Archive for ‘Triathlon’

June 30, 2015

Try Tri Again?

Let’s catch up, shall we?

I was supposed to do my first tri—a sprint—on May 17th in Harriman State Park.  It did not come off as planned, and I’ve been thinking and rethinking my training strategy since then, which is probably why I haven’t posted here in a while.  I’m still not 100% decided on the path ahead, but I’m hopeful that laying it all out here might help clarify things.

Picture it: Harriman, NY, May 2015.  LRB was doing the Half-Iron distance on Saturday, and my race was Sunday.  We drove up Friday evening, checked into our hotel, had a late dinner, and then I watched LRB practice transitions for an hour before bed.  I woke up around 3 AM with a screaming headache, which quickly went from bad to worse.  I spent the next two and a half hours alternately sweating, shivering, and trying to throw up as quietly as possible so as not to disturb LRB’s much-needed sleep.  I managed to pull it together enough to drive him the 20 miles to the start around 6, threw up in the bushes while he got set up, and made it back to the hotel before the last wave hit.  I slept for a couple of hours and felt a bit better, so I slathered on the sunscreen, filled up my water bottle with Gatorade (at which point I realized that if one had be sick and dehydrated away from home, a triathlete’s hotel room is not the worst venue) and drove back to the park to fulfill my race support duties.  I made it in time to see LRB’s last bike lap and cheer him and the other athletes into and out of T2.  For the next couple of hours I focused on hydrating, trying to stay out of the sun when at all possible, and cheering on the runners.  I was also trying very hard not to worry about my own race the next day.

I had expected to be really inspired watching the half-iron race and have that I-can’t-wait-to-train-and-do-this feeling, but it never came.  It wasn’t the exhaustion of the athletes and the anguish on some of the faces that put me off.  When I watch ultra-runners with the same (or worse) expressions, I can tap into the joy and exhilaration behind the pain and immediately start fantasizing about running Western States and the Barkley.  Watching this, I just kept thinking of that Kenny Powers line about triathlons being a competition to see “who’s the best at exercising.”  I felt disappointed.  I really have enjoyed some aspects of the training.  It’s just that putting it all together with multiple costume changes and the constant threat of equipment failure just didn’t look fun.   Still, LRB kicked ass on the run and finished his first 70.3 in high spirits, and I tried my best to tap into his enthusiasm.

After getting him rehydrated, back to the hotel, and rested, I managed to eat a decent dinner, but was still not feeling great.  I decided that I would see how I was doing in the morning, but that the operating plan would be to give the race a shot the next day.   I woke up hungry and tired, loaded up the car, and drove back to the park for the third time that weekend.  We had plenty of time, so I got checked in, set up my transition area, and went for an experimental jog to see how I felt.  Physically it felt okay, but I was not feeling my mojo by a long shot.   When it was finally time to go I queued up with my wave for the swim start.  Aside from the general crappiness of the weekend so far, I was actually pretty confident about the swim.  It was only a quarter mile and I had been banging out 800-yd repeats with no problem in the pool.  I knew I was under-prepared in that this was my first time in open water and my first swim in my wetsuit, but I really wasn’t overly stressed out about it.  I ran in somewhere in the middle of the pack and started swimming.  Almost immediately a guy behind me started trying to draft, but was way too close and kept hitting me in the calves on every stroke.  I tried to speed up and pull away from him, but he just kept windmilling away at my legs, so I started maneuvering to the outer edge of the pack.  He stayed on me, literally.  I was at that point that I realized I was swimming way too fast and was getting into a serious oxygen debt.  I switched to breathing every other stroke, but still couldn’t seem to get enough air.  I finally rolled over on my back for a few strokes, which I thougt would at least persuade Pummeling Arms Dude to find a new swimmer to draft, but he just kept smacking away at my legs.  I rolled back over, told myself to stay calm, and focus on making it to the next buoy.  I swam, counted my strokes and my breath, and tried to concentrate on my form.  When I popped my head up again to sight it seemed like I had made no progress.  My head was pounding by that point, whether from the glare or the exertion I’m not sure.  I kept going another 10 or 12 strokes, still unable to get my breathing under control, but felt the panic rising.  Finally I gave up, pulled to the inside of the pack and then inside the buoys, and started swimming to shore.  I was going to DNF for the first time ever, and I truly did not care.

After the drive back to the city I went for a long run to think and regroup.  I had another sprint tri a month, which I had no interest in doing.  I knew that much already.  The bigger question was the NYC Tri in July, tri camp, and my general approach to training for the rest of the summer.  I enjoy the hardcoreness of triathlon training.  I like two-a-days, the fact that I finally have some definition in my arms, and that I’m stronger than I’ve ever been.  What I don’t like (other than transitions, the bike, and open water) is constantly feeling harried and unfocused, like I’m devoting a ton of time to training but constantly switching gears and not really able to make big improvements anywhere.  I can dig the pain cave of the bike trainer, but I hate biking out in the big world with cars and hills and gravel.  I know that I  have gotten a lot of utility out of  tri training—I’m a much better swimmer (at least in the pool), and having the bike trainer as an alternate workout option has been great.  Still, the fact remains that I have zero desire to compete in another triathlon.  The question is whether that’s because I’m struggling with the bike and the swim, because I’m afraid of biking on the road and open water swims, or because I’m afraid of being bad at it.

Even with several more weeks perspective, I’m still not sure where I am on the subject.  I skipped the next sprint tri and deferred the NYC Tri until next year.  I still have my (nonrefundable) tri camp at the end of July, and for now I’m still planning to go.   I have continued to swim twice a week, and my endurance swim class is going better than I expected.  I took an open water class last weekend which I thought would boost my confidence, but the fact that it was right before a storm blew in and we were swimming in the ocean in 3-foot surf did little to increase my comfort level.  I’ve done some more trainer workouts, but I haven’t been out on the road on my bike in weeks.

