Monday, June 27, 2011

Marathon Training Monday - 18 weeks until the NYC Marathon

Monday is my rest day. I've decided that it's going to be the day that I use to review the previous weeks training for the New York Marathon and review my plan for the current weeks training.

I have 3 things I want to work on getting ready for the race.



  • get stronger - concentrating on getting a strong core
  • get faster - incorporating hills and speedwork to my training
  • go longer - working on endurance without injury
This week I logged 20 miles. That's not yet very high but it felt like a lot of running days. That was three four-mile runs and one eight mile run.It's a change to have so much running in the calendar. I didn't miss the pool but I did miss the open water swim on Saturday. I also missed my group cycle but this week that fell on the day of my son's birthday so I took that day off and it was all good. 

I did no cross-training this week. This wasn't on purpose but just happened as a result of needing to be home waiting for the air conditioning repair person for two days in a row. This is, of course, a weak excuse but I'm letting it slide for this week.

I am trying to plan with a purpose for this race. I reread John Parker's Heart Rate Training for Compleat Idiot's book and I am just about finished with Friel's Total Heart Rate Training book. So I am trying to use my heart rate monitor to keep me honest as I train. This means my first run of the week on Tuesday was a recovery run keeping my hr below 142. This is sooo slow that I do a lot of walking and it feels weird but so far I'm trusting the plan. Parker says that if I stick to the plan I will be able to run faster at this lower rate eventually but it hasn't happened much yet.  This week my next run was a hill workout (we only have one hill so that's where I ran). I forgot my heart rate monitor on that run but I didn't worry too much about it and just concentrated on my form. I'm pretty sure my heart rate was plenty up going up the hill.  Thursday I went to the good form running clinic. My next run was a tempo run on Friday. This was a one mile warm up  heart rate < 142 and then 2 miles at 80%. I'll admit I went over 80% toward the end of the second mile but I didn't want to walk to bring my heart rate down. I was also trying to concentrate on keeping my cadence high during this run so there was a lot going on. Then the last mile is cool down and to be honest I had to walk about 1/2 mile before my heart rate settled into the cool down zone. I'm not sure I completely understand this workout. I basically have 2 questions. Parker says he doesn't much care what you do on the harder days so in that case I'm thinking it's okay that I went over 80% but of course I'm not sure. My next concern is that walking at the end for so long felt like cheating was I supposed to jog slowly and let my heart rate come down that way - in hind sight I think so. Saturday was my first long run back with the group in a long time. I ran with my buddy Melissa and she set the pace - my Hr was low the whole time which is apparently the plan. While I'm tempted to try to do the long run at race pace Friel and Parker both say that the long run is fine if it's done slower because the workout is considered a hard workout because of it's length. We did one mile intervals. I felt great the whole way. I do want to do my long runs running straight through ... which is going to mean breaking with my group and I cannot probably do those longest runs totally on my own so this is something I have to work out.

My goals for this week are as follows. Under the get stronger program I'm going to do my little ab workout 3 times this week. MWF. I'm going to log 24 miles with a speed workout this week instead of the hills. The challenge this week will be to do the long run by myself but I can do it!

My last challenge for this week is my watch. I currently have the Garmin FR60. Cute pink watch. However, it does not correctly measure my distance. It's way off and so that means it gives me an innaccurate measure of speed also. This sucks. I can manually reset the distance which I'll try this week on the track. But if that doesn't work I'm going to have to bite the bullet and look into new watch with the GPS so that my distances and speeds are correct.

As an unrelated note - there are fewer pics this past week on the blog. That is because my trusty little point and shoot has decided to call it quits. Never fear a replacement is in the works.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Good Form Running Clinic Review

This clinic was great - not good but great.

I actually did very little running during the clinic but I learned a lot about my running which I think is important. It also has the uber-cool factor that it's hosted by Grant Robison an Olympian.

I got an email or Facebook notice or something earlier this week from the worlds greatest running store - Footworks in South Miami, that they would have Olympian Grant Robison in the store on Thursday evening. I'm always there on Thursday evenings for the fun run with my running buds. I was excited I mean how many times do you get to hang out with an Olympian? I'll admit I didn't even notice that it was a clinic until I went back to check the time. That, I thought was even better than just a run with him because he would have undoubtedly left me in the dust.

Every clinic I've been to (which is a total of 3) has been sponsored by a shoe company. This is no exception this clinic was sponsored by New Balance. I'll admit not only do I not wear New Balance now I believe I have never worn a New Balance shoe. But in defense of this clinic I want to say that at no point did they say you had to wear New Balance shoes or minimalist shoes to have better form. That gets a big plus mark from me.

