you know you’re training for Ironman Coeur d’Alene when…

More than a few things that have occurred to me during training that have made me chuckle over the past few months so I thought I’d share a few I’ve written down.

  • In your car’s cup holders, you have a water bottle (recently emptied or recently filled) and energy gels – GUs and Hammer Gels…and a spare granola bar or Clif bar in your glove compartment. Just in case.
  • And also, you have these things in your purse. And your gym bag.
  • Your tri team says “Hey everyone, its 47 degrees in the lake… let’s go swimming!” (WHAT?! No thank you!)
  • It is 32 degrees outside and snowing sideways. Your friends are cozied up in bed or reading a book and drinking coffee and you are halfway through your 60 mile bike ride.
  • Same as above, only 25 mph winds, or driving rain….
  • The 1st thing your friends ask you when they see you is “How is the training going?” Because a) they are excited for you; b) they never see you and c) they don’t know what else it is you do these days. And frankly, you don’t either.
  • You come home to packages on your doorstep and the contents? Ironman Perform drink mix, Perpeteum drink mix, 60 energy gels, and new running shorts.
  • You’re hungry. All of the time.
  • You know for a fact that if you swim early in the day and run or bike after work, you will sweat chlorine. Profusely.
  • Your laundry piles up three times as fast as you used to and you only have time to do it about a third as often as you used to. You do the math.
  • You’re praying that the race day water is at least 62 degrees. (Normal people recognize that swimming 2.4 miles in water this temperature is still too freakin’ cold.)
  • You can eat, drink and blow your nose on the run and the bike (and you have to remind yourself not to do the latter when you’re relegated to the indoors).
  • It’s super annoying when people talk to you like a sprint triathlon is the same as an Ironman.
  • Spring training doesn’t mean baseball, hot dogs and sunshine. It means windbreakers, rain jackets, and beanies and gloves on the bike. And dark ominous clouds and threatening raindrops on the horizon.

Eight weeks to go! How do you know you’re training? 🙂

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grumpy hip flexors and reality checks…

I realize this training go-round that I’ve not really delved much into my actual training plan. Many people go about training differently. Having had previous success with using a training program for my previous two 70.3s, I decided to stick with a 24-week long Ironman plan from one of Matt Fitzgerald’s books. In addition, I have a lot of resources and individuals with whom I’ve consulted as to what kind of training plan they used and how they would recommend we go about doing this. In general the plan calls for 9 workouts a week – 3 swimming, 3 biking and 3 running – with brick workouts a couple times a month. The first 70.3 I did, I got pretty darn close to hitting every workout . Last year, I was a lot more realistic about whether that was entirely necessary considering my goal was not to win the whole race, just to finish.

This year, I figured that I’d be pretty happy with 6-8 quality workouts and on weeks where time was especially tight, I’m making sure to hit the long runs, rides and swims, the interval training, the hill workouts, etc. and dropping the foundation workouts if necessary (what could arguably be considered “junk” miles).

I’ve been trucking right along, (scheduled to clock in about 4 hours of running, 6 hours of biking and 3 hours of swimming alone in Week 13) but what’s been clearly missing in all 3 years is any dedicated time for strength training and any time for stretching. They are the “assumed workouts” – the ones we all know we should do but are so often guilty of skipping because we’ll do them later or because they must not be that important if they’re not written into the plan…

This year has been no different . All of the biking and running I’m doing, added to the fact that I commute a little over an hour each day to and from a job where I sit at a desk all day at work and no stretching during the day or after workouts, meant that some of my muscles were getting pretty grumpy with me.

Two weeks ago I was doing a mental check-in and it was clear I needed to start doing something to provide some relief to my tight muscles, especially my hip flexors, which had been pretty vocal the past 2 or 3 weeks. I was starting to feel creaky and downright OLD. It became crystal clear that if I didn’t do something to head this off at the pass, there was a lot of potential for my hips to become a much bigger problem in training for Ironman. If I didn’t do something it seemed, my tightly wound hip flexors might just snap. Ick. Sounds messy. And dare I say, an untimely inconvenience.