My training for the New York City Marathon officially kicked off last week, and it feels great to have one focused plan and goal ahead of me.  Aside from the usual early summer battle to heat-acclimate, my running still seems to be on track, and I’ve had two solid 10K races this past month and set a new PR.   Ironically, as much as I’d like to ditch the cross training at this point, I might actually need it.  I’ve developed plantar fasciitis in my right foot this past month, and something is still up with the tendon in my left big toe.  So far neither has kept me from running, but I’m a little nervous about substantially ramping up my run mileage with niggling injuries this early in the season.  I’ve added yoga and more time stretching and foam rolling to my routine, and much as I hate to admit it, I think the swims really help with muscle recovery.  So for now I going to keep on keeping on.

~ModC

May 1, 2015

Seven Years Running

April 22nd was my 7-year runniversary—i.e. the date I first started training “for real” and signed up for my first half marathon.  It’s been an amazing journey of 8,500+ miles, much sweat, and non-negligible amounts of blood and tears thrown in.  Seven years ago I was fresh out of grad school and just starting my professional life as a starry-eyed model-builder in Frank Gehry’s office in Los Angeles.  I’m now a licensed architect and a partner in a small firm in New York specializing in exterior wall design.   In many ways, running has shaped my adulthood—it has been the constant through the stresses and growing pains of my career, personal life, and multiple cross-country moves.  It’s been the backbone of more than a few friendships.  And every year on April 22nd I have celebrated all of that by going for a run that’s just for me.  There’s no workout structure allowed, no treadmill, and I try to go somewhere scenic as my schedule allows.  This year I had to postpone a few days, as I was resting the mysterious toe-squeak injury, but on Friday I ran home from work the long way—around lower Manhattan, through Battery Park (in full bloom), and over my beloved Brooklyn Bridge.  It was glorious.  (And I mean glorious in running terms, which is to say, beautiful, but with severe chafing of my collar bones by my backpack straps. And I almost got hit by a bike, and then a car that was running a red light. But let’s focus on the positive.)

Since then, this week has been really up and down. I feel like I’m really walking the knife edge of overtraining, and a slight breeze may push me over the edge.  Last night I was so tired I was on the verge of tears, and then this morning I banged out a six mile tempo run at 7:40 pace like it was nothing.  The root of the problem is that I can’t find a triathlon training plan designed for someone with a good level of fitness, lots of running experience, and zero swimming and biking skills.  Because I’ll be rolling straight from NYC Tri training in July to NYC Marathon training, I want to maintain my running base as much as possible, while putting in a lot of hard work to bring my swim and bike up to snuff.  That has so far resulted in me doing almost every workout hard, and doing two-a-days four or five days a week.  I realize that this plan is unsustainable.  This week I backed off one each of my swim and bike workouts to an easy pace, and definitely felt better.  Still, I need to find a good training balance that doesn’t leave me a quivering, irritable mess by the weekend.

In what may be a fortuitous turn of events, the Runners’ World training log I’ve been using for 7 years is going to cease to exist next week, so I’ve had to migrate all my data over to Training Peaks.  I have the premium free trial tools right now, so I’m taking advantage of all the fitness and training assessment data to sort things out.  I have the Harriman Sprint Tri in two weeks (agh!), and then I’ll be focusing on the Olympic distance in July.  Goal #1 is to make it to the starting line (and the finish line) healthy and fit.  In the coming weeks I’m going to be paying extra attention to nutrition and sleep, and am resolving to try (harder) not to let life interfere too much with either.

April 21, 2015

Musings on More

As evidenced by my posts the last few weeks, I went into the More/SHAPE/Fitness/Idontknowwhatelse Half Marathon on Sunday with mixed feelings.  It’s only been a little over a month since my huge PR at the NYC Half, and I raced a solid 4-miler in Central Park last weekend.  I’ve been ramping up the tri training over the last several weeks, though, and I’ve been cycling (no pun intended) between feeling like I’m on the verge of overtraining, backing off, panicking because I’m not training enough, ramping up, and repeating.  My big toe stopped squeaking this week, but now it hurts in a way that is somewhat reminiscent of the early stages of my stress fracture in the fall.  (I actually had an anxiety dream two nights before the half that all of my joints were squeaking like the Tin Man.)  Needless to say that when I toed the line on Sunday morning, it was with mixed emotions.

I scored a Wave 1 start for the race, and for the first time ever I actually lined up right at the tape.  That was mainly to get a view of Deena Kastor (squeeee!) RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME.  When the gun went off I attempted to hang with her for about 25 feet, and all I can say is that seeing an elite runner up close was both incredibly humbling and slightly terrifying.  In the thrill of chasing Deena I laid down a sub-7 first mile, which was probably not wise.  I tried to back it off a bit on the next couple, but running with the front pack was throwing me off and I kept finding myself speeding up.  It wasn’t long before the initial excitement wore off though, and I started feeling a bit flat.  My left quad was worryingly tight, and even though my toe wasn’t hurting much I was also fretting about worsening that injury.  To add to the fun, I could feel the early twinges of a side stitch forming, probably thanks to the breakneck speed at the start.

