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Did/Did Not

July 21, 2012 Fear, Fitness 2 Comments

Things I did today:

Swam 1.7 miles in open water.
Biked 80.5 hilly miles.
Ran/walked 7.15 miles.
Consumed 200 ounces of fluid.
Lost 6.4 pounds in 9 hours.
Revised my estimated finish time at Ironman Canada.

Things I did not do today:

Complete the additional 6 miles that were scheduled.
Puke (though it has been touch-and-go several times even since I got home).
Have fun.


My Workout Classifications (and WWW: July 3)

July 11, 2011 Fitness 1 Comment

Not all workouts are created equal, and I’m not just talking about length (I ran for an hour) or distance (I ran 8 miles). In order to get stronger, faster, and build more endurance, we need to train our bodies accordingly. That is not accomplished by going out for as long and fast as possible every time. There are specific ways to train to achieve different things.

Admittedly, I used to scoff when I saw a 3-mile run as part of a training plan. I took it at face-value and dismissed this distance as too short to be doing any good. Not any more! I can tell you that some of the hardest workouts I’ve done were only three miles long and I was begging for them to be over.

You may hear me talk about completing “a long run” or some such verbiage. I’m going to give you a sense of what I mean by that and how I classify my own workouts.

** Disclaimer: I am not a coach. I am not a Certified Personal Trainer. I am an amateur athlete largely doing my own thing and these are my own opinions. **

<20 miles: speed work or SFRs/hill repeats
Contrary to what I used to believe, I don’t always need to go all-out to get in a good cycling workout. This distance is great for doing drills with sprints or hills. Otherwise, if I am going out for fewer than 20 miles, I consider it “recreational” riding or errands. Still burning calories (and not burning gas)!!

20-40 miles: intervals and/or power work
This distance is long enough to get in some decent HR intervals and even some one-legged drills while maintaining good speed and building endurance. Examples — I will work on maintaining cadence over varying terrain or reestablishing my average pace after a long climb. For me, this cycling range is my go-to for most training rides.

40+ miles: endurance
This is butt-in-saddle time for me. I will sometimes incorporate some intervals, but it’s largely a time for me to settle in at race pace and grind it out. I watch my HR and average speed, but also keep in mind the need to go the distance and pace myself accordingly. This is what I will refer to as “a long ride.”

<4 miles: sprint intervals or recovery
Nothing wrong with a good recovery run, and anything under 4 miles ought to do it. That said, if you’re looking to get faster, I dare you to go out there and sprint for 30 seconds at every half mile for four miles. You will be tired (and faster) when you get done.

4-6 miles: anything goes
This distance can do anything. You can go for a tempo run or mix some sprint intervals in. Run on trails or hilly terrain to mix it up. This is a go-to distance for me because I can vary it so widely.

6+ miles: endurance
My average pace settles around 8:20-8:30 these days, so most runs over 6 miles get into the hour range. I consider that a long run. These are usually tempo runs, but I have been better about mixing in hills to acclimate myself better for race conditions. The goal is then to get my average speed back up to where I need it on the flats.

This is an entirely different beast.

Again, the time or distance doesn’t matter — it’s what you do with it. You can build a speed workout that is 1000 yards or 2600 yards. The same goes for a workout that focuses on form. The takeaway here is to not just get in the pool and grind out some set distance and think you are helping yourself. Go in with a goal and work toward it. If you need to improve your form, stop looking at the clock. If you are doing speed work, you better have a shit-ton of intervals planned.

Weekly Workout Wrap-up

Sunday – 54-mile bike ride + 2 mile run

Monday – 2600-yard swim

Tuesday – Track Attack + 7 mile power walk

Wednesday – 21-mile bike ride + 7 mile power walk

Thursday – 7.5 mile run

Friday – OFF

Saturday – 2550 yard swim + 8.5 mile run


The Rest of the Story

July 22, 2010 Family, Fitness, Food, Friends, Fun 1 Comment

While I didn’t love listening to talk radio in the car as a kid, I learned to perk up when Paul Harvey would provide a factual tale with a twist at the end. Here’s the rest of the story of the Vineman Half Ironman. Can you find the twist?

Greg is pretty much a triathlon machine and a man of few words, so there won’t be all the belly-aching about training and emotions that you got with my race recap. Since I’m writing it and this blog is about me, it’ll mostly be about what I felt about his training and what I felt about his feelings.

