Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bike hill repeats + Fort2Base race recap

With only a few real intense weeks left before our taper, I knew this week would exhaust me.  While I did not have grad school this week thankfully, we did start school so my coveted routine is finally back.

As much as I LOVE the flexibility of summer, it's kind of a double edged sword for me. I love that I do have free time (which, yes, is primarily consumed with training this year), but I also hate that there is no structure. Even when I was teaching summer school in June and July and taxiing triathletes to practice, I didn't have a set routine for each week. Quite frankly, I suck when I'm out of routines. I get lazy and just don't get as much accomplished as I would like, so my "To-Do" list never seems to decrease.

While school starting does make training more challenging, this year is going to be amazing. I teach 6 of the students I had for summer school and have an awesome group of students this year. On the first day, I obviously introduced myself. I have a bulletin board that I display personal stuff on, but realized I forgot to print out pictures since I have everything digitally....oops. 

 The back of my classroom. Check out that sweet ice cream poster;)
 Giuliano's Gems (rockstar students!)...I need to add to my personal board...
"Math in Me" student projects: how does math relate to your profession?

Anyway, I of course had to tell my students about Kona. While some knew what an Ironman was ("that's where you swim in the ocean and then bike a lot and run some at the end, right?"), most did not so I had to explain it. There were quite a few weird looks at me in terms of why anyone would ever swim 2.4 miles then bike 112miles then run 26.2, but when I told them that Kona is like the Olympics for long-distance triathlon, the kids about lost it. I'm pretty sure I became "cool" for at least a few seconds in their I might just keep doing this Ironman thing if all goes well:)

Down to the training part of this week. 

BIKING: As always, we had two hard bike computrainer workouts and this week was TOUGH. Think of a long, hard tempo for running...that's what we did in terms of biking. And I crushed them. Really. I have never felt as good as I did this week on the bike, and to do it during not one, but BOTH "Tempo" type rides really boosted my confidence. Coach Bill really thinks I can do some damage on the bike now that I realize that I can be a strong rider.

SWIMMING: three long swim workouts this week about made my arms fall off. Fortunately, by the third swim (which was done on Friday after my second longest swim ever on Thursday), I felt strong and fast (for me). I have really come to believe that to be a good and confident swimmer, you can't take too many days off from swimming. So, even after Kona if my focus switches to running (we'll see), I do still plan on swimming 3+ times per week.

RUNNING: the run workouts this week had no time goals, just effort, so I was very interested to see how the Fort2Base Nautical 10miler (11.5miles) would go.

Did I mention that Fort2Base was done the day after Ryan and I did bike hill repeats?

Basically, of our 75miles, 30+ were climbing hills. We rode 3 hills 10-20times each and really charged up and flew down. Even though we knew we had a race the next day, again our focus is KONA and a running race cannot be a priority if doing well at Kona is.

FORT2BASE recap:
Ryan and I woke up early to drive to the Lake Forest train station and then run the 3.5miles to the start of the race. We had a 20miler on the schedule with the 11.5mile race scheduled in between. 

I was lucky enough to have been in contact with the previous race winner regarding getting around, etc., and was even luckier to run the first 5 miles with her. Kristine and I were those runners you HATE in races who just talk away during the race. Well, until we got caught by some of my DPFT teammates and Wendy, the Executive Director of the Chicago Area Runners Association.  

My teammates Jonathan and Paul plus Wendy and I ran together for the next 3-4miles. This Jonathan was the same guy who helped me tremendously during the Cary March Madness 1/2 marathon and is constantly encouraging others while crushing it himself.

Probably around mile 8 is when Jonathan tried to get me to come with him, told me to stop pounding my feet (thank you, needed that!)...but I just couldn't.

Quick fix? POWERGEL. Seriously. I had planned to take it at mile 9 based on then having 14 miles under my belt (I took one gel 6miles into my total run as well), but chose to take it just after mile 8. I started feeling SO much better and miles 8-10 were my best by a lot.

Just after mile 10, there's this lovely ginormous hill. I kept telling Ryan yesterday how much harder hill repeats are on a bike than by running...but this hill made me question that statement. I have never been so excited to see a finish line. That hill fully depleted my body and I was just ready to be done running.

Wendy finished less than a minute behind me and we were honored to take a picture with two members of the navy. One of the newer members (2013) to DPFT, Helen, came in third and I was just thrilled for her. She is one of the nicest people you will ever meet and I was so glad to be able to catch up with my Soldier Field cool down buddy (one of them:)). 