When I arrived at the store Grant Robison was video taping the store employees running in front. I had come early wanting to pick up a visor for the summer. Sidebar: I didn't find a visor that fit my little pea sized head. But the upside was that I did get to see the employees watch their running videos with Grant. I didn't even know who he was at this point. Hearing critique can be hard but Grant is a good critiquer. He's soft spoken and friendly and nice and not intimidating.

Just so you know the employees all had pretty good form.

Then it was our turn. The New Balance rep introduced Grant Robison and he gave us his bio briefly which is mighty impressive and then the fun began.

The participants in the clinic were all filmed running in our shoes and then just in socks. Then we went inside and Grant reviewed the four points of his good running form which you can find on the website www.goodrunningform.com. The four points are:
  1. Posture
  2. Midfoot
  3. Cadence
  4. Lean
He's up front about the fact that this is not earth shattering innovation and that a lot of popular technicques are out there suggesting some of these same things including Chi Running and Pose Running. I've heard of those but never been to either one of their clinics or anything.

So, after reviewing these points we went outside and ran the same short bit and applied his techniques. Which will now allow me to say that I've run with an Olympian.

Now here comes the best part. Then we watched the videos and got critiqued. It was really helpful to me. They slowed down the video to I think 1/2 speed and showed where we landed on our foot and then this is the best part he suggested what would improve it. Then we saw how our stride changed when we ran in our socks.

I cannot say how awesome it was to see myself and others and to hear individualized critique. It was just awesome. I did not know that I struck my heal at all. In fact when I buy running shoes they routinely look at my shoes and say, well okay no heal striking. But in the video you see exactly what you do.

What did he suggest for me? In the video I could see that my stride was a little long and I was striking a bit on my heel and my hands were turned and floppy. Keeping my thumbs up in front to avoid the limp hand stuff and increasing my cadence to shorten my stride. Then in my sock taping I landed midfoot with a nice short stride. That was nice to see. So increasing my cadence will help me shorten my stride in shoes and help stop my arms crossing over. 

At no point did he say we needed to buy anything or subscribe to anything which is refreshing.  I did try on a very cute pair of New Balance racing flats that will be in the store for sale next week. Will I buy them ... you'll just have to wait and see.

But if he's coming to a store near you ... I would definitely go to this clinic. Plus check the good form running website because if you're lucky you live in a town where they do these clinics all the time.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pretty Much Paleo

Okay I'll admit it. Even though I don't exercise at crossfit. I do follow the Paleo Diet - mostly.

It was about six months ago when it seemed that a lot of people I knew were talking about the Paleo Diet. 

If you haven't heard of it ... where have you been?  It's even in wikipedia. There are also whole blogs dedicated to the lifestyle including EverydayPaleo.com

At that time I had no idea what it was. On a whim I bought the Paleo Diet book by Loren Cordain and the Paleo Diet Cookbook. There is apparently also a Paleo Diet for Athletes but I was thinking that I'm a smarty pants so I could probably figure that part out on my own.

Since then I've read the Paleo Diet book twice. That happens when I read a book that sort of rattles me in a good way. I have also driven everybody I'm related to a little bonkers explaining the diet to them. But let's back up a bit.

My Personal Back Story
I'm pretty fit. Nothing crazy but I've never had my doctor tell me I needed to lose weight and most people are flattering when they speak of my size. Nonetheless after having 2 kids I was stuck at just south of 130 lbs and I'm only 5'4" tall. This is despite my constant running, swimming and biking. So my interest in picking up the Paleo Diet book was (to be perfectly honest) in the hope that I could finally lose these extra 15-20 lbs I'm lugging around.

The Paleo Premise
So, I read the book. It's a little extreme. I mean the base concept is that our evolution as humans has moved faster in the making of processed foods than our bodies have been able to adapt to consuming those foods and therefore if you return to a diet much more like a person in the Paleolithic time period your body will respond more naturally and you will lose weight and be healthier.

In my opinion usually anytime you hear about freezing time ... it's a step toward the kool-aid and it's a bad idea.

The Basic Rules 
Now I'm not a nutritionist so I'm not qualified to talk about the science behind this diet. Also these are from the Cordain book and there are a few different versions of this diet so they might be different.

Okay so if you know anybody on this diet you already probably know the basic rules but here they are from page 23.
  • no grains of any kind (he calls them cereals)
  • no dairy
  • no legumes
  • no processed foods
  • all the lean meats, fish, seafood you want
  • all the fruits and non-starchy veggies you want
What's left to eat? Well that's a good question. The answer is animal products (meat and eggs) and fruits and vegetables.

A Funny Personal Discovery
So, I'll admit after I read this I didn't jump right in. First I spent about a week google-ing random Paleo trivia like: when did man start drinking cows milk, when did man develop fire and so on. Cordain provides a lot of information in his book but not much archeology type history which I was craving clearly. I mean why wouldn't Paleo man eat a potato? They are edible raw and I love them. This was driving me nutty. My husband did probably think I had lost my mind that I would spring up at dinner with tidbits about cultivating cows or goats. But then again he lived through my pinole fascination after I read Born to Run so maybe he's used to it.

At the time I first read the book I would have said that I ate very little processed foods. In looking back, I'll admit that my diet was probably close to a traditional runners diet in that I did eat a lot of carbs in the form of whole grain bread and whole wheat pasta. Lastly, my dad died of heart disease so I am concerned about eating too many eggs and too much red meat.  This was definitely on my mind as I started the diet.
My Paleo Brunch - eggs, steak left over from weekend bbq and rasberries.

Back to the book
Cordain is against cereal grains. It's all through the book. Page 10 he calls them starvation foods for Paleo man. Page 44 there is a section titled: Hello Grains, Hello Health Problems. And this was a stickler for me. I love grains. Years ago when my husband followed the Atkins diet I read it and threw it away because I "knew" that the Atkins Diet was insane because it blocked grains summarily.  For heavens sake I attended the University of Kansas where we "wave the wheat" at sporting events.

But Cordain's point is differently positioned than I had seen before. He explains that without significant processing in the form of milling grains are difficult for humans to digest.  I have actually seen a lot of wheat in the raw.  After all I went to college in the great state of Kansas (Go Jayhawks). I then worked at some very rural newspapers including a tiny town called Chanute. It's a cool place but small. I have a memory of photographing a farmer who was trapped on the side of the road because his trailer had tipped and his pregnant cow was inside. This is news in a small town. He was chewing on a stalk of wheat. I think you can chew on this all day and nothing really happens. It's tough and it's fibrous.  This was the piece of personal anecdotal information that started me thinking hmmm ... maybe I do agree with some of this.


At the same time two other things happened. One is simply that as a result of reading the Paleo Diet book I noticed how much of my diet was grain. Oatmeal for breakfast, sandwich for lunch, pasta for dinner it was a lot. The next thing was that I was watching the food network or the cooking channel (don't remember) and they were doing a piece on an artisinal flour or bread maker. Watching how many steps the grain went through before it even became flour and then so many more until it became bread fit into my Paleo questions perfectly. All of a sudden I thought ... hmmm bread is a processed food. Wait maybe flour is a processed food. Perhaps they aren't as processed as salt and vinegar potato chips but they also aren't the unprocessed heathly ingredient I'd been treating them as.  This was a massive thinking shift for me and after I made this mental shift I committed to trying the diet.

An empty plate
Without toast and pasta and oatmeal the first few days were kind of weird because I wasn't sure what was left to eat. Sadly the cookbook is filled with recipes that were not much help. But quickly I figured out that where there was bread there can be fruit. So instead of a turkey sandwich I would have a few pieces of turkey, a small salad and some fruit. 
Yummy salad: lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, onion and homemade pesto because I had an out of control basil plant and really what else can you do with a lot of basil?

Results
Well, I lost weight. I've lost 10 pounds and I'm happy with that. I'm really happy with that. Also I will say I am eating probably 10 times the fruit and veggies I was before I made the switch.  And just removing salt from my diet has made a big difference in my daily puffiness factor.

Also with the emphasis this diet puts on eating protein I added a lot of protein for my diet. Wow! I think I was really shortchanging myself on protein before. I could almost feel the difference immediately in long practices that I had more strength. I also pretty quickly got arm muscles and people started commenting on my strong legs. That was kind of bizarre but good, I guess.


Reality
I named this post pretty much paleo because I want to be honest. I'm not 100% this all the time. In fact I'm not even sure I do a good job of following the diet. I think it's quite a challenge actually to keep this up all the time. Plus if you go totally Paleo you can't ever have a Blizzard from Dairy Queen  (and that is unacceptable).  I'm also not going to go to nutritional supplements like protein powder specially ordered over the internet so it has no sugar in it. Who has time for that? Also I don't make my own mayonaise ... again, who has time for that?

I have used it to reframe how I put my meals together. It is a little extreme so like anything extreme - like say oh I dunno - a marathon  - you have to keep it in perspective. I don't freak out or go hungry if I'm traveling and the only thing I can find is a sandwich. I also have a rule that when somebody makes birthday cake it's rude to not eat a slice. Lastly and sadly, I've never met a chocolate chip cookie I could ignore. But with all of that I still lost the 10 pounds.

A note for Athletes
I never read the Paleo Diet for Athletes book. But I would guess that it says roughly if you are running, 10 or 20 miles today you can eat extra carbs. So I do eat oatmeal before my long practices and I do usually eat pasta the night before and I eat Gu (or drink Gu whatever it is you do with Gu ...slurp maybe?) during long exercise sessions.

In closing - I think the Paleo Diet is worth a read. It's definitely not for everybody. Then again neither is being a vegetarian I mean I've tried that and failed at least five times. And the Paleo Diet like all extreme diets does have some crazies that follow it. But I think it's worth considering some of the points that they make. On the flip side I would skip the Paleo Diet Cookbook as I did not find anything in the cookbook that I'd want to make.

So all this is just my opinion. But if you want - read the book yourself.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Advanced Open Water Swim Clinic Review

What I learned from The Stroke Doctor, Gary Fahey this week.

A few weeks ago I attended the beginner Open Water Swim clinic on Key Biscayne where I learned the fun little twisty turn I now use in races. This was the advanced Open Water Swim clinic also through the Hammerheads. As a Hammerheads member there was no fee other than the purchase of the Finis Tempo Trainer and there was a good discount.

Swimming has been a focus of my triathlon season this year.I started the season in March at the Spring Training triathlon in Fort Lauderdale. In that race even though it was only a sprint I had total swim anxiety and panic which is the worst feeling but very common. So whatever I can think of to do to avoid that I've been doing.

The focus of this workshop was tempo and to participate he had Finis Tempo Trainers for $20. As a comedic side note - I had planned to grab a $20 from my husband in the morning but sadly he had no cash. So imagine me scrounging quietly around the house to make sure I had $20 and $1.50 for the toll, quietly and in the dark. It was funny. I also spilled my coffee on my toes - OUCH.
This is the tempo trainer. It's only about 2 inches in diameter.


We started on the beach and he showed us how to use the timers. I think they are designed to clip on goggles but we put ours under our swim caps. It beeps on a rhythm. It is a bit annoying but can definitely be tolerated. The idea is when it beeps you're at the same place each time with your stroke. For me it was right hand in the water (whatever that's called). Then he put us in the water and over an hour we progressed through faster tempos.

As a side note apparently these are legal with USAT to use in triathlons. I'm conflicted as to whether it would be helpful or just something else to keep track of in transitions. Something to consider though.

Toward the end of the clinic we progressed through side by side races and ended with a longer maybe 400 yard swim at a pace of our own choosing. If your curious I chose 1:05. It was a random selection based mostly on the fact that :90 was too fast. For what it's worth that tempo started out fine but did feel fast at the end of that longer distance.

Gary is a clear speaker. He's good at showing techniques and explaining the reasons for doing things. His method of teaching is Total Immersion. Total Immersion is something I've heard a lot about since training for triathlons. It can be a heated topic among triathletes whether it's the best way to train. I have no opinion about that but it is what Gary Fahey teaches.

For my own personal perspective I have built my distance up to being comfortable swimming a mile. But I do seem to have one speed. Going faster I am not sure how to do it. But I would like to get faster.

So, my experience was that having the tempo trainer on kept me honest over the distance. The first tempo was slow 1:15 but easy to manage with breathing and sighting. As the tempo decreased or increased - as it got faster it was interesting to see that it was harder to maintain. At the fastest we tried which was :90 I could not keep up and was quickly winded. It was also harder to sight without losing the timing.  For perspective, according to Fahey super fast olympic level swimmers would have a tempo of :65 or so.

At the start I would have to admit I had no idea what tempo I used. Or in fact even how to calculate a tempo so this was eye opening. It keeps you honest and on pace. Eventually the tempo increased to a point that I could not comfortably sustain it. That was fun because it's good to find that point.

I think for me this was a worthwhile workshop.

Actually let me back up a minute. I feel really lucky to have these workshops. I don't know if open water swim workshops are common everywhere. I mean I never hear about anybody else doing them so maybe they aren't. So far I've attended two of these which means that for two Saturdays Gary dragged his tookis out of bed early and hoofed it down to tri beach on Key Biscaye to train slacker middle of the pack triathletes like me. So while I'm going to put some feedback here I'm going to say I think it's flat out awesome that he does this. I also think it's awesome that the Hammerheads put it together with him. 

So - back to gentle feedback. I don't know that I would call it an advanced workshop so much as maybe intermediate because the concept was geared to somebody at my level who is comfortable in the water but looking for more tips. Then again maybe that means I'm advanced. That last part is a joke - I'm not advanced.