WHAT?! You’re still reading?!

If you are, good news! Of course, I’m just kidding. This is a story about a great event and the fun you can have as a spectator. After reading this, I’m sure that everyone will want to go next year! Triathlon is not a quintessential “spectator sport,” but I have a few tricks up my sleeve to prove the average spectator wrong on that front.

You might remember me talking about Mike Kidder from Kansas City. He’s the one that talked me into doing a 70.3 in the first place… He and his wife Melanie came to town as well as our friends Mike and Nancy from Santa Barbara. Mike Kidder was here to participate in the Vineman triathlon (the other Mike completed his 70.3 in Kona in June). Our friends Mike and Tiffany joined us from the Bay Area as well. We had a full house of Mikes, competitors, and spectators!

Mike & Tiff were kind enough to offer up FREE accommodations in Occidental, which we promptly accepted. The three cottages on the property were exactly what I had expected — rustic and secluded. The environment was quiet, tucked away in the trees between the coast and the real world. Melanie and I enjoyed a vodka drink at our house while we packed everything up, then made it through a bottle of pre-made sangria I had picked up from Whole Foods while in the car — and all before hitting the Russian River Brewing Co. and dinner in Santa Rosa. You might call it spectator training for the big event! In the cottages that night, we enjoyed good wine we had brought from home, served out of coffee mugs that were available in our cottage. Melanie and Mike were on Kansas City time and she was the first to, shall we say, “retire” for the evening.

We woke up in a coastal fog on Saturday morning and it was quite chilly. The rest of the gang went in to Occidental for breakfast while I went for a 5-mile run along a less-traveled road through the hills and trees. Kidder and Greg packed up their gear for the transition from bike to run (this is a two-transition course) and we finally headed out for packet pick-up just as the sun was breaking through the fog. This is the 20th Anniversary of the Vineman event and a record number of competitors were registered (remember that I couldn’t get in?). We must have hit the Expo area at the right time — or maybe wrong time, as it was in the heat of the afternoon — because it wasn’t packed. We milled about there and made our way down to Johnson’s Beach so that the guys could splash around in the river they’d be swimming the following day. The rest of us proceeded to snack and drink and soak up the rays, just as we’d be doing the following day… It was a great day on the river!

Knowing that there’s often too much to do on the night before a race, I had prepared a big roasting pan of chicken parmesan ahead of time and brought along “homemade” pasta sauce, pasta, and enough fresh CSA greens for the whole crowd to enjoy on Saturday night… but then our crowd grew, and the oven didn’t work, and we all just conceded, “Let’s go out!” We ventured back into Occidental and settled in at Negri’s Italian Restaurant. Dinner out with a crowd of 10 takes longer than you want it to and we didn’t get out of there until after 10 PM. As usual, the guys still had a bit of race prep to do before setting their alarms for a 5:30 AM wake-up call. The night before a race is never what you want it to be.

Race day! We were up early and despite the sunshine outside, I was in a bit of a fog. I honestly can’t tell you how Kidder and Greg felt… When I asked, they mentioned they were hungry and there were several jokes tossed around about me being “drunk helpful girl” before going to bed, insisting on getting up at 4 AM to fix eggs and bacon. THANK GOD THEY DIDN’T HOLD MY FEET TO THAT FIRE. We loaded up about 15 minutes later than planned and headed to Guerneville. Melanie and I sent our men off with kisses and well-wishes and made haste for the Starbucks.

Swimming is Kidder’s strongest sport — by far. Melanie and I were standing on a foot bridge over the Russian River, so we could see all competitors pass beneath us on their out and back trips. Pretty cool! Greg’s wetsuit has a bright yellow back (and is the only one of its kind that I’ve ever seen), so we knew we’d be able to spot him quickly. Our guys were set to start at 7:58 AM and had bright red caps on. As the red caps swam beneath us, we spotted Greg and knew that Kidder should have been ahead of him. We couldn’t find him and figured we’d missed him. On their trip back under the bridge just before the finish, we spotted Mike first and Greg was not far behind. Their times were great from our estimations (30:19 with ~300 yards to go)! We found out after the race that Kidder was still in line for the porta-potty when his race started. For some crazy reason, these race officials allowed spectators to use the same bathrooms as competitors. This was “important business” so Kidder did what he had to and subsequently started the race 4 minutes behind the rest of his wave. It didn’t matter; HE SWIMS LIKE A FISH. When we were able to check the final results, it turns out that he finished the swim in 25:49 and was the first man out of the water in his age group (the timing started when he got in the water) — beating 245 other men. What an amazing feat! He finished 13th in the swim overall, among 1259 competitors! Greg finished in a respectable 33:45.

We had a great vantage point for all cyclists coming out of the transition area and making their first couple of turns onto the bike course. Greg had a fast transition (2:45) and we saw him very quickly after the swim finish. Kidder isn’t known for fast transitions (his was 5:54) and we knew they’d be gone for about 2h30m if Greg was on track to meet his race goals. This meant a transition for us spectators as well. Melanie and I met up with Mike & Tiff to assess our own race goals. On Saturday, we had visited the Safeway and purchased enough beverages to satisfy a small fraternity. It was just after 9 AM and Melanie quickly mixed up a bloody mary (I was driving) while we all snacked on chips and dip, looking at the map for the next vantage point. We decided the best idea was to head over to the bike/run transition area, which was also the finish. We’d be able to see everyone coming in from the bike, out for the run, and in to the finish.

By the time we got over there on the back roads, the sun was coming out and we all shed a layer of clothing once we found parking. There, we fixed up Leg 2 of our drink-athlon: blueberry vodka + Crystal Light lemonade. Delicious and refreshing! We packed a bag with our libations, a few snacks, and our cameras. Positioned at the bike dismount, we got to see everyone come in — Kidder and Greg, several friends from Santa Barbara and the EDH Tri Club, and friends of Mike & Tiff. We were in the right spot! Greg finished about where he wanted to at 2:32 and Mike came in about where he expected to at 3:11. They were quick in T2 (2:47 and 3:08, respectively) and we settled in for the last leg.

After two 32-oz Nalgene bottles of vodka drinks, Melanie and Tiffany were close friends by this point, I encountered pretty much everyone I knew in the triathlon community, and the world was a very sunny place (literally and drinkatively). Unless disaster struck on the run, we knew the guys would finish with flying colors and we’d all be celebrating — as long as their stomachs held out. The three of us girls cut each other off on story after story, all the while cheering competitors out on their run (“only 13.1 to go!”) and congratulating those just finishing (“just around the corner!”). With a run split of 1:43:44, we damn near missed Greg with all of this chatter! He came by looking tired but good and finished at 4:55:47. He wanted to finish in under 5 hours and he did it! We ran to the race finish to meet him there with hugs and good cheer. After Greg grabbed some post-race food and drink, he, Melanie and I headed back out to our vantage point to wait for Kidder’s finish. It was quite a sight as both Greg and Melanie ran with Mike as he turned the corner into the final gates at the finish. With a run time of 1:59:19, he finished in 5:45:30. Hooray!

We wrapped up at the finish line area and the guys were gracious enough to postpone showers and rest to grant Melanie her one wish: to visit a tasting room on this visit to Wine Country. We drove the race course back out to La Crema, a race sponsor and the winery the runners had to circle, and found their only tasting room is in downtown Healdsburg. Off we went!  In addition to great wine (our third leg of the drink-athlon), Melanie got a cute T-shirt at La Crema and Kidder surprised me with a generous gift from Stephen & Walker Wines for “taking his challenge” of completing a Half Ironman this year. I was in tears with gratitude and friendship. Keep in mind , Melanie and Mike are the ones that introduced me and Greg. They are friends of the highest order!

After the guys showered at the cottage, we headed to dinner at a favorite place of ours — River’s End in Jenner. Mike (of Mike & Tiff) was sober enough to drive the rest of us tired and drunk “competitors” along the windy roads out to the coast. We got there just in time to see the sunset where the Russian River meets the ocean. Greg’s dinner recommendation did not disappoint and we all enjoyed fantastically fresh food and a race recap from everyone’s perspective. Of note, the clam chowder was different and better than any I have ever had. Of course, there was more wine served as well.

We got up on Monday morning and, luckily, Greg and Kidder weren’t too sore to pack up everything from our cottages to head home. We all thanked our gracious hostess and loaded up in the Element. Melanie hadn’t trained properly for her first drink-athlon and was not feeling her best. To this I said, “Bloody mary, anyone? I like mine with a twist.”

