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Reservoir Triathlon – Race Goals

June 2, 2012 Fitness No Comments

I have a race tomorrow. Crazy, huh? As I sit here sipping a glass of wine on this very windy afternoon, I’m in disbelief myself. I guess the up-side to this whole Ironman behemonth is that I am being desensitized to the anxiety that goes along with racing…

The training plan that Greg and I are following calls for an Olympic Distance triathlon this weekend. There just-so-happens to be an event happening about an hour south of here that we signed up for — the Reservoir Triathlon in Morgan Hill. Since I started racing at the Half Ironman distance three years ago, it has been fun for me to walk around saying, “I can’t wait to go back to shorter distances. The Olympic distance is just so doable. I mean, it’s less than three hours of suffering on race day and the training doesn’t affect your entire life.” We’ll see how much of that is true tomorrow. The obvious difference between a sprint or Olympic distance race is that you are pushing your very hardest the entire time, whereas the longer events require you to pace yourself.

It has been an enjoyable week of shorter workouts, culminating with a pre-race brick this morning. We had to bike 30 minutes with four 60-second sprints mixed in, then run 15 minutes with three 60-second sprints. My workout went quite well, and it was a beautiful day to be out there. The fog was still rolling over the mountain at 10 AM — I was glad we were not climbing Skyline today!

Greg just informed me that his plan has been to drive the van down to Morgan Hill and sleep there tonight so we won’t have to get up sooo early in the morning. That was news to me! I’m going into high gear to get everything packed and ready to go.

As for goals, the training plan says to practice transitions and mental aspects of racing while keeping my my effort level (measured by heart rate) at my lactate threshold until the last 5K of the run, where I will pick it up through the finish. So I guess that’s my goal, right? Ideally, I’d like to do that as well as these couple of things:

  1. Execute my nutrition and hydration. My plan is to carry 2 water bottles on the bike (one on the aero bars, one on the down tube) and not stop at the aid stations. I’ll eat breakfast as usual, take a 5-Hour Energy before starting the swim, and have 1-2 peanut butter-filled dates on the bike. I should not need nutrition on the run, but I’ve got Clif Shot Bloks in my race belt just in case. I will not carry water on the run.
  2. Finish under 3 hours. The course looks to be fairly flat and fast, so hopefully I’ll be able to pull this off. I can finish the hilly Wildflower course under 3 hours, so that’s my benchmark. Today’s training brick incorporated those sprints, which did increase my average pace and I may try to test this approach tomorrow.
  3. Have fun! I think this will mostly come in the form of, “At least it’s only 6.2 miles of running and not 26.2!”

Back tomorrow with results!


Wildflower 2012 Race Goals

May 4, 2012 Fitness No Comments

We’re on the highway heading south to Lake San Antonio. It’s Wildflower weekend! I can’t believe how many cars and vans we’ve seen that are loaded with bikes and camping gear. None, of course, are as awesome as the setup we have.

I’m surprisingly not nervous about tomorrow’s race. I think there still some denial that it’s actually tomorrow, but the real reason is that this is not my A race. So it’s a lot like a very expensive training day with friends. That said, it would be totally unMolly-like to not set some race goals.

1. Execute my Ironman nutrition and hydration plan.
This goal is actually two-fold. If I can get my food and water dialed in, I won’t have a stomachache during the run and for a few hours after finishing. This has plagued me at every race and I really want to do better this time.

I have trained my body to work pretty efficiently while working, so I don’t need much food. But hydration is another story. By the time I feel dehydrated, it’s too late. I anticipate the bike will take over 3 hours and I need to drink one bottle per hour. I’m going to be drinking water and Nuun, taking in my calories from food. I had Greg install a water bottle between my aero bars that has a straw so I won’t have the hassle of coming out of the bars to grab a bottle. It has an easy-fill opening and I’m planning to pour new water in at the aid stations. I’ll carry an extra bottle as backup in case I miss an aid station.

As for food, I don’t do that well with the gels and manufactured food. I’m going with my stand-by from Barb’s Race and having almond butter-filled dates. I am going to aim for about 200 calories/hour and keep my belly full of water so that everything is moving into my small intestine quickly and not sitting in my gut sloshing around.

2. Pace myself.
This race is a training race, meant to test strategies for the full Ironman in August. I am going out with the understanding that I need to be able to go twice the distance at X pace. I am competitive and it’s hard for me to not want to really hammer on the bike. I succumb to this pitfall every time I race and I die on the run. This is a notoriously difficult run to begin with and I need to pace myself to not be defeated when I’m out there in the heat of the day.

