Finish Line 70.3

Finish Line 70.3
Finish Line 70.3

70.3 Finisher!

70.3 Finisher!
70.3 Finisher

Friday, October 29, 2010

Fear Nothing

Starting back in May of 2010, my goal has been to run the 70.3 at Lake Ray Roberts north of Denton TX in May of 2011. I cut my Oly distance teeth on the course in May of 2010, and the 70.3 course was simply more of what I had already experienced. I knew the water (cold but not scary), the bike route (a bit hilly but not terribly so) and the run route (very hot, a bit up and down, but nothing too alarming). I knew where to park and what transition looked like and where the bathrooms were (indoors, I will tell you--this is a park and they had clean, easy access INDOOR toilets at the finish/start areas--what a concept!). It wasn't a perfect event--some of the bike roads were torn up, the heat during mid May is pretty tough, and the handouts at the volunteer stations were pretty sparse (plenty of water and nice people, just not much else). I was also excited because last year, no person in my age group even attempted the 70.3. If that stayed the same, and I finished under course time, I would have the podium all to myself. :-)

I just recently discovered that this event is NOT going to have a 70.3 this year, only a Sprint and an Oly. I am devastated. I am heartbroken. I am frantically searching for other events. I am a triathlete without a country.

My initial thought is to go back to the Galveston (now Hermann Memorial 70.3) where I tried to do my first Oly last year only to have the swim canceled due to high winds and waves. I was okay with the idea of doing an Oly race here but a 70.3 makes my blood pressure rise a bit. The course is fairly flat, which is great news, but in Galveston, the wind is always blowing and it's generally blowing hard and all directions at the same time. I know, I was born there. I'm not sure that riding a bike for 56 miles into a howling wind will make up for no hills. In addition, you swim in the bay, which is not really all that protected--although there will be no big surf, you will get a LOT of chop and swells. I am at best a hesitant swimmer, and although I know in my heart that trying to drown in salt water while wearing a wetsuit is probably less possible than the Rangers digging out of a 0-2 hole in the World Series, I do worry that I will swallow and choke on enough wavelets to either make me panic, or make me vomit, or both. Finally, the run, although flat, is going to be warm and also pretty boring (it's four loops of a garden park track, driveway, and parking lot combined).

Still, it's only a five hour drive for me, it's a well organized race (although very large, being a qualifier for the 70.3 championships). The roads are in good shape and face it, Galveston is still fun and interesting even post Ike and even if you grew up there and know it. I'm mostly worried about the swim in the chop and salt water, and I don't think I am going to be able to get down there and practice in Offats Bay before the race (in addition to all my other worries, you don't get a warm up swim before the event. It's a deep water start from a ladder down the pier because the shallow water is full of sharp oyster beds that will cut your feet to ribbons. That's not a killer reason to be worried, but I like knowing the feel and temp of the water before I take the first plunge. I'm SUCH a weenie).

This race is also the first part of April which moves my timetable up about a month.

I've looked at all the other 70.3s within a reasonable drive from me that are happening in spring 2011 and I can't find anything that makes my heart go pitter pat. If I want to wait to fall 2011 there are more options, but I don't want to wait. The Tall Texan 70.3 in Boerne is too soon (March) and way too hilly for me.

So...looks like I am gearing up for an April 2011 70.3 in Galveston. Ihe the meantime, I am burning my copy of Open Water, and throwing salt tablets into my bathwater to simulate race day. This race I can do. Fear nothing!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Go Long

Sooner or later, every endurance athlete has to face the reality show of going long. No matter how fit or fast you are, you are going to have to strap on your running or biking shoes or your goggles and go for a long, long run, bike or swim. Even if you are prepared to go no further in your athletic career than 5ks or sprint tris, you gotta go the distance sooner or later of at least 3 miles on the hoof.

And once you decide to race past that distance, you are peering into the canyon of spending a lot of quality time out on the road, or in the pool. You might as well get over it now and load a lot of interesting songs on the iPod.