After awards, Ryan and I ran the almost 5miles back to our car, of course talking about where we would be going out for breakfast. I mean, that's kind of a HUGE reason we do these weekend race things to begin with:)

Overall, Ryan and I were very happy with how our legs responded (Ryan especially, given that he's had multiple blister outbreaks over the past two weeks) during today's 20mile run after having one of the hardest bikes of our lives less than 24 hours prior.

To top things off: multiple friends texted/Facebooked me that NBC was broadcasting the Kona 2012 race on tv....I'm feeling this is a sign that we are READY to go. 

Next Sunday, I am competing in the HyVee Triathlon in Iowa. Ryan worked this race last year, so I randomly signed up for it since I had been biking anyway last year. This year, I am very curious to see how I compare to my own splits from last year. Yes, the course has slightly changed so that could alter my times. Yes, I am training for an Ironman versus an Olympic distance triathlon (that's like running a 5k when you're training for a marathon). BUT, it'll give me the confidence I want going into Kona just by seeing the gains I have made throughout this crazy training cycle.

Congrats to all who raced today: Fort2Base, Batavia 1/2, Chicago Triathlon, Louisville...and anyone else I've missed. GOOD LUCK to everyone racing on the crazy Labor Day (full of races) weekend!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Busy, busy, busy.

Last summer, I thought I was busy: starting a new job teaching at an incredible school, coaching soccer at this new school, planning a wedding, trying to move into our new house and training for redemption at the Milwaukee Marathon.

This summer, I taught summer school, taxi'd triathlon kids to practice, researched family reunion vacation spots in Michigan, began my Masters program, and put in lots of time in the pool/lake, on the bike and on the roads running.

I remember when school started last year feeling a little overwhelmed with everything that I thought I had on my plate.  Specifically, sometime in late September/early October, I remember my sister telling me, "Jac, no one likes to hear how busy you are. Everyone else is just as busy and don't complain about it."  Anyone who knows Kristina can imagine what that sounds like.  While she was (and is) right, I kept thinking, but no one is as busy as I am...I'm treading water over here!

Throughout this past year, I discovered that you are only as "busy" as you make yourself. Yes, I do feel like there is a lot on my plate right now, but clearly if I have time to write this, I am not completely overwhelmed.  I found a few ways that I think really helped me to stop stressing about being so busy and thought I'd share.

First, I bought myself one of those agenda books.  I used them religiously throughout middle school, high school and college and was always on top of things then, so figure in my professional life it makes sense to use one as well.  In that agenda book, I wrote down all of the important dates for school, family, training, etc.  I have dedicated a section in the front to my long-term "To-do" list and that each day I will write manageable tasks down that I can cross off as I complete.  This has worked well for me in the past, but when school's out, I tend to get away from using it.

I really believe that crossing things off the list gives me this empowering feeling...I am proud of myself for making the most of my time and get satisfaction in crossing things off my list.  I have also learned throughout the years not to put too many things on one just makes you feel overwhelmed and like you are "treading water" and, really, you can't go through life feeling that way or you won't be able to enjoy it!

Second, I learned to ask for help.  Actually, I should say I am learning to ask for help.  I don't like "burdening" people and taking time away from their day by having them help me, but honestly, having help makes many things SO much easier and more manageable.  People will tell you NO if they don't have the time to help you, so just start asking when you need it.  It helps strengthen relationships I've noticed as well since it shows you trust the person.

Finally, allow yourself some "me" time.  Not time when you're working out or doing something solo that is related to your profession.  Give yourself some quality time where you can simply relax.  I used to use the time I'd spend at the nail salon getting no-chip manicures as my "me" time as it was relaxing and I literally could not do anything with my hands (check emails, do school work, etc.) so it almost forced me to relax and just enjoy the moment.

Life is too short to go crazy being consumed with everything that is thrown at us.  Make things manageable and don't fret if you don't cross everything off your list--the world will not end because you didn't get every single thing checked off of your list.  Enjoy life and truly live it.

I posted below two awesome videos that I reposted on my Facebook because I just absolutely love their messages.  The first one is Ashton Kutcher's speech at the Kids Choice Awards and he talks about "Living Life," being "sexy," and opportunities looking like hard work.

The second one is about body image--something I struggled with throughout college.  While I never personally had an eating disorder, many people around me did--from my sophomore year in high school and really until today.  I love food too much to ever give it up (let's be honest, just giving up junk for Lent is hard for me!!!), but I HATED how I looked in comparison to my teammates in college.  I had definitely gained the "Freshman 15" and was ashamed when I'd see how the All American runners looked.  But guess what?  I'm running faster than a lot of them now, even though I have 10+ pounds on many of them.  More about that in another blog, but I just had to post the message below.
(Ashton Kutcher)
(regarding "healthy" image)

Monday, August 5, 2013

100th blog post!!!! Naperville Sprint Tri recap

Everytime I log in to blog, I see how many posts I have written.  I told myself awhile back that number 100 was going to be something super inspirational and motivational....well, that happens to be this post, and quite frankly, after yesterday's race, I don't have anything along those lines to say.

Yesterday started off with waking up at 4am to pack up our bikes and head off to Naperville.  Ryan was working the tri for PowerBar, so we needed to arrive extra early to set up his tent and such too.  We stayed at his parents house as it cut our drive time in half, so my normal "race morning routine" was a little different.  

Packing the car, I grabbed my bike and the helmet and shoes next to my bike.  We climbed into the car, made a pit stop at Dunkin' and arrived in Naperville just before 5am.  

Ryan decided we should set up our transition area stuff first and then set up his tent and such to avoid a crowded transition area.  It was in that moment that I realized that my bike shoes were at his parents house.  

See, I picked up my NEW Cervelo P5 from Sammy's Bike Shop on Monday, but didn't have the chance to ride it outside until Friday when we were at Ryan's parent's house.  I put my shoes next to my bike, which was in the garage at the time.  Ryan moved my bike inside for safer keeping (between the frame, components and wheels, it's a pretty penny)...but my shoes stayed in the garage.  At 4am when I picked up the shoes and helmet next to my bike, it seemed like I had everything I would need to race.

Luckily, the pair of shoes I grabbed were Ryan's old bike shoes, so they were able to clip into my pedals on my bike.  Not so lucky was the fact that his shoes are too big for me.  I tried them on with socks and my feet didn't move around quite as much, but it was definitely hard to get some real power and "dig deep" with my feet moving around.

We decided I'd just put on socks after the swim, something I only do for 70.3s, but also necessary to at least semi-restrict my feet from sliding as much.  

We also decided I'd wear a wetsuit this time.  See? I do learn from my mistakes...I just need to stop making so many!  

The Naperville Sprint Tri doesn't have the standard "waves" that most triathlons do.  Basically, when you register, you predict how many minutes it will take you to complete the 400m swim and you are assigned one of four swim cap colors that way.  I was placed in the same wave as Ryan, knowing full well that he would beat me by at least a minute on the swim.

The swim is also not your standard swim.  Centennial Beach in Naperville is basically a quarry and you swim an "M" pattern around the buoys.  
The quarry.
The course...note the "M" on the swim course map.

We were started 6 swimmers at a time as over 2,000 participants needed to get through this thing.  It was one of the more difficult swims I've had in awhile.  I was passing people, I was getting passed, my head got clobbered multiple times, I thought I was going to lose my goggles...and I started in the first wave.  I can't imagine how crazy it got by the middle of the pack.  

7:24.  Yes, this was better than my 8:xx at Pewaukee 3 weeks ago, but that was without a wetsuit and in true open water.  I truly thought I'd be below 7 minutes on this one.

T1 was not much of a confidence booster.  Basically, you run from the quarry and to your bike, but mine was where the "bike out/bike in" was, so I had a lot of running to do...which was actually great since I had this wetsuit thing to take off.  I zipped right out of it (those of you who have used a wetsuit know this can be a huge hit or miss part of your day!!)...but had to put on my socks before I could put on Ryan's shoes and then get on my bike.

Normally, Ryan taught me to have my shoes clipped in, which would have been extremely helpful in this case since we had to run around a roundabout before we were able to mount our bikes, and I can run much faster without cycling shoes on!  So off I went, "click clack click" with many of the other triathletes.  Luckily, I got on my bike pretty quickly and was already feeling like I was flying on the bike.

2:34 T1...this is 100% where I lost time in this race.

When I was in the saddle, I felt awesome on this ride.  My new bike was phenomenal and, despite being on the last hard day of week 3 of 3 hard weeks, my legs felt amazing.  Unfortunately, there were two hair-pin turns on this double-loop course and every time I'd have to drastically slow down for them, I'd lose quite a bit of time trying to pick my speed back up.  I realize everyone else encountered the same obstacle, but I'm also realizing their feet weren't sliding around, causing the power element to decrease a bit.

I didn't let this drop my confidence.  I was able to see the two girls (who ended up taking 1, 2 overall) every time we hit a turnaround, and while I counted seconds and felt like I was gaining, I knew it would inevitably come down to my run as per usual with these shorter races.