3. Have fun!
Because there isn’t a tremendous amount of pressure to hit a time goal, I need to remember to enjoy myself while I’m out there suffering. I’m already somewhat burned out on training, so I need to use this race to recharge my batteries a bit. I’m fortunate that I am able to do hard things like this, that my body accommodates everything I ask it to do. It’s a beautiful venue and a fun weekend spent with friends.

4. Realistic finish time. 
I honestly don’t have a defined time goal in my mind. I’ve kind of backed into it based on what I think I can do at Ironman Canada. I suppose I’ll finish this somewhere around 6.5 hours. My first 70.3 time from 2010 was 5:39. Last year’s time was 6:02. I expect to finish the swim somewhere around 35-40 minutes. Spend a couple of minutes in transition. I’m shooting for under 3.5 hours on the bike. Another minute or two in transition, and then hit the hot and hilly run course. It will take over 2 hours, but I don’t know how much over. I want to stay under a 10 minute-mile (which just sounds slow as I type it out), but I’m really trying to be realistic.

Thanks to all who have sent well-wishes! I’ll carry them with me on the race course!



8 Days and Counting

April 27, 2012 Fitness No Comments

I am competing in a Half Ironman triathlon in 8 days and I haven’t made mention of it on this blog. At all.

Is that you, Denial? It’s me, Molly.

I actually think it was denial for a long time. It took until mid-March for me to realize that I am not, in fact, training for Ironman Canada — a race that takes place on August 26. I am training for the Wildflower Long Course. IT TAKES PLACE ON MAY 5. I also can’t believe the mental block. I love Wildflower!

Wildflower 2010

A huge mental shift had to happen in my head for Wildflower to come into focus. For the last two years, the 70.3 triathlon distance was my “A race.” It was the hardest thing I had ever done and everything I had ever trained for wrapped up into one 6-hour day (give or take 23 minutes). The shift happened, and very little changed.

Here’s why: I’m not going balls-out for this race. My coach’s orders are to compete at my projected full-Ironman race pace. I can tell you that I will not be swimming 2.4 miles in 1:04. I will not be averaging 18.8 mph on my 112 bike ride. And I will not be running a sub-4-hour marathon.

My training these days is good. It’s consistent. I complete 99.5% of every workout prescribed, as I have for the last two years. I am just as tired and just as hungry as I have been in years-past. I know I’m fit, but I feel slow. In some cases, the data proves I’m slow(er). The difference this year is that I don’t care. I don’t have anxiety going into this race with aggressive goals and expectations for myself.

I gotta tell you, it’s freeing!

My #1 goal is to get through the race without feeling like shit. And let me tell you something else — I haven’t ever finished a race without feeling like shit, so that’s a pretty big feat. I’ve been focusing on my nutrition and hydration. I’ve been pacing myself, especially on hills (both Wildflower and IM Canada very hilly). I’ve been doing strength workouts that include plyometrics. I get the proper amount of sleep.

So this race is uncharted territory for me. That it’s not about going as fast as I possibly can NO MATTER WHAT. It’s about racing smart. It’s about enjoying the journey, and taking notes for the Big One.

Eight days until the gun goes off!


Barb’s Race Recap – Part 1

August 7, 2011 Fitness, Friends, Fun 3 Comments

Rather than drag one post out, I’m going to break it up into sections and provide a little more detail with each — learnings, interesting tidbits about the course, and the like.

Overall, Barb’s Race was a success. I spent the week with a black cloud hanging over the whole race because I missed my goal time by 2 minutes. Oh, and because my dog died. I appreciate everyone who came to watch me race, everyone who has asked me about it, and everyone who has congratulated me on a job well-done. I am a well-supported athlete!

Everyone (including the baby) was sporting a 'Team Molly' shirt.

I have several explanations excuses for missing my goal time. One of them is that I chose to use a porta-potty rather than gut it out (or worse) once I started running. But the bottom line is that my legs weren’t cooperating on the run and my mind wasn’t strong enough to get a compelling message to them.

Triathlon is a mental game. I have known this all along, but it has never been so in-my-face as it was last Saturday afternoon.

The packet pick-up process was a little cumbersome, but maybe that’s because we were there early. The race organizers set up a mandatory orientation meeting for all participants. This lasted roughly 30 minutes and was only marginally helpful. It was probably more helpful for first-time triathletes, but I honestly think it was a tactic to offset having a zillion people in the packet pick-up room at once. This was also ineffective. The meetings ended at 12:30 and packet pick-up didn’t open until 1 PM. Most people didn’t go to the expo to buy stuff, they stood in a long line for 30 minutes and tapped away on their phones…

Once we got back to our house, I went to work getting everything ready for the race. This was uncanny behavior for me. I usually screw around and/or socialize and/or have a glass of wine . But for some reason, I wanted everything done ahead of time while it was fresh in my mind. And thank goodness, given how the night was hijacked! I was so thankful I had done everything with a clear head and knew I had what I needed!

Race number: sticker for bike, sticker for helmet, sticker for T1 transport bag, bib for race belt
Nutrition: see below
Gear: tri top + shorts, HR monitor, timing chip, flip flops, Wet Ones, wetsuit, goggles, Body Glide, ear plugs, swim cap, Timex watch (for overall timekeeping), transition towel, sunscreen, race belt, bike, helmet, sunglasses, socks, cycling shoes, Garmin FR405 (for bike + run splits)

Argus got sick around 6:30 PM and died around 7:30, I think. I’m not really sure what time it all happened; time seemed to stop. We left Monte Rio to take him to an emergency vet clinic in Santa Rosa just as it was getting dark and arrived back at the house around 10 PM. Greg and I mindlessly ate dinner (I was nervous how this would affect my bathroom abilities at 6 AM, but needed to eat) and went to bed. I slept restlessly all night.

I changed my race day nutrition from what I did at Wildflower. I know that using gels (like GU, ClifShot, AccelGel) are effective during a race, but they really upset my stomach. Therefore, I never train with them. I decided to use “real food” nutrition during this race, similar to what I do during my long training sessions.

Pre-race Dinner: Homemade chicken parmesan + whole wheat pasta and sauce + red wine. I ate smaller portions than I would have earlier in the night, given I was eating so late. Some people are real sticklers about drinking booze during training and especially before a race. I’m just not that hard core. I train with wine. I race with wine. (See also: my dog just died.)
Leftover pasta + sauce, Chobani lowfat yogurt cup, 12 oz. low-cal FRS
Pre-swim: 5-Hour Energy shot. This was a race day gamble; I’ve never taken one of these before. It’s mostly B-vitamins and some caffeine and the packaging promises it won’t cause a crash at 5:01. Living on the wild side!
Bike: I brought two hydration bottles, one with plain water and one with full-calorie FRS. I train with this and like it. I purposely used two throw-away bottles in case I needed to swap one out at the on-course water stations. I ended up drinking most of my FRS and about half of my water. For food, I packed one-half PB+banana sandwich and four almond butter-filled dates. These were packed in separate snack-size Ziploc bags and stored in my bento box. I tried eating half of the sandwich around Mile 18, but I struggled to chew it and get it down so ended up throwing it out. I relied on three of the dates (Mile 19, Mile 38, Mile 51) and believe they did the job for me — protein + carbs and easy-ish to eat. They were a little messy getting them out of their baggy, but I think I can rig something better next time.

Run: I brought a handheld water bottle with Nuun with me and this helped tremendously to replace much-needed electrolytes. On the course, I took water at almost every station on the way out and none on the way back (first lap). On the second lap, I drank two cups of full-calorie Coke and loved it. This was a pleasant surprise. I also had a couple of cups of ice. I was having some GI issues, so the only thing I ate was peach slice someone gave me at the turnaround point. It was delicious.
Post-race: I was surprisingly hungry after the race — something that never happens because my stomach is usually so upset. I had none of that this time!!  They had good food at the finish line. The pasta salad would have been inedibly salty had I not just finished a race, but it was pretty good because I was salt-deprived. I ate a few bites of grilled chicken breast and four pieces of fresh melon. I snagged cookies for my cheering section. Cocktails followed a few hours later.

Click here for Part 2 (where I actually talk about the race)! Thanks for reading!


Barb’s Race – Goal Setting

July 29, 2011 Fitness, Friends, Fun 2 Comments

Greetings from Sonoma County! We arrived yesterday and enjoyed some of the wares this valley has to offer. That’s definitely one benefit of choosing this destination for our “race-cation!” We rented a house with Jeff and Caryn and are staying three nights. It’s set in the woods along a small creek and it’s a very tranquil setting to contemplate what’s ahead of us.

It’s time to set some race goals:

I’LL BE SATISFIED: Finish under 6 hours
I’LL BE ECSTATIC: Finish in 5:45

Here’s how that’s going to break down:

SWIM: Finish in 35 minutes.
Last year’s 1.2 mile swim time was 36:39, so I would like to meet/beat that.

BIKE: Average 18 mph and finish in 3:05
This is a tough bike course and it’s going to be hot tomorrow, so this is a stretch goal.

RUN: I’m giving myself 2 hours on the run (average pace 9:16 m/m)
We drove the run course today and it’s hilly. I am planning on dying on the run, so I hope this is conservative enough. I don’t want to sandbag it… but I want to give myself some leeway to totally suck.

TRANSITIONS: These will have to be under 5 minutes for me to reach my goal.
T1 may take a bit longer than in other races because we have to stuff all of our stuff (including wetsuit) into a plastic bag that will be transported over to the race finish. T2 should be quick.

It’s going to be a tight race with those splits. Greg put new tires on my bike and my legs are definitely fresh. Every workout this week has left me wanting more. I’ll give it my best!

Here we are after setting up our running stuff in T2:

I think we look ready, don’t you? Immediately after this was taken, we stood in ridiculous lines to get our packets, timing chips, and shirts. This gave me ample opportunity to people-watch. At events like this, most people are wearing gear from past event that indicate to other competitors they are badasses. In one case, a portly fellow was wearing full-length compression tights with a billowy shirt over it. In a word, he looked ridiculous. But I bet his legs will feel great tomorrow and it will all be worth it…

Back at the cabin now, I’ve got my gear all ready to go for tomorrow. My nutrition is packed, my gear is laid out, and dinner will be early. I’m enjoying a glass of wine on the deck as I write this. Ahhhh. This is how a race-cation should be!

Thanks to everyone for the well-wishes along the way. I hope to make us all proud with my performance tomorrow!


Wildflower Race Goals (and WWW: April 17)

April 25, 2011 Fear, Fitness 3 Comments

The first race of the season is a week away. I’ve done what I can do training-wise. I’ve put the work in — hopefully it was enough. Depending on what my race goals are, I can rig it so that it is! Ha!

I mentioned in my last post that Greg’s Sea Otter race goal was not to win or necessarily place high in the rankings. It was to work hard. He considered this a “B-level” race and he successfully achieved his goals of working his race legs to prepare for Wildflower this coming weekend.

So, what are my race goals for Wildflower?

  1. Sub-30 minute swim. I hesitate to write this. I was solidly on track for a great swim this year before the rotator cuff injury. I worked hard on my swimming all winter and even had a great first (and possibly only) pre-race open water swim. My time last year was 0:30:36 and I really want to break the 30-minute barrier this year.
  2. Faster transitions. My transition times last year were horrendous at 4:40 and 2:12, respectively. Admittedly, it’s a long run up the boat ramp from the water to the far side of the transition area… but I am clearly not being as efficient as possible once I get to my spot. Maybe I should practice this week like these guys?
  3. No walking. Before you write me off as a pussy, let me explain. There are actually people who RECOMMEND walking the hills on this course, saving their legs for the flat and downhill sections. This is not my run strategy. I tested both approaches in my training over the last three weeks and I shaved 2:30 off my run time by running all the hills (even though my lungs were burning and my HR was nearing danger levels the first time). My problem is this: my tendency is to leave everything I have out on the bike course. This is a hilly run course — 518 ft of elevation gain over 6.2 miles — and it is very exposed. My race starts at 10:35 AM, which will put me on the run course around 12:30 PM. My goal is to run all of it.
  4. Finish sub-3:00. Last year’s official race time was 3:00:07. I’d really like to come in under the three hour mark and I think it’s possible. If I plan to shave a couple of minutes on both transitions AND the swim and the run, this is doable. Right? Tell me my math works. My bike leg was very good last year at 1:29 and my cycling has been inconsistent this year. I don’t know that I can expect to do much better than that this year, especially since one of my goals is to leave enough for a strong run. I hope my savings in the other areas are enough…

It’s scary for me to write these down. I have created a space that can be filled with disappointment by saying it out loud. Greg suggested that maybe I’m sand-bagging and I should be more specific on Goal #4 and shoot for an overall time of 2:50. But he also said it’s up to me based on how I feel. I’ll tell you how I feel right now: tired and injured. And accountable.

