Ironman 70.3 Raleigh Training Week 3: Fatigue

Yesterday morning I gashed my leg with my bike trainer while carrying it down to the basement after a 90 minute ride. I always have a hard time carrying the thing – it’s heavy and awkward – but this time it completely slipped out of my hand and cut into my leg. I know why it happened: Fatigue. I’m usually tired after a 90 minute ride, so much so that my legs often buckle under me when I get off the bike, but the fatigue I’ve felt this week has been more than just that, and for several reasons. And I should have listened to the warning bells a little sooner. Because pushing through this kind of extreme tiredness is a recipe for disaster.

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Not me…but definitely how I felt!

 

In my defense, I thought I was being cautious. Wednesday’s scheduled workouts were a 60 minute ride and a 60 minute swim. This is usually manageable if I’m working from home, but I had to be in DC all day for a summit that started at 8:30am. That meant I would have to get up at 5am to fit in the bike ride. That in itself would be OK but I was planning to swim at 7:30pm, on my way home from work, and I knew that would put me in the burning-the-candle-at-both-ends category. So I decided to move the ride to Friday, which was supposed to be a day off. Warning bell #1: a day off should be a day off.

Tuesday night/Wednesday morning I had trouble sleeping. I was wide awake at 3am. I finally got back to sleep at 6am, but the alarm went off a 6:30 so that wasn’t much use. I think the peppermint tea I drank before I went to bed was the culprit. I don’t normally drink peppermint tea but happened to see it while hunting around in the pantry, and, well, it seemed like a good idea. But now I think about it, even thought the tea itself has no caffeine, peppermint is a stimulant for me. If I’m lagging, I’ll chew peppermint gum, and when I was younger, eating mints before a race was something we always did as it helped us focus. So I went into Wednesday on less than 4 hours sleep. Warning bell #2: sleep is an essential component of training.

I got through Wednesday just fine, and the swim was great, which surprised me. Thursday, however, was a different story. Despite sleeping much better, I woke up a complete zombie. Warning bell #3: zombies don’t make good athletes. I had to be in DC again, but went in earlier so I could run before work. I fell asleep on the bus on the way in, a deep sleep that I had trouble waking from. It was snowing, and I felt like a drunk as I staggered to the office. I grabbed some coffee the minute I walked in. It was 7am and I was falling asleep, but I was determined to get in the run. It turned out to be a beautiful day to run, and I’m glad I did, but the pace was ridiculously slow. Part of that was because there were some slick spots, but most of it was because I was literally sleep-running.

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Good thing I had a running partner to keep me awake.

 

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Always stop by Korean War Memorial…almost laid down and took a nap this time.

 

I got through Thursday by drinking a lot of coffee (intravenous drip capacity), fell asleep on the bus ride home, and crashed once I got home around 6:30pm. When the alarm went off on Friday morning I turned it off and rolled over. I have never felt such deep fatigue in my life. I wasn’t just tired. I was exhausted. Yet, I dragged my butt onto my bike for Wednesday’s ride that I had moved to Friday. I have never had such a hard time just staying upright. Warning bell #4 (“You’re exhausted!”) was pretty loud. 45 minutes in, after debating internally whether I was doing more harm than good, I threw in the towel. That’s when I realized I should have kept Friday as my off day. My coach has said many times, “don’t try to make up workouts you missed.” In my mind I wasn’t making it up, as I had just moved it, but in reality, it was a make-up.

The rest of the day I stumbled through a series of meetings and, at 3:30, when the last meeting was over, crawled into bed and slept until 5:00 when my son woke me to ask me to take him to bingo at school. I actually felt much better and got through the evening no problem.

After another good night’s sleep I thought I had recovered on Saturday morning, but the trainer incident indicated otherwise. I had been planning to race on Sunday, but cancelled that plan. I still ran for an hour, though. It’s hard for me to admit that I need a break. I want to not just feel but be invincible. I hate not completing every workout. But I have learned the hard way that there is no benefit to pushing through this kind of fatigue. There’s a clear difference between feeling tired and being completely exhausted.

I’ve definitely learned something this week. Totals are a little lower than last week, but really should be even less, considering how I felt. Never try to push through real fatigue. It bites you in the butt. Hard.

Monday – 60 min ride (15 miles)
Tuesday – 45 min dreadmill run (5 miles)
Wednesday – 2450m swim (60 mins)
Thursday – 50 min run (5.3 miles)
Friday – 45 min ride (10 miles)
Saturday – 90 min ride (22 miles) + 1 mile run + 1550m swim
Sunday – 60 min run (7.3 miles)

Totals
Ride: 47 miles (3 hr 15 min)
Run: 18.6 miles  (2 hr 45 min)
Swim: 4000m (1.5 hrs)

I am taking Monday off. Complete rest day.

Ironman 70.3 Raleigh Training Week 2: School Closed for Winter

This is the weirdest winter I can remember. Friday’s high was in the single digits, it snowed all day Saturday, and Sunday temps climbed into the 40s, which felt like spring after the frigid weather of the past week. But let’s start at the beginning of the week. About 2 inches of snow fell overnight on Monday, so the weatherpeople’s prediction of 5-8 inches was pretty darn close, given their abysmal track record. Of course with *that* much snow our county had to close school on Tuesday. Because this is Virginia, and when there’s white stuff on the ground, we don’t have school. Also, we don’t have school when it’s cold or there’s cold rain or it just looks icky out. We stay home. Because, after all, we raided the grocery stores when we were told it was going to snow, so now we have to stay home and drink all that milk and use all that toilet paper.

I did use some milk (and eggs) to make these (see pic), since Tuesday was pancake day. Took me a few tries to remember how to make English pancakes (like crepes) as I’m used to making American ones now! True story – my first week in the USA, way back in 1994, an English friend and I ventured to Toddle House Cafe and ordered pancakes. Didn’t quite get what we were expecting…spent some time looking around for the lemon juice and sugar before I came to the realization that wasn’t happening…and so began the adventure of foods that bear the same name but taste completely different.

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English pancakes…still had no lemon juice so we ate these with Nutella.

School was also closed on Wednesday. Because, this is Virginia. On Thursday we had a two hour delay because otherwise there would be anarchy. The kids were disappointed. Whaddya mean, we have to go to school? We were planning to go sledding! Oh, sorry to interrupt your plans. On Friday school was closed again. Actually, Friday was the ONLY day it made sense to close school, because it was so cold even I drove from my garage at home to my office garage, and ran on the dreadmill at work. It was 1 degree, and that was without factoring in the windchill.

On Wednesday I was on a conference call with a colleague in Cleveland, whose kids were at school. He said they go sledding at recess. That would never be allowed here. My son called home one day because he was wearing shorts and school told him it was too cold to go outside for recess without pants. Again, Virginia. Kids aren’t even allowed to ride a bike to school here.

