Bike Mini-Challenge

This week I am going to bike every day between today and Sunday.  Since I haven't been able to get in more long rides, I'm hoping a week a biking at least 20 miles a day will help replicate a long ride (or two). 

My plan  for the week is:
Tues - 25
Wed - 25
Thurs - 30, run 3.75
Fri - 20
Saturday - 50
Sunday - 20

Saturday and Sunday may be reversed, depending on the weather.  Either way, My goal is to ride 175 miles by the end of the day on Sunday.  Speed is not important, given the volume and wind predictions for the week.  At least the sun is supposed to shine!  I have a feeling I will also finally decide on whether or not I need a new saddle as well.  Let the riding begin!


New PR! (and my quads are tired)

What a weekend!  I took off a little early on Friday to discover that 5 yards of dirt were delivered to our house for our garden.  With rain in the forecast for Saturday, John and I wanted to get all the dirt moved so we didn't have a huge mud pile in our driveway.  We spent Friday evening moving 7,000 lb of dirt with shovels, a wheel barrow, and garden rake.  Not exactly the most relaxing way to spend the night before a race.  My shoulders and back were a little stiff in the morning.

Saturday I got up and KM picked me up.  She ran the Rock the Parkway 1/2 marathon with me since I was trying to PR.  I knew I'd run faster with KM there, so off we went.  I wasn't supposed to start raining until 10 am.  With a 7:30 start time, I knew we'd be done before then.  The problem was that it actually started raining at 7 am.  Damn weathermen.

We started out just behind the 1:45 pace group, which was faster than I really planned.  My previous PR for a 1/2 was 1:56:51, so I was really just hoping for a 1:50.  But the pace felt good, so we stayed where we were.  The rain picked up and the course was rolling hills.  I started struggling between miles 5-9.  The 1:45 pace group pulled away and I could only see the flag on long straight sections.  I'm glad KM was there, I definitely wouldn't have pushed myself that hard on my own.

Earlier that morning, I broke the Golden Rule of racing: Never try anything new on race day.  We were out of milk, so instead of my usual glass of milk with my pop-tarts, I grabbed a can of Slim Fast.  Silly Sam, when will you learn?  The additional fiber resulted in some stomach problems that started around mile 5 and never got any better.  Every time I passed a porta potty, I was wondering if maybe I should have stopped.  The situation hadn't reached critical mass, but I warned KM just in case I had to suddenly dart off course.

After mile 9, I knew it was mostly downhill and we were close.  The rain was getting worse and at 40 degrees and soaking wet, I couldn't feel my hands.  The numbness was starting to creep up my arms.  Time to try to reel in the 1:45 pace group and finish this run.  We slowly made up ground and in the last 1.1 mile, we passed the pace group leaders.  I cruised in to an official time of 1:44:28, over a 12 minute PR!  That put me at 14/187 for the 25-29 age group and 250/1400+ total runners.  Not too shabby!

I'm glad we finished when we did.  While we were walking back to the car, it started hailing!  It took over an hour to get the feeling back in my hands.  I followed up Saturday's run with 2500 yd in the pool and 42 windy miles on the bike on Sunday. 

After this weekend, my quads have taken on a personality all their own.  I've never liked my legs, but these new quads are something else.  In my running skirt, they looked like carved hunks of solid muscle.  Laying in bed, I could feel the heat radiating off them.  They're not sore, just tired.  I gave them a massage last night - they deserved it.  Hopefully a another week or so of solid training, with a nice 10 day taper, and they will be ready to rock in New Orleans!


Get Pinched

After my last post and several weeks of feeling tired and having not-so-encouraging workouts, I came to a conclusion.  Either one of two things was happening: 1) I was not working hard enough and my slow times was a reflection of not sticking to my training plan or 2) I was overtrained and needed some rest.  I felt the former was the likely culprit, KM and my husband felt it was the latter.  But how do you tell?

Sidebar: I avoid bathroom scales like the plague.  I used to weigh myself religiously every morning, sometimes twice a day, obsessed with even a 0.5lb gain.  Eventually I realized that was not healthy or productive and I have since adopted the "how does my clothes fit" or "how many hours is my long workout" as gauge for my fitness.  When I started losing weight several years ago, I set my target weight at 135.  When I couldn't reach that number, I decided I would settle for 140, but still push for 135 during racing season.  Even that never happened.  The only time I weighed 135 after puberty, was after my first jaw surgery and I lost 15 pounds in a month while on a liquid diet.  Not good.  The hardest part for me is that at 5'4" and 140 lb, my BMI is 24.8, which is just barely in the healthy range. 

That's right.  Hi, my name is Sam and I'm 5' 4" and 140 lb.

By all social standards, I am on the very heavy side of healthy, just one PMS day from being clinically overweight.  Basically, my weight is not a good way for me to evaluate the shape I'm in, unless I'm actively looking for a way to crap in my own coffee.

So I made a deal with my husband.  I would go for body fat testing, and if I was less than 19%, I'd take some rest.  If I was over 19% then (in my crazy-girl brain) I was tired for reasons other than overtraining and needed to stick with my training plan.  The last time I had my body fat tested was in grad school, right as I was training for my first triathlon.  I don't remember the specifics, but I think it was 21 or 23 percent, in the acceptable range, but higher than I wanted.  As a reference, for women between the ages of 20 and 29 (taken from the sheet given to me by the personal trainer), >29.9% is considered obese, 24.6-29.9% is overweight, 19.9-24.5% is normal, 15.8-19.8% is athletic, <15.8% is elite, and I belive somewhere below 10-12% is underfat and not healthy.

On Friday I went to a local personal training gym and the owner got out the calipers.  Flashbacks to Phys. Ed, freshmen year of high school where body fat testing was mandatory and everyone got pinched in front of the class.  Good thing we're in a private room.  Anyway, the bottom line was this: my body fat is around 15%, which means I need to give myself a break and take some rest.  Hubby-dearest was right.  From a body composition standpoint, I have nothing to gain by working harder and everything to gain by taking some rest.  It also means that if I ever want the numbers on the scale to be any lower, I'm going to lose muscle mass so I should stop trying to break into the 130-digits and be happy with what I have.  Easier said than done.

I'm not trying to recommend body fat testing for just anyone.  It can be downright traumatic.  But for someone who is "dense" like me, and frustrated with weight loss and sports performance, it is a good number to know.  Maybe the next time I renew my driver's license, I'll use my real weight and be proud of it.


Lost my Mojo

NOLA is now four weeks from Sunday.  I feel like I'm on an emotional see-saw when it comes to evaluating my training and progress.  I know what my training log says, but I still feel like I'm falling below my mark.  On top of that, I feel like I've been tired since January.  I'll have a decent run only to be followed by a miserable ride.  Or a great swim and then have legs made of bricks during my next interval run.  One day I think I'm right on track and the next day I doubt I'll even be able to PR.  And don't tell me I need to rest.  I have taken extra rest days periodically to try to recover.  I'm doing yoga.  I'm going to accupuncture.  I'm still tired.  I decided to take off tomorrow afternoon to get some extra sleep.

The worst part: I think I lost my biking mojo.  The bike has always been my strong suit.  I'm no uber-biker, but I aspire to be.  I've always placed in the top 25% or better in my AG during races, no matter the distance or course.  Even undertrained on a more difficult course than I'm used to, I was able to average 18.1 mph at Boise, in the rain.  Last weekend, I rode 30 miles around a lake on a hilly course I'm familiar with and I average 16.6 mph.  I don't want to knock anyone, but for me, that is an embarassing pace.  Sure it was windy and I've been inside all winter, but that is no excuse.  I was crushed when I reviewed my workout later.

I don't know what to do.  The bike is my strong suit, where I feel the most comfortable.  I hit 19.7 mph for an average in my last sprint.  I really thought this was the season I'd average over 20 mph in a race.  Now I'm doubting my training.  Can I even average 18 mph at NOLA?  I don't know.  Did I really slack that much during Spinervals?  It sure didn't feel like it.  Have I put on weight?  I avoid the scale as a general rule but my clothes all fit.  What should I do?  Train harder or get more rest?

From a rational stand point, I know I was battling 25 mph winds on a hilly route in the rain and I had a tough run the day before.  I know I have a better biking base than where I was last year before Boise.  But the irrational woman in me is saying that I'm not doing enough and there is no way I'm reaching my goals this year.  She's saying I should just put streamers on my handle bars and playing cards in my tires.  She's telling me that I'm crazy for even thinking I may slightly have a shot at ever qualifying for Clearwater.  Can someone please tell her to shut up??


Embrace the Suck

41 degrees. Windy. Raining. In other words, the worst weather to be outside in. And my schedule said 12 mile tempo run on Saturday and a 30mi/5mi brick on Sunday. Since you don't get to pick your race weather, on weekends like this, you just have to embrace the suck.

I'd really like to PR at Rock the Parkway 1/2 marathon and I haven't raced a 1/2 in 2 years. This weekend was supposed to be my gauge for how fast I should go out. Not ideal conditions at all, but even so I average 8:33/mi. Based on that pace, I think I'm going to shoot for a 1:50, which would be a PR by over 6 minutes. Bad day, good run, and a confidence boost to have done it in rainy, cold, and windy weather. Embrace the suck.

Then Sunday I geared up and rode 31 miles around Shawnee Mission Park since NOLA is about a month away and I need to get as much outdoor riding in as possible. It rained the first hour, but cleared off after that. But it was windier than on Saturday and into the wind, I had to down shift on some of the DOWN hills. Ugh. My pace was embarrassingly slow, but on tired legs and in bad weather, that is all I had. JB met me for 4.5 miles afterwards, which was awesome because it was so crappy out, if she hadn't met me I probably would have bagged the run. First brick of the year is finally done. Embrace the suck.

My next brick is Thursday, my next ride is Wednesday, and both days are supposed to be gorgeous! While training in crappy weather may be good for a mental edge, I'll take 60 and sunny over 40 and rainy any day of the week.


Alternative therapy

After Heartland and my crippling bout with plantar fasciitis, I tried acupuncture for the first time back in October. It eliminated the swelling in my feet and legs overnight, so I decided to give it another try now that I'm in my heaviest training period before NOLA. Even if it doesn't help with recovery time like I hope, I do find it incredibly relaxing. Leave it to the girl with tattoos to find being stuck repeatedly with pins relaxing.

While John doesn't really believe in alternative therapy like acupuncture, I have to say I'm kind of a believer. Even John couldn't argue with how much it helped the swelling in my legs. It probably goes along with the idea that I'd rather run barefoot and rehab my foot than wear orthotics. I don't take NSAIDs or cold medicine unless absolutely needed to function. I like the whole-body approach to training and healing and think generally speaking that Mother Nature knows best. Yoga, acupuncture, and my inversion chair are much more appealing options to me than popping pills, wearing custom shoes, or relying other gadgets to feel and train my best.

So for the next 5-6 weeks, I'm going to keep training as usual and I'm going to voluntarily let some guy stick needles in my legs, arms, and head every other week. I'm making special appointments the week of my 1/2 marathon and the week of NOLA. If nothing else, I'll at least be relaxed.


As usual

Another wintry month has come and gone and I realized I have about 6 weeks until NOLA. As usual, I realized this laying in bed one night, right before trying to fall asleep, and then proceeded to dream about racing. I have had a similar dream about a month before all of my big triathlons. It's kind of like the nightmare where you show up to school or work, only to realize you're the only one not wearing any clothes.

In my dream, I usually show up late. Since I'm the last one to get to transition, I am put in a "special" transition area as punishment, usually something weird like a potting shed or a dog house or my childhood bedroom. Then, as I'm searching for my forgotten bike pump, I realize my wave is being called. I grab my swim cap and sprint to the starting line. Depending on the dream, sometimes they let me start. In the Boise version of this dream, I was told to go home. I was a little stressed when I woke up from that one.

As for the latest NOLA version of the dream, it was a little different. I was still late, and I still had a special quarantined transition area (something with a horse fence?), but other than that I woke up with a positive feeling. They let me start, and for the first time since I've had this dream, I made it to the starting line in time to get in with the back of my wave. The race went well, from what I remember. The weird part about this dream is that afterwards, I had some product sponsor asking if I would race for them. They said they were looking for an Irish person to add to their racing team. When I tried to tell him I wasn't Irish, he said my eyes didn't lie, I had to be Irish. Weird.

I'm going to blame the latest version on something I ate or maybe listening to too much Flogging Molly. But at least I didn't get sent home from the race.

I don't know what it is about triathlons that turn me into a twitchy, nervous, bumbling idiot with butterflies in my stomach and pins and needles down my spine before a race. I'm not a nervous person, but before a big race I get nauseous to the point of wanting to throw up. I can't sit still. I pace. I double, triple, and quadruple check everything. Boise was particularly brutal since it had a 2 pm start. That gave me all day to get myself worked up into a harried mess. At the Danskin sprint tri, my friend April looked at me and said "I feel like I don't even know you right now."

In all honesty, the nerves are what keep me coming back. Clearly I have not mastered this sport and I'm still trying to figure out my limits. Once the starting gun goes off, I can settle in to the race and I'm fine. Afterwards, all I feel is delightful exhaustion. It's the anticipation that kills me. I haven't found a single other activity/event/sport that has this effect on me, but I think that's a good thing. Hopefully, at some point I'll stop getting nauseous before races, but if the nerves ever disappear completely, it will be time to hang up my wetsuit and find a new pursuit that will again tie my stomach in knots.