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Now that I got that last part of the race report out of the way, the off season is beginning!  I had originally planned to start at the beginning of September, but this month has been insane with work and school and lots of travel, so I pushed it back a few weeks.

The Starting Point

After two solid months of eating like crap and not training, I feel like total garbage.  I am WAY beyond my “oh shit” weight, and into “WTF?” territory.  The main cause of this has been the past month.  With all the travel I’ve been doing for school, I’ve barely been home, and have basically had no groceries for the last month.  Because of this, I’ve been scrounging and eating whatever I can find in my cupboard/fridge, which usually results in breakfast, lunch, and dinner consisting of eating peanut butter off a spoon.

Not healthy.

Also, the current class that I’m taking is a field class.  That means an entire semester of field trips and work is crammed into the month of September, because after that, the weather is a crap shoot.  So aside from eating like crap, I’ve had virtually no time to do anything outside of work and school.  No training.  Nothing.  Nada.

Put those two together, and I am generally feeling cruddy.  I still look perfectly fine on the surface.  But I don’t feel that way.  But that ends starting now.

The Plan

Once my field class ends after this coming week, my schedule gets much more flexible.  Tuesdays and Thursdays are still a hot mess, but the rest of the week is pretty good.  The plan is to swim, bike, and run a couple times a week, while getting in a few decent strength sessions too.  I don’t want to try to do too much, because that’s when things fall apart.  So I’m planning on doing short, quality sessions for the swim/bike/run workouts, with a couple longer sessions on the weekends.

Other important things are staying on top of my groceries, and bringing lunch to school/work every day.  Whenever I don’t, I end up so starving by the end of the day, that I come home and inhale everything in my kitchen.  But with a little bit of planning ahead, I don’t have that problem.

The Goals

I have a few goals for this off season.

  1. Lose the excess weight.  I’m sick of it.
  2. Improve strength and flexibility through weightlifting and yoga.
  3. Make some good power gains on the bike through HIIT workouts.
  4. Improve my swimming technique and pace through focused workouts.  My swims are always so unfocused.
  5. Be consistent in writing at least a weekly post on here.  I haven’t written much in the past year or so, and I miss it!

So that’s that for now.  Time to prep my lunch for tomorrow, and head to bed!

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This past weekend was the Boulder 70.3, which I was really looking forward to – even with mixed feelings (nervous about contact and choppy waters on the swim, and not sure if my foot would hold up).

On Friday afternoon, I biked up to the Boulder Reservoir (“The Res” for us lazy locals) for athlete check in.  The whole process was super fast and smooth, and within just a few minutes, I was all tagged and ready to go.

As I was wandering out of the Ironman Village area, I glanced to my left and saw some familiar faces hanging out and doing autographs and pictures.

rinnyReigning Ironman World Champion, Mirinda Carfrae (Rinny), and Tim O’Donnell – two AMAZING triathletes

Well, that was cool!

On Saturday, I headed over to the Res and checked in my bike (they now have a mandatory bike check on the day before to the race).  Everything was quick and easy, and I was even surprised that the traffic and parking at the Res wasn’t that bad.

Sunday dawned bright and early at 4am.  Fortunately, I live right by the race venue, so I didn’t have any crazy travel time.  It was actually a rather relaxed morning!

I headed out to the Res at 4:45am, and by 5:15, I was through the traffic, parked, and getting my things organized in the transition area.  The first thing to do was pump up my tires, since you always make sure to let the air out when you have to rack it the day before (sitting out in the sun all day can overheat your tires and cause a blowout – not good).  As soon as my tires were pumped up, I stashed the pump back in my car and headed back into the transition area.

On my way back into transition, I found a tri club friend who was doing body marking.  She wrote all over me (and only now, several days later, is it almost gone – that was some magic sharpie!), and then I headed back to the rack to finish sorting out my space.

In transition, I found a few friends from my tri club (including one who was racked right next to me), and chatted with some of the women in my age group.  This race had our bib numbers organized by age group, so all the 30-35 women were racked together.  Some people didn’t like that (theoretically, this could cause crowding in the transition area since we were starting the swim with our age groups), but I didn’t notice a problem.  Plus, these ladies were super nice, and great company during a chilly pre-race morning.

I laid down my small towel (NOT a full size towel – don’t be that guy), on top of which go:

  • Bike gear (in the front half of the towel)
    • A small throwaway squeeze-type water bottle (to wash the sand and gunk off my feet before putting on my shoes)
    • Bike shoes and socks
    • Sunglasses
    • Jersey/tri top
    • Spray sunscreen
  • Run gear (in the back half of the towel)
    • Running shoes
    • Hat
    • Belt with bib number already attached
    • Handheld water bottle with run nutrition in the pocket
  • On my bike went:
    • Bike garmin
    • Helmet
    • All nutrition

For the swim, I was wearing my tri shorts, heart rate monitor, sports bra, and bia watch (my review here).  Plus the obvious wetsuit, goggles, and swim cap.

After laying out my transition area, I stalled as long as possible before having to ditch the jacket and flip flops at the tri club tent – it was chilly out!  But once the sun really started to come out, things got much better.  And by the end of the day, we would all be wishing for those cool temperatures again.

I wandered down to the beach with my tri club friend who was racked next to me.  We had quite a long wait until it was our turn to start.  The pros were starting just after 7am, and our wave wasn’t until 8:05.

We ended up hanging out on the beach and watching the waves go before us, and before we knew it, it was almost our turn.  The few of us who had been chatting headed over and joined in with the other silver-capped swimmers just a few feet from the start line.

Oh shit, now I was really nervous.

I should mention that I haven’t done much swimming during this round of training.  It’s always the first thing to go when things get busy and you’re trying to squeeze things in.  Plus, the last race-setting open water swim I had done was Ironman Lake Placid, where I was miserable and getting beat up the entire time.  PLUS, on top of that, the day before this race, I had gone for a “nice little open water practice” at a local reservoir, and it had been HORRIBLE.  It was super choppy, and everyone was having a terrible time fighting the chop.

So now I was panicking a bit.

I could see that the water was calm, so that was fine, thank goodness.  But I still was really nervous about contact on the swim.  When you’re just watching from the shore, you can’t see the free-for-all that can be an open water swim.  People get punched, kicked, and smacked all over.  I have been kicked and punched in the face and chest while swimming on more than one occasion, and let me tell you, it’s not fun.

While we were all standing around waiting for our turn, we were chatting a bit.  Turns out, the women in my age group are AWESOME.  Everyone was so nice and sweet.  And all everybody wanted to do was get in the water, do their thing, and not get beat to crap.  There were plenty of us saying “if you don’t hit me, I won’t hit you, buddy!”  So it was good to know that I would hopefully be surrounded by like-minded individuals.

The 30-35 men went off.

Oh shit.  Now it’s our turn.  Shit shit shit.  I don’t want to get punched in the face.  Ahhhhhhh!

We shuffled into the water, about waist/chest deep, and waited.  There was a five minute gap between each wave.  People (myself included) were bouncing around, talking, laughing, and “dancing” to the music.  (I was mostly doing this to distract myself, and not let others know how much I was freaking out.)

I positioned myself in the back of the group, to give myself even more of a chance to not get caught up with anyone who was going to beat me up in the water.

The gun went off.

Oh crap.  Here we go.  Just stop thinking and start swimming.  It will be fine.

The Swim

For all my worrying, this swim was fantastic.  I have never had a better, or more contact-free swim in a race.  And I think that had everything to do with the age group wave start.  So, thank you, 30-35 women.  You are a pleasure to swim with.

One of the annoying things about swimming at the Res is how murky the water is.  I had heard about this ahead of time, so it wasn’t a surprise, but I was still amazed at how little I could really see.  I could barely see my own fingertips when they were stretched out in front of me.  Where this could become a problem is that you can’t see the feet of a person who is swimming ahead of you.  So to prevent face kicks, you have to keep an eye out for people as you are sighting for the buoys.  It took me a couple minutes to get used to this, but as soon as I did, things opened right up, and I had pretty much clear water the whole way.  There were a handful of accidental body bumps along the way, but nothing that was problematic.

We swam out from the shore for quite a way, then made a right to do the top end of the upside-down triangle that was the swim course.  On this second leg of the swim, I noticed a couple hot pink swim caps creeping up on me.  These were the fast people from the wave behind me (women, 25-29 – those young whippersnappers – before the start, our wave had been joking about forming a human wall to block them on the swim).  But no major problems here.  At this point, we were spread out enough that they could navigate through us slower folk.

After what felt like an eternity, we made another right turn and started heading back to the shore.

Oh my god, this leg of the swim took forever.  I think I was just getting tired, but WOW did it feel long.

I kept wondering when that stupid arch would look any bigger.  Plus, I was starting to get a bit toasty in my full wetsuit.  The water was warm enough (high 60’s) that I could have managed just fine with a sleeveless.

Just keep swimming… just keep swimming…

FINALLY, I put my feet down and felt the bottom.  Hooray!

I’m always a little dizzy and lightheaded after a long swim, so I took my time standing up and walking out of the water.  I felt like it took a bit longer than normal for me to get my bearings back, which I’m guessing has to do something with the altitude (even when you live here, you can still get a bit oxygen-deprived on the swim).  Or it could just be a lack of swim conditioning.  Also highly likely.

I crossed the timing mat, stopped my watch, and made my way to the transition area.

Swim time: 45:17 (Just a couple minutes slower than I had hoped, but I’ll take it, given my nerves and lack of swim training.)

T1

After walking off the dizziness, I jogged down the bike racks, found my spot, stripped off the wetsuit, and got to work cleaning off my feet.

Shoes and socks go on, jersey on, helmet on, sunglasses on.  (Always put your helmet on before unracking your bike – you can get DQ’d if you don’t.)

Good to go!

I took my bike off the rack and jogged to the mount line.

Transition time: 5:51 (Not bad.  Could be faster.)

The Bike

I made my way out of the Res and onto the bike course.  The first several miles of the course are a long, gradual, nearly imperceptible uphill.  This, combined with the fact that it’s the start of the bike and I don’t yet have my bike legs going, is so frustrating.  I felt like I was working so hard, and going nowhere.

In addition to that, due to the age group wave start, I was constantly being passed by the fast people from the waves behind me, which is incredibly demoralizing.  The wave starts were wonderful for the swim.  Less so for the bike.  But after 20-25 miles, people were mostly settled in with riders of similar speeds, and that stopped.

We made our way up Route 36 and north out of Boulder.  This part of the course is really beautiful as you ride right along the edge of the foothills.  There are some decent-sized hills that aren’t quite rollers, and aren’t quite climbs.  They’re just enough to make you work hard.  But they’re over in a minute or two.  I’ve ridden this part of the course many times with my tri club, so I felt very comfortable on it, and just kept chugging along.

Eventually, we made a right onto Route 66.  Once you get to this part of the course, things flatten out and you can really start to get some speed.  I actually averaged 16.3 mph for the first hour (which included all of that long gradual climb, and just a little bit on 66), which I was happy to see.  16.3 is still slow for many people, but it’s improvement for me!  In previous years, I always seemed stuck at 15 mph, so I’m very happy to see those numbers creeping up (albeit slowly) now.

The next hour of the course was the fastest section.  It’s mostly flat, with some rollers, and just a couple steep (but very short) climbs.  I was feeling good, and picked up the pace a bit.  For the second hour, I averaged 17.2 mph.  I was starting to get excited now.

The third hour of the bike, I was unfamiliar with the course, and didn’t know what to expect.  All the times I’ve been out to ride, I’ve ridden the course for the full.  The courses are the same for the first 30 miles or so, but then the split.  I was anticipating that this last part of the course would be mostly flat with some rollers, and a fast ride back to the Res.

I was wrong.

There were a LOT of long, gradual (but somewhat steep) climbs in this section!  I was getting frustrated, because I had been excited and getting my hopes up to keep my average speed around 17mph, and now I knew that wasn’t going to happen.  But then, I realized that I was still averaging more than 16mph, which is what I was originally estimating, so I couldn’t really complain.  For the third hour, I averaged 16.3 mph

Eventually, we turned right back onto Diagonal Highway, and we were nearly done.  We rode our way back into the Res and to the dismount line.  I got off my bike feeling good, and very happy with how the ride went.

Bike time: 3:23:01 (16.55 mph average)

T2

T2 was a quick change.  Rack the bike, helmet off, shoes off, jersey off.

Running shoes on, tri top on (it was getting hot and I was desperate for a sleeveless), hat and sunglasses on, race belt on, grab water bottle, and GO.

Transition time: 4:52

The Run

Heading out of the transition area for the run, I had absolutely NO idea what to expect.  My foot had been painful on only a two mile run just a few days earlier, so I wasn’t expecting anything good.  I was fully prepared to stop running and accept the DNF the minute my foot started hurting.  This race was not my A race for the season, and it just wasn’t worth risking the Ironman – which was only 7 weeks away.

I started running out of the Res and made the right onto the dirt road that goes around the lake.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it very far before I started to notice some tightening in my foot.  This was not a good sign.  I was only two miles in, and had 11 to go.  I wasn’t in pain, but I knew that I would be long before I finished the entire run.

The question was, was it worth it?

I stopped on the side of the road for a minute and thought about my options.

  1. Keep running and finish the whole thing, regardless.
  2. Keep running, finish this loop (it’s a two loop run course, so each loop is 6.55 miles), and see what happens.
  3. Stop running, and walk the rest.
  4. Stop running now, accept the DNF, and don’t do any more damage.

I ended up picking door #4.

I know I could have run further that day, but I really had no idea how much further.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to do the whole 13.1 miles, so finishing the run wasn’t going to happen anyway.  I figured it was smarter of me to stop at 2 miles before my foot started to get painful (at this point it was just getting a little tight, but that’s how it starts), and avoid any further damage.  I may have been able to make it through the whole first loop, but even that was questionable.

As I was standing there on the side of the road, the roving medic came by and asked if I needed anything.  I told him I just had an ongoing foot injury and wasn’t going to be finishing the run today.  So he took my timing chip, and I slowly walked back along the course, cheering as I went.

It was a bummer to DNF, but I know it was the right choice.  I really didn’t want to make my foot worse and not be able to race Ironman Boulder in a few weeks.  So even though having a DNF sucks, in this case, it’s better than the alternative.

Somehow, the year is flying by, and we’re already only one week out from Ironman 70.3 Boulder.  When did that happen???

It’s been a tough couple months trying to get training in, but I’ve been doing alright.  As usual, not as well as I had originally hoped, but my conditioning is pretty decent, and somehow I seem to be getting faster (thank you, living at altitude!), so that’s good.

Going into the 70.3 this coming weekend, my goals are pretty much the same as usual:

  1. Have fun and enjoy the day.
  2. Give it my best effort.
  3. PR if possible – given my recent biking and running paces, I should be able to do this if nothing unexpected happens.

Ideally, I’m expecting something like:

  • Swim: 42-43 minutes (I might be a bit slower on this one since I haven’t swam much.)
  • T1: 5 minutes
  • Bike: 3:30 (16 mph average)
  • T2: 5 minutes
  • Run: 2:04 (9:30/mi average)
  • Total time: 6:27:00

So we’ll see what happens.  The foot has been doing much better, but it’s still a question mark on anything longer than a few miles.  I’ve been trying to take it easy and give it a chance to rest and let the irritation go away.  So far, so good.  I’ve been able to run 3 miles with no pain during or after, so that’s progress.  I’m hoping to get in a couple 6 mile runs this week to get a better sense of how things are going with the recovery.

This weekend I got to do my first open water swim of the season, and it went surprisingly well.  The first OWS is usually a bit bumpy and there are usually a bit of early season jitters.  But this time I felt great.  I never got jittery, and actually had a really nice time in the water.  My swim conditioning could use a bit of work between now and the full in August, but I should be fine for this coming weekend.  And I have a few more OWS practices coming up this week to make sure I’m comfortable and ready to go.

One thing that’s been really great is riding with people from my tri club.  There’s a fantastic group that goes out for a weekly no-drop ride, and I’ve been loving riding with them.  We had a great 59 mile ride after our OWS on Saturday.  It’s fun to ride with them because it’s a low stress group that still pushes me a bit, so I’m improving quite a lot every time I ride with them.  Plus, it’s a great way to meet new people, since I’m still pretty new to the area.

Another awesome thing about Boulder – so many group workouts and races to choose from!  I now have SIX different OWS chances throughout the week, plus the weekly Stroke and Stride series, and multiple weekly tri club rides and runs.  It’s fantastic!

Anyway, it’s late, and I need to get some sleep.  Lots to do tomorrow!

Missed part 1?  Read it here!

The day has dawned and a few thousand Ironman hopefuls are crammed in to the swim start area.  All I can see in every direction are wetsuits, swim caps, and anxious/excited faces hidden behind goggles.  Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman, pauses for a moment, and then

BOOM!

The third and final cannon sounds.  The age grouper race is starting.

The Swim

Check out this great video of the swim start here.  The age grouper cannon goes off around 5 minutes in.

After the cannon fired, we continued to stand there for a bit.  Then the mass of people started slowly shuffling forward.  We inched closer and closer to the starting arch, and after a few minutes, I could see the timing mat and the water was in front of me.  From my quick glance at the clock on the building nearby, it was 6:42am.  That meant I would have until 11:42pm to finish.  Very important mental note.

I stepped over the timing mat and into the water.  I could see the wide line of swimmers stretching out in front of me, and there were still a ton left standing behind me.  It was a big group.  A few steps into the water and it was time to swim.

This swim was BRUTAL.  Absolutely brutal.  Worst I’ve ever had in terms of contact.  Right from the start, there were people crammed in around me.  I kept getting grabbed, smacked, banged into – you name it.  At one point I got kicked in the chest.  There was just NO open space to be had.

Now, in hindsight, 1:20 is a very common swim time, and it would probably have been better to seed myself further back where there were less people.  I would take swimming past someone who was slower than me over dealing with this crap any day.

The swim course goes straight out from the beach – 9 buoys down, and 9 buoys back – then rinse and repeat.  Before I even got halfway out to the turnaround on the very first lap, I wanted to quit.  I had had enough of this contact bullshit, and my nerves were shot.  It’s very stressful being in the water with a ton of people who want to pull you under and swim over the top of you.  My automatic defense mechanism is whenever I feel someone grabbing my legs, I kick – HARD.  Sometimes it was just a little accidental brush of a hand.  No big deal.  Other times it was a straight up GRAB on your leg.  That’s the start of someone trying to pull you under.  That’s when I start kicking like a crazy person.  If someone grabs my leg, and I kick them in the face, maybe they shouldn’t have grabbed me and tried to pull me under.  Assholes.  Swim around me.  There’s space.

Clearly, I have no patience for this bullshit.  At one point, I pulled my head out of the water and yelled “GET THE F&*$ OFF OF ME!!!” to some jerk who wouldn’t stop.  They stopped after that, so I win.

Initially, I tried to stay close to the buoys, which was part of the contact issue.  Everyone else was trying to stay close to them too.  Many people like to do this for Lake Placid because there’s a bright yellow cable that runs the whole length of the swim buoys (it’s what they’re anchored to), and it’s easy to see.  If you can get on the cable, you have absolutely no need to sight.  You KNOW you’re going perfectly straight down the buoy line.  One thing about this that I found highly amusing was that you could tell who was doing this (not looking up out of the water at all), because every time they got to a buoy, they swam straight into it.  It cracked me up every time.

Eventually, I swung a bit wide and got away from the cable line, and some of the jerks.  Things started to open up a bit, but it didn’t last long.  I would have a few minutes of calm where I would get in a zone, and then all of a sudden it was like a swarm of douchenozzles coming to pull me under again.  I couldn’t understand it.  It happened for the ENTIRE swim.

After 22 minutes or so, we made the turn to head back in toward the beach.  By now, it had started to rain.  It was barely noticeable if you were swimming, but I felt bad for all the spectators.  As I got closer to the shore, I started to hear snippets of crowds cheering, music blaring, and the ever-present Mike Reilly.  It was a weird mixture of silence/bubbles/water and then one second of horns blaring and “YAY!!!  ANNNND HERE’S SO AND SO!” and then back to silence and bubbles.

43 minutes after entering the water, I made it back in to the beach.  I stumbled out of the water (I’m always a little disoriented and off balance coming out of the water), ran across the timing mat, and went back under the arch to start lap #2.  As I was on the beach, I heard Mike Reilly announce the first female pro coming out of the water.  It’s amazing to think that she did two laps in a just a hair more than the time I did one.

Before starting lap #2, I paused for a second to gather myself.  All throughout the first lap of the swim, I had thought about getting back to shore and packing it in.  I had had enough of all the contact, and really didn’t want to do another lap.  But I told myself I had to at least start it.  So I dove back in.

The second loop was slightly better than the first.  There was still just as much contact, but at least this time I knew I was done swimming after this.  I was so angry and worked up that I had gotten to the point where if someone grabbed me, I would just SHOVE them away from me as hard as I possibly could.

Lap #2 went much the same as the first.  Lots of contact and shoving, lots of frustration, and a few moments where I found my groove.  Eventually, I was coming in to shore for the second time.  It seemed like a lot of people were coming in around me, and it was a mob scene in the last couple yards to get to the beach.  There was a lot of grabbing and banging into people, and I was just happy to eventually put my feet on the bottom and find solid ground.

I came out of the water 1:31:57 after entering it for the first time.  My overall swim time was a few minutes slower than I had hoped for, but considering I had barely swam in my training, and the physicality of the swim, I was happy with my time.

T1 (Swim to Bike)

I crossed the timing mat and unzipped my wetsuit.  The first wetsuit stripper was free, so I went up to him.  We struggled for a few seconds to get my arms out, but he worked his magic quick enough, and then it was time to jog to the oval and get on the bike.

Running right after coming out of the water is always tough for me.  I’m always dizzy and lightheaded and it takes a couple minutes for me to get my land legs back.  Running through the chute to the oval was a really neat experience because it was just so jam PACKED with cheering spectators.  You really feel like some big shot running through it – even little nobody me.  I tried to keep my eye out for my support crew, and I did manage to catch them on the way down the hill into the transition area.  I yelled out a feeble “yay!  I didn’t drown!” and kept on going.

I entered the oval and was directed through the gear bag racks.  I grabbed my T1 bag, and went into the changing tent.

The changing tent was packed!  I was still reasonably in with the crowd, so that was exciting.  I managed to work my way around the outside of the tent and found an empty chair, where I promptly dumped my stuff.  Volunteers were everywhere, ready to help with whatever you needed.  They were awesome.  Boobs and butts were flying in their faces everywhere, and they didn’t bat an eye.  I stripped down, toweled off, put on my bike gear, and chugged some water.  Then it was time to throw everything into my bag, which I handed off to one of the excellent volunteers (they return it to your rack for you).

I ran out of the changing tent and down the row of bikes.  There were still a decent amount of bikes left on the racks – not a ton, but more than I’m used to seeing.  Volunteers were waiting in each row, with others yelling upcoming bib numbers over a megaphone.  When a number was called, a volunteer would run down their rack, grab the bike, and have it ready and waiting when that athlete got to them.  It was quite the efficient machine.

I grabbed my bike from my volunteer, and rolled out of transition with quite a crowd.  You’re not allowed to mount your bike until you get past the mount line, which is marked on the pavement outside of the transition area (this prevents people from riding in the crowded transition area and causing accidents).  A whole mess of us got backed up for a few seconds waiting for those ahead of us to mount their bikes and be on their way.  But it didn’t take too long.  I crossed the timing mat exiting the transition area, and mounted my bike, ready to see what would happen next.

Transition time = 12:42 (slow, but this also includes a 1/4 mile run from the beach to the oval)

To be continued…

So it’s been seven and a half months since Beach 2 Battleship, and since then I’ve written all of three or four blog posts.  None of them have been very interesting or worth reading, really.  I didn’t write much for a number of reasons.  One was that after B2B, I didn’t do much training.  I mostly spent my time with my friends (which was great), or eating and watching TV (which was less great).  I felt so horribly gross and guilty, and I didn’t want to acknowledge that.  Whenever I don’t work out regularly, I feel so guilty and like a failure.  It eats away at me, and creates this downward spiral into frustration and self-loathing.

Sounds super fun.

The other thing that kept me from writing much was the divorce.  Ultimately, I was the one who made the decision, and I know it was the right decision.  But I was afraid to write much because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  I know there are people out there who read this who may be upset if I had been writing something about being happy and spending time with friends, or eventually beginning to date again.  In relationships, I am always afraid of hurting someone’s feelings.  And this was no exception.  But starting now, I am going to stop censoring myself.  If my social life is not something you wish to know about, stop reading now.

So I am just over seven weeks away from Ironman Lake Placid, and I’m feeling slightly more optimistic about things.  Since my last post, I have biked the course (just one loop so far), and managed the hills much better than I thought I would.  I averaged 13.97 mph, which gives me some – not a ton – of breathing room for the first bike cutoff.  And I’m sure I can improve a bit still before the race.  I also did my 16 mile run yesterday and felt pretty good for most of that too.  My knees and ankles got a little stiff here and there, but they worked themselves back out as long as I kept moving.

Last week I went to my tri club’s first open water swim practice of the year.  Uugh.  I felt like crap.  I have been neglecting the swim, and it showed.  I know I’ll be okay on race day, but that was one crappy OWS.  I think part of it was the typical “first OWS of the year” nerves, and then on top of that, I was getting very dizzy.  I didn’t know what that was about until later.  But then I learned that’s pretty common when swimming in cold water without earplugs.  So next time I’ll try those.

So what’s next?

Next week I’ve got a 75 mile bike (hopefully), and an 18 mile run.  Hopefully I’ll get to OWS practice and things will be better with the earplugs.  I still have a few weeks to make some improvements, and I’m feeling more and more like that might actually be possible.  So that’s good.

It’s been quite a while since I posted, but I’m still here!  I decided to take a bit of a break from the blogging for a few months and just live my life.  It’s been good, but tough to get back into a regular training routine.  I always have this problem when I take time off, and then have to get back on a schedule and routine.

This weekend I gave myself a little pep talk, and sat down a figured out my training schedule for the week.  I always have trouble training during the spring semester for some reason.  Especially now with lots of double workout days, and needing to squeeze in an AM workout as well, rather than just an evening run.

This morning I got up early and got myself over to the pool before work.  I had a great swim – a speed workout:

  • Warmup: 400 continuous
  • Main set: 8 x 100 (25 easy, 25 build, 25 easy, 25 hard)
  • Cool down: 6 x 25 (every other 25 as backstroke)

I felt good in the water.  It was nice to feel myself gliding down the lane and getting in the zone.  I feel like my swimming has come a long way from where it was a few years ago when I struggled to swim more than one lap at a time without needing to catch my breath.

In the afternoon, I got changed and headed out for a 45 minute run around town.  Normally I hate short runs because I feel like crap the whole time and I’m just miserable and uncomfortable.  But today was absolutely beautiful – warm, sunny, and springlike – and I was enjoying it so much that I was able to get past the discomfort and really enjoy myself.  I ended up running 4.75 miles in 46 minutes, which was a 9:41 pace.  I was happy to see that despite my long hiatus, I’m still comfortably running sub-10’s.

Tomorrow is a lighter day – just an hour on the trainer.  For now, it’s time to relax and enjoy the evening.

Today I completed my first half iron distance race, the Half Vermont Journey, a part of the Vermont Sun Tri series.  I really enjoyed it and had a nice day.  They put on a great, very organized race and I would definitely do another.

At first I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it to the race today.  This past week has been the worst week of my life (literally), for reasons I don’t feel like delving into right now.  But at this point, I was emotionally exhausted and very beat down.  I didn’t know if I had it in me to wake up at 3:30 am, drive myself two hours (I was going by myself), race for 7 – 7.5 hours, and then drive myself another 2 hours home.  Just the thought of it was overwhelming.  But as I was wallowing in self pity, the great ladies on the health and fitness forum I frequent encouraged me to go and fight, and I’m so glad I did.

I woke up at 3:28 am, just two minutes before my alarm was set to go off.  So I took that as a good sign.  Dragging myself out of bed after only about two hours of sleep was sooooo difficult, but I kept telling myself I would feel much better once I got into the shower and woke up a bit.  And I did.

After getting ready, taking care of the dogs (who were very confused as to why I was disturbing their slumber), and having my chocolate peanut butter green monster for breakfast, it was time to load up the car and head out.  I hit the road by 5 am and headed up to Branbury State Park in Vermont.

I loved driving  through the rolling hills with the fog and the sunrise.  The whole thing was just beautiful.  Eventually, I pulled into the park at 6:45 am (I made good time!), where I was informed by the woman checking names at the park entrance that I was “nuts” for doing a half ironman (all in good fun).

Probably.  But aren’t we all?

I parked about 30 feet from the start/finish/transition area (one of the perks of doing a small race), checked in, and started unloading my stuff.  Since I was so early (The half iron started at 8:45 am, but there was also a sprint starting at 7 am.), the bike rack that I was supposed to be on was completely empty (score!), so I grabbed the prime end spot and started setting up my transition area.  This was my first race with Roo, and I got quite a lot of compliments on him as people were milling around and setting up.  He is a snazzy boy.

Ready to go!  (Well, except for pulling out my wetsuit – in the green bag.)

Once the sprint group set off on their swim, I got my wetsuit on and got in the water to warm up a bit.  It was an absolutely spectacular day.  The sun was shining, the water was like glass, and the scenery was beautiful.  It was supposed to get quite hot (mid to high 80s) by the afternoon, but in the morning, it was just perfect.

Can’t ask for a better day than this!

I chatted with two other halfers who were nearby, which was quite nice since I was by myself.  We were all back-of-the-packers, and tended to hang back on the swim start, so we milled about the start together.

At 8:45 am, we were off.  For the sprint, they started everyone in waves.  But since we were such a small group, we did a mass start on the beach.

For the swim, we swam straight out (maybe 300 feet) to the start of the buoy line, and then turned left (keeping the buoys to our left) and swam parallel to shore.  All the way down the buoy line, turn around and come all the way back, then turn around and go alllllll the way back down, turn around, come about halfway back, and then pop out onto the beach (basically 1.5 loops in a big long oval).

Normally it takes me a while to get into my groove on the swim, but today I felt awesome almost immediately!  I tried to hang back and get some space, but somehow I found myself in the thick of things pretty quickly after we turned to get onto the buoy line.  I was on feet almost the entire time, so I got a little boost from the drafting, which was nice.  I’ve never done that before.  At one point, about halfway through the last time down the whole line of buoys, I ended up in a pack of 7 or 8 people and actually had some contact.  This was actually kind of exciting.  I’m usually off the back in the swim, just doing my thing.  But today I felt like I was really doing well because I was actually up in the pack!  This was the perfect chance to swim in a pack and get my first contact in the water.  I didn’t panic at all because I knew this was a small group of people, and I didn’t have a massive crowd around me.  The water was SUPER shallow (I could stand with my head above water when I was only a few feet from the buoy line), and it was a calm and crystal clear day, so sighting was easy.  So bring it, bitches.

I ended up getting punched in the face just as we rounded the buoy to turn into shore.  There were also people just off my feet most of the way who kept grabbing my legs.  I may have kicked them a bit.  (Honestly, I’m not sure.)  But it was a good time for me to get used to it.

I came out of the water feeling great.  A little tired, but overall, very happy with my swim.  I didn’t see any clock as I came out, so at this point I had no idea what my split was for the 1.2 mile swim course.  I later figured out that my swim + T1 time (combined) was about 47 minutes.  So I’m guessing my swim time was around 42 minutes.  Not too shabby!

I ran into T1, stripped my wetsuit (with a bit of trouble today, but not bad), cap and goggles off (they had leaked a bit on the swim, so I was very happy to take those suckers off), bike jersey on, socks and shoes on, helmet and sunglasses on, watch on (I didn’t use my Garmin today.  It’s been having battery issues and didn’t want to worry about it.  So it’s a cheapo Timex for me!  I was surprised that I actually kind of enjoyed not having much data to focus on.  It was simpler.), unrack bike and go!

The bike course was a lot hillier than it seemed at first.  It was a 14 mile loop around the lake that we had to do four times.  That was my only complaint with this race.  Four loops got a bit boring.  I wish they would change the course back to the two loop format they (apparently) used to use.  There were a lot of rolling hills, and a few more significant hills – including the one around mile 11 of the loop.  It sucked knowing that you had to do that thing four times.  But I stuck with it and ended up feeling great on the bike!  Starting on my third loop, the leaders started lapping me, which was a bit disheartening, but considering they were winning, that’s fine by me.  I knew about where I was in the pack, and it was nowhere near the front.

I used the same nutrition plan as I tested out on my long ride last week and it seemed to work really well.  I didn’t feel worn down at all during the bike, and nothing out of the ordinary on the run either.  The bigger hills were a bit tough, but I managed to drag my butt and Roo up them.

I pulled into the transition area at 4:17:xx, making my bike time 3.5 hours.  That means I averaged 16 mph on a very hilly course!  I was thrilled.

T2 was quick – rack bike, helmet off, hat on, change shoes, change shirt (got to represent my fellow NMAs!), grab water bottle, and go.

The run course was an out-and-back, with 8 of the 13.1 miles being on the same roads as the bike, so the area was already very familiar.  Going out onto the run course, it’s straight into an uphill, which stunk a bit, but I just chugged along and came up with a plan.  My plan starting the run was to walk the big uphills to save my legs, and if there was no significant uphill, I would walk for two minutes every time I got to a mile marker to give my legs a bit of a rest.

For the first few miles, this plan worked very well.  I managed 10:00 miles for the first few miles, but then the hills started winning the battle.  That run course is hilly!  Also, about 3.5 miles into the run, I started to pick up on a very unnerving sensation – chafing.  In some very unpleasant places.  Dun dun dunnnnnnnnnnnn.  At mile 4, where the run course leaves the bike course and heads off on a dirt road, there was an aid station.  Fortunately, the aid stations were stocked with big tubs of vaseline, so I made good use of that.  The poor guys working the aid station were so nice when I started shoving my hand down my pants to apply it, and saying “I am SUCH a LADY.”  No worries.  All boundaries and bodily functions are fair game in endurance events.  Nobody bats an eye or thinks twice about it.

The dirt road out to the turnaround point at 6.55 miles was hilly.  I ran where it was flat or downhill, but spent a good deal of time walking (quickly).  The hills combined with the chafing were making it uncomfortable, so I just ran when I could, and walked when I needed to.

Eventually, I made it to the turnaround point 6.55 miles into the run.  It was exciting because things usually feel much shorter coming back – but no, not this time.  Somehow, most of the 2.55 miles back to the end of the dirt road were uphill.  Did the topography change between coming out and going back???  How did that happen???

I re-vaselined at another aid station around mile 7 (and probably scared the poor high school soccer team girls who were working it), and chugged along, slowly.

At this point, I started doing the math to get a sense of when I was going to finish, and I was shocked.  I could still finish under 7 hours.  I thought I would be between 7 and 7.5 hours on a good day!  Not under 7!  And the possibility of being sub-7 was including all the walking I was doing.  That was awesome!

I pushed on, and ran/waddled (ow chafing) whenever I could, and walked the uphills.  But at this point, I was trying to incorporate more running to make damn sure I got in under the 7 hour mark.  Now that I knew it was possible, I was going to be pissed if I didn’t make it.

I ticked off the miles, and told myself I had to run it all the way in from mile 12 without stopping.  At mile 12, I tapped the sign, got a little emotional, and ran it all the way in feeling very strong (and chafed).  I would have loved to have my Garmin just for this last mile, because I imagine it was around a 9:00/mile pace.  And I would love to know if that’s right.

I turned into the park entrance, ran past the cars at the gate, rounded the bend in the road, and saw the finish line.  The clock said 6:44:xx.  BOOYA!

I ended up crossing the finish line as the clocked ticked over to 6:45:04.  I was absolutely thrilled.  That made my run + T2 time 2:28:xx.  Assuming I spent about 2 minutes in T2, that gives me a half marathon time of 2:26, which is an 11:08/mile pace – way faster than I thought I was going.  I must have been booking when I was actually running.

After crossing the finish line, I was then immediately bummed that I didn’t get a finishers medal.  I did, however, get a souvenir pint glass (Very nice, and more useful!).  BUT, shortly after I finished, they started doing the awards ceremony.  Considering this was such a small race (only 53 people), almost everyone ended up with a medal anyway – INCLUDING ME.

Hooray!

I ended up getting third in my age group!  Granted, I think there were only 3 of us, but I’ll take it!  I podiumed, dammit!  I probably never will again, so I have to take what I can get.

Overall, I was ecstatic with how today went.  I beat all my expectations for each of the legs, as well as overall.  I couldn’t have asked for a better day – well, maybe with less chafing.

I used today as a test run for my full iron coming up in less than two months (aack!).  The general rule of thumb for predicting your full iron time is to take your half iron time, double it, and add an hour.  So that gives me an estimated full iron time of 14:30 – which would be absolutely fantastic.  We’ll see!

I will definitely do another VT Sun tri.  They put on a great race.  I would like to do their half iron again, but not next year – I already have races planned around the same time as this one, but perhaps the year after?

Last week was kind of a play it by ear week, since I have a half iron race coming up this weekend.  I didn’t want to do any heavy training, but I needed to at least keep my legs moving.  A “mini taper,” if you will.

Tuesday and Wednesday  (not including Monday since that was finishing up the previous week) – Rest days, just letting my legs recover from my 55 mile bike ride on Monday

Thursday

Discovered Roo at the bike shop!  Took him out for a 35 minute test ride and said I would return the next day to bring him home.  Lots of work around the house for the rest of the day.

Friday

Brought Roo home!  Did a 45 minute ride around the neighborhood with my husband to celebrate.

Saturday – my own mini tri

1250 yards (continuous) at the pool, comfortable pace

45 minute bike on the trainer, just getting used to Roo and the new saddle (ouch)

3 mile run on the treadmill

Sunday

BEST.DAY.EVER!

I have a half iron race this coming weekend and I was starting to worry about my lack of a nutrition plan.  I didn’t know where to start, and I didn’t want to be trying out an untested nutrition plan come next Sunday.  So I looked around and found a reasonably useful article on BeginnerTriathlete.com.

I decided to use that basic plan as my starting point, so for a half iron (roughly a 4 hour ride if I went at my typical 15 mph), I would need to consume 1,200 calories over 4 hours (300 cal/hour) on the bike.  This equals 6 GUs and 7.5 scoops of my Clif shot powder (a present from my awesome BeginnerTriathlete mentor group leader).

I marked off one of my water bottles into 8 equal volumes and mixed the super concentrated Clif shot in there.  Then the other to bottles on my bike were filled with plain water.  For the first half of the ride, I tried to mix the concentrated stuff in with the regular water (as suggested in that nutrition article), but that proved to be more trouble than it was worth.  So for the second half, I just took small sips out of the concentrated stuff and then washed that down with some water.  I liked this method much better because I didn’t have to do any mixing  on the fly, and it left me with some plain water that I could drink along with my GUs without mixing the chocolate and lemon flavors.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

I set the alarm on my Garmin (which appears to have resurrected itself from whatever bizarre thing was happening last week when it wouldn’t turn on – yes, it was fully charged) to go off every 20 minutes.  Whenever the alarm would go off, I would either drink some of the Clif shot, or have a GU.  I alternated so it worked out like this:

  • First 20 minutes –  just water
  • 00:20:00 – drink (Clif shot lemonade flavor)
  • 00:40:00 – GU (chocolate outrage flavor)
  • Alternating drink and GU every 20 minutes after that, with regular water any time – making sure to drink a full bottle of water and consume 300 total calories every hour.

At the two hour mark, my water bottles were empty and I was looking for a place to refill.  I happen to be right down the road from the restaurant I waited tables at when I was in college, so I popped in for a minute and refilled there.  Then it was time to turn around and do the 30.7 mile return trip home.

At this point, I was really shocked and excited by how great I felt.  I didn’t feel tired at all, and although the hills were a little tough, they weren’t anything I couldn’t handle.  I felt awesome!

I smiled and enjoyed the ride all the way back home.  I tried to focus on keeping my shoulders relaxed, because when I get discomfort on the bike it’s always in my shoulders and neck because I scrunch them up when I’m in aero position.  This time, I had a slight twinge in my neck, but nothing that wasn’t manageable.  And hey, after four hours on a bike, you’re going to be a little sore, right?

The one problem I had on this ride is just getting used to the new saddle on Roo.  It’s a perfectly good one, but there’s always an adjustment period, and it’s usually unpleasant.  I felt okay if I was sitting up in the hoods, but as soon as I got down into aero position, I would rotate forward on the saddle and YOWZA, lots of pressure.  It was very uncomfortable at first, but after a couple hours, things appeared to just go numb and it didn’t bother me anymore.  So I suppose that works.  Every once in a while I would stand up to relieve the pressure/numbness and it was pretty crazy what a difference it made.  I don’t have time to mess around with the saddle this week, since I have the half iron on Sunday (it’ll be fine for that).  But I forsee trying out a Cobb or Adamo saddle in the future.

I can’t repeat enough how awesome I felt on this ride.  There was no fatigue whatsoever.  Somewhere around mile 50 I remember saying to myself “I feel like I’m just getting warmed up!”  I really started to find my groove – it was like a runner’s high, but on a bike.  I absolutely loved it.  I finished my bike with a total distance of 61.4 miles, at an average speed of 15.2 mph, and that includes stopping at lights and whatnot.

Four hours after leaving, I pulled back into the driveway and announced to my husband, who was happily building shelves in the garage “I.  FEEL.  AWESOME!”  Then it was time to park the bike, change the shoes, remove the helmet, and get out for a quick run just to see how my legs felt with this new nutrition plan.

My legs felt FREAKING AMAZING.

I didn’t do a long run – since the half iron was a week away, I didn’t want to go too nuts.  I just wanted to see how things were feeling.  I usually run around a 10:00 mile.  I did a 3 mile run around my neighborhood with a 9:03/mile average pace.  And I was just going with the flow and not pushing at all.  I run BETTER after I bike!  How cool is that???

So things are looking good for the half iron this weekend.  I’m really excited to get that distance under my belt.  Hopefully it goes as well as Sunday did!

This week was a bike focused week, and it was great!  The bike is the part I’m the most worried about, so I’m really trying to work on it.

Monday – Rest day

Tuesday

2 hours on the bike, going through a very hilly area.  So hilly, in fact, that I ended up only going 25 miles (12.5 mph) compared to my usual 15-17 mph.  But my legs felt strong and I had a great time exploring a new route.  Pulling up the profile made me feel a lot better about my decrease in speed though…

I really liked that downhill!

Swim workout

  • Warmup: 4 x 75 with the last 25 in each doing backstroke
  • Main: 3 x 600 with the middle set going fairly hard
  • Cool down: 150 easy

The swim was good!  I went immediately after my bike was done and felt good in the water – albeit a little bored in that last 600.  I really wanted to cut it short, but my mantra lately has been “I’ll be more bored/hurt/tired than this when I’m out on the course, so I might as well get used to it now.”  Works every time.

Wednesday

A nice easy 4.5 mile run (10:00/mile pace) with one of my neighbors in the morning.  It was nice to get out and run with somebody!  It always makes the run go so much faster when you have somebody to chat with.

Thursday

An hour and a half on the trainer at a good clip of 17.8 mph.  Wohoo!  I was enjoying my audiobook with the Olympics on mute in the background.

Friday

2 hours on the trainer at about 18 mph (my Powertap doesn’t seem to have recorded it).  I followed the bike with a nice hour long run on the treadmill.  My legs felt great and I had such a good run I almost didn’t want to stop (almost).

Saturday

I started a two hour bike, but ended up only going for a half hour because I was so sore from being in the saddle so much this week.  I knew I had a long ride coming up, so I decided to rest and let my lady bits recover for a day or so before tackling that long ride.

Sunday

Rest day.  This should have been my long ride day, but my mom is in town from Florida and she’s only up here for a few more days, so instead we had a nice day together and went to try out some stand up paddling.

Monday (today)

4 hour long bike ride at 14.4 mph.  I slowed a bit because the ride was very hilly and it was a bit windy (but beautiful out!) today.  I did five loops of the Saratoga Battlefield and had a nice time enjoying the scenery and the wildlife.  I had four different deer sightings – all about twenty feet from me, just grazing on the side of the road, and a whole family of turkeys.  I love riding there because it’s a one way road with barely any cars (I think I had a grand total of 10 passed by me in the entire 4 hours), pretty views, and some decent hills to present a challenge.  This was my view at one point…

I ended up doing 55 miles (the loop is 11 miles), and felt pretty good by the end!  When I returned to my car, I asked myself if I felt like I could run 13.1 miles at that point, and the answer was yes – so things are looking good for my half iron race I have coming up in two weeks.

There was one part of my ride that was the mile from hell though.  Mile 52…

1) A HUGE bug smacked into my arm at 20 mph and it HURT.  I didn’t see it coming and it scared the crap out of me.  I just heard a crunch/thwap and felt it hit me and almost fell off my bike.

2) Shortly after the bug incident – I tried to spit (as I do frequently when running/riding and had been doing the whole time), and it didn’t work so well.  I ended up spitting all over myself and trying to clean it off at 30 mph (down the fun and fast hill).  Oops.

3) Immediately after cleaning off my face, I hit the steepest uphill of the route.  I had squandered away my great downhill leading into it (cleaning off the spit), so it sucked even more than it already does normally.

4) Near the top of the hill, I missed running over a (little tiny) snake by about one inch.  I didn’t see it until I was right on top of it, and I just barely managed to swerve enough that I didn’t run it over.  I once again, almost fell off my bike because it surprised me so much.  I don’t mind snakes at all, as long as they don’t pop out of nowhere.

Then I got to the top of the hill, and things were better.  But wow that mile sucked.

One thing I noticed was that the last several miles of the loop felt like torture.  I pulled up the elevation profile when I got home and now it makes more sense!

Well that makes me feel better about hating the last couple miles.

So what’s ahead?

According to my training plan, this week is supposed to be a recovery/half iron race week, but I have a half iron scheduled for NEXT week, so I’m swapping.

  • Tuesday – Short bike (which I may swap with a run if my lady bits are sore – they probably will be) and long swim day
  • Wednesday – Bike (2 hour) Run (1 hour) brick – I’ve been doing a lot of these lately…
  • Thursday – Long run (2:10) and 6 x 400 easy swim workout
  • Friday – Another long swim
  • Saturday – Rest day!
  • Sunday – Long bike (4:20) followed by 30 minute recovery run

I’ll do the recovery/half iron race week after that.

I’ve been feeling really good lately.  I got the sugar out of my house and have cleaned up my food intake – lots of fruits, veggies, and couscous.  I’m also finally (FINALLY!) on vacation, so there’s one less thing to work my training around.  This vacation is short-lived though.  I have to start prepping for my fall class soon.  So I’m trying to enjoy every minute of it while I can.

On that back-to-school note – I finally started making a dent on updating my wardrobe.  Most of my clothes were leftover from grad school (which I finished in 2006 – ouch), and were pretty crappy.  No wonder everybody always thought I was one of my students.  I was so excited that, thanks to ironman training, everything I tried on was fitting!  Usually when I try to go clothes shopping, I come out miserable.  But this time it was fabulous.  THEN, when I came home I cleaned out a good chunk of my closet.  On a whim, I tried on my “power suit” (everybody needs one of those) that I got for interviews when I finished grad school, that I haven’t been able to fit into in years (besides the jacket).  THE WHOLE STINKING THING FIT.  I stood around in it and jumped up and down for a while – and then promptly put it back in the closet.

So hooray for training and eating healthily!

Now I want to go buy more clothes.  🙂

My recap for this week will be short and sweet.  I knew going into this week that things were kind of up in the air since I was having a (very, very minor) medical procedure done that could potentially put me out of commission for a few days.  Not a big deal, just uncomfortable for a few days.  But I plan ahead for these type of things and build an extra five weeks into my training plan.

As anticipated, I spent a few days laying on the couch, feeling generally icky.  So I just went with the flow this week and did whatever I felt up to.  It ended up going something like this:

  • Monday through Wednesday – Resting
  • Thursday – Feeling much better, and knowing that the week was a wash, I decided to try out my long swim and it felt GREAT!  The training plan said “mental toughness day” but I never really hit any snags in this one, which was a pleasant surprise.  I did 6 sets of 500 yards each (10 laps), alternating with an RPE (perceived exertion) of 3 (recovery) and then RPE 5 (harder, but not all out).  I felt awesome!  Usually I fade towards the end, but in this workout I felt stronger as I went on.  Progress!
  • Friday and Saturday were also rest days since I knew the week was a wash anyway.  I did a TON of house projects though, so things were plenty busy.
  • Sunday – 10 mile run at 9:35/mile with a friend from our agility class.  It was nice running with her!  the hills in the first 6 miles or so were killer, but it was good to be running with someone else – that always motivates me not to slow down or give up.  Didn’t you know?  Sometimes peer pressure can be a good thing.

So this coming week will be back to the training plan.  Here’s the detailed pdf for this week.

I hope everyone had an excellent week!

Need to contact me?

geonerdette at gmail dot com

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