Weekly Workout Wrap-up

Sunday: 21-mile bike ride + 3.5 mile run

Monday: Bike — hill repeats

Tuesday: 5.25 mile run

Wednesday: 20-mile bike ride

Thursday: 1600-yard swim + errands on the bike (10 miles) + chiropractic

Friday: OFF

Saturday: 34-mile bike ride


Sea Otter 2011

April 24, 2011 Family, Fido, Fitness 3 Comments

Greg competed in the 2011 Sea Otter Classic road race this year. He’s done it in the past and specifically signed up this year to get his “race legs” ready for Wildflower on April 30. Argus and I went along for the ride, enjoying a sunny Friday along the coast. The race is held at Laguna Seca Recreational Area just outside of Monterey. It was a little windy at race time (Greg’s race started at 3:35 PM), but otherwise a nice day.

The expo area was set up a little differently this year than in the past. Greg said you used to be able to drive right in the main gates and do a quick packet pick-up. That’s what we had intended to do, then I was going to leave there and find a good vantage point to watch the race. The course consisted of a short prologue out of the expo area and then six laps through the hills of Monterey County before an uphill finish back at Laguna Seca. This year, they re-routed us to a back entrance where we had to park and walk to the packet pick-up area, all of which was up the hill from the expo.

Argus made himself at home on a nice sandy spot in the parking lot while Greg got ready. He usually parks himself right in the middle of the lane, so I was glad he was mostly out of the way. He was about 5 cars down from us, exercising his independence.

We said our farewells to Greg as he made his way down to the start and went in search of a good vantage point. For all the other races I have been to, this usually requires a fair amount of jockeying to park and then walking … and then requires standing in a big crowd of people trying to see your guy as they all whiz by.

I had scouted the map of the area and knew right where I wanted to be. I drove right to it, only to find one other car and a Monterey County Sherriff’s car. I figured the area must be closed to spectators since there was no one there, but I thought I’d ask the policeman if he knew of an alternate spot to spectate. He said that I could park right in front of him and watch from right here. Score!

The only down-side to this was that I had intended to enjoy a glass of wine or two while waiting ~30 minutes between each of the six laps… but that wasn’t happening with it pretty much being me and the cop hanging out there. Oh well! We had a great spot in the sun and out of the wind — and we were right between two curves so the guys had to slow down each time coming around this bend.

There were a few age groups racing at the same time, but not many guys in each group so it wasn’t that hard to pick out Greg the first time they came through. He was riding around the middle of the pack that first time and he estimated it would be about 30 minutes between laps. His peloton ended up averaging 25-26 minutes each time and I was able to get a couple of good shots with my point-and-shoot camera since I had an idea of when to be ready.

By the second lap Greg was at the front of the pack and he stayed there for the next three laps that we watched. We left after the fifth lap to get back to the finish line. I was hoping that Greg was dropping back on the other side of the loop, letting other guys do the work while he drafted. The side of the course that we were on was heading into the wind and right between two hills. He was doing a lot of the pulling!

In the end, Greg finished 9th out of 21 riders. To me, the ranking feels really disappointing, especially considering he was in front the whole way. Of note, the time difference between the #1 guy and Greg was about 30 seconds. He said it was an interesting race this year, where none of the guys stepped up to take on the job of pulling. Most waited until the end, having drafted off of him (and others) for ~45 miles, and made their push right at the uphill finish. He also said his average speed was a full mile per hour slower this year than it was last year. Just a different group of guys, I guess. The “nice” thing is that several guys did thank him for doing a lot of the work, so I guess that’s sportsman-like.

The reason that Greg isn’t disappointed with his ranking is that he wasn’t going after a win. He was going out to use his race legs. If he’d wanted to win, he would have dropped back into the peloton for several laps and let other guys do the work — regardless of what that did to overall speed. His goal was to work hard and that’s what he did. He felt good about his performance and his endurance throughout the race; his nutrition plan was appropriate. The bike race during a triathlon is not draft-legal, so he won’t have the benefit of letting someone else pull him around for 56 miles next week. He will have to do the work then, so he went out at Sea Otter knowing he would do it now.

This illustrates the importance of setting your race goals ahead of race day. These goals are the things that are entirely within your control — not things like weather or a flat tire or a crash ahead of you that slows the field down. Set your personal goals and train for them, then do your best to perform well and meet them. In Greg’s Sea Otter example, if he had wanted to win, his race strategy would have been entirely different. His time would have been slower, he would have worked less hard, and he wouldn’t be as prepared for his first Half Ironman triathlon next weekend. Mission accomplished!

After the race, Argus tested Greg’s legs and squeezed a little more work out of them just for the fun of it: