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!