Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Year to Look Forward To: 2012 ATP

I've spent the past couple months training and putting together the Annual Training plan for 2012.  I've battled <40 weather at Skyline and out to Great Falls on the bike with some great people from DC Tri, I've attended race planning and Ironman forums and have had the opporunity to pick brains and ask all the questions I've come up with about Ironman.   I've developed a plan and committed myself to be willing and open to changing it.

Last year I began going through The Triathlete's Training Bible by Joel Friel over Christmas and loosely based this past season off of the training tactics in The Training Bible.  As my friends like to remind me "life happened" (Ride of Silence) this year and my training plan for Augusta 70.3 didn't go exactly as planned.  I truly enjoyed the experience competing in a 70.3 (and had a decent result) event and learned tons to help guide me and prepare me for the upcoming 2012 season.

Do you write out a training plan or just do what you can throughout the season?

As I prepared my 2012 Annual Training Plan I re-read The Training Bible and also read Joel Friel's book Going the Distance.  I went through my Excel spreadsheet of all my workouts since September 2010 and used that information to estimate annual training hours.  I plotted out training hours week-by-week leading up until August 26, 2012 making sure to include base periods, recovery periods, build periods, and of course peak periods.  My training plan builds to 29.5 hours during my biggest week.  This is a lot - but to achieve something you've never had you must be willing to do something you've never done.

I've set lofty goals for 2012 and beyond, I'm committing myself to live like a champion, train like a champion, recover like a champion, and eat like a champion.  Within the middle of the plan lies graduation in May, another move (most likely back to DC), and the beginning of a great and promising career as a Doctor of Physical Therapy.  I am confident that these life events will help me manage my time, motivate me to complete my workouts as planned, and rest when my body needs it.

The plan "officially" begins January 2nd leading to a 1/2 Ironman distance race in May followed by recovery and the build to Louisville :).  I've been watching the 2011 Ford Ironman Championships all too much and loving every second of it.  Below is the beginning of my 2012 race schedule.

2012 Race Schedule
March 18, 2012 - Publix Atlanta 1/2 Marathon
April 14, 2012 - Belews Lake International Triathlon
May 12, 2012 - Kinetic Half
June 17, 2012 - Washington DC Triathlon (Olympic Distance)
August 18, 2012 - Age Group National Championships (Undecided)
August 26, 2012 - Ironman Louisville

What is 2012 shaping up to look like for you?

I am looking to add a 1/2 Ironman possibly at the end of September, 1 or 2 more Olympic Distance events, or possibly another Ironman ;)

Summit of Wilson Mountain in Sedona, AZ (7122 ft.)
I've enjoyed some wonderful leisure time over the holidays including a trip to Sedona, AZ to reset the mind and body.  It was exactly what was needed after 2 stressful weeks of schools, finals, and packing/moving all my "stuff" into storage.  I am now enjoying quality time in Michigan with my family and friends and enjoying some winter training.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Recognize Your Success

Skyline Drive Bike-n-Hike
November was a month of fun races and light training - or it was intended to be.  A 40-mile Skyline ride, 3 races, and a brick workout later and may not have been "light" but it was lighter than I had been used to coming off of half-ironman and marathon training.  Despite the light training, I felt tired and slow the first couple of weeks - understandably so, looking back at what I had just put my body through.  November became a mental training month for me - pushing through when a workout wasn't going as well as I had planned, modifying workouts and training plans, setting goals and making plans for next year, slowing down and focusing on technique, and learning to recognize each day's success.

Elite Women Start 
No matter how poorly you may perceive a workout to have gone (or be going), there is something successful that comes from it.  You may not always see your interval times creep down as you'd hoped for, you may not always feel stronger tomorrow than you did today, but you can always find a success in a completed workout.  It may be pushing yourself to get out the door during a long day when normally you would have stayed in, not losing your head if your intervals are slower than last weeks, learning and perfecting technique or a new skill, developing a new pacing strategy, hitting a new distance, or hitting new marks during intervals.  I challenge you to not only log your training but always log your biggest success from that day.  I have recently started to include my daily success in my log and it is great to see that no workout is a waste and I am always able to achieve something.

What training success did you achieve this week?

In the past I have easily fallen into the trap of having to be better tomorrow than I was today.  Such a trap is not horrible to fall into but it takes a toll on your body.  I was training in a way that from day to day I pushed my times to be faster or my body to go farther.  I have since learned that there are ways to be better tomorrow without having to train on the brink of disaster all the time.  Keeping a consistent pace, practicing form, and learning new skills have all been avenues I have used to focus my lighter training days and achieve something rather than better splits.

November Race Reports
DC Tri Turkey Trotters
DC Tri Turkey Trot 5k (11/6/11) Hains Point - 23:10 - This was a small race, put on by the club with an entry fee of 2 canned goods.  Perfect for the student loan budget :)  This race was 1 week after my marathon and the morning after a day of too much fun.  Saturday was spent riding and hiking out at Skyline Drive with some DC Tri folks and then heading back to the District to celebrate my roommates birthday.  I got a nice warm-up in pre-race by riding my bike out to Hains Point.  My race strategy was simply go out hard and hold on.  I was shooting for a time in the range of 22:05 (my 5k PR), but considering the circumstances not a bad result.

Nearly Naked Mile Crew
Nearly Naked Mile (11/12/11) - Reston Town Center - 6:40 - I do mile repeats every week.  I hit under 6:40, I thought with the crowd and fellow runners I would be able to hit 6:20ish in this race.  I raced in the Elite women's division (under 7:00/mile), but my time does not reflect an elite runner by any means.  My legs did not want to run fast at all - they were asking for marathon pace - not cool!  The race was 2ish loops including a nice tedious uphill on the back side of the loop.  The environment was fun and some great friends were out at the race as well.  I actually won my AG and scored $20 gift certificate to Potomac River Running.  Not a bad day in Reston.

Rocket City - Huntsville, AL
Huntsville Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot (11/24/11) - Huntsville, AL - 22:55 - Again, I was aiming to crack my 5k PR.  This was my first run of the year in air cold enough to burn the lungs.  My lungs and legs do not like working in the cold.  No wonder I loved south Georgia so much.  The course was a simple out-back design with a nice downhill going into the finish line.  I was surprised to only take 15 seconds off the previous 5k time, my effort felt harder than that.  Cracking my 5k PR is looking like it may make the list of things to do early next season.  My brother and lady friend also ran and we had great fans - my mom, aunt, and uncle!  It was totally different than the monstrous Detroit Turkey Trot that we had been regulars at for the previous few years.  It was a good way to earn some turkey and sweet potatoes.

Did you do any Turkey Trots or Holiday runs this year?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Setting up for Success

I have been reading, picking brains, preparing, and working on an Annual Training Plan for 2012.  I have had many people ask me whether or not I am going to get a coach.  I've given the idea minimal thought up until now. 2012 brings new challenges - the IM distance, a new age group, working full time, and a flat out new routine.  Change is great, but all these changes feel like they are coming down the pipeline in one follow swoop.  In January I will embark on my training season, I will begin my final internship of PT school, I will no longer be in the "baby" age group, and I will be moving to Georgia for a few months.  The question weighing on my mind now is would a coach offer stability and consistency throughout a crazy year or add to the craziness?

Growing up I've always had a coach, even more than one coach for soccer.  Club coach, ODP coach, school coach, trainer, etc and I am grateful for each and every coach I had from U6 through college.  When I dove into the world of triathlon it was an individual adventure and the thought of having a coach didn't cross my mind.  Triathlon was somewhere to focus my time and energy, an escape from the city, an escape from the school work, and a time to be a peace and feel in control.  Why until now have I thought that I could do this on my own?  I may be able to develop a great training plan, break barriers and push myself to achieve some of my goals but I know from experience I can perform better than I thought possible when I am in the right atmosphere.

As I have blogged about a bit before I am currently writing out an Annual Training Plan for 2012.  I have all my weekly hours decided upon and my 'Big Day's' scheduled.  The day by day workouts when left up to me could quickly plateau into what is comfortable.  I am trying to avoid feeling 'comfortable' with workouts and many other aspects of life.  Is progress really being made if you feel 'comfortable'?  Since the HIM and MCM I've continued to train - not at the same volume or intensity I was training at but I never took more than 1 solid day off.  I am a firm believer in active recovery, but I noticed that I was becoming run down mentally and physically.  This weekend I cut myself a break - I took off to NYC for 3 nights with a few good friends, had a ball, went for a swim, and mentally checked out of training mode.  The great company and fun adventure were a well needed break for the body, mind, and soul.  I knew I couldn't keep chuggin' away until January and expect to feel fresh just because it was the start of a new cycle,  I needed to set myself up for success.

While developing the training plan and completing multiple goal based assignments for school I have been able to really think about what I want from triathlon, my career and life in general.  I have had the opportunity to speak with those who have been where I want to be, those who are also taking the journey to where I want to be and those who just share the same passion for triathlon.  I have the opportunity in January to work for a clinic that could indeed be in my dream setting, I'll have the opportunity to work with other PT's that compete in triathlon, and good thing I'll have the opportunity to train in warm weather :).  As the dream, goal, and possibilities have flowed through my mind I contemplate the realistic-ness of them.  They say if there's a will there's a way, but is there a cieling that could end up in my way?  In my life outside of triathlon I've considered working full time, working part time, settling down soon or not, getting a dog or not among other thoughts.  All of these thoughts have led me to ponder the effectiveness of getting a coach and where I see my life in the next few years.

What would/should I look for in a coach?
I know right off the bat I would want to incorporate my goals into a working relationship with the coach.  I have an education in kinesiology and physical therapy so a knowledge base of performance is there.  I know without a doubt I would want the coach to get to know me and not throw a general workout at me.  I would want a coach to look at my past race results and training to see where I've come from and help me get to where I am going.  I would probably need a coach that would be patient and/or helpful in teaching me how to use some of the technology i.e. the Garmin +HR monitor that I've used about once, training peaks, etc.  I've trained by feel for the most part up until now.  I've made mistakes and learned from them - such as expecting myself to be better then next day than I was today every single time I train.  I would want a coach that share's the philosophy in developing weaknesses and making my strengths my strengths.  I would want a coach that is a teacher, not a dictator.  If I have the faith in someone to coach me, to help me achieve my dreams, then I want them to share there knowledge with me, work with me to break barriers.

Personal Barriers to Coaching
I also know from past experiences that I have to have a great amount of respect for the coach and need to feel as though the coach believes in me.  Some of my worst performances were when I felt like a coach did not believe in my skill but instead was playing me because they felt they had to.  This may have all been mental and me taking myself out of the game but nonetheless I know the best performances were when the coach recognized my abilities and appreciated them for what they were.  I know that when I don't have a good amount of respect for my coach I am less coachable.  I don't want to listen to people who haven't been when I want to be or at least gotten other athletes to where I want to be.  A window into my mind looks something like this, "if my bike splits are consistently better than yours, why should I listen to what you're saying, I am obviously doing this better than you."  I know this may not be right, there are many valid points to be made about technique, handling, tactics, etc even if I am faster.  So bottom line I would want a coach that has been or has produced athletes at the level I want to be at.

Pros of the Self-Coach Method
My training plan, is just that, my training plan.  Any alterations and adjustments are mine and mine alone.  I know that if I don't get where I want to be it is all on my shoulders, no fingers to point and no one else to blame.  I know my body and I know it well, no one else will feel how I feel after a training session or race no matter how well and how may adjectives I use to describe it.  Flat out, as far as I know, it's cheaper.  I can adjust my swim, bike, run workouts whenever and however I feel to fit into life.

Logistics of Finding a Coach
The most basic of problems - I have no clue where to start.  I am on a student loan budget - I'm not quite sure if this is good or bad, but it is what it is.  How does the triathlon coaching market work?  Do I find a coach in DC, do I find a coach in Georgia?  Does it matter where the coach lives?  How much could I expect to pay, what if I am not getting the results that we set up to achieve?  Would the coach be willing to take any responsibility for the lack of production?  How do I find a coach that wants to coach me - based on my past and my goals and doesn't just want another athlete to put in their file?  Will coaches drop you if you aren't performing up to par?

All of these questions and probably more, but a good start.  If you have any experience with finding a triathlon coach or are a coach yourself or support the self-coach method leave your 2 cents ;)  The best way to learn is to talk and listen to those who have gone through exactly what you are going through.  I know I haven't outright stated my goals, where I see myself in 4 years, etc.  If you really want to know send me a message.  In the meantime offer up any advice, good or bad, to help me set myself up for success.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Individual Behavior Change

The off-season is upon us and what better time to write out some goals for the upcoming 2012 training and racing year!  I have completed 2 of 3 clinical internships for Physical Therapy School and am now back in class. We were recently given an assignment in our Health Promotion and Wellness Class on Individual Behavior Change.  I think it's pretty awesome that I can turn my passion and goals for triathlon into a school assignment and get a grade for it.  I began working on my annual training plan for 2012 last weekend and decided to make the completion of the ATP my Target Behavior for the assignment.  I plan on posting more details on creating your own ATP and the steps I went through when I am closer to completion as well as all my goals, objectives, and strategies for 2012 but for now I'll get you started with my Individual Behavior Change assignment.  A look into the life of a 3rd year PT Student ;)

Target Behavior:  I will create/design and complete my 2012 annual training plan by December, 12 2011 appropriate for completing IRONMAN Louisville, 2 HIM, and multiple short course races during the 2012 season.

I will attend 2 forums/discussions pertaining to race planning and Iron distance events with DC Tri Club         members before December 1.
I will calculate annual hours, weekly hours, along with peak and recovery weeks throughout the course of the 2012 season to maximize my ability to perform my best at “A” races before December 12.
I will begin to incorporate swimming, cycling, and running skills and techniques throughout my off-season 3x/wk to allow me to incorporate them into the ATP.
I will be open to change and flexible allowing my body to appropriately recover from any setbacks I may face throughout the 2012 season.

Theory:  I am currently in the action phase of the transtheoretical model of change of this behavior change.  This past year, 2011, was my second season as a triathlete.  The season went well and I even surprised myself and others with a few of my results (all results here).  I had a training plan, in my mind, and goals to work towards throughout the season involving specific distances and times.  I recorded all workouts through the year in my excel spreadsheet and was able to track progress, setbacks, etc.  I do realize though that I never set up an annual training plan for the year and that I may have been able to perform even better had I thought out a plan that incorporated proper rest/recovery and peak weeks.  As the season has come to an end and I am enjoying some off season workouts and relaxation it is time to set up an Annual Training Plan for 2012.  An annual training plan will be imperative for the 2012 season as it will be my first year competing in an IRONMAN event.  I have already begun estimating annual training hours, breaking down my training cycles, and incorporating skill/technique training throughout the off-season.  On 11/10/11 I will attend my first race planning discussion with DC Tri Club.

Strategies to achieve goal:
Sit and talk with people who have completed an IRONMAN – be a sponge
Use resources such as The Triathletes Training Bible and Going Long to help break down annual hours, weekly hours, and when and where to include peak weeks/recovery weeks.
Become familiar and comfortable with technique skills/drills in all 3 sports during the off-season.
Attend clinics, seminars, discussions regarding race planning, skills, IRONMAN preparation, etc.
Spend at least 30 min 5days/week working on ATP.
Use the “off-season” as the off season so when the ATP kicks in I am ready to go.

Finish Line of IM LOUISVILE

Monday, October 31, 2011

"Always Earned, Never Given."

OOO-RAH! The 26.2 milestone has been met!  The 36th Annual Marine Corps Marathon was a success for myself and as well as the friends of mine that also ran.  This training season I focused the majority of my training on triathlon, specifically for the Ironman Augusta 70.3 while throwing in a 1x/week long run for the marathon training.  Comparatively the only part of my training plan that was lacking was more than 1 run of 20 miles or greater.  I completed my longest run of 21 miles 3 weeks pre-marathon while everyone else I know did 2-3 20+ mile runs. So here's a look at my journey to becoming part of the 1% of people that will complete a marathon.

My roommate Jesse and I headed over to the race expo on Saturday afternoon to pick up our bibs, shirts, and free samples of peanut butter, among other things.  The weather in D.C. on Saturday was absolutely horrific - 35ish degrees with a snowy rainy freezing cold wintery mix.  Not my idea of nice fall weather, nor marathon weather.  We had been watching the weather for a few days and knew that it would probably be chilly on race day but no precipitation.  At least the expo was inside and we only had to deal with the wintery mix getting to and from the Metro.  The expo was packed.  We squeezed through the crowds for a little bit of time and even stumbled upon the American Physical Therapy's booth with the Move Forward campaign.  To our surprise the 2 PT's working the booth were 2011 GWU Grads, so nice to see familiar faces!  The coolest thing about the booth was the free souvenir picture you could get, so of course Jesse and I struck a nice pose in front of our favorite neighbors house.

Saturday evening was calm.  I did a bit of carb loading at my brother's house and figured out my race day plan.  It seem so "easy" in comparison to planning for a triathlon.  No bike to rack, no transition to set up, etc. - I was out of my element.  I decided to take Metro to the Pentagon check a bag of my warm clothing about 30 min before race start and use the port-o-potty.  My other option would have been to walk from my apartment (about a 40min walk).  I was happy I chose this option as it allowed to dress warm, bring my wallet and phone, and have warm clothes at the finish line.  I decided on my clothing for the race as well.  I have always known I despise being cold so I went for the cold weather gear option.  I work my spandex shorts under my running tights, a dri-fit top under my half zip, cheapo running gloves, and my 70.3 hat.  I knew I could throw away the gloves on the course if need be and with a predicted high of only 46 and a starting temperature of 36 I wasn't worried about being too warm.  I went to bed around 9:30 with a 5:30 alarm set and on the ready.

Race morning I woke without the alarm - ate my usual breakfast of champions - Special K Red Berries with banana and Almond milk.  Got dressed and headed to the Metro.  I was crazy see hoards of marathoners at the Metro stop both near me and as we rolled through Rosslyn.  My plan went smoothly as I had plenty of time to use the port-o-potty and check my bag before race start and I didn't get to cold since I was able to keep my warm jacket on until checking the bag right before heading to the start line.  The pre-start festivities included wounded warriors parachuting down and two MV-22 Osprey's flying over as well as the National Anthem and a moment of silence before sending off the wheelchair and hand-cycle athletes.

The last 10 minutes before the starting gun seemed to last forever.  I was ready to get this thing underway.  I decided to break the race up in my mind as two 10-milers and a 10k.  It sounded like a great plan.  In my mind I wanted the first 10-miler to feel easy, the second 10-miler to require focus and the last 10k to require a hard effort.  Indeed these statements came true, just about as true as they could come.  So I give you my race report as if you were in my mind.

Miles 1-10
Runner's getting ready for the start with Maroon 5's
Moves Like Jagger!
The beginning of the course was a bit crowded but nothing too horrible.  Rubbing elbows with a few people here and there but never felt like I was being held back due to crowds or slow people.  The first 8 miles have 98% of the hills on the course.  Every hill I thought "go glutes go" and kept pace up the hill.  Mile 1 seemed like nothing - which in the course of marathon is a good thing because it is nothing.  With all the hills in the early part of the race there was some constant leap frogging with the hand-cycle participants with made it quite exciting on every downhill.  Runner's would start screaming "wheels on the left" and everyone would move over and a hand-cyclist would go flying by.  I took a few sips of water every couple miles at the aid stations.  The aid stations didn't seem to be creating a traffic jam at all so I opted for the hydration option.  I was feeling great as I crossed the 5k and 10k splits.  My 10k split came in to be 51:29 - I was holding my pace and felt absolutely comfortable continuing at that pace.  At this point I realized 3:40 would be possible it I held pace for 20 more miles.  Coming down MacArthur down towards Georgetown was awesome.  It was downhill, the runners had opened up a bit and I finally felt comfortable shedding my gloves.  My absolute favorite part of the course was running down MacArthur which was quite sparse in the fans/supporters category into jam packed Georgetown.  People lined the both side of the streets in Georgetown, there was music and cheering and the energy was incredible.  I ran on with confidence thinking this is my turf now, as my weekly long runs leading up to MCM included a large majority of the upcoming part of the course.  I crossed the 10-mile marker a little over 1:20.  A consistent pace and a 10-miler PR all while feeling great and running with a smile on my face.

Miles 11-20

So fast brother couldn't get a good pic!
The gorilla handing off performance enhancing PowerGel.
This section of the course brings you along the Potomac river towards Hains Point.  Many people have a negative attitude towards Hains Point.  Lonely, boring, what have you.  I on the other hand adore Hains Point.  I spend a significant amount of time every week running and biking there and love the escape from the city it offers.  There was a surprising large amount of spectators down at Hains Point including a huge group at the end of the point for the 13.1 mile mark.  I hit the half-way point around 1:47 - a half-marathon PR and still right on target with my pace and 3:40 still in my sights.  At this point I had taken one gel at the one-hour mark and was preparing to take another at the two-hour mark.  I knew my brother and Kara would be on Hains Point and all of sudden there they were with a rowdy bunch from UMD cheering and of course Rory was in his gorilla suit, because why not?  I accepted 2 gels from the gorilla at mile 14 and ran on still feeling great.  Around mile 15 I really began to focus on holding my pace.  I was beginning to count down the miles and quite excited to be in the single digits very soon.  At mile 17 I cruised through "The Gauntlet" as I continued to hydrate every couple of miles.  I saw a fellow DC Tri-er as we headed toward the capital and gave him a shout out - I believe this was his first marathon as well.  I came around the capital and my legs were beginning to ache, specifically my quads.  As much as my heart, lungs, and body wanted to hold pace I began to feel like my legs wouldn't move.  I knew the last 6.2 was going to be all heart but I knew my pace was slowing as the 3:45 pace group swallowed me up whole at mile 19.  I stuck with them for about a mile and knew I had to let them go as we were nearing mile 20.  My 30k pace was 8:35min/mile with an estimated finish time of 3:45:02 still on track for a much better than expected finish time.

Miles 21-26.2
Nothing prepares you for what the last 10k is going to feel like.  My quads were barely working and mentally I was beginning to wonder if this would really be possible after a 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike ride.  I got my head back in the game and was ticking of the final 6.2 two miles at a time.  I was aware my pace was slowing, a lot.  I could only push as hard as I could push, which with two quads barely functioning is not hard.  I didn't walk, I ran on through Crystal City.  The Dunkin' Donut Munchkin stop was at miles 22 & 24 - I did not see a single runner take a Munchkin.  The smell made me want to gag.  Crystal city packed with spectators, cowbells, and voovoozelas, but no amount of encouragement or PowerGel was making my quads feeling any better.  Around mile 25 I saw Hugh, thanks to another runner who said "Hey, Hugh".  I promptly looked up and there was Hugh, by himself on the side of the highway cheering us on.  My 40k split had dropped to a 9:06min/mile pace with an estimated finish of 3:58:35.  I knew I could push on to take the Iwo but getting there under 4:00 was seeming to be a challenge.  Finally some orange slices, mile 26, a slight down hill and a sharp turn later I was beginning the climb up to Iwo Jima.  Running up hill actually felt better, probably because I used more glutes and less quads.  My brother and Kara were right there on the hill cheering their butts off for my one last push to the finish line.  26.2 done.

Waiting in a line for the finisher's medal was difficult my legs wanted to crumble but I think it was good for them to be forced to stay slightly active.  My mind was stuck on the fact that there was no way I would be able to do that at IM Louisville.  If I had been given the option right then to drop out or stay with it I may have just dropped out.  My lower portion of my face including mouth and jaw were numb, this a new sensation.  I collected my medal and space blanket and followed the hoards toward the food table on onward.  The spectators were kept to the other side of the fence from the athletes and I was not able to link back up with Rory and Kara at the finish line festival.  I downed some water and 1/2 a Gatorade which seemed to help the numbness of the mouth and jaw.  I continued making my way toward Rosslyn for the finish line festival while making a quick pit stop at a medical table for some Tylenol, though I really wanted Ibuprofen darn it.  It was quite a walk to the baggage check but I made it there just in time as per my usual about 15 minutes post finish I started shivering uncontrollably.  I promptly pulled out my fleece jacket and re-wrapped myself in my space blanket.  I headed back up the road to get a finisher's shirt and got in touch with my brother on the phone. In Halloween fashion the first solid food I ate after the race was a small pack of Reeses Pieces :) The place was insanely crowded and I did not have much energy to do anything and seeing that my brother and  Kara were walking toward home so we could all go to brunch I decided I would head that way too.  At first I thought I would Metro but the line was crazy insane just to get into the station so I scoped out a Circulator bus that took me to Dupont Circle to meet up with the brother. 
Great photo of Rory at the finish with DC in background.
A solid morning capped off with an awesome brunch, chocolate milk, and a super comfortable Lazy Boy.  I had earned it - never again will I run my first marathon.  I'm glad I did it.  I don't think I'll do another one before IM Louisville but I will run another marathon.  Possibly Chicago, NYC, St. George?  Eventually setting my eyes on a BQ.  The drop in pace was disappointing for me but a learning moment.  For now I will work back in strength training for triathletes/endurance athletes, continue to work on technique and build my cycling legs so 26.2 doesn't seem like such a daunting task at the end of an IronMan.  

What was you first marathon? How did you feel after?
36th Annual Marine Corps 2011!  My quads are non-functioning.  In PT language a large functional limitation for me would be sit --> stand.  I'm proud of the accomplishment and 1 day later I'm ready to train for and complete IM Louisville (not physically but mentally).

What is your favorite way to recover? 
I do love an ice bath but did not partake yesterday.  I always recover with chocolate milk.  Today I am headed into clinic to treat myself with e-stim and ice after a short 0 resistance elliptical session. The more I remind the legs to work the better off they are.

Did you race this weekend?  Are you doing any turkey trots?
The DC Tri Turkey Trot is next weekend with a 5k and a 10k option.  Depending on how I feel the 5k may be in the cards.  I am also doing the Huntsville Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Marry Me...

I am knee deep in a full marathon taper.   I’ve cut my mileage by 2/3 and am remaining aware that I am running to stay fresh and remain mentally in check for the big day.  I’ve yet to cut back on the amount of swimming or cycling I’ve been doing.  I will ride a bit on the trainer tomorrow and go to master’s swim tomorrow evening.  The question remains, do I go to master’s on Friday evening, where in the awesomeness that is Master’s swimming I will probably be forced to kick anywhere from 500-1000m.

How do you taper you cycling and swimming for marathons or ½ marathons?

Over the past year I’d like to think I’ve become quite good at tapering for the triathlon.  I didn’t do any real experiments to see if perhaps I could have done a little more or less and performed better but my method lead to some solid podium finishes and PRs throughout the entire season.  Tapering for only the run seems more difficult though.  I love my “me time” to workout and especially my swimming and cycling as it is a welcome break from running.  Over the past week I’ve realized taking a break from these activities is more difficult than I’d imagined.  I don’t like feeling like I’m sitting, being sedentary, or not doing anything.  Working out, whether it is on my own or with a group is one place where my mind feels at peace.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Since my dad’s passing I’ve raced 6 times.  5 of those 6 times I have finished on the podium.  I never would have expected such results at the beginning of the season but I run and I tri with Dad at every race now.  Do I feel pressure for the marathon?  Yes, a little, but that is all pressure I have put on myself.  I keep reminding myself that running is not “my sport” it’s only 1/3 of “my sport” and a whole different experience after crushing a 25 or 56 mile bike.

On Sunday, October 30th I will run my first Marathon.  26.2 miles full of runners, fans, bands, supporters, and pure energy.  I will give everything I have and finish the marathon the best way I know how.  Thanking the heavens for the opportunity to run, for the strength to train, the guidance to stay on track, and the love and support of family and friends.   My soreness a sacrifice to my savior.

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” –Pre

My main focus this year was triathlon - training and racing 70.3 as well as multiple Olympic Distance races.  I will run the Marine Corps marathon for the experience and for the confidence of knowing what 26.2 feels like.  I know 26.2 will feel completely different after a 112 mile bike but knowing I’ve been there before will help me through the training and racing of 140.6.  As daunting as the task seems I can’t wait to begin official training – that being said I still need an official training program. 

Do you have any suggestions or previous IronMan experience I should know about before I start to train?

Worrying takes away today’s strength, not tomorrow’s sorrows.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Giant Acorn International Race Recap

This was a somewhat local race to DC - allowing me to wait to the last minute to register and no need for a hotel or extensive travel plans.  The late start time even allowed for a normal amount of sleep the night before.  This race was 6 short days after Augusta 70.3.  I spent the time recovering my legs in hopes to be able to race and PR at the Giant Acorn.  The weeks training consisted of elliptical with almost no resistance and swimming.  By Wednesday I knew my legs would be able to race on Saturday so I registered online just in time before the race sold out.  I worked out a ride with some DC Tri friends and focused the last couple days on getting my legs and body as ready as it could possibly be.  I had set a goal of finishing Nation's under 2:30 but with the canceled swim my 1:56 was under 2:30 but missing the swim portion.  I am confident that I would have still finished under 2:30 but I wanted to prove it at Giant Acorn.

Race Morning
  After having the breakfast of champions, Special K Red Berries with frozen banana, my ride was soon to be here so I double checked my bag and headed outside.  I was lucky enough to have curbside pickup from the DC Tri crew.  We quickly loaded my bike on the roof rack, thank goodness because my bike is so tiny that it doesn't fit on all trunk racks, and hit the road for the Lake Anna Marina in Bumpass, VA.  It was overcast, slightly raining throughout the drive and cold.  I spent most of the drive mentally dealing with the fact that I was going to race in the cold air.  I came to the conclusion that the faster I biked and ran the sooner I could get out of the coldness and it would probably feel good during the run anyways.  Race start was at 10:00 so we planned on arriving at 9:00 to give ourselves in hour for packet pick-up, transition set-up and warm-up.

Pre Race
As planned we arrived around 9:00 with what we thought would be plenty of time to pull ourselves together.  We soon realized we were mistaken - either 90% of the athlete's arrived at 9:00am or the race was not prepared to handle packet pickup in the AM.  The line was out of control.  We waited in line for 40 minutes, transition closed at 9:45.  I had to run to the car get my bike and gear and set up transition in 5 minutes!  Yikes.  I was in go mode.  Luckliy it seems some athlete's decided not to show due to the cooler conditions so transition was not as packed as it might have been.  I created an organized mess around my bike before getting into my wetsuit.  As I got into my wetsuit I realized I had left my awesome red swim cap in the car.  No big deal I went back to packet pickup and got another red cap, much easier than heading to the car.  I got body marked, donned "DAD" (no time for black armband) on my left arm and took some deep breaths for a few minutes before the starting gun of the first wave.  As I took in the crowd and the course I noticed that there seemed to be an unusually large amount of females in my age group.  Come to find out it was the Collegiate Regional Championships.

THE SWIM - 1500m - 31:48
The water was choppy - I'm used to pretty flat water and there were a huge amount of people in my start wave.  I found myself a nice starting position toward the inside of the course in front of most of the crowd which may or may not have been a good decision.  I got pummeled the first 400m of the course - both by waves and other athletes.  Many athlete's were swimming off course and having difficulty sighting.  Definitely not a good race to draft unless you were keeping track of where you were headed.  The swim was hard, I battled waves and athlete's the entire distance.  Overall I was happy with my swim time, I expected worse given the conditions.  I will continue to get better at the swim.

T1 - 2:58
Not my fastest T1 time but I had to get the wetsuit off and deal with my organized mess when I got to my bike rack.

THE BIKE -   - 1:09:53
The air felt cold on the arms at first - now I know why people get arm warmers.  The rest of me was ok a little chilly but I warmed up quickly.  Shortly into the bike I went to take some water and realized that in my rush of the morning I had not dumped my water into my aero bottle while setting up in transition.  Luckily I had a bottle of Heed in my bottle cage and dumped that into the aero bottle.  At least I had Heed and PowerGels - I needed whatever I could get to push my legs to a PR.  The bike course was 2 loops of rolling hills.  It was fun - none of the climbs were outrageous and there were some long downhills.  The course never really felt crowded but was definitely much busier as I came around on my 2nd loop.  I took 3 gels during this bike to help prepare myself for the run.  I would have like to have a bit better bike time, my average speed was 21.34 MPH, looking for this to be about 22 MPH and above on flat courses.  My legs started to feel the previous weekend's 70.3 effort near the end of the ride.

T2 - 2:03
Nothing too exciting here, back to the organized mess.  Got into my run shoes and grabbed the race # belt before heading out to the run course.

THE RUN - 10 - 50:23
The run course was 2 loops of 3.1 miles.  I was not cold at all - the cooler air felt nice for a change.  It was on the run course that I saw the massive group of girls in my age group coming back towards me while I was heading out on loop 1.  I thought I had done well enough on the bike and positioned myself in front of those in my age group - little did I know the collegiate's were way out in front.  My legs were feeling tired so I just passed people 1 by 1 during the run to keep me mentally in the game.  I was realizing that I probably wouldn't break 2:30 but still could PR so I was pushing as much as I could.  I took advantage of water and Heed at every opportunity.  A small section of the run course was through a wooded trail and I loved it - trails always make me run faster!  The run was not close to my 10k PR but good enough considering my legs were pretty beat.

OVERALL - 2:37:02
A new International Distance PR for me.  I was happy with that but a bit disappointed about not breaking 2:30.  There will be many more chances and many more races more conducive to such a goal.  With the amount of girls who had finished in front of me I figured I probably didn't place.  I asked some of the timing people of the collegiate's were in the age group divisions or if they had their own division and was told they would be in the Age Group divisions.  I met up with the DC Tri crew, put on some warmer clothes and got back on the road.  Come to find out - I won my AG!  Wish I would have known at the race site but no big deal.

Post Race Thoughts
I don't like being rushed before the race, now I really am sure of this.  I will always be at races much too early rather than rushing around.  This seemed to be the most unorganized Set-Up events race I have done.  I was happy to finish the season with a PR - my body and mind were ready for a break.  My focus now shifts to the marathon that is only a couple of short weeks away.  I have been developing goals for next year, putting together the 2012 race schedule and seeking out Ironman Training plans.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Journey Just Begun

Less than 11 months away.
A couple of weeks ago - on August 28, 2011 to be exact, I bit the bullet and registered for the big one.  That's right I have officially registered for Ironman Louisville on August 26, 2012.  I was pumped up feeling good from my training for my 70.3 and for Nation's Tri and realized that next year may be my ideal year since I am forced to take a little time off between graduation and licensure - perfect time for peak training.

Have a minute? Read it.
I've now been registered for about a month.  I've gone through an array of feelings of excitement to Holy $#!* what did I just commit to, to I want to win and qualify for Kona and also I just want to survive.  I've since become more content with the idea and have read You Are an Ironman by Jacques Steinberg.  It's very good book about 6 people's journey's to IMAZ 2009.  It helped put into perspective what I will be doing, made me think about WHY I want to do this, and helped me realize what I need to plan for - including long training days.

I am beyond glad I completed 70.3 this year and realized how important it will be to get my legs comfortable riding 112 miles and holding a pace I've trained at so that I can be successful during the run.  I will be completing a marathon on October 31, and yes this will give me confidence, but running after swimming and cycling at times feels like a different sport than running alone.

Can I make it here under 12:00:00?
So here starts my journey to 140.6.  I have began looking at different training plans and asking fellow DC Tri club members what they have used.  To this point I have self-coached and been successful.  I need to improve my swim and I know I can do this by getting help with technique.  I also need to build up to long rides at race pace - doing this with a training partner or group will push me harder and make me better.  As I age up as of January 1, 2012 I am in a much more competitive AG.  The athletes in the upper end of the 25-29 AG could have 5+ years of experience/training on me.  Along with 140.6 the journey will involve other important races including Age Group National Championships and potentially another 70.3.  Unfortunately the schedule probably won't be as packed and exciting as this year to allow proper time to build for the IM and keeping my bank account in mind ;)

Have you done an Ironman?  Did you use a training plan?

Any advice or suggestions?

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Strippers and such of Augusta 70.3

It's been 5 days since race day and I can say my legs feel good and tomorrow they will feel excellent.  I don't have an option as I am racing the Giant Acorn International tomorrow - I just couldn't let the season end, it went by way to fast.  Recovery week has involved some easy swims, a longer swim, and some short elliptical and core strengthening sessions along with ice, Advil, and chocolate milk.

DAY 1 - Friday
In my mind Augusta 70.3 started on Friday.  I had to catch a 6am flight to Atlanta and once there head out on the drive over to Augusta.  In wasn't a bad trip and I was able to catch some zzzz's on the plane.  Once in Augusta we discovered our hotel was not in an ideal location to the race site, but nothing we could do about it at that point.  We headed out to the host hotel on the river for packet pick up and a course briefing.  As we got to the downtown Augusta area there were triathletes everywhere!  It was pretty awesome.  We found some free parking and headed on in.  By now, as expected, it seems Ironman has this down to a science.  Stop at this table get this, go to the next table sign that, on and on until you had your race numbers, timing chip , and shirt and voila you emptied out right into the offical Ironman merchandise store.  How ideal.  I had never gotten my chip previous to race day so that was something new and interesting.  Apparently they are 1 time use chips - though mine appeared a bit dirty.  Once they gave it to you one of the stops you had to make was to get it activated which took about 1 second.  Ryan and I scooped up some merchandise at the store, including visors for the run portion of the race before heading outside to walk along the river before the course briefing.  The river looked nice and we could look down and see the swim start and some fellow athletes jumping in for a practice swim.  We stopped for some pictures and a break near a fountain and we were soon interrupted by a reporter from a local Augusta newspaper.  She asked us all sorts of questions and I was quoted the next morning in her article on the front page.  

We made it back just in time for the course briefing to start - and to our surprise it was the same guy that does the course briefing at Nation's and probably 90% of the larger races in the US...what a life.  At least we knew it wouldn't be dull.  I am definitely glad we went to the briefing as we learned about wetsuit 'strippers', water bottle handoffs, drop zones, and the penalty tent.  We weren't too concerned with the penalty tent but the moving water bottle handoffs on the bike and the drop zones spiked my blood pressure just a bit.  A moving water bottle handoff is not something you really practice, or at least I never have.  It is exactly as it sounds.  You ride to the right side of the road and there are a bunch of volunteers holding our water, Ironman Perform, Gel, bananas, etc. and you take what you need as you ride by.  The drop zone was right before and after the aid stations to drop trash, water bottles, etc.  I was most concerned about getting the water, dumping it into my aerobottle, and dropping it before the drop zone ended or else risking a penalty.  Once explained a few times my nerves were calmed and I was confident I could handle as such things.  The 'strippers' on the other were quite the pleasant surprise.  As we ran from the water toward T1 there was an area of carpeting right before the transition area where you could lie down and the 'strippers' would pull your wetsuit off in about 5 seconds.  Awesomesauce!
DAY 2 - Saturday
We had an easy going day on Saturday and headed to mall in the AM to do a little shopping and keep our legs moving.  I was even able to find a dress from Express to wear to my BFF's wedding next weekend.  I got a hold of our friend Wyatt while we were out and about to see if we could catch up, and catch up we did.   He is in school in Augusta and lives in a nice house not far from the race site so he invited us over for a football shindig in the afternoon.  After malling it up it was time to get back to race business for a little bit.  We went to a local bike shop to get Ryan some new tri shorts as his ripped during Nation's and were sent back in hopes of a new pair.  The bike shop was bouncing with triathletes, mostly whom had last minute bike issues.  After finding some shorts we headed down to the transition area to rack our bikes.  I was blessed with an awesome bike rack spot again!  2 spots in on the rack next to the main aisle.  Nice. I figured out the logistics of the transition area and practice running in and out to and fro the bike a couple times.  We took a little walk down the river back towards the car and assessed the current.  It didn't look too strong but strong enough to be helpful come Sunday morning.

After taking care of the race business we headed over to Wyatt's house. We had a nice visit complete with plenty of veggies, dip, and all the cookies Wyatt could ever want.  We even convinced him to come out to the finish line the following day!  I had previously scoped out our dinner options and knew there was an Olive Garden in town.  I know it may not be real "Italian" but it's good, it works with my stomach on race day, and I love the salad.  We had to wait about 40 minutes for a table as apparently Olive Garden was a popular choice among the endurance athletes in town and the locals celebrating birthdays.  We carb loaded to our heart's content on pasta, bread sticks and salad before heading across town back to the hotel for the night.  We were able to get the car packed, be race ready, and get to bed by about 9:30 since we would be up at 4:30 on race morning.

Wake up came early but we were ready!  I was quickly out of bed and changing into race gear.  I had been wavering all day Saturday as to what in the world I was going to wear.  It was time to decide so the DC tri top with the long tri shorts it was.  I had my usual breakfast of champions...Special K Red Berries with banana and almond milk before heading out the door.  We were warned repeatedly at the course breifing to have a parking plan.  So we did and executed perfectly.  We parked near the host hotel and took the shuttle down to the transition area.  There were plenty of shuttles coming and going so we didn't have to wait on a shuttle just waited a few minutes to get everyone boarded and we even met some nice guys with an inside scoop on the course.

We got to the transition area with plenty of time to setup and inflate our bike tires.  There were plenty of port-o-john's near my transition spot making my morning bathroom stop super easy and early enough before a line formed or toilet paper ran out.  Lesson learned by watching others - play it safe and bring your own TP to large races to avoid not having any.  Once Ryan and I were both done setting up we got body marked, I donned my black armband, and headed out of transition with our morning clothes bag.  We were given a plastic bag with our race # on it to carry around anything we may need in morning and at the finish line.  This was ideal for me as I had to wait more than an hour after Ryan started for my wave to start.  I took my body glide, power bar, and and clothes for post race including recovery socks in my bag.  We boarded another shuttle up the road 1.2 miles to the swim start.  Once dropped off we scoped out a restroom for Ryan.  Lines were forming at these, but they had enough to keep the wait down.  We then sat for a little but, got my wetsuit on and dropped off our morning bags before heading to the start corrals.  Ryan went out into the sea of athletes to catch up with his start wave and I stayed along the river to watch the pros and cheer on Ryan.  As a stood along the river watching wave after wave start I started to get a little nervous but mostly excited.  

THE SWIM - 1.2 Miles - 29:31
My swim wave was towards the end, but not the last one which was a nice change of pace.  We were shuffled along in line until finally we were in the corral watching the wave ahead of us start.  As they started they opened the gate and let us begin the walk down the dock.  We got to the starting point and mostly everyone jumped in the water.  The water was a bit chilly and I warmed myself up a bit, if ya know what I mean.  The current made staying behind the starting buoy's a bit of a challenge.  Alas, the horn sounded and we were off.  The course was a straight 1.2 miles down the river.  With such a course it seemed there was much less swimming over each other and hitting each other which was quite nice.  I put my head down and swam.  I felt like I was flying with the current helping me out!  There was a few spots of seaweed that got tangled on my arms but I just kept swimming and they fell off eventually.  Before I knew it I was at the exit ramp.  I saw many people walking so I thought I too would stand up and begin walking out of the water...but not so fast apparently these people were taller than me because I couldn't touch.  I kept swimming which was probably to my benefit as I was passing the walkers.

T1 - 3:47
Wetsuit 'strippers' were a huge success.  I layed down, put my feet up and a 'stripper' grabbed each leg and off with the westuit.  Had to be less than 5 seconds.  No time wasted in transition by wearing the wetsuit.  The rest of transition was pretty uneventful  Ran in, put on helmet and sunglasses, socks and shoes and oh yeah the race number belt - with number in back.  Unlike smaller races Ironman requires you wear a number on your back during the bike.  A race number belt makes this easy by allowing you to put it on for the bike and only twist it around for the run.  I ran out of transition and a few steps past the mount line before getting on the bike.  

THE BIKE - 56 miles - 2:47:53
An awesome ride.  I felt great the entire way.  I did not execute my nutrition plan exactly as I had planned.  I planned on a Gel around mile 10-12, a Bar around mile 30-35, and another gel around mile 50.  I got down 2 gels and about 1/2 (not even) of the bar.  I was too preoccupied with how much fun the course was.  I was able to drink 2 aerobottles full of water and almost an entire bottle of Heed - but should probably drink more.  The course was fast with some rolling hills.  If you are used to riding on very flat roads you may think that there were a couple of 'climbs' but nothing compared to Skyline Drive or even the Luray bike course.  The course was not completely closed to traffic but the lanes we were in were completely blocked off and volunteers and police at every intersection.  Not too a long ago a local man was in a fatal cycling collision with a motor vehicle while training on the course.  We road past a large white cross with flowers and I could only assume it was for him.  I shed some tears for him and my dad - may they ride on in the heavens together!  Most of the bike course actually took place in South Carolina and was quite pretty with only a stretch of not so smooth road.  Locals sat at the end of their long drive ways and cheered us on as we road by.  One local even had nothing better to do than to stand at the end of his drive way yelling some incoherent trash while holding a sign that said 'Get off the Road, Go Home'.  He wasn't too keen on the influx of athletes to his homeland, I can only hope no athlete gave him the time of day to render a reaction.  The moving water bottle hand-offs went as smooth as I could have possibly hoped for with plenty of time to fill my aerobottle before the drop zone.  I chose not to take any nutrition from the aid stations as I thought my plan was A-OK, I think next time I'll take 1/2 a banana or something.  I cruised along and was soon headed back in to Georgia and on my way back to transition.  My legs were starting to feel a bit tired but I had made it - no accidents, no flats, no issues and soon enough I'd be running.

T2 - 1:34
A rather uneventful T2.  I noticed no other bikes back at my rack or the racks around mine.  Nice, I thought just run your race and just run fast enough so no one catches you.  Well that was the plan at least.  I had previously figured myself capable of running a 1:50-1:55 13.1 - completely doable on a running day.  I changed my shoes, headed out of transition and onto the run course.

THE RUN - 13.1 Miles - 2:17:35
I started out with my legs feeling heavy but figured it would pass as they always feel a bit heavy at the beginning of the run.  The first mile seemed to take forever - I just wanted to pass an aid station have get some water.  I kept on trucking and at mile 2.5 took my first gel.  I was told there would be aid stations every mile - didn't seem to be quite every mile and I was disappointed.  Some spectators were familiar with DC Tri and gave me a good hollar as a passed by - that was a good lift me up for a bit.  I took another gel around mile 5.  My stomach started to turn, I started getting chills and thought I can't take anymore gels so I thought it would be a good idea to not take anymore gels and just take water, ice, and Ironman Perform at the aid stations.  Warning: Don't make nutritional decisions during the race - stick to the plan.  I saw a couple girl pass me during the first loop that were in my age group.  They were running great, let them go and concentrate on your race.  The 2nd loop didn't seem as bad but the decision the abort the gel intake cost me. I was much slower and got caught by another age grouper.  Ryan's parents and sister were along the run course to cheer us on which was very nice.  By the time I was on the course running the weather was hot and the sun had been out.  The run course was slightly shaded and during my 2nd loop some cloud cover offered some welcome relief.  Alas the finish chute was upon me.  I picked up the pace as much as I could and crossed the line with my arms up and celebratory fashion.  The young volunteers at the finish line seemed overwhelmed.  I stumpled a couple steps as my quads wanted nothing to do with support any amount of weight.  I got my finisher's medal and hat and headed on to find Ryan.  
We met up with his parents and said goodbye before picking up our morning bags and getting in line for pizza and other food.  No chocolate milk!?! You have got to be kidding me.  I would have really enjoyed a large bottle of chocolate milk at that point.  I slowly got down a slice of cheese pizza and 1/2 an orange as Ryan and I waited under the shelter of the food tent for Wyatt.  The skies had open up and a large storm was looming.  We heard word they might close the course for safety - what a bummer if you were almost done running and they closed the course - but they didn't!  We checked the results and got on our way to get out of the rain.

Loved the experience of racing an official M-dot event.  Well run and the weather was almost perfect.  I realize now that I didn't train for the race I had hoped for.  My longest ride was 50 miles and not near the intensity I rode during the race.  This is what cost me on the run.  I need to get my cycling legs used to longer distances at race pace - or slow race pace down, but is that really an option.  I'm glad I now have my first 70.3 under my belt and learned some valuable lessons before tackling 140.6, because who know that might be in the works ;)  I finished 6th in my age group - 3 seconds behind 5th - the last podium place.  Very frustrating but I need to be smarter about my training on the bike and how hard I push my race pace as well as sticking to the nutrition plan.  Had I got down a couple more Gels during the run it could have been a different result.  I can't let that undermine the success I did have - a great swim, a great bike, smooth transitions and overall a good rookie 70.3!

Holli Finneren

270524Lake Orion MI USAStudent

TOTAL SWIM1.2 mi. (29:31)1:33/100m139714

TOTAL BIKE56 mi. (2:47:53)20.01 mph9213

RUN SPLIT 1: 6.55 mi6.55 mi (1:01:06)9:19/mi
RUN SPLIT 2: 13.1 mi6.55 mi (1:16:29)11:40/mi
TOTAL RUN13.1 mi (2:17:35)10:30/mi9096