Science is changing daily with regard to the One Best Way To Work Out for endurance events. Used to be, you trod out the long, long miles of bike or run or swim, building up weekly (with a back off week stuck in there every 3-5 weeks) to your maximum mileage, trudging slowly but surely to that distant goal, and then during the week you also threw in a shorter and faster thingie to help your body remember that it's not totally all about slow twitching. Lately, science has cleared its throat a bit and mentioned that maybe a lot of shorter, faster, more focused workouts do almost as much good as the long slow slog. However, no one in their right mind or focus would try to run a marathon after having only run 10 miles at any one time, or do a century bike ride after only posted a 20 mile bike one Sunday afternoon. No matter how much science changes, the truth is you have to go long to well, go long.

There is also a lot of debate over how long you really should go. A great many marathon training programs take you only up to 18-20 miles and assume that on race day, your body will just deal with that extra 10K on its own. For me, when I intend to train for a full marathon (late next year), I want to train for the entire 26 first. No way am I gonna go to a 26 mile race having only trod 20 miles and then have my body tell me at mile 24 that this is not what it was expecting, thankyouverymuch.

Last weekend I ran 8 miles. This isn't a long way by any shot, and I've done a lot longer, but it's been a while. I have been concentrating on sprints and my Oly race, and the last time I shuffled out 8 miles was on Thanksgiving Day 2009, almost a year ago, during the Dallas Turkey Trot. My half marathon (originally planned for December, but because they moved the race day up two weeks, now scheduled for Jan 29) is coming up and I need to start, well, logging those miles with my feetsies.

Last weekend was hot, humid, and very windy. It was a perfect day to run if you were gonna spank out 3 miles early in the day before the heat and humidity took a toll. Unfortunately, for various reasons, I was not able to start my run until about 10:45 a.m. on Sunday. Normally, on Oct 24 this would not be an issue. This year, with the temp scheduled to hit 89 degrees, it was going to be a toasty run. For those of you in North Dakota this week, I'm sorry for you, but right now, not all that much.

For any run over five miles, I carry a fuel belt. Mine is the mini belt with a pouch; I have trouble with the multiple dangling bottle belts--tried them and they drive me nuts banging around like a set of castanets around my waist. I have a small Dannon water bottle (the smallest they sell) that I have crumpled in the middle that fits nicely inside the pouch, along with my cell phone and a gel, and if necessary, my car key. On runs over 7 miles I carry a gel with me. Normally I don't need one if I have fueled up properly beforehand until I hit about a 10 mile run, but you want to be prepared. Heat and humidity and high wind can make a run feel longer than, well, a long run.

I started out slow, with my usual contingent of nerdo gear--heart rate monitor watch, Garmin GPS watch, iPod in ears, loaded fuel belt, sunglasses, with a base layer of sunscreen. I was aiming for around a 12 to 12:30 minute mile. The training rules all say you should run your long endurance run about 1 to 2 minutes slower than your planned race pace. Truthfully, I can't figure out how that works, because you would think your body would adjust to running 12 minute miles and not 11 minute miles, but apparently added with shorter and faster interval workouts during the week, this is the ideal plan. Or it was the ideal plan, as science is now starting to rethink this, but not completely enough to change the routine...yet.

In addition, you are supposed to add more time to your long run if it's hot, humid, windy, hilly, or a full moon (okay, I made the last one up).

I did okay the first six miles. It was pretty hot and humid, and I drank up my bottle of Gatorade diluted with vitamin water by six miles, but there is a park water fountain right at six miles on my out my front door route, so I refilled and kept slogging. I was running pretty much on a 12 min mile schedule so I felt okay, but at 6.5 miles I hit the bonk pretty hard. The middle third of my long route is pretty hilly and as I was slogging uphill into the 20 mph wind and midday sun, I was not having much fun. No, not much fun at all. And running is my favorite of the three triathlon sports.

I had been taking walk breaks of 3 minutes every 12 minutes, but from 6.5 to 8 miles I went to taking 2 minutes every 8 minutes and the last half mile I took 1 minute breaks every four minutes (science, which I am tired of talking about like a person, swears the best and most efficient walk run program is 4 minutes run/1 minute walk, but I have tried that and it just wears me out immediately. One minute is NOT enough time for me to catch my breath, drink water, rezip my pouch, and convince my legs that they are not going to fall off ).