And now you know… the rest of the story.


Independence Day!

I did the un-American thing and celebrated Independence Day in Canada this year. For me, it was all about completing my Half Ironman race and being “free” from the intense training that has been my existence for the past six months. While I missed some fantastic weather and a barbecue with friends back in California, this was my weekend to make good on a new year’s resolution and six months of training. Bring it on!

My expectations going into the race were to finish in under six hours and not want to kill myself in the process. I’m already a week late in getting this updated, so I won’t keep you waiting any longer:

Swim – 36:39
T1 – 4:19
Bike – 3:05:13
T2 – 2:58
Run – 1:50:44
Total = 5:39:51


Well, kind of. I pretty much wanted to kill myself by the time I finished. But, I didn’t have a blunt object handy so I was left with no choice but to grind it out. The taste of victory was strangely identical to the salty saliva that fills your mouth just before you vomit, so I can’t recommend it. However, I chased that with some chocolate milk at the finish line and the world started coming into focus again.

Grab a drink and settle in for all the gory details, including many lessons learned:


My start time was 6:30 AM, so it was an early morning. I got up at 4:45 AM and felt like I had slept pretty well, which is rare for me the night before a race. Having packed everything the night before, the morning ritual at the hotel was short (though I got up early because I wanted extra time to get things moving in my GI tract). I got up and ate a piece of peanut butter toast and a banana, as well as 16 oz. of FRS. I got dressed in my new tri suit and a pullover and woke Greg up to head down to the race site at 5:30. I ate a yogurt in the car and had a glass of Trader Joe’s Essential Greens Veggie Juice + Very Green Juice Blend to simulate the concoction we make at home.  The weather was overcast and ~55 degrees (F) on race morning.

I picked up my timing chip on the way into the transition area (usually they give it to you when you pick up your packet — I’m not sure why it was separate for this race). I got my transition area set up and went back out for body marking and a final visit to the porta-potty (I had my single-use Handi-Wipe ready to go. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way at a previous race). I caught up with Greg and Argus as I was putting on my wetsuit and we made our way down to the beach. Greg snapped a couple of pre-race photos, I splashed around in the water with Argus, and we parted ways.

This sounds so obvious now, but it honestly hadn’t occurred to me at the time. I was talking with a fellow competitor — a man who is 50+ years old — and he told me that he did this event last year and came in DEAD LAST in the swim. I had to admire him for coming back for another beating. He asked me if I knew about the “tides.” He was referring to the currents of the ocean and that they were quite strong in one direction. In other words: Don’t swim straight for the buoy because you’ll miss it. Thank goodness for this man! Again, it seems so obvious now, but my head wasn’t thinking about that and I’m chalking it up to a lesson learned.

We wished each other good luck and I got my goggles and ear plugs in place for my start. My stomach was doing its usual pre-race clenching. My adrenaline was pumping and I knew I was ready.


The water temps were about 60 (F) and were warmer than the air temps so it felt good to get in. I splashed around and did about 25 yards of strokes to warm up before the race start, which is something I rarely do. I think it probably helped, so lesson learned there. I knew from reading the race materials that this was a “cattle call” start and there would be no waves: everyone doing the long course was starting together.

The start of a swim is never pleasant, and it’s usually limited to ~150 people. This start was probably ~400 people, both men and women. If it sounds unpleasant, multiply that by a zillion and you’re getting close to reality. For people who are really frightened of open water swimming or otherwise claustrophobic, this is a living nightmare. There are arms and legs and torsos and open mouths everywhere. I was no more than 20 strokes in when I looked up to spot myself and the first buoy. I happened to meet eyes with a male swimmer just ahead of me who had LOST HIS GOGGLES. Oh dear! He was frantically looking all around, to no avail. There were too many people and too much chaos. I felt bad for him, knowing that he had ~1.1 miles left to go and he would have to do it without eye protection. Lesson learned: I’ll tether my goggles to my wetsuit next time.

