Outdoor Divas – Sprint Triathlon

I received a green light from the foot Doctor to participate in the Outdoor Divas Sprint Triathlon but lingering foot achiness and two weeks of NO running introduced serious risk, angst, and stress in achieving my season goal of making it to the podium at Divas.  It may sound silly but that really was the BIG goal for this triathlon season.  In fact, Heather R, Erin and I had all made that our goal for 2012.  Except then Erin decided to have a baby so that took her out of the podium line-up for this year but still Heather and I were driven to get on that darn raised box setup.

For the two weeks prior to the race since I had been told DO NOT run, I had ramped up my swim and bike to compensate and to focus on retaining my endurance threshold.  I biked hard and swam like a nutcase, all the while hoping that this would keep my running abilities (or lack thereof) from crushing my podium quest.

Now for those not familiar with Outdoor Divas, it is a women’s only Sprint distance triathlon (750m swim, 12.5 mile bike, 5K run) with a reasonable cap of participants–approximately 575 athletes registered for the 2012 event.  Participants include a blend of athletic abilities ranging from über competitive Elite folks to first timers.  I was somewhere in the über competitive, 2nd season rookie, non-Elite, sorta old, triathlon freak category.

In the few days leading up to the race I was SO psyched up; jazzed for the race with nerves and adrenaline.   As race weekend arrived, I was happy that most of my original group of friends that registered remained committed to participating in the event.

Pre-race dinner was a fun pasta night with guys #1 & #2 plus our friends the Bests.  Carb loading and laughs were certainly on the menu.  Race morning for me arrived earlier than planned at around 3:15 a.m.; that was NOT the time I set my alarm, but still that was the time by body said “let’s GO!”  I was too excited to sleep.

Full of nervous energy we all headed into transition and given that we were among the first to arrive we had our choice of where to rack our bikes.  We debated for several minutes on what was the best spot and finally I consulted with some competitive Elite looking gals who informed me…pick a spot with the shortest distance required to run with your bike.  Great advice, we picked a prime spot right next to bike start and bike finish.  Off on a warm up ride and run and then into Union Reservoir for a short swim.

The race directors held a pre-race meeting right before getting the event underway which included a fun little addition—the Colorado Fire Fighters calendar guys would be manning the aid station.  That certainly got a round of cheers.

I was in the 50-54 age group which placed me in the last swim wave.  I was determined to try to “race” each leg of the TRI and most certainly NOT to walk any of the run.    Soon the 1 minute notice was given for my wave and then 30 seconds, 15 seconds, finally a horn blast started my race.  I pushed myself on the swim but felt smooth and confident as I rounded the various buoys…heading into the last 250 meters the swim became a bit of an obstacle course of slower swimmers from the prior waves.  I bumped into a couple of gals but nothing close to a “water polo” type clash.  Soon I was out of the water, struggling to pull off my Helix and running into Transition I heard my time.  I felt pleased with an 11:42 for a 750 meter swim.

T1 as typical seemed to take an eternity and the run with Zen Boy (a/k/a my Giant Avail Advanced) out to the bike course was a bit of a stressful situation with a bottleneck of gals strolling their bikes out of transition and onto the ride.  To minimize time, I picked up Zen and ran with him out to the road and then as quickly as possible got to the bike mount location.  After almost skidding out on some gravel, within the first 20 feet of the bike course, I was off and running (or in this case biking) around the first of 3 loops of a 4 mile course.  Rules for the bike require you to ride on the right and pass on the left.  Now, I have a pretty nice bike and I have these big (formerly fat) strong legs and although I’m not an experienced cyclist I am pretty fast.  So since I was in the last group there were a ton of women in front of me, riding on the right wasn’t going to work much of the time as I was fortunate in that I was passing most of the women in front of me.   The bike course was quite flat which is nice if you’re opposed to hills, but on the flip side you don’t get the speed that comes with the downhill portion.  So I watched my Cat Eye biking calculator and as the bike portion progressed my average speed increased to an average of a 21.7 mph pace at the conclusion of the bike leg.