Anyway, despite the weather and lack of school, I didn’t miss a workout. On Monday, I discovered someone had deleted the latest installment of Downton Abbey so had to watch a couple of episodes of Chopped instead…but then I discovered I could stream D.A. so got caught up on Wednesday’s ride. Tuesday was my first running speedwork since returning from injury – the only thing hampering my efforts was the odd patch of ice. And I swam twice for the second week in a row. Almost didn’t happen as the pool didn’t open until 1pm Sunday and then I had to share a lane with a breaststroker, but I got it done. Here’s how the week looked:

Monday – 50 min ride + 2 mile run
Tuesday – 5.7 mile fartlek run
Wednesday – 60 min ride + 2600m swim
Thursday – strength
Friday – 4.3 mile dreadmill run
Saturday – 90 min ride
Sunday – 6.3 mile run + 2000m swim

Totals
Ride: 51.5 miles (3 hr 20 min)
Run: 18.3 miles  (2 hr 40 min) (not as far as I wanted to go this week)
Swim 4600m (2 hrs)

Last week I talked about the swim, this week it’s the run that’s on my mind. I didn’t have as much running as I thought I would (I think with Tuesday’s fartlek session my coach is being super-cautious to check nothing flares up – so far so good) but my runs were all great. On Tuesday, even though we had snow and school was closed, I was able to run outside with my partner-in-crime Bora.

Bora

Pic from a snowy run with Bora in January

We’ve been running together on-and-off for several years (more off than on, as she was sidelined with an injury for quite some time, and then when she came back I was injured) but it’s only in the last few months that we’ve been running together regularly.It was great to have someone to run the surges with and keep me honest. Once again I realized I am more of a stamina than a speed queen, as I was dragging in the first few intervals while Bora surged ahead, but then I started feeling better while Bora started feeling the effects in the second half. It also helped that my toes had defrosted…27 degrees out but the ground was so darn cold cold my toes were frozen for the first 2 miles.

Sunday, with temps above freezing for the first time in a while, I pulled out the Yaktrax for 6 glorious miles of snow and ice. With very little traffic out at 7am, I was able to run in the road for most of the time. It was nice to get out and not face the dreadmill.

Yaktrax

Yaktrax…best running gear investment ever!

So here’s hoping for slightly better weather next week as I really need to increase the mileage. Mind you, could be much worse – I could be marathon training!!! Ha ha ha.

Ironman 70.3 Raleigh Training: Week 1

With now 16 weeks to Ironman 70.3 Raleigh, my training officially started this past week. It was supposed to start the week before, but I was in Puerto Rico, which made the biking impossible and the swimming minimal (big waves off San Juan and no lifeguards make me a little ‘fraidy). So I waited another week to start training in earnest.

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San Juan…great for running, but not swimming or (potholes and mad drivers) biking…

 

When people ask me about my training plan I have to laugh because it’s not as if all 18 weeks are laid out at once. My coach keeps things interesting and, more importantly, adjusts my workouts based on what I’ve done the week before, so I never know too far in advance what’s coming up. I do switch up my workouts quite a lot, as I always run when I go into my office in Washington, DC, and bike when I work at home. Sometimes I change the bike/run days on the weekend, usually depending on the weather. Since I run outside and, this time of year, do all my biking inside on a trainer, I reserve the colder day for biking, since I have this problem when I run outside in below freezing temps:

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Here’s how my week looked:

Sunday: 2 hr trainer ride
Monday: 4 mile easy run + 30 min strength
Tuesday: 6 mile tempo run
Wednesday: 40 min trainer ride + 60 min swim
Thursday: 30 min strength
Friday: 3.2 mile run + 45 min swim
Saturday: 5.3 mile run

Totals
Ride: 2hr 40 (36 miles)
Run: 18.5 miles (2 hr 40)
Swim: 1hr 45 (4000yds)

Tomorrow I have a 90 minute trainer ride and will run a couple of miles afterwards. My run mileage is still low as I’m building up slowly after being injured for so long last year. Bike is coming along well, probably because I’ve always been comfortable with that and haven’t had to take any breaks. In fact, I recently discovered that I’m nationally ranked 20th among women 40-44 in Duathlon!

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Swim is my nemesis but I have a great swim partner who gives me tips without being overbearing. We’ve been working on my reach, mainly. On Wednesday he asked me where I look when I’m swimming. “Bottom of the pool (except when I close my eyes and pretend I’m somewhere else)” I replied. He pointed out that I should be looking ahead and not straight down, and explained that this is probably contributing to my short reach. I’ve been told before that I should look ahead and not at the bottom of the pool, but no-one has explained that it could be related to the problems with my reach. I adjusted my gaze and instantly felt as if I were moving faster. With swimming, all these little adjustments make a big difference.

I also dragged myself to the pool on Friday. I know I should be swimming twice a week but actually finding time and motivation is hard. But I had just received a Garmin 920XT (Thanks to my sponsor, TriSports) and wanted to see how well it measured my swim. (Perfectly, as it turned out.)
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I’ve finally managed to resolve my problem of getting sick from the chlorine. I did some research online and it turned out it’s not a chlorine allergy, but rather a reaction that causes a ton of mucus buildup (gross). Most people with this problem reported having success with an antihistamine nasal spray, and I happened to have a bottle that had been prescribed for my allergies, so a couple of weeks ago I tried it, and it worked! No more waking up congested and feeling sick for 24 hrs after swimming…a huge relief.

The plan over the next few weeks is to increase my running but keep everything else about the same.I spent about 8 hours training last week which doesn’t sound like much but, with a full time job and kids’ activities on the weekend, I can’t commit much more time to training. Hopefully this will be enough to get me to Raleigh in good shape!

 

Share the LOVE: T-Blocks Kickstarter Campaign

10440261_655083124581578_7923849011571279136_nTriathletes want fast transitions. So we practice. Over and over. Swim to bike. Bike to run. Until it’s perfect. Until the only thing standing in our way on race day is the blasted bike rack, with the bike next to ours all crooked and the handlebars hanging over ours, or the pedals caught in our chain, and we say, “golly, I wish there was a better type of transition rack!”

Well, valentines, now there is.

Back in July and August of last year I raced a pair of duathlons in Maryland. What’s most memorable about those races is not my performance, which wasn’t spectacular in either event, for various reasons, but the fact that, as an elite racer, I was fortunate enough to have T-BLOCKS to use in transition rather than an old fashioned bike rack. If you aren’t a triathlete you are forgiven for not understanding why this matters. But if I explain that, when you’re in transition, you are still racing, and therefore every second counts, I’m sure it will start to make sense. T-BLOCKS enable faster transitions, plain and simple. It is much easier to get your bike in and out of a rack on the ground, than heave it on and off a rack. Watch an elite ITU or Olympics race and you’ll see that none of those athletes are hanging bikes from racks!

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Happy Felt Standing on T-BLOCKS

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Sad Felt Hanging from a Rack

The creator of T-BLOCKS, Marcus Robinson, wants to launch T-BLOCKS on a scale that will enable ALL athletes at races to use them, not just elites. To do that, he needs funding. So he’s launching a Kickstarter campaign on March 2. Please sign up to attend the launch party. There’s no commitment required. Check out T-BLOCKS and, if you like them, maybe you’d like to help by backing them.

Why am I so passionate about this? Because, quite honestly, I think T-BLOCKS is a fantastic product that has the potential to change every triathlete’s transition experience.

Share the LOVE:

Check out T-BLOCKS on YouTube 

Like T-BLOCKS on Facebook

Attend T-BLOCKS Virtual Launch Party

Visit T-BLOCKS Website

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It’s Not About the Bike: A Message to Drivers

I’m sitting at a red light on my bike, waiting to turn left. There’s a string of cars behind me, all of whom want to get through the light before it turns red again. I’m well aware of this. I’m also well aware that my acceleration speed is well below even the ancient pickup spewing fumes behind me. I’m on the right side of the lane so I can make a wide turn and the cars can go inside me. But there’s gravel in my path and I’m worried about sliding. Also, I have to watch for the cars turning right from the opposite direction, who may not be paying close enough attention to notice a cyclist. As the light turns green, I hold my breath as I push off into the intersection.