What could make it better? After going to both of these workshops the only thing that I wish there was more of was individual feedback. I think Gary doesn't give this because he makes his living giving individual instruction and so I think it's a good business decision for him. But, as the student it's a teeny tiny bit of a bummer.

The only other thing I think would have improved this workshop is some timing. All the pacing and winning and such was just done by looking and it is tough to watch while you are swimming. It would have been fun to have them time us at the different tempos so we had some results. Here's how it could work. They would take our names - in fact he gave out caps so he could write the names on the caps at the start. Then he could put his assistant at the end with the timers and give out the times as we finished. Of course, I could have just timed myself. Just thought of that.

When we did the races it was coed. Which was fine but all the winners were boys. Maybe we should have had a girls heat :-) That might have been fun.

Like I said this was a good open water swim workshop. Also to repeat I really appreciate that we had this workshop at all. I learned more about my own swimming than I knew before and I'd recommend it to others. I think it would also be worthwhile to do private coaching with Gary Fahey. He's located in Davie but he does come to Miami once a week for private lessons.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Trinona Race Review - subtitle: I FREAKING DID IT!

I am so proud of myself!

Trinona the race
 I have finished my first International distance triathlon. What does that mean? It means it's 1.5k swim, 40k bike with hills and 10k run.

They call this "The Biggest Little Race" you can find more pics taken by somebody else here.

Acclimation to the cooler climate
It is a bit cooler in Minnesota than my tropical home in Miami. There wasn't much of a way for me to prepare for the climate other than mentally. The water was going to be cold. We arrived on Thursday and Friday the first order of business was to try out the wetsuits and try out the water temp. Even though my brother lives in Minnesota I think he was as nervous as I was about the cooler water and we're both new to wetsuits. 

We headed out to Prior Lake. It was 53 degrees outside and grey and cloudy and ummmm raining. EEEEK.
Looks like a great day for a swim, eh? It's hard to see but there is steam coming up from the water because it was actually warmer than the air. Also out of sight but off to the right is a fisherman who most likely thought we were insane. He might have a better picture of us. If I was him I would have taken a picture of the crazies out swimming.

But we were on a mission. We slithered into our neoprene outfits. I took a pick of my bro squeezing into his but I will *not* put it here. It is only for the scrapbook. With a lot of laughter we took the plunge. The water was actually warmer than the air but it was flipping cold. This is also when I learned that my lungs were still in Miami. I could not catch my breath. There could be a few reasons for this. It might have been my reaction to the cold water, it could be from the travel, there is a 700 foot altitude difference maybe it was that and it could have just been a little panic from all the new stuff. Anyway I was a little concerned about my inability to breathe but other than that it was good.
Can you tell we're both cold and nervous?


Later that day we headed to a variety of bike shops. First to pick up my brother's bike at his local bike shop. Next we headed to Gear West for my rental. Sadly I did not take any pictures of this store but it is like triathlete heaven. There were hundreds of road bikes and tri bikes out for perusal. There was a gigantic clothing section, swim gear. It was awesome. It was so awesome I sent my kids and husband off to McDonalds for lunch so my bro and I could just meander while they got my bike set up.


Back to how awesome this store is. They did not have their standard girlie rental available this weekend so they found one for me. It was very nice and very cool of them. They put my seat and my pedals on and threw me on the trainer. We made a few adjustments and we were all set. Here again after about 90 seconds I was completely winded. A little embarrassing in the coolest bike store I've ever been in but what's a girl to do?

The bike was in great shape. It performed flawlessly and they were a dream to work with. I cannot recommend them enough.

Acclimation to the hillier landscape
We don't have hills in Florida Miami. So, I went into this knowing I was undertrained for the terrain. To get my feet wet my bro took me out on a 10 mile rolling hills ride the day before the race. Not ideal from a taper perspective but it was really great. Such a beautiful route. So nice to be out in the country for a ride. Plus I got comfy on the rental bike and had some confidence with the hills.

Road Trip - Packet Pick up and other stuff
We loaded up the cars and headed South. Dairy Queen stop on the way down and we were there.

My brother is always looking at the camera ;-)
Checked in to the hotel and back out to pick up the packets. Winona is not a big town.
Isn't this a required photo on a road trip?

Packet pick up was in a bank which seemed weird when we read about it but actually was fine. It's a big bank so there was plenty of space. People were really nice. Other reviews I had read about this race  were that it was very well organized. This turned out to be true with one small exception which I'll tackle in a bit.

They even had a little expo in the parking lot which was cute. I had wanted to pick up a bike jersey but the only ones they had were from the year before and so I passed on it. If they had been there at the finish I would have bought one.