I finished the run about a mile from home, having stupidly calculated my distance out incorrectly, so I had a long walk to cool down and recover, and then I fell right into our swimming pool when I got home (I did take off my shoes and socks). It was a bit chilly, but icing is good for you post workout, and I was pretty sweaty and hot. If you had told me that I would be immersed in my pool on October 24, I would have said you were nuts. Then again, if you had told me my Rangers would be playing in the World Series tonight, I would have also said you were nuts. It's been a strange fall. I averaged a 12:30 min mile, having lost lots of time, as well as sweat, on the last 1.5 miles of the run.

I have a 9 mile run coming up this weekend, but the weather is fortunately supposed to be a bit more tolerable, so hopefully it won't be as much of a grind. In the meantime, I'm recharging my iPod and my Garmin and getting ready.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Larks and owls

I read a lot about larks and owls in regard to training. This is not the National Audubon Society's Guide to Birds, but those of us that have to/like to train in the mornings versus those of us who have to/like to train later in the day.

If you are a professional triathlete, you get to train whenever you want to, so this doesn't apply to you, not that you would be reading this blog anyway.

For the rest of us mere mortals, with jobs and kids and soccer games and grocery store runs, we have to find time in our days when working out for longer than three minutes at a time is viable.

I'm a owl through and throughout. Although my mother swore I was born at 7:25 in the morning, I can tell you that was the last time I got up that early voluntarily. I love to stay up late, especially to read, and love to sleep in until about 8 or so, (as if I have ever gotten the chance to do that in the last 20 years, but still, the desire remains).

I like working out after my workday is done and pre dinner. Unfortunately, as a lawyer, sometimes my workdays can go on and on (and sometimes end up as work nights or even work early mornings, but not as much as they used to, thanks to our economy). I don't mind heading out for a run or a swim at 8:30 p.m. so long as I have a little snackie beforehand, but it doesn't work well with family dinnertime or spousal sharing time. If the Patient Spouse is out of town, I will often find myself at the gym swimming until 8:30 or so, which in my mind is great, because no one else is there. Then I'll have a quick dinner around 9:30 and hit the sack by 11 p.m. and start the next day at 7 for a perfect schedule (I noticed since I started working out so hard that my "owl" tends to shut completely down by 11 p.m.).

When Patient Spouse is in town, I try to schedule workouts earlier so I am at least home for dinner by 8 p.m. (doesn't always work, but I do try). In extreme circumstances, I will drag my lazy backside out of bed early and go for a run or swim in the pre dawn darkness (I do not like biking in the mornings since rush hour traffic is too horrific to consider, and our local bike trails are about a 45 minute drive away on a good day). This morning I grudgingly stumbled out of a warm bed and onto the dark streets at 6:20 a.m. for a 3 mile run since I was planning to do a 2 a day and swim tonight because I could not swim yesterday as I had client dinner (however, I totally forgot that Tuesday nights are Ladies Who Do Water Aerobics at my gym, so my 2 day has to turn into tomorrow's 2 a day).

I have read, time and again, that workouts are less efficient in the mornings. Your body has apparently not had time to get to its optimum temperature for optimum performance until afternoon or evening, plus the most beneficial time to fuel up for a hard workout is about 4 hours prior to pulling the exercise trigger. This is a great excuse to slam down the alarm button. We work out most efficiently later in the day. Go back to sleep.

However, with some exceptions for crazy races in hot weather in the middle of deserts, most events start early in the mornings. If you train all the time later in the day, your body is gonna be in for one heckuva wake up call on race day. It's important to train, at least sometimes, in conditions that will mimic race day conditions.

Everyone's different, and you will have to experiment with nutrition, hydration and time to get mentally alert for a workout no matter what time of day you choose. Early in the mornings, I eat a very small breakfast before my run or swim--usually a protein bar--since I am borderline low blood sugar and simply can't go to town on an empty tank. After the workout I have something a bit more substantial, but I will tell you this: no matter the length or the duration of the workout, if I work out in the mornings, I am literally starving to death. I will eat a snack before lunch and then be ravenous for lunch. I feel good, but I'm acutely hungry.

If I am working out later in the evening, I will eat a short snack like a protein bar or a half bagel about an hour pre workout, and then afterwards will have dinner. If dinner is too far away from the workout (more than 30 minutes) I will have a banana. You really need to eat some carbs within 30 minutes of a hard workout.

Someday, I'd like to turn into a lark. In the meantime, I do the best that I can. Tomorrow morning is an early swim for me....oh joy.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Blowin' in the Wind

Notwithstanding Chicago's claim to being the Windy City (I have read on the Internet, so it must be true, that the windiest city in the US is actually Dodge City, Kansas, where no one really wants to be anyway), the wind she do blow a lot here in Texas.

And I hate it when it does.

Despite the obvious need for wind for sailing, wind farms, confusing cross pollination and other nice things like cooling you off on a hot day, wind freaks me out more when I am biking or running than hills, heat, distance, or badly cooked brussel sprouts. Nothing makes me frown like watching my 50 story building sway with the breeze (I know they are built to do that. I know planes are built to go up in the air. Neither thought comforts me).

Sunday the Patient Spouse and I did a 2 hour bike ride through northeast suburbia, which include being sandblasted by a 30 mph headwind on the out portion. At times, on the flat, I was pedaling like a mad thing and my speedometer showed 11 mph for my intense efforts. Yes, the way home was easier, but by that time I was windburned, wind-tossed, and simply (pardon the obvious pun) winded.

Last night I ran 7 miles at White Rock trail in preparation for ramping up to a half marathon this December. It was windy (a north wind this time, the opposite of the bike ride, in Texas the wind is predominatly south unless it's not) and although I choose the trail rather than the lake because I hoped the trees would block some of the blast, they apparently simply created nice wind tunnels for me to barrel into.

Now, I always try to run with the wind in my face for the first part of the run so I'm not as breathless during the second half when I'm tired anyway. This is a great theory but doesn't always work, especially if I start my run from my front door, because there is simply no running south from my front door unless I want to end up in the ER trying to cross a busy road with no lights. So this only works when there is a north wind at my place, which isn't too often. If I drive to run trails, though, I try to note the wind direction and pick my starting place accordingly. Yes, I know that in a real race or event I won't have that luxury. I ran the White Rock half marathon 2 years ago and I swear the entire race was into the wind; I am certain that is not possible based on stuff I learend in my physics class in high school, but I am convinced the tetonic plates shifted that day and that is exactly what happened.

But I am still not going to voluntarily start a run with the wind at my back if I can avoid it.

When running into the wind, especially a stout wind, I try to lower my head and profile slightly (as if I were running uphill, because that is what it fees like) and slow my pace down. I remind myself I will more than likely make up for lost time on the downwind stretch. I take shorter steps, and I hydrate more often, because the wind dries my mouth out fast.

When I bike into a stiff breeze, I am down on the aerobars as much as I dare, although in a really, really high crosswind, especially going down a steep hill with speed, I get nervous about the bike being yanked right out from under me, which has happened to me once. I keep the chainring in one easier gear than I think I should because otherwise, I use up a lot of excess energy just pedaling too hard into the windshear. I tell myself, again, that it will be just so much fun turning around and having that hurricane at my back (this doesn't work, of course, if my first leg was downwind. Then I just tell myself this will all be over soon). Again, I find I need to hydrate slightly more often, especially on a hot day. The combo of wind and heat can take you out quickly if you aren't careful.

I try to conserve my energy for the second half of the workout (a negative split, which is always a good idea) because (a) if I am turning downwind, I am going to be able to spank it and I want the gas to do so, or (b) if I am turning into the wind, I'm going to need that energy to grit my way though the blast.

Last night when I finally turned out of the wind, I was tired from the beating I had been taking, but the ease in running downwind made up for it after a while.

Here's hoping for some calmer days ahead....

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Training Wid a Cod

I left town on the 25th for Colorado (to attend the Golden Retriever Club National Speciality if you simply must know) with high hopes of cooler weather, crisp air, and training in the glorious foothills around Loveland and Greeley. Several friends and I had rented a house on the outskirts of Loveland not 20 miles from Estes Park.

I eagerly loaded up my bike on the back of the Pilot, all my bike and running gear (alas, had to leave the swim togs behind), and planned my schedule to include at least 3 bike rides and 3 runs during the days I was Away From Hot Texas. I did remember to load up my 2 dogs as well!

