Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The bonus benefit of a Women's Tri Group

Last night was a perfect example of the benefits of a good training group. First, on Monday, one of my teammates, Beth, emailed me asking how my race had gone. I told her about it, and my reply to her actually prompted me to write my ITU race report.

I was dreading going to the group OWS last night because I was still upset and embarrassed about my DSQ. I was hoping everyone had forgotten I had a race. ;) I was the first to arrive at the lake, and Beth arrived shortly afterwards. We talked about the race a little bit, and she was so encouraging and supportive. As the other ladies came in, the race was pretty much the topic as we donned our wetsuits.

The more I talked about the race, the better I felt. No one said, "You should have paid more attention to the course map." No one said, "Its your fault- you missed the course talk." No one said, "I can't believe you messed up!" (Not that I expected anyone in my group to actually say things like that, but I'd seen many comments like that on ITU's Facebook page.)

Everyone was so kind, supportive, and encouraging. Coach Libby told us about a couple other extremely experienced triathletes that had made the same mistake at ITU and been disqualified. I was in good company. The ladies oooo'd and ahhh'd over my swim and bike times, and congratulated me on my "unofficial" sub-2 race time. By the time we were wetsuited up and getting in the water, the general consensus was that I had a great race with a bad run course. :)

I came to practice feeling like a failure and left practice feeling like a triathlete, and it was all due to the wonderful ladies I'm training with. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

ITU: the good, the bad, and the very important lessons

This is the Cliff Notes version.... Maybe someday I'll post the long version....

The good:
- My swim was 20:23. Compared to August, that's 12 minutes faster!!! I still ended up back-stroking most of it due to panic, but I swam with 2 other ladies who also did the back-stroke. It's not weird if you're in a "group," right?! ;)  Honestly? I'm okay with a backstroke if it means no panic attacks and a faster swim! (Lifetime was all freestyle.) 
- My bike was 42:43, averaging 17.4 mph, my fastest so far! I've gone from 15 mph in August to 16 mph 3 weeks ago to 17 now! It was a great, flat bike course, and I was SO thankful that a part of it was on Lower Wacker out of the sun and heat. 
- My husband came to watch and I saw him twice on the bike course and twice on the run. :) 
- My unofficial time was around 1:53, which is about what I expected... 22 minutes faster than August. 

The bad:
- My time is unofficial because officially I was disqualified. I, along with 21% of the sprint participants, missed a lap on the run. I studied the course map in the weeks leading up to the race, but once I was actually DOING the race, the lack of signage and my dehydrated brain just made a mistake. I'm mad at myself, but I find comfort that approximately 210 out of 970 triathletes made the same mistake I did. A bit of OCD research later, I found the average DSQ/DNF each race is 3-5%. So 21% DSQ was way abnormal.
- (sneaking in a good: My mistake only cost me a race. On my first bike loop I saw a woman who must have misjudged a turn and crashed into a wall; her bike was mangled and she wasn't getting up. I thought about stopping but there were already 3 people with her. The ambulances where there on my second loop. I'm grateful I finished in one piece and I'm praying she's ok.)
- It was SO hot that I started the race dehydrated. There was no water by the Swim start (like they've had at Lifetime) and the heat index was 85° by 11:30 am. I heard from another triathlete that it passed 90° some point during the race. 
- It was very disorganized. I spent a lot of time on Saturday and Sunday morning trying up get to where I needed to be. Google estimates I walked 2 miles Sunday morning before I even started. 

Lessons learned:
- Attend the course talk, even if there is only one offered and its at the worst time possible. (Hint hint ITU...) 
- Watch your watch or Garmin. I had purposely turned mine under so that I couldn't see it and stress over my time. If I'd been watching it I would have realized that I've never run a 24 minute 5k in my life, and hopefully asked someone about the loops before finishing. 
- Over plan hydration and overpack nutrition. I ate my pre-race meal at 8 am. I had my coffee and some water. I didn't start until 11:50 am. Halfway through the bike my stomach was growling (it was lunch time!) and I had nothing to eat. I'm used to eating at 5, racing at 7, and eating when I finish. I was so under fueled this race. And don't forget your new run water bottles in the hotel fridge....
- Get new sunscreen. :) I think mine is expired because I applied it 3 times pre-race and still burned.

I crossed the finish line and I got a medal... I don't feel right about it though, since I didn't technically finish the entire course, so it's tucked away right now. In time maybe I'll hang it with the others to remind myself of my swim, bike, and lessons learned. The t-shirt I'm going to wear; it actually fits, unlike half the other race shirts I've gotten in the past. 

I gave myself 24 hours to wallow and grieve, so now I'm letting it go and moving on. I did very well prior to my DSQ, and I will never make these mistakes again. I have three more triathlons already scheduled, including Lifetime Chicago Triathlon. 

I met a 50-year-old Kona finisher on Saturday, and she told me it takes 7 years to reach our tri potential, so I'm putting this down as a "3rd year newbie road bump" on my way to meeting my potential. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Will race for beer!

I had a funny conversation with another triathlete on Tuesday night.

Her: Did you have a good race [at Esprit de She]?
Me: It was great! I took off a half an hour from last year!
Her: Awesome! ...
[insert small talk]
Me: ... I was a little disappointed that there was no beer or wine though. 
Her: [stunned silence] What? I've never seen alcohol at a race....
Me: There was a picture on the website... 
Her: [still looking at me like I had two heads]
Me: I've only done Lifetime tris before, but they have an athlete beer tent! 

End conversation. 

Just to make sure I wasn't crazy or dreaming it, I doubled checked....

Yeah, that's wine....

Ok, not just wishful thinking. That grapefruit drink looks soooooo good! 

We ended up going to two breweries in the area and had a fantastic time sampling different beers.  

However, I will admit that seeing this in the email for my next triathlon makes me very happy: 

You can find me there after I finish running! I'll be stinky, wet, sweaty, glowing with pride, and surrounded by other like-minded triathletes celebrating our achievements!!


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Race report- Athleta Esprit de She 2014

Its been almost three weeks since the Athleta Esprit de She triathlon, so my race report is a little late.... Better late than never, right?

It was a great race to start off the season! The morning was COLD and cloudy. Cold enough that everyone with wetsuits was already zipped into their wetsuits before transition even closed just to try to stay warm. My sister has a sleeveless wetsuit, so she was wearing that, her husband's hoodie, and my fleece jacket! I was shaking, but that was probably 1/2 cold and 1/2 nerves. The sun started peeking out during the bike and was out in full force by the run portion. Fortunately, a lot of the run was through a tree lined neighborhood and a shady park.

That's me in the blue wetsuit. :) My sister was two waves after mine, and I also had my mom and little brother there cheering us on! It was a pretty even mix of wetsuits, swimsuits, trisuits, and a few random "they're wearing that?!" outfits.
The swim was a challenge, and yet I really surprised myself. There were around 80 women in each wave, and it was in a quarry. Imagine a huge stone pool, shallow sandy beach at one end and 15" deep at the other, with lanes.... It was a back and forth zig-zag swim, totaling 6 lengths. The first length was a chaos of bodies, and I tried to do my front stroke. By the end of the first length I was questioning my abilities... "Why am I doing this?! I can't swim this. I'm never going to improve my times. Blah blah blah." The typical swim voices-in-my-head I battle with every time I get into the water. So I flipped onto my back and started backstroking to calm myself down and slow my breathing. The next thing I knew I was done with the second length. So I kept backstroking..... And finished the rest of the swim doing the backstroke.

As I climbed out of the water I looked at my watch.... Time???? 15:53!!!!!!! That is HALF the time of my last sprint!!!! Half!!!
T1 4:34.

Bike was good too. It was a pretty smooth closed course, 2 loop ride. Very windy though! There were points that I was just pedaling against wind, and not going very fast. My sister mentioned that she couldn't use her aerobars because the wind would nearly knock her right over!

Time 49:39, averaging 16.07 mph, which is also an improvement from last year. (I KNOW I would have been even faster without the wind.)