As a result, Week 11’s resolution was to spend more time stretching and strength training. The guys at Mobility WOD have some good stuff for all sorts of fixes and I found this to be a painful (yet helpful)  addition to my days:

But I also know that I’m flat out awful at committing to stretching for more than a few days in a row, which is a big part of the reason why I’m in this position in the first place. So I also added in one evening a week for yoga – 90 minutes dedicated specifically to stretching and  focusing on erasing the tight spots with some added core and balance elements as a bonus. And of course, mentally it’s refreshing to focus on one thing and one thing only – not falling over.

After three weeks, I think I feel some improvements. Whether it’s the yoga or the mobility wods, I’m no longer in fear of my muscles snapping. Now on to Week 14 and figuring out how to NOT get that same crick in my neck every time I’m on the bike…

spring is in your…nose?

Hello springtime! My wish for Phil to declare winter to be over came true, at least by the looks of things. When temperatures hit the high 40s and low 50s and snow and ice has melted off the trails and roadways, folks round here declare it the start of outdoor biking season.

Round here, that officially happened over this past weekend. That’s right. All of us poor schmucks who have been relegated to indoor trainers and spin classes since November hit the roads (covered head to toe in the warmest gear we could find from beanies and ear warmers to gloves and wind breakers jackets and tights and toe warmers) to dodge the gravel and sand left on the roads by the plows and again feel the (cold) wind on our faces and blowing through our hair. But oh! To be going somewhere after months of pedaling in place!

early spring biking

One cautionary note on riding outdoors – the bugs have also realized spring is coming. They’re not out in droves yet, but enough so that when you sniff (cause it’s cold and your nose is running), you’ll likely catch at least one in your schnozz, maybe more.

Happy springtime everyone!

(PS – I know, now that’s I’ve said all of this, we’ll get snow and cold again and for that, I’m sorry!)

when aqua zumba gets the best of you…

Today was one of those days. You know. Those days. 

I was up and out of the house extra early for a 7 a.m. meeting only to find out it had been cancelled and I was the only poor schmuck whose email rejected the announcement. So there I was, sitting in the dark in the parking lot, all by my lonesome, waiting for a nonexistent meeting to start. That non-existent meeting kept me from a morning workout. 

I was lucky to pull off a lunch workout at all today, because, did I mention? Today was one of those days. All work week I’ve been getting my butt kicked six ways to Sunday. Things are popping. But by 1:45 I (pretended that I) had my stuff together enough to run out of the office to steal a quick run. Thank goodness too, I needed the fresh air. 

This evening, I thought I would take the opportunity to swim immediately after work (since this is the only pool I have paid access to right now…). I had even turned down an opportunity to go to an epic brewer’s dinner with goodness knows how many delicious courses and beers. Good times all around. But instead, I opted to try for a workout instead. Bad move. 

I had to stay at work a little late (also see butt kicked, above) and when I got to the gym I saw a pool totally full of dancing, squirming, floating, mostly white-haired waterbound Zumba-ers. WHAAAAAAAAAAt?

Now, this is not to be down on Zumba. Or Aqua Zumba… but let’s just leave it at this: it’s not really my thing. 

It turns out that Aqua Zumba is not only the latest rage, but also was going to last for another 45 minutes. Just my luck. 

Now, I would’ve stayed and waited it out. I hate to admit I let Aqua Zumba win. But I had left early for that non-existent 7 a.m. meeting and my dogs were stuck inside all day….And our old dog is not really holding it like he used to. And even though it was already one of those days, I DIDN’T want this day to be one of THOSE DAYS. You know, the days that end with you cleaning up your dog’s poo in your house. So I guess at the end of the day, you can say I was foiled not only by Aqua Zumba goers and the fear of a dog who couldn’t make it any longer.

The good news? I had Plan C. The bike trainer. (again). At home. At least it was a poo-less home thankfully.

 

Today, my key to Ironman training was flexibility and perseverance. And patience. 

But I was looking forward to swimming…Aqua Zumba, you’ve bested me for the last time! Just in case, I guess I’ll check the pool schedule next time.

rooting for Phil…

Oh no.

Week 3 and I’m already tired of biking on the trainer.

Tonight’s workout was a power interval workout. Merely an hour-long workout yet even with a warmup and intervals to break it up, the last 15 minutes sure did drag by.

I’m going to spend the next few weeks rooting for the groundhog – Punxsutawney Phil – for an early spring. If I ever needed it, it’s this year…

C'mon Phil, we need you to do the right thing!(photo from: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2011/02/02/133427240/punxsutawney-phil-says-spring-is-coming)

little ol’ phil…

C’mon Phil, we need you to do the right thing! Do you take bribes…?

 

Photo credit: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2011/02/02/133427240/punxsutawney-phil-says-spring-is-coming

frozen foods…

As you might expect, training for Ironman means you want (and need) to eat. Lots.

I’m this way without training for anything, so one of the best things for me about any training program (but especially training for endurance races like Ironman) is the ability (and justification) to eat whatever it is you darn please. However, training also puts a severe damper on the amount of time you have to do non-training things, such as grocery shop and cook… minor details.

In previous years when I’ve trained for half Ironman distances, I’ve had weeks where I was just so darn tired from working and training, training and working, that I didn’t want to do anything but SLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP when nighttime or the weekend came.

I don’t imagine that this year will be any different and in fact the need to have easy, accessible, relatively nutritious food is doubled with two hungry bears in our household training for Ironman. So on my rest day the other day, I ran out to the grocery store and picked up all sorts of yummies – ingredients for things that could be cooked and prepared now while I have the time and frozen for future convenient consumption.

Behold my progress!

yum yums for later!

yum yums for later!

I am no professional food photographer, nor am I a professional chef. But I can tell you that a frozen lasagna and a container full of 3 bean chili are happily sitting in my freezer now, waiting to fulfill their destinies as fuel in a time crunch in the near future. The third is a concoction of the nuts – oats- chocolate – raisins persuasion that was intended to be saved for future but proved to be too tasty to resist!

I hope to have some more time this coming week to put together some more freezer meals while the workouts are still relatively short. The more I can make, the better!  My future self will thank me…

Do you have a favorite freezer-type standby meal?

confessions from an olympic tri…

Today was the first Olympic distance triathlon of the season for me (.93 mile swim, 24.8 mile bike and a 10k run) – it’s a little late in the training program (I think technically it was supposed to be last week or the week before to fit ‘perfectly’, but c’est la vie!) I’ve covered the distances in training, obviously, but today was truth time. So, confession time. What did we learn? How did it go?

1) First and foremost, I must confess that I was not really excited about this race. My hubby was also supposed to do the race and he had to work so I was on my own and I was really tempted to bail on the race also. It was a 3+hour drive away and an overnight stay because there was no packet pickup this morning. In some sense of the word, it was a victory for me that I even showed up!

the calm before the storm…

2) The swim was pretty rough, choppy and at times almost violent, which is NOT something I remember from this race last time. I puzzled over this throughout the rest of the race – I think it may have something to do with the fact that I’ve aged up to the next age group. Last time I did the race, I was 29 – in the first wave of the Olympic distance with only the half ironman-ers in front by about 15 minutes. This year, at the ripe old age of 31, I had to wait for everyone in the half-iron group (still well ahead of us, but I did pass a few struggling stragglers towards the end of the .93 miles) AND I had all of my wave PLUS the first wave to fight through. The water was choppy. People were all over the place and there was seemingly no end to watching out for feet, elbows and fists. This is not something that I snobby ex-pool-only swimmer likes to see. Whether being in a different age group made the different or not, I added a couple – 2 or 3- minutes to my swim time from 2010, which I was bummed about because, ironically, I’ve been swimming a heck of a lot more this year than back then. Confession: I was/am(?) a little concerned that I’ve been swimming and somehow gotten s-l-o-w-e-r.

(trying to) swim in the crowd

3) As you may have gathered from #2, I’m a front of the middle pack or maybe back to middle of of the front pack swimmer, depending on the crowd. What’s the confession here? It’s this: the benefit of being good in the water is not really not a benefit at all – you get to hop on your bike early and be passed by people who say well-intentioned but ultimately funny and demoralizing things like “Good swim…” and leave the “too bad you’re not a better biker” hanging in the air. I know, I think so too. I even heard a guy in the water before the start talking about how he never worked on his swim because he just didn’t see it as an advantage. Now now. You may blow by me in a few minutes, but I’ll put money on the fact that I’m probably less frazzled and winded from the first leg. But I digress.

C’mon climbers!

4) Ok, this is maybe the confession that concerns me the most with a 70.3 looming: Sadly, my climbers are not what they should be on the bike. Biking is definitely my weakest link and while I’m slowlybecoming a better biker with time and practice, I find I don’t push myself as hard as I do when I’m running or swimming. I think it has to do with the fact that I associate biking with casual rides around the neighborhood as a kid. You know, relaxed. Carefree. Not grimacing, sweating, legs and lungs burning kind of biking. Nothing quite like race day to make you put the pedal to the metal, really push yourself to try to compete with the fools that are flying past you like you’re standing still (even though your bike computer insists you’re moving at what you feel is a respectable clip). Fortunately for me, today’s course was rolly, but not hilly. Twenty-five miles of really pushing it and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was a little concerned about how well I’d hold up and how much gas I’d have when I hit the run. Plus, my knees have been hurting on higher cadence rides and I definitely noticed it today when I climbed off. But fortunately once I was on the ground it went away. (Note to self – probably oughta get that straightened out, wouldn’t you say?)

5) I forced myself to eat and fuel all day. Forced is the operative word here. I hate eating in the morning, but I had a banana and a bar and a bunch of water before I swam, three gels on the bike and one on the run. Lots and lots and lots of water. Other than the gross queasy feeling I had before the swim (which could definitely be attributed to the fact that my stomach deemed it too early to be accepting food and also to the fact that I was ready to just get this thing going already), and a brief moment around mile 18 on the bike where my stomach reminded me how hard it is to digest folded over bike handlebars (I spent a few minutes sitting upright), I felt good. Hm. No confession here, I suppose.

6) Last time I did this race, I thought I was going to die of heat exhaustion. I’m not gonna lie – this was really a big concern of mine for this year as well. To combat this, even though I really didn’t want to, I carried a water bottle with me and every water stop (there were 4 or 5, I believe), a cup of water went on my head and neck and I drank or filled my bottle with the other. In between stops, I made sure I was keeping my head cool and drinking a lot. I felt a lot better about the run this year than I did last time, that’s for sure. And I think I was able to shave a few seconds off of my last run time for the course as well.

7) Lastly, triathlons continually remind me to be humble. I try to be supportive, talk it up on the race course and encourage people. But in every race there is someone, maybe a few someones who (in a moment of judgy-ness or jealousy or poor sportsmanship or whatever you want to call it) “have no business being in front of me”. I’m not proud of it. Yet, there they are. And they’re there, in front of you for a reason. Maybe they’ve put in more work. Maybe they’re more determined because they’ve seen more adversity and overcome more so they’re stronger. Maybe this is their life’s dream and for you its simply a training run. Maybe they are there to motivate you to stick with it or kick it in at the end. Still others may be there to remind you to be gracious and thankful for the skills and abilities you have. Or maybe they’re there to remind you to be inspired by the people around you.

Today, around mile 5, maybe closer to 5 1/2, a gentleman who I knew had been with me for a while finally picked up his pace, ran up beside me and said “Hello, how are you doing?” I said “I”m great, beautiful day” or something to that extent. He smiled, commented on what a nice pace I have (he should know, he’d been hanging out in it for a while), and then sped off, beating me to the finish line by more than a handful of seconds. And as he ran off, I noticed the numbers on his calf read: 6-8. Man. Sixty-eight years old and still rockin’. I just smiled and shook my head, I picked up my pace but I wasn’t going to catch him. Mr. 68, you are my hero for the day. You reminded me to smile and be happy with the day and to be inspired by the journey that others are on. I can only hope that 37 years from now I’m still able to do this with a smile on my face.

on heat and hydration…

I have such a love-hate relationship with July. And mid to late summer events, for that matter. There’s no doubt that the start of actual summer-like weather makes training and triathlons easier in a lot of ways. It’s a pretty safe bet that from now until October, I will probably not have to worry about planning a training workout around rain or otherwise foul weather (I did say probably…).

