Monday, June 20, 2011

Officially a triathlete!

I finished the .8k swim, 20k bike and 7.5k run in 1 hour 44 minutes and 10 seconds, good enough for 14th in the 18-24 year old women's age division and in the top 19% of all women competing in the sprint distance. Those results are better than I expected and I am more than pleased with my time!

Let me go into details on the race: The DC Triathlon had over 3200 registered racers for the sprint or international/olympic distances. That is a pretty big race logistically and I have to give a lot of thanks to the race organizers because it was very well run! Saturday I went to pick up my race packet at the expo at the Washington Convention Center and we took our bikes from there over to the transition area for racking via a police escorted bike ride through DC, meaning that we got to run a bunch of red lights and piss off the tourists and motorists! Sunday morning I woke up at 3:45am (when some of my housemates were getting home) and drove to the parking lot at the expo center to take the athlete's shuttle over to the transition area. Even leaving that early I didn't get to the transition area till 5 or a little after 5am.

I set up a transition station right next to my bike where I put down a plastic bag (because the ground was damp since it was drizzling out), a quick dry towel to stand on when I changed out of my wetsuit, my bike shoes with socks ready to go in them, behind that I put my running shoes with my race belt with bib race number attached and a hat in case I wanted it for the run. On my bike I put my two full water bottles in the cages, taped a larabar onto the top tube so I could grab it while on the bike, used the velcro on my bike gloves to attach them to the handlebars, and placed my helmet on my aero-bars with my sunglasses inside it. This set up worked really well for me because the less you have to worry about during the actual transition, the better. Having a bunch of stuff attached to my bike got me out of the transition area much quicker.

I got my chip timer and attached it to my ankle, and made sure that my body markings (when they write your race number on your legs and arms) was still clearly visible. I used bodyglide (an anti-chafing deoderant-like stick) on my ankles and places the wetsuit would rub so that I could make sure to get it off easily and it wouldn't chafe my neck, arms or legs too much. I then saw a woman who had a message written in pen on her leg - I mean I didn't lean over and read the message, I just saw that it was written there - so I took out my sharpie and wrote a mantra inside my swim cap. It was something that I knew was there but didn't need everyone else to see and because I wrote it down I remembered it and repeated it to myself on the course. By the time I had done all of this it was time for the 6am international distance to begin and we all had to be out of the transition area. I put on my wetsuit, stowed away my gear bag, and chatted a little with some fellow triathletes.

Before I knew it, it was time to get with our age groups and line up to jump into the water in groups of 8 (it wasn't a mass start but instead a time-trial start meaning our chip started to time us as soon as we jumped off the dock.) I don't think I was prepared enough for the jump into the Potomac River because I kind of had this moment when I was a few strokes out into the water from where I jumped were I was like "holy shit, I'm swimming in the Potomac!" I didn't think about the grossness of the water and instead just started a rhythm and tried to avoid and swim around people. I've never really timed myself on an 800 meter swim in the pool nor in open water so I don't know how far I am off of my normal swim times, but I swam this in 14:30 - which I think is pretty good for a newbie, plus I really just started swimming in late April. I'm proud of it whether it's better than average or not!

My wetsuit came off easily in transition, I was soaking wet but somehow got my feet dry enough to slide on my socks and velcro my bike shoes on and run with my bike out of transition. Once I mounted my bike, I flew. Biking is my strongest leg of the triathlon but if I had been able to bike the course before hand I could have shaved off a few minutes by knowing when the uphill and downhill sections were and where their weren't turns and I could have pushed harder on the straightaways. That is the problem with having a bike route in a city that is normally so crowded with cars that you can't recreate the route on your own. It was a very technical course with a lot of turns and u-turns that tested my bike handling skills. I kept an 18-20 mph pace most of the time - unless I let an unexpected uphill section spoil my cadence. I ate a larabar on the bike, but I think I ate it too quickly because I could feel it in my stomach once I started running. What I know for next time is to probably eat half of it within the first three miles of the bike and then the other half towards the end. I made sure to drink almost an entire bottle of water over the 20k course though which was good since sometimes on a ride I forget to drink until I'm already thirsty. I got back to transition and realized I was 2 events down and had only the run to go.

I undid my bike shoes dismounted from the bike and ran it into transition, slipped on my colorful Asics Noosa Tri shoes and pulled the toggle on the no-tie laces. Clipped on my bib and was on my way out. This course was originally going to have a 5k run, or so I believed. Then during my open water race clinic I learned that it had been extended to a 7.5k which I had not been training for. I was overtraining for a 5k but it still had a kind of mental influence on knowing that the run was just a little over a mile longer than I was planning for. So I came up with a different way to approach it. I decided that I would take the first 2.5k to just get my legs back from the bike - then I could just run a 5k once my legs were back. That really helped me mentally to break it down like that. The run was still pretty hard, with some uphill portions, a lot of turns on roads that seemed self defeating, and I was experiencing a little bit of stomach cramping from eating the larabar on the bike. I got water at every aid station but I never stopped or walked, I kept going. It helped that all around me were majestic monuments or DC buildings and there was a light drizzle all morning that actually kind of kept me cooled down. I got to the last section and I still had enough in my legs to sprint to the finish, I smiled and raised my arms up into a strong woman pose! I was now officially a triathlete.

I was handed my finishers medal, a water bottle, powerade and a wet towel. Then I went over to the place where the racing receipts from the chip timers were printed. That was where I saw I had placed 14th in the women's 18-24 year old division and that I had an official time under 1:45:00. I was appropriated exhilarated, exhausted and a little dazed.

I got some food, qdoba naked burritos, ate and found my friends. They got some pictures of me and we stocked up on free Pom juice and sat around and talked for a while and figured out a way for them to get my car from the expo center and meet me to pick me up with my bike and stuff from transition. They're awesome so we got everything handled and with everything picked up we headed to my house where I had beer, wine, chips, salsa and guacamole waiting for us, but not before a pit stop at Shake Shack where they bought me a chocolate milkshake - which was what I had earlier decided I wanted as a reward for this triathlon since I haven't had one in probably more than two years. It tasted well-deserved!

Showering was wonderful, sleep was even better, and now I have a week of training off before I gear back up for the Amica 19.7 Sprint Triathlon in Boston in August!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Only a few more days of being a tri-newbie!

Less than five days till my triathlon and I am just slightly freaking out. 

The swim is less of a mental hurdle for me now that I participated in a practice open water swim in the Chesapeake Bay last weekend and felt comfortable in water with a much stronger current than the Potomac will have (although the Potomac will be grosser) and I greatly enjoyed trying out my wetsuit - its amazing how much more buoyant it makes you! The bike is a pretty technical turning course but I trust my bike handling skills and there will be some amazing views of the DC monuments over the course. The run has been extended from a 5k to a 7.5k, which is fine if I was just running that, but after the swim and bike that extra 2.5k might be a mental struggle far more than a physical struggle but some of my friends who are in DC are planning to come out early on a Sunday morning to cheer me on!
This week is my taper week, and my taper is probably a little different than others because I still needed to get in one more long distance swim workout because I was behind schedule on the swim, so yesterday I went a little more all out that I was supposed to, racking up more than a mile of swimming in my main set between my warm up and cool down. Sunday was my last long bike ride, Monday was a medium tempo run - so a 5k at race speed. Today, Wednesday is a rest day, tomorrow Thursday will be a brick workout of short run, short bike, short run, Friday 50 yard sprint swims and a core workout, then Saturday a very light jog - just till I break a sweat 10 to 15 minutes. Then Sunday is the triathlon where I'll do some dynamic warming up while I'm waiting for my swim wave to start at 7am. The hardest part of training this week is resisting the desire to over train!
Nutrition is another aspect I am planning for this whole week- I'm not introducing any new foods, I am staying totally vegan and cooking all my meals, so no eating out at all, (I plan on my version of pigging out on Sunday after the race!) and no alcohol for the two weeks leading up to the race, (I have a bottle of Malbec to be opened Sunday evening.) Basically I am eating the same few meals over and over again, which people think would be boring but if you think about it most people do that anyway - especially with breakfast. My staple foods are whole grains or psuedograins like buckwheat, quinoa, faro/barley, cracked wheat (in a tabouli salad) and sprouted grain bread; spinach and kale both raw and cooked; sweet potatoes; raw nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts and sunflower seeds; my superfoods maca, raw cacao and chia; and berries. I will keep eating raw foods until Saturday afternoon when I'll need to take in less fiber prior to the morning race. Tomorrow and Friday I am adding some extra carbs. Every day this week I have had a big kale and/or spinach salad with a garbanzo bean, tomato, cracked wheat/buckwheat tabouli for lunch with some raw almonds or an apple as a snack. Breakfast is my weird version of cereal- puffed rice, puffed kamut or millet, maca, hemp seeds, chia seeds, raw cacao, agave, raw pumpkins seeds, walnuts, rice milk and berries. Dinner is a grain combo of quinoa and faro, with sauteed kale, or a different roasted green vegetable and baked sweet potato. If I am hungry before a workout I have a few dates and almonds or half of a Larabar. Oh yeah, and I have been and will continue drinking water like crazy. I don't know if Sunday will be nice like it has been for the past few days, or like DC usually is during the summer - hot and humid.  
Again, for this triathlon my goal is only to finish it and enjoy the spectacle, August is when I'll race for time. If you are around the Washington DC area and want to come out and support me early on a Sunday morning, feel free to do so! I will appreciate it tons!


Friday, June 10, 2011

greetings from DC and the dreaded swim

Now that I am settled into one place (and found housing about four days before moving here) its time for an update. On my week and a half road trip from Dallas to Boston to DC with my mom we stayed in a different city every night, (except for the stopover in Boston where I was at my place) and drove most of the days, but I still worked hard to maintain my triathlon training. I took advantage of hotels with pools, I used running as a way to explore the different cities/places we were staying, met a man in the tiny hampton inn suites who does triathlons and had a nice chat with him while getting in some core strength, tried to bike when possible, and tried out Matt Kamb's hotel room workout. I usually got all of this in before my mother even woke up and it helped when I spent the rest of the day sitting in a car either behind the wheel or in the passenger seat. If this was a travel blog I would talk a little bit more about every place I went but for now I'll just say that Asheville, NC and the Blue Ridge/Smokey mountains are gorgeous and I will be going back there! But since this is about leading an active lifestyle I'll stick with the working out parts of my trip- basically it's possible to travel and still train effectively as long as you make the time and take advantage of the resources around you.

My number one tip: when you get to a new city, walk or run around it for a while - you never know what you may discover, who you'll meet, or what experience you'll have but, you'll probably discover a new store, restaurant, or gorgeous views, meet someone truly interesting, and have a great overall experience!

I have already noted many times that the swim will be the most difficult part of training for these triathlons because it is something I haven't trained for before. Calling it the 'dreaded swim' might be an exaggeration, but I am the most apprehensive about it. But, something clicked in the pool a couple of days ago. I had been doing mainly sets of 200 meters because I have been swimming in 25 meter pools and anything more than that I would just get sick of the repetition or feel like I'd been swimming for way longer than just the few minutes I'd actually been swimming. But the other day I read an article on about the habits of the most effective swimmers. One of them was counting strokes. This was such a simple idea and I don't know if I'd read about it and ignored it before for being too simple, but this habit was highly effective for me as soon as I got back in the pool. It gave me a steady rhythm, kept me paced each lap, set a steady bilateral breathing pattern, and before I knew it I'd swam a 400, easy. It was paced, not quite to race speed but not slow either, and I probably should have pushed myself to do more than that in that set but I had many more sets to go. My goal is to be able to do this ladder workout once a week 1x800, 2x400, 4x200 and 8x100, which is almost 2 miles! That's seems crazy for me to even think about, me, someone who really just started swimming for distance in April/May, but now 2 miles seems achievable, a new goal.

Because of all the interruptions and moving around I've done the past month between Boston, Dallas and DC, I will just be ready for my triathlon next weekend and finishing it without injuring myself is my goal. Then I can ramp up again for the August triathlon where I will set a time that I want to finish in, right in time for my 22nd birthday!