Monday, December 31, 2012

Radio Silence

I haven't blogged in a couple weeks, and that's because I've been making some changes in my life.

I moved to a new place a little over a week ago, in a new part of town. Jacksonville is a huge city, so what would probably be an entirely different town in another place is here just another neighborhood, large and sprawling though it may be.

I'm excited about my new space, my new place. It's a lovely area to run in, and I look forward to finding new running routes, new times of day and new folks to run with.

Exciting news that I received a couple of weeks ago is that I have been accepted as a member of the Oiselle Ambassador Team! I'm a huge, huge fan of the brand, both for their amazing products and their overall philosophies. I am very excited to represent, and help spread the word about Oiselle here in Florida. 

So I'm excited for 2013. New places, new faces, new races. I think a lot of good things are on the way.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Who else is happy it's Friday?

It's been a long week. I work for an ad agency, and when you're running up to a deadline on a big project for a big client, that means a lot of crazy hours, late nights, revisions, more revisions and a general sense of being brain dead.

Needless to say, all of this has equated to a fair amount of sleep where I can get it, time spent staring vacantly at a book or the television, and eating. But not a whole lot of running/biking/yoga-ing or anything else.

I went out Monday, and got in an easy 3 miles. I focused on my stride, and keeping a quick cadence. I've been doing a lot of research on the types of injuries I get, and how I can prevent them. A lot of it seems to come down to my stride. I noticed that my right hip tends to drop, and I know that I'm a stomper. So Monday (and really most runs moving forward) are all about form.

I got in 4 miles before work today on the 'mill in our neighborhood gym. It felt really easy...until I realized I was also going really slow. But I listened to NPR for a bit, then watched Headline News. Pretty chill, which was kind of a nice way to start the day.

So this is all a long way of saying I'm pretty pooped. I look forward to getting some miles in this weekend. And also getting some rest to reset my brain.

I hope everyone else is having a great week. TGIF!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Suggestions for the runner/triathlete in your life

The first Christmas tree strapped to the roof of a station wagon has been spotted. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone in a frenzy of spending. The local strip malls have strung up their lights and pinned their giant Santas to their streetlights. That's right - it's time to start Christmas shopping.

As runners and triathletes, we're often obsessed with gear, and that can often make it easy to buy for the endurance junkies in your life. So here are some suggestions. I could offer more, but these are a few of my favorite things...

If you're feeling really generous.

The Garmin 910XT
I've lusted after this since it was released. The giantness of my 305 used to not bother me, but lately it seems extra loose on my wrist, bulkier than it used to be. It seems to take forever to find satellites, so I spend a lot of time standing awkwardly on the sidewalk outside of my neighborhood, on the sidewalk outside of my office and pretty much anywhere I ever run ("hey guys, just another second. It looks like it's finally got it this time."). I know the 910 isn't exponentially smaller, but it would track my swimming too! And so many other things. And I do love data. ($399 and up)

The real stuff

Oiselle Roga Shorts

I have never run in shorts so comfortable. True to their name, I wear them running AND to yoga, and they are extremely comfortable in both pursuits. The fit is also really flattering. ($40)

Oiselle Trials Hoody

See a theme here? I love this hoody. I may never take it off. It goes on instantly when I get home, and I wear it after workouts and even on errands. I think E is starting to forget what I look like without it. That's all a long way of saying this hoodie is SUPER cozy. ($75)

Road ID

If the runner or triathlete in your life is lacking one of these, then this could be the best thing you buy them. Seriously. I wear mine on every workout and hassle E to do the same. We both have the Wrist ID Sport. I have pretty small wrists, and I like this one, though I know a lot women prefer the Wrist ID Slim. ($19.99 and up)

Stocking Stuffers

I discovered Nuun while training for my first 70.3 this summer. Since then, these fizzy little tablets have boosted me through long bike rides, tough runs and sweaty yoga sessions. So far, I'm a sucker for Lemon Tea and Citrus Fruit. ($6.50/tube, $24.00/4 pack)

Manduka Hand Towel
I actually won mine from Manduka a couple years ago in a Twitter contest. It's not likely a size I would have thought to buy (I have the full size mat towel) but it has become one of the handiest sports-related things I own. It goes with me to yoga, but it also hangs out on my aero bars when I'm on the trainer and dries me off before getting back into the car or changing post-ride or run. It's so ridiculously absorbent. ($16)

CamelBak Podium Chill Bottles
If you live anywhere warm, you will come to love and cherish these bottles. They do a pretty great job (even when you live in Florida) of keeping your beverages cool. And there is nothing, and I mean nothing, that tastes better than cool water in the middle of a hot run.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Here is what happens when you eat a lot of junk food

This is how I felt after Thanksgiving, and several rounds of assorted "oh, I never eat this way so what the hell" meals.

Burgers, fries, pizza...I went the distance. And then a day or so later, I tried to run. And wanted to die.

I only made it 3 miles. I bitched, I moaned, I whined. I shuffled along begrudgingly. I hated life. It was 65 degrees and I thought I was going to melt.

And this, as always, is when I remember that what I eat profoundly affects how I run.

So here's my advice, kids: junk food in moderation. Don't tell yourself it's a "good idea to get it all out of the way at once" or "I've already come this far. What else have I been wanting to eat lately?"

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Rolling, rolling, rolling

Last week, I decided that it was time to finally look into this whole rolling thing. 

I've toyed with the idea when I've trained for my last couple marathons, but have never been sure whether to go with the Stick or with a foam roller or what. I've also heard a lot of alternative solutions, like rolling pins, softballs, tennis balls or frozen water bottles.

So I decided to go the best sources I know for good info on what really works: DailyMile and Twitter.

And I got a lot of awesome responses, though I have to say opinions were pretty split between a foam roller and the Stick. 

Ultimately I decided to go with something a few folks recommended that might help me decide: the rolling pin method.

So I rolled for the first time on Saturday evening, and didn't notice a huge difference. I did notice that it felt like it took a lot of upper body strength (which isn't exactly, ahem, my strong suit).  I mostly rolled my calves, which is where I tend to experience a lot of tightness and fatigue.

Then last night, I did some speed work. I did a little over three miles, with six sets of strides. I went home, stretched, iced my shin and ate some dinner. Then it was time to roll.