30:17 (23.8mph) bike split.  Tied the winning female's split and was beat by 15 seconds by the 2nd place female.  For not having my personal bike shoes, I'd say that's pretty darn good.

Heading into T2

T2.  1:01. Right there with the top girls.

THE RUN.  The part of the triathlon that I look forward to the most.  This course was nice as I was able to see Ryan right before mile 1.  He told me I looked strong and that I was catching the other girls, which of course made me push myself even harder.  I would never be able to see them as we did a neighborhood loop, but it was nice to know that I looked strong at least.

Mile 1--5:59.  Sweet.  This is feeling great!
Mile 2--5:58.  Niiiice.  Still not seeing any females, but those guys look catchable!
Mile 3--6:00.  We went through a woody type area on a path and the guy in front of me took a wrong turn...and I almost did, too!! 

18:37 run split.  8th fastest run split overall, 1st fastest female.

1:00:50 overall time.  3rd female by 51 seconds.

My ride:)

As soon as I was approaching the finish line, Ryan was yelling to me to kick it in as he knew it would be a close race between the top three ladies.  2nd place was 17 seconds ahead of me in overall time.  

HUGE congrats to my teammate Morgan for rocking her first tri.  She's been coming to the Open Water swims at Lake in the Hills with me every Wednesday and did a phenomenal job.  Thank you to everyone who came and supported all of the athletes--it was so fun to hear recognizable voices in the crowd cheering for me....kept me going for sure:)

I feel like a broken record saying that I learned another lesson.  It's true, I did, but I would love to stop "learning lessons" and just be 100% prepared and know at the end of the race I executed everything as perfectly as I could.  Minus the shoe fiasco, I definitely did while the results don't show it, the Naperville Sprint Tri was a HUGE win in my book.

After the tri, Ryan and I stopped and picked up my shoes and then biked from our house to Barrington, rode 4 8ish mile loops and rode back for 56miles (3hours) of riding.  And I never felt as good as I did riding for those 3 hours.  I followed my nutrition plan flawlessly and felt like I was starting week 1!  

This next week is our Recovery Week.  I typically hate recovery weeks and don't see that changing, but know that after these past 3 weeks, my body needs it.

Here's to staying sane during these next few days!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Lesson relearned plus Sweat Test importance

I have been meaning to post on here since, well, basically since I finished my first century ride ever on Sunday.  It was quite the weekend of emotions with all of the "lessons" learned.  But first, let's go back to where this all started.

After the 1/2 marathon last week, I learned the importance of focus, mine being on Kona.  I also learned the importance of listening to your body, as my hamstring flare-up in the 1/2 caused increased discomfort for most of the week.  I saw my massage guy, Dave Davis, Monday after the 1/2 as he is usually able to painfully get rid of my discomfort.

No such luck.

Tuesday, I met with PT Earl to figure out what was going on.  I replayed the hamstring flare-up and we discovered that it was irritated through the heat + many uphills/inclines throughout the course.  Earl had me alter my form and BAM the discomfort was no longer noticeable.  Not only had the pain gone away, but my easy runs were being run faster but with less effort.

It's funny how changing something as simple as running form can effect overall performance.

After another intense week of training (week 2 of 3!!) beginning with a 90mile bike ride, I was at the start line of Saturday's BTN Big 10 10k.  Ryan and I did this race last year with a bunch of our friends who also went to Big Ten schools and had a BLAST.  While post-race was still enjoyable, pre-race was a totally different experience.  During my warmup, I saw Katie McGregor and two female Kenyans.  I also saw some other pretty fast looking girls.  Prize money motivates, and I'm not afraid to admit it.

Top 5 males and top 5 females receive prize money in this race, so I knew my chances dramatically decreased just based on who I saw on my warmup.  I got to the start line and saw some other fast local ladies, and changed my game plan.

Run the first 5k harder, and if in contention for 5th, go after it.  If not, slow the pace and save the legs for the 100mile bike ride tomorrow.

Everyone went out EXTREMELY fast.  I found myself in a pack with a few locals, a friend in town from MN and the girl who placed 4th in last week's 1/2.  I told myself I'd stay with them until we hit mile 2 and go from there.  We were still sub 5:50s at mile 2, so I decided that I'd slow down just a tad and see how many ladies were in front of us at the turnaround (5k mark).

At the turnaround, there were 10 females in front of me, including our former little pack.  The first four ladies were unreachable, and 5th would be a HUGE stretch.  I decided to dial it back with the intention of saving my legs for the ride.

Every minute of the second half of the race was agonizing.  Getting passed when you KNOW you can go faster is such a humiliating and depressing feeling....but again, I have goals that are bigger than PR-ing in a 10k or being the 6th place finisher at the Big 10 10k.  I was even passed in the finishing chute, which is something I always try to never let happen.

Thankfully, at the end of the race, I met up with the friend from MN, Angela.  She PR'd (!!!) and we talked about my race strategy.  This talk helped me more than anyone could ever believe.  Angela has competed in Kona and just reminded me that I am doing the right thing in these races.  Run fitness unfortunately suffers a bit (if that's your triathlon strength) when training to improve the other disciplines.  There is no need to prove my fitness in running right now when Kona is the goal.  I realize that people take this as an excuse, and so be it, but think about it this way: you have qualified for one of the BIGGEST, most competitive races in the WORLD.  Why would you ever do anything to jeopardize that??

I talked to coach Bill after the race and he was THRILLED with how I raced.  He again reminded me of the focus, patience and discipline we must have when training for Kona.  I am very lucky to have such a supportive coach that has me go and learn lessons like this.

After enjoying the "tailgate" for a little while, I headed off to Madison to join Bill and his friend Clint for dinner before our CENTURY RIDE in the morning.  Clint cooked some delicious steaks, Bill bought awesome cheese curds, and we naturally drank some beer (hello pre-"race" ritual), specifically Spotted Cow as we were in Wisconsin after all.  We all watched Sharknado while waiting for Ryan (working in MN) to arrive before heading to bed.

When we woke up on Sunday, it was 50 degrees.  Definitely not ideal training weather for Kona.  We packed up our bikes, put our arm warmers and socks on and headed out to Fireman's Park.  Bill and Clint had completed one loop (40miles) on Friday, two loops (80miles) on Saturday and were attempting 3 loops (120miles) today.  Clint and I matched up pretty well, with him demolishing me on the downhills and me catching him on the uphills.  It made for a pretty entertaining ride and allowed me to focus on something other than how I wish I was running instead;)

Overall, I averaged 0.3mph faster during my 100mile ride than I had two weeks ago here while riding 80miles in nicer, less windy conditions.  After my 100, I hopped off the bike and ran a 6:42 and 6:08 mile just to see how my legs would respond....and got my confidence back that I CAN do this Ironman thing!

This past week has been rough.  It is week 3 of 3, which means we are just about dying.  Ryan and I met Bill on Wednesday to talk with one of the head scientists at Gatorade.  We talked about the importance of getting x amount of carbs and x amount of sodium and x amount of water throughout the Ironman.  Bill had Ryan and I do a sweat test on the bike...

Basically, we had an hour long workout (perfect) and simulated it in Kona conditions, temperature wise (and humidity, being in our basement and all).  The workout was basically a tempo in running terms, starting at 85%, going down to 70% and back up to 85%.  You weigh yourself naked before the hour starts and then weigh yourself naked after the hour is up.  Subtract the end weight from the start weight and that's how much sweat you lose per hour.

I lost 2.1 pounds in that time, which is actually relatively light (Ryan lost 4).  This determined that I need to take in 2.5 PowerGels per hour and 1,000mg of sodium per hour.  Luckily, PowerGels are the only gels to actually contain sodium, so that means I don't have to pour as much sodium in my drink!  Finally, we calculated how much water I need to drink per hour.

I evaluated my nutrition at Eagleman and I literally did everything perfect, except for the water.  I had 7 gels throughout my 2.5hour bike ride and just over 2,000mg of sodium (a tad on the light end).  I had 3 gels on my 1hour26min run along with Gatorade and water at each of the aide stations...again, dead on.  For some reason, I am able to follow nutrition to a T when it comes to running, but biking is just somehow more difficult to get all of the needed nutrition in.

I highly recommend that any athlete who competes in longer events (Olympic Tri's, 70.3's, Ironmans, running races 10+miles) do a sweat test.  Nutrition is something that is SO simple, yet often overlooked, that can really enhance your performance.

Truth be told, if Ryan had proper nutrition in Eagleman, I never would have had a faster run split than he did.  He vows to follow proper nutrition in Kona so that I never beat him again:)

All kidding aside, please feel free to ask me any questions about the sweat test.  I never knew about it before working with Bill but feel like it is SO beneficial to spread the word about the importance of this test.  After all, who doesn't want to get better by making a change as simple as one in nutrition?