The course was just over two loops of Central Park, and I knew the key would be to keep my effort consistent between the uphills and downhills. I kept the pace in check for the first trip up the Harlem Hills and made up some time on the back side, but knew that pacing on round two would be tougher.  I had my first gel when I passed the starting line again, six miles in.  Almost immediately I felt the side stitch twinges solidify into a Side Stitch From Hell, a la the Baltimore Marathon.  This time I at least had more core strength on my side, though, and I found that if I kept my upper abs totally engaged and breathed very low in my belly that the pain was manageable.  I continued this way for about a mile and a half, breathing in for three steps and out for two, and eventually the cramp seemed to ease a bit.  For most of that time I fantasized about dropping out, calling my mom and the Caveboy and telling them I DNF’d.  Usually that kind of thinking would motivate and refocus me, but this time I just didn’t seem care that much.  I kept running, pretty much on pace, so I guess I did care, but I just could not find my mojo.  At some point the 1:45 pace group leader caught up with me, and I hung with her group until the next aid station, which they walked through.  They caught me again just before the second trip up the Harlem Hills, and and I was happy to tuck in and let them take care of pacing for a while.  About a mile later I heard the leader say something about the pace being off, and they sped up a bit.  They pulled away over the next mile, and while I kept them in sight, I never made a serious effort to catch them.

By that point my main concern was my left quad, which was still cranky.  I was hoping it wouldn’t cramp up with the downhill stretch through the bottom of the park, and knew I should be drinking more and taking in another gel.  I was still wary about the side stitch returning, but I finally decided it was worth the risk and took a gel around the 11 mile mark.  We still had a couple of rolling sections left, and the course was becoming increasingly crowded with the walkers that we were lapping.  I’m all for athletes of all abilities taking part in these events, and I’m a firm believer that the last person across the finish line has every bit as much right to the course as the first.  Participating in a road race demands a certain level of awareness, however.  Whether you’re running fast, slow, or walking, you’re part of an athletic competition.  Walking four-abreast and blocking the entire lane and forcing other runners into the grass or the bike lane IS NOT GOOD RACING ETIQUETTE.  I definitely paid for the clear sailing at the start with a lot of bobbing and weaving on the second lap when I was physically and mentally drained.  By the time we turned off at the 72nd Street cutoff to the finish line, I was pretty fried.  I managed to ramp up the pace to the low 7’s for the last 800m or so, picked off two runners in the chute, and ended up finishing in 1:45:33.  It was certainly a solid time, and one I would have been thrilled with last season.  I should be thrilled with it now.  It was just over 2 minutes slower than my PR last month, but the course was much more difficult and the day was at least 15 degrees warmer.  Given how generally flat I felt, it was a really solid performance.  I finished 44th in my age group and 280th/7,500ish overall, which is certainly respectable.  Still, I’m disappointed. I can’t tell if it’s just that I gave up a little bit mentally and stopped fighting for this one, or if it’s part of a bigger issue.  Last year I actually scheduled quality time with myself after key races to reflect how things were going and make any adjustments to my training going forward.  I haven’t done that this year, and I think it might be time.

My biggest concern right now is my toe and whether I’m headed for another stress fracture.  If so, it most likely points to female athlete triad syndrome and the possible need to rethink both my training schedule and nutrition.  There’s so much there to unpack that I am going to leave it for a separate post, but suffice it to say that the threat is weighing heavily on me.  It’s way too early in the season to be worrying about major injuries and overtraining.  My big-picture goal is getting to Boston in the next year or two.  That means prioritizing my overall fitness  and staying healthy so that I’m able to train consistently.  To that end, I’ve decided that for at least the next week or two, my fitness goals are as follows:

 

  • Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night.
  • Eat more calories than I think I’m burning each day.
  • Institute a biking boot camp and substitute biking for all run workouts until the toe shows signs of improvement.
  • Stretch every day.
April 14, 2015

Still Squeaky

On Sunday I had the Run For the Parks 4-miler, another NYRR race in my quest for the 9+1 and guaranteed entry for the 2016 NYC Marathon.  After a 20-mile bike ride on Saturday I was in no mood to get myself up and in Central Park by 7:45 AM for a race that—if all went well—was going to take me less an half an hour. Off I went, though, hoping that my tired legs and squeaky toe were up for it.  The subways can be kind of a crapshoot on Sunday mornings, so I allowed a lot of extra time for travel and ended up (for once) arriving a good bit early for the race.  It was still fairly cool out so I used the time to warm up and probably put in close to a mile before I started working my way to the start.  I hadn’t run since Tuesday due to the toe squeak, so I was anxious to get some strides in and feel out a good race pace before we started.  I was hoping for a pace in the low 7’s, but every time I thought I was probably approaching that and checked the Garmin, my pace was actually low 7’s/high 8’s.  It didn’t seem like the best sign, but I finally hit it and held it long enough for it to sink into my brain and then headed off to the start.

The race had a strong turnout, which is great since 100% of the proceeds go to park programs, but 8,000+ people in Central Park does get a bit crowded.  I was in the third corral thanks to my Prospect 4-miler time, and I figured having fast people around me would help a lot with the pacing.  We got off to a quick start and I focused on breathing and finding a good rhythm.  I pushed pretty hard and I really don’t remember much of the race other than trying and succeeding in overtaking some chic in a Boston Athletic Association jacket, and dropping one of my gloves half a mile from the finish.  That was upsetting because 1) they’re my favorite lucky running gloves, and 2) I knew it was stupid to try to take them off when I was that close to the end.  I clocked in at 28:55, which was 7:14 splits—30 seconds/mile better than my Prospect 4-miler in February.  As soon as I cleared the chute I worked my way back to where I dropped the glove, waited for a break in the runners, and did something resembling one of those football player drills to dart out, grab the glove off the ground, and then run back to the curb without disrupting the flow of the race.  Thus reunited with my gloves, I headed back to the finish to wait for LRB, who was running with a newbie friend.  When the results were posted it turned out that I had finished 13th in my age group and 103rd overall woman, which, given the field size, is probably my best finish ever.  It was totally the gloves.