T2 went by without event and I was onto the run course which was an out and back 5K.  As I ran along I could feel my heart rate hitting the anaerobic zone meaning that I had reached my limit from an endurance capacity perspective.  Thoughts of walking “just a little bit” started to enter my head.  Then began a private and thankfully “silent” conversation with myself.   For all those early 4:45 a.m. mornings and for all those hideous, painful threshold runs that @CoachCary put on my calendar, I would NOT let myself down and I would NOT walk.  As I approached the ad station which I was happy to note occurred twice given the course being out and back.  These fabulous bare-chested specimens of manliness were handing out cold water and Gatorade.  Very nice…I certainly wasn’t going to look like a wimpy girl and walk through THAT aid station although it would have been nice to linger and look (gawk).  Did I walk?  NOPE, not this time!  As I was heading into the last stretch of the run, I saw my friend Heather B, up ahead.  We pretty much ran the last portion of the race course together.  Crossing the finish line at an all out sprint felt great and after downing a couple of bottles of water and a brief walk to recover I was no worse for wear.  Also, I thankfully didn’t get called a “Penguin” on this run.

AND…I was thrilled when I saw the result sheets.  With a time of 1:17:35, I had made it to the podium with a 2nd place finish in my age group and 30th place finish overall!  Heather also made it to the podium with a 3rd place finish in her age group!  And, Heather B and Christine also achieved PRs.  Woo Hoo!!

Broken Phalange

Yep a toe break.  Did it happen in some dramatic training event?  Nope!  No amazing story here other than just my general klutziness.  In short, I jammed my 2nd to smallest toe HARD into a piece of furniture.  After picking myself up off the floor, I sought out the trusty frozen kernel corn immediately for icing.  But to no avail.  My trusty foot Doctor confirmed via x-ray that my toe is broken and I cannot run for two weeks from the break.  I can then only run in a moderate fashion–meaning no distance AND no speed.  Shortly after I resume running, I must have another set of x-rays to ensure that I’m not dislodging the mend.  The question I have is:  What does this do to my quest for podium at Outdoor Divas (I know that was likely a pipe dream anyway)?!  What does this do to my first Long Course triathlon?!

Speaking with @CoachCary to set up a plan.  Plan A as well as a Plan B!

Long Course…Coming My Way

After completing the Lake to Lake Olympic, I thought long and hard about what I should do next.  More Olympics?  More Sprints?  More what?  I decided it would be great to experience all primary distances in one season, which would allow me to determine a more defined focus for next year.  So…although I am now feeling slightly (actually quite a bit) queasy (and panicky)…I have registered for Harvest Moon “long course” triathlon.  While not an Ironman branded event, hence not called a 70.3, the Harvest Moon event is still the same daunting distance.  1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and half marathon run.

Last year I rode the bike portion of Harvest Moon in a team relay.  This bike course in the plains of Colorado, includes rolling hills, considerable wind and is NOT easy.  In fact, after putting 110% into the bike in the 2011 Harvest Moon I could barely stand up and had to have a friend help re-rack my bike.  Of course, I also messed up my nutrition and didn’t eat anything on the bike course…lesson learned there.

September 9th will be here before I know it.  I will train hard.  I will do my very best to be ready.  I will be prepared.  And I will be SO happy to run across the finish line.

Olympics!

Yaaay, the 2012 Summer Olympic Games are only a few weeks away!

Sorry to disappoint, but the focus of this blog post isn’t THOSE Olympics; it’s about Olympic distance triathlon.  Up until this point my triathlon events have been limited to Sprint distance races and participation in relays for longer distance events.  But, I was expanding my horizons with the inclusion of Loveland Lake to Lake , which would be my 1st Olympic distance triathlon on June 23rd.

My training calendar had pretty much, from the beginning, been focused on the training volume required to support an Olympic distance race.  However, I hadn’t yet taken the leap to make it “happen” from a competing in that distance perspective.    Lake to Lake is a biennial qualifier to Olympic Nationals and generally more serious athletes compete in this challenging event.  2012, however, was not a qualifying year so the intensity of participants would likely be a little lower than typical.