Different from other races I've done we picked up our timing chips at packet pick up. That's right - multiple chips. One for our leg and one for the bike which was totally for the race within the race which is just the trip up Garvin Heights road. They bill this as the Battle for the Bluff. I knew I wasn't going to win but I was up for the challenge. I had no idea what to do with this chip and forced my brother to a last minute trip to Target to get additional supplies including zip ties to put it on my handlebars which was the wrong thing to do and I had to undo it the next morning. OOOPS.


Race Day
Triathlons start early. This is a fact of racing. But in Minnesota they start much later than Florida so I got to sleep in a bit. My loving but snoring husband bunked up with our daughter so I actually got some sleep.  Even though we didn't start until after 8 am transition closed at 7 so we were at the race by 6:15. Still that beats the 5:30 check in out on Key Biscayne.

The race directors kept announcing the water temp at 72 but they were fibbing because the USAT official reported that the temp was 68. Yowzer that's not warm.

I went in for a pre-race dip. It was chilly. I mean it stung on my arms and hands. My brother passed on the pre-race warm up dip.
Yup I'm wearing a sweatshirt because I'm shivering. I feel short looking at this picture :-)


I had pre-race jitters but once I got started I was fine. 

Beware of Lake Monsters
So the lake has weeds. There had been an announcement earlier that they had mowed the lake. They clearly did not get them all because I could have impersonated a sea monster with weeds in my hands, in my goggles - everywhere. It was ridonculous! But on the plus side I was breathing easily and after rounding the first buoy the water temp wasn't bad. I did my mod spin turns at both buoys and passed people both times which is fun. I was feeling great on the swim. This was a very big deal for me because when we signed up for this race I couldn't have done this distance so I was very proud of myself coming out of the water.

Looks long doesn't it? If you look up close there are swimmers approaching the first buoy. They took this with a little remote control airplane which is neat-o.

Transitions
The transitions for this race were weird. I had to go in and run around the whole thing to get to my rack and then find my way out. This could definitely be improved in future years. Also this is one spot where marks on the road were not helpful. Signs would be better. Huge inflatable arches like multirace uses here in Florida is much better.

Oh Minnesota ... she's not a flat state
The first part of the bike was billed as rolling hills. But I would like to say that it seemed steep in a lot of places to me. But it was fun. I was taking it easy leading up to the monster so whatever. I did see a horse on the course which is definitely something new.
This is something I've never seen on a course in Miami.


We had driven the monster hill the day before. The name of this hill is Garvin Heights road. Look it up. It's ranked by Bicycling Magazine as one of the top 100 climbs in the US.  It's so scary. 1.1 miles of an average 9.5% grade. Ohhhhh you cannot imagine how steep that is unless you ride it yourself. What's worse the entry is after a sharp turn so you start the climb without momentum. When I rounded the turn I was with about 6 other cyclists and the sound was all clunk clunk clunk of gears shifting. No lie I was in the granny gear within 30 feet of the base of this hill.

I could not find a photo of the steep incline but I believe it's a 578 foot ascent over 1.1 miles. To compare this my local hill the William Powell Bridge is a 78 foot ascent over about one third of a mile.

You go over a timing mat first thing and then their are volunteers about every quarter of the way. At each point they lie to you and tell you you're almost to the top. Don't believe them. I passed somebody just before the halfway point. When the volunteer told me I was half way I was so excited I hit the curb and toppled over. AACK. Good thing I didn't know anybody there because that would be awkward. It took me a good 2-3 minutes to get going again. Clipping back into the pedals going uphill was not elegant, not seamless, in fact I think the volunteer was a little concerned that I was crazy but he left me alone and I got going again. The upside of this little rest was that my heart rate was practically back to resting. Once I was going again I passed the person I had passed before (that's always fun) and made it up the whole hill. I may never have been more proud of myself for any other single racing achievement.

Apparently there were water bottles to be picked up at the top. I didn't notice. I was too busy hooting and hollering in my excitement that I made it up.  Thank you to the residents out cheering ... One guy yelled, "you're in God's country now!" He may have been drinking beer with his Wheaties. But it is really pretty up there.

So, this giant hill is followed by a brief downhill and flat and then a gentle incline for about 5 miles. Totally nuts. The views are spectacular, lots of cows and horses. The occasional cow poop smell which was a new one for me on the bike.

Because what goes up must come down there is an amazing steep downhill later in the course. I am not a great cyclist in fact I may not even be good. I might, to be honest, be a bad cyclist. I cannot climb quickly and I'm chicken little on the downhill. Every muscle in my body tensed up on the downhill and I was passed by many braver souls as I slowly (30mph) and trying not to pee myself made it down the hill. It was a very cool experience actually.

The rest of the bike was uneventful. I saw my family coming into transition and that was AWESOME.
Do I look speedy?
I was not last from the bike but I was close. That guy you see behind me is probably just jogging to get his bike to go home :-)


Run Mommy Run!
The run was an out and back around the lake. Flat blissfully flat. I saw baby ducks and Canada geese on the route. Super enthusiastic volunteers. Special props to the kid who was so excited to be giving out Gu because he was cute.  I passed lots of people on the run. I didn't have my watch on so I was guessing but I did concentrate on keeping my cadence up as high as I could go without running out of gas. I only walked for water at the first water stop and then the turn around. The only negative was that there is no timing check mat at the turn around and I'm pretty sure that at least one person I passed turned around early. I'm not working for a medal but I think this is a pretty big deal that is easy to fix.
I hope the race photographer got a better pic but that little pink blur is my daughter running out to me to finish with me. I loved this!


Highlight of the run was finishing with my daughter. Totally cool. Also they put the finishing tape up between racers and that's awesome. Since I don't know that I'll ever win a race that was a great feeling.

Team Hammerheads making an appearance in Minnesota!
This is not a great picture of my sister-in-law but she is the person you want on your support staff. I would not have done nearly as much this year without her. She taught me that my chances of doing the race go way up if I actually register. She was there at the start and all the way through the race. She's really amazing.

Results
My goal was to finish with a smile. Which I did. I have not felt this type of accomplishment since my first marathon finish. It's a great feeling. 

In all seriousness I had checked the results from last year before the race and there was a possibility that I could be last. I am not trying to be dramatic but the times seemed really fast.  In the end I wasn't last. A whole 5 people finished after me on the bike and 16 people finished after me overall. Sort of. Most of those were guys who started earlier so they may not have finished "after" me even though their total time was slower.

Swim    30:51
T1           4:32
Bike   1:49:27
King of the Bluff 14:31
T2            2:27
Run     1:00:56
Total   3:28:10

I'm very proud. But then again the winner Dave Thompson finished in 1:52 he's fast. The first female was 2:17:42 also very fast.

Feedback for the Race Director
Yup Dave this is for you. You put on a great race. It is a beautiful course. You have fantastic swag. I love my medal. I love the bragging rights that come with riding up Garvin Heights. If I lived in Minnesota I'd want to do this race every year.

I think that this is the 3rd year of Trinona and I will not be surprised if it becomes a must do for Minnesota multisport athletes. Sort of how the 7 mile bridge run is a must run if you live in Florida. In fact I think you're well on your way to making it a destination event like escape from Alcatraz. Although Winona may lack the appeal of San Francisco the Garvin Heights hill is a big draw.

But, you can really improve your pre-race communication to the racers. I'm all for Facebook and Twitter but seriously please email me details like hotel blocks, packet pick up location, and starting waves. This is especially important for people like me who are coming from out of town because the beautiful and rural location meant that I had practically no mobile phone service once I got to Winona. Looking up my starting wave (which was posted at pick up but not in the bag a handout in the bag would be perfect) was a 45 minute process that included figuring out the wifi in the hotel. Even though I know I have to be there way before my wave I like to go to "sleep" knowing the exact moment I will dive in.

Next, I cannot for the life of me figure out why you start the age-group international distance racers after the sprint racers. I'm sure you have your reasons.  But from one back of the pack racer can I please say that I prefer to go first. Here are my reasons. Having to wait almost 2 and a half hours from when I arrived to start was a drag. I practically needed to bring an additional meal. The second reason is that if the longer distance started first those of us that are in the back of the pack would not be all alone at the end of the course. I seriously made my husband swear that he wouldn't leave until I finished. To finish and see that transition is almost empty is demoralizing. Since the International Distance should be the signature event I would think you'd want those finishers (even the slow ones) to get a great finish feeling.

Lastly, please take the proceeds from this year and buy some signs - big signs. I was actually concerned that that I would get lost on the course. That was not a realistic fear because you marked the course with spray paint on the road and put volunteers at every turn and crossing. But, you're a big time race now. You have invested in your custom printed medal ribbon. Spring for some real signs for Bike Mount, Bike Dismount, Bike In, Bike Out, Run Out,  and perhaps most importantly Dip or Bump on the Bike route. I cannot speak for other cyclists but I'm not totally focused on words on the pavement when cycling. Except going up Garvin Heights at 4mph then they were easy to read.