After the race and some brunch with LRB and his friend, I hit the pool to work on the two-beat kick we had learned in class last week.  (And by “learned” I mean attempted with much awkward flailing.)  Since I had already put in a hard cardio effort I decided just to really focus on technique on the swim.  I spent 30 minutes kicking down the pool one length on my back, then working on the two-beat kick swimming back.  Since I could catch my breath on the kicking lengths, it took some of the pressure off timing the breathing with the two-beat, and by the end I felt like I was starting to get the hang of it.  I suspect that my kick form could still use some work, though.  It feels more like flinging something icky off my foot than a singular flutter kick, but I think it’s progress nonetheless.

This weekend I also officially joined the Brooklyn Tri Club, and we had our first bike workout of the season bright and early this morning.  I was able to hang with the other newbies, but I am getting my first bout of seriously cold feet for the upcoming races.  When I started this whole tri endeavor, it was the swim that scared me.  Now it’s the bike that I find myself dreading.  Despite all the time I spent on the trainer this winter, being on the road is a whole different world.  I find riding in traffic really nerve-wracking, and I still find  the feeling of being clipped in terrifying challenging.  After my ride on Saturday I decided to wear running shoes when I’m riding on the streets for the time being, and only clip in when I’m in the park or otherwise out of traffic.  That has at least eased some of the anxiety I have when cabs are whizzing by me inches from my elbow.

I’m actually surprised at how vulnerable I feel when I’m just riding fast in the park, though.  I love going fast on skis or skates, but on the bike I just keep thinking about broken bones and road rash.  This morning we were working on keeping a fast cadence and spinning on the small chain ring, and I was having a really hard time convincing myself to pedal downhill.  I hope know that a lot of this will work itself out as I get more comfortable on the bike and log some more road time.  My first sprint tri is a month away, though, and I feel woefully underprepared at the moment.  I’ve been focused on running these past few months and I still haven’t done a real brick workout, let alone an open water swim.  I need to just sit down and layout my training calendar for the next four weeks, get the key workouts scheduled, and I know I’ll feel a lot better. But between work, training, and minimal sleep requirements I can’t seem to find the time.  Also, I’m getting worried about the squeaky toe.  Before the stress fracture, I would have just run on it and not worried unless I could hear it over my ipod, but now I’m afraid of another boot-bound month and lost training hours.  I keep reminding myself that part of the reason I wanted to do the tri was for the challenge—to learn to swim properly, to get better at biking, and to do something that a few years ago I thought I could never, ever do.  Then there’s the part of me that keeps screaming, “screw this!  I just want to run!”  One of these days, she’ll come around, right?

March 4, 2015

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

I’m late in posting, but this week has felt largely like a rehash of last week.  It’s been pretty much run, bike, swim, snow, ice, slush,  repeat.

To further the déjà vu, last Thursday’s tempo run was the same as the previous week–1 easy, 5 at 7:49 pace, 1 easy–with no evening workout.  Friday was a cardio rest day, but I did strength training in the morning.  Saturday I usually do an easy run for my morning workout, but was eager to get back in the pool to continue working the drills from this week’s swim class.  After 45 minutes in the pool my stroke was feeling great, and I believe I also isolated the cause of my swimming endurance problem.  It’s a minor detail, but it seems that I’m not actually inhaling in any meaningful way when I breathe.  I’m not really sure what to do about it yet, but acceptance is the first step, right?

After Saturday’s swim I had a light lunch and then hit the trainer for my first aerobic-targeted workout on Trainer Road.  It was 90 minutes of easy-ish spinning, and other than getting a bit saddle sore, it really wasn’t bad.  I had some errands to run and a pile of laundry to do, so the rest of the afternoon was quickly consumed with that.  I went to the Murder By Death concert Saturday evening with Long Run Buddy, which was super fun, but also had us out way too late.  LRB had a 5K in the morning and I needed to get the Caveboy off to the airport and then bang out a 15-mile run.  5:30 AM came around much too early.  For the run I planned to run a loop of Central Park, then cut west to the Hudson River path and run south, over the Brooklyn Bridge, and back home.  It was the closest I could approximate the NYC Half course without the street closures, and I figured having the bridge climb at the end of the run would be a good challenge.  Per my training schedule I was aiming for 8:30 pace, which was faster than I’d run any of my long runs so far, and 15 miles was the longest I had run since the Brooklyn Marathon back in November, so I was a teensy bit very nervous about this one.    I’d checked the weather the day before and it showed pretty perfect coditions–clear skies and a high of 40, so I threw on tights, a long sleeved race shirt, my Ice Breaker hoodie (love!), gloves, and my sunglasses and hopped on the subway to Central Park.

InconceivablePB

The park definitely felt colder than 40 degrees and the sky looked a bit ominous, but I was undaunted.  I started out the run feeling great.  I was light and fast and it was inconceivable I would ever get tired.  My pace slowed on the Harlem Hills more than I would have liked—and I say “my pace slowed” and not “I slowed my pace” because I felt like I was still running fast.  It’s just that I wasn’t.  Still, I cruised down the back side of the hills and pushed through the rolling stretch that makes up the north west section of the loop.  By the time I exited the park at Columbus Circle and headed for the Hudson River path it had started to snow and I was having to stay focused to maintain the 8:30’s.  The river path is flat and I hoped that once I dialed the pace in it wouldn’t be too hard to maintain.  Other than stopping for a few quick photo ops of the frozen Hudson I did manage to cruise along, roughly on pace.  I knew I’d lose some time and momentum when I cut across the island to the bridge though, and predictably, the climb there felt hard.  What I had not predicted was the ½” of snow that had fallen in the time it took me to get from Central Park to the bridge.  The pedestrian section of the bridge is basically a wooden boardwalk, so in addition to dodging oblivious tourists taking selfies I was also slipping on every step.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see a concrete running surface as when I reached solid ground on the Brooklyn side.  Happily, the downhill stretch (or proximity to home) gave me a second wind, and I was able to bring in the last couple of flat miles at 8:15’s.  It was a welcome surprise when I checked the Garmin and saw my average pace was an 8:34.  I arrived back home cold, chapped, and wind burned, and was grateful for a hot shower.

Photo Op.

Photo Op.

I cleaned up, made lunch, and was feeling good until my digestive system suddenly decided to go on strike.  I don’t think it had anything to do with the run necessarily—my stomach had felt fine the whole time I was out.  I curled up on the couch for an hour, but I still had a bunch of chores to get done before I was back to work on Monday.  Other than a headache and the tummy troubles I didn’t actually feel terrible, so I decided just to power through it as much as I could.  Of course, the problem was that I needed to get some calories and hydration back into me, and that was proving to be a challenge.   After several hours, lots of tea, and a couple of yogurt and kefir cocktails, I felt a bit better.  I got the important stuff on my to-do list done and did manage to eat a small dinner without repercussions.  I probably only ended up at net 500 calories on the day, if that, and went to bed at 9.

I woke up Monday morning tired, hungry, and fighting what I used to refer to in college as my “tired sore throat.”  I would get it without fail if I pulled a couple of all-nighters during finals, and now it’s become my red flag that I’m overtraining and getting run down.  Once again, I skipped my Monday morning strength training in favor of more sleep.   Tuesday I felt much better and the 5×1000 intervals went off without a hitch, so I’m chalking up the Monday fail to lack of sleep and calories.  We had yet another snow/freezing rain/regular rain event yesterday, so getting to swim class was a bit of a swim in itself.  Class was mostly kick drills and one-arm pulling, which felt weird and awkward and I kept forgetting to breathe (more so than usual).  Then I’d remember about the breathing when my lungs started screaming and completely forget that I was supposed to be paying attention to my arm position, which was unfortunate since that was the whole point of the awkward endeavor.  This morning I upgraded myself to the medium lane and still ran into feet, so something must be working.

February 24, 2015

Freeze, Thaw, Cycle

 

Ice on the water cups at the Al Gordon 4-Miler

Ice on the water cups at the Al Gordon 4-Miler

The good news about this weekend is that it was super productive.  The bad news is that I was completely exhausted by Monday.  I ended up with the schedule stacked against me last week, when I realized that I needed to squeeze in a strength training session with Kali the Destroyer.  I ended up fitting that in on Thursday morning, which moved my tempo run to Friday.  The strength training was great (doing the Jillian Michael sessions twice a week really are making me stronger), and I happy to wake up on Friday without much soreness.  My scheduled tempo was 1 easy, 5 at 7:49, and 1 easy, which I got through without much drama. I had the Al Gordon 4-Miler in Prospect Park on Saturday, and I tried my best to channel the successful tempo to garner some enthusiasm for the race.

 Al Gordon 4-Miler

I had signed up for the 4-miler when I came back from my stress fracture, mainly as an attempt to save myself from jumping right into training for the NYC Half.  That (somewhat) worked, and I really had no goal in mind for the race other than to improve my corral for the half next month.  I should probably explain for those uninitiated in the efficient machine that is New York Road Runners, that all of their races have starting corrals which are seeded by pace.  The catch is that your pace group is based on the fastest average mile split logged in any race you’ve run with them, regardless of distance.  I rarely race anything shorter than a 10K, and when I do, they’re usually social runs with friends when I’m not focused on time.  I was currently in the 8:00 corral based on my last 10K, and was hoping to improve my start position a bit given the crowded field in the NYC Half.  With that in mind, I dragged myself out of bed at 6 AM on Saturday morning and bundled up.  It was 6 degrees out and, not wanting to spend too much time freezing in the corral, I got to the start only a few minutes before the gun.  We were off, and I went into Bill Belichik Do-Your-Job mode—no drama, no whining, just hit my pace and get the job done.  I still had a 14-mile long run to do on Sunday, so the idea was to run hard, but not plumb new depths of pain.  I held 7:30’s on the flats, 8:00’s on the uphills, and tried to take it sub-7 on the downs when I could.   I held off a side stitch with some very focused belly breathing for the last mile and finished in 30:23.  It would have been nice to break 30 minutes, but I was happy with the effort, and it should move me up at least one or two corrals.   After I finished, the Caveboy met me with a warm jacket and asked if the lake was completely frozen, at which point I realized that I had not taken in my surroundings in the least.  How’s that for focus?

From Prospect I jumped on the train to Union Square and grabbed a cup of coffee while I waited for Jack Rabbit Sports to open.  They were having their spring clearance sale and I was hoping to snag a tri race kit cheap.  Long Run Buddy was meeting me there, and we both scored major deals.  I was able to pick up two race kits, and I also found a pair of my favorite running shorts and a book on bike maintenance, all for $55.  Win.  While I was waiting for LRB to check out I checked my race results and discovered that I had finished 4th in my age group.  Double win.  We had a celebratory brunch and then Caveboy and I headed home to catch up on laundry and other life essentials.  I had a bike session on the calendar as well, so after throwing in a load of running clothes I set up the bike and queued up an episode of Gilmore Girls.  This was the first session of my base-building training plan on TrainerRoad, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was hoping it wouldn’t be too brutal given the 14 mile long run the next day. “8-Minute Power Test” initially sounded pretty innocuous, but it turned out to be a pretty intense hour-long workout.

Trainer Road

TrainerRoad basically syncs your phone, iPad, or computer with your (Bluetooth-enabled) bike computer to give you a customized spin workout.  It estimates virtual power based on your trainer model and gives you real time stats on your power output, showing you a green, yellow, or red zone depending on how well you’re keeping up with the designed workout.  They also provide real-time on-screen instructions for each session, as well as additional background info on the website and even free webinars on training topics.  I’ve heard really good things about it and given that I have zero experience with bike training, I am basically putting all my faith in their approach.  The workout started with an easy spin warm-up, and then progressed to two very short, hard intervals.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t keep my power up in the green zone where it was supposed to be, and I was starting to get very worried about my biking abilities and questioning why I had taken on this whole triathlon endeavor.  Thankfully there was another easy spin period at that point and the on-screen instructions started describing the two 8-minute power trials that were coming up.  It was then that I realized that point of this ride was to calibrate my functional threshold power, and that the green zone for power that the app was currently showing me was completely arbitrary (i.e. probably calibrated for a large dude who is a much better cyclist than me.)  This is why I probably should not consider reading the instructions to be a sign of weakness…  Anyway, I was at least somewhat relieved, and I got through the power tests within tolerable pain levels.  TrainerRoad spit out a new FTP at the end, and my next workout should be calibrated for my current fitness level.

Slushy Central Park

Slushy Central Park

Long Run

Sunday the temperature shot up 30 degrees into the mid-40’s, and it seemed all of New York was covered in 2 inches of accumulated slush, dirt, and formerly-frozen dog pee.  I had originally planned to run as much as I could of the NYC Half course for my long run, but it was clear that traversing the sidewalks was not a desirable option.  I figured Central Park was probably my best shot at clear roads, so I met up with LRB after his morning spin session and set off.  He had a 1:45 run in HR Zone 1-2 on the menu, so it was much the same drill as last week.  We ran a bit slower than my target 8:30’s, but my legs were feeling pretty dead after the strength/tempo/race/bike whammy anyway.  We were both not wearing headphones for once, so we chatted on and off and the miles ticked by quickly.  The encouraging part about this run was really how undramatic it was given how tired I felt.  Undoubtedly it would have hurt a lot more had I been running 8:30’s instead of 8:45’s, but I did pick it up for the last few miles after LRB clocked out and my endurance felt solid.

Monday morning I had an hour of strength training scheduled, but on Sunday night I decided that I would benefit more from an additional hour of sleep.  I had vague notions of still getting it in after work, but by mid-afternoon it was clear that what I really needed was rest and a massage.  After some aggressive tiger tailing and an hour on the couch after dinner I was off to bed, and felt much more alive this morning.  The intervals du jour were 2×1200  at 6:53 pace followed by 4×800 at 6:49 pace with 2 minute recovery intervals.  After my poor showing last week, I was determined to bang these out without walking a recovery or stopping for a rest, and I. DID. IT.  I downed half a power bar while waiting for the train after, which is part of my initiative to be nicer to myself about post-workout nutrition.  (More on that in a later post.)  Tonight is swim class, and the rest of the week is the usual combo of swimming, Trainer Road bike workouts, hard runs, and beet juice.

February 17, 2015

Keeping Track

Last week was probably my most solid training week since my stress fracture, and I’m feeling pretty good about where I am.  I ran 30.8 miles, biked 19.4, swam 1200 yds (that’s an estimate since I’m still struggling with lap count, but more on that later…), and I also got in two strength training sessions.  Running-wise, I had my mile-repeats on Tuesday, an easy 6 on Thursday, and a 12-mile long run Sunday.  Saturday I bricked my swim workout with another easy 6-mile run, which, happily, did actually feel easy.  I’m still working to build my swim endurance, but my efficiency is improving and I’m definitely wasting less energy on my kick now.

Central Park

Central Park, with not another person in sight…

 

For Sunday’s long run I met Long Run Buddy in Central Park, which we had nearly to ourselves, thanks to the 14 degree temperature and frigid wind gusts.  We bundled up and decided a legitimate warm-up was in order.  After a shuffley mile we picked up the pace for our park loops.  LRB had a 90-minute easy run in HR Zone 1-2 on his schedule, so we ended up pulling back a bit on the 8:30 pace I was targeting and settled in around 8:40.  At mile 10 LRB peeled off at 92nd street to wrap up his workout, and it was at that point that sucked on my water bottle in vain and discovered that the nozzle had completely frozen.  I do love winter running and generally don’t really mind the cold, but that seemed a bit much.  Consoling myself that I could always eat snow if necessary, I got ready to push up the Harlem Hills the second time.   I was nervous curious about how I’d do on the hills, especially on loop two, but I felt pretty strong throughout.  I was definitely not able to push the pace as much as I was in the fall, but I’m confident that I’ll get the uphill speed back with a some focused time and effort.  In any case, I still felt good endurance-wise, and I was able to pick up the pace for the last two miles.  I finished my 12 in the park and still had about mile back to LRB’s apartment, and in an effort to stay warm I opted to just jog it back.  All-in, I ran 13.8, which makes me feel much better about my 14-er coming up this weekend.  After a hot shower the feeling returned to my fingers and nose, and LRB and I hit up a beer hall for some post-run sustenance.

LRB's liter o'beer and my teeny-tiny Riesling.

LRB’s liter o’beer and my teeny-tiny Riesling.

Monday I was off work for the holiday and logged a 45-minute strength training session, 8 miles of HIIT interval biking, 3 loads of laundry, and some marathon cooking.  My running bras are clean and my freezer is well stocked, so that made me a happy girl.  We had our wine critic friend over for dinner last night which resulted in more imbibing than was perhaps prudent, especially given this morning’s intervals.  I hit the treadmill feeling a bit sluggish and fought my way through 10×400’s at 6:40 pace.  It was not my most stellar performance and I had to take a couple of my recovery intervals at a walk, but I gritted my teeth and made it through the full set.  In fact, I know that I made it through because I used my snazzy new counting bracelet, which I made yesterday to keep track of my pool laps.

10 beads on the left.  Count 'em.

10 beads on the left. Count ’em.

I got some great suggestions last week on how to keep count in the pool, but apparently I’m hopeless.  I think the real problem is that I’m still concentrating so much on technique that I just don’t have the mental bandwidth for anything else.  Right now, my thoughts during swimming go something like this: “1, 2, 3, breathe!  Lead with the crown of your head!  3, breathe!  Don’t push the water down! 2, 3, breathe!   1, 2, head down! Breathe!  Straight legs!  Relax! 3, breathe!  Turn!  Breathe!  Crap, is this lap 11 or 13?  Breathe!

I was racking my brains all week trying to think of a low-tech solution, and I remembered that in my knitting travels I’d seen instructions for making row-counting bracelets.  I dug around in my crafty bins and found some stainless steel beads, jump rings, and black cord and I was all set.  I think the result looks moderately adult enough that I can wear it all day, and it worked beautifully for ticking off my intervals this morning.  I’ll be trying it out in the pool tonight.

The general idea is that the cords are a bit longer than the beaded area, leaving a short gap.  The beads will slide along the cord, leaving a space between the counted beads and the ones ‘on deck,’ but there’s enough friction that they don’t slide around on their own.  I’ll put up a separate post this week with the materials I used for my bracelet, along with instructions and photos.  It’s a fast project and these would make a useful gift for your favorite runner or swimmer.  (Or knitter.)  These could range from masculine to feminine, simple and elegant to colorful and fun depending on your choice of beads and hardware.  The only real constraints are selecting beads and cord of compatible size, and making sure your materials will survive the water if you plan to swim with it.  I tend to gravitate towards minimalism, but you could easily incorporate number and letter beads for a personal touch, too—names, inspiration, a mantra, or PR’s.

February 10, 2015

The Trials of Miles

 

Norm!

So I realized this morning that I really do have a place where everybody knows my name, and that place is Starbucks.  I may need to consider taking a week off caffeine again soon.

It seems like everyone from Running Boston and Beyond to The Athletarian was writing about their mile repeats last week, and I had my first set in ages today.  It was 3×1600 @ 6:59 (and that counts as sub-7, baby!), and it was brutal.  Since my foot *seems* to be all-systems go, I switched my focus  this week from the 4-miler on the 21st to the NYC Half in March.  I’m still trying to gauge where my fitness is now, but it feels like the time off as cost me more endurance than speed.  I need to come up with a training strategy and set some realistic goals for my spring races, so this weekend’s 10-miler was a big test.  It was my first run longer than 7 miles since Thanksgiving, and I was targeting an 8:30 pace.  I ran my usual to-, from-, and two laps of Prospect route and clocked in at 8:31’s, which was a HUGE confidence boost.
Before the stress fracture in the fall I was aiming for a 1:45 spring half, and based on the 10-miler and my miscalculated tempo the other day, I decided to proceed as planned.  That’s ambitious for mid-March, as I only have four training weeks to get ready, but if the foot holds, I have my eye on the NYRR women’s half in April.  I am ready to put in a lot of hard work, but I’ll be on high alert for any indications of overtraining or that my stress fracture acting up.  Right now my plan is to continue with running only on my structured workout days and substitute biking and swimming on what would be easy days.

On the subject of Tri, I’ve christened my bike Tzippi and spent some quality trainer time with her this week, though  I still haven’t gotten her calibrated with the pseudo power meter. I’m definitely lacking in bike training experience and I’ve been worried that I’m inadvertently spending a lot of time in the training black hole, so it will be good to get some real(ish) data soon.  I am, however, loving my new Cat Eye Strada Smart.  It’s fully Bluetooth, which means there are no wires to clip to the frame, and the workouts automatically sync with my phone.  Now if only I could find a good method for counting swim laps I’d be all set.  I generally count strokes/breaths and I find it impossible to maintain an accurate lap count in my head as well.  I could try the old Garmin-in-ziploc-in-swimcap trick, which is probably what I’ll do for racing, but I’m not convinced of its accuracy over 25 yards.  Does anyone have any good tips for keeping track?  The best I’ve come up with so far is a poolside abacus, which seems less than ideal…

January 30, 2015

Ups and Downs

It was that kind of week.

It was that kind of week.

You know those Time Warner Cable PSA’s that try to get kids interested in STEM subjects by relating them to sports?  I have a great idea for one:

“Running requires speed, strength, and endurance.  But did you know that it also requires basic arithmetic skills so that you don’t end up doing your tempo run 50 seconds per mile faster than you’re supposed to?  Well, it does.”

I’m still working on the ending.  I actually appreciate a good math error now and then, though.  (Not the Tacoma Narrows sort, but the more benign running-faster-than-I-thought-I-could kind.)  It was a good boost in what’s been an up and down couple of weeks.

Last Tuesday I did my first speed work since before the Brooklyn Marathon, and was thrilled to discover that I was able to keep up with my pre-injury interval paces without much trouble.  I banged out a solid 5-mile tempo run on Thursday and was still feeling some twinges in my foot, but by the weekend it was feeling almost back to normal.  On Friday I had my monthly strength session with my trainer, Kali, Destroyer of Worlds and Abs.  With all of the extra time spent not running for the past few months I had been putting in 2-3 strength sessions a week, and I was curious to see how I would fare this time.  My trainer is not easily impressed, though, and my hopes were not high.  After an hour of brutality, I finally earned a fist bump from her.  Go me.

Saturday I did an hour on the trainer bricked with a 4-mile run.  I had intended to go easy on the run, but I felt good and ended up running an 8:50ish pace.  I’ve been a little concerned that all the strength work might cost me some speed, but my core feels rock solid and I feel like I have much more power in my legs than before, so that’s all to the good.  Sunday was a 6-mile tempo on the treadmill bricked with a 30-minute swim, both of which felt great.  Monday I was back to strength training, as I’m determined to keep up the gains I’ve made.

Tuesday was supposed to be an interval run, which I would usually do on the treadmill.  Thanks to the Storm of the Century that Wasn’t, the gym was closed.  Brooklyn actually got about 7”, and I adore running in the snow, so happily set out with my Yak Trax.  I debated running to Prospect Park, which is really beautiful in the snow, but the 7-mile round trip seemed like a bit much.  In the end, I was happy I opted for a shorter run because my arch/big toe started hurting almost immediately.  There must have been something about the slight slippage that was intensifying whatever change there has been to my gait, and I ended up only doing 3 miles.  To make up for the missed speedwork, I did a 40-minute HIIT session on the trainer to round out the day.

Wednesday was a morning swim/ evening strength day, but I noticed when I was walking to a meeting for work that afternoon that I was rocking to the outside of my left foot to avoid putting weight on my big toe.  Not good.  I hoped it would be better for Thursday’s tempo run, but it was still tender that morning.  I vacillated, vacillated some more, and ended up deciding to swap Friday’s bike ride for the run.  I knew it was the smart thing to do—getting a secondary injury while coming back from the stress fracture is exactly what I’m trying to avoid.  I was still grumpy about it, though, and proceeded to try to set up my new Cat Eye Strada Smart before the trainer session so that I could start getting a sense of my power output.  This was all transpiring at 6 AM, mind you, so I was neither at my sharpest or most reasonable. I knew I didn’t realistically have time to get the bike computer set up, but I was still sulking about the run and resenting the whole situation.  I finally had to give up the set-up process at 7:10, which gave me exactly not enough time to get the full 40 minutes in and still get to work on time.  I also totally forgot that the Caveboy had a big thing at work that day until after he left and spent most of the ride feeling like a bad girlfriend.

That brings me to today and the miscalculated tempo run.  My foot was (thankfully) feeling better, and I was eager to get the tempo run in since I had missed running intervals this week.  I was supposed to be doing 4 miles at 8:10’s, but I obviously messed up somewhere because I set the treadmill to 8.2.  If you’re following along at home, that’s a 7:19 mile, which, for some perspective, is my mile repeat pace.  After the first mile I kind of knew something was up, but decided just to ride it out if I could.  I made it–probably with my heart rate higher than it should have been–but it was a huge confidence boost.  I did manage to finish getting the Strada set up on the bike last night (with the exception of calibrating the power output) so I’m looking forward to starting some more focused cycle training next week.  Until then, Go Pats!

January 9, 2015

Recalibrating

This was a big year in running for me—I set new PR’s at every distance I raced, finally ran a marathon, and then ran another one.  The thing that I am most proud of, though, was learning how to really work hard at my training.  I’ve never been one to skip workouts, but this year I tried to bring focus and purpose to every run.  The hard days were really hard, and easy runs became opportunities to work on form and efficiency, rather than just zone-out sessions.  More than anything else, though, I learned that the voice in my head telling me I was too tired and I couldn’t do it was usually just that—my head being tired.  I’m still working on it, but I got much, much better at ignoring that voice, pulling up my big girl tights, and pushing through.

I’m now dealing with the other side of that coin, however, which was misreading the signs that I was overdoing it on the bike.  Although I felt some discomfort, the pain never felt remotely like what I recognized as an injury—I just thought I was putting in some tough workouts.  As runners, we rely on our ability to listen to our bodies and differentiate between the discomfort of a hard workout and the pain that indicates an impending injury.  My mistake was assuming that my ability to discern that line extended to a new sport in which I had little experience.  The fact that cycling (and swimming, too) is not weight-bearing means that the threshold for and severity of discomfort are entirely different, and I failed to calibrate for that.

For the past two weeks I’ve been slowly returning to something that resembles an actual training schedule, albeit without the running.  In contrast to my usual approach, I’m going mostly by feel and making it up a week at a time.  I’m realizing that switching from running to tackling the other triathlon disciplines is a bit like driving in the snow.  I know exactly how the car handles under normal conditions, and while that’s useful information, I still need to go easy on the gas pedal and leave lots of extra braking distance.  My general zeal for new athletic endeavors combined with marathon-level endurance have proved to be a dangerous combination, so I’m trying to recalibrate a bit.  To that end, I’m mixing up my workouts so that I’m not doing the same activity on consecutive days, and still incorporating lots of strength training.  For biking since the injury, my approach so far has been to stop before I feel like I’ve really had enough.   I seem to be finding my groove with the swim workouts—I actually got (temporarily) thrown out of the slow lane by the lifeguard and upgraded to the medium lane last weekend.  My classes start next week, so I’m expecting that will lend a bit more structure to my pool workouts as well.  This is how week 1 of Operation: Recovery has looked:

Tuesday

30 Minute Swim:

Warmup
4 x 25m
Drill:
4 x 25m Catchup
4 x 25m Kick
4 x 25m Fist
Cooldown
Easy 25m resting as needed for remainder of 30 minutes

 

Wednesday

AM: Strength training – Jillian Michaels’ No More Trouble Zones

PM: 30 min moderate biking

 

Thursday

35 Minute Swim:

Warmup

4 x 25m

Ladder 
25m, 2 X 50m, 2 X 75m, 2 X 50m, 25m
Cooldown
Easy 25m resting as needed for remainder of 35 minutes

 

Friday

AM: 45 min moderate biking

PM: 15 min strength training – Nike’s Strength for Runners

 

Saturday

45 min swim:

Warmup 
4 x 25m
Drill 
2 x 25m Right Arm
2 x 25m Left Arm
2 x 25m Kick
2 x 25m Scull
Endurance
2 x 50m
Cooldown 
Easy 25m resting as needed for remainder of 45 minutes.

 

Sunday

AM: Strength training – Jillian Michaels’ No More Trouble Spots

PM:1 hour moderate biking