I rolled my hamstrings and my quads, and it felt AMAZING. And I rolled them foam roller style, using my body weight, and it felt so, so good. I spent a little bit of time on my calves, but was icing them on and off throughout the evening (well, icing my shins). Using it like a foam roller, I found it to be a little too low. This whole experiment did help me decide that I'll be purchasing a foam roller sometime soon!

My weapon of choice

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Review: ISM Podium Saddle

Back Story:

When I got my new tri bike, I was ecstatic. Setting into the aero position felt like second nature, and the ride was so much smoother than anything I'd ever experienced. I knew this was key to training for my first 70.3.

After a few rides though, something became abundantly clear: my saddle hurt. More accurately, I was experiencing saddle sores and a general all-encompassing saddle pain.

I tried to wait it out. I thought I just needed to get my seat back, like you do when you haven't ridden in a while. But it didn't get better, and my rides were getting longer, and I was missing miles because I couldn't stand to be in the seat. It was time for something different.

I decided to check out the demo program, as I could get a better range of saddle options there than I could from my LBS.  

I had eyeballed ISM saddles before, but just wasn't sure about them. So I first tried the Fizik Vitesse saddle. It felt better than my current saddle, and in desperation I went ahead and purchased it, as I was becoming increasingly worried about my inability to do long rides and the time in the saddle I was missing.

After a couple more rides, I realized though that this wasn't going to fly either. It was time to try the ISM. I went on their website, and used their saddle selector. After a little more research, I decided I would first try the Breakaway. Right away, I knew the general nose-less design of the ISM was right for me, I just wasn't sure if the Breakaway was ultimately the right saddle. It felt a little wide to me. On one of my longer rides during the demo, I experienced a little chafing. I returned that saddle and did a little more research, but couldn't decide. I was split between the Breakaway, the Podium, and the Prologue. And what about the Racing?

So I emailed ISM. I had read a couple different reviews where people said the folks at ISM were super helpful and quick to respond, so I thought I'd give it a shot. Sure enough, Dave at ISM got back to me within on a couple hours, on a Sunday no less! I told him my height, weight, mileage and a little about my issues. He referred me to a woman on staff who is also a triathlete. This was such a huge help. I talked through all my issues, and she recommended the Podium saddle. After much hemming and hawing, I decided to just go for it. No demo, no nothing. 

And I love it. It's a little firmer than the Breakaway, which did cause me some initial soreness, but nothing that kept me from riding. To date, I've put about 200 miles on the saddle, and I'm increasingly happy as it breaks in. 

It's also a hair narrower, which seems to be a little better for my petite frame. I can't stress enough what a convert I've become. I won't ever be able to go back to a "regular" saddle after this.

I've had to tweak the height and positioning a little bit, and the fit video and diagram on ISM's website was helpful in figuring out how things should be positioned. 

Overall, I would highly recommend this saddle if you are someone who finds a lot (or even a little) discomfort in a traditional saddle set up. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Marathon training on the fly

A few months ago, still training for my 70.3, I started thinking about another marathon to run, as I've mentioned a few times, and pretty much decided to try and do the Jax Bank Marathon, which was exactly 7 weeks from my half iron, an amount of time that I read was just about perfect to go from 70.3 to marathon, particularly if you felt you were recovering well from the 70.3.

So I downloaded a training plan, and am more or less following that. It's the Chicago Marathon Set a New PR training plan. I took a week off after my 70.3, so essentially I'm down to 6 weeks to train. Since I'm on the downward end of the training, the plan doesn't require more than a 15 mile run, so I'm debating if I need to do at least an 18 or 20-miler.

It sounds strange, but I'm just sort of doing this marathon because I want to do a marathon. I started the year with the Disney Marathon, and I like the idea of ending with one. I also like the idea of training for this marathon on my own terms, and trusting in what I've learned as a runner and as an athlete.

I always feel beholden to training plans, to doing everything exactly right and beating myself up over missed runs and missed opportunities, and feel that regular life goes on hold. I feel like I need to prove something to myself, and give myself more confidence as an athlete by just going to do this.

Maybe it's strange, but I'm sort of excited about it.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Even more things I love about Rev3

Free finish line photos.

It's me! Please note that actual finish time was 6:28. 

I sort of pulled a Forest Gump and kept running....

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rev3 Florida Race Recap Part II

If you missed Part I, you can find it here.

T2 (4:07)

Ok, so this was really long. Why? Because Rev3 has those awesome individual spots for your bike and your stuff. They are awesome until one of your fellow competitors is in too much of a hurry to put their bike in the right spot, and consequently everyone else has to put their bikes in the wrong place. I was tired, and not looking forward to the run, and just sort of staring around trying to figure out where the hell to rack my bike. A volunteer spotted me and ran over, and helped me shuffle some things so I had a place to rack. I squeezed in through the other bikes there and pulled on my shoes and grabbed the Honey Waffle waiting for me - I was starving!

Run (2:49)

My longest half marathon ever. Mentally, I was just done. I was so beat down from the windy bike and was absolutely appalled that I had to run a full half marathon. I just didn't want to do it. So I walked. And walked. Not even fast, just a slow, grumbly stroll. The run was a two loop course, with aid stations about every 1.5 miles. I just didn't want to do it though. I couldn't fathom doing the whole distance. So I shuffled a few times, jogged a couple times, and mainly felt like I was on a death march. The bright spot was getting to see E and a couple times, as well as the amazing volunteers. The ones located at the turnaround point were wonderful, sporting Halloween costumes and funky hats, and telling us about their wares like old school baseball game barkers ("Salt tabs! Gatoraide! Ice cold water! Get'em while they last!"). They were a nice bit of sunshine in my struggle.

Soon after starting on the run, I ate my waffle, downed a couple tylenol, and after realizing that I was positively coated in salt, a couple Endurolytes. I just wanted to feel like me - you know, the person who absolutely adores running. I duitifully kept to my nutrition plan of PowerBar gels every 30-35 minutes, and took water and Pepsi at most aid stations.
Yay, I'm done. Please take off my chip.

By lap two, I was ready to be done so I pushed myself to pick up the pace. My stride started to feel a little more normal, and I just kept setting goals for myself, like run from this orange cone to that one.