Here in the Inland Northwest, we generally have 2-4 weeks of really, truly HOT weather. The number of times we break 100 degrees can usually be counted on one hand. But our hot weather has come early this year – a week ago, we jumped straight from 70 to 95 in a matter of two days and haven’t dipped below the mid 90s since. Not that I should complain. I’ve been more than ready for sunshine and blue skies for MONTHS. But I digress.

Most reasonable people spend these scorching days submerged in water – floating lazily in an inner tube down one of our rivers or on one of the many lakes. Me, I have the distinct (mis?)fortune of being in the midst of training for a summertime 70.3 Those of you doing the same or something similar know that when these hot days come, we must spend the time acclimating ourselves. Because lord knows, come race day, it’ll be 95 degrees out and we’ll have no choice but to deal with it. Better to give our bodies the chance to get used to it.

Saturday was a scorcher and that is an understatement. Seriously. And from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. I was out in it. During the nearly 3 hours I spent on the bike, I was thankful that I had remembered to apply sunscreen on my arms and face. But I still got a mild sunburn on the side of my thighs, adding to my rockin’ bike shorts tan lines. Note to self: remember to apply sunscreen before the race and stash at transition area for “just in case”.

I’m working on fine tuning my on-the-bike nutrition and always have to make a conscious effort to eat, eat, eat when I’m on the bike. Note to self: make sure that whatever you bring to refuel is tolerable when it’s warmed up! Some gels are really pretty gross when they’re warmed to 90 degrees… but some are ok – apple cinnamon flavored Hammer Gels taste like warm apple pie! And espresso flavored GUs also seem pretty normal at 90 degrees… I guess because coffee is often served warm so the temperature matches the flavor. Or something.

Bicycle water bottle

Bicycle water bottle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And then of course there’s the issue of hydration. As you all know, the hotter it is, the more you sweat, the more you need to replenish – both fluids and electrolytes. On hot training days, I really have to make sure I’m carrying enough water. Or that I have a plan for refilling often enough. I drink quite a bit cause I’m a big sweater… so I need to have quite a bit of water on hand or a lot of planned water stops. The problem with carrying it all is, of course, making sure you have enough water bottle holders on your bike (or you could carry a Camelbak or some sort of hydration pack) and also that the water will heat up the longer that you’re out. The other day when I was out, I was definitely drinking really warm water, which makes me not really want to drink it. Race day is generally a different story with water stations, but it’s definitely something to think about. Note to self – try this: freeze some water bottles the night before the race. Stash them at transition and pull them out at T1 and T2 (depending on how hot and how long the race is).  And also, find some better insulated water bottles. Pronto.

photo from: guysandgoodhealth.com

Post bike/post run, basically as soon as I stopped moving, sweat just poured off of me. How the heck was I going to cool down? The last late July race I did, I jumped back into the lake following the run and sat until I could get my core temperature back to normal. Fortunately, there was a river alongside the trail I was riding and running on, so immediately after I finished running, off came the shoes, the tunes and the sunglasses and into the river I went. I sat and I floated and I cooled off. No better way in the world to do it. Note to self: pack a cooler with a post workout water bottle! And only work out near cool rivers and lakes!

Just a few things to think about…after this weekend and also after today’s toasty midday run, I’m reminded that hydration issues can definitely derail my race day. So as much as I’d prefer to skip the midday 90+ degree workouts, practicing and adjusting my race day strategies and hydration has to be part of the training plan. For a few more weeks, anyway.Do you have any special tricks for dealing with the summer heat?

on eating and training and eating and racing

Today’s workout was a 3:30 bike ride. I was starting to get just a smidge hungry and I knew that it was going to be a long ride, so  I packed up some energy gels, some bars and a whole bunch of water and hit the road. Everything was good, munched on a few bars, sucked down a couple of gels en route and cruised.

Until mile 36.

I thought I was keeping up on staying hydrated and refueling electrolytes, carbs, etc. And then I totally, totally bonked. It was a good reminder to practice more – that is, practice eating and hydrating while on the move to replace what I’m burning and sweating out. You, too, should incorporate refueling into your training program. And here’s why:

  • The cardinal rule of race day? