Monday, October 19, 2015

Underdone...Getting to the Start Line Healthy

The question I get asked most often in my line of work is, 'with the amount of training you do, have you ever been injured'?  While the answer is yes, most of those injuries were due to trauma during my college soccer career or more recently the odd bike crash or uneven side walk ankle sprain.  There are a couple of key elements I rely on to stay injury free and to help keep my training on track.

One of the most important factors, which can not be overlooked, when training for an Ironman is arriving to the start line healthy and ready for the day.  I hear a lot of athletes concerned that they can't take time off because they'll miss there 100 mile ride or 18 mile run and it will set their training back.  Unfortunately, even if you do make it through that 100 mile ride or 18 mile run you're going to start developing compensation patterns, likely contributing to tissue breakdown and more pain at another point in your body (right foot hurts, continue to run, now left knee hurts type of thing).  Even still, if you manage to 'deal with it' and make it through and get yourself to the start line that small niggle you 'dealt with' may no be a small niggle after a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and X amount of running.  After all the training, time, money, sacrifices and emotional energy spent on getting to the start line you don't want to put yourself in a position of having to pull out of the Ironman marathon.

It's much better to be a little undertrained and healthy than over trained and battling injury when you toe the line before your 140.6 mile journey (or even your 70.3 or 5150 journey).  Below I've outlined some the key factors that have helped me stay healthy and ready to race on the big day.

As a lifelong athlete and trained physical therapist I understand I have a slight advantage here.  Become familiar with your body, learn to differentiate between muscle soreness and aches from and true injury pain.  Work to improve your mechanics in all 3 sports - have a functional analysis done so you can learn where your areas of weakness are.  If pain is presenting itself review when you've been doing to take care of your body that your asking so much from: have you been foam rolling? stretching? mobility routine? strength training?  If you feel confident in the ability to identify what may be bothering you try to address it yourself with the above mentioned techniques.  If you can't make improvements in 1-2 weeks see a qualified health professional for an assessment and to get you on the right track.

Post massage with coach Kim!
If the pain has been around for 2 weeks or more it's better to get in to see a professional sooner rather than later.  Our bodies our very adaptable and we will find ways to alter our gait, stroke or pedal stroke so that we can continue training.  This is when we develop compensation patterns, now the right calf pain that originally bothered you has turned into left knee pain.  If you aren't confident in identify your cause of injury seek help right away.  It may not take more than 1 or 2 visits to address if you catch it early enough.

Having a coach has helped me develop as an athlete far more than I could have ever imagined.  I was
sick just 3 weeks out from race day at IM Chattanooga - so sick I couldn't soft pedal for more than 45-50 minutes.  With the guidance from my coach we altered the plan and confidently attacked the new plan once I was healthy.  It worked out great and I had my best race to date.  Without her knowledge or guidance I may have continued to force my way through workouts, never fully recovering from the illness and not getting any stronger from the workouts.  Having a coach helps bring a fresh objective perspective to your training plan and can help keep you on track when things seem to be falling apart.

Throughout your season make sure to continue strength training 1-2x week.  Most triathletes will
benefit from hip stabilization and scapular stabilization exercises to help prevent injury.  Our small stabilizers are required for efficient and pain free movement patterns both in the upper and lower extremities.  A good and simple place to start is Dr. Metzl's Iron Strength routine.

When your plan calls for a recovery session, treat it as such!  Use your heart rate monitor or RPE scale to keep this session entirely in your recovery zone.  These sessions help keep tissue flexible and increase blood flow to tissues without taxing cardiovascular system.  Put your ego aside, slow down and enjoy.  The hard work will come soon enough.

Don't underestimate the benefits of a regular massage.  Massage can help with recovery and help prevent injury.  For most people massage also offers a mental benefit as well!  Find a good massage therapist in your area and try to get in at least 1x every month.

Enjoy you down time!
Give yourself an off-season.  Take a mental and physical break from the training.  An off-season allows your body to fully recover from a years worth of high volume training.  Tissues will regenerate and heal during this down time.   This off season will also allow you to feel more fresh mentally when you return to training.  Depending upon the amount of time you spent training this year you might benefit from 2-4 weeks completely off!  This time off will help you reach new levels in you next year so you can look forward to being stronger and faster!  For most people in the states we aren't trying to win a January championship so it's ok to get a little out of shape while you let your body heal and recover, and it will actually help you get in better shape once your training resumes.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

IM Chattanooga 2015 Race Report

After a textbook learning experience at Ironman Texas earlier this year I was eager to have another chance at 140.6 later in the year.  Lucky for me I was already registered for Chattanooga in late September.  Chattanooga was a great host city and all around awesome event.  The course was challenging and fun and the support was top notch.

THE SWIM - 1:07:01 - 2.4 Miles - 23rd AG

Cruising out of the Water
With the rain leading up to race day I was hopeful that we might be wetsuit legal (I'll take any help I can get on the swim!).  Unfortunately the water temp was 77.1, making it a wetsuit optional race (those wearing wetsuits are ineligible for awards or Kona slots).  This is the best river swim I've ever experienced, the water is clear enough to see feet and people next to you and there were no foul smells/tastes.  I pulled on my Xterra Speedsuit as the line began to rapidly move.  I was calm as we approached the swim start.  Once I crossed over the timing mat it was go time.  I jumped in and told
myself this is going to be a fast swim, keep working hard.  Thankfully the course is pretty easy to navigate and I was able to hang on to feet for a good portion of this race.  I felt good about this swim as I approached the swim exit.  We were told the current would be less than 2014 but I really wasn't sure how that would affect my swim time.  Turns out the current was less than 1/3 of 2014 and when measured from a boat clocked 0.1mph.  Overall this was a good swim for me, highest rank in my AG that I've come out of the water at an IM so there's that.

T1 - 4:03

There is a decent amount of running to get up to transition, but I felt strong exiting the water and had to pull out the 'on your left' just to get through transition quickly.  At the top of the ramp I was excited to see Adam and Mindy cheering their faces off.  Always good to get a boost before heading out for 116 miles of pedal pushing.

THE BIKE - 5:29:32 - 116 Miles - 1st AG

Going into this race one of my key goals for myself was to stick to the plan!  Holy cow, what a lesson in patience sticking to the plan was.  There were a lot of eager beavers going pretty hard in the first 20 miles of the bike course.  It was very strange for me to get passed by a lot of people on the bike.  There was one girl, in my age group, that would stand up and hammer every hill during those first 20 miles.  There were times where I wanted to go with her and in those moments I told myself I'd see her again on the bike course and this race is more than just a 116 mile bike ride.  We're saving some beats for a marathon!  I started catching/passing a lot of people around mile 35-40 which was a good confidence booster.  As I approached mile 50 I started hearing a rubbing sound from what I thought was my front wheel.  I began bargaining with my wheels, 'no flats, no flats...I swear I'll get really good at changing a flat this off season, I just don't want to deal with that right now.'  The front wheel didn't look low on air and it didn't feel low on air so I figured I'd keep riding and check it at special needs at mile 52.  Just about that time a guy I had passed rode up next to me,
"Bike problems"? he asked.
"Yeah, I think something is rubbing on my front wheel."
"No, I think it's your rear wheel."
Rolling out of T1
Ahhh, relief!  I knew right away it was the sticker I had used to cover the port to the valve stem.  I looked over my left shoulder and saw the sticker flapping in the wind.  I figured I'd pull it off when I stopped to grab my bottles at special needs.  Lucky for me it actually flew off prior to special needs, which was also a relief and made my special needs stop very quick.

Once through special needs it wasn't long until I started loop 2.  I knew the first part of the loop would be a tad slower than the 2nd part and just kept working the plan.  Shortly after starting loop 2 I had my friend Tom in my sights.  We had entered to water just about the same time and he swam about 7 minutes faster than me so I was hoping to catch him on the bike.  After exchanging some how are you's and how's your race going I was reeling in the others I had seen hammering at the beginning.  I rode through mile 85 feeling strong and confident.   I reeled in a couple more girls in my AG before the end of the loop and then made the turn to head back to Chattanooga.  There seemed to be a slight tailwind for the beginning of the trip north, awesome I'll take it!  This part of the ride was mostly uneventful, aside from the one intersection where 3 guys (clearly drafting) ahead of me basically stopped while cops let cars go through.  My heart sank a bit as I stopped pedaling for a second, but the cops were on it and had traffic stopped as I approached.  Aside from catching different small groups of people the last 30-40 miles of this ride were kind of lonely.  I approached the dismount line feeling great and excited to run a marathon! I slipped my feet out of my shoes about 1/4 mile from transition and executed a great flying dismount before handing my bike off to one of the awesome volunteers.

T2 - 2:00

Ran through grabbed my gear bag and into the far end of the change tent where the most light was.  I had 3 volunteers helping me.  One grabbed water while the others pulled stuff out of my gear bag.  Socks and shoes when on, helmet off, visor on and I was off.  The volunteers handed me my race belt as I stood up.  As I rounded the corner outside of the change tent I realized that I didn't take my handheld bottle of Osmo.  I considered turning around for it for a brief second, but decided to carry on and just hydrate from all aid stations.

THE RUN - 3:59:57 - 6th AG

Feeling strong on the Run
As I came out of the run I wasn't sure where exactly I was placement wise in my age group, through I knew I was probably toward the front.  I got a good boost from my personal cheering section of family members as I exited transition.  I settled into a sustainable pace as I got the legs going.  It wasn't long before I saw Adam and Mindy, again cheering their faces off, near mile 1.  I ran through the aid station take water and ice while on the move.  The first 5 miles or so aren't too scenic but made for a nice mostly flat section to really get into a rhythm.  I was feeling great and was able to keep getting in my planned nutrition without issue.  I remember passing one girl in my age group on that first section of the run, I was confident I wouldn't see her again.  Once done with the riverwalk
we made the turn to cross Veteran's Bridge and head to North Shore for some hills!  I got to see Coach Kim running as 3rd Pro on her 2nd loop.  She actually managed a slight thumbs up as we passed.  I felt super strong on the hills, got a nice boost seeing Rory and Kara as I made my way up the first hill.  The loop around the hilly North Shore went well and before I knew it I was headed back down that first hill towards Walnut St Bridge.  As I ran by Kara was an awesome cheerleader but I noticed my brother was missing.  Then his voice came over a megaphone, haha, I had no clue how he managed that one!  I tried to give a little fist pump to let him know I heard.  As I made my way past mile 12 and toward the halfway point of the marathon I was thinking wow this marathon thing is kind of fun (when do I ever think this, especially during an Ironman?).

Just before coming off Walnut St Bridge I got passed by the 1st Place Pro female and felt super awesome for about 5 seconds as I got to run behind her biker.  Just after the pass my mom and cousins were there cheering me on.  I made may way down the path to begin loop 2.   Just at the beginning of the loop I ran through special needs, unfortunately the volunteers misheard my number and pulled 979 instead of 579.  Frustrating as I had to slow down to wait for them to pull the correct bag, but luckily the young man who came running over with mine obliged when I said 'run with me' and dug my nutrition out of the bag.  The 2nd loop was great, more people on the course and more people out cheering further onto the course.  I stuck to my plan and tried to keep my rhythm as best I could.

I knew there was at least one strong athlete (Elyse) behind me by a few minutes when we started the run.  Having made it through miles 14, 15, 16...without seeing her I was feeling pretty confident.  At mile 17 I caught a glimpse of her as she ran up alongside me.  This was just around the time when I started debating whether or not a port-o-potty stop was going to be necessary.  Well, decision made, not necessary, ever.  Not when you're actually about to have to race the last 9 miles of an Ironman.  Luckily, with a competitive distraction my stomach didn't talk to me again.  Elyse slid in behind me as we ticked off 5 more miles.  I didn't look over my shoulder once, I just hoped she was falling off pace because there was nothing more I could give.  As we made our way over Veteran's Bridge for the 2nd time and neared mile marker 22 she took off like someone had lit a fire under her bum.  I knew that I had started the swim behind her which gave me a little cushion but I had no clue as to how much.  I tried to keep her in my sights, which worked slightly until mile 23ish.  My legs were not handling the hills nearly as well as they did the first time around and my pace was falling off a bit.  I made it through mile 24, luckily without vomiting when I was offered fried chicken and biscuits from a neighborhood kiddo.  At this point I was pulling out some mental tricks reminding myself the body does what the mind tells it to, the mind is not tired, the body is not tired, keep running!  I knew once I was through mile 25 that the adrenaline would help carry me through the last mile.  Adam was there to cheer me over Walnut St Bridge before making his way to capture a finishline video.  As I rounded the corner off the bridge I was disappointed to hear someone yell 1/2 mile downhill to the finish.  Whhhaatttttt, no it has to be closer, I've been running forever!

As I rounded the final turn I could see the crowds building and the red carpet that marked the finish line chute.  I was there, I had made it and I didn't dare check my watch.  At that point, the time didn't matter. What mattered was celebrating the great race I had put together and enjoying the moment.  This was one of the first times that I had the finish chute completely to myself.  I saw my mom and cousins, threw my arms up and made it under the arch after a completely awesome 144.6 mile journey.
FINISH TIME - 10:42:33 - 3rd AG, 15th Amateur

This was by far the best race I've put together, especially for a full distance.  This was the first time in a full that I got off the bike excited to run, ready to run, and felt completely in control of my run rather than suffering through and seeing how long I lasted.  I was able to successfully employ some mental strategies on the run, which no doubt helped me get that sub-4 I've been in the hunt for.  The biggest factor in getting that sub-4 is probably actually my competition, which pushed me harder and farther than I've ever been pushed in a race.  The greatest respect you can give an opponent is to show them your best.

Women's 25-29 Podium
After a few hours of recovery and finding food that would cooperate with my stomach I started to come back to life.  Adam and I were able to head down to cheer in some midnight finishers with friends from DC.  After a night of not too much sleep we made our way to awards and Kona allocation on Monday morning.

We knew it would be close and that it would probably take a roll down for me to be punching a ticket to Kona.  A roll down wasn't completely out of the question as we'd heard the first place finisher wan't quite sure if she was going to take it so I had some hope.  We also had to cross our fingers for 2 slots initially allocated to my age group.  There was some changing of slot allocation due to wetsuit and non-wetsuit competitors and we were happy to hear that we would have 2 slots!  First and second took there well earned slots, but we stuck around with the hope that there would perhaps be a reallocated slot from an older age group.  I knew this was a long shot, but thought since the other age groups had 3 slots already we *might* get a 3rd before any of them got a 4th.    You can see how the reallocation went in the video below...

A slight bummer, but overall I can't be disappointed with the performance I had.  I'm proud of the race I put together and am already looking forward to the next one.  I checked off all 3 outcome goals I had set for the year at Chatt so a very successful day on my part.  I did everything I could under my control and with that I can't get down.  Missing out on Kona by 3 minutes only adds fuel to the fire.

First off thank you to my coach, Kim of Fuel Your Passion, for everything.  It was awesome sharing the course with her in Chattanooga and celebrating a pair of 3rd's together (3rd place pro for her).  We've come a long way in the 18 or so months that I've been working with her and I'm excited to see what 2016 brings.

Thank you to my mom, Adam, Rory, Kara, Gary, Aunt Sue & Uncle Jerry, Cousin Jeff and Kara, Cousin Brandy, Danielle and Mackey, Cousin Jennifer, Vincent and Olivia and my friend and teammate Mindy for your amazing on course support, especially during the run.  It was a truly special day and you all played a major role in that!

Thank you to my sponsors Snapple Tri Team, DC Tri Club, Rose Physical Therapy Group, District Taco, Osmo Nutrition, Louis Garneau, Xterra Wetsuits, and TrainingPeaks for helping make 2015 an unforgettable year.

Monday, September 21, 2015

All Aboard...

Technically I've been 'tapering' for a week now but it wasn't until after Sunday's run that I could honestly let myself taper.  This training cycle has been different than the others.  It's been hard, it's traveled with me to multiple states and countries, it's involved friends, sickness, wedding celebrations, and just a short race at 70.3 Worlds just 4 weeks out from race day.

I was able to get in some great training in early and mid-August.  Many of the long rides I was fortunate enough to do with the company of friends.  My mid-week bike workouts I was able to enjoy the company and being pushed by my good friend e.bougie (thank God she's back on the bike).  At times it felt easy, the training didn't feel like work, I couldn't name anything I'd rather do more.  A
Casual spin around the bay in Traverse City, MI
trip to northern Michigan for my brother's wedding was filled with open water swimming (out our back door), long rides along beautiful shoreline and perfect temperatures for long runs.  The wedding came and went, the training all got done, I didn't miss a beat (of the wedding or the training).

Just 11 days after returning to DC, Adam and I were jet-setting to Munich (via Moscow) for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.  I was diligent about washing my hands, eating 'normal' foods, taking vitamins and getting my training in.  The German and Austria country-sides were breath- takingly beautiful.  We wanted to swim, bike, and run all over the place.  After almost 24 hours of travel time we made it to Munich.  The next morning we ran to a 50 meter outdoor pool and got back into the swing of things.  After our short stay in Munich it was on a train and down to Zell Am See.
Zell Am See-Kaprun, Austria
 We did some easy rides, got lost in the Alps, and some great open water swimming in the Lake Zell.  On Sunday we raced, hard, through the Alps.  It was 91 degrees when I got on the bike and 96 degrees when I got off and started running.  The conditions were rough, to say the least.

We took the day after the race off to explore the glacier nearby town and to then catch an afternoon train to Vienna.  We did an easy ride along the Danube and stopped for just a quick feel of the water.  I had felt something coming on all day Monday and now Tuesday had me struggling just to soft pedal for an hour.  Long story short I came down with some sort of sinus infection accompanied by a horrible cough and fever.  A German pharmacist helped me out as best she could.  Walking to the cafe just to get hot tea or soup felt harder than any workout I'd done over the summer.  I stopped worrying about workouts and did everything I could to get healthy. In the back of my mind wondering if I'd really be ready for an Ironman in just a few weeks.

Getting healthy took a good week and some meds once we were back in the states.  A few easy workouts with that nasty cold sweat feeling and there were soon glimpses of where I was pre-travel
and pre-illness.  I worked long hours and fit in my training that week so we could drive to the finger lakes region of New York for a wonderful wedding.  Another weekend of big training and another wedding.  Short recap..1.5 swim miles, 112 bike miles, 30 run miles.  To top it off the last run on Sunday evening was the best of all.  I'm back.

How does this story end...we'll see one week from today in Chattanooga.  I can say I'm confident I can execute my race plan on Sunday and I'm looking forward to an awesome day accompanied by great family and friends, both racing and supporting.  Here's to having a Fearless Mind, See you in Choo!

Bib #579 (Same as IMLP '14)


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Hopp, Hopp, Hopp at 70.3 Worlds

The trip to Zell Am See, Austria for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships was a long time coming for Adam and I.  We qualified very early at Augusta 70.3 in September 2014.  We knew it was a possibility that one of us might qualify or get a roll down, but we had never thought we'd both win our AGs outright and get a couple of hours to make the decision to go or not.  You can read all about that race here, but fast forward 10 months and we were packing our bags for a European adventure.

Planning for a race in a country you are completely unfamiliar with and a language you don't speak a lick of can be a tad intimidating.  We spent a little bit of time looking for accommodations near the race site before deciding to book through Endurance Sports Travel.  They took care of accommodations, transfers to/from the train station, and had a masseuse and bike mechanic on hand for us.  Our hotel was steps off the run course, a few blocks from the finish and just a couple blocks from the race expo area.  Our hotel also included breakfast and dinner daily which was huge since we didn't have kitchen access.

Taking the Long Way
We booked our flights well ahead of time and found a great deal on airfare, with Aeroflot.  It was a good $700 cheaper than the next cheapest option and our bikes would go for free.  The catch...we flew from DCA to Moscow, then Moscow to Munich.  The way there wasn't so bad with the help of the jet stream and just a short layover in Moscow.  I didn't realize how far past Munich we were flying to get to Moscow, oi that hurt when I saw the plane on the little map over Munich and we still had 4+ hours to get to Moscow, just to back track to Munich.  All in all the plane ride wasn't horrible, the food was fine, we slept through most of both flights, got up a few times and wore compression gear to help keep the blood flowing in the legs.  I made a mistake in wearing compression pants with the idea I would put my compression socks on once we were in the air.  Whoops, I fell asleep, forgot about the socks and had some nice soft ball sized ankles once we landed.

First Stop - Munich
We arrived in Munich in the early afternoon, walked our bikes and luggage from the central train station to our AirBnB and then set out to explore via foot.  After dinner we returned back to build our bikes up and get a solid night of sleep.  The next morning we ventured out for an easy run to a local swimming pool.  There was a bit of a language barrier between us and the lady at the font desk but we worked it out and she pointed us towards the locker room.  After some back and forth of if it was the men's or women's locker room we both entered.  Apparently co-ed locker rooms are quite common.  After my initial shock we got into our swim suits and headed out to the 50m outdoor pool.  The pool was gorgeous with crystal clear water and plenty big enough for multiple lap lanes.  Unfortunately they only had 2 lap lanes set up and it was pure chaos.  No one was divided into slow or fast lanes and people would suddenly change strokes in the middle of a length.  It was actually good practice for getting around people and a bit if sighting, somewhat like open water swimming just between 2 lines.  We spent the rest of the day doing touristy things before consolidating some of our luggage and preparing to head to Zell Am See the following morning.

Platform 9 3/4 
We arrived at the train station with plenty of time to print our tickets and board the train.  Unfortunately we found out that OBB is an Austrian company, and they can't print the tickets in Germany.  Adam tried some fuddling around, but to no avail, so we decided since we already had paid for the tickets we'd get on the train, it was about to leave in 3 minutes.  The train was decently full and we had a bit of trouble finding a car with open bike space.  We had just a short trip before transferring trains in Worgl.  Luckily for us the conductor didn't throw us off the train for not having printed our tickets, but he made sure to sternly tell us to print them for the 2nd part of our journey or we'd pay extra.  We met a few other athletes at the Worgl train station and enjoyed a gorgeous train ride into Zell with them.

Triathlete Central - Zell Am See
Upon arriving in Zell we exited the train to find our ride from EST right outside the main door.  Apparently some other athletes had made our train that they weren't expecting for another couple of hours.  Since Adam and I had our bikes together they loaded are luggage into the van and we followed the van back to our hotel, luckily it was only about 1.5 kms and a gorgeous day.  We got settled in at the Living Max Hotel and headed over to packet pickup.  The town was packed with triathletes and people on holiday (the last week of holiday for many Austrians and Germans aligned perfectly with race week).  The swag for WC athletes was pretty good, a legit Ogio transition bag was the big squeeze.  We spent the rest of the afternoon checking out the lake, relaxing and meeting some cool people.

Pre-Race Shenanigans
The Alps, through the clouds.
With race day getting closer we went for a short swim/bike/run workout on Friday morning.  The water was perfect, just cold enough to be comfortable in a wetsuit, clear enough to see feet in front of you and mostly calm.  After a quick 20 minute swim we met up with Cheyenne and Witek for a little spin around the back park of the course.  Our little spin turned out to be a little long as we overshot
the turn-around by quite a bit.  Time flew by as we were surrounded by gorgeous views of the Alps, glacial rivers/streams, and even castles.  Once off the bike we headed off for a short run along the lake.  It was a tad warm by this point but not bad, my legs felt good and I felt ready to go.

The rest of Friday involved more pre-race logistics - race briefing in English, car ride of the bike course, parade of Nations, and the Welcome Banquet.  The race briefing was oddly entertaining and the European side of IM was elated to have the race for the first time off North American soil. The bike course was stunning and the climb everyone was talking about didn't seem all that bad.  We put on the red, white, blue that we had and set out for the parade of Nations.  It seemed a little disorganized but we got to catch up with Cheyenne, Witek, Kathy and Tobias as we paraded through the city center of Zell Am See.  The welcome banquet wasn't quite as exciting as some that we've been to but it was nice and not too long.

Saturday was race day for our fried Tobias along with 2600 other athletes racing in the Zell Am See 70.3.  Their race started at 6:30am and they had some cool weather early in the day, a stark difference from the day we would have on Sunday.  We cheered on some people on the run course until seeing all 3 DC Tri Kits pass by (Tobia, Kyle, Jody) and then headed out for an easy spin along the lake.

Saturday evening was our time for bike racking and gear bag drop off.  It would be a clean transition for us (similar to full IM races) with a bike gear bag, run gear bag and a change tent.  Transition was humungous!  Once we dropped everything off we had to wait in a very long line to pick up our timing chip before heading back to our place for dinner.

Racing in a Postcard
For once we didn't have to wake up before the sun on race morning!  With an official race start of 10:30am and my wave not starting until 12:05pm I got to 'sleep in'.  After our pre race breakfast we went outside to catch an ETS shuttle to the race start.  After waiting about 10 minutes there was no sign of a shuttle so we joined the masses of people walking the 2km trek along the lake to race start.  Once we got to the swim start area is was very crowded with athletes and spectators galore.  We made our way into transition with the crowd.  First stop was the bike - loaded nutrition and hydration on, pumped the tires, and checked to make sure the brakes were good to go.

Once we had our bikes ready to go it was time to play the waiting game.  We found a nice shady spot along the fence inside transition to hang out.  We had our morning clothes bags with hydration and snacks as well as wetsuits, inhalers, flip flops, etc with us.  Transition closed at 10:30, the pro start time of the race.  To our surprise not only did transition close but morning clothes bags also had to be dropped by 10:30!  Oi, the purpose of the morning clothes bag seemed a little lost.  Now I had to decide to get rid of my flip flops, tri slide, Osmo, and inhaler at 10:30 or hold on to them and risk never seeing them again.  Luckily Cris has the same inhaler and since my was brand new and hers was on the way out I took a couple puffs of mine before handing it off, knowing I could use hers before race start.  I decided to hold on to the flip flops and tri slide - which I haven't seen yet, but I know Cris was able to rescue the flops post race so I will at least get those back.

As my start time approached I slipped into my wetsuit did a  short warm up swim and then got into the swim start corral.  It was approaching high noon during an odd heat waving moving through this region of Europe.  It was hot as we all stood, waiting,  donning our black neoprene.

THE SWIM - 1.2 Miles - 38:28
The start of the swim was physical, we had been warned that it would be so I was prepared for it,  thankfully!  There was full on grabbing, punching, shoving, kicking.  As we spread out over the first couple hundred meters things seemed to settle down and I was able to settle in on some feet.  The
clarity of the water, the added buoyancy of the wetsuit and the fast swimmers providing a decent draft had me feeling pretty good.  I was moving well and felt strong, excited to see what kind of PR I might pull out on the swim.  It was a bit disappointing that some of the buoys were not even close to being in line with the others, especially at a WC event.  I noticed a few times that I seemed to be swimming off course but more or less kept on feet and felt good about the line I swam.

I was slightly unhappy to see a 38 on my watch as I exited the water, but I couldn't be too displeased at my only other 1.2 mile swim this year was much slower.  The disappointment really came after the race when I looked at my data and was the line I swam.  I zig-zagged myself 283 yards more than I needed to swim.  I held the fastest pace I've ever held in open water (not counting current aided swims!).  On the bright side working on my swimming is getting me faster, on the other hand it doesn't matter how fast I swim if I swim off course.

T1 - 5:35
Super long transition!  Ran in grabbed my bike gear bag, into the change tent - bike shoes, helmet, sunglasses, race bib on, and out of the change tent. Grabbed MR off the rack ran down to enter the exit of transition and ran through the bike mount area.  It was probably close to 1/4 mile of running.

THE BIKE - 2:49:18
I got on the bike feeling pretty good.  I was slightly alarmed that transition had taken me 5+ minutes but figured it was on par with everyone else's time.  I didn't know it at the time, but it was 91 and sunny when I got on the bike.  Another hot day at the races!  I felt good the first 20k or so of the bike, I was trying to keep the power up and let my heart rate settle from the swim/transition.  Heart rate showed signs of settling, power was being slightly erratic and I had my first bottle of Osmo down in the first 20 minutes.  Just as my HR was settling the infamous climb started.

The 13 km climb is full of spectacular views and quaint towns.  The grade for the first 11km undulates between 4-6%.  I was feeling great, staying hydrated and having a great time riding through the alps for that first 11k.  The last 2km are an awesome grade of 15% and more and those last 2km are tough.  My wave was the last to start so I saw a decent number of people walking the last bit of the climb.  Once cresting the top you have a very short period of somewhat flat before starting the
descent which is also very steep and swithbacky at the top.  I took the descent carefully and was a little nervous as my rear brake started squealing every time I'd try to slow myself down.  After the first couple kilometers of descent it straightened out and became more gradual.  The course really wasn't crowded and it was a blast taking that descent with no other athletes to worry about.  As we approached the town of Zell Am See again before heading out to do the last bit of the course I noticed the bike was starting to feel difficult.  We had gone over some rough road and wooden bridges a few times and I had the thought that perhaps my back brake could be rubbing.  I told myself it was fine when I started and that I was probably just tired from the long climb and the hot weather.  I pushed on through Kaprun and past the Kaprun castle and finally back into transition.  We will really never know if it was rubbing or not during the race, but unfortunately it was rubbing when I picked my bike up from transition that evening.

T2 - 4:34
Another long transition, but at least a bit faster.  Did a flying dismount, racked MR, put my Rose Physical Therapy Visor on, and headed out onto the run course.

THE RUN - 13.1 Miles - 1:55:20
I had a small handheld of Osmo preload/active with me.  I quickly drank that during the first couple miles of the run and tried to stay in the shade as much as possible.  It was a nice boost to see our friend cheering along the lake early into the run.  I was feeling pretty good and HR was where we expected it to be as I got going.  I was taking water at every aid station and running through hoses when I could.  The crowd support was decent but I seemed to pass quite a few people who were exhausted from cheering in the heat of the day and they were mostly silent.  The cheers of Hopp,
hopp, hopp and Super gave me a nice boost when I needed it the most. Adam thought the crowds were great, he also started in the first wave after the pro men and women, so I'm sure the spectators were excited to see racers coming through at that time.  The run was a double out and back and included a nice long hill right before the turn around at the other side of the lake.  I was feeling ok, but knew I wasn't running as fast as I would have liked or as fast as I'm capable of on a better day.  I tried to continually push my HR up but about 9 or 10 miles in it got hard.  I was taking caffeine, drinking coke and was having trouble getting it to go anywhere.  The last few miles I knew I could push it and hold on until the end.  Somehow I found enough energy in my legs to jump at the finish line, unfortunately it wasn't caught on camera.

FINISH: 5:33:15
Not exactly the race I had pictured in my mind but then again I also thought we were going to have a high of about 76 on race day.  That would have been nice.  Overall it was a great experience and it was truly like racing through a post card.  Adam and I have the opportunity to race against some of the best in the world, develop new friendships with some amazing athletes and swim, bike, run our way through the Austrian Alps.  It really was a great trip and a great experience.

Post Race Fun
Adventure along the Danube!
Since we flew across the big pond and it was my first trip away from the North American continent we decided we needed to stay for a little while.  I was nervous about this decision as I knew I'd still
be in the midst of IM training.  We made our post-race plans, making sure we'd be somewhere that I could get the workouts done.  Adam did a lot of the work booking through AirBnB and getting train tickets for us and our bikes.

We visited Vienna, Salzburg and went back to Munich for a day before our long journey home.  Unfortunately I started battling some type of sinus infection the day after the race so the swims, rides and runs we were excited to undertake in Austria and Germany didn't really happen.  I was able to soldier on and between bowls of soup, hot tea and resting see some awesome sites including the Danube, the Salzburg Castle and the Salzhan River.

Thank you to all of my wonderful sponsors, support crew and coach for helping me get to Austria. Biggest thanks to an awesome supportive family that encouraged and supported training throughout family wedding weekend!  Thanks Rory, Kara, Mom, Adam, and Gary!  One more to go, see you all in Chattanooga!  Thank you to Snapple Tri Team, DC Tri Club, Rose Physical Therapy Group, Fuel Your Passion Coaching, District Taco, Osmo Nutrition, Louis Garneau, Xterra Wetsuits, and TrainingPeaks.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Patience and Time

Time off = time with CJ!
In some ways it feels like I just raced IM Texas, in other ways it feel like it's been an eternity.  After stepping back from green boxes for a couple weeks (and actually letting some turn red!) I got back on the train and having been ramping back up to IM type training numbers.  It's been about 8 weeks since race day and patience and time have been my two greatest allies and enemies throughout these 8 weeks.

Once I started back to training I was mentally ready to go, I knew what I wanted out of this next bout of training.  My mind was ready, eager, and determined my body on the other hand still needed time.  Texas was hot (90+ degress) humid (>85%) and a hard effort for me.  When I got back to training I wanted to see the same numbers I was hitting pre-Texas.  The questions and emails were rolling in to my coach - who stole my watts?  what happened to my run pace?  can I have more volume?  My patience was being tested and at times I wanted nothing more than to go out and crush a run.  I held back, patiently waiting for my first opportunity to go hard - testing week 4 weeks post race.

FTP test coming at ya!
Testing week - I was there four weeks ago and I'm back there now.  A week of lower volume with a high intensity test workout in each of the 3 disciplines. Four weeks ago my body hadn't had enough time to recover and perform the way I wanted it to.  The run test resulted in a full blown asthma attack.  The bike test went ok, head down watts out, and I was able to bring the watts up a bit compared to my last test.  The swim test continued to be a struggle, with similar results as I've had the past few tests.   I've used the time since the last test to refocus on technique and efficiency in the pool.

I've been patient over the last 4 weeks - my run pace is headed in the right direction, I've knocked out some awesome 100+ mile rides, and I've been working smart (and hard) in the pool with the help of some friends.  I'm staring down the barrel of full blown IM training after this test week and thanks to patience and time my mind is ready, my body is ready and my heart is ready.  I'm dialed in for IM Chattanooga.

"Have patience with all things, but first of all, with yourself." - Saint Francis De Sales

Saturday, May 23, 2015

IM Texas 2015 Race Report

After coming off the high of IM Lake Placid and Augusta 70.3 last year and I was eager to do another full sooner rather than later.  I looked at my options of early season races and decided on IM Texas without much hesitation.  Texas would offer an IM bike course I was confident I could do well on and a mostly flat run.  Like Louisville, it would offer a hot day, sunshine, and humidity.  The added bonus of wind was icing on the cake to seal the deal ;)

The lead up to this race seemed to go by very quickly.  During the early part of training I was on the trainer, a lot.  So much in fact that by the time I got outside for my first outdoor ride of 4+ hours I knocked out 85 miles without even knowing it.  I did a fair share of outdoor riding in leg warmers, arm warmers, vest, etc. even when the temperatures were perfect for just shorts and a jersey.  A couple long rides at Lake Anna, a half, a 120 mile adventure to Columbia, MD on two wheels and all of sudden it was taper time.

I like the idea of taper, but I never end up liking taper as much as I should.  The first week when I’m actually excited to taper my workouts are still long.   Then comes a sluggish-tired week, followed by the ‘oh sh*t, I think I’m getting sick week’.  Adam started his Sherpa duties extra early for this one, shuttling my bike back and forth from the mechanic to get as close to shiny and new as possible and reassuring me that I wasn’t sick, it was just ‘taper-flu’.  Too many patients walked through my office door the week before saying “well I’ve been sick and haven’t been to work in x amount of days, but I’m sure I won’t get you sick…”(sorry patients of mine but take note: if you’re sick and can’t go to work, please cancel!).  Alas, thankfully, I didn’t come down with anything and perhaps Adam was right, taper-flu (I’m not a firm believer in this yet).


We had a direct flight to Houston out of DCA, which made getting to the airport quick and easy.  I had Mr. packed up in my SciCon travel bag, checked him without issue and was pretty confident he was in good hands with SW airlines (I may have used entirely to much bubble wrap around his frame, but baby’s first flight!).  As soon as we got to baggage claim in Houston the baggage handler brought Mr. right in – he made it and he wasn’t ding-ed up!  Working bike, happy girl.  We drove to the house we were renting for the next 5 days, unloaded, and headed over to packet pickup.  Being Wednesday afternoon, it wasn’t very busy and we were in and out without much ado.  I was quite excited to almost literally run into a friend from my days in Acworth, GA during chip pickup!  The rest of Wednesday was relaxing back at the house.


Not much going on this day, a solid rest day for me.  I used time to drive the first 25 and last 25 miles of the bike course, get all the stickers to where they need to be, sort my stuff for gear bags and special needs bags and head back to athlete village to pump my tires.  This where things started to get stressful – inflated my rear tire and attempted to roll my bike, and nothing.  The wheel wouldn’t spin, ok try not to freak out, this has happened before.  It’s a simple fix, just adjust the screws in the horizontal dropouts.  I never moved them, Adam didn’t touch them, they were find 4 weeks ago.  Light bulb, bike mechanic was being helpful and getting my training wheel closer to the frame.  Ok, Adam got a screw driver and adjusted the screw, problem fixed.  We made a short appearance at the AWA reception and then headed home for dinner and some more R&R.  I do like the athlete banquet but with 3 guests at $35 a head we decided to forego that and relax at home.


I woke up early, had an awesome pancake breakfast, and headed off to the swim course practice with Adam, my mom, and Gary – Sherpa, volunteer, and photographer extraordinaire!  I was told many things before heading down to Texas – it would be hot, the water is brown, the canal is physical, I’ll turn into a headwind at mile 58ish of the bike course and so on.  I kept these things in mind and tried to prepare for them mentally and physically as best I could.  I used to think lakes in Virginia had brown water,  I no longer feel that way.  Virginia lakes seem to be quite nice compared to the chocolate milk-esque of Lake Woodlands!  Water temperature was announced to be 81*, time to pull out the Xterra Speed Suit.  The practice swim wasn’t bad, I swam for about 25 minutes and felt pretty good.  I quickly learned that I wouldn’t be able to see a thing under water, not a toe, not my hand and certainly not a body.  Unless you saw someone or something above the surface you didn’t know it was there until you ran into it.  After the short swim I headed back to the house for a shakeout ride and run.  When I got on Mr. I could hear the faintest of rubbing.  I rode him for a bit and though it wasn't constant, I didn’t want to worry about it on race day.  Adam helped me back the screws out just a bit more and then I headed out to run.  Just before I left to run I noticed some screws had started falling out of the bottom of me cleat.  Oi, another fixable but annoying issue.  Thank goodness for calm, cool, and collected sherpas! When
I set out to run it was hot, it was humid and my HR was sky high!  I took it nice and easy and let the HR settle.  I physically don’t mind the heat and humidity but my HR sure does.  After cleaning up and realizing it was still morning time we headed over to rack the bike and check in my gear bags before making a quick stop for an athlete briefing.  The rest of the day was legs up, rest, chicken, pasta, Osmo hydration, and sleep!


‘Today is the day I’ve been waiting for!.  All the hard work, long hours and mental/physical fatigue was in preparation for this day.  This was my time, my day.  I was excited and nervous.  I woke up at 4am, got in my usual pre-race breakfast along with a bottle of Osmo Active to sip on.  I got dropped off along with Sherpa Adam at T1 to load bottles on the bike, and make sure the tires were pumped and good to go.  Once I was done in T1 it was time to walk slightly less than a mile over to swim start.

Once at swim start we had a nice meeting place picked out to meet up with my mom and Gary.  We hung out there took some pics and chatted with Heather Wurtele before swim start.  I headed over to the port-o-john one last time before getting into my swim skin.  Doof mistake of the day was grabbing part of the door on the hinge side, catching my pinking in the door and the following ‘ow, ow, ow,’ shake it off, shake it off.  The adrenaline of the day must have helped because the pain subsided, but when I eventually looked at it (post race), it was a bloody, cut up mess.  I got in to my Xterra Speed Suit and headed over to seed myself for the swim start. 

THE SWIM – 2.4 Miles – 1:30:44

I was warned that this could be a slow swim, but I was confident I would swim at least as well as Placid (1:17).  I started around the 1:15 group and felt great out to the first turn buoy.  I was able to stick to the buoy line and stay in a pack for the most part.  I hit the first turn buoy and had no trouble making it over to the 2nd turn buoy as it was probably about 100m away.  Once at the 2nd turn buoy I’m not sure what happened.  I thought I swam a good line, but Garmin says I swam 2.77 miles (eeeekkkk) I need to practice swimming straight.  I’m also not convinced of the accuracy of the OWS function of Garmin as it is constantly losing satellites when your hand goes under water.  Once making our way almost all the way back to the start we made a 90* turn down the canal.  The canal was crowded, the canal was physical and I knew it would be so I just kept on going.  It was pretty awesome to have people cheering along both sides of the canal and an almost impossible place to swim off course.  I saw a bridge ahead and what looked to be the end of the canal so I picked up my kicking and thought I’d have a decent swim time.  Fail, it was just a bridge we swam under, definitely not the end of the canal.  Upon exiting the water I didn’t look at my time, I spotted Adam, my mom, and Gary cheering me in as I ran to T1.  The swim is the swim and there is nothing I can do about it once I’m out of the water.  It’s best for me to just focus on what’s ahead.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, this swim time still landed me smack dab in the middle of the pack.  It seemed swim times were a bit slow all around from pros, top age groupers and back of the packers.  I wasn’t that for off of some fellow AGers that finished in the top 10.  The swim continues to be a work in progress, looking forward to making some gains here.

T1 – 4:26

I ran through, grabbed my gear bag, and headed into the change tent.  It wasn’t too busy so I sat down, pulled my Xterra Speed Suit off the rest of the way and got my helmet, sunglasses, and chamois cream on.  I opted to carry my bike shoes in one hand through the mud pit of transition.  I grabbed Mr, hoisted him onto my shoulder and ran out to the sidewalk where I promptly stepped in the kiddy pool of water to rinse my feet.  There were awesome volunteers just after the kiddie pools that held my bike for me while I got my bike shoes on before heading to the mount line.

THE BIKE 5:22: - 112 Miles

I got on the bike and felt awesome, but apparently my HR did as well.  I knew HR might run high due to the heat and humidity.    I backed off a bit and tried to let my HR come down.  It came down a few beats, I was getting my Osmo hydration in and started early on nutrition.  HR was high, but power was right on point so I went with it, hoping that HR would start to come down throughout the ride.  The first 30 miles or so were super smooth, with a nice tailwind that at times caught my disc and made me feel like I had a sail. 28 miles down and HR hadn’t dropped much, power was on point, nutrition and hydration were going well.  At this point I stuck to power while just monitoring my HR.

The 2nd 28 miles went by almost just as fast, there was some rough road thrown in there which slowed everyone down a bit.  HR stayed just about even and power came up to the target, so I continued to stick with it.  I was still nailing hydration and nutrition (and yes, peeing as well).   I started grabbing water from every aid station to dump over myself and keep my body as cool as possible.  Though the temps when I got on the bike weren’t bad I could tell the day was heating up quickly and staying as cool as possible would benefit me in the long run.

Special needs was at mile 58, just about where the lovely headwind greats you.  I stopped at special needs for about 59 seconds to restock my Osmo bottles and nutrition.  Adam suggested I freeze the bottles I was putting in Special Needs so that they might still be cold when I got to them.   Worked like a charm, nothing better than icey cold Osmo ½ way through the bike!  I continued to bring power up, HR stayed the same.  Around mile 85 or so my stomach started feeling a little off so I sipped on some water, held off on a feed for about 20’ and ended up feeling much better.

The final 28 miles of this ride continued in the head wind.  The day continued to heat up and I was keeping my HR constant and bringing up the power bit by bit.  The last 12 or so miles of this ride were hard.  I was pushing to keep the power up.   I was able to snag two bottles of water at the final aid station to cool myself off with during the final miles of the ride.  As I started thinking about what was next I knew the run was going to be tough!

T2 - 3:57

I dismounted my bike without my shoes on, saw Adam, mom, and Gary as I passed off my bike to a volunteer and passed one more AG competitor as I entered T2.   Little did I know, her coach was right there, telling her 2nd place was just up there…yada, yada.  Well now I knew where I was, but could I hold it?  The volunteers in T2 were awesome and got my race bib on me, made sure I didn’t forget my sunglases, visor or bottle of Osmo Active + Preload.

THE RUN 26.2 Miles – 4:27:58
I started out conservatively and felt great the first loop or so of the run.  I had a running buddy for the first couple miles that came out of T2 at the same time as me.  A couple miles into the run he looked at me and said “whoops, guess I’m doing this whole race in my swim skin!”  Oi, I’m not sure how he tolerated that on the bike and for his sake I really hope he took the time to take it off during the run.  He clearly had  a trisuit on underneath.

The tried to keep up on cadence, HR, nutrition, hydration, salt.  At one point  I became so focused on getting cold water over my head to stay cool, I didn’t drink any at a couple of the aid stations.  Thank goodness, I had my bottle of Osmo with me.  While on the bike I used Salt Stick, but BASE was handing out their salt product on the run course and since it was so easy to get and easy to use I stuck with that for my salt for the run.  The first loop was slightly overcast, somewhat empty, and I was able to bring my HR up just a smidge throughout the course of it.

The sun seemed to come out for the 2nd loop, my legs were getting tired and HR was starting to not want to go up much.  I just tried to hold my HR where it was and keep running.  I started walking every other aid station around mile 11.5 which helped me get the water and ice I needed and conserve the legs just a bit longer.  The wind along the canal at one point was like running into a wall.  I tried to tuck behind a bigger guy but that only last about 30 seconds until he decided just to walk, so much for my draft. At the end of the 1st and 2nd loops we had the added bonus of running down a curvy staircase to get around some construction, thankfully my legs welcomed the change in terrain and I didn’t bite it.

The third loop was welcomed and my not-so-speedy pace was at least enough to keep me passing most and getting passed by few.  The entire run I tried to pay attention to ladies’ calves to know where I was in my AG but there were so many calf sleeves it was useless.  I did know when I got passed by bib #551 and knew she was in my AG.  Really, I’m not at the point with IM racing where I could throw down some hard miles to actually race out the marathon.  It’s best for me to just stick to my plan and execute as best as possible.  When the execution is perfect, or close to it, the result usually follows (or at least in the ½ distance it does!).  I was happy to not get sick of my nutrition on the run and was able to keep some energy consistently coming in.   The joy of reining some women back in that went out too hard on the run and had slowed significantly by loop 3 kept me moving along.  Adam tried to run next to me a few times in which in the politest way at the time I asked him to please let me do this on my own.  Soon enough I turned right, instead of going down the stairs, and started heading toward the finish chute!  A couple turns later and a short slight downhill followed but a short slight uphill push to the finish and I was done! 

FINISH TIME: 11:29:02 – 7th W25-29 AG

This was improvement over last year (at 27 minute PR) at Lake Placid despite not exactly executing my plan very well.  Looking back at how the day went I could have made some better decisions on the bike and set myself up for a better run.  I did not run to my potential and what my training suggested I should have been able to do on that marathon.  There were a lot of positives as well as some learning experiences that came out this race.  I’m always grateful to finish 140.6 miles strong, healthy and happy, but I am beyond thrilled that I have another go at this distance in September, because there’s a lot of potential to cut out some big chunks of time.  When I think about this race there's a tangible sense of disappointment that had I actually been able to properly execute the plan I was trained to execute I likely would have placed much higher in my AG.  That's why Ironman is so great and that's what keeps me coming back - just trying to nail the plan, from start to finish!

I enjoyed my experience at IM Texas, but it is by no means somewhere I’m itching to go back to.  I’d go back to Louisville or Placid in a heartbeat over Texas.  I had a great Sherpa and support crew on board featuring Adam, my mom, and Gary.   I will say Rory and Kara were missed, I may need to do an IM overseas just go keep up their Sherpa skills!

Thank you to my sponsors for helping me get to the start line and through the finish line!  Louis Garneau for a comfortable chafe-free kit from swim through 26.2 miles of running, Rudy Project for keeping me aero and safe for 112 miles on the bike, Xterra for a great Speed Suit, Osmo Hydration for helping me keep hydrated in the heat and humidity of Houston, TrainingPeaks for making sure I don’t miss a workout, Rose Physical Therapy Group for helping me stay strong and healthy throughout training, racing, and working, DC Tri Club for awesome support, Snapple for the best training partners on earth and District Taco for helping me refuel at breakfast, lunch, or dinner!