And finally, I finished, in 6:21. I know had I fought my mental barriers in the half marathon better, I would definitely have finished more quickly.

Final Thoughts

Overall, this was a great race. I really love the job that Rev3 does. Their events make everyone feel like family, and it's always a good time.

As far as the 70.3 distance goes...I'm not sure. I'm not in love with it. My original instinct is that I'm cut out for the Olympic distance, and that was my feeling when I finished.

I feel a little conflicted that with the swim cancellation, I didn't really get to cross this distance off my bucket list. So we'll see. At this point in time, no more 70.3s on the agenda, just Olympics and hopefully more Rev3 races next year.

Next on the list is the Jax Bank Marathon in mid-December. 

Oh yes, and we celebrated with a delicious post-race dinner. My choice? An Amberbock, fried shrimp and french fries.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Rev3Tri Florida Race Recap Part I

My first 70.3 was like everything and nothing that I expected! Since this race report is rather long, I've broken it up into two parts. Here is part the first!

Race Morning

By Saturday night, it was still up in the air as to whether we would swim, as at the athlete meeting Saturday afternoon, Rev3 told us they would keep us posted and make the final call at 5:30 a.m. race morning as to whether we could swim. Looking out at the churning Gulf, I was torn; I wanted to swim of course, but the surf was a little intense.

The alarm went off Sunday morning, and E and I were immediately checking social media to see if a call had been made on the swim. At 5:30 a.m. on the dot, Rev3 tweeted and Facebooked that the swim was cancelled, and that the race would feature a time trial start instead. While a lot of people griped about missing the swim, it was the smartest call they could make. It just wouldn't have been safe for folks out there.

Rev3 gives you temporary tattoos with your number instead of doing body marking with a marker like most races (which also eliminates a step once you get there in the morning). I also applied sunscreen. Tips for anyone gearing up for their first 70.3: Just because your tri top never rides up, don't assume that it will stay in place during the race. By that I mean, take a minute to perhaps make sure that you apply sunscreen to your lower back and make sure that you get most of your upper back. Because most of my pain in the couple days following the race is from the horrific sunburn I endured and less from any lingering muscle pain.

Because of this, the race started later than originally planned. It was decided that the pros would do a 1.5 mile run to start, and afterward, the Age Groupers would do a time trial start, in numerical order. We could wear socks and sunglasses, but otherwise had to act like we were going into T1.

I set up T1 like normal. Nutrition: Aero bottle with a nuun tab (mmm....lemon tea!), bottle of Hammer Perpetuem, and a PowerBar gel just in case. Otherwise, all the normal things were there. Rev3 has these nice individual boxes/racks for your bike and transition area, so no mat needed, and things stay neat.

T1 (1:43)

It was when everyone got in line that I realized by waiting until the last minute to sign up, I had put myself 1) at the back of the back (481 out of about 486) and also with all the guys. The line moved pretty quickly, but I knew I was at a disadvantage for the day if I went slow time-wise; there wouldn't be a lot of folks behind me. 

Overall, I was in and out relatively quickly.

Bike (3:28)

We had studied the course map the night before, and figured out where the worst of the wind would be. This turned out to be about miles 25 through 56. Yay. So the first 25 miles were awesome; an easy cruise with the wind at my back, with wonderful views of the Gulf, and big, shady oak trees overhead. It was lovely and peaceful.

Then, at mile 25, a left hand turn went directly into the wind. The next 31 miles were mostly headwind and crosswinds, 20 mile per hour wind speed with gusts up to 40 miles per hour. Doing most of my training on A1A has prepared me to ride in the wind. But not like this. Oh my god. It was ridiculous.

I made a point to stay on my nutrition, taking a swig of Perpetuem every 15-20 minutes. Overall, I haven't been a huge fan of having a liquid nutrition. I don't like not having exact amounts doled out in increments, like you would with a gel for example. However, I trained with this, and it does work. If I ever do a longer distance again, I'll probably do gels. For anything shorter, I would likely do Hammer Heed, which I like a lot. The other thing is that Perpetuem spoils after many hours, and that always worries me, though it's never been an issue.

But anyways. I drank my nuun-laced water, and felt pretty good. Aid stations were located at miles 15, 30 and 45, though I didn't take advantage until mile 45, when I grabbed a water bottle (first time ever doing that on the bike! Super proud of myself for not spazzing out and falling). 

By around mile 35, my legs were starting to ache. The problem with being in such a strong, sustained headwind is that it made it really difficult to tell what kind of effort you were putting out. It also made it difficult to tell how much I was sweating. It was on the cooler side out, but the sun was strong.

The course was overall really nice. Police and volunteers were everywhere, and the volunteers in particular were amazing. I never felt alone on the course, even when I couldn't see other riders, because there was always a volunteer, or even members of the local community, out there cheering me on.

I stayed pretty strong mentally against the wind. The only bad part was at about mile 54 when I knew I was almost done, and realized that there was a medium-sized bridge to be conquered. I can't tell you the number of nasty things I was saying to that bridge in my head. I was swearing a blue streak. It was just the very last thing I wanted to see at the moment! But it wasn't a large bridge, my legs were just tired and I was over the wind. I was rewarded on the other side with newly paved roads as smooth as butter.

Stay tuned for Part II!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Rev3 Florida 70.3 Eve

I'm now less than 24 hours until my first 70.3

We arrived yesterday afternoon, and went straight to packet pickup/check in/expo. The expo opened at 3 p.m., so we were one of the first ones to arrive, which was kind of nice, because there were no lines and no waiting. I love coming to Rev3 races; there is always such a sense of community, and it's great to see Charlie and Eric and the whole Rev3 family.

We checked in and I got my athlete wrist band, which will be my companion until after the race tomorrow, or until I decide to take it off. :)

Rev3 also does number temporary tattoos instead of body marking, which is something that I really like, so I look forward to putting those on in the morning. Our race swag included the Rev3 Florida HeadSweats visor, really nice Rev3-branded Blue Seventy goggles (with case!), some random coupons, Powerbar samples and a Muscle Milk sling bag.

We wandered around the expo a little bit, and then went to get the bikes. My drive train has been a little twitchy lately, and since I didn't have time to take it to my local bike shop before heading down, I wanted the race mechanic to take a look. Sure enough, I needed some adjustments, and they also pointed out that I have been riding with a chain that's a smidge too long for my bike, which is why my chain drops all the time. Looks like it's time for a replacement, which I'm due for anyway.

