Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Training has begun

I haven't fallen off the bandwagon. I've been crazy-busy! Trying to balance lab with triathlon training is tough. My half-ironman training plan officially began this week. I have lots of details to post on this later as I've typed up lots of carefully planned Excel spreadsheets on this. It's weird having all my workouts planned out through March. I've even accounted for holidays and some practice races. The nice thing is that it is flexible so I can change it as I go. But it's a nice guideline.

Sunday, Jason and I went for an awesome 10K trail run. I can really feel myself getting faster and stronger on those trails and hills! I got pissed that he could go faster and my tempo naturally picked up. I matched him and could sustain the increased pace up to the turnaround without tiring (when everything started going uphill). Going up the hills, I pumped my arms and bolted up them. I felt fresh. I had the mental "oomph" to get up them. Funny how some days you can power through things and feel great and other days you slog through workouts. Is it mental or physical? Hmm. Anyway, I think the track workouts are finally paying off! Because I'm seeing such big dividends, track workouts will continue to be part of my training routine. They make me stronger and best of all, faster!

Monday, Jason and I went to the club's 7:30 swim workout. I worked on form and pacing. We worked on the recovery and reach phase of the stroke. High elbows, reach forward from the lats. I've never really focused on this before but it helped my form immensely. Normally, I'm thinking about what my arms are doing in the water. However, thinking about high elbows and stretching from the lats gave me a better recovery and more momentum. The pull phase felt effortless after that. I was propelling forward instead of focusing on pulling through. It was fantastic. Plus, I could feel my torso twisting more naturally from my core and hips, which is where the power comes from. I did a short weight session afterwards. That was kind of tough but I got through it.

Today, we went to our 7 am spin class at UCSD. Those are tough! They really get your heart rate up. It's a great workout and will help my power on the bike in the long run. However, my heart rate really soars so it's not very race-specific with respect to H-IM training. Once these classes end at the end of November, I'll probably switch to more race-specific bike workouts instead. Just in time for the base phase of my training plan! This evening, Jason and I went for an easy 4-mile recovery run. It actually helped loosen everything up and felt great.

I'm writing out a schedule for each day to fit in workouts with lab, errands, and life. It's been helping a lot. It incorporates stretching for 10-15 minutes morning and night and healthful things like that, which is nice. I feel very focused. It's a bit intense though. I think as long as I rest on my off days it'll be okay. I haven't been sleeping all that way lately though, and my appetite is oddly way down. I think my body is just adjusting to the "Prep" phase. My goal is to do the workouts and get my body used to the new and improved, more regimented routine.

Lots more to come...Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Taking it easy, track workout, random thoughts

Taking time off is hard. Very hard. I rested all last week. My cold is gone and my energy is returning. And, as usual, after taking a week off from training, depression and insomnia rears its ugly head. I get stir-crazy, and I know it's time to get back out there.

Yesterday, I did the club's final track workout of the season. It was a mile time trial. I had no idea what to expect. I can't remember the last time I timed myself for a mile. I just decided to go out and do it and have fun with it. We had a nice, long warm-up, stretched, and warmed up some more. Then, we all went out for our 4 loops around the track. Everyone took off. I just hung out in the back, trying not to feel defeated. First lap: 2:00 even. Hey, that's not so bad. Second lap: 4:00. At least I'm consistent. I felt strong and steady and slightly uncomfortable but knew I could sustain the pace. I started to get waves of adrenaline on the 3rd lap, which I hate because it was too early. Then, I had to hold myself in check, and quell the impulse to just sprint. I felt almost naseous. But I picked up my pace slightly until I was a little more "uncomfortable." My breathing rate increased but was still deep and even. Fourth lap, time to get the lead out. I steadily picked up the pace, building momentum on the first turn. I started passing people who had passed me on the first straightaway, which only incited me to go faster. I kept increasing and increasing all the way to the finish. 7:45. I felt great.

I'm happy with this time. My mile PR is 7:20. I haven't been doing any speedwork so I had pretty low expectations. I was hoping for an 8:30 or maybe an 8:00. So I'm pretty happy to be in the 7's. My goal is to get down to 7:00 one day. I think it may actually be possible.

We went out to pizza afterwards. Forgot my wallet. Luckily, the joint was 1/2 mile away from our apartment. I still had my running shoes on so I ran out the door and all the way to the apartment, grabbed my wallet, and hoofed it back to pay for dinner. Great post-dinner run to burn off the pizza!

Jason reminded me yesterday of how hard it was for us when we first started running about six years ago. First off, I am amazed at well he knows me. Then I realize we've been together almost 10 years (Feb.) so no wonder. Still, it's nice to be with someone who knows you inside and out. When I get in a bad mood and say self-defeating things, he's the one to say, "That's not like you. I know you, and I know you don't want that." Then I realize he's right. No argument there. But I digress...

We first started running in St. Louis from our apartment to the History Museum, which was about 2 miles. It took us 30 minutes to do it, and it was tough. I remember the first time we made it all the way to Skinker (where the main campus of Wash. U. is). That was about 4 miles. We felt like it was such an accomplishment. We had to work our way up to our first 5K. It seemed so daunting at the time. I remember when I ran all the way around Forest Park for the first time. Halfway around the loop, the point of no return. It was scary. Can I do this? I made it back and felt invigorated. 6 miles, baby. It was great. It's nice to reflect on how far we've come b/c I tend to beat myself up about stupid things that don't matter when in fact, I'm improving and getting fitter all the time.