I hoped I’d finish the swim in about 35 minutes and this was a 2-loop course. When I exited the water after one lap, my watch read 18 minutes. Having to come into shore, run around a buoy, then swim back out adds time and the water was very choppy. By the time I started out for my second lap, the crowds had thinned considerably and I was able to settle in. It was a triangle-shaped course and I felt like I could “relax” and swim with the current on the straight-away, which helped me mentally. I got out of the water in just over 36 minutes (by my watch) and I was pleased with this. The swim exit was the usual uphill run on a sandy beach, which is surprisingly difficult.


I am not fast in the transition area and I don’t care too much about it. I don’t want to be over 5 minutes, but I’m otherwise happy to take a breather and make sure I have what I need for the next leg. I got to the transition area faster than my neighbor Richele (who finished in 2nd place overall). She’s a Vancouver local and mentioned that the swim course was much rougher than it was last year, so I had a little more confidence with my swim finish going into the bike leg. In my new tri suit, I couldn’t find the back pocket to stow my banana, so I opted to carry it rather than risk losing it. I ran out of the transition area and made a quick mount onto my bike at the appropriate line. I felt confident, having ridden the course the day prior.

Even with cycling as my strongest suit, this was not a great ride. Having to do four loops on the same course made the “flat” course less flat. Overall elevation gain was 2041 ft; it wasn’t the Death Ride by any means, but it wasn’t a ride along the Bay Trail either. The course was good for spectators and it was good to see Greg and Argus on an out and back each time. Otherwise, it was mentally defeating to have to do the same short course over and over and over and over again. It just wasn’t fun. At the second loop, I couldn’t tell where I was among my competition because the Sprint Distance athletes were on the course and there was a lot of traffic on the road. It was a little stressful, actually, based on the stern talking-to we had gotten related to drafting. Rather than trying to compete against others, I settled in with myself. I knew I needed to average somewhere around 18 mph to finish the bike leg in ~3 hours. This would leave me enough time to have a disastrous run and still finish in under six hours overall. I was averaging over 18 mph after the first loop and never dropped below, so I knew I was well-positioned. Traffic cleared out by Loop 3 and I engaged in a little meditation to help pass the time. This really helped me calm down and level-set myself mentally. I made my last climb up the hill at UBC while Greg cheered me on. Argus was growing weary from all the excitement… I finished with an average pace of 18.2 mph and knew I had time on my side going into the run. And that is a good thing!


If you want proof to the idea that “You get what you think about whether you want it or not,” this run is it. I have been afraid of completing this race for many weeks now. It hasn’t been about swimming 1.2 miles. It hasn’t been about biking 56 miles. It hasn’t even been about running 13.1 miles. It has been about running 13.1 miles AFTER doing those other two things. Because cycling is my strongest sport, it’s hard for me to not leave it all out on the bike course. By doing this, I don’t leave enough in my legs for the run. This race was no exception. Why can’t I learn this lesson?? I got out of the transition area and realized almost immediately that I had forgotten my water bottle (which I had dropped a Nuun tablet into). Damn! I’d have to get water and gels only when they were available to me at aid stations. About 2 miles in, I realized that I was toting along about 60 oz of fluids in my bladder and it wanted out. This just makes an uncomfortable situation nearly unbearable. I’m not so die-hard that I’ll pee down my leg and into my shoe, but the potties weren’t so conveniently located that I could make a quick entry and exit… So I held it, all the while continuing to drink at every aid station as my body threatened to bonk again. There is probably a lesson here, but I’m still not convinced that spending the extra time to go in a potty is worth it (especially in a one-piece tri suit)…

It’s a two-loop run course that is basically a Figure-8. The first couple of miles are through a nice wooded section of trails that loops back to the transition area, then you head out along the coast for an out-and-back along the waterfront. I got into a pretty good groove around mile 5 or so and thought I’d be able to knock out the second loop at a reasonably steady pace. Just as I was coming out of an aid station where I was complimented for the third time on my great tan, I made a turn onto the sidewalk. About 5o yards down, a fellow athlete came up behind me and gave me a big shove!

Actually, that’s not what happened at all.

I wish my story was juicy like that. The truth of the matter is my feet got caught on each other and I did a windmilling arms + cartoon-fast-feet stumble that resulted in a fall. DOH!! I don’t know why I didn’t put my hands down, but my elbows took the brunt with a slight assist by the left knee. After a very quick assessment of my injuries, I was back up and running. I ran a few hundred feet and then stopped to walk and assess the damage further. My body quickly filled with adrenaline, so I used it and ran on. I looked and looked for Greg and finally saw him — what a welcome sight! As you can imagine, he was a bit aghast to see me dripping blood. I slowed down for a quick photo and ran on, more miserable than ever. My mind was working on me.

