on the run back towards transition.

I wanted to take the bike course as hard as I possibly could without destroying my run but this level of effort can be hard to find, can't it? As I mentioned, the crowds on the road were big, especially heading out of T1 and up the hill out of the park. Between not having my glasses on yet, the crowds, and the fact that the race apparently decided to use washable pens for body marking, I didn't have a sense of whether any of the women I passed were in my age group or not, but looking at the results it appears I was 4th out of transition. My best guess is that I passed two of them at this point in the ride. As I went on, there seemed to be lots of women 34 and under from the previous swim wave and quite a few 40-44 out there, but not a soul in my age group. I was at a loss about whether this meant I was near the front or whether the fast swimmers were fast bikers as well and long gone, but all I could do was try to catch whoever was out there.

On the way out the stem, the leaders were on their way home already, having started 16 minutes ahead of us. I saw 2 of my teammates, Seb and Andy, zoom by and made an effort to cheer, but I am sure they heard nothing. I was glad to see them near the front of the pack. 

In the end, I guess starting in wave 6 is good if you like to pass. I passed a lot on the bike course and was passed by just one or two guys and one woman, 40-44. She was pretty serious looking, aero-helmet and all, and I made an effort to stay near her, but it was in vain. I passed her once as she fiddled with something, but after she passed me again, she was gone. Near the end of the bike I did spot one 35-39er and made the pass. Finally!

All in all, I am very happy with the bike. I kept it just above 20 mph and rode comfortably in the aero bars the whole time. I was working near my limit but not over it. And it was pretty fun.

T2: 1:05 (I know I shouldn't be complacent, but this is a really nice quick transition for me!)

Run: 3.1 mile (my watch said 3.2, but whatever)/ 23:00

Oh, the run in a sprint tri. I actually had to remind myself halfway through it, "This isn't supposed to feel good!"

The run out of T2 on this course is hard. The hill is steep and although it isn't that long, it is almost immediately after you leave transition. They route the course around so you get about 150 meters to find your legs before you start it. On the plus side, all the crowds for the race are right there and the Team Zers are amazing at cheering on one and all.

So as I headed up the hill, I felt awful. Burning burning legs. I am not sure what force was causing them to move, but with each step I wasn't sure I could make the next one. If you had asked, and I had been able to answer, I would have sworn I was running 10 minute miles. I thought briefly about the hoards of fast women behind me who were sure to pass as I struggled up the hill. You might say my head was not in a great place.

I was able to manage to pass a few people though, so that felt good, and then a woman in her late 20s, who looked like she should be fast passed me, but not going that much faster, so I determined to stay as close as I could. She pulled away steadily but slowly and keeping her in sight gave me a goal. And I was pleasantly surprised to find at the top of the hill, at the end of the first mile, that it had been a 7:44. Thank goodness for muscle memory - that's the only way that happened.

The next two miles were both even faster, though mile 2 averages out flat and 3 is downhill. They were also sufferfests. But shouldn't the 5k of a sprint be exactly that? My legs burned and I was huffing and puffing terribly, but I was still headed toward the finish line.

As we went down the final hill through the woods, .4 mile from the finish, I risked a look over my shoulder and didn't think I could see any women. I didn't want to let up, but that gave me a measure of relief. Imagine my surprise then .3 miles later, with the Finish arch in sight, when a slight figure with flouncy hair came into my peripheral vision on the left. Oh no you don't! I searched for another gear and found one, but after a little skirmish as the passer tried to go by but got caught up in the cones, I lost that race. Luckily for my placement, the offender turned out to be a teenage boy. Whoops. I would had laughed if I had had any extra breath.

In the end, the run was 7:25s (7:11s, if the course was really 3.2) and I am really pleased with that. It always seems like a success just to be able to tack a solid run onto bike where you push yourself, so that makes me happy. 

Final: 1:25:50 - 2nd age group/ 11 overall

I was really happy with this race and was happy to find some friends to chat with after. It was a gorgeous morning to sit and wait for the awards. And I even had some fun on the ride home, opening the windows on the winding country roads, listening to music of my own choosing, and singing along. Can't do that every day.

Just a quick shout out to my teammates at Ignite for inspiring me, even though I don't get out to train with the group as much as I would like. In addition, our sponsor store, Tri360 is a great local triathlon shop in the area, less than a year old and filled with great people and great gear. This shop is easily rideable AND runnable from my house - now that is what I call local. Also Skratch makes a great nutrition drink and I also depended on Gu and my prescription Rudy Project glasses in this race. I run and ride in those glasses rain and shine (and get some looks when I wear them in the rain, believe me) - so glad not to have to wear contacts! Thanks to all these companies that make triathlon even more enjoyable.

Next up: ?  I am currently registered for no races. This feels weird. I am going to try to give my husband a chance to race some. I am leaning toward an Oly in NJ in July and one of the nearby VA tris in August though. Time to start making some goals, I guess.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

3-2-1: Race Report - Fountainhead Backyard Burn

Like I wrote in my last race report, I had a goal for the BYB series this spring. I managed to top the podium for my age group for the series the spring after my older child was born, 6 months after having him. That was a surprise when it happened, but I was very pleased with it and my goal was to do it again. (And squeeze a half-marathon in while I was at it.)

Work started in the winter with frigid trips to the track and better focus on what I was eating. I didn't get to the trails for practice runs since we live a little farther away than we used to, but I hoped that my trail experience from years past would be adequate.

And I am pleased to say that I met my goal.

I had to get a 2nd at Fountainhead to win the series and I did just that.

I looked around at the starting line and, for the first time (for some reason!), took note of the women around me. I knew 2 of them as the ones who have been finishing ahead of me on the overall podium all season. The rest all had red bibs, meaning they were running 10 miles instead of 5. So with the lay of the competitive landscape accounted for, off we went.

I was suffering from the start, not least of all from this annoying ankle injury and from some monstrously tight hamstrings (starting today I went in to have my chiropractor look at me - not sure why I waited so long), but I loosened up as we went on a little until the bulk of the discomfort was cardiovascular instead and then there is nothing that can be done. By about 2 miles in the women's positions were set with #1 way out in front, #2 ahead of me, just out of sight but pulling away a bit and then me. There was a 4th women in there too, but I am not sure where she came from and she ended up being DQed.I don't know why but I can only imagine it was cutting the course. Pretty bold to cut the course and come in 2nd overall.

The course has been described (possibly by me) as relentless, as in it is always climbing or descending. It is also fairly technical with some very tricky downhills, quite a few roots, and some rock crossings. I really like it, particularly as I have run there a lot, but I have to admit it hurt me yesterday. I tried to do some enjoying as I ran, but mostly I was just experiencing being at my limit. 

I have been thinking that although it was nice to know what the variables were and what I had to do for 1st, in some ways knowing those things were an impediment to enjoying the race. Instead of feeling the possibilities of the race, it was more like I was running scared, thinking about what I would lose if I didn't come in second. Of course, in any scheme of things, these are good "problems" to have so I can't take it too seriously, but I thought that was an interesting side effect of going into the race having looked up the math on that question.

But, in the end I ended up 3rd overall for the race, 2nd age group for the race, and 1st in age group for the series. Something to think about next winter when it is time to head to the track.

Saturday, May 4, 2013


Got an email from the race organizers for next Sunday. Water temperature at Kinetic is 63. I was worried that it was still in the 50s, so I guess this is good news. But that's still a whit chilly and it is supposed to be 60s and some rain next week, so I am not hoping for much improvement.

I have lent out my full wetsuit for the season to a friend starting out triathlon. I don't generally care for the extra fabric around my shoulders anyway. But I might have some chilly elbows come Sunday!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Race Report: BYB Laurel Hill

Ok, this is going to be a fairly short race report, as I am about a week late in writing it.

To me, an interesting thing about this race was that it is new to the spring trail race series and I hadn't run it or had the opportunity to preview the course at all. I have biked there, but just a couple of times and wasn't sure which trails were going to be in the race. I was surprised about how nervous this made me- I am so used to feeling like I know these Backyard Burn courses that I was a little shaken up by the unfamiliar.

It was another beautiful morning for a race, I was just a bit chilly in 3/4 tights and a t-shirt. Some of my Ignite Endurance teammates were out and we had our team shirts on - they were all running the 10 miler so I was clearly the lazy one of the bunch.

I started out hard and tried desperately to keep it there. A few moments stand out on the day:
(1) stepping on a rock wrong about 2 miles in and tweaking my left ankle again, when I thought it was better, and possibly cursing, possibly loudly-might have to take a couple of weeks off running after Kinetic in mid-May to let this thing heal all the way-not looking forward to that;
(2) getting passed (again!) by the same women who has finished in front of me in the overall standings at all of the past three races-I think I beat her at Hemlock so maybe the hills at Fountainhead will be too my advantage too;
(3) a fairly long downhill stretch of pavement around the 3rd mile where I was trying to simultaneously push the speed and recover my breathing - I think if I could master that, it would be a terrific advantage.

Anyway, it was a good day. I got my fourth 2nd place age group for the series, but am in the lead for the series since the woman who has won three of the races missed the last one. I am trying not to think of it too much, but a second in age group at Fountainhead would maintain that lead regardless of what anyone else posts on the day. But, like all races, Fountainhead will present what it will present and I can't will myself into second, I can only run myself there. So, that's the goal.

One more week in the series.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

BYB Prince William Forest Park Race Report

BYB # 3

The Highlights:
(1) Ow
(2) After entering the single track (where I was already behind a few of the fast 10 miler women) I got passed by 4 women: 1 at the base of the ascending fire road, going so light and quick - she finished about 3 minutes in front of me, 2 near the bottom of the descending fire road, about .5 mile before you go back to single track - 1 went on to the 10 mile course and the other took second overall, and, heartbreakingly, 1 about .2 miles from the finish, who went on to snag the last place on the OA podium and win our age group 10 seconds in front of me. And who said, "The finish is right up here around the corner, right?" as she went by. Frustrating!
(3) Relearned that lesson about not taking a Gu 12 minutes before starting a race that is going to begin at a breakneck pace down a hill. I cannot digest Gu at 5:40 pace. Actually, I am not sure if I ever learned that exact lesson before, but I should have known better.

Longer Version:
I was going to write  a longer version, but now I am a week after the race and I haven't written it yet, so I better just cut my losses and publish. Basically the thing I was going to add was how strangely nervous I was going into this one. I try to prepare myself by visualizing in the nights before the race, particularly as I know these courses quite well, but the knowledge of how hard the first .5 mile of this course is--and how my race strategy was going to make it very very painful--kind of freaked me out. I am thinking I was probably better off for having done it anyway, but it did make me kind of dread the start of race morning.

Also, about the guy on the ascending fireroad who passed me as I started to fade around mile 2 and urged me on: "Stay with me! Stay with me!" Not sure why he felt the need to encourage me, but it worked. I can imagine it could have come off badly depending on the state of mind of the person receiving, and I don't know why he chose to cheer me on, but I was grateful.

It was a really fun race, though, even if it could have ended better. Another perfect morning for a race. And the kids both napped 3 hours in the afternoon when we got home. Amazing!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Surprise

Usually, I try to get out for a bike ride as soon as I can on "my" day to ride. It can be a very bad thing when the start time gets put off and off, so I wasn't sure how things would go today.

It's Easter, so the day started with baskets for the kiddos, our household egg hunt (so much fun!), a big family breakfast (I stuck to a veggie scramble and skipped the french toast) and bubbles on the deck while dad put the baby down for her nap. So I didn't get out until 10 am.

So imagine my surprise when I had a great ride. Except for the terrible shape of Williamsburg Blvd, where I was almost certain I would flat, up near Glebe (though it looks like the county is working on it), it was a great ride all around. Quiet roads as it was Easter morning, lots of hills in North Arlington, a finished up on one of the best stretches of the bike trail for tempo work near our house, the section from Falls Church to Vienna.

All kinds of people are out doing epic rides this weekend, I guess, and that makes me a little self-conscious about my modest 2-3 hour weekend rides, but I try to remind myself that I am doing sprints this year, maybe an Oly. I don't need to do epic rides, which is good, because I don't have the time.

But this ride, though out the door from our house on neighborhood roads, this was a great ride.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Shamrock Half Race Report

Last Sunday was my half marathon.

In truth, I was really worried. I ran Wakefield a week before that. About 3.5 miles into that race I tweaked my ankle a smidge. It didn't really slow me down, but I could tell I did something, so imagine how happy I was when I felt great the next day and was able to complete my scheduled 4 miles at lactate threshold pace with no problem. Great!

So things went along as planned and on Wednesday I had my last significant run scheduled. I had the kiddos with me so I dropped them at the gym daycare and did 4 miles at endurance pace on the treadmill. Felt fine, until I stepped off the machine. Hmm, left ankle and foot kind of hurt. By that night, revise that to really really hurt. Add a scratchy throat and overall chill I and ended up spending most of Thursday on the couch with my foot up icing while I drank tea and sucked cough drops.

By the time Sunday morning rolled around I had kicked the cold but I had also skipped all my "tune up" runs and the foot still hurt. I had been playing with the idea that I might not make it through the race and at one point considered not starting, but that didn't seem right after the whole family was down in Virginia Beach for the weekend (though they all raced on Sunday). Plus, I knew I would be angry at myself if I allowed a dns. However, I resigned myself to the possibility of a dnf and went as far as warning my husband that it might happen--though I was reluctant to do so for fear of giving myself permission to go through with it.  

Sunday morning was chilly, low 40s, with a headwind for the first part of the race. I hoped this meant a tailwind home, but with my recent luck with wind, it almost seemed more likely that the wind would shift around as we ran.

I lined up toward the back of the first corral. The 1:45 pace group was right behind me and as that was my goal, it seemed wise to keep them close. They must have been in the second wave, though, since I didn't see them again until a bit later. I reasoned early on that if my foot was going to be the deciding factor on the day, whether it was going to doom me didn't depend on the speed I ran - I was going to pound it at 8 minute miles or at 9 minute miles, so I might as well go for goal pace. I don't know if this reasoning is good, but it suited my purposes.

The course is approximately 3.5 miles out, a 6 mile oblong loop, and 3.5 miles back. There are a couple of long lonely stretches, but the crowd is great in the last 4 miles.

Just a little past the starting line I heard "Kathy!/ Mommy!" and from across two lanes of runners, I saw my little guy on his dad's shoulders. My pink headband might have made me stand out, but I was impressed they saw me. I knew I wouldn't see them until the finishing stretch so from then on, every time I saw a stroller or a bunch of munchkins, I pretended they were mine. 

In the end, the race was mostly a mental test. Though I have decided, that any race in which you are reaching for a goal will be a real mental test. The hardest part of the first 6 or 7 miles was that even when the running was easy I still had the pain from the foot and wasn't really relaxed. I also determined about that far in that I was totally overcompensating on the right side and that quad hurt an unusual amount. I started playing some mental games at about that point ("all that's left is less than a typical track workout and not even as fast!") but by about 8.5 miles I was hurting. I was expecting this level at about mile 10, so it came a bit early. But I was close to goal pace, averaging about 8:02s instead of 7:58s. At a little after 9 miles the 1:45 group caught me but I was able to stay more or less in contact with them as my breathing got more and more labored in the last couple of miles.

I counted down the last couple of miles by equating them to laps around the track and they ticked away. Happily the wind stayed at our backs. Saved me! And, with about 400 m to go, I saw the family. And you better believe I ran over to slap some high 5s.

Final time: 1:46:10

Close but no cigar. But I am happy with that result considering what I had in front of me on race morning.

 And I could walk like a human (rather than a robot)by only Wednesday.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Race Report: BYB Wakefield

The race reports are going to be coming fast and furious now. Well, until next week. Three races all in a row may test my report-writing capabilities.

BYB at Wakefield is a 5.5 mile course that is about half fire road (if you include the prologue on the pavement} and half single track. It is also pretty flat. This means it is the fastest course of the series and the most suited to the road runners. And that means, it is always a challenge for me, even though I seem to go into it every year thinking it is the "easy" one.

Sunday was gorgeous, about 10 degrees warmer than last week at the start and getting warmer. I was worried about the trail conditions after a wet week, but they had dried pretty well with very little standing water.

At the start I found myself lined up right next to the woman in my age group who won our group and the overall last week. We wished each other well, then the siren went and I watched her take off like a rocket. I was already pushing myself for a fast start, so I didn't even try to keep up, but I kept her in sight as long as I could.

The race was fairly uneventful: I paced off a teenager for a while, then passed her in the single track (this is the benefit of having those fast roadies out there with us), I had some kind of Pavlovian response to my watch beeping at 3 miles, wondering what I was doing and why I couldn't stick to something shorter, like a 5k, at about 4 miles I found myself wondering how the woman right in front of me was wearing a hat, neckwarmer, gloves, long sleeves and tights and still going so fast when I was starting to heat up in shorts and a t-shirt, I tweaked my ankle in the last mile or so, but it didn't bother me too much (until Wednesday, strangely enough). 

In general, my legs were at their limit for speed somewhere in the 2-3 mile - I am not sure I could have gone faster. But my breathing and cardio was fine until we hit the last uphill and headed down for the final stretch on the fire road. I guess this means my cardio system is in better shape than my running legs? Not sure, but I better not back off the running, what with 3 more of these to do.

In the end I finished 3rd OA with a 2nd in my AG again, a result that I was thrilled with on this course. And the temps had warmed up enough for the cheering crew to enjoy the post-race activities to the utmost (read: munchkins dancing to the race music and eating pizza at 10am).

Next: Shamrock Half in VA Beach...

The Yuengling Shamrock Marathon, Half Marathon, & 8k Run

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Race Report - BYB Hemlock 5

First race of the season was last Sunday with the Backyard Burn 5 Miler at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park. I have been involved with this particular series of trail runs for maybe 8 years now and have had the privilege of doing each race quite a few times. With three long (long!) hills, 2 long rocky sections, and a very narrow bit that never fails to remind me of a terrifying and hairy trail that we hiked on our honeymoon in Hawai'i .....

(not my image - from the Internet) 

.....I am certain this is the hardest race in the series.

Also, the weather is somehow always somewhere on the spectrum of Pretty Awful to just Very Cold. This year we got Quite Cold But Warm Enough To Start To Thaw The Wet Muddy Trail.

So the good news is that the hardest race of the series is over! And the other good news is that I managed a 2nd in my age group and a 3rd overall.

Brief Race Report:
Race starts with a significant downhill on pavement and then gravel road before ducking into the woods for the first time. As always I went too fast on this section, but you really have to if you want to go into the woods in good position. This was all a part of my plan, though, so I knew I would have to dial it back after the prologue.

We went back through the starting area after the prologue loop and I saw my cheering crew but couldn't get over to slap any hands. At this point you duck into the woods and there is about 2 miles of narrow single track ahead. I am pretty confident running downhill on the trails and this has served me well in the past, as it did on Sunday. I made several passes on a steep early downhill that might have saved me some time in the long run.

I also had previewed this section as part of my warm-up, so when we got to the logs crossing the stream, I knew which one wobbled and might drop you into the cold water and which was sturdy. I ended up glad that I had extended my warm-up all the way down there.

There really are three hard hills on the course, so I knew I couldn't red line it early on, but I pushed right up to the limit of uncomfortable. At the bottom of another hill the technical rocky part starts. I know from running this course before that I have a propensity to start getting stressed out at this point if I feel like the people in front of me are being to cautious and slow but that there are very few places to pass. My strategy this time was to pass as much as I could in the flat section leading up to the rocks, to use the rocky part as a little bit of recovery if I was caught behind people, to not stress, and to keep my eyes open for a pass.

In the end this worked out great, as I had positioned myself pretty well and the pace through the rocks mostly suited me. I was able to make one pass by taking a better line but other than that didn't worry.

The other part of the course that I like to go into with a strategy is the second big hill, which continues up through two sharp turns that you can't gauge from below. That is you go up the first section and right where you think it is going to flatten out, it goes up again and then, yeah, one more time. On top of this, the ground was starting to soften up and get muddy, making the uphills feel a little like climbing scree: two steps up, one step back. I decided to steal my dear husband's strategy on that one, which is to run up the bottom until the suffering stops then settle into a fast walk. The worst part of this for me is when it is time to start running again, but this time I know it worked for me. How?

(1) No women passed me on the hill. That's very important.
(2) A few guys passed me, but one of them powered right by near the bottom but by the top I was right with him again. Coming out of the hill right on his tail made me feel like I hadn't lost any time in the long run by walking.

Those were the 2 parts of the race that stood out, except that the last mile of this one is a treacherous one. It starts with narrow windy downhill that feels about 8 inches wide and plunges down about 20 feet on the right to a stream. And this year it was slick and muddy. There is no making up any time when you can't even take full steps. The second half of the last mile is back up that hill and you are feeling it by then. I kept reminding myself that I could push for 800 meters at the track, so I could certainly do it on the race course. By this point I noticed a woman who I had passed early on close behind but took a second to glance at her race number. When I saw the number was red (meaning she was running the 10 mile race), I let her go by with a little relief. I probably should have wanted to beat her too, but I guess I didn't have the will.

I did have the will to sprint the last hill to the finish (just in case), but when I turned around after crossing the line and saw no women in sight, I kind of wondered why...

But it was a good race and I was glad to get on the podium. I would love to finish well in this series this year after a kind of mediocre showing last spring, so I guess I better keep the focus on. This week's race is at Wakefield, which is much flatter, but I think it is going to be very wet, which might make things interesting...

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Self Control

As I mentioned, Sunday is race day.

Which means, repeat after me:

"My commute is not a race, my commute is not a race."

What is it about being on a bicycle that can make a person just want to race?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Race Week

First, an update: My sleep mini-challenge is proving to be more of a challenge that I was up for, at least last week.

In my first week I turned the lights off by 10:00 pm 3 out of 7 days (instead of 5). At least three of those were pretty spectacular fails, with two nights when the lights went out at 11:30 and one at 1:00 am (!!! But I was at a fun dinner party in NYC, so I knew that night would be a failure).

But now we are in race week. Backyard Burn #1 is this weekend at Hemlock. It is a 5 mile trail race series and this race is, in my opinion, the hardest. I have been tracking the weather and doing some visualizing and looking at past times and have a few easy days coming up on my calendar. Hopefully I can add some early nights to that list of preparations and will be able to face race morning as ready as I can be.

Looks like 2013 is starting to get rolling - let's go!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sleep Mini-Challenge

It is almost a month until my half-marathon.

Training has been unremarkable but consistent. Runs are getting tougher and faster. I've been tracking food to get a handle on my nutrition and am feeling like that is working.

There is a serious missing link though: sleep.

I go to bed way too late. WAY too late. I usually turn out the lights between 10:45 and 11:30. The littlest one usually wakes up between 5:15 and 6. And even if she goes back to sleep for a little bit, I usually don't really.

So, I was thinking, if I could turn those lights out by 10:00 pm on 5 out of 7 nights per week, that would be a very good thing. It is currently too late to start this challenge tonight, since my computer clock is reading 9:59 pm, but maybe with one month to go I will start.

We'll see how this goes.

Friday, February 8, 2013


I am currently self-"coached," if you can call it that. Sure, I am not sure exactly what I am doing and would love to put myself in the hands of a coach, but my workout schedule is so wacky and I need to have family as a highest priority right now, so it just seems like it isn't worth the expense.

Anyway, in my schedule I don't really have rest days. I wish I could get the volume I want in 6 days a week, but with work and the kids and Dave's workouts to schedule around, it just doesn't seem possible. Instead I have been trying to listen to the body and take the rest day when I need it on a day that doesn't have a critical workout. So far this has been working for me.

But I think I have a rest day coming.

I woke up Thursday a little sore, but Thursday is my bike commute day and I had an important run scheduled for lunchtime, so I did that. This morning I woke up fatigued again, but Friday is the day I go to my strength class at the gym, which I adore (and pay for), so I did that.

I hate making Saturday a rest day, but it might just have to happen tomorrow. At least a very breezy day with windchills in the teens seems like a good candidate for one.

Who knows if this makes sense as a way to train, but it just seems to be a shame to schedule rest days when the body is ready to train. After almost six years of triathlon training (well, minus the two seasons I took "off"), I should be able to hear what my body is saying regarding fatigue, right?

I hope so. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Track

For this winter at least, I have turned Monday lunchtime into my track workout because I work from home on Mondays and there is a track nearby. Now, I love the track.

I'm not sure when I came to love the track. It definitely wasn't when playing lacrosse in college, so I am going to blame my mid-20s when my life revolved around NOVA rugby and getting quicker and fitter and better at 7s. And having some fun. But sometimes you have more fun when you win, so we spent a lot of hours at the track.

We had various programs and met up in the dark of the dead of winter and in the early morning hours in the heat of Virginia summer and, a few memorable times, during rain that turned to thunderstorms. Thunderstorms that were very close.

So, as far as running workouts go, I think that as far as the satisfaction and overall good feeling I get from a workout, the track is my second favorite kind of training run. It pales in comparison to my favorite, a trail run, but it is a solid second. Long runs are nice, especially when there are pace goals attached, but very little compares to checking the watch at the end of an interval that induced and seeing that you are spot-on pace and that you will be able to knock out another one.

But some days you get caught up in something and when you look at the little computer clock it is 12:55. And you haven't eaten lunch because you were going to run. And you make the mistake of sticking your arm outside to see if 34 degrees really feels like 34 degrees today - and it does. And you know the workout is mile repeats. Like, more than a couple.

These are the days I rely on working out as a habit (and guilt) to go upstairs and get dressed and just go do it. I thought about driving .75 of a mile down the street and parking to halve my trip over to the track and back (no parking at the track during school hours), but I didn't. 

So I was very happy to get out there and just start putting them back. I prefer shorter intervals so, mentally, mile repeats are a bit of challenge for me, but it helped the the right times were showing up on my watch as it buzzed me in for each mile. And that I didn't feel cold after the second one and was able to take my jacket and gloves off. And when I felt a mild rebellion at the start of the fourth one, I might have taken some inspiration from Caroline's hill repeats the other day, because I think I know what part of Walter Reed she is talking about and that hill is ginormous.

So I am happy to be able to tell you that I was able to nail every repeat, even the 400 full pace that was tacked onto the end of the last mile. They weren't easy, but I didn't feel totally spent on the run home and feel fine now.

And, as always, the worst part was getting out the door.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Long Sets

I was in the pool yesterday and had assigned myself a main set of 2 x 1000 at a manageable pace. (Meters! It really messes my times up when I swim in that meter pool, but that's neither here nor there.)

I wasn't feeling great since the baby brought a cold back from daycare and has not been sleeping and, as it turns out, passed the thing on to me. But I wasn't certain of that yesterday and I went to the pool. Anyway, I picked these long sets because they wouldn't require too much thought. Usually I prefer something a little cuter.

By the end of the first 1000, however, I realized that I really was letting the brain turn off too much and my arms were being pretty floppy. So I reset in my 15 seconds at the wall and felt great for the next 250. And then, just a little bit, I felt the fade start. And it hit me, I have felt this happen in the swim in a race too. I feel good and focused until just past that first turn buoy, then the long middle section stretches out in front of me and if I don't have someone's toes to try to hang onto, my mind can wander.

So I made it a goal to keep focus all the way through the set, to think actively about my arms and my breathing and my turns on each stroke and not start planning out the rest of the day while just counting 26, 27, 28, in the back of my head.

It is obvious that the mental part of racing has to be replicated in training too, but sometimes it seems to take more energy and focus than getting the body to actually do the work.

I don't have the time to let any training sessions go to waste, so I better work on this this season.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

That New Leaf Again

Yesterday evening, I didn't really want to go to the track to run 800s.  Usually I love to go to the track, but it was New Year's Eve, and starting to get cold.

This morning, with the temperature in the 30s, I wasn't sure I really wanted to go out and ride intervals on my bike for the first time in months. And by that I mean I cleaned my chain for what must have been the first time in 6 months, since we just got a chain cleaning tool for the new house since the old one is lost. (I have been riding my new Cross bike a lot, but not my tri bike, not at all.)

A few days ago I really didn't want to start tracking food again. The hassle!

But these things were all done. I'm scanning food labels with my phone and jotting snacks down on a piece of paper when my phone isn't handy. My hip flexors can feel those intervals from the return trip up the hill from past Vienna. I'm reminding myself that the things done in the darkness and chill of December and January pay off in the bright sunshine of a spring race day. This is all, of course, common knowledge, but sometimes I still have to remind myself.

The funny thing is that it isn't inertia that fights to keep me at home or some dislike of training. I have always loved training (except maybe 800s in the cold on the evening of New Year's Eve), but the difficulty of the scheduling of the workout more than anything. The logistics of the childcare and the timing and making sure we both get enough quiet moments in the day to stay sane. That's not a good reason to miss a workout, but sometimes it is.

Part of the new leaf is working through all that and making this more of a priority. Let's see what can be done in 2013.