We drove on Saturday to Raton NM and I got up at 6 a.m. Sunday morning and went for a short 3 mile run to start altitude acclimation. Lovely morning, crisp, cool, clear, and without a trace of oxygen to breathe, but I managed to stagger through the 3 miles in a pretty decent clip with only one short walk break to try and find my lungs (which seemed to have exited through the soles of my feet). It wasn't a terribly photogenic run--we had stayed at a motel on the side of the main highway, so my run consisted mostly of a Denny's parking lot into a trailer park neighborhood, but there WERE hills out there in front of me. I felt great.

A caravan of us left the hotel around 8 a.m. and I noticed I was starting to get a sore throat. I was trying to convince myself it was the dry air, but the Patient Spouse had brought home (from one of his many airplane exposures) a nasty cold the previous week and I had been congratulating myself that I had managed to avoid it (we discussed wrapping him in saran wrap and stashing him in the freezer, but we didn't go quite that far--and probably should have, in retrospect). By the time we stopped for lunch in Pueblo, I knew that I was going to get it, and get it hard.

By Monday I was feverish, coughing, sneezing, clogged up and simply miserable. In addition, the weather in Colorado was experiencing a record high temperature--low to mid 90's. The awful cold virus, the altitude and the heat all combined to make me feel like a contestant on "Survivor: Loveland."

I skipped my planned Monday run and Tuesday bike. I kept trying to feel better. Normally, I will work out with a cold as soon as it leaves my throat area and hits the nose, but this one was not in a hurry to pack its bags. By the time it moved into my nose and chest, on Wednesday, I started a horrible, hacking cough that left me completely and totally breathless. The bike that I had so carefully loaded and locked onto the back of the Pilot was looking very sad, as well as very dusty from the trip (which included a rainstorm, a duststorm, and a windstorm--gottta love west Texas).

Finally I could stand it no longer. Although I was still wheezing and hacking, by Friday I felt a bit less woozy, so I cleaned up the bike and went for a 23 mile ride on a well groomed bike/walking trail that ran right behind the dog show site in Greeley (Island Grove Park). I didn't have to show that day until around 11:30, so I headed out on the trail (I had asked some fellow bikers the day before where I should ride in Greeley). It was a beautifully maintained trail, and not heavily populated (this was a Friday after all), but the scenery, again, left something to be desired. The trail allegedly followed the Poudre river, and it tried hard to do that, and if you kept looking to the right you could see the riverbed and trees, but to the left was Greeley Industrial behind a prison-like high fence for about 8 miles. Then, after crossing a couple of busy highways and portaging over a rough railroad track, the path turned through a historic dairy farm where you had to dodge a lot of cow paddies, not something I was terribly used to. Finally, the trail wound through some new development subdivisions with lots of signs of LOTS FOR SALE. It was fairly flat, although it had some minor ups and downs, and it had lots of twists and turns to it. And face it, it was 68 degrees and sunny with little wind, and the concrete was smooth, so big deal on the scenery.

I stopped halfway to cough, wheeze and blow my ever-filled nose, and then headed back through the development, cow pats and WW II fencing, being scolded by about 15 prairie dogs on my way.

The next day, I forced myself to get up at 6 a.m. again and go for another 3 mile run. This one was from the Loveland house and had some up and down hills (nothing terribly steep, but definitely Not Texas). I was still not 100 percent well so I went easy and took a walk break halfway to catch my still-not-there breath. That afternoon a friend and I went for a 5 mile hike in Homestead Meadows with the dogs, and I packed and loaded up that night, so by the time I hit the sack I was one tired pup.

Back home again with the bike on Sunday and Monday--a 1400 mile trip and only one 23 mile bike to show for it. The bike was so dusty and dirty that I took it into the local shop to have it professionally cleaned. And I am just now getting over the cough.

I know a lot of people work out with colds, but I can't do it the first 2-3 days that it settles into my chest. After it moves to my nose, I can usually stagger through some shorter and easier workouts. If I have a fever, I'm not even going to try. I'm dedicated and determined, but when I feel like uck, I simply have no energy to do anything but whine and suffer.