T2 2:16. And that pisses me off. At the Bike In, I got stuck behind a lady who clearly hadn't done a race before and was having trouble locating her aisle. With TERRIBLE luck, it was MY aisle too, and she couldn't find her transition mat, so guess what? She put her bike right over MY transition area!! I had no place to rack my bike! I even told her, "That's my stuff" and she didn't move her bike! I finally shoved my bike against her's, tossed my helmet on my mat, and took off running. I was a new triathlete too once, but at least I knew not to rack my bike over someone else's mat.

Run was challenging but good! I caught up to my sister at the Run Out and thought it would be so cool to finish together. :) Then my shoelace came untied and Katie kept going. LOL It is a race after all. Note to self: double knot the shoe laces. The run started and finished in the park, and was a pretty straightforward loop. It was hot in the sun but nice in the shade. I alternated running and walking, until some guy was like "You're almost there! Only a half a mile to go!" And I was like, "I can totally run that!"

He lied.

Time was 33:13, averaging 10:42 min/mile. Certainly not my fastest 5k, but a huge improvement over last year's 12:31 pace. :) In hindsight I wish I had tried harder to run more of it.

Overall, my final time was 1:45! I took off a half an hour from last August! I'm very pleased with my time and my race, and I hope I can do just as well at my next triathlon.

Next up: ITU World Triathlon Series Chicago!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Embrace the Suck

No pain no gain.
Embrace the pain.
Embrace the suck.
Suck it up buttercup.

These are things I tell myself on a regular basis. I think every single athlete has points in their training when something similar to the above runs through your mind on a continuous loop. Yes, some days really do suck. Right now nearly every muscle I have is sore. I've been doing pretty well sticking to the training plan, but 8 workouts a week is just exhausting. Some days I want to forget it all and go on a long vacation. A long vacation with sleep, chocolate, and martinis.

Then I have a great run or bike or swim, and realize its all worth it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

From Solo to Group Training... OH MY!

A while ago when registering for one of my summer triathlons, I searched google for a promo code, hoping to save a little money as registrations get expensive. I found one from a site called Together We Tri. After using it, I decide to check out the website. While purusing the site, I saw they offered a Swim Clinic where they teach drills and use video taping to analyze the swimmer's stroke. I've been wanting to get a video swim study done, but the only one I knew about was $80. This Swim Clinic was only $50, and not too far from my house. So I signed up for it!

The Swim Clinic was amazing! The coach said 10 people had signed up, but 6 had canceled at the last moment, leaving us with a wonderfully small group of only four! Due to this we had so much individual attention, tweaking arm placements, hand position, etc. Afterwards we all went to a classroom to review our swimming videos, taken in and out of the water. I've taped myself before but never with an underwater camera. It was very cool!

The coach of the swim clinic also happened to be the director of Together We Tri, which is dedicated to training triathletes. They have three different groups, and it just so happened that the 12 week Women's Group was just about to start that Tuesday.

Tuesdays have been my neighborhood drinking day.... My neighbor friends and I would get together with 1-3 bottles of wine, let the kids play outside, and relax, visit, vent, and do all the things three ladies do when drinking wine on a Tuesday. ;)
However, one of them just moved a few weeks ago, and the other is moving this weekend. :( So when the prospect of having something new to do on a Tuesday night came up, I decided to go for it. Plus, exercising IS healthier than drinking a few bottles of wine.

I'm not a "group" person. I'm pretty introverted. I've trained for three triathlons on my own, and I avoid group fitness classes like the plague. So training with multiple coaches and 20 other ladies is WAY WAY WAY out of my comfort zone. We've had three sessions so far, and so far so good. Everyone I've met has been really nice, and I'm actually enjoying the camaraderie and the commiseration. I'm not the fastest, but I'm also not the slowest.

In addition to the two weekly group workouts, we have a schedule of workouts for the rest of the week. Its very similarly organized to what I was previously doing: 2 swims, 2 bikes, 2 runs, and 1 rest (plus my own 2 weight training sessions). The difference is the volume! I was on Week 7 of my current 12-week program for my June 8th triathlon. Both of my runs were 30 minutes long. On Week 1 of the new training plan we were doing 30-45 minutes, and on Week 2 we're up to 45-60 minutes of running!

Saturday will be my first Group Spin Class..... I'm going to miss watching movies on the stationary bike.... ;)

Monday, April 21, 2014

We Run For Boston 5k

I'd never done a "virtual" race before, but I really liked the bling for this one, and it was a fundraiser for The One Fund for Boston. I just ran around the country club nearby while the kids where in school.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Race to Wrigley 5k 2014

Race to Wrigley is getting to be an annual tradition, but since we've had 5 months of winter, we decided to wait until the last day to register so we could see if it was going to be snowing or now.... Happily I couldn't have asked for more perfect running weather! It was cloudy and mid-50's, with the chance of sun or rain (it rained after we got home, and then the sun came out :) ). The drive getting there was easy, but when we arrived at our usual parking lot, it was closed! We went to the lot that was listed in the race website (yes, we should have looked that up beforehand), and it was already full! We ended up finding street pay parking a few blocks away, finally getting to packet pickup about 30 minutes before the race was to start.

I hadn't actually run 3 miles at once since my last race last year, so my only goal was to not "lose" to my sister. (She's training for a Half Ironman!) Plus, I think its nice to run with someone. My brother-in-law had his own PR goal, and he was ahead of us the entire race.

I have this "Are we there yet? How much looooonger?" mentality to my runs; I want to know how I'm doing and how much more I have left. My running app tells me my pace and distance every 1/4 mile, which is wonderful. Kate and I started running, and my first thought was, "This is fun!" My second thought soon followed, "I'm never going to be able to keep up for 3 miles!"

A quarter of a mile in the little voice in my ear says, "Distance 0.25 miles. Pace 9:15 minutes per mile." WHAT?! Wow. Yay us!!!! Similar sounds were heard at 0.5, 0.75, 1.0, and so on. Around 1.5 miles I lost my sister. She was behind me one second and the next she wasn't.

At 2.25 miles the voice told me "Average pace 9:08 miles per minute." A full minute per mile faster than my usual race pace! At this point my heart was beating 1,000 bpm so I decided to walk a little bit. A few minutes of walking and who runs up next to me? My sister! So off I go with her again for the final stretch. I thought it would be pretty cool to cross the finish line together and hopefully get a picture of it.

But then this crazy thing happened.... something I've heard about but never had experienced.... Speeding up at the end! Usually by the last 0.1 miles my legs are lead and it takes all I have left to get to the finish line. But here I was running through the concourse and I knew the end was so deliciously near.... and I had this energy burst and my legs moved faster!

Final time 30:10! New PR!!

Next race is a Virtual 5k to raise money for The One Fund Boston.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

What a difference two years makes!

Three years ago my sister decided to do a triathlon. I thought she was crazy. She wanted me to do it too, and I said, "He'll no! Never happening!" I'd just had a baby, and I rarely went to the gym.

I was so proud of her. Kind of started thinking, "I wonder if I could ever do something like that." Oh, wait, I can't swim! And I don't own a bike.

After a copious amount of alcohol one night, I signed up for the Super Sprint triathlon. Shortest distance. Least likely to drown. Heck, I figured I could doggy paddle it if I needed to.

I took swimming lessons from a teenager at the Park District who had to look up what a triathlon was. My first lesson was in April 2012.

I bought a bike. I remember telling the bike guys "it's mostly to bike with my kids. And I'm doing a short triathlon. Maybe." I honestly thought it was going to be the only triathlon I'd even do. It was such a stressful purchase... I spent months looking at bikes, reading reviews, and texting my sister. She thought I was crazy until she started shopping for a new bike too. Then she understood the copious research.

Now I'm eight weeks away from my first triathlon of 2014. I have FOUR planned this year! FOUR! Possibly a fifth depending on how the other ones go first. How I wish I had bought a road bike... if only I'd known I'd still be doing "these crazy things." I'm doing less 5ks- probably only 4 planned- and no "mud runs" this year because I can't afford to get injured.

First 5k is next week... I'll post a report afterwards!