Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ironman Buffalo Springs 70.3 Race report

I wrote this a while after the race on another forum, just wanted to document.  A good lesson to train for the race terrain...especially those damned hills.

Ok so I have the crazy sometimes obsessive personality that anyone outside of endurance sports doesn’t understand, and am now doing things that just a year ago would have thought was bat shit crazy!  5 weeks of training, followed by 2 weeks of taper in hind sight probably wasn't enough, but hell I finished!
WHAT AN EXPERIENCE!! Leading up to this a lot of people warned me about this course, calling it a ¾ Ironman and saying how I chose such a hard one for my first one. I figure get the hard out of the way for the first one and fine tune for the next one :p I probably should have paid a little more attention though!
So I am a terrible swimmer, never had lessons growing up so I was nervous about just surviving the swim…my longest non-stop swim before the race was about .75 of a mile… I put on my wetsuit for the second time, and head up to the beach with a group of bobbing heads in pink swim caps. It was a wave start, going every 3 min and all of the women were in the second wave, with 3 more waves of men behind us. I never heard them say go, but all the sudden the mass of wetsuits around me started sprinting for the water so I followed suit. We got into the lake and you can barely see your hand in front of your face its so murky…this was my first time swimming in open water and freaked me out a little bit, but I just started thrashing trying to make forward motion. 
That first 5 minutes was the most terrifying thing I have ever done…and the only point in the race I really considered quitting.
Heart rate was racing, the wave behind us caught up I think it was 35-40 yr males, the water became a frenzy with a few slaps and kicks as the fast swimmers swam over me. Then came the first buoy along with the next wave, everyone crunched up and I had someone latch onto my wetsuit Velcro…opening it up. Well great now I have a wetsuit filled with water :s There goes the buoyancy advantage! It wasn’t until half way through when I got some space to breath, just tucked in and finally found the familiar rhythm of my stroke through the water, that’s when I started to feel strong again and knew that I was going to finish no matter what!
Out of the water, got my wet suit stripped by 2 girls (I know your jealous boys) ran up to transition. I was so happy to get on my bike, this was familiar. We had become very intimate friends over 5 hours weekends of training together. Now I am in Midland Texas….which has zero hills…the largest grade is a .2% grade incline that is known as “The Hill” but what we do have is wind. I’m talking 25-35 mile per hour wind on most of my training days so I wasn’t worried about the hills too much…hills end…the wind just keeps beating on you! Well the one part I didn’t prepare for hill wise was gravity…yea I should have seen that one coming….my bottle between my bars with all of my nutrition fell out on the first downhill….damn. So I got the pleasure of trying the Ironman perform…not bad…not great, but it got me through. The bike was comfortable most of the way I wanted to save my legs for the run…which it turns out didn’t really matter how my legs felt off the bike, little did I know they were about to take a beating. I did pass about 300 people on the bike, just keeping it at a pretty easy effort.  Legs never burned, surprised to see how many people I was passing going uphill without spiking my HR.
The Run. I figured the run would be my weapon, I had been running really well since I started incorporating the biking, most of my run training of the bike was done around noon so 100+ Fahrenheit was familiar and race day was only calling for 90 when I would start the half marathon. What I didn’t prepare for mentally or physically was the hills….those damned hills. It started off with rolling hills…that were a little larger than my definition of rolling and more than any hills in midland…then there were the 3 big ones…7-10% grade, ranging from 400-800 meters in length. I had to walk them…I’ve never walked in a race before but there was no other option…I was running up them slower than I could speed walk them. It hit me hard mentally on top of the physical.  Then came the downhill….first downhill was the begging of a very large blood blister that would continue to form. The second half I started to get into a groove, there was never a question that I would finish, but there was the thought of just walking the rest of the way…I was feeling shattered, my legs didn't know how to handle the incline and blood blisters had formed on both my feet from the decline, not to mention the beating my quads had never experienced before. Funny enough a lot of people talked about how tough the one flat section leading up to the turnaround is, it’s just flat and hot, and there is nothing around you but tumbleweeds and pump jacks….that was my favorite part! It felt like home :p
JENNA-CAER FROM MIDLAND TEXAS CONGRATULATIONS they announced as I crossed the finish line, (butchering my name but its all good). I felt such a sense of near delirious happiness that I had made it. It was a wild journey, with just over a month of training for a Half there was always the question of if I would finish…if I had stepped off I would not have been the only one that day…but I was determined. It really amazes me what your body can do if you put your mind to it and believe you can do it. This former fat kid, that never won or really competed in any sports growing up realized that there is an athlete inside her. I can’t wait to take on my next one! Next month I will do the sprint triathlon that got me thinking about this crazy sport. 
Finished in 6 hours 01 minute.

Long Run Magic

18 miles.  I've run this distance only a handful of times in the build up for the marathon.  Usually feeling broken down and exhausted by the end, starting to hunch over as my form gave in, and watching the watch closely waiting for it to hit the mark so I could stop.  Thinking about the fact there would be another 8.2 miles to make it to the marathon finish line.

That is worlds away from how I felt today.

I didn't know how I would feel after Fridays weight lifting and monster bike ride, I actually woke up this morning feeling some heaviness in my legs that has been lacking for a while.

Last week was an eye opener; I wasn't allowed to wear my heart rate monitor, and even though I was running through a hail/rain/snow storm, It was so freeing just to run, with no pace, HR or distance in mind.  This week I had a HR monitor and a ceiling, so I just set my watch to Alert me if I hit 175 bpm set it on a screen that told me nothing of importance and just ran.

The sun was out (a rarity in Scotland), I had zero expectations on pace or distance and took it nice and easy to start.  I felt so relaxed, just smiling to myself that it was a beautiful day and everything felt smooth and efficient in my body.  Its so easy to get tied up in numbers and expectations, putting more stress and pressure on yourself to perform.  While structure is needed, and you cant always run nice and easy if you want to race fast, its nice just to have that run where its all about how you feel and enjoying just being out there.

I let my body dictate this run completely.  I started out easy, in zone 1 for the first bit, built up to zone 2.  I let my effort ebb and flow, pushing a bit when it felt right and backing it off when I felt like it.  Smiling to myself as everything was feeling good, no tightness, no soreness,  I've never run this distance without feeling like something was breaking down before today.

Even better, once I got home and uploaded the data, I ran the same course I did last week, with an extra 2 miles and more hills at 7:46/mile pace, compared to 7:53 last week.  I cant believe some of the numbers I'm seeing, my Half Marathon PR was at 8:00 min pace!

I love seeing the improvements each week, but even better how good I've felt doing it.  Between training at MAF, and incorporating strength training I have a foundation that can now be built off of.  I don't remember the last time I've had an ache or pain, that I just assumed was part of running before.

Off to visit my friend the foam roller, and focus on recovery so I'm ready for some intensity next week. One thing I'm looking forward to is a Retul Bike Fit on Monday.  Time to get some free speed by fine tuning my bike fit.

Run with a smile!

Carpe Diem

Saturday, February 16, 2013

I need an outlet for all of my energy...wait..what?

This is just ridiculous.  Oh Saturday, a rest day, physically and more importantly mentally, a day to put my feet up and recover from the week, be lazy and enjoy aspects of life outside of training.  Except...I cant sit still!  

I've been bouncing around all day, my plan of sitting with my feet up and enjoy a good book didn't quite happen that way. 

Its just so counter intuitive, the more energy I expend in all this triathlon fun the more I seem to have to burn.  So I put some of that energy to good use and had a massive foam rolling session, with some dynamic stretching.  My training load is starting to go up, intensity is starting to be introduced to my schedule, and yet I have just felt fantastic.  I think the big difference has been the focus on recovery, a new commitment to foam rolling, weekly massages, nutrition and my pretty much zero stress lifestyle.  I'm exploring a new country with my amazing husband, studying to change my career to something I'm passionate about, and training for a sport that has been such a positive in my life.

A big part of that zero stress has been how I approach training now, before it was stressful if I missed a session or didn't hit mileage thinking about how I could fit in an extra session to make up the time.  Heaven forbid my Training Peaks summery said I ran 6 less miles than I planed!  My attitude has changed and instead of training being the burden to hit set targets, its play time to enjoy what my body can do.  

Play time - Thats how I feel about my sessions right now.  Last week I had a long run, the weather was crap, a mix of hail, sleet, snow and rain.  Sounds terrible, right?  I had a blast, its all about attitude and how you approach it. While it wasn't ideal, it was something so different than what I was used to in Texas, a novelty still to be running in Scotland.  One of those days where you think to yourself, I wonder if the competition just stayed cozy inside, and I just got the leg up.

Dont get me wrong I'm doing some hard work right now.  This last week was tough as training shifts from base phase to the build to Challenge Half Barcelona-Maresme.  But while these sessions in the moment I feel maxed out, just trying to make it through, I've been recovering so well.  

Yesterday I had a monster bike session, one that had me questioning if I would make it through just an hour into the 3 hour session.  Serious sweat fest that tested my resolve, I had to take in some rest minutes just to catch my breath, and I was just hanging onto the watt range.  I was shattered after that workout, it was brutal and I loved it.  Especially since yesterday started with a Swim session and strength training before the bike ride I figured I would be crawling out of bed this morning.  

Queue bounciness and energy high.  No soreness, and low fatigue.  I'm paying really close attention to how I feel, for signs of fatigue or soreness, because I can not afford another extended break for an injury.  Especially since I've see what almost a full year of uninterrupted running has yielded! I may feel a bit more tomorrow, from that lovely DOM's and all that, and my long run will depend on all systems feeling good.  

Soo another all over the place post of rambling to keep me sitting still for a while.  Think of your next session as play time, and have fun!

Carpe Diem

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Bring on the hills - Challenge Half Barcelona-Maresme

Flat, fast, on the beaches of Spain with a meet up with Macca.  Sounds like the perfect 70.3 to me!

....and then they changed the course...from completely flat to climbing 3700 ft over 56 miles!!

Original Course - Nearly pancake flat in a straight line

New course - through a couple freaking mountains....
New Course
I saw this and I have to admit I had a few first.  

I chose this course (aside from the other benefits) because it was so similar to Ironman Kalmar that I'm working towards in August.  Flat, fast, steady.  A chance to see how it feels to just hunker down in the aero bars and and put in the time with sustained power.  

Well it doesn't even resemble its former self, it now includes a 3700 ft of climbing, starting at sea level and going up too 2100ft of elevation at the peak.  Well that makes things...interesting. 100 days out from the race its time for a little mind shift.  I do understand why they did it.  Its the ETU European Championships, and last year the drafting was out of control.  

What the hell, I didn't get into this crazy world of triathlon for easy, or comfortable.  I got into this for the thrill of pushing my body beyond what I thought it was capable of, the titillation of competition and reaching new heights.

Its going to be a rough course, but hey, its not exactly a picnic for the competition either.  I've been called an adrenaline junkie and what better to get those juices flowing than a twisty windy decent among 2000 other athletes.  If I saw this course on my motorcycle I would be drooling, craving the feeling of my knee dragging along the pavement into the corners, pushing the outer limits of what my tires can hold onto.  Nothing stimulates me more than a challenge, and the more I thought about this new course the more fired up I got to get the training in so I can properly take on this course.

It helps that my biking has been improving.  After a frantic 8 weeks of having a bike and doing high intensity miles to survive Buffalo Springs 70.3, I pretty much put the bare minimum in on the bike after the race.   I used it for Sunday group rides while spending my time running building up for the Marathon.  Now I've had a chance to put in some base focussed mileage, and build a foundation that I was sorely lacking before.  Although all on the trainer, I think its going to set me up well.  

So I'm signed up, flights are booked, and I'm all in.  Training isn't 100% focussed on this race, its a B race on the path to Ironman, but I'm going to race it on the day and see what I can do.

Carpe Diem

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Functional Threshold Power Test

Well I didn't thats a good thing...

Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test is brutal.  I think it's one of the hardest things in training.  You're going to that max, place of pain without the stimulation of competition, without any accolades at the end, nothing to keep you going other than your own mental drive and internal motivation.

It sucks.

It couldn't have come at a more perfect time.  Sunday I got scared off by some high watts, its the first time I raced by wattage, I never felt race effort, but what I saw on the watch had me thinking I would explode if I went any harder.  In a race where to win I would have to lay it all on the line, I thought too much like a triathlete, saved myself for the last run when I really didn't need to.

This test proved me right, that I had a lot more to lay down out there.  When usually its races where I find my upper limits and break through what I think I can accomplish it came through an FTP test this time.  I learned that I'm capable of much higher watts than I thought, I'm also capable of a much higher HR.  It was awesome to just go as hard as I could and see what I can pull off.


The name of the game was Andrew Coggan's 20 min threshold test.  It starts with a good warm up then a 5 minute all out test, starting at my previous threshold and building to get an idea of what I can hold for the main event, 20 minutes all out.  Its not supposed to be a 20 minute sprint and crash and burn it should be fairly steady, but the max wattage you can hold for 20 minutes.

The warm up:

Legs weren't feeling their usual spark, definitely took a bit of time to loosen up

5 minute Hard:

Started at my previous threshold...and it felt easy.  I tentatively built up from there and my legs started to wake up, then started to burn.

Main event - 20 minutes Max Wattage

Oh this hurts.  I went out a bit harder than was sustainable, but not nearly as bad as last time.  3 minutes in and my legs are just burning, cant think about the next 17 minutes, just stay in the moment.  Realised my legs were all over the place, so focussed on just pumping them like pistons stop wasting energy going side to side.

This is never going to end.

14 minutes in I started wondering if I would make it, the watts were slowly creeping down, legs on fire, and for the first time I was breathing heavier than I ever had on the bike.  I'll admit there was a bit of anxiety at this point.  I'm no quitter but this was really hurting, and I felt like I couldn't get as much air as I needed.

17 minutes in I started shaking a bit, my lower lip felt like it was doing its own thing.  I just had to tell myself I can survive 3 minutes of anything (well maybe not a shark attack but I don't usually see many of those on my turbo trainer).  Not my greatest look, dripping with sweat, lower lip shaking, there may have been a bit of drool, face a blotchy red.  Who says triathlon isn't sexy?

I survived...barely.  A cool down to get my HR out of the stratosphere, just feeling totally drained, I shakily got off the bike.  I held out looking at the watts until my Garmin uploaded, just feeling destroyed.

Well that didn't last long...I looked at the Watts and....HOLY CRAP!  I went from just cooked, to bouncing around the kitchen as I fuelled up.  I had an idea of where I was and I couldn't believe my eyes while I was doing it but seeing that average just had me soaring, I improved my FTP by 12% over about 8 weeks.  I also saw that I could get my HR way higher than I thought on the bike.  Before my muscles gave out before my HR got up there, but now its right in line with my running threshold HR.

My training watts had started to feel easier, Zone 2 power was only getting me to high end zone 1 HR, so I knew things were improving.  However this much was a shock, I don't know what is a good or bad or average increase in power over 8 weeks is, but I am damned happy to see that 12%.  It feels good when you see the hard work is paying off.

I also got my wish, I went to that razor sharp edge of blowing up, and dangled over the side but managed to survive.  This just gets me all pumped up, I want to go run around now which is ridiculous after a Swim, Strength Training and FTP test.  Its amazing how progress can motive.

Carpe Diem

Monday, February 4, 2013

I just need to Blow Up

A tough weekend race made me learn something about myself...something surprising that most people that know me wouldn't say about me.  My sense of self preservation needs to be dialed back, I need to find my limits....

If you know me, you are looking incredulously at the above statement.  True I do have a history of jumping into things head first and seeing what I can pull off.  Like starting to race super sport motorcycles on the track months after I got my bike.

...Or after crashing head on into a cement wall and flying over it at over 100mph destroying my motorcycle buying a new bike and getting back on the race track (it all worked out I ended up getting my dream bike :p). Athletically I've gone into some races sooner than recommended, Half Ironman was my first triathlon.

Thats why this just perplexes me.  I cant seem to go to that redline with the bicycle.  I've had the last 3 duathlons to get familiar with the route and I've improved over the 3, but I've never gotten to that leg burning this is my limits redline.  Which is silly, I can stumble through 4k even on exhausted legs.  The first race I was in rough shape after going as hard as I could in the first run, and had no nutrition on the bike.  The second race I had a race plan to stick to and that was to stay behind the competition until the end.  This 3rd race the plan was the same but I ended up seeing the competition ride away from me.

I may not have been able to catch up, but I should have been able to push myself harder on the bike, see what I could actually do. Thats the part I love about racing is just going to that next level and removing the barriers in my head of what I'm actually capable of.  It's one thing if I were on the bike with legs burning, heart pumping, but I just never got there, it was a hard ride, but not a race hard ride.  Its the first time I've paid attention to watts in these races, and I think I got scared off by some snap shots of high watts.

Triathlon is all about balancing the 3 sports, and I think I ride with that mentality.  I'm wondering if it would be good to try a bike race, to go out and just think about the bike portion with nothing waiting at the end.  To really feel what it means to race a bicycle, instead of just the break from running or swimming in triathlon or duathlon.

Running I'm more familiar with how my body responds, I can go to that redline, and I have a good enough sense of self that I can push those barriers without exploding.  It was a tough race, I'm definitely glad for my time back in the West Texas winds, the crosswinds had me travelling about as much sideways as forward, and the only part of me that is sore today is my abs from wrestling my bike in a straight line :p

This is the good part about C races though, I learned something about myself, and got to see how I improved over the time.  I'm pretty proud to say I got 2nd female overall in the series, in my first attempts at Duathlon.  Even better I found out how much I enjoy Duathlon, its bloody tough but I love it.  This just gets me all fired up for my next race, an opportunity to take what I've learned and apply it to the next one.  I'm looking forward to a solid few weeks of training and to the race season ahead :D

 (I'm the one in the middle...too cheap to buy cold weather bike gear, so mis-matched running gear will knees were icicles!)

Carpe Diem

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Bike Porn and Racing by feel

Triathlon is a sport filled with innovation and technology, which equals lots of fun toys to play with.

I had no idea getting into this that Triathlon would be a more expensive sport than motorcycle racing, my bicycle has enough tech now that it cost more than my is that possible when it doesn't even have an engine!

I know its possible to get along without all of the extra toys, but I am such an analytical data geek that gets off on all the information available to analyse, and put into pretty charts and graphs.  Luckily Training Peaks makes it easy for me to to get my geek on, and see concrete evidence that I am improving.  

As much as I love looking at the info afterwards, I haven't really raced with data, at the end of the day I just go off of feel.  I've had intentions of watching pace, HR and now power, but in the moment it all goes out the window when I race.  Something I will need to work on when it comes to training for Ironman, but shorter races its worked pretty well...maybe shorter races isn't the way to describe a Marathon, but anything Marathon distance or less I've gone off feel.  I spot check here and there, but even in the marathon after the first few miles I stopped looking at my HR and Pace, it didn't matter what the watch said I had a pretty good idea of how much I could suffer and still make it to the end finishing strong, and my total inexperience with hills threw pace out the window.  Doing MAF training has helped me get an even better sense of self, a month of it and I could feel where my HR went over my range, I like feeling more in tune with my body.  

The bike is where the information can help me most, I don't have the same sense of what I can do on the bike yet, I'm still learning.  Thats probably the most fun of being new at something, gains come quickly as you build strength and efficiency.  

And now to the bike porn!  I was a very lucky girl and got a very nice Birthday present this year - Zipp 808's!!  And man does my bike look bad ass with them on.  I mean I feel this irrational sense of epic-ness just having them on my bike.  I know the change in wheel set wont give me an extra 5 miles an hour, but between how hard core I feel having them, and the confidence that I have an extra few percentage points of performance I may see those extra 5mph.  Its an expensive sugar pill, but I believe the placebo effect is applicable here.

 My baby started out as an entry level triathlon bike, but the last few months has been beefed up with a Quarq power meter, Zipps, dura-ace chain & cassette, dropped a few spacers in the front and now is being powered by some pretty good looking legs if I do say so myself (all this biking has sure whipped them into shape!).

And for those runners out there...Shoe Porn!  So excited to hear Newton has been picked up as Ironman sponsor.  I've been running in them pretty much since the start, and just love them.  I was glad I got into the more minimalist running shoes from the beginning, I hadn't been trained up in big heeled runners so there was no transition issues.  They just felt better to me, as a kid if I didn't absolutely have to be wearing shoes I would go without.  Summer brought my mom frustration as I would come home with scraped up feet, but let me tell ya by the end of the season my feet were impenetrable!

RACE DAY TOMORROW!  Race #3 in the Monikie Duathlon series, thats why I'm blogging, to prevent myself from burning off this energy by going and doing something dumb like a hard workout.  Sitting still has never been my strong point, but now I'm fuelled up and haven't worked out...I'm practically bouncing off the walls at this point.  So this may be even more all over the place than usual...

Carpe Diem!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Uber Motivation - The best motivational video out there

This is my favourite motivational video out there.  It has gotten me pumped up for workouts and I always watch it before races.  You have to be in that head space, that you are something special, that you are out there doing things that the competition isn't, to perform the best.  This video gets me there.

Focus...Focus...ooh whats this do?

Race this weekend and I'm thinking about....getting back to my regular training :p

I'm not always the most focussed person, I can be a little all over the place just wanting to try new things and get very excited and passionate about several things in a week...for about a week... For example, a few years ago I had a day job, typical corporate environment as a Project Manager.  It was a challenging fast paced job, paid extremely well and I enjoyed it; that seemingly should have kept me occupied.

However I was curious, what else is out there? In the span of 2 years while keeping my day job I also worked as a Motorcycle instructor, Black Jack Dealer, Concrete finisher, got my personal training certification and even dabbled in Car Electronics, while racing motorcycles on the weekend.  Money was never the objective, I would even say I was overpaid as a Project Manager, I just wanted to try new things.  They sounded like interesting jobs, and they were, not to mention the people I met along the way.

Then came running and even more so triathlon.  I got hooked and it was this lazer intensity focus on the goal at hand...well kind of.  I think triathlon works so well for me because there is a goal to work towards, but along the way there is so much to keep me interested.  From the physiology just learning how my body responds to training stress, listening to other peoples stories and experience, and so much information and theory that is ever evolving.

Then there is the racing, that entry into the "Pain Cave" where you can push yourself to the limits and have something to show for it at the end of the day, whether its a podium, or just the satisfaction of knowing that you pushed your body to a new level.  Even if you spectacularly explode in a race, you learn something new and its time well spent.

Within triathlon, I still have that all over the place feeling.  Its race day this Sunday, and I need to focus on the race.  Race 3 in the Duathlon series, 30 seconds behind the leader, need to win by that much to take the Overall female win.  It would be pretty damned cool to take the win when the first race in the series was my first Duathlon.  And get this, there is a cash prize!!  I've never won money doing this multisport gig, and sure it will probably just be enough to pay for my gas, but if I can break even on a race, thats a huge win for me!

At this point though....I can't wait to get back to training...I'm already looking forward to getting back to just training and seeing what the next few weeks have in store.  I have seen so much improvement over the last few weeks, my swim had a breakthrough, I almost want to do another torture test (aka Power Threshold test) on the bike because watts that put me in the high end of Zone 2 now are easy and I dont get above a Zone 1 HR.  Race 1 to Race 2 in the series, I was 10 watts higher and a mile an hour faster, and it felt easy (well race easy) instead of a dark place of suffering to finish like the first race!

Oh yea...focus...race this weekend.  Go kick some ass, and then I can go back to the training I love.

Carpe Diem