We hung out a little long while E got race wheels put on. He's renting the Reynolds 81s, and they are pretty sweet looking race wheels.

Waiting to get my picture taken for my finish line photo
Today we took a short swim in the hotel pool, then went for an equally short bike and run. The scary thing about today, and most definitely the race tomorrow, is the wind. The wind today is holding steady at about 20 mph, with gusts up to 30. If the race was today, there would be no swim. As it is, the practice swim scheduled for this morning was cancelled, as the water was way too rough. The forecast is calling for a drop in wind speeds tomorrow, but a rough surf is still in the works. We'll find out in the morning if they'll have to cancel the swim. As it is, I'm almost hoping they do, because the swim is against the current and the water looks incredibly rough, even by northeast Florida standards.

So wish me luck. The next time you hear from me, I'll have had my first 70.3 race experience!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Training...or not

Originally when I thought about where I would be when entering the two week countdown to my first 70.3, it was not here.

I've barely done any swimming, biking or running in the last couple weeks. I mean really, barely any. It's like I decided to start tapering a month early. My diet's been ok, so I'm not worried about that. It's mostly the lack of sheer volume.

I feel like all I want to do is run. Thanks the last few years, this time of year screams MARATHON TRAINING. But I'm having a lot of pain in my left shin - to the point that I'm a little concerned that my normal, aggravating shin splints may have gotten rather worse than normal.

I've totally lacked motivation to get in the pool or on the bike. I was under the weather this past weekend, so I didn't get in a long ride, opting instead for a race-distance swim in the pool. That went well at least, but I'm really worried about being underprepared.

In the last month, I've done race distance (or very close to it) in each discipline, and done well, but I'm worried about putting all three together. Between a lot of various stress in life right now, this feels like another.

I'm excited about the race. Despite the past month (ok, and the one before that was kind of spotty) this race has been on my mind and been a main focus since May. I'm ready to do it, I just don't know for future if a training period that lasts so long is good for me, mentally.

I've struggled with the training - I've resented it, I've conquered it, I've lived it, breathed it, loved it and felt immensely strong with it. But it feels like a long summer.

11 days left. I'm ready to go out and conquer. I'm excited to do my first Rev3 event. But I'm ready to run, bike and swim again when I want to, rather than when I have to, or even just for shorter distances.

So I'm just sitting here trying to be present with my training. Or lack thereof. Trying to focus on knowing that I have a lot of fitness under my belt. Trying to remember that I have put in a lot of work for this, and I'm going to do great, and that adrenaline alone is going to carry me through a lot of the big day.

But it's still a little breathtaking to know it's so close.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Marine Corp 1/2 Marathon Race Report

Looking at the race and training calendar a few weeks back, we realized that the Marine Corp 1/2 fell at a great time, a few weeks out from the 70.3, to get a sense of running fitness, and to have a good, hard training day.

I went into this race with zero expectations (my only goal was to finish under 2.5 hours). I had never done this course before, I knew there were a couple bridges in it that tend to aggravate my shin splints, and I never actually looked at the course map. I just had a vague sense of the neighborhoods it went through.

So, needless to say, this wasn't something I was freaking out about. Race morning I got up, ate a bowl of cereal (I'm currently addicted to Post's new Honey, Oats & Seeds cereal), took a few hits off my morning Red Bull, and we were off. We were running a few minutes late, but arrived and found parking in plenty of time.

I took a powerbar gel right before, tuned my iPod to my old fallback "workout playlist" (it was too early to listen to my normal NPR) and I was ready to go.

This race, in a word, ROCKED.

In many instances, I don't think enough about my race before hand. Or more accurately, I don't think about it strategically enough. This race, that all changed. I started out, realized that I felt really good, and decided to have a great race.

I was moving pretty comfortably for the first 6.5-7 miles at around a 10:30 pace. I felt good there, so decided that I would maintain somewhere in that neighborhood for the first half, then increase my speed for the return route (it was an out and back). There were two bridges on the way out, and I speedwalked those, so I knew I needed to make up that speed somewhere. The route back was along the river, rather than over the bridges, so there was only a big ramp over the Riverwalk. I knew I would need to speedwalk that too (stupid shins) so again, I would need to pick up that time I was losing somewhere.

After the turn around, I picked up the pace and maintained 8:30-9 pace up until about mile 12. I couldn't even believe it was me running. I'm never that fast, and that fast comfortably no less! I was working, but I was able to maintain that pace without blowing up. I took a gel around every 45 minutes or so, took a quick swig of water at each break.

The last mile, I definitely lost some time. We rounded the corner off the Riverwalk that would take us along a stretch of road before the finish line in a local waterfront park. Longest. Stretch. Ever. Seriously - you could see almost all of the runners trying to figure out where the turn was, and that realization of "oh my god, that's sooooo far away." So, this probably would have been a PR, minus the horrible, terrible last mile or so.

I finished in 2:17, and I'm really happy with that. It's the hardest I've worked, the most strategic I have been in my race plan and my best 1/2 that wasn't flat and fast. I was pretty destroyed when I finished, but man, it was so worth it.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Confidence boosting 50 mile rides

My training lately has been sporadic at best. Between work, traveling, injuries and other things, I haven't exactly been logging the hours that I should, given that my first 70.3 is only 27 days away. That's right - 27 days.

So I've been a little anxious about my overall stamina and fitness, to put it mildly.

I did a run/walk on Saturday in the form of the Color Me Rad 5k. It was my friend Liz's first ever 5k, so I stuck with her, and we had a good time. For those unfamilar, this is a 5k where you wear all white and get pelted with colored cornstarch. Random, but fun. As I mentioned in my last post, we ran as Team Nerd Herd!

And then Sunday came and with it, my first long bike ride in almost a month (eeek!). So my goal for the day was to do 50 miles at a comfortable pace - sort of like the swim I did in the Hammerhead Olympic. Not pushing super hard, but just going at a good effort that I can keep up for a while.

And I did it! I averaged 16.5 and did the ride in 2:53. I'm super happy with that. I finished feeling good, and like I could run. Granted, I was pretty wiped out by the time we made it home, which makes me think perhaps I need a little more nutrition on the bike. It made me feel a lot better about my upcoming race, and made me feel like I'll be able to accomplish it. 

Coming up this weekend I am running the Marine Corp Half Marathon, to get a read on where my run fitness is, though that is the area I have the most confidence in.

Onward and upward. I can't believe it's under 30 days until the race!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Vacation Running

This past weekend, we took a quick trip up to Grand Rapids, Michigan to check out ArtPrize, their annual downtown arts festival. We saw a lot of amazing art, but my favorite part (shocking, I know) was getting in a morning run along the Grand River, which cuts through downtown, and is just beautiful.

Art in the river!
It was also COLD, which was awesome. When we went out, it was about 45 degrees out, so I was in heaven. Since I haven't run in temps below 65 since the winter before last, I was completely forgetful about what to run in, so I would up with a pair of shorts and a long sleeve shirt. I wound up warming up enough (I get hot easily anyway).

In other news, I got talked into doing the Color Me Rad 5k this weekend with a couple friends who wanted to run their first 5k. Our team has since turned into 27 super-enthusiastic folks, which is awesome. We've named ourselves The Nerd Herd, and one of the graphic designers on our team even made us tshirt designs!

And lastly, if you're local to Jacksonville (or even if you're not and just support innovation and really cool things) check out One Spark on Kickstarter. It's the world's first crowdfunding festival, slated for April of 2013, and it's open to all kinds of creations: art, science, tech, music, food.

Here is one of their campaign pieces:

Monday, September 24, 2012

Nuun vs. Hammer Fizz

I live in Florida, which means that training in the summer is a hot and sweaty prospect, especially with the humidity. Typically, you become drenched in sweat about five seconds after you step outside. As a result, some sort of salt tab or electrolyte replacement is necessary.

I've tried doing Hammer Endurolyte pills, and I'm just not a fan. I can't remember to take them, and I dislike fussing around with them. As a result, I switched over to Hammer Endurolyte Fizz, as they included a few samples in a Heed order, and I liked the idea of just throwing a tab into my water.

I've wanted to try NUUN as well, but hadn't seen it for sale in any of our local run/bike shops. I'd thought about ordering, but never got around to it. Recently though, I found out Jacksonville Running Company carries several flavors, so I picked up the Lemon Tea to try out on my next ride. Having used both the Nuun and the Fizz a few times now, here's how they stacked up.

Hammer Fizz 

Comes in 6 flavors: Mango, peach, grapefruit, grape, lemon-lime and unflavored.

I tried Mango and Grapefruit,  but Grapefruit only once.

Hammer's website encourages Fizz use to decrease the risk of cramping, keep up your body's necessary supply of electrolytes and "plus, in many instances, you require greater volumes of electrolytes than any sports drink or gel can provide."

Here's the nutrition breakdown from the Hammer website for Mango.

I tried the Fizz on both long runs and longer bike rides. Overall, it was a little disappointing.

Flavor: There is a baking-soda like aftertaste that was a turn off, despite the Mango flavoring. It didn't really encourage me to want to drink more water, which I struggle with to begin with.
Effectiveness: It seemed to work well. I felt better at the end of multi-hour runs or rides than I generally do otherwise, and felt less dehydrated for the rest of the day. My skin was still pretty salty though.
Effectiveness when Mixed with Other Nutrition: I didn't experience any GI issues, despite mixing this with Hammer Perpetuem on bike rides and Powerbar Gels on runs.
Cost: $4.95/13 tablets

Overall: Meh. The flavor was really the biggest turnoff. Additionally, it didn't look like it really dissolved all the way. It looked like there were little bits of "floaters" in my bottle.

Nuun Active Hydration

Nuun comes in 11 flavors: Banana, Orange, Lemon Lime, Strawberry Lemonade, Fruit Punch, Kona Cola, Lemon Tea, Tri-Berry, Grape, Tropical, and Citrus Fruit.

I tried the Lemon Tea flavor, which also features light caffeine.

Nuun's website claims that "the electrolytes found in Nuun will help alleviate cramps, help muscles function, communicate and burn energy efficiently."
So application-wise, Nuun and Fizz stack up pretty closely.

The nutrition breakdown for Nuun is as follows:

I have used Nuun for several long runs and long rides now, and have been very pleased with it. 

Flavor: It really tastes like lemon tea, which is one of my favorite flavors. It made me way more excited about drinking, which is great. I tend to not drink enough during hard efforts. 
Effectiveness: I felt great. The little spike of caffeine offered by the lemon tea flavor was just enough, and my skin wasn't nearly as salty at the end of my workouts.
Effectiveness when Mixed with Other Nutrition: I didn't experience any GI issues, despite mixing this with Hammer Perpetuem on bike rides and Powerbar Gels on runs.
Cost: $6.50/12 tablets

Overall: New favorite sports drink. Flavor, experience and quality were all awesome. And a well-designed package doesn't hurt either. 

Winner: Clearly, Nuun. At least for me. It's slightly pricier than the Fizz, but the overall experience of the product, especially the flavor, more than makes up for it.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Things I Didn't Really Expect from 70.3 Training

Tonight I set out for a long run, as I will be out of town this weekend, only to go a couple steps before stopping in my tracks due to sharp, left leg shin splint pain. Are you kidding me?

So, in addition to wondering if my body hates me, it made me think about all the things I didn't expect to come out of training for a half iron distance.

I expected to be tired, to struggle with motivation, and I worried about the time commitment. Those are the things I was preparing to handle.

Things I didn't expect:

1. Saddle sores, chafing and overall extreme saddle discomfort
Sweet mother of god, the amount of discomfort I have experienced this season has been outrageous. I have spent more time, money and effort trying to fix this problem than NASA spent on the Space Program. Trial saddles, different positions, different bike shorts, various creams and's never ending. I seem to have finally found a solution in an ISM saddle, but I'm now paralyzed with indecision as to which one to get. I demo'd the Breakaway, but feel like I need something slightly narrower. The folks at ISM have been super helpful with letting me ask lots of questions (some of the best customer service I've ever gotten - no contact forms here, all just straight email, recommending saddles for me and answering all my questions), and I think I'm going to do another demo, this time with the Podium (did you know has a demo saddle program? I didn't, and it's awesome). Overall, my bike fit and geometry feels good, the saddle is the only outlier.

2. Skin allergies
This may or may not be related to 70.3 training, but I've never had any sort of skin allergy, and I recently broke out with a vengeance. It took several weeks and pack of steroids to clear it up.

3. Runner's Knee
Ok, so that isn't wildly unexpected, but it was still a tremendous pain in the neck and put me down for almost a month.

4. Shin Splints
Given my history, this isn't shocking, but I thought I was past these by now. Isn't triathlon training supposed to make you less prone to injury?

5. Weight gain
Granted, it's only a few pounds. However, my body is reacting differently than it ever has during heavy training. I eat pretty healthy, and monitor what, how much, and when I eat, but I can't seem to shake these few pounds. I somewhat (evidently wrongly) assumed that this would be like marathon training, where I lose weight. I'm sure some of it good be muscle, but this was in the span of a couple weeks, which makes me think that isn't the case.

Positive Changes:

1. Increased bike handling confidence
I don't often ride on my own, and quite frankly, turning at and negotiating intersections really freaks me out, but I've gotten better. This bike fits me well, and I feel confident moving on it.

2. Consistent Strength Training
I've kept up my gym workout throughout this season, and I'm encouraged to continue. It's the first time in years I stuck with it long enough to see results, and actually seeing muscle tone in my arms is great.

3. Increased confidence in tris overall
While I was really nervous about this season's sprint tris, by the time I got to my planned (albeit unfinished) Olympic, I still felt nervous, but had no doubt I could do the distance.

4. Satisfaction at seeing my bike mileage go up
Before this training, I topped out mileage at around 45.

5. Better swim form
This season, I feel like I finally came into my own with swimming, finding a better stroke and better overall form.

So there's my list for now. If this post was longer and whinier than usual, my apologies, but this training season has been different than anything I've ever experienced. I'm wondering how I will feel coming out the other side of the race, if this is a distance I'll want to do again. I don't think I could do this same training plan, at least as intensely.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

How do I already have so many new races I want to do?

Even though I'm still training for my 70.3, I'm already filling up my race card for the Winter and Spring.

The one definite thing (definite in that I already put up the cash for it) is the Rocketman Florida Triathlon in May of next year. I can't begin to say how excited I am about this race. It's the first ever sporting event held at Kennedy Space Center, and the bike course will wind around through Space Program landmarks like the shuttle launch pads.

You can check out this video about it here.

The nerd in me is freaking out about this race. The distances are a little wonky, as the organizers say they really wanted to make sure everyone gets the full experience, so the bike distances are a little longer. I chose the International Distance, which is a .93 mile swim, a 34 mile (approx.) bike and a 6.2 mile run.

Did you know that Kennedy Space Center is the only place where humans have left to go to the moon? This should be pretty awesome.

Everything else that's filling up my card are running races. There are so many amazing local races that happen throughout the Fall and Winter, and into the Spring.

A sampling of the local races I'm trying to choose between (or hell, maybe I'll do all of them):

Native Sun Mandarin 10k
I PR'd at this race last year, which was awesome. It was a nice chilly day and a beautiful course. A great crowd showed up too. It made me appreciate the 10k distance, so I wouldn't mind doing this again.

Subaru Distance Classic
I've done this Thanksgiving half marathon the last couple years. I'm on the fence about doing it again. Trying to find a local 5k so I can run with a friend who wants to do her first Thanksgiving Turkey Trot.

Jacksonville Bank Marathon
So this one is a little interesting. I've never done this race - half or full. It's seven weeks after my 70.3. I've been doing some research about the amount of time needed between a 70.3 and a marathon, and I might be able to do this. So a lot might depend on how I feel coming out of the 70.3. I'm really, really leaning towards this marathon.

26.2 with Donna
Maybe my next marathon? I'm having a terrible time choosing one. I'm sort of meh about doing this race again, but I'm not finding a lot of others that are nearby (I'm trying to avoid crazy travel for this one) and I really want a January/February marathon (assuming I don't do Jax Bank).

I'm sure plenty of others will come up in the meantime.

What races do you have coming up that you're excited about?

Monday, September 17, 2012

My First DNF - Hammerhead Olympic Triathlon

Sunday dawned bright and beautiful. Temps in the low 80s. Slightly cloudy skies kept things from getting too roasty at the beginning of the day. Perfect day for an Olympic triathlon.

Typically, the Hammerhead HOT Olympic race has been held in August, more than earning it's name "HOT." This year, it was pushed back to September, making for extremely pleasant race conditions.

I didn't race this race last year; rather, I spectated as E raced, and wished I had signed up. So this year, I did. I figured it would be a great way to test out my fitness as the 70.3 draws closer.

On Saturday, I started to get nervous. We went for a nice (though hot) 4 mile run, then back home to start hydrating and getting things ready for Sunday. I checked and rechecked my tri bag, portioned out nutrition, talked through my race plan with E. Went to bed and nerves kept me awake on and off from about 1 a.m. until our 4:30 a.m. wake up call.

We got to the race site, an hour and fifteen minute drive from home. The race takes place on a military base, but allows the use of a beautiful lake for the swim, and some surprisingly hilly roads for the run and ride.

The packet pickup situation was pretty impossible to do beforehand, so we had to pick up race morning. I am not crazy about packet pickup morning of the race, but this went pretty smoothly.

E had a tire issue, but we had plenty of time for him to swap out tubes, and still have a chance to get transition set up. My row was right up near the bike start, and we shared a rack for the first time. Kind of nice! With my 650 tires, my bike tends to always dangle from racks, which I always feel rather bad about. I was also demo'ing an ISM Saddle (in love, but more on that in another post).

I kept looking at the buoys for the swim and thinking how far away they looked, and tried not to psych myself out about how I haven't spent as much time as I should in the pool lately. I swam around a little before hand, and that helped. And then before I knew it, it was time to go. The swim felt like it took forever, but I finished in 32 minutes. Not the speediest time, but I wasn't pushing for speed here at all. I just wanted to finish feeling good, and with a calm heart rate, both of which I accomplished (and probably would have shaved off a minute or so if I hadn't veered off course towards the end).

