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.