None of this is a huge deal. But I feel like they are easy fixes. There was great support along the course. The volunteers were great. There was plenty of water. You didn't run out of shirts or medals - all in all my complaints are simple stuff.

What's next
Oh the stress level is so much lower with this out of the way. I took yesterday off to travel and today is a regrouping day and then back into the grind. I am onto Marathon training starting tomorrow. Next race Trilogy #2 on the key. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Trinona Race Preview

Here we are in the 6th month of the year and so we're coming up on the 7th race of the year. The new years resolution was one race a month but there was one month where my brother and I did actually did 2 races so we're on the 7th race.


Trinona is my first out of town triathlon. I live in Miami, Florida - I will be racing in Winona, Minnesota. I have run out of town marathons. In fact, all of my marathons have been out of town. But the set up just isn't nearly as complicated. I've had a lot to obsess about. I've had anxiety dreams about this race which may say something about the lack of excitement or stress in my life - I'm not sure.

First let's go over the basics for the race. It is called Trinona in Winona, Minnesota where my lil brother went to college. They call it the best little Triathlon in the Midwest. They also call it the battle of the bluffs. For a more comprehensive review you can read my brother's race preview here. When we knew they were moving home to Minnesota we spawned this little idea of doing this race. And since this was 6 months ago while we lounged on the couch we decided to do the longer race - not the sprint. Yes that's right out of town and my longest tri to date. Good idea -- maybe -- maybe not we'll see.

Trinona International Distance Triathlon 1.5k swim / 40k bike / 10k run Sunday June 12, 2011.

Oh what was the first obsession - the bike. No wait first it was the training. I sort of guessed my way through training for the sprints. For this I downloaded a plan from beginnertriathlete.com . Free custom plan. I'll let you know next week if it worked. The big issue with training is that here in Florida we are all at sea level. We have no hills. (none ... for real). In Minnesota they have these parts of the course where the road bends and goes up ... how to prepare ... hmmm how to prepare. Actually let me clarify there are some rolling hills and there is also a gigantic hill called Garvin Heights road. It is one of the top 100 climbs in the country. It is a training course for the Tour de France. It is a one mile ascent at an average of 8.5% grade. EEK! Well I have spent a lot of time zipping up and over the William Powell Bridge on Key Biscayne. Hope it works.

Initially I thought I'd take my bike on the plane. But I have had to face a truth which is that I am not a bike mechanic. I repeat I am not mechanical with the bike. I watched a video (actually two) and tried some things myself but I cannot even get my own pedals off. I might like to be mechanical in the future but I am not yet and I will admit it was freaking me out. I repeat the idea of taking my own bike apart was FREAKING me out. Also I have to admit there was a bit of a marital issue in that my loving husband clearly stated that he did not want to haul the bike box through the airport. So, as much as I love my bike I am not taking it apart I'm renting there. I found a great rental from Gear West. It's going to be a bit of extra driving but that's the decision. Once it was made I felt much better.

Next obsession - Water Temp. As I mentioned earlier I live in Miami. The air here is 85-90 all day and the water is maybe 85 already. In Minnesota they have had a cold winter followed by a grey and cool spring. The water is not going to be 85. In fact it's been so cold nobody was even in the water to give an estimate of the temp. I only have a sleeveless wet suit. I was waffling between renting a sleeved wetsuit or buying sleeves. FREAK OUT. At long last they gave me a temp of 71. I'm pretty sure that isn't really the temp. I'm guessing that's the surface temp on the shore but it's warmer than I thought so I'm ready to go with my sleeveless wet suit. 

But before I move off of the water temps let me just share with you that event though I'm confident I can swim in this cooler water. I cannot even comprehend how 71 is going to feel. As a test I took my tap water and put it to the coldest it offers and put the pool thermometer in. It's 84 degrees. My pool is almost 90 degrees. The ocean is probably 86 degrees. So let's just say this is going to be an adventure :-)
That's right 84 degrees is our cold water here.


Next freak out ... hmm no wait ... that's it. All done. I'm now just relaxed and ready to go. I shipped my box of wet suit, helmet empty water bottles and stuff.

Expectations - after so much training and prep initially I was going to hope for some fantastic results. In fact, I went back and looked at last years race results and sadly I discovered that the other racers are really fast. I was bummed. I mean without being dramatic I actually could be the last person to finish this race. That bummed me out. But now I'm over it. I'm going for the experience. I want to have a good time and finish with a smile. Oh, and I aspire to be the tannest competitor at the start. Maybe they'll have a  medal for that!

Reading Materials

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

First day of heart rate training

The book said it would feel slow. It did. But maybe I'm way over my training limit because the slow was very nice.

Sent from my iPad