Monday, April 30, 2012

USAT Collegiate National Championship Race Report

Frist off, this was an awesome experience and I am so glad I went down to Tuscaloosa for it.  This was a race with over 1200 athletes all between the ages of 18-28.  Most athletes came down with their school triathlon clubs and competed for team points.  Athletes without "teams"(me) were still able to race for individual titles.  Seeing the club teams their and all the spirit and energy surrounding the event was pretty awesome.

My mom and I decided to leave Acworth, GA on Thursday night and drive partway to Tuscaloosa so we wouldn't have to be in the car too long on Friday morning.  We made just past Talladega before retiring for the evening.  The Friday morning drive was short and easy - no hassle of Atlanta traffic or long hours in the car the day before a race.

We arrived at the race site just 1 hour after packet pick-up started.  There were plenty of other teams there going on shorts rides and/or runs and just strutting their stuff at packet pickup.  The venue was the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater - a different kind of venue then I am used to and definitely has some pluses and minuses as you'll see.  I was able to pick up my packet without any trouble before setting out to do a full run down of the race start and transition area.  My mom and I studied the maps of transition - which showed 2 different transition areas - one for "open" division athletes and one for team competition.  We only saw one transition area - so I found a USAT rep and found out there really was only going to be one transition area.  That made things a lot simpler.  We then set out to check out the swim exit/start.  The swim exit was about 400m from transitions, up a curvy and hilly jogging path.  Awesome.  Swim exit was at a boat ramp and swim start was a couple hundred meters further down off of a dock.

After feeling comfortable enough with some of the race logistics we set out for lodging and food.  I had made a reservation at Homewood Suites when I first registered for the race.  A cheap one queen bed suite.  We went to the hotel and found out wt was a smoking room and they were completely booked, as were many of the other hotels.  They understood our hesitation and basic refusal to stay in a smoking room and offered to let us use the computer to find another hotel.  Without trouble I found Mom and I a nice room at the Fairfield Inn - one of the closest hotels to the race site.  We stopped in at Jason's Deli for some lunch, along with Texas, Texas Tech, and a couple other tri teams and everyone else and their mom in Tuscaloosa. It was still pretty quick and delicious.  Off to our room at the Fairfield before heading back to the race site.

We went back to the race site in the afternoon so I could get some time in the Black Warrior River during swim practice as well as take my bike by the bike mechanic.  On Thursday my mom and I went for an nice ride on the Silver Comet and something was rubbing on one of my tires.  I checked the brakes pads about 1000 times - it was not a brake pad.  I could not figure out what in the world it was - but the mechanic knew right away!  When my ZIPP wheels were installed the screws near the dropouts of the rear wheel weren't adjusted and the wheel was just slightly bigger than the previous Easton's and the tire was rubbing on the frame.  It was a quick fix and I thought this would also be an answer as to why my bike splits have been a bit slower than what I know I am capable of.  Swim practice when well.  I swam about 700m - practiced sighting and realized I was drifting right and needed to correct it to stay on course.  A huge barge of coal when through the race course right after I got out of the river - Black Warrior River, I get it.

Friday evening was the usual pre-race dance.  Pasta dinner. Attempt to drive the course (fail - horrible directions/map). Pack, check, and re-check the race bag.  Put a # sticker on every piece of gear - bag, helmet x 3, bike, swim cap x 2, spectator.  Apply Tri Tats to myself.  I had never done this before and the instructions only said 1 on each arm, but we had 4.  I applied my # to both arms without a problem.  I then went on to attempt to apply the ridiculously long number to my thigh - where  I knew no one was see it.  I messed up the first one - doh, forgot to taking the backing off and applied the tatoo right to its packaging.  The 2nd one went on without a problem, thought you really wouldn't be able to see it at all under my shorts.  Lights out and a good night's sleep.

I woke up at 5am, had my usual pre-race breakfast of Special K Red Berries with almond milk and banana.  Got myself race ready, loaded the bike into the car along with all my gear and mom and hit the road.  About 4 minutes down the road I realized I had forgotten my wetsuit.  Based on the water temp during the practice swim I knew I had to turn around to go get it.  Got the wetsuit and hit the road again.  Arrived at transition with bike and gear around 6am for a 7am transition closing time.  Before entering transition we had to wait in a long line to pick up our timing chips.  The line moved decently fast and once through the line I was in transition.

I set up my transition area which was not crammed at all.  There were plenty of USAT officials around to ask questions about the course, transition, etc.  The transition area was considered a "clean transition" which meant that you could only have your race necessities and not store any bags or gear in the TA.  I set up my bike with helment & sunglasses, bike shoes with baby powder, running shoes with baby powder, race belt, hat and nutrition ( 2 gels for the run, and 2 gels already taped to the bike frame).  I headed out of transition and mom and I headed to the swim start.  There were tons of spectators at the race and lining the swim entrance and exit.  I wiggled myself into my wetsuit and donned my black armband as I prepared for my 7:45 start time.

THE SWIM - 1500m - 34:17
Swim start at the Bama Bell.
Crap.  Complete crap.  I am way better than this in the water (pool).  Saving grace - it's early in the season. I was in the 4th and final wave of women to start the race - as were all the other open division athletes.  It was nice seeing the other waves start and different tactics of positioning.  Before I knew it I was lining up and walking down to the dock.  I started off the end of the dock on the inside of the course so I would be hugging the bouy's.  Based on my swims the week leading up to this race I was confident I could nail a decent swim time (29:00).  My swim started out well, I stayed on course and stayed midpack.  After making the turn around I started having sighting issues.  I was sighting a lot, and not exactly taking the most direct route.  I knew I was catching some folks from previous waves due to swim cap color so I thought I was still doing ok for my goal time.  The swim exit was tough - a carpet was laid down over the boat launch but it was slick and difficult to get your footing on.  After a few slips I got it together and was able to run out.

T1 -3:35
The was at least a 400m run up and into transition.  I felt slow and running in the wetsuit isn't exactly my favorite thing to do.  I was overjoyed when I reach transition.  The wetsuit came off without much to-do and I quickly donned bike shoes, helmet, sunglasses before I ran out of transition with my bike.

THE BIKE - 40k - 1:17:18
This is my favorite part of triathlons.  I should have nailed a 1:06ish time.  I'm blaming the new wheels for now.  I was 4th on the bike, the times in general were slow - probably due to environmental factors.  The course was a 2 loop out-back design with some rolling hills.  On our way out we had a tough head wind, a cross wind as we went over the bridge to turn around and come back over the bridge with the same cross win and finally a bit of a tail wind on the way back in.  I was consistently passing people and feeling good on the bike.  The night before I had removed my x-wing and put a water bottle cage on my bike frame.  I carried water and diluted Gu brew and had just enough liquids with some to spare.  During the end of my first loop I got passed by the 2 leaders on their way in on the bike.  Granted they started 15 min before me, had gotten at least 12 min on me on the swim - but this still meant they had even gained time on me on the bike.  Argh, I don't like that, especially when my ZIPP wheels are supposed to be faster!  I continued to pass people the entire bike course.  As you approached transition the streets were lined with rowdy spectators, at some points creating only narrow passageways through.  As I approached the dismount line I unvelcroed my shoes sliped my feet out, and rested them on top of the shoes as I continued a light pedal.  I successfully completed my first flying dismount and ran it in to transition.

T2 -1:13
I reracked without any issues thanks to nice and tall racks.  I slipped on my running shoes and hat, put the nutrition in my sports bra, and grabbed my race belt.

THE RUN - 10k - 52:27
This will get better.  From the previous weeks races and pictures I knew I had been overstriding during my run.  The beginning of the run course was difficult - with a big test early.  Within the first mile their was a long and steep climb - I saw many people walking here and chewed them up and spit em out.  I was feeling pretty good on the run, catching quite a few people the first couple miles.  The first half of the course was through the downtown neighborhood with some rolling hills and local spectators.  The 2nd half was along a jogging path and back along the same road we biked on.  This part was more flat but desolate until the final 800m.  My plan had been to really push it once the course flattened out - but I couldn't pick up the pace.  I was frustrated but kept mt feet underneath me and kept on moving forward.  I discovered that I accidently pulled out a power gel and a power bar when I set up transition.  I don't take bars on the run, or at least I never have.  Luckily Gu was available around mile 3 so I was able to hold on to one to take instead of having 2 Power Gels.  I like to take a gel at miles 2 and 4.  The final 800m of this course was by far the best part of the event.  The street was lined on both sides with cheering fans and you came down and around into the orchestra gallery along a red carpet lined with USAT National Championship paraphernalia.

I had decided, maybe a little too late, to make this a goal race for myself.  I was full fledged into Ironman training and didn't do any real short/fast work up until 2 weeks before this race.  I wanted to PR but in actuality my training was not where it needed to be to PR.  Not that I haven't been training but I've been cycling and running  long without much focus on speed.  Overall I was 9th in the Female Open Division which isn't bad - ok top 10, heck yeah!  I was disappointed with the result and still am a little bit.  At least I nailed my transitions, but I wasn't where I needed to be speed wise in the other disciplines.  I have time to get to where I want to be - get to race weight, respectable swim time, improved running times, and hitting 22-23mph avg on my bike splits. I was a little over 10 minutes off my PR Oly time.  I am beginning to focus some more work on speed now that I have ample time and I am back to my usual training routes in DC.  It's frustrating to not be where I was at the end of last season but I'm also light years ahead of where I started last season in May.  I am also frustrated with the ZIPP 404s I got on craiglist for my bike.  My bike splits have been slower with the 404s on - I am getting them checked out before my next race and if I'm faster with the Easton's then the Easton's it will be on race day.  The 404s were a great deal - but I may be figuring out why - no more original ZIPP hubs, I was told they were 07's but the decals match the 01's...hmmm?
At least they look cool.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Race day at USAT NC

Tomorrow morning is race day.  I went through all the pre race festivities today - bike maintenance, practice swim, check in, attempted driving the course, nutrition, numbers (yeah I screwed one of the tats up, I'm a newb). 

My wave starts at 7:45 am tomorrow at the Bama Bell.  I'm number 456 - the amount of numbers on me and my stuff is ridiculous.  Bike #, 3 helmet #s, 2 swim cap #s (will these really stay on?), transition bag #, race belt #, support team #, and my body markings.

The practice swim went well, the bike is ready to fly, I'm ready to race.  Swim. Bike. Run.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Gearing up for National Championships

Finish Line for Saturday
Collegiate National Championships are less than 48 hours away.  I've spent this week recovering from the 2 races last weekend, staying fresh and sharp, and fixing technique errors.  Thanks to some awesome friends that spent time in the lake, pool, analyzing running technique and setting up some new tri shoes and cleats for me I'm feeling ready to race on Saturday.   The main reason I race Belews Lake last Saturday was for the pure experience of getting that 1st triathlon of the season under the belt.  Figuring out race day - from breakfast to transition set up to on the course nutrition I felt I needed to go through it for real before Collegiate Nationals.  I'm glad I experienced a bad swim, not optimal nutrition, and race day pace all before the race on Saturday.  Here's a look at how I spent my recovery/prep week.

The Run - I did about 1/2 of the distance of my normal running workouts.  I hit my best mile splits during my speed workout this week and my best splits during my hill workout.  I swaped out my pink Kinvara's for a new pair of white and purple.  I had been in denial because I love the pink shoes so much, but they were done-zo major.  I'm feeling confident in my running.  The course in Tuscaloosa will test athlete's early on with a large hill within the first 2 miles.  I will drive the course tomorrow and see how the hill measures up and if I should change my race plan accordingly.

The Bike - With 2 race day efforts last weekend I wanted to take it easy on the bike.  Last Saturday my legs felt tired when I got on the bike and I did not want that feeling this Saturday.  I did one trainer session thanks to stormy and rainy Georgia weather on Wednesday and did an easy 10 miles on the Silver Comet on Thursday to test out the new shoe and cleat set up.  I incorporated a few pickups to get the legs moving hard and a few superspins.  I'm ready for a moving dismount on Saturday but I don't think I'm quite ready for a flying mount yet but it's coming.  Thanks to a 2 loop bike course in Tuscaloosa it will be convenient to drive the bike course as well tomorrow.  I'll scout any major hills, turns, downhills, narrow roads, etc.  This race course will be COMPLETELY closed to traffic - this should allow for a lot of passing and jockeying for position on the bike without worrying about cars coming up behind you.

The Swim - I think I made more gains in the swim this week than I have in the 3 months.  On Monday my friend Mary (post collegiate swimmer)  spent time with me in the pool correcting my body positioning and technique.  I had never really had proper positioning and technique explained to me.  We went through drills to reinforce certain aspects and I tried out fins and paddles for the first time.  Pretty awesome.  On Tuesday, PTS Coach, Jeff, spent time with me in the lake working on sighting, turning, and technique.  Just being in the open water and having to sight and make it around turn bouys helped me get some confidence back in the swim.  On Wednesday I went to the pool and a set I like to do every week - the improvements in times on the different intervals were unreal.  Don't plow through the water - duh.  I knew I was fit enough to swim better - I just didn't know how.  Now I know how and if maintaining how and improving how means 2 pool sessions per day I'll start putting in 2 pool sessions per day - at least until work starts up.  I felt myself rotating, propelling from the core, and being long in the water.  All this and my times improved and I was not even winded at the end of my intervals.  Perhaps one of the best things that came from all the work in the pool was being told "You are a strong enough swimmer that you should be starting at the front of the pack.  Get in their and go after it."  After all this is ten percent luck, twenty percent skill, fifteen percent concentrated power of will, five percent pleasure, fifty percent pain...

Collegiate National Championships will be my first experience racing against a field primarily consisting of people in or almost in my age group.  The best athletes who are <28y.o. and current full time students are eligible to race.  There is a large team competition, which unfortunately GWU does not have a team in since the Tri Club just started this semester.  There will also be a mixed team relay on Saturday afternoon after both the Women's and Men's race.  This is a large event put on by USAT and since I haven't been to AG National Championships yet I am looking forward to my first USAT Championship race, the experience, competition, and camaraderie that comes along with it.  Some of the best young triathlete's will be racing here.  Current pro's who have previously raced here include Caitlin Snow and Kaitlin Shiver.  More details tomorrow on the race expo and how to follow along with the race on Saturday.

I don't stop when I'm tired, I stop when I'm done.
When all the weak is gone, all that's left is STRONG.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

PTS Cartersville Duathlon Race Recap

After a long but easy drive home Saturday afternoon I began preparations for my 2nd multisport race of the season - the Cartersville Duathlon on Sunday morning.  This race was put on my PTS Sports part of the PT Solutions family (where I just completed my final internship for PT school).  I was excited for the race and excited to put in another race day effort on the bike and run to get even more prepared for Coll Nat Championships on 4/21.  All my coworkers were on the course directing traffic and athletes as well as working the various tents around transition.

I already had my packet for this race thanks to the midweek pick up opportunity.  I ate a quick breakfast of champions - Special K Red Berries with banana and almond milk, loaded up my bike into the back of my car, and set out to Cartersville.  I had only been to the park once previously so I had a bit of trouble following my directions but luckily some fellow racers/patients flew by me as I pulled off to look at the map and I just followed them the rest of the way.  I arrived around 6:15 for a 7:30 am start/7:15 transition closing.  I had plenty of time to set up transition, get my timing chip, warm up, and visit with some friends that were also racing.  Mostly I met these friends because they were patients of mine at one point during the internship - yeah I had an awesome internship.  Some of my fellow PTS group workout buddies were there gearing up for their first race ever and first race of the season!

RUN 1 - 5k - 23:38
I started out a bit too fast, I hit the first mile at 7:03.  I would have like to keep a 7:20-7:25 pace the entire way but no such luck.  Just around mile one my legs started feeling a bit tired and lethargic from Saturday's activities.  I repeated some of my mantra's in my head to get myself through miles 2 and 3.

T1 - 0:57
Not a bad transition at all. Simple to go from running to biking - now to translate this from swim to bike.  Should be able to have quick transitions as long as I'm not removing my wetsuit.  I'm torn about wearing a wetsuit for collegiate championships this weekend basically for the transition time.  Friday's practice swim should help me decide.

BIKE - 17 miles - 49:53 (20.5mph)
A bit slower than I am capable of.  My legs felt great as I started out on the bike though.  I moved the extra magnet on the race wheels up to the front wheel and had my bike computer for this ride.  I passed people for the majority of the ride while getting passed by a few men (men what in the world you started the race 3 minutes before the women).  I didn't get passed by any women on the ride and caught quite a few.  I was in hot pursuit of another 25 year old but never caught her on the bike.  She had passed me on the run which put her ahead by 45 seconds followed by the same bike time - well done - it pushed me to bike hard the entire way.  I must say 17 miles went by way to quickly.  I'm used to hours on the bike - 49 minutes is child's play now.  I'm eager and ready to get back to some outdoor interval training at Hains Point with DC Tri Club.  With the focus on the longer rides my speed has dropped a bit.  I know it's still early in the season and I am well past where I was at this time last year.

T2 - 0:46
A well executed T2.  Must transfer this to triathlon.  Same transition bike-run.  No reason not to be able to duplicate a speedy transition time during T2 on Saturday.

RUN 2 - 5k - 25:18
Not so proud of this one.  Would have liked to see this actually be faster than the first.  My legs were tired. I took a gel about 1/2 way through the run for an extra little boost.  I felt as though I was heel striking and my form was breaking down.  I was in hot pursuit of women on the run but only caught up to men. I need to get back to the basics, focus on form, and feel the run.  I was very excited to see the finish line.

FINISH: 1:40:31 (2nd AG 25-29)
Welcome to a new age group, a more competitive age group in terms of ability and # of racers.  Nice to place in just my 2nd multisport race in this age group.

Hung out with some awesome people and recoverd with great food from Henry's Louisiana Grill and Muscle Milk.  So nice to see a bunch of familiar faces before, during, and after the race.  I must say PTS puts on an extremely well run race.  If I were staying in Georgia I would sign up for their tri's and/or I come back to GA I will definitely race with them.  From packet pick up to race break down everything was extremely organized and efficient.  A huge thanks to PT Solutions and PTS Sports for allowing me the opportunity to race and cap off a great internship!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Belews Lake International Race Recap

I didn't think this race all the way through when I signed up.  I just knew I wanted to get some good open water racing experience in at least once this season before collegiate national championships.  I left Friday afternoon right after finishing my internship on the long drive to Greensboro, NC.  I am not positively sure spending 6 hours in the car 12 hours before your race starts is not a good plan, but I had to do what I had to do.  I treated my self to dinner at Olive Garden when I was about 30 minutes from my hotel.  Though the Garden was packed I sat myself at the bar and got served immediately.  I continued onto my hotel (affordable thanks to USAT discount) satisfied with my meal but feeling stiff car legs and beginning to have doubts about this idea.

I woke up at 5:00 had Red Berries with banana and almond milk before reloading up the car and heading out to the race site in Stokesdale, NC.  Once at the site I went through packet pick-up, chip pick-up, and TA set up before taking a few minutes to look over the maps of the race course.  I had been so busy completing my internship and all the paperwork to go with it during the week leading up to the race that I didn't have a chance to look over the course before hand.  A triangle swim, a two loop bike, and a Lollipop 2 loop run.  Interesting.  Elevation - I had no clue.  The air temperature was cold about 50* most of the morning so I spent a good amount of time just trying to stay warm.

THE SWIM - 33:40
With the unusual style of an open water time trial start I had to wait 33:40 into the race before I started the swim.  This means I stood in my wetsuit, barefoot, and cold for about 35 minutes.  I chose not to do a swim warm-up as I would have had to get out of the water at 7:50 and stand around soaking wet for 44 minutes.  The water temperature was 66* - warmer than the air which felt nice when first getting in but once into the swim it began to feel cold.  I started next to another lady - as 2 athletes began every 10 seconds.  I did not like the time trial start approach.  I felt like I was swimming by myself the entire time, well I kind of was. I did not have a pack to try and keep up with.  Just me and the open water.  My sighting for the first 800 m was good.  I stayed tight to the bouy's and wasted no time or energy going off course.  The last 700m is a different story.  The bouy's were not in a direct line to the finish so it was in one's best interest to sight the finish and swim a straight line to the finish rather than hug the bouy's.  I caught myself swimming off course 2x - basically perpendicular to the course.  This could be a reason for the dismal time but I know that I need to push myself in the water.  I have the fitness, I need to be comfortable with a strong effort and get my time down to 27ish mintues.  Nothing great but enough not to keep me off the podium as most races.  Had I hit even 29 minutes in this swim I would have podiumed.    Interesting that my swim took 33:40 and I started 33:40 into the race - I hope there wasn't a timing mishap.

T1 - 2:30
I chose to wear my wetsuit in this swim.  The westuit came off easily for the most part, except my right ankle. I had to sit down to get the darn thing off the right ankle - it had gotten all folded over itself as I was trying to pull it off apparently.  This was the first time I ever had to sit down.  Other than that transition went smoothly. No wetsuit and I could probably know 1:00 off this transition time.

THE BIKE - 27 miles - 1:20:41
Just a bit longer than your standard Olympic distance course.  I did not know what to expect with the bike course as I had no time to drive the course.  Well mounting the bike was on an incline and the course started with a steep short climb.  You then continued to climb a long and steady ascent for the first 5-7 miles.  I didn't like this either - it felt so slow and it was hard to get the legs going.  After getting the legs spinning I finally found my rhythm around mile 10.  The back side of the loop was some rolling hills but on back, gritty, rough pavement.  The time trial start and the two loop bike made it really hard to judge where you were in relation to the competition.  I chose not to put my magnet on my race wheel and try racing without knowing my pace. Never again.  I like to know.  On loop one during a speedy section a man passed me on the left and just as he let me know he was passing there was a pothole in front of me.  I couldn't go around the pothole thanks to the passer and going off road didn't sound great either so I took the pothole like a champ and said some silent prayers that everything stayed in working order.  During the 2nd loop I chose to participate in the water bottle hand off for some pre IM practice.  It went smoothly and I put a little more water in my aerobottle.  I only rode with 1/2 a bottle of Gu Brew in my X-wing and water in my aerobottle to decrease necessary weight.  This was my best event of the day.  Considering the course and all the other factors I am proud of the bike.

T2 - 1:25
T2 went smooth for the most part.  The bike racks that were used were midget sized and even my midget bike would not fit under the bar so re-racking was a little difficult.

THE RUN - 10k - 52:29
Considering the less than optimal lead up to this race and the course this time wasn't bad.  5th in my AG which surprised because I felt like I was sucking it up.  The course was very hilly, painfully hilly.  Long steady climbs, steep climbs, and an odd setup which mentally was not cool.  Each time you passed the turn around point you had to collect a little rubber bracelet.  No one ever really checked that you had received 2 of the bracelets - people could have easily cheated.  One a nice course and in an A race this time needs to be below 47:00, but I am fully confident that it will be.  The aid stations were stocked with water and heed at about every mile.  Knowing what mile you were on was not easy there were signs every where stating mile 2, 3, 4, 5 and some weird mile sign with duct tape on it at some point between mile 2 and 3.  That one through me off because I thought I was at mile 3 when I passed it, but then later I passed another mile 3 sign.  Who knows.  At least the last 1/2 mile was all down hill into the finishing chute.  That felt good.

FINISH TIME: 2:50:43

My initial thought was "wow, that was absolutely horrible".  I took some time to look over everything and all in all it wasn't that bad.  The swim needs to be better, the bike was good, and the run is fine for now.  There were no steller run times - I'd say all about 4-5 minutes slower the optimal due to the course.  I missed the podium by less than 4 minutes in my first race the more competitive 25-29 age group.  I am going to work on my swimming every day this week leading up to Collegiate National Championships and at least get comfortable pushing myself and "racing" the 1500m swim instead of just swimming comfortably.  I compared my time to my Luray Intl time from last year and saw that I bested that time by about 4 minutes on a similar style and distance course (and I took 1st at Luray).  Though Luray's run was not as harsh.  I stuck around for awards and ate some recovery food before subjecting myself to a 5 hour drive.  I am looking forward to Collegiate National Championships.  It will be a good experience with great competition and an awesome course to see what I can do on.

 Triathlon Saturday.  Duathlon Sunday.  Marathon Monday.  I'm not partaking in the marathon but other than that what a weekend to kick off multisport season.

Did you have any races this weekend?  How did they go?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Race Ready...Or Not

Friday the 13th is a big day.  I will walk out of my 3rd and final full time internship of PT school and shortly after hit the road to kick off my multisport season.  Saturday I will race at Belews Lake International Triathlon outside of Greensboro, NC and Sunday I will be back in GA for the PT Solutions Cartersville Duathlon.  Am I ready?

Mentally:  I am ready to race.  I've logged the miles, I've hit the track, the hills, the long rides, the lactate threshold workouts, pool swims, group rides, etc.  I will race myself into better fitness for the next 2 weeks and see where I can end up at USAT Collegiate National Championships.

Physically:  My bike is ready, my swim is as ready as it could be without training in open water or with a master's group.  I've logged 99.9% of my swim miles by myself so far this year.  I will join back up with the DC Tri Master's Swim program in just a couple weeks.  My swimming will get even better.  My Saturday race will be wetsuit legal with a time trial start.  The time trial start should help as long as people posted accurate times, but I'm started to think maybe they didn't.  I'm still nervous about the run but I will trust in the plan and learn from this first weekend of racing.

Everything Else:  The bike is ready to go.  It looks hot.  Really there's no other way to describe it.  Lee, from PTS Sports was an absolute gem with helping me get it race ready.  If I had the money I would hire him as a personal mechanic.  My wetsuit is in good condition.  I'm excited to try out the racing helmet and the Yankz are in the shoes.  

I am starting out the season with a double.  I'm probably crazy, but it's going to be an absolute blast and a great way to celebrate the end of student life.

Are you gearing up for any races this weekend or next?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Century Club

I've been getting in some quality long rides with short brick runs on Saturday's at the the Budweiser Plant in Cartersville, GA.  This weekend was my last chance to go long out there in the foreseeable future so you better believe I went long.  Even better I convinced Mary, 2-time IM and in training for IM Canada 2012, to join me in the suffer fest.  I wanted to get a 100 miler in before I really cut back and spend a few weeks focusing on Olympic distance racing in preparation for USAT Collegiate National Championships on April 21st.

Saturday was an early and long day.  We rolled out of the parking lot at 7:45 am - it was chilly creating a wardrobe catch 22 - we didn't want to freeze but we also knew we wouldn't be stopping by the cars to drop clothes off anytime during the ride so we would have to hold on to them or trash them if we brought them along.  We both started out in riding shorts and long sleeves.  After 15 or so miles I had mostly warmed up - except my feet.  Darn it toe covers, I always underestimate your importance.  I can't put into words how pretty and peaceful riding around this area is.  There is very light traffic, gorgeous horse farms, and beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  There are also wonderful smells of chicken farms, a few long steady climbs, a couple short steep climbs, and lots of rolling hills.  This was my first attempt at 100 miles, my farthest ride had previously been 86 miles that I did out at the Bud Plant a few weeks earlier.

I didn't know what to expect with trying to ride 100 miles.  When most people find out I rode my bicycle (yes, 2 wheels, pedals, powered by my legs) 100 miles the response is, "I don't even like driving my car that far, let alone riding a bike, you must be crazy."  Well I am crazy, we all know that, but riding a bicycle 100 miles is awesome.  It's therapeutic, it's calming, it's a celebration of life, it's quality time getting to know your riding partner.  This was my first ride out of the Bud Plant with a partner - on previous rides I have met people on the route and ridden 20 or so miles with them before going our own ways.  Having a riding partner was great, I know in an Ironman I will be riding "alone" but not really, there will be 2500 other athletes on the same course.  We pushed each other, we encouraged each other, we laughed, we reminded each other to get nutrition in, and we had a good time.  One of the reasons for riding 100 miles was to really start to nail down my nutrition plan.  I started the ride off with a gel at hour 1 and hour 2, a had a peanut butter and honey Uncrustable at hour 3 and a Powerbar at hour 4.5.  I used water split with minimal powerade during the first part of the ride, then water, and then a bottle of Gu Brew for my liquids.  My stomach did well, I did not have any GI issues during the ride or after during my brick run.  I could have probably done 2 Uncrustables as it was tasty and easy to manage but so tiny, the fun was over too quickly.  To make our 100 mile ride we rode the 66 mile loop, the 31 mile loop and a short out and back to get the odometer to 100 before heading back to the cars.  There is a 100 mile route marked out but we have not heard great things about the roads so we thought the 2 shorter loops would be a wise decision.

Any liquid nutrition tips?  Have you tried Gu Brew?

Dad would have loved the Bud Plant rides.
Following the ride I took in some more fluids, packed the bike back into the car, and got into my running shoes.  I set out on my slightly over 4 mile brick run.  The first mile was hard, at least the weather was perfect.   The one thing I enjoy about brick workouts is my ability to hit my pace and keep it from the start of the run.  When I only run I tend to go out way too fast and have to reel myself in before I completely blow up.  After mile 1 my legs started to feel good and before I knew it I was at the turn around point and headed back toward the plant.  The run route I use is along the straight away that the cyclists are coming in on at the end of all the routes.  There is a steady flow of cyclists to motivate and encourage you along the way and the occasional 1 or 2 other runners enjoying a brick as well.  All in all the run was great - it was actually my fastest on this route out of the 3 brick workouts I have done there.

I wasted no time when I got back to my car and just drove home.  I stopped at the corner gas station to pick up two bags of ice so I could promptly begin an ice bath once home.  I drank chocolate milk, ice bathed, opened my thoracic spine up with my tennis ball trick, and all out recovered on Saturday afternoon.  Recovery did involve some school work - but never again - as I will no longer be a student in a very short time :)

Do you recover well after a long effort on the bike or run?  Do you ever have trouble sleeping after a long training day?

To my surprise I felt great on Sunday.  I wasn't sore at all and needed to get some energy out so I set up a practice area to go through my transitions.  With 100 miles behind my I will focus on Olympic distance for the next 2 weeks, and then drop my length of my rides a bit and build the length of my brick runs to be prepared for the Kinetic 1/2 in May.  Racing season is upon us and it kicks off this weekend for me with in Oly Tri on Saturday and a duathlon on Sunday.  My group ride this evening did show me that my legs are tired and I need more recovery and taper to perform my best this weekend.  But I have had a couple great run workouts both yesterday and today.
"I don't quit when I'm tired, I quit when I'm done."

Have you done any tri's or du's yet this year?  When does your multisport season kick-off?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Confidence Building

I am in my 1st build period of my training plan.  I have dropped volume and I have been increasing intensity.  It's been quite fantastic.  When I lined up in my corral for the ATL 1/2 Marathon my thought was "Why am I in this corral, I don't deserve to be up here."  I had feelings of inadequacy.  My result from the 1/2 didn't help to prove me wrong either.  I needed to build and gain confidence in my run, my swimming had been getting better and my cycling was on par, I needed to know that my running was going to be ok as well.

1 mile in and full of joy to see DC Tri Club friend!
The Cherry Blossom 10-miler last Sunday gave me a great confidence boost.  I PR'd my 10-mile time with a 1:21:25 finish time.  I look forward to another 10-miler so I can break to 1:20:00 barrier.  I ran this race with no nutrition, because I forgot to take any gels to DC with me, and an abnormal pre-race dinner.  I am very simple and methodical and eat the same dinner pre-race or pre-brick workout everytime.  The race was even better because I got to visit with my family and friends from DC.  Seeing cheering friends along the course definitely me a boost.

Wonderful view during my sunrise run.
I know my speed work, the tempo runs, and the long runs are paying off.  I need to stay focused and not add junk miles in an effort to get better even faster.  Not only is my confidence in my running improving but I have pushed the limits in my swim and bike workouts this week and broken barriers I didn't really think I would anytime soon.  Ironman training is a physical, mental and emotional roller coaster.  One day I am pumped up and confident in my ability to do well at Ironman while the next day might leave me feeling inadequate to complete the distance and considering abandoning my time goals and just focusing on finishing.  I know that the training will pay off.  My body will do the work and my body will perform on August 26, just as it has been conditioned to.

Post PR's for the Finneren crew!
The focus right now and the need for the confidence in the run is Collegiate National Championships on April 21, in Tuscaloosa, AL.  I will start the season off on April 14 with an Oly Tri in Greensboro NC followed by a Duathlon on the 15th in Cartersville, GA.  It may not be the best periodization method but I need the race day efforts to prepare me for the 21st.  The week between will be spent packing, working out, feeling fresh and healthy, and hanging out with family and friends.  I have one week left of Clinical Internship III at PT Solutions in Acworth, GA.  I have met remarkable people, learned more than I thought I was capable of learning in 14 weeks, and have formed some great friendships but with that being said I am ready to be done working 40 hours/week...for free.

In other news, I made a decision and my weekend in DC reaffirmed that it was the right decision.  I will be moving back to DC in a little over 2 weeks.  I will join back with DC Tri Master's Swim program, have 2 awesome roommates in Chinatown, train my butt off, eat FroYo, hang out with my brother, and rollerblade at Hains Point.  At this time in my life it's the right decision for me and I couldn't be more excited to get back.