I kept a keen eye on my race watch that was chronicling my overall time (my Garmin was tracking my individual events). I knew I had a little time to burn, so I made the most of walking through the water stations and even stopped at one to stretch out my right glute. I was really miserable and I knew I was down to a mind-over-matter finish. I hated every minute of those last five miles. I was bitter. I was angry. My legs were cramping and my head was dizzy. It was all I could do to mentally talk myself to the turn-around point and then talk myself to when I would next see Greg. When I saw him, I was near tears and begging him, “I need you to run with me! I need you to be there with me at the end!” And he did! Argus was safe in the car and Greg ran with me the last half-mile or so to the finish, talking me in the whole way. I was so elated to look up at the race clock and see 5:39 as I finished!!


From there, my emotions consumed me. I could not contain my tears and the physical pain hadn’t even begun to set in… I don’t know how to describe it. Greg wasn’t quite sure what to do. I was bleeding all over and crying semi-uncontrollably, so I’m sure he was a bit overwhelmed. The other race participants were very nice and concerned about my wounds as we commiserated in the recovery tent. I felt so grateful to have finished within my expected time and so spent from the exertion. It’s very hard to explain. When I called my parents later, my mother said, “Now you know what it’s like to have a baby. You work so hard for this moment for so many months and you go through all of the effort and then it’s done. There’s nothing left to do but cry.” For me, the good news is, I got a medal and a few bragging rights for my efforts and not a baby!! Ha!

I knew my age group was a shallow field and I felt like I had done well, so I made Greg stay for the awards ceremony. In the meantime, I visited the Medic Tent to have my scuffed elbows fixed up and we got my gear packed up from the transition area. I was admittedly disappointed when they announced the third place winner in my age group and it wasn’t me… By the time we got back to the hotel, a friend on my Facebook page told me I had earned fourth place. Damn!

My post-race shower was nothing but fire. Let’s see, I had the wounds on both elbows and one knee from the fall, I had additional chafing in unmentionable places and realized only at that moment that I had small chafe wounds in every spot there was a seam on my new tri suit. My entire body was on fire. So much for the hot tub later! I got dressed and found my cheering section completely exhausted, napping together on the bed. Triathlons are hard work for everyone involved!

If there had been fireworks and a bonfire with s’mores at the finish line, my Independence Day would have been over the moon. I settled for a handful of Advil and many accolades from my virtual cheering section via Facebook and text messages.  It was a wonderful day (in a very masochistic way, of course)!!


I can do anything…

May 29, 2010 Fear, Fitness No Comments

… for 2 miles. Sometimes 2 minutes. Sometimes until I get to that driveway (and then the next, and then the next). Sometimes a cocktail when I’m finished.

These are the mental games I play with myself when I can’t imagine going the WHOLE WAY in one fell swoop. I ran 12 miles yesterday, marking the first time I’ve ever run to the end of Sawyer Camp Trail and back. It also marks the second-longest distance I’ve ever run. The first six miles felt fine; this is a standard distance for me and one I can do pretty easily. Miles 4.5 through six are uphill, so that was a bit of a challenge. At the turnaround, I stopped to stretch my right glute for about 30 seconds and headed back on my return trip.

“I can do anything for 2 miles.”

I just had to remind myself of this three times and I’d be finished. Easy!

Actually, the back half of the run felt better than the first and I had a negative split on it. However, by the time I got to the last 2.5 miles, I was breaking my pep talks down into smaller increments. “I can do anything for a half mile.” “I can do anything for 2 minutes.” “I can do anything for 30 seconds.” By thinking through all of these milestones, I forgot about that damn right glute cramp and that I needed to pee. (I did reward myself with Propel Fitness Water mixed with vodka when I finished.)

What I have learned is that nothing is so big or so daunting that it cannot be broken down into smaller, more manageable bites. More than 50% of being able to do anything is mental. Your body will keep going. Trust it. Find a way to make your mind believe it and watch what you can accomplish.

What are your tactics for breaking down the mental hurdles?