Monday, October 16, 2006

2006 Training Season--Data Analysis

As promised--graphs--the best part!

I realize we still have a few months left to go before 2006 ends. However, since my "off" season officially began last week, I decided to do this now. So 2006 was 40 weeks for me. It helps for me because the graphs don't lie. I can really see where my weaknesses are, why they're weak, and what to do about it.

First, there's total distance, summed up for the year. These numbers are pretty much meaningless. However, it's cool to think that I biked 1048 miles in 2006. And ran 352.6. And swam 34. In addition, the proportions are good--I'm biking the most, running in the middle, and swimming the least. However, I need to bump the swimming up...a lot (as supported by the other graphs, as well).

Then, there's average time and distance per week (with error bars). It's nice to get one large picture of everything. Again, I can see the proportions are correct. And that I need to get in the pool more. On average, my workout time was 4-5 hours per week. This, of course accounts off weeks and recovery weeks as well as the heavy volume weeks so it's a very broad overview. But it looks like I'm spending less than an hour a week in the pool, which needs to change. Can anyone guess which sport is my least favorite? I think it's just b/c the biking and running are easier to do and easier to fit into my schedule. No more excuses for 2007! However, I am happy with the biking since I used to be a running fiend (which was not good for my knees). This explains why I've gotten faster on the bike. Hmmm. I'm onto something here. Do more of something, get better at it. What a concept! Overall, I guess I wish these numbers were higher. However, I was coming back from complete inactivity at the beginning of 2006 and had to start from somewhere. Maybe the week-to-week graphs will give a better illustration.

Next up, total weekly time and distance. Actually, I kind of like it. I like how I consistently back down on the training volume every 4th week or so. Good for recovery. In addition, there was a steady increase in time and volume over the season as my fitness returned. The "crash" between wks 29 and 35 coincide with the diagnosis of the low thyroid. So there you go. And weeks 36-40 are after thyroid treatment begun. It's like a study for the effectiveness of thyroid replacement therapy! Anyway, the 'roids are working. Got my TSH tested last week, and it was 3. This is good! Very good!

And finally, the breakdown for each sport by week. Verrry interesting. I need to: GET IN THE POOL!

Everything seems very obvious now. Last season, running was my strongest, cycling was in the middle, and swimming was my weakest. Last season, I was running the most. This season, I've been biking more, which is good since triathlon emphasizes the cycling leg. However, my running has slowed down, and it's easy to see why. Less mileage. May be time to gradually build it back up. Most importantly, I can see why I feel so sluggish in the water: not enough TIME in the water. Endurance is very sport-specific, and I think this demonstrates just that. Well, at least now I know what I have to do.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

2006 Re-Cap and 2007 Race Goals

Following suit of so many of you fellow bloggers out there, I wanted to review 2006, recap, and set some goals for 2007.

2006 was my 3rd year of triathlon. I was bit by the bug in 2004 and trained as much as I could, raced as much as I could, and almost burned myself out. In 2005, I was finishing up my thesis and getting ready to move to San Diego so I had much less time for training. Because it was so limited, it was always a treat. I had tons of fun and PRs in 2005 while "training" the least. Hmmmm. I see a lesson in this.

Then there was 2006. I moved to San Diego from St. Louis in Jan. and was like a kid in a candy store. Immediately, I began overdoing it. I suffered from multiple overuse injuries at the beginning of the year, including IT band syndrome, problems with the tendons in my foot, and even a bruised rib. I took it down a notch, rested, got some orthotics (and stopped falling out of kayaks onto rocks), and healed right away. Then, the races began. I did 12 races from February through October (not including club races), including 4 running races, 1 duathlon, 5 triathlons (3 sprints, 2 olympics), and 1 half marathon. Phew!

At one point, I was racing every weekend. Obviously, this is too much. I need to focus on the races I really want to do from now on and stop doing them just because I can and they're there. This is San Diego. There are multiple races every weekend in my own backyard. Case in point, I got a really bad stomach thing and fever that lasted for 2 weeks after racing 3 races in 4 weeks. Then the deep fatigue set in. That's when I was diagnosed with low thyroid. Obviously this contributed, but overtraining (or overracing) didn't help either. I had to scrap the first half marathon (America's Finest City) in August, only to get a cold for my "make-up" half in San Jose last weekend.

Hmmm. Maybe feeling too good from the thryoid medication and lack of self restraint led to overdoing it 3 weeks before the race:
weekend 1: Tri Club Aquathlon and Tri Club Pine Valley Duathlon (aka bike up a mountain)
weekend 2: Tour de Poway bike ride 24 hours after stomach flu; develop cold shortly after
weekend 3: Half Marathon.
Does anyone else see a pattern here?

Training Resolutions:
1. Exercise more self restraint in training and racing.
2. Follow more conservative race/training plan. I've had a training and race plan but it's always been too much.
3. Less is more. I was faster and fresher in 2005 when I was training and racing less. I need to find that happy balance. Clearly, my body has been trying to tell me something.
4. Don't take myself too seriously. San Diego triathletes are hard core! It's a challenging field of athletes out there. I have been humbled severely. What's kept me going is staying central to my core and focusing on my personal race goals, instead of comparing myself to the masses. There will always be (lots) others out there better/faster/stronger. It doesn't matter. That's not why I do this. When I go out there and enjoy myself and have fun with it, I want to come back and do it again tomorrow. That's my long-term goal. To keep doing it!
5. In addition, I don't have to P.R. every race or workout I do. That's just silly. Instead, I focus on staying in the moment and trying to feel good. Then, surprise! Maybe I'll just get fitter and faster too.

2007 Training Goals:
Okay, here they are:
1. Complete a half-ironman. (I've already signed up for one March 31st so no turning back now!)
2. Become stronger in Olympic distances (and faster in sprints). Last year was my first stab at that distance. However, going long also really has slowed me down. I realize I can't gain speed while training for a half-IM. But, maybe, when I return to the shorter distances, I can get faster there.
3. A little redundant but more specific: regain my running mojo (aka speed). I used to run 7:20 min 5Ks. Now, it's more like 9 min 5Ks. I want that back. Running is my strong suit. I haven't peaked yet! Track workouts anyone?
4. Become more comfortable in the aero position. I've become stronger on the bike this year. More mileage and hills have helped me there, plus great bike fittings and upgrades means I'm more comfortable on the bike. I'm very happy with my progress here. I just want to get more comfortable with my new gadgets.
5. Become faster in the water. I feel like I can swim all day but I just plod along. I haven't really gotten slower than previous years (like my running) but I haven't improved either. I think masters workouts are going to help here. Also, just more time in the water since I spend the least time swimming. It takes the most activation energy than the other two to get started!
6. Be stronger on the run off the bike. This one's simple. Do more BRICKS.

Updated charts and graphs (with error bars) from 2006 soon to come...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Tips & Framework for HIM Training

I woke up today feeling worse than Monday and Tuesday. It's catching up with me. THe soreness is just about gone but I'm exhausted. Guess I need the rest. Apparently, last weekend's running a half marathon with a cold and the weekend before--biking 44 miles after the stomach bug--may have been a bit much for me. I skipped spinning class Tues am and am skipping the club track workout tonight (although I will join them for pizza afterwards; is that cheating?). I'm just listening to my body. These next 2 weeks are just going to be rest for me. I'm not going to force myself to do anything I don't feel like doing because there's no point. Jason, on the other hand, is fine. He's going to the track workout and is perky and strong as ever. He ran the half in 1:58. Goody for him. As you can tell, I'm kind of cranky. Just goes to show how much I need this rest.

Thanks to all who helped so much with their advice. I wanted to compile a summary from what everyone said b/c I think these tips are gold. Maybe others can benefit. Plus, since I've been too trashed to train (hmm "too trashed to train"--the title of a novel?), I've been doing lots of thinking and planning. Have the rough draft of my 5 month half-IM training plan written up so I'll go over the framework of that.

My plan is roughly a 20-week plan, adapted from several different sources (see below). I've broken it up into 4 week periods, beginning in November:
Prep/Base1 (Nov-Dec)
Base1 (Dec-Jan)
Base2 (Jan-Mar)
Build1 2 weeks (Mar)
Taper: 2 weeks (including race week--3 wks)
Race Week: 3/31/07
Recovery--eat and sleep, baby!

"Off" season:
Ideally, I would be able to have 4-8 weeks for an Off season. However, I took a lot of down-time this summer when I was sick with the low thyroid thing. I was feeling really good this fall. I'm hoping I'll be able to completely recover in the next 2 weeks. If, I don't feel good when I start training, I'll take more time off.
This period gets your body used to training again slowly and gradually after an off season. Because my off season is short, I don't expect to lose very much fitness. Therefore, the Prep period will be only 2 weeks before I start Base1. Of course, if my body is still tired at this point, I'll scale back and increase the Prep period.
The most important part--building endurance. Training here will be long and slow. Stay in the aerobic zone. I'll still have a few, limited speed workouts thrown in for variation and to prevent staleness. Also, long, slow training makes long, slow athletes. Maintaining a small amount of speed sessions in should prevent that.
More experienced athletes will do a Build period here. However, this is my first half-IM. Also, because of the funny time-line, my time is better spent continuing to build my endurance.
Build 1:
Leading into my taper, I will shorten the sessions and increase the intensity to build power and speed. Overall time per week will be similar to Base1.
1st week--shorten total training time by 75%. Keep workouts intense, fast, and short. Begin recovery.
2nd week--shorten training time by 50%.
Race week--sessions should be very short and only to prevent stiffness. I want to be fresh on race day. I will spend the extra time honing my mental skills by daily meditation/visualization exercises.

R&R weeks--every 4th week, I will cut my training back and allow extra time to recover to prevent injury and keep my mind and body fresh.
Training time--6 days a week with 1 day completely off. If this is too much, I will train 5 days with 2 days off spaced evenly (say Mon and Fri)
Training Hrs--About 8-10 hrs a week (6 during R&R and less during taper).
Key Workouts--Most important is the long ride, the long run, and bricks. Because these workouts take a tremendous toll on the body, I will alternate long weeks with brick weeks. Due to my schedule, the key workouts will have to take place on the weekend. Although this is hard for recovery, it will prepare my body for having to bike and run long while feeling tired (pluses and minuses to the strategy of the "death weekends"). Friday will be an active recovery swim, Saturday will be my long ride or brick, and Sunday will be my long run with Monday being my "Off" day.
Frequency: I will aim for 3 runs, 3 swims, and 3 bikes a week. In addition, b/c I'm female and lean, I benefit tremendously from weight training. I will aim for 2 45 min weight sessions a week. I will also do 2 Yoga sessions a week on my Off day (Mon) and Active Recovery day (Fri) to reinforce a consistent stretching program. Yoga and weights should help prevent injury.
Obviously, during R&R weeks, I will do less--1 weight, 2 runs, 2 swims, and 2 bikes. During the taper, no weights whatsoever and less running (since it's so hard on the body). If this feels like too much, I can always adjust. For instance, I can alternate the frequency of workouts: 2 runs, 3 bikes, 2 swims 1st week, 3 runs, 2 bikes, 3 swims 2nd week, or some variation of this. If weights 2x/wk is too much, that will probably be the first thing I will reduce (to once a week).
Focus on eating lots of healthy foods. Fruits, veggies, fish (sushi is awesome), whole grains, smoothies, lean beef, yogurt, eggs, etc. Focus on eating balanced and small meals spread throughout the day. Do not restrict calories b/c I'll need lots and I don't need to lose any weight (I don't want to lose muscle). In addition, I'll need to determine my needs during training and practice. I'm figuring this out now but from what I've read, it seems we can replace 30-50% of calories burned during cycling and 20% during running. I have to keep my sensitive stomach in my mind. Electrolyte replacement and hydration is probably more important since this is the number one cause of fatigue in athletes. I'm looking into energy bars, gus, and liquids (e.g. CarboPro) for cals, and I've been using buffered sea salt and buffered electrolyte tablets for salt.
Sleep and Overall Health:
Keep my routine. I will need 8-10 hours of sleep a night. I will go to bed early in order to wake early. I will stretch for 10 minutes when I wake up and 10 minutes before I go to bed.
Mental Toughness:
I will spend 1 day a week (my off day) using meditation exercises and visualization techniques to practice the kind of focus/concentration/positive energy I will need on race day. 20 minutes should do it.
And above all, I will have fun!!!

Half-IM Training Tips (from my awesome fellow bloggers):
1. Take one full day of rest per week. Sometimes more if you need it. Really rest on rest days and R&R weeks.
2. Be flexible. Don't get locked into a cookie cutter plan and follow it verbatum. Listen to the feedback from your body and adjust your training plan accordingly. It's always better to undertrain than overtrain.
3. Periodize your training. Base for a few weeks, rest a week. etc. Increase hours/mileage by no more than 10%/week.
4. Base building is key to H-IM success. It should be long and slow and only in the aerobic zone. Along the same lines, long runs and bikes are the most important workouts to do for preparation.
5. Also, bricks are instrumental in preparing you for race day.
For some, a coach is instrumental in ensuring that you don't overtrain and also that your easy days are easy and your hard days hard.
6. Unlike an IM, you can actually do the different pieces of a half. Do the 1.2 mi swim, 56 mi bike, 13.1 mi run (separately) to help prepare you and build confidence.
7. Pace yourself. Go hard on hard days and easy on easy days. To help discipline yourself and stay in your aerobic zone during LSD workouts, heart rate monitors and coaches can be instrumental.
8. Nutrition--the 4th discipline. Practice what you'll eat/drink on race day to replace electrolytes and cals during training. Eat healthy and balanced when recovering and resting.
9. Group workouts can be great. Masters swimming, group rides, group runs, and spin classes are great workout options. At the same time, don't push past your limits either. Doing too many group workouts can alter you training plan if you're not careful.
10. Have confidence in your body and your ability to do the distance.
11. Include a stretching regime to prevent injury. Include weights if your schedule allows it.
12. Sleep!
13. Training hourse per week varies. The average is anywhere from 6 to 15. Experiment to see what fits your body best. Don't overdo.

Training Plan Resources:
a) my fellow bloggers including (but not limited to):
IM Mike
Cookie Monster
Run Bubba Run
Tri Teacher
b) Craig Zelent
of Tri Club San Diego (our IM coach; has developed a very simple, basic plan specifically for CA 70.3)
c) Joe Friel The Triathlete's Training Bible (a must-have for all triathletes)
also his book with Gordon Byrn Going Long is also most excellent and a very good complement.
d) Triathlon Workout Planner
by John Mora (great for honing in on key workouts).
e) Tri Fuel--basic plan to give you an outline
f)Beginner Triathlete has a very good beginner plan that's also very in-depth
g) Tri Newbies--another free plan worth looking at
h)Terry Laughlin's Total Immersion system is invaluable for swimming.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A Well-Earned R&R

I've been resting up after my killer half-marathon. My cold is steadily going away, and my knees are steadily feeling less achy. I've been sleeping a lot. I've decided all workouts the next 2 weeks are optional. I'll definitely get pulled into doing some fun ones but I don't want to push hard. I want my body to recover and I want my mind to be fresh for half-IM training. This is my R&R period. The lull before the storm.

All the comments you guys gave me about training were fantastic. I'm going to compile them into a post for all other fellow bloggers to learn from. While I'm resting, I'm putting together my training plan for the half-IM on March 31st. That will give me a solid 20 weeks of training, allowing me to start out slow and also for recovery weeks. In addition, carefully planning things out that far in advance will also give me flexibility to adjust things as I go. As we all know, stuff happens--injury, illness, family and career obligations. That way,I can take it all in stride.

It's funny how anxious I seem to get during R&R periods. I don't know how people take 4-6 wks off during their "off" season unless they're injured (I know; I know. The whole point is to avoid injury). But right now, I'm enjoying the naps and time with the bunnies (and Jason). All the best to all those out there resting right now. It's just as hard as training sometimes!

Monday, October 09, 2006

San Jose Rock and Roll Half Marathon Race Report

I woke up at 6:00 for an 8:00 am start. Late, but, with the cold, I needed all the sleep I could get. Plus, it doesn't seem to take me as much time to get ready for a road race as all the other events. Just me and my shoes and more time to shiver and stand in line for the Port-A-Potty.

Did not want breakfast but figured this was okay since I'd done all my other early am long runs sans breakfast and been fine. Figure in the future, it may be best to try and get the cals in my drink instead. My breakfast cocktail consisted of ibuprofen, sudafed (for my cold), Prilosec (antacid for my IBS), and my daily thyroid meds. By the way, I do not recommend this pre-race breakfast for most people. Oh, and for those who are wondering if sudafed gives you an unfair race advantage, it does not. At least, not when you have a cold handicap anyway. (And PMS too, as I found out later).

Jason and I were closing the garage door when my dad came rushing out, yelling, "Wait! Wait!" He desperately wanted to come to support us but we hadn't wanted to wake him. Poor guy. I waited a few minutes for him, joking that racers don't normally wait for spectators. I made an exception. Having an assistant/personal fan is always worth waiting for, especially when it's your dad.

I was worried we would be running a tad late to the race. The typical race butterflies were fluttering, which I took as a good sign. My voice was so hoarse, I could barely talk. Plus, I felt groggy and sleepy (more than usual at that time in the morning). My dad asked if I was still going to do "this thing." I nodded, yes. He (a physician) replied with a chuckle, "Man. You're going to be really sick." Not what you want to hear from a physician moments before the race. However, I knew I really wanted to do it. My grand finale for 2006.

I had time to go to the bathroom 3x before it was time to shed my polar-fleece sweatshirt and shiver up to our corral (like we're being rounded up like wild mustangs). Surprisingly, I didn't feel cold admist all the people (15,000 entrants). Body heat is amazing.

The gun went off, and in about 30 seconds, we started walking. Then, walking fast. By the time we crossed the start line, we were jogging slowly. I love that for half-marathons. Big crowds that force you to take it slowly at the beginning. Plus, we had given the race directors our predicted race times ahead of time so they had placed us in the appropriate corral. Everyone around us was shooting for a ~2:00 time. It was great because there weren't tons of people zooming past, and there weren't tons of people blocking our way.

Jason and I ran together the first mile. He clearly felt good, and I told him to go ahead. I didn't feel good, but I didn't feel bad. I've done so many long weekend runs that my legs just seemed to go on autopilot. It felt pretty routine.

Running when you have a cold is a foreign animal to me. I hadn't had a cold in 5 years. Seriously. So it felt weird. I felt oddly detached from my body. I felt as if my senses were absent. My sense of smell is very acute so without it, I feel like I'm deaf or blind. I don't normally even realize how present and in the moment this sense makes me but without it, I feel lost. I kept having these weird sensations that I couldn't identify. My body needs something. Something. What can it be? Oh. Maybe I'm thirsty. I pulled out a bottle of water enriched with buffered sea salt and squirted some into my mouth, feeling instantly gratified. Oh! I'm thirsty. That's what that is. Apparently, being sick turns off your normal "thirst" sensations. Great.

I passed mile 1, and my watch read 9:18. This is 18 seconds or more slower than my normal splits. I reminded myself 9:00 minute miles was just a target number, and that being sick gave me a good excuse to run slower. However, I was worried. Normally, at mile 1, I have to slow myself down because I start off too fast. Although this is not good either, I knew I didn't have my normal adrenaline rush. My normal race "spark" (like for the Spirit of St. Louis Half Marathon of 2005, where I felt awesome the whole way) was absen. I also was having a difficult time getting into my groove. I was having to focus especially hard. I knew it was going to be mentally tough.

I passed mile 2. 18:30. Okay. Keep it steady. It's okay. Okay to go slow. I just knew my body didn't have it in it that day to go any faster. Mile 3. 28 minutes. Damn. I ran the slowest 5K split ever. About this time, waves of self-defeat washed over me. Running is normally easy for me. Effortless. I feel like I can glide forever. This was hard. It felt like I had just biked 20 miles. Not fresh out of the gates. I became frustrated. I had never run that slowly before. I thought about walking. But I knew if I walked, I wouldn't be able to get running again. I felt tired. I felt groggy. Sluggish. Every step was work. And it was only mile 3. I even thought about dropping out.

Just for a second. At this point, I remembered why I wanted to do this. I had trained all season for this. Basically since June since I scratched the first half I signed up for in August due to a stomach flu. This was it for 2006. I wanted to finish. I had read about negative thoughts during a race. And how to quell them. That was what I was going to do. First, I told myself it was okay to run slowly. My goal had always been to finish and have fun. Not to push myself too hard. Not to PR. That wasn't what I trained for. Plus, the cold put me at a great disadvantage. No way could I expect my body to perform its best. I decided to let my body take me through it the best it could and just support as best I could. The cold could go to hell, in my opinion.

Then, I just focused on keeping my legs running. Since that was what I had trained to do, it wasn't too hard. Instead of thinking how far I had left to run, I thought about making it to the next mile marker. I kept waiting for mile 4 and the band at stage 4. Every time I heard the next band around the corner, my legs perked up and I felt a brief surge and remnants of the easy running feeling I normally get.

At every mile marker, I took a swig from my bottles. It was great not to have to stop at the aid stations. It was also great to keep running. I hate walking, personally, because it really interrupts my rhythm and flow. My gut would act up a little after I took a drink, but only briefly. I would just slow down a little, let it pass, and pick the pace back up. Then, I was able to even make up a little time because the fluid would make my body feel so good.

The bands were a lot of fun. I loved the entertainment. I only wish there had been more of them! They were my saving grace and motivation. It's amazing the effect music has when you run. The band at mile 6 matched my tempo exactlly and I even picked up the pace a bit and had a touch of (gasp) runner's high. Plus, there were cheerleaders doing flips and cartwheels at several points along the race. The venue was very pretty. We went through some gorgeous neighborhoods with very nice houses and rose gardens. Couples and families having tea and coffee and reading the paper out front in chairs while cheering us on. Very cool.

At mile 7, I negative thoughts arose again. How am I ever going to do a full marathon when a simple half is so hard? And how am I ever going to make it through March's half IM, if I can't even do this? Stop. I'm not doing those things. This is what I'm doing NOW. Focus on now. Stay in the moment. Focus on the task at hand. Think about mile 8. These positive statements became my mantra. You've probably heard that racing is 80% mental? After this race, I've decided it's true. I had to totally talk myself through it. Instead of feeling totally defeated because I was running so slowly, I lifted my spirits by thinking about a recent 10 mile run around Lake Miramar, where I had felt like a colt let out to pasture after a long, cold winter in a dark barn. I felt fast and fresh and could have gone forever. I focused on how I had felt that day. It actually made me feel better.

Mile 8. My knees and hips began to bug me. This is not new for long runs although it did seemed achier than normal. Plus, I had blisters because I had worn the wrong socks. Too thin, and there was slippage. They began to really sting. I could feel them sliding around. Ouch. The hip felt like a soft tissue thing but the knees felt like a joint thing. Bone grinding on bone. Ugh. Maybe it's time to try the chondroitin sulfate/glucosamine supplements again. Had some luck with them in the past.

Mile 9. Pain the same. I took stock. Breathing--easy. Very easy. As a matter of fact, it was just general fatigue from the illness that was bugging me. Okay. Good. Hydration. Pretty good. Drinking every mile. Not sweating too much or feeling too thirsty. Feet--they're just blisters--ignore it. Knees and hips--will need rest and ice after race but nothing is permanently injured. Just a warning sign. Pain was a 3-4 out of a scale from 1-10. Okay. Not too bad. (Blisters bugged me more.)

Mile 10. Really great band (don't know the name; sorry). I picked up the tempo. Everything went numb. Usually, this is the point where it gets hard, not easy, so I felt elated to get my runner's high at this point. I felt good. No pain anymore. Joints, hips, feet--great. No problem. I hit my groove and knew I was going to be able to finish. This is when I realized my troubles were mostly mental. If I hadn't been physically fit or well enough to do this, I wouldn't be feeling this good at mile 10. My confidence built and my runner's high just accumulated. Awesome. I knew I could easily do the "mile countdown" now.

Mile 11 went by very quickly. Mile 12. Oh. 2:00. My other half marathons were all under 2:00 so I was a little disappointed. Stop. We've already been here. We're running slow today. Oh, yeah. Okay. Funny but it seemed that it took forever for mile 13 to appear. I'm really going to have to start doing some mental training b/c I can't believe the difference it makes.

I saw the finish and almost wanted to cry. I've never been that emotional at the finish before but I think it was such a challenge mentally for me that I truly felt wonderful that I could finish. I just wanted to throw my arms in the air, shout hallelujah, and cry. I was so happy. I had done it, despite it all. I feel good about my 2:10 time. I ran the whole way, despite a cold and finished in a respectable time. My base fitness is awesome because it can get me through something like that.

Aftewards, I actually felt less congested. I think running had something to do with that. My parents were astounded that a) I ran it with a cold and b) I seemed to feel better after running than before. Jason and I drove back to San Diego a few hours after the race so we could get to work on time Monday morning. I don't recommend taking an 8 hour road trip shortly after running a half-marathon. People at the gas stations must have thought I was crippled or something the way I hobbled into the bathrooms. However, I proudly sported my half marathon t-shirt (with the most awesome logo, by the way). Today, I feel pretty good. Tired and sore but the cold is almost gone. I just need some good old-fashioned R&R.

What I learned from this race:
1. Running with a cold is hard.
2. Racing tests your mental toughness as well as physical.
3. Know why you're doing the race before you enter.
(You may have to remind yourself during. I just wanted to finish for the pure accomplishment of running 13.1 miles).
4. Have several race goals. One that is optimal (if I had felt good, it would be to run 9 min miles), a second that's in the middle (run the whole way), and a third for sub-optimal conditions (finish).
5. Have a mantra to keep you in the moment. Mine was "Stay in the moment." Or, "Stay in the now." "Just keep running."
6. When negative thoughts creep up, stop them in their tracks. Replace them with confidence-filling thoughts. I kept telling myself it was okay to feel like molasses since I was sick. I told myself I was doing great. I focused on past runs where I had felt great and visualized them.
7. Break the race into small portions. I began to think, "Oh, God. I have 10 miles left to go." Or, at mile 7, I freaked out b/c I knew I still had an hour left to run. Instead, I thought, where's the next band? Where's the next mile marker? That helped. A lot.

Title IX Threatened

First off, half-marathon went as well as could be expected (with a cold). Didn't need an ambulance and was able to run the whole way. Race report coming.

However, a more pressing matter has come to my attention. It appears that the Bush administration is proposing legislation that would threaten Title IX, which provides equal rights for women in sports. You can read more about this here:

If you have the time, please go to the website below and sign the petition to prevent our society from allowing women's rights to slip back to the 1950s. It's hard enough for us gals out there!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Half-Marathon vs. Head Cold--Who Will Win?

Guess we'll have to wait until the weekend's over for the answer to that one. Came down Wed. with a really sore throat, which turned into major congestion by Thursday evening. I've been doing nothing but drinking O.J. and sleeping. Today, I actually feel better, although I'm verrry stuffed up. All in the head, not in the chest, and no fever so as far as everything goes, I think the worst of it is over, and Sunday's half-marathon is still a go. I really want to do this one after missing out on my last one b/c of illness. All that crap they say about training hard depressing the immune system? Apparently, it's true. Great way to find out.

I'm in San Jose seeing my folks and resting up for Sunday. By the way, descending from 30,000 on a jet with a cold is not fun, even if I did take 2 Sudafed before boarding. I seriously thought my head was going to explode and blood was going to start dripping from my ears. I landed over an hour ago and have yet to hear properly. C'mon, ears! Pop already!

Have a great weekend everyone. Wish me luck on Sunday's San Jose Rock 'N Roll 1/2 Marathon. I'm excited. It's kind of like my "make-up" half-marathon.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Need Your Advice

Thanks for all of your support. That's awesome. I'm definitely going to need it over the next 6 mos. I'm currently in the process of writing my goals for 2007 down and breaking them into steps (after seeing many of you do the same thing--great idea!). Obviously, my primary goal will be completing my first half-IM on March 31st. If all goes well, I may even contemplate doing a 2nd one later that summer (e.g. Vineman, late July, or Big Kahuna, Sept.). But first thing's first.

Now, I'm going to do a dangerous thing. I'm going to ask for your advice. Dangerous, b/c it's all too easy to be overwhelmed with advice. However, many of you have done a half-IM or longer. I need your help. I'm starting out and feel like I don't know what I'm doing. If you could give me some input on your experience in training for a longer-distance triathlon, I would really appreciate it!

Sketch of my plan:
1. Devise a training plan:
Currently, my first task is to write up a personalized training plan. I'm poring over other half-IM training plans and adjusting them to my physical/mental needs.
2. Recruit the help of others (i.e. Tri Club):
I've decided to forgo the expense of a tri coach and rely on the tri club since it's a fantastic resource. We have IM coaches that help first-timers as well as many members looking for others to train for the California 70.3. Plus, knowing my personality, I don't want to take myself too seriously. I like training in groups some and training solo some. Working with a coach everyday is something I'm not interested in (or can afford)....yet.
3. (goes with #2). Begin attending the tri club master's swim workouts. Duh!
4. Sign up for the Carlsbad 1/2 marathon (Jan. 21st) as a training race.
5. Find a half-century bike around that time to do as a training ride.
6. Plan rest days and down-time.
A long, type-A race in late March doesn't give me much wiggle room for an off-season. However, I need to figure out how to let my body recharge without losing fitness. Any suggestions as to how to do this would be greatly appreciated.
7. Have confidence in myself.
I think I'm ready. I did 2 Olympics this year. They were tough but 1 was in extremely hot weather, and I was dealing with low thyroid. Now, that I've fixed that, I'm feeling great. I'm uninjured and logging in a solid 8-10 hours a week without feeling trashed. Last weekend, I swam a mile in the cove on Friday (during rough conditions) and then did a 44-mile bike on Sunday. I felt tired later but not dead. I'm doing a half-marathon this Sunday (San Jose Rock 'N Roll), and I feel fit enough to have fun with it (not PR or anything). Moral of the story--I just need to put the pieces together.

If any of you have the time, could you please answer some questions below? I just want to use the blogging world and get some feedback.

1. What helped you most in training for a half-IM?
2. What training plan can you recommend?
3. What are some mistakes/traps to avoid?
4. How many hours a week did you train?
5. How much of a base did you have coming into the beginning of the training program (i.e. how long had you been racing; what was your longest race; number of hours/mileage before starting)?
6. How did you rest?
7. What kind of nutrition plan did you follow? (any of you out there with finicky stomachs?) How/what did you eat during the race?

You can comment on this post, or e-mail me (trigrrl@hotmail.com)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Ironman California 70.3


California 70.3 (Oceanside) March 31, 2007

What did I just do?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Keep going, and going, and going...

I'm on fire lately. I can't believe how much more energy I have. I bike commuted to work (which always makes me feel good--hey! it's 30 extra minutes of biking!). When I got home, I hurried into my running clothes and out the door before the sun went down. It's a race to beat the sun! Jason got home just as I was leaving with my new running shoes. Score! My old ones started to poop out last week, and my half marathon is this coming weekend! Perfect. I have just enough time to break them in a little without deflating the cushioning too much. (I hate how often I need new running shoes. Seems like every 3 months. But my feet can really tell the difference.) Out the door and down into the canyon. I passed so many walkers, hikers, people jogging with their dogs, and mountain bikers. It's awesome how active everyone is around here. Felt very comfortable the whole way. Trail running is hard though! I had to definitely slow it up and do some side-stepping and careful negotiations around rocks and ditches. It was kind of fun. I love the trail SO much more than the road. The entire way back was uphill, which always sucks. However, I was prepared this time. I just took my time. Made it out and back (10k) in sub-9 minute miles. That's good for me lately! Especially b/c of the trail running and the hills. Plus, the pace felt comfortable for me the whole time.

Showered, stuffed myself with scrambled eggs and salmon on toast (I love breakfast for dinner) and some dark chocolate (with skim milk). Mmmm. Crashed for 30 minutes on the sofa. Then, lugged myself off the couch and stretched and eased into some free weights for a good 45 minutes. Then, I don't feel so guilty about watching trashy t.v. (The Bachelor--horrible show, but I couldn't turn the channel!).

This morning, dragged myself out of bed at 5:30 to make it to our first spinning class at UCSD at 7:00. Ugh. So early! It was a blast though. Plus, I get to lab earlier so I get the day started earlier. Nothing is better than that feeling of starting the day off with an early morning workout.

Hoping to make it to a club track workout tonight for a final run (with some speed) before the half-marathon this Sunday. The rest of the week will be more relaxing. Some biking and swimming but nothing too taxing.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Tour de Poway

After my bout of stomach flu/food poisoning on Friday night, I felt well enough to do our planned bike ride Sunday in the Tour de Poway. We did the 44 mile option, which is a long ride for me (I know--it's slim pickin' compared to you other IM addicts).

A bit nervous about how my stomach would react, we geared up. It was very foggy to begin with as we began a steep climb uphill for the first 5 miles (We ended up climbing a total of 2000 ft with the beginning 5 miles at an 8% grade). However, compared to climbing Mt. Laguna last weekend with strong head and cross winds, it felt very doable. Funny how those hills don't seem so bad after climbing a mountain! I saw a few cyclists get out of an SUV at the top of the hill and then start riding. WTF? Whatever.

At the bottom of the hill, we had to wait 10 minutes for road construction. Road construction? Hello! What did I pay my $40 for? That was kind of disorganized. Whatever. It was amusing to watch some of the other hardcore cyclists zip out in front of the cop manning the traffic as the cop yelled at him, threatening to arrest him.

After that, we rode through parts of Ramona. By this time, the sun had burned off the fog, yet, thankfully, it wasn't too hot. Lots of rolling hills, farmland, cows, and horses, horses, horses. It was beautiful. Gardens, vineyards, more cows. Llamas, goats, a Brahma bull (which are really cool-looking!), and a bison (we rode past the wildlife rescue center). I love animals so it was a real treat. I felt like we were riding through a zoo. Also, the cacti are really cool. I don't know the different varieties but the shorter kind that are more like "bushes" have little round red fruit atop them right now, which is really pretty.

We began a very deep descent for the next 7 miles or so. I love downhill as much as the next guy but not on narrow, twisty, windy backroads. Pretty freaky. A bunch of ambulances, fire trucks, and cop cars passed us soon after, and we had to brake almost to a complete stop as we descended around a particularly nasty, blind switchback. A cyclist had been hit by a motorcycle. Ugh. I think the injuries were pretty minor, thankfully.

Jason and I stopped at one of the stops towards the end to nibble on some cookies and take a bathroom break. I felt very relaxed. I couldn't believe how quickly the ride was going considering how "easy" it felt. Yet, we were still riding at about 18 mph on the flats, which is great for me! I was a little disappointed at how much traffic (and stoplights) we had to deal with the final 8 miles as we rode back into town (plus the last two turns were extremely dangerous!) but all in all, it was a great ride. We finished in about 3 hours, feeling tired but not exhausted. And it was only 20 minutes from home! We stopped off for our usual post-workout Sunday bagels and coffee and was home by noon. I love that.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Sick Stomach Ruins Saturday Run

That's my headline for Saturday. I don't know if it was something I ate or swallowing too much salt water during the ocean swim Friday night but I woke up at 1 a.m. Friday night feeling verrry naseous. Without going into too much detail....well, let's just say it was a long night of my stomach rebelling. Maybe it was all the salt water. I still don't really know. (By the way, does swallowing salt water during your swim count towards electrolyte replacement?) Needless to say, I wasn't going anywhere Saturday morning, much less a 10 mile run. (on the beach with my friends...Damn!) I slept and nibbled all day. Chicken noodle soup. Saltines. Gatorade. My stomach apparently had finished its protest and, thankfully, left me alone.

I woke up Sunday feeling awesome and Jason and I headed up to Poway for an organized event--Tour de Poway. We only did the 44 mile option but that's pretty good for me! Especially after Friday night. So the weekend was definitely salvageable. More on the awesome bike ride later.

Hope everyone had an awesome weekend!