Fortunately, I'm pretty healthy and usually only get 1-2 colds a year (and usually from Patient Spouse, who unfortunately is given ample opportunity to get one because he flies so much). I hardly ever get the flu, a virus, or anything of that nature. So except for about twice a year, I'm usually good to go. I have read--and I believe--that working out regularly helps stave off infections by keeping your immune system healthy.

So I'm back at it now, trying to make up for a bit of lost time. Next event is a half marathon in December!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Learning to Share

It's with a mix of sadness, horror and deja vu that I've read about the young jogger killed on the Katy Trail after being hit by a biker. Lots of fingers were pointed in all directions--the biker was riding fast, the jogger had on headphones and turned right into the biker's path with no warning, etc. etc. etc., and she happened to fall and hit her head just the wrong way.

But it's not a finger pointing thing. We have a young woman killed in her prime and a biker who will never ever forget what he or she was involved in. There for the grace of God go one of us. No matter who was at fault, or even if no one was at fault, the issue remains that it's so very difficult to share the limited pathways and trails with bikers, joggers, baby strollers, dog walkers, skaters and meandering toddlers. It's just tough and we all know it.

I got home Monday night from 10 days in Loveland and Greeley Colorado. Both towns had bike paths clearly designated along major streets and highways. This IS Colorado, land of nature, but I know there are similar designated paths in other states across the country. Unfortunately, Texas has very few, if any. Bikers must either choose to ride on heavily populated trails and pathways, dodging pedestrians that have equal right to enjoy the trails, or must ride on the streets and take the risk of being killed that way--a female triathlete was killed not two months ago on her bike when she accidentally veered a little bit onto the highway and a car struck her. In our state, there is just no safe place to be a bike rider.

Most of us chose to ride the roadways and take the risk of being car-pummuled, although I will admit that I ride White Rock Lake trial and some of the shared paths on White Rock Lake. It's always a terrifying experience either way for me. On the paths, walkers and hikers and moms trying to herd 3 small children are always wandering around the path and as a biker, you have to guess where they are going to avoid collison. One day I nearly hit a runner who stopped suddenly in front of me and decided to walk across my path without looking behind her. We could have both been killed. I screamed like a banshee and she jumped out of my way at the last second; there was no way I could stop and I was only riding about 14 mph, not nearly as fast as the elite 19-25 mph bikers who zoom the lake.

All we can do is practice safety and defensive riding/running at all times. I expect a small child or a dog to jump into my path; I expect runners to stop and turn to walk in front of me; I expect a skater to fall down next to my front tire. Every time I pass anyone or anything, I slow down and go on high alert. Yes, it wreaks havoc with my time and heart rate and cadence and interval push, but ya know, we all gotta be careful out there. I save my fast pace for the weekends when I feel less timid about hitting the streets rather than during rush hour traffic when I know each driver is eating, texting, drinking and changing the radio while they are approaching me. I never pass another biker or runner or walker without looking over my shoulder first to see what is behind me. I always shout "on your left" when I pass someone. I never, ever wear headphones on the bike.

When I am running on a shared path, I stay far, far to the right unless it's an actual road with cars, then I swith to the far, far left and run facing the traffic. I do not veer into the road or even go around slower people UNTIL I have checked over my shoulder (like when driving in a car) to see what's coming--because something probably will be coming and it's easier for me to wait than a fast biker to have to stop. I wear headphones, but at a very very low volume.

I don't think the solution is to impose speed limits on runners/bikers/skaters. How do you enforce those? I think the solution is for all of us to be aware of each other and to ride/run defensively. ALWAYS assume the other person is going to do something sudden and scary and be prepared to react. Do not assume a parent is going to be able to corral a dashing toddler; that's not any more fair than their assumption that you can stop quickly on your 25 mph bike dash.

I don't ride my bike on the Katy Trail because it's too crowded. I'm not wild about the other shared paths in Dallas either for the same reason. But sometimes we have no choice but to deal with it. We athletes do not have a mandate that the pathways are ours alone. Everyone has the right to enjoy the areas set forth for walking and jogging and biking and just meandering around counting the clouds. Do not get into a huff or snit about having to go slow around the pokes. Get over yourself and be careful, fair and patient.

And be safe. Please, please be safe.