In 2012, 726 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles while 49,000 were injured. The average age of cyclists killed in crashes was 43 (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Traffic Safety Facts).

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Image from Confessions of A…

 

Pass-3-Ft-Min-sign-mockupI’m a cyclist and a triathlete. I love riding my bike outside. I love how it feels to move much faster than my running pace. I enjoy getting out into the Virginia countryside, away from traffic. I enjoy riding in a group and I’m also happy riding alone. But I’m scared. I’m scared of the drivers out there who aren’t paying attention, who are on their phones or otherwise distracted. I’m scared of the drivers who hate cyclists. Who cut me off (yes, it happens), yell insults, throw objects (yes, that happens too), drive too close (the law states motorists must give riders three feet of clearance, but many drivers are unaware of this), threaten to hit me or my riding partner (which is threatening assault with a deadly weapon and is reason to call the police), or post on public message boards how much they hate cyclists and how they should be banned from certain roads in my neighborhood. Yes, all these things have happened.

My bike weighs 18 pounds. I weigh 112. So combined we’re 130 and clearly no match for several tons of steel. Yet a few drivers seem to think it’s fun to play cat and mouse with a cyclist. It’s not. It’s terrifying. I always ride with my Road ID, insurance card, and cell phone. I have an ICE-dot sensor for my helmet. I tell people where I’m going and how long I expect to be out.

Thankfully, the majority of drivers are courteous around cyclists. But it only takes one who is not, to change a life forever. When I am driving and see a cyclist, I am hyper-aware of the need to give the rider some space. It might mean waiting to pass (a few extra seconds out of my day) or changing lanes, but I know how that rider feels. There are times when I encounter cyclists on roads I would never ride my bike on because I just consider them too dangerous. That doesn’t mean they don’t have a right to be there and I don’t have a duty to give them room.

I have friends who have been in biking accidents. Thankfully they have all recovered. But falling off a bike going 30 mph is not pretty. And that’s when it doesn’t involve contact with several tons of steel. I know the majority of people reading this are probably cyclists and/or don’t have a grudge against cyclists. But if this post just makes one person a little more aware of what it’s like to be a cyclist, then it’s worth the time I took to write it.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint – Race Locally

It may seem ironic that I’m writing about reducing my carbon footprint while waiting for a (delayed) flight home from Hartford, CT, and after renting a Ford Expedition (what can I say? The rental car guy told me I’d need it for the bad weather after looking at my license and seeing I live in Virginia…) for my little self, but it’s actually my frequent work travel schedule that got me thinking about this whole carbon footprint thing in the first place. Because my carbon footprint over the past year is much too large for my size 7 feet.

Not that there’s anything wrong with traveling for races. It’s something I love to do and still plan to do for major events like USAT Nationals and – if I qualify – World Championships. But when there’s a local option in 2015, I plan to take it, rather than shlepping out of town. Case in point: Shamrock Marathon/Half Marathon has been a favorite of mine for many years. Virginia Beach is about a 3.5 hour drive for me, so we’re not talking massive carbon footprint. But, there are two local Marathon/Half Marathon options within spitting distance (depending on your spit range) of where I live, which bookend Shamrock: the Runners Marathon of Reston and RnR DC. Both offer full and half distances, both are about a 30 minute drive. With such great local options, why would I travel?

Another great local event is Cherry Blossom 10 Miler on April 12th. I can understand why runners would want to travel for this event as it really is second to none in terms of course, organization, and value-for-money. I am lucky enough to have such an event in my back yard.  And if one 10 miler in April isn’t enough, I can race the George Washington Parkway Classic in Alexandria, VA at the end of the month.

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Cherry Blossom 2014

On May 16th I’ll race St. Michael’s Half Marathon for the 3rd time. This is a favorite race of mine (it’s where I set my half marathon PR of 1:33) and, despite a slightly disastrous run last year, I am excited to try to threepeat my age group wins. Plus, the course has been redesigned with input from Boston Marathon RD Dave McGillivary! St. Michael’s is about a 2 hour drive for me, so I consider that a smallish carbon footprint.

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St. Michael’s 2014

For triathlon, options are more limited but I still try to stick to close races. I’ll race Raleigh Half Ironman again May 31st, as well as Philadelphia Olympic at the end of June. Both of these races are a 3 – 4 hour drive. My big trip of the year will be to Milwaukee in August which is again the host of the USAT National Championships. I’m looking forward to racing Nation’s Triathlon in Washington, DC for the first time September 13th. This race has been on my bucket list for a while, but the timing has never been good. Nation’s is probably the closest open water triathlon option I have, and 2015 will be the 10th anniversary of the race, so I’m looking forward to finally competing there!

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USAT Nationals 2013

After a short break at the end of triathlon season, I plan to switch back to running-only races with two great local events in November: Run for the Parks 10K, at the same site as Nation’s Tri, and the .US Road Racing Championships in beautiful Alexandria, VA.

I am fortunate to live in an area with so many races, from road to trail to triathlon. I really don’t need to travel far to find high quality events. And these are just the big races; I usually jump into a couple of other more low-key 5K and 10K races as I see fit. I realize not everyone lives in an area with access to so many races they have to choose which to do, and may have to travel in order to race. One of the things I do when I travel for work is look and see if there are any local events where I’m going. I was excited for an XTERRA race in Puerto Rico that was at the same time as a planned trip in January, but then our meeting was rescheduled for February. Now I’m hoping it gets pushed back even further, as the World’s Best 10K is on March 1st!

Do you try to race locally when possible?

 

Useless Gifts for the Holidays

I was so excited about my 5th grader’s holiday party this year. His teacher requested that everyone send in $5. That’s it. No “room mom” requesting some hand-crocheted doily or nut/shellfish/egg/latex/tinsel/alchol-free home-baked goods. I didn’t have to go shopping for organic sugar-free dye-free juice boxes or festive-but-non-denominational plates. What did his teacher spend the $5 on? Who knows. Could have been pizza and beer. Who cares? I know they had fun, whatever they did. Because it’s not about how you wrap the gift. Speaking of gifts….

There are so many great holiday gift lists out there. Here are a few I like:

http://www.yousignedupforwhat.com/2014/11/25/25-gifts-for-the-triathlete-under-50/

http://blog.mioglobal.com/?p=1941

http://www.arunnersdiary.com/10-great-holiday-gifts-runnertriathlete-life/

http://empiretriclub.com/blog/gift-guide/

http://leangreenislandgirl.com/

http://www.glitteranddust.com/holiday-gift-guide-runners-triathletes/

http://www.teamtriglobal.com/#!Coach-Richies-2014-Triathlon-Holiday-Gift-Guide/ctr5/AF0E011D-BE53-4AD6-8149-BA914A15DD3A

There are so many, in fact, that it can be overwhelming deciding what to get your loved ones, when you consider all the fabulous options. So I am helping you out by providing a guide to the gifts no-one wants. The completely useless objects that, those who own them will attest, are cluttering up our lives, taking up space in drawers and closets and proving themselves completely useless. With the help of this guide, you can simply cross these items off your list and get shopping for something else.

1. Lava Pants

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Xterra, I love your wetsuits. In fact, I have two of them, a sleeveless (which was my first) and a full sleeve, which I bought when I realized I would be racing in Edmonton, a place where it snows. In August. But why lava pants? I just don’t get them. They’re basically half a wetsuit. If I’m going to go through the hassle of donning a rubberized garment, I may as well go all the way and put the top part on too, no? Plus, lava pants cost about the same as a sleeveless suit anyway. Why not get more rubber for your buck?

2. Transition Mat

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I see these on all the triathlon sites and at the occasional triathlon. I don’t get them. Why shell out a wad of change for a thing you’re going to lay on the ground and then lay all your gear on, when an old towel will do just fine? Nope, don’t need it.

3. Flashlight with handle

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I saw one of these advertised the other day. A flashlight with a built in handle for carrying on the run. Um, isn’t a flashlight sort of shaped for your hand?I would understand if a flashlight were an awkward shape but even a butterfingers like me can carry a regular flashlight just fine. Although I have a habit of shining it in other people’s eyes. Think they can make one that prevents me from doing that?

4. Ugg Slippers

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So I realize that these aren’t a triathlon item, but when you’re thinking about what to get that special person when he/she returns from a grueling ride and wants to slip into something that doesn’t have a rock hard sole and makes you walk like a duck, don’t buy these. Because we all need 4 pairs of bike shoes but NO-ONE needs $120 slippers.

5. Girly Hammer

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I stumbled upon this pointless hammer while looking for a toilet flapper in Home Depot. Clearly I was in the wrong aisle. I can’t believe there is such an item. It’s almost as good as Bic’s pen for women. Why I can’t just use a regular wood-color hammer to drive a nail into a wall or hit myself repeatedly over the head, I don’t know. But there you have it.

Good luck to all who still have shopping to do! IMO, a gift card makes a PERFECT gift. 😉

Running, Again

I ran two miles today. The fact that this is even worth mentioning, let alone the intro to this post, shows how meaningful this was. My latest nasty calf injury left me hobbling if I attempted a mere jog. Still, I ran 1.3 miles with my 12 year old son in October, as I was trying to pace him in a 5K. After I paced him through the first mile at around 8:30 pace, then dropped out when the calf pain got really bad, he picked it up, finishing with a 7:30 last mile and a 24 minute time! I don’t think he needed my help…and the calf certainly didn’t need me doing that.

So I stopped trying to see if I could run, and started listening to my body. I continued to see my fantastic chiropractor Dr. H at United Wellness Center, who I am convinced gets some sort of sadistic enjoyment out of sticking needles in me, and I enlisted the help of a physical therapist, Kelly at Chiron PT, who worked on the calf 3 times a week and gave me some great exercises to do. The feedback I got from her was valuable in my decision to run today. Last week I really felt that the muscle had loosened up, as I was no longer feeling it. The difficult thing about an injury is that you get accustomed to feeling something you shouldn’t. I was used to feeling my calf as it was so tight, but noticed when the sensation finally stopped.

So today was the test. I was nervous. I foam rolled first. Then I walked for a bit. I was supposed to walk for half a mile but a quarter of a mile in I was itching to run, so I let myself go. I had to force myself to slow down as the adrenaline kicked in and I naturally sped up. At 1 mile I stopped at Starbucks, just in time to meet members of my running club who had just finished a 5 miler. I hung out with the guys (the girls were running longer!) for quite some time, catching up and shooting the breeze. It was great to catch up. I was supposed to walk home but, again, a quarter mile in I was itching to run again so I indulged in another mile.

I made sure to stretch well when I got home. I have no intention of sliding backwards. And then of course I started looking at all the races I want to do. My last race was in August, and it feels like an eternity. But I realize I have a long way to go, and I still need to be patient.

Tomorrow is a rest day. 😉

Race Insurance – is it worth it?

I just did something I never thought I’d do. In fact, I did it twice. I paid race insurance for Ironman 70.3 Raleigh and TriRock Philadelphia. The insurance was $40 for the Half Ironman and $13 for TriRock, an Olympic distance tri. Both plans provides a full refund in the event of injury, illness, etc. Here’s Ironman’s plan details in case you’re interested.

So, why did I do it? First of all, When you’re talking about races that cost $275 and $180 respectively, the insurance cost is relatively small in comparison, about 15% of the Half Ironman cost and less than 10% of the TriRock fee. (Ironman only started offering a refund plan in July 2014.) Secondly, after an injury-plagued season that saw me pull out of Ironman 70.3 Augusta and too many road races to count, I’ve come to the conclusion that the insurance is worth my while.

I want to race. I want to be injury free. I haven’t run since August in an attempt to properly rehab my injured calf this time, and have sworn off silly stuff that my 42-year-old body can no longer handle, like indoor track racing, back-to-back racing, overnight relays, etc. I have to be sensible. (Which sucks.) However, I realize that injuries can and do happen, and I feel a little better about shelling out a small fortune (triathlon is expensive) if I know I can get a refund should I not be able to race.

In a previous post I wrote about the absurdity of exorbitant race fees, and I realize it may seem hypocritical that I’m willing to pay this much to race. But triathlons are much more expensive than road races. Obviously, organizing a race with three events is more complicated than one, and the insurance for any event in which you put people in a body of water and have them zooming around at high speed on expensive machines is bound to be significantly higher. So I’m willing to pay more for triathlon. Could I find less costly half ironman and olympic events? Sure. But I’d like to qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Austria, so I need to do an Ironman 70.3 in order to do that, and Raleigh is one of the closest events for me. I raced TriRock Philadelphia last year (never got around to a race report!) and qualified for the HyVee 5150 Championship in Des Moines. Unfortunately I couldn’t do the HyVee event because I was already racing at the ITU World Championships! So I’d like another shot at that.

At the end of the day, I feel better knowing that, if I can’t race, at least I haven’t lost out completely.

Have you/would you pay for race insurance?

SoulCycle DC: Sweating in the City

I never promise a complimentary review. What I do promise is that I will share, candidly and openly and with an attempt at wit, my experience, which may or may not come with a hint of bias because, after all, being objective is boring.

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SoulCycle opened its first Washington, DC location in August and I was sent a free pass and some SoulCycle goodies. Let me start by saying spin really isn’t my thing. Being in a dark room with thumping music, in close quarters with other sweaty bodies isn’t what appeals to me in terms of a workout. I’ve done it enough times to know that  I prefer riding in a small group, outside, exploring the mountains of Western Loudoun County, breathing the fresh air, and enjoying the gorgeous views. I wouldn’t trade that with any studio in Washington, DC, even if it is very hip and the workout is awesome.

That being said, there are times when riding outside isn’t possible. Like on a weekday. When it’s raining. In winter. When I don’t have time. When my bike is on a truck on its way back from Canada, enjoying the scenery without me. And spin offers a great alternative. I say alternative loosely because it clearly isn’t the same thing. Spin is more like an interval workout. The SoulCycle format is 45 minutes of fast paced riding with some light reps with weights thrown in at the end. To quote the press release I received along with a free pass and some other goodies, “SoulCycle is a motivating, joyful, full-body indoor cycling dance party on a bike.” I wouldn’t argue with that.

With my free pass I signed up for a 7am class on a weekday morning with Abby. Online signup is pretty much a must because the 55-bike studio is often full, and because you get to pick your bike. Yep, no pushing and shoving when the doors open to get a good spot. You’ve already reserved yours. The image below is the 6am Monday class. The grey circles are the bikes that are already reserved. Apparently, Washington DC is full of teacher’s pets who like to sit at the front.

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I reserved bike #2 because I wanted to be able to see the instructor, but I also didn’t want to be slap bang in the middle of all the sweaty bodies. I arrived 15 minutes before class, as the web site advises. SoulCycle is pretty welcoming on a gray morning in DC.

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The location at 23rd and M is close to GW University, and so I shouldn’t have been surprised to be surrounded by a bunch of 20-somethings clad in Lululemon and sipping SmartWater. SoulCycle includes bike shoe rental as part of the class fee ($20 for first time riders, $30 regular, 5 classes for $145, etc.) but since I own four pairs of bike shoes and have compatible cleats (that’s important, check your cleats are compatible before bringing them) I just wore my own shoes.

The SoulCycle space consists of the bike studio, bathrooms, and a locker area. Given that it’s small (3,000 sq. ft. but feels smaller) and a large area in front is given to the SOUL boutique, the locker area and bathrooms are pretty cramped. The shower area is so tight that I elected to walk to my office, just four blocks away, and use the comparatively spacious showers there. There is nowhere to wait for class, so I stood along the wall while waiting for the studio to be readied for the 7am class. The 6am class had just let out and the locker area was packed. Someone threw a wet towel into the laundry bin and it almost slapped me in head as it flew past.

We were let in just before 7 to find rows of closely-packed bikes, each with a towel atop the recently sanitized handlebars. Abby bounded in and announced that if we needed assistance adjusting our bikes, just raise a hand and an employee in a yellow shirt would come help us out. I’ve adjusted spin bikes before but I raised my hand anyway as I wanted the full SoulCycle experience for my review. Also, my bike had clearly just been ridden by a giant and needed serious adjustment. The girl who had checked me in came right over and got me set up, then made sure I was comfortable before moving on to someone else.

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Class got going pretty pronto. Abby cranked up the music, put on her mic, and started giving us instructions. Her bike was on a platform with candles on the front (of the platform, not the bike) so we could all see her. Abby was bubbly and lively, bouncing around on the bike, spinning fast and talking at the same speed about happy hour the night before. (This was a Tuesday morning…if I didn’t feel old before, I did now.)

The workout was fast-paced and fun, with lots of “how are we feeling?” – audience participation mandatory. It wasn’t intimidating, but it wasn’t a piece of cake either. I was just getting into it when the fire alarm went off and the music cut out. Abby kept going. I was wondering if we should be evacuating when the staff ran in with a duffle bag like some SWAT team. They quickly and expertly hooked up a set of speakers to get the music working again. Clearly, focus on the important stuff first. The fire alarm went off a couple more times but apparently it was just a drill so we kept going.

Later that day:

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Final synopsis: A fun, sweaty, energetic workout. Great way to start off the morning. SoulCycle markets itself to a young, hip crowd but honestly once we got in the studio I no longer felt like the old lady. Well, except when Abby played her favorite song from high school and I swear it was a tune that came out last year. It’s a bit pricey; 10 classes are $280 and even a package of 30 classes at $780 works out to $26/class. And it’s only 45 minutes long, which is perfect for the time-crunched DC crowd (especially when the Starbucks line is 15 minutes long) but not really long enough for me. But, if you enjoy spin and are looking for lively, energetic instructors, clean bikes, and a quick workout, then SoulCycle may be the thing for you.

Aside from DC, SoulCycle has studios in NYC, California, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. Here’s a complete list of SoulCycle locations: https://www.soul-cycle.com/studios/full-list/

Baseballs, not Peaches

Yesterday many of my triathlete friends were kicking butt at Ironman 70.3 Augusta (congrats on qualifying for Worlds, Lester!!!) while I was sitting on my butt…some of it on my bike but most of it watching this guy play ball:

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And while I’ll admit that it was hard to look at the facebook updates and while I would have loved to have been racing, I am, in many ways, glad I was in Middle-of-Nowhere, MD, instead of Augusta, GA.

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Because, had I been in Augusta, I would have missed seeing this guy pitch the last inning of Saturday’s game. Three batters, three outs in nine pitches. Two strike-outs and one he threw out at first. He knows how to perform under pressure.

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And on Sunday, he was brought in as closer again. This time, one batter got a run. Just one. Which of course, was unacceptable to him.

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This is the most relaxed I’ve seen him playing baseball. He was actually smiling on the mound. He was so stressed out playing for his first travel team he couldn’t perform well. His confidence hit rock bottom and we pulled him out before the abusive coaching could completely destroy him. He tried out for two travel teams this year. The coach for one of the teams pulled him aside after the tryout and asked him if he thought he would be a distraction to the other players. Yeah, he has ADHD. So does Michael Phelps. In fact, an estimated eight to ten percent of all pro athletes have the condition, as compared to four to five percent of the general population of adults. Needless to say, he’s playing for the other team, which was the one he chose anyway. He fits right in.

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Sometimes it’s hard to remember he’s only 10. I was reading his 5th grade “about me” poster last night.

Favorite sport: Baseball

Favorite TV show: Baseball

Favorite athlete: Chase Headley (from the Yankees, who threw a ball to him during the warmup for a game at Camden Yards over the summer)

What I want to be when I grow up: Pro Baseball Player

Well, why the hell not?

 

Why I Won’t Paint it Black

It’s always difficult coming down off the high of a big race. I find myself wishing I could do it all over again, not necessarily to do better (although that desire is always there), but to relive the experience. I find myself looking at race photos and getting impatient to find out where the 2016 ITU World Championships is going to be, which apparently will be announced on September 16th…three long days away. According to the ITU, the 2016 sprint will be draft-legal, which has me excited and nervous at the same time. It will certainly eliminate the difficulty of staying out of the 12 meter draft zone, and the frustration of having to back off when passed, but it could be dangerous too. I anticipate a few wipe-outs with amateurs riding that close.

Here are a couple of pictures from Edmonton, courtesy of a couple of my Team USA teammates!

Edmonton group ride

Heading out on Team USA bike ride the day before the race. Lots of pointy helmets!

Edmonton swim corral

In the swim corral – we’re next!

Edmonton swim start

The swim start!

So…what’s next? Well, I just pulled out of Ironman 70.3 Augusta. Yep, you heard it here first, folks. I haven’t mentioned this to anyone else (except You Signed up For What? since we were supposed to be driving down together), not because I don’t want people to know but because I hate all the sympathy. Yeah, don’t cry me a river. I’m really OK with it. The reality is that I haven’t been able to run since Edmonton (tried a mile last week and calf was very unhappy) yet for some reason was in this ridiculous state of denial that I could somehow run 13.1 miles. And even if I could, I know full well that the result of that will be an entire fall with no racing.

The reason I think I’m OK with it is that I was really burnt out. I trained all summer for Edmonton and just lost my mojo after that. I was forcing myself to swim and bike when I didn’t want to. And I don’t mean the “I don’t feel like training today” but once you do, you love it. I hated every minute of it. I rode for 3 hours last weekend and despite the great weather and supportive training partners, I hated it. I told myself it was because I was on my old bike (race bike was still traveling back from Canada…the scenic route…finally arrived on Wednesday) but that wasn’t true. I was feeling tired and lethargic, although bloodwork that I had done last week came back with only positive news, including the fact that my cholesterol had dropped 14 points since May (when my coach told me to eat eggs for breakfast and cut out all the sugar)!

So what’s next? Well, only time will tell. Once I can start running again, hopefully in the next couple of weeks, I’ll be able to determine my race schedule this fall. Because I really do want to race. And soon. But the key is to be smart about it. My chiropractor told me that he sees a lot of athletes just like me, but that I deal with these setbacks better than they do. Why is that? Why don’t I want to Paint it Black, as the Rolling Stones would say? Because I see no point in that. I don’t wallow in self-pity and I don’t want others to feel sorry for me. I think adversity is character-building and I wouldn’t be who I am without having had my share of that. When I was 19 and in hospital after surgery to fix the ankle I shattered in a cross-country race, I told friends who came to visit that they weren’t allowed to feel sorry for me. When I was hobbling around on crutches for the next six weeks, I wouldn’t let people help me (although I guess that’s just being stubborn).

And because, at the end of the day, what I do (or don’t do) doesn’t define who I am.

Onward and upward.

#WTSEdmonton Day 3: We Need Canada Pants

Race morning. 46 degrees at 7am. My roommate, Amy, says, “we need Canada pants.” Indeed, we do. If you haven’t read about day 2 yet, you might want to do that to get the reference, but basically the Canadian team has bright red Canada pants, and we wish we had a pair right about now.

Heading out of The Westin at 7:15am, however, we discover that the sun is shining and there really is no need for any pants, even Canada ones. We take the light rail to the University of Alberta where we transfer to a shuttle bus that takes us to Hawrelak Park, the venue for the ITU World Championships. We’re excited and nervous for our races. Amy’s wave (25-29 women) is at 9:58, mine (40-44 women) is at 10:38, so we have plenty of time. In fact, given that my race is so late I actually drink half a cup of coffee, something I never do for early races.

We’re in the park at 8am and head over to transition. Getting into transition is easy if you’ve paid attention to the rules: helmet on and strapped, wetsuit out to show number tattoo on suit, one arm out of jacket to show number tattoo (this part wasn’t fun given the temperature), race bib on. We got through like pros and headed to our transition spots. I dumped my stuff by my bike and headed to the portapotty. There were only 4 of them in transition so I had to wait a few minutes. When I came out, Amy was waiting for me, having already set up her transition. I still had to put my shoes on my bike, get air in my tires (thanks to the Team Canada guy who lent me his bike pump and then had to help me get it on the valves!), put my water bottle on my bike, and set up my shoes and helmet and sunglasses and bib. All of which seemed to take forever.

When I took off my shoes to leave them in transition I realized how cold the ground was. Within a minute my feet were frozen and I wished I’d brought flip flops or another pair of shoes. Thankfully I had a towel with me (ITU doesn’t allow towels in transition, or anything else non-race-related, in case you ever do an ITU race), so once we found a sunny spot to sit in, I wrapped my feet in the towel to warm them back up.

Before long Amy was putting on her wetsuit, partly to keep warm, partly because it was getting close to the 30 minutes before her start time, at which time you had to report to the athlete’s village to be put in your swim corral. We said goodbye and off she went. It was 9:10, so I had a while. I had my mini grid roller with me so I rolled out the muscles, including my tight calf which had been giving me issues over the past 3 weeks. I had told no-one but the day before I had stepped off a curb onto the ball of my foot and a shooting pain had gone through the muscle. Ever since then it hurt even to walk. I had taped it up with KT tape but wasn’t even sure if I could run. After rolling out I put on my wetsuit. It has never felt so great to put on a nice, warm, constricting, long-sleeved wetsuit.

With about 40 minutes to go before my wave start, I headed into athlete’s village and dropped off my gear bag. I watched as the organizers called the waves by swim cap color. They were very good about spotting anyone who had missed their call, and would yell at them and tell people to clear a path so they could run and catch their wave, which would be heading down to the water. So every now and then you’d hear, “blue cap coming through!” or “white cap, your wave is on the beach!”

Once the wave before mine had been called I turned to the woman next to me and asked her to zip up my wetsuit. We started chatting – she had a British accent so I assumed she was on Team GB. (With a wetsuit on you can’t tell anyone’s nationality.) She assumed the same of me. Of course we soon discovered that we were both racing on Team USA! Shout out to Rachel Jones from Michigan, another former Brit racing on Team USA! (Later I met Jim when we were returning our bikes to RaceDay Transport, another Brit who now lives in Boston and races on Team USA.) Our wave was soon called and we moved into a pen area to wait to be paraded down to the water. This part was actually very cool, as we got lots of cheers from the crowd. Then we had to go single file through a tent with a timing chip scanner, and check that our names appeared on the monitor. Our timing chips had to be visible – no tucking them under the wetsuit.

We then moved into another penned area and awaited our turn. At this point there were 3 waves ahead of us and we had about 20 minutes to go. I wasn’t nervous at all, but surprisingly calm and relaxed. I made sure to do lots of arm circles and swimming motion with my arms, as in my last race, and in the practice swim, my arms started hurting very early on. When I mentioned this to my coach he suggested I warm them up before the swim. I was also watching the waves before us to see where I wanted to position myself. The middle was, as usual, a mosh pit, with swimmers coming at you from either side. I didn’t want any part of that. The left seemed to be far from the first buoy and therefore a long way to cut in. Plus, when I swim I pull left so that would be a bad idea for me. That left the right. Swimmers went or were led (wasn’t sure) to the right first, which meant I needed to be at the front of our group. I snuck around a few ladies and got near the front. I was up with the Mexicans, who I guess had the same plan as me. They all had their make-up on and their diamond earrings in…wow.

As we were led onto the platform, I quickly got into position. I think there were 10 or so ladies to my right, so I felt as if I’d secured a good spot. Which was just as well because the rule is no moving once in position. We were then told to step down into the sand, with “one foot touching the plat-a-form” according to the official giving the instructions. That made everyone laugh and broke any tension. My goggles, which I’d put on early, were starting to fog up and I had to spit in them a couple of times. I had to stop fiddling, however, once we were on the sand because they could blow the horn at any time. Then I heard “on your marks” and the horn right away, and I started running into the water and diving forward.

The first 30 seconds were frantic. Lots of kicking and thrashing, but it didn’t last long. Because we started in a line, there was no-one behind me grabbing my feet or trying to swim over me. It was actually one of the most civilized wave starts I’ve experienced. I felt like I was sighting well for the first buoy and no-one really got in my way. The turnaround was smooth, and I knew from the practice swim that I wanted to head to the right a little after the turn to avoid going off course. The only problem with this was that I was close to the buoys, and once or twice another swimmer would try to push me to the right. Of course given that I pull left I may have been doing some of the pushing, but when I was seeing the buoy getting dangerously close I would push back. We were also catching a male from the previous wave who was breaststroking, so needed to give him a wide berth to avoid getting kicked. As we neared the end of the swim I started to kick harder, to get my legs ready for the bike but also because someone was grabbing my feet and I wanted to get them off me. I swam until my hands hit the sand and then I stood up, somehow swallowing a mouthful of water in the process. I was a little unsteady on my feet at first and running through the sand wasn’t the easiest. I must have been fiddling with my wetsuit because someone passed me. I never get passed in the run to transition so I quickly got the top of the suit down and then chased her and passed her back. The run to transition was long so I elected to keep my cap and goggles on my head until near the end, so I didn’t have to carry them so far and risk dropping them.

As I ran into transition people were heading out on the run. I heard “Go Alison!” and realized it was my roommate, Amy! I feel bad but I didn’t manage to shout back in time. When I got to my bike row I counted my steps  – 30 – to my bike, which got me to exactly the right spot. I took off my timing chip before removing the rest of my wetsuit. The timing chips were on a massive piece of foam and, although Amy had the bright idea of cutting the foam so it didn’t overlap around our ankles, it was still very big and I was worried the suit would get stuck on it. The suit came off fairly quickly and I got the timing chip back on, sunglasses and helmet on, race belt on (they made us wear them on the bike, hate that), grabbed my bike, and headed out for the ride.

Bike mount went well and I was off, passing two ladies at the mount line. Got the legs spinning and put my shoes on before the first hill. The hill was a doozy. It was steep and short but not all that short. I had to be in the small ring and the easiest gear and even then I had to stand for a bit. At the top of the hill was a turn, and then a downhill and two more quick turns. At some point during the downhill I looked at my Garmin and realized it still said I was in transition. So I hit (what I thought was) the lap button, and it said it was stopping. I was confused for a minute and then I realized I had pressed the stop button when I came out of the water instead of the lap button, and had done the same thing when I started the bike. I had just been starting and stopping. I realized I needed to start over so I cleared the multisport, started it again, hit the lap for the swim and transition, and finally got it on the bike leg. This may have cost me a little time but I needed to see my pace on the bike, and it possibly helped me because it gave my legs a good warm up.

At this point we hit the fastest part of the course, and I was in full focus, zooming down Groat Rd at 36+ mph. It was an awesome feeling. I passed a few other riders and didn’t really have to worry about the draft zone until we started going uphill. The draft zone in ITU events is 12 meters, which is longer than USAT events. I saw several motorcycles go by with race officials on them, and did not want to end up in the penalty box, so I made sure to keep my distance. The only part when this got hard was when I was passed (which I made sure was only a couple of times) because I had to ease up to exit the draft zone. The last thing I want to do when racing a sprint is ease up! But once out of the zone I would hammer it again.

Nearing the end of lap 1 we had to enter a turnaround near transition, and this is where things got hairy. The riders on their 2nd lap were preparing to enter transition and so were slowing, removing shoes, etc. A guy in front of me practically stopped in the middle of the road. It was impossible to ride this stretch fast. You just had to be patient. Heading out for the second loop, a Kiwi on a road bike passed me going up the hill. He was actually very nice and said he expected to see me on the downhill (since I was on a tri bike). As he predicted I passed him on the first downhill as he cheered. The second loop seemed much easier. I had a fairly clear path. The wind had picked up and we got blown around like crazy on the last downhill, but I still pushed as hard as I could, trying to hit max speed. Heading into transition I made sure I had my shoes off nice and early, and made a clean dismount with a big sigh of relief. Ran to my bike rack to find chaos. All the bikes were pointed at an angle so I had to point mine to get it in. One of my running shoes had been kicked to the wrong side of the rack, and the biker to my right had thrown her wetsuit practically in the path. Anyway. Got running shoes on, dumped helmet, and started running. Two guys were heading out on the run at the same time, and were being urged on by a spectator. They both nearly took me down on the turn, and I wasn’t exactly moving slowly!

The run is my strength, but I was very unsure if my calf was going to let me run. I can run in almost any pain, but there have been times were my calf has really stopped me in my tracks. So I pushed the pace, but held back ever so slightly. I was passing people, and counting the countries as I went. I counted 1 USA, 1 GB, 1 AUS, 2 CAN before I lost track. The first almost 2 miles of the run were on a gorgeous shaded gravel trail and I kind of lost myself in there. I told myself to push as hard as I felt comfortable. I wasn’t running the 6:30 pace I wanted, but I wanted to calf to hold up as long as possible. When I hit 2 miles I allowed myself to go a little harder and tried to push the pace closer to 6:30. The finish was getting closer, I was still passing runners, and I was feeling good. With about 200m to go the calf twinged but I didn’t care at that point. As I turned the corner a US flag appeared in front of me (the Team USA coach told us he’d be holding out flags near the finish and we should grab them if we could) and I grabbed it and started sprinting. The blue carpet felt spongy which I didn’t like, but I ran as hard as I could. I had just passed a Canadian and I did NOT want anyone to pass me in the finishing straight. I held up the flag as I booked it down to the finish line, calf cramping, crowd cheering, just so excited to finish my first World Championship. It really was a feeling like no other!

After receiving a medal I immediately asked the medical tent for a bag of ice, then headed to the athlete recovery area where I bumped into three other ladies in my age group who had also just finished: Amy, Brenda, and Rachel (who I had met before the swim.) Here are the four of us celebrating our victory!

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Result: 1:18:46. 20th in W40-44 IN THE WORLD. Happy!

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With Amy just before she headed home…we have agreed to try to qualify for 2016 together!

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#WTSEdmonton Day 2: Trading my Team USA Jacket

One of the traditions at a World Championship event is to trade jackets with a team member from another country. Mexico has by far the best race kits, IMO.

Mexico

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And not just because the guys get to wear pink. The Mexicans clearly know how to make a hot-looking uniform. So I had decided I was going to try to trade jackets with a Mexican. But then we got to hanging out with some Canadians at the opening ceremony.

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And one of the Canadian girls said she liked my Team USA jacket. I’m not wearing it in this picture (too hot) but my room-mate Amy is modeling it in the center of the photo. And I got to thinking how it would be cool to have a Team Canada jacket, since Canada is the host country, so I asked her if she wanted to trade, and she said sure! Team Canada has their team picture on Saturday so after that we’ll trade. Canada also has a cool vest (as does Mexico), which they’re wearing over the gray jacket here. They are so coordinated. Team USA needs to get their act together. We were told to wear the white shirt to the ceremony which looks so un-uniform. Amy wore her Team USA jacket because she forgot to bring her white shirt. We should have all worn that as it looks much more like a uniform. Seriously, we looked a little sloppy and mis-matched. Canada even has team pants. So does Mexico, for that matter. Obviously, whoever is coordinating uniforms for Team USA should have a little chat with the Mexican and Canadian uniform coordinator, to learn how it’s done.

Today was a crazy day. I saw the team chiropractor at 8:15 for a quick once-over. Feeling finely tuned now. At 9:00 met up with about 30 other Team USA teammates to ride to transition with the coach. We were a very slow peloton and seemed to take a very convoluted route to get to the park. It was a pretty ride, though, and I wish I could have taken a pic of all of us in formation, but the phone/camera stayed safely in my backpack. It was very cold this morning so almost everyone was wearing a Team USA jacket – we looked better coordinated than at the opening ceremony.

I did use my Bia Sport watch so the route would be automatically uploaded. The ridiculously slow speed is due to the numerous stops to regroup and get some info from the coach.

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After arriving at Hawrelak park I was able to rack my bike in transition. ITU changed my age group’s bike racking time from 12 – 2 to 9 – 11; fortunately Team USA sent out an e-mail late last night letting us know of the update. At the entrance to transition our helmet numbers, bike numbers, and uniforms (which I was wearing) were checked – I even had to turn around so they could check I had the right name and country on my butt! Racking was quick and easy, after which I counted to steps from the end of my row to my bike, as markers aren’t allowed. It’s about 30 steps when running. The run out from the swim is actually quite long, and involves running past the finish chute, which seems unduly cruel.

I left transition and headed over to the swim area. Donned wetsuit, which I was glad to do as now it was windy as well as cold, and headed over to the lake. Everyone was practicing diving or running starts, as the start is from the edge of the blue platform. I stood there for a bit spitting in my goggles, then did a slightly lame attempt at a run/dive. Better get that right tomorrow. The water was COLD. But I didn’t have a problem with it. Must be the British blood. I found that the silicone cap kept my head warm, and I only felt cold for the first couple of minutes. Sighting is easy; it is very shallow – you can see the bottom, just weeds and stuff, nothing interesting, and although it’s chlorinated it doesn’t smell or taste of chlorine. I went a little off course a couple of times so I’m glad I got in the practice. I swam the whole 750 and practiced my run-out. It’s sandy which makes things a little challenging.

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Some crazies (see pic) went in without wetsuits. Those guys are NUTS. That water was 17.9 degrees celsius. In fahrenheit that’s virtually FREEZING.

After the swim I needed to warm up but the line for the cappuccino truck was kinda long so I found my way to the “Athletes Village” (don’t start thinking this is fancy, it’s a couple of tents for changing and some trailers with showers) where I changed into dry (but not particularly warm) clothes. I figured I needed a little rest time back at the hotel before 3, so took the shuttle bus (packed) to the train station and took the train back to the stop near the hotel. I was glad to find my roommate had also managed to check her bike and practice the swim, as she just arrived super late last night and was a bit worried this morning that she didn’t have time to do everything.

At 2:45 we headed to the team briefing. They went over all the usual triathlon stuff, emphasizing ITU rules (draft zone is 12 meters, which is longer than the USAT draft zone), where they penalty boxes are on the course should you get a penalty, things that will get you penalized, things that will get you disqualified, until we were suitably terrified. Then we had a team photo taken down by the river and forgot all about it.

After team photos it was time for the opening ceremonies. We all had to gather in this area in alphabetical order by country. We realized it would be fun to take pics with other teams, so wandered around looking for different teams to take pictures with. That’s where we took the pics with Canada and Mexico. Here are a couple with Japan and Ireland.

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Paula

 

Opening Ceremony was awesome, but I need to get some sleep now, big day tomorrow!

My race starts at 9:30 Mountain Time (GMT minus 7), my wave starts at 10:38, and if you want to see live action visit http://www.triathlon.org/live

Thanks so much for all the well-wishes on Facebook – I really appreciate it!

#WTSEdmonton Day 1: Pinch Me

This can’t be real. I’m sure I’m going to wake up soon from the dream that I’m in Edmonton competing for Team USA in the ITU World Championships. But for now, I’ll enjoy it…

For some reason, almost every athlete I’ve met since arriving in Edmonton is on Team GB. There was even a girl from Team GB on my flight to Toronto yesterday. Today I met a GB Athlete doing the aquathlon, and got some info on the swim – it’s shallow, the lake is chlorinated (it’s man-made), and apparently the course is short. I wonder if there’s some sort of gravitational pull towards my people…ha ha.

I spent most of my first day in Edmonton at Hawrelak Park, the ITU World Championships event venue. I woke up at 7 this morning after arriving in Edmonton late last night. At 8 I walked the short distance to city hall to register for my event. There was hardly anyone there and a full bank of volunteers awaiting me!
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Registration took all of 5 minutes and I left with a rather nice backpack which I’m sure my son will steal, a silicone (high end!) swim cap, timing chip, and enough numbers to cover my entire body. I believe there are even tattoos for my wetsuit. Oh and my bike gets a chip, too…lest I decide to do the bike course without it?

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I strolled around downtown Edmonton for a bit and stopped by the bank so I could get some Canadian dollars. Back at the hotel, I changed into my bike gear and studied the bike course, trying to get familiar enough with it so I could ride it. It didn’t look too complicated, but I know my navigational skills are…well, lacking.

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Once I had my bike gear together I headed to the subway to take a train and then a shuttle bus to the park. All the transportation is free for athletes and it was easy to know where to go…I just followed Team GB, Team Mexico, and Team Canada off the train and to the shuttle bus stop. Apparently Team USA went the wrong way and ended up standing at the wrong stop…

I had no idea how long the trip would take, but it was only 40 minutes so I was at the park way before Raceday Transport was open for bike pickup (they shipped my bike across the country and into Canada for a very reasonable fee, saving me from the torture of boxing it and dragging it with me through the airport). But that was fine because I planned to see some of the course anyway. I also spent a small fortune in the official merchandise tent…hey, who knows when my next World Championship will be!

I found my way to the lake just before the paratriathlete aquathlon started. I knew the age group aquathlon was happening later in the afternoon but I had no idea the para-aquathlon was also taking place. I watched the athletes’ swim start and then walked all the way around the lake to see them on the run. Then I headed over to the finish line to watch the first athletes finish. It was great to be there in the grandstand and watch them come in.

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Time to pick up my bike and ride the course. Raceday Transport was awesome, putting the pedals on for me and putting air in the tires so all I had to do was roll out of there. I had to ask a few people which direction I should be heading in (first bad sign) as I couldn’t tell from the map. After a steep hill there was a right turn, which I remembered. I knew there was another right turn but couldn’t remember the name of the street. But the road I was on had a bike lane so I was comfortable just riding along. As I approached an intersection I saw another rider looking at a map at the side of the road. As I passed her I slowed and asked her if she was riding the course. She said she was, but that we must have missed the turn. We chatted for a minute and decided to try to ride it together. This was great because I doubt I would have found my way without her. Plus I’m sure I would have lost my nerve with all the traffic on Groat Road. I couldn’t place her accent – at first I thought she was Scottish (probably because she said “wee” for small) but after we talked for a minute I thought I detected an Irish accent. So I asked her where she was from – turns out she’s from Northern Ireland and she’s racing for Ireland. Her name is Paula Foley and she’s the only athlete from Team Ireland in her age group!

Paula and I set off and, aside from a couple of stops and just one wrong turn, we managed to ride the whole course. Riding Groat Road was nerve wracking as the speed limit is pretty high and we had to change lanes a couple of times because of exits. But most of the drivers gave us room and didn’t try to kill us. After we parted ways I had the fun task of riding back up Groat Road, but was taking the first exit this time so no lane changing required. I had looked up the directions to my hotel, and this time I managed it without any wrong turns! The road I ended up on was alongside the river and the views were spectacular. There was a bike path so I didn’t even have to ride on the road!

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I just returned from an early (my stomach doesn’t do time changes well) dinner at Craft Beer Market, just a stone’s throw from my hotel. They have a rooftop patio and they sat me at the bar. I looked longingly at the beers on tap, but stuck with water. But I told the bartender I’ll be back on Friday to taste all their beers…and the Guinness float…

On tap for tomorrow:

8:15 – Team Chiropractor appt. (I had a massage on Monday with my great massage therapist Rose Hanan and a pre-race adjustment with Dr. H at UWC on Tuesday, but since then I’ve been lugging heavy bags around, sitting on planes, riding my bike with a heavy backpack full of World Champs merchandise, plus it’s complimentary!)

9:15 – Bike to Hawrelak park with the Team Coach (definitely won’t get lost!)

10:00 – Swim Familiarization

12:00 – Bike Check-in

3:00 – Team USA Meeting

4:30 – Team USA Photo

5:30 – Opening Ceremonies

7:00 – Pre-Race Dinner

Not much chill-time before the BIG day!