I had a rather slow T1 - I just got in there and couldn't seem to remember what to first. Shoes? Helmet? What? Need to work on that. Got out though, and started the course. The course starts with some mild downhill, so you start out fast. It's a two loop course, with an awkward u-turn on a narrow road, but that was fine. Overall, the roads are pretty rough, so people were launching bottles everywhere. But it was fun, challenging, and still cool out so it felt really refreshing. I was booking too, keeping my speed between 18-21, and feeling great. I completed the first loop (there were some killer false flats) and started on the second loop. I was almost done with the second loop, just a couple miles from transition, when it happened.

I was downshifting, and it didn't change all the way, and my peddles locked up. Just stopped turning. I was putting a lot of pressure in, and I just pitched to the side of the road with the effort. I feel so, so grateful that I was on a stretch where the shoulder was grassy and soft. I didn't really clip out in time, so my pedal went into my calf (ow) and I went down pretty hard, tangled up with myself and the bike. I got up, fixed my gears, and took stock. I was ok, but my knee and my calf were hurting pretty badly. I made it back to transition, and got my sneakers on, but about 20 yards out, I knew I wasn't going to make it, not with my A race in a little over a month. So I stopped, I turned around, and walked back. It was a really, really hard decision to make.

I waited for E at the finish line, and he was immediately concerned when he saw me. He had a great race, placing 3rd in his age group, which is awesome. We packed up our stuff and found me some ice for my legs for the ride home.

I spent most of the rest of the day with ice on the couch, but I woke up this morning feeling a bit better. My left knee is pretty banged up and a bit swollen, and I've got a nice knot on my calf. At least enough to think that this won't put me out of commission for more than a few days, hopefully.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

7 Weeks....eek!

Seven weeks sounds like a long time, right? I thought so too. Until I was looking at my training plan last night and had a momentary panic attack realizing that I mostly have about 4 weeks of training left before I start peaking/tapering for the race.

This race felt so far away when we decided on it. The training period has felt infinitely long. And yet, not long enough. I lost a lot of time when I injured my knee, and while I feel like I made tremendous progress over the last training block, I'm still really nervous.

I did my first run of Build 1 last night, which was 3x8 minute intervals with a 15 minute warm up and a 10 minute cool down, with 2 minutes between each interval, and I felt great. It was a little cooler outside, a little breezy (amazing how much cooler things feel when the humidity is lower) and I knocked out the intervals, finishing the run feeling great. My legs are feeling it this morning, but in a good way. Looking forward to tonight's bike ride! If all goes according to plan, I'll actually be able to ride outside tonight!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Training Frustrations

Training for the 70.3 seems to be about learning patience.

All forms of endurance training I've done have helped me build patience, and I'm not a particularly patient person. About the only time I'm patient is when I bake.

Remembering that going slow to keep my heart rate down in the beginning of the season will pay off (and it is).

Paying attention, and I mean REALLY paying attention to (no cheats - I'm looking at you Dunkin' jelly donut) to my diet.

But mostly, it's been about combating injuries. Well, only one true injury, with runner's knee, but lots of little annoyances.

I got a tri bike for the first time this year, and I love it. Makes a huge difference in my ride, and a noticeable difference on my run. However, after putting in some miles on it, I started to experience really severe saddle discomfort. Enter fun new things like saddle sores, chafing and things like Chamois Butt'r. I got a new saddle, the Fizik Vitesse Tri, and it's a little better, and I'm hoping it improves once I break it in more. This week though, after last weekend's ride, I developed a lovely saddle sore that has kept me off the bike on Wednesday, and I suspect is going to nix tomorrow's planned ride as well, so that I can get in my long ride on Sunday.

My run has really been going great - it's my favorite part, obviously, and I've been excited to build my mileage back up (and start searching for a spring marathon). This last block of training included bridge repeats, which I really enjoy. A masochist, I know. But anyways, after a season of no shin splints - the first ever really, despite having been running for years now - they're back. This close to the race, I'm afraid to exacerbate them. I shut down Saturday's long run because of them, and skipped Tuesday's run as well, opting for some solid time in the gym instead. An easy run is on the agenda for tonight, but they're still sore, and I'm contemplating skipping the easy run and just going to yoga, so I can at least get some cardio in, and I think get some much-needed stretching in. I feel like a lot of my issues (saddle sores aside) are coming from tight, wound-up muscles.

I know I'll get past these frustrations and temporary roadblocks, and I'm feeling really good about where my fitness is.

So I'm practicing patience. I can do this. The race is going to go great (52 days!) and it's going to be fun.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Mini Big Day

This weekend was an interesting one for training.

My shins splints have been coming back with a vengeance, I think thanks to running bridges. And I LOVE running bridges, so I'm bummed about having to nix that part of the routine, but also frustrated that I've gone 9 months without them bothering me, and they start to act up so close to the race. I've been running for years now - why do I still have this problem?

Needless to say, after feeling the pain start up again at the beginning of Saturday's long run, I shut it down. Didn't see any point in exacerbating them, especially since I'm going into a rest week on my training schedule. Fingers crossed, with lots of ice and compression and rest, they'll heal up a bit.

So instead, Sunday became a "Mini Big Day." During E's 140.6 training last year, his plan called for two "big days" where he basically mimicked the race, with slightly shorter distances and some rest periods in between. It was a good way to test out fitness, nutrition and race routines. So he suggested I try a mini big day - start out with a 35 minute swim, and follow it with only a short break with a 2-3 hour ride.

Sunday Breakfast Routine
We used the pool in my dad's neighborhood to start the day, and I got in 1500 yards in 30 minutes, with a 200 yard warm up. Then we hopped in the car for the short ride to where we park for our long rides, though this time we opted for Mickler's Beach instead of our normal Jacksonville Beach parking. After a quick change and a quick snack, I took off.

I've been using Hammer Fizz as my electrolyte/sodium supplement on my rides, but tried NUUN lemon tea tablets this time, my first time trying them. I'm in love. The mix tasted great and kept me moving. I alternated between the NUUN and plain water, and used Hammer Perpetuem as my fuel source. I'm still not sold on Perpetuem, but since I use gels on my run, I"m not sure I want to take them on the bike too. I'm worried about how that much sugar would affect my stomach.

I did 35 miles, and finished feeling great. I had planned on a solid three hours, but as I'm still breaking the new saddle in and *ahem* experiencing some discomfort, I decided not to push it.