Traditionally, Lake2Lake is longer than most Olympic distance events with a 30 mile bike ride.  However, 2012 has thus far been the year of serious and devastating forest fires in Colorado.  The fire that began on June 9th near Ft Collins right before my 1st Sprint Triathlon of 2012 continued and the team organizing Lake to Lake were forced to reroute the bike course.  In the end, the run also had to be modified to a 5.1 mile run versus a traditional 10K.  Still all-in-all, the event would be challenging, especially since temperatures on the day of the race were expected to hit 103 degrees!

I attended packet pick-up and pre-race information was collected on the evening before the race.  Guys #1 and #2 joined me for a pre-race dinner in the town of Loveland.  (Yes, I had pasta.)  Having my fan club with me makes these events SO much more enjoyable, well at least for me!  Thanks guys!

My friend Heather joined me at Lake to Lake and it was also her first Olympic tri.  On race day, we arrived at the transition area when it opened at 5:00 a.m. and picked a prime position right by the bike start and bike finish area.  We had our transition towels setup and per @CoachCary’s direction headed out on a pre-race warm up ride.  But, when we returned our transition towels and race items were moved and another gal had placed her items where our bikes were, even though we’d put our wetsuits in the empty bike position which is typical for saying this spot is taken.  Was she gracious when we informed her that she’d taken our place?  NO way!  Not only did she mess with our stuff and take our bike position but she was indigent in asserting that her stuff could and should fit into the designated spot and she then proceeded to give us condescending “educational” input on how transition areas worked.  Wearing her Kona t-shirt and Kona visor…she strutted her Kona-esk self and Kona garnered expertise and patronizingly dressed us Olympic rookies down.  Humph!  This wasn’t Heather or my first TRI event, nor were we uninformed on the rules, guidelines and social norms of a triathlon.  But, rather than waging war on “Betty” we decided to head out onto our pre-race run to warm up our legs and burn off some steam!  When we returned “Betty” had taken it down a few notches as she had somehow climbed down off her lofty Kona queen tower and decided to interact with us rookies as fellow triathletes, thanks Betty!

A warm up swim was next on the agenda and while short in duration it was sufficient in that I got wet, swam a couple of 100 meters and then proceeded  back onto the beach waiting for my swim wave.  Wave #3, the yellow cap group consisted of age groupers 50+ and Clydesdales.   What?!  Large horses swimming in triathlons?  No!  Clydesdales are men who weigh more than 200 lbs.  As I headed toward the group of swimmers awaiting Wave #3, there were a couple of guys doning yellow swim caps walking next to me.  They certainly weren’t 50+, so they must have been Clydesdales.   I think the weight limit on Clydesdales is set too low, these guys were young, strong, fit…dare I say it, studs!  OK, sorry, just couldn’t resist the play on words.

The swim was a counter clock-wise single loop in Lake Loveland that made up 1,500 meters or one mile.  Up until this point I hadn’t yet swum that far non-stop as an adult.  Of course, I swam considerably more distance than that in my twice weekly Masters swimming sessions but there is always short wall time between sets.  My time in the pool and open water training had me more than prepared and before long I was heading out of the water and running somewhere between ¼ and 1/3 of a mile from the water to the start of T1.   Somehow, transitions always seem to take FOREVER and I’m generally pleasantly surprised when I review my T-times after the race results are posted.

While I had no comparison to the typical Lake to Lake bike course. I was pleased with the bike route as it had reasonable hills and nice scenery that took us outside the city of Loveland.  While the temperatures were starting to climb the breeze on the bike makes it harder to notice.

However, once off the bike and heading into T2 then out onto the run I quickly noticed that the heat was going to be a bit of a challenge.  While I’d done some running in the mid-day sun…I certainly wasn’t prepared for the serious blast of heat that was facing me.  I seriously struggled on the run and included far more walking than what I’d anticipated or wanted.  Feeling like I was overheating, I took two cups of water at each aid station…dumped one onto my head and drank the other.   I was certainly happy to see the finish line, although not thrilled to hear the announcer say my name then note “doing the Penguin run”…ouch!

Regardless my results were respectable:

Swim-28:54 T1-2:14 Bike-1:10:24 T2-1:36 Run-51:30 for a total of:  2:34:40

And…given the heat wave I don’t think that my run/walk pace of 10:06 should garner a “Penguin” callout!  But…I’m committed to being faster next time!

1st TRI of 2012

My 2012 triathlon season kicked-off on Sunday June 10th at the Greeley Sprint Triathlon (www.greeleytriathlon.com).  This event has the reputation of being reasonable in size and well-organized.  It absolutely lived up to those claims!

I attended the pre-race meeting the afternoon before and felt ready to jump into my first TRI of the year.  BUT, on the morning of the event a major forest fire on the outskirts of Ft Collins coupled with a weather front had created conditions that introduced the possibility of the event being cancelled due to poor air quality and bad weather.  UGH!

Yes, the air was a bit smoky and the weather blustery but the event was set up and the athletes, me included were ready to GO!  After a brief delay, the decision was made…and it was a green light for the event to proceed.  Now the adrenaline was really starting to flow.

The swim for this event was a time trial start—I wasn’t familiar with the approach used which was oldest first and then each subsequent swimmer every 5 seconds.  And so, the oldest male age grouper who I believe was 82 started the age-groupers in the event (oldest female was 73)…what’s scary is that I was the 47th swimmer in the water as oldness goes!  EEEK!  Which was reenforced by the prominently displayed large black # written in Sharpie on the back of my right calf50!

So when it was my turn, as the others before me, I launched off of a rubber mat into surprisingly clean, clear and temperate water.  My new Sable swim goggles, immediately filled with water requiring adjusting but the 500 meter swim was quickly done.  Approaching T1, I thought how cool it was that they, had wetsuit “strippers”.  No! not the kind of strippers that wear minimal or no clothing, but folks that forcibly pull your wetsuit quickly off your body.  Given that I had @CoachCary’s Helix wetsuit on loan I didn’t want to risk damaging it…so, I proceeded with my typical T1 routine.  This time it seemed like I took forever to get that wetsuit off and after the race Guy #2 (son) said “Mom, you looked just AWFUL when you got done with the swim…like you’d run a marathon or something”. Guy #1 (husband) elaborated  “you were fine and didn’t look any worse than about half of the other swimmers getting out of the water”.  So glad to hear how awesome I looked…Humph!  True, I did feel a little off kilter and wobbly…who knows why!?  Anyway, my T1 time ended up being respectable at a 1:52.

Hopping onto “Zen Boy” my Giant bike, I could feel some difficulty in my breathing, which I think (duh) was due to air conditions.  The Bike portion of the race was uneventful (always thankful for that).  T2 proceeded quickly and I was out onto the run.  Now, I had debated about wearing my Garmin to track my run pace.  See…I have this issue were I cannot tell the difference between running a 7:30 vs. 9:30 mile pace…other than when I become exhausted since I cannot sustain a 7:30 pace and then have to either walk or jog at a snail’s pace.  Garmin was not worn…decided to just go for it.  Well…too quick of a run pace combined with less than crystal clean air resulted in my having to WALK for a brief time; on not one, or two but three occasions during this 5K.  WHAT?!  After all my training and focus on running!  And, YES, I had just run 10 miles without walking a single second at the Cherry Creek Sneak!  And, I was now walking during a 5K!  UGH!!  Frustrating to say the least!

Still before I knew it…up ahead was the finish line!  My stretch goal time was 1:10:00, my safe goal 1:15.   I finished in 1:09:34; Swim (9:26), T1 (1:52), Bike (28:44), T2 (1:22), Run (28:13)…and got a red cowbell for getting 2nd in my age group.  Just like when you have one great golf shot during an 18-hole round of golf, those numbers and that little cowbell will keep me motivated and asking with anticipation When’s My Next Event?!

Wetsuit Drama!

My 2nd open water swim practice of the season occurred in Grant Lake this past weekend in preparation of my 1st event of the 2012 TRI season—Greeley Sprint Triathlon on June 10th.  It seems my beloved BlueSeventy Helix has developed a small hole along a seam.  Never mind that it is only one year old and intended to be my ONLY wetsuit.

What to do?!

In reviewing the warranty information on www.blueseventy.com I saw that their wetsuits are under warranty (repair or replace) for 1 year from date of purchase, or 2 years if you register it (which I hadn’t bothered to do…darn it!).  I knew I had purchased it in June of 2011 but was it within the one year window?  Luckily, my purse is like a filing cabinet of receipts;  all well-organized and categorized.  OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, or just a complete lie from an organization perspective, but I do have about 3,000 receipts some of which could be considered antique documents buried in the bottom of my purse.  Unfortunately, my wetsuit purchase wasn’t one of them…darn it!  So,  I contacted the friendly people at Runner’s Roost in Lakewood, Colorado where I purchased the wetsuit and since it was a special order a copy was on file.  And, drum roll please…one year warranty was still in effect!  So (fingers crossed), given the fact that I have carefully followed instructions on wetsuit care, my suit would be either repaired or replaced.

Now the question was what to do for my upcoming event?  Swim in a wetsuit that was about to go in for repair and risk further damage or heaven forbid a wetsuit blowout? Swim in a loaner wetsuit model that I hadn’t ever trained in…ignoring my “nothing new on race day” mantra? Swim without a wetsuit in 70.2 degree water…brrr?  ANSWER:  None of the above @CoachCary to the rescue!  Cary is loaning me her BlueSeventy Helix, same size as mine.  Problem solved!

Mental Toughness

As important as your athletic training is your Mental Toughness.  There’s considerable debate and discussion surrounding this topic, but the term is one that I can really connect with.

A study from Penn State University resulted in the following definition:  Mental toughness is having the natural or developed psychological edge that enables you to:  Generally cope better than your opponents with the many demands (e.g., competition, training, lifestyle) that are placed on you as a performer.  Specifically, to be more consistent and better than your opponents in remaining determined, focused, confident, resilient, and in control under pressure.

Here are a few links to other perspectives on Mental Toughness:

The NAVY Way:  http://www.mentalgamecoach.com/articles/MentalToughnessTheNavyWay.html

Penn State:  http://www.mascsa.psu.edu/dave/Mental-Toughness.pdf

Livestrong: http://www.livestrong.com/article/152407-mental-toughness-secrets/

Off Season Focus

Once training resumed I did as @CoachCary suggested.  I focused on two things:

1)      Becoming STRONGER with the help of my new strength trainer Barrie at FORZA fitness and performance center.  Barrie is USAT TRI Coach and Iron distance triathlete who also specializes in strength training for triathletes.

2)      Becoming faster, specifically RUNNING faster – this required focus on dynamic stretching prior to running, refining my running technique, hill intervals and speed intervals or Fartleks.

Previously I had not given strength training the attention that it needed.  While I lifted weights I did not put the energy into my strength training that I did into my Swim, Bike, Run.  That needed to change and I started to strength train “like I meant it”.  The dividends paid back pretty quickly.  With Barrie’s workouts and coaching I quickly started to notice an improvement in not only my strength but also my balance, my coordination and my muscle definition.

My running program included a higher percentage of my “training pie” allocated to the run.  Prior to each training session I logged time doing dynamic stretches which are basically moving stretches things like “soldier legs”, “butt kicks”, “high knees”, “skipping” etc.  All intended to get your muscles loosened up prior to starting the actual run.

Over the next few months my allocation of training time spent on running was 35% and strength training/cross-training was 20% — 55% of my total training was dedicated to those two elements with remainder obviously assigned to swim and bike.

I also competed in a few of road races over the off season to keep be comfortable with race events.  These included:

The Stride – a 10K fund raiser for Littleton Public Schools.  A fun family oriented event with guys #1 & #2 running in the 5K and me running with my friends Nico and Erin in the 10K.  This was my first time running any race longer than a 5K.  Nico being a runner and ultra marathon pacer did me the favor being my pacer; having a pacer helps SO much!

Christmas Carole Classic – this fund raiser 5K in December included several of my TRI buddies.  It was a fun event in that we all went out for brunch afterwards but the run itself was brutal.  Running “fast” when it’s below freezing outside does NOT feel good.  Actually it feels pretty darn horrible and I decided NOT to do that again.

Runnin’ of the Green – this 7K St Patty’s Day event also included some friends and training buddies.  This event is huge…as in TOO many people (~5,000) done and off the list for future events.

Cherry Creek Sneak – 2012 was the 30th anniversary of the Cherry Creek Sneak but the inaugural for the 10 mile.  This was the first time I had raced in a longer distance running event.  This run was also important in that it was a gauge of my ability to run 13.1, which coincidentally is the distance for the run distance of a 70.3 long course event.

Nico and Heather ran the ten miles with me with Nico pacing us and taking photos…it was great!

Reflection Time

After the completion of Harvest Moon relay, it was time to reflect on my first Triathlon “season” and contemplate what I wanted to pursue going forward.

Also, I was ready for a break.  I’d trained hard since registering for the Ft Collins Club Sprint event which meant 9 months of focused triathlon training.  Now, the amount of time I committed to training on a weekly basis, generally 10-12 hours, didn’t come close to what Ironman level athletes deliver week after week.  But, in my own humble way I had put considerable time and effort into my swim, bike, run.  I didn’t want to burn out and…more importantly I didn’t want to lose the support of my personal fan club (guys #1 (Husband) and #2 (Son)).  Striving for a reasonable balance between training-family-work is tough!

In 2012, I would “age up” and coincententially become eligible for AARPaaargh!  That really conjures up a visual that is SO contrary to Triathlon.   Yes, I would be competing in the 50-54 age group… OUCH!  But on the bright side, I would be the youngest in that age-group and hopefully being youngest would provide at least some small advantage.

Reviewing my 2011 season results highlighted a glaring weak spot and an opportunity for improvement.  My area of focus during the off season…would be my run.  To highlight how weak my run was in comparison to swim and bike, my results included:

  • SheRox (out of ~300 participants) – Swim (8%), Bike (5%), Run (38%)
  • TRI for the Cure (out of ~2500 participants) – Swim (6%), Bike (2%), Run (31%)

Also Lance Armstrong has been heard to say “Ride for Show, Run for Dough”, my Run wasn’t gonna win me any dough.  Yes, there was a clear area of focus for my winter training.  It would be running.

But, before embarking on more training, @CoachCary recommended I take a break from structured training and focus on flexible “workouts”.  For about a month my www.TrainingPeaks.com training calendar was left blank.  Going back to just “working-out” was an adjustment.  I had become so use to living by my training calendar.  While I missed the structure in my life that the training calendar provided, I also felt that my body (and mind) and family were benefiting from my resting.  Cary assured me that I’d come back better and stronger…and hopefully faster if I took a break.  So I followed my coach’s guidance.  Rest was at the top of my training plan!

Harvest Moon – Long Course Relay

Three personal triathlon events was my limit for 2011, my inaugural triathlon season.  But, I was able to convince two friends to join me in a relay at the Harvest Moon long course event in early September.  While not an Ironman branded event, Harvest Moon is the equivalent distance to a 70.3 Ironman race.  Brock swam, I rode and Chrissy ran.

Leaving everything on the road, so-to-speak, I could barely stand up at the completion of the 56 mile windy course of rolling hills out on The Plains of Colorado.  Also, I realized that I foolishly had not taken nutrition into consideration and had not eaten anything during my 3 hour bike ride.  As many say, nutrition is the 4th discipline in triathlon and it was one that I had completely ignored other than my pre-race breakfast. I will not make that mistake again!  It was a fun day and tee-d up the idea of possibly completing Harvest Moon in 2012 as an individual competitor.

 

TRI for the Cure – Sprint Triathlon

Next up was TRI for the Cure a Sprint distance triathlon held each August in Cherry Creek reservoir.  Three friends registered for TRI for the Cure and for all three this was their 1st triathlon experience.  Anne, Heather and Christine joined me in training for the event and all three finished, proud and strong…well done ladies!

As you may be aware, TRI for the Cure is dedicated to raising funds for breast cancer programs.  It is a big event with approximately 2,500 registrants and it is exceptionally well-organized.

My training and race prep continued but my persisting leg injury hampered by ability to focus on the running aspect of my training and race.  The dreaded up hill run on the Cherry Creek dam road was tough.  Still I was pleased with my results and finished in the top 5% overall.  In 2012, I plan on supporting the event as a volunteer “swim buddy”.