I'm really happy with where my training is right now. I've really made significant progress in the last few weeks, and I'm feeling much more confident about the race.

I also signed up for a race my nerdy heart is super excited about - the Rocketman Triathlon. It's next May, and it will be the first sporting event ever held at Kennedy Space Center. The bike course is designed to take athletes around space program landmarks like the shuttle launch pads, and some other great areas. I'm STOKED.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How I Found Running

My first marathon! E and I ran it together.
I recently was asked how I found running, and I gave the short answer, but giving that short answer made me think about the long answer, and how much running changed my life.

Cliche as it is, I came to running on the heels of a really bad breakup. Prior to that, I had been a gym rat, logging hours on the stair stepper, using weights to work out my upper body and dutifully knocking out a series of crunches and pushups daily. I worked out to get in shape and stay fit, but it wasn’t for the love of it, it was just the healthy thing to do. I was still in college then, pretty poor and splitting my time between my classes and a job assistant managing a bookstore.

When the breakup happened, I was devastated. It was unexpected, and I was heartbroken, angry and needed an outlet for all the emotions that seemed to crowd out everything else. My time of the stair stepper no longer cut it; I needed to move.

At the time, the closest thing I owned to sneakers was a battered pair of Chuck Taylors that I wore to work and to punk shows. Poor college student that I was, I took myself to Target and bought the cheapest pair of shoes I could find, a $20 pair of Champion brand sneakers. I pulled on the only workout clothes I owned, which were leftovers from my brief stint as a shot-putter and discus-thrower in high school, hit the trail.

There was a park next to my house that had a .75 mile paved running trail, so I started going there every day, morning, noon and evening, wherever I could fit it in. I was a pack-a-day smoker then too, so speed and consistency were hard to come by; I walked far more than I ran. And really, I knew nothing about running. All that mattered was to keep moving, to break a  sweat and work out some of my angst. And it worked. I didn’t get significantly faster nor even increased my ability to run for periods of time, but I pushed through.

I was working part-time as an office assistant at a law firm by then, and I started going out at lunch with one of the girls. We’d run/walk the bridges, meandering through the downtown area where we worked. It opened a whole new world for me; I didn’t know what it was to explore a place like that, learning the area from the ground up.

Eventually, I moved up slightly in the world by purchasing a pair of New Balance from Kohl's, when the Champion brand sneakers started to make my knees and hips ache (I knew I couldn't afford running store shoes, so I purchased New Balance based purely on the fact that they were on sale, and the fact that they were the brand of choice for my dad, also a runner).
I started doing yoga too, and between the two, found a sense of salvation. I ran my first 5k, and then a couple more. Eventually, I started dating again, and eventually met E. He was training for a marathon when we met, a distance that I barely knew existed, and one that I couldn’t fathom ever completing myself or even wanting to complete. I quit smoking and started running more, really running, and ran my first 10 mile and then my first half marathon, and finally my first marathon. I was hooked. It was (and is) something that's wonderful to do together as a couple, and also something that I have found that can just be for me.

And I still am. I have found a passion for running that has stuck with me; I read about it, write about it and have even been lucky enough to work with a couple running and triathlon companies in my other life as a freelance writer.

I look forward to aging as a runner, and exploring new places and new cities from the ground as I run through them. I've found favorite running spots in places like Sunset Cliffs in San Diego, and some little backroads we explored on a recent trip to Lake Murray in South Carolina. As I began to do triathlons as well, I feel that my fitness journey is only beginning.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

New Kicks and Finding My Running Mojo

As much as I enjoy triathlon, my first love remains running. I took a lot of time off after my marathon in January, and when I started back up, I was a little appalled at how much fitness I had lost. It was really rather crushing, and I spent a fair amount of time, both running and non, moping about it.

I’m happy to report now though that I seem to have gotten to a better place. Finally - finally - my times are improving again, and I no longer feel like I’m crawling, trying to keep my heart rate down while struggling to get in some distance.

So, as a reward, I finally used my coupon to and bought the Merrell Dash Gloves that I’ve been eyeing.

I’ve started to run the vast majority of my runs in my Nike Frees, and that now includes my 10+ mile runs, so I feel like I can justify treating myself to the pair of minimalist shoes that I’ve been so excited about.

I know I won’t be able to log many miles with them until after the 70.3, but I look forward to at least getting a little bit of time in them. I know they are going to be an adjustment, but it’s a challenge I look forward to!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Trainer Days

The training plan that I’m using to train for this 70.3 has be on the bike on Wednesdays and Fridays, with my weekly long ride on Sundays. So far, Wednesday’s are proving to be challenging to get outside to ride, so I’m spending a lot of time here.

This also means I’m logging a lot of t.v. time. All I can say, is thank god for Netflix and Hulu, and for Arrested Development and Top Gear (U.K., of course.)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A New Addition to the Family

Happy new bike day! I’ve been doing triathlon for a few years now, and while my road bike, Bella, has treated me extremely well, the time has finally come for me to invest in a bike that’s going to be with me for the long haul.

I’ve done a lot of research, debating how much I wanted to spend, what was important to me in a bike, where I could find the best bang for my buck.

There were 2 major things that informed my search:

1) I knew that I wanted a women’s specific bike, which narrowed down my options pretty significantly. I’m fairly petite, and finding a bike more suited to my proportions seemed like the way to go.
2) I was comfortable spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,000-$2,500. I don’t need more bike than that, and that’s already a pretty significant investment!

So I started looking around, and made up the small list of bike companies that produce women’s specific tri bikes. Ultimately, my search narrowed down to a tie between the Felt B16W and the Cannondale Slice.

Both sport a great set of components, carbon frames and (insert girly moment) are sharp looking bikes.

The more I researched though, the more I decided that the Felt was the bike for me. I called my local bike shop, Champion Cycling, and it felt like fate: they had a size small B16W on order that would be in the shop by the weekend.

I had the great plan that I was going to go in, do a test ride, then leave and think about it; no impulse purchases.

But then I took her out for a ride, and I just knew: we were meant to be together.

All thoughts of leaving went out the window. E tried to subtly suggest that I make sure to take time to think about it, because I asked him to make sure I didn’t just jump right in.

And what did I do? Jump right in.

But I love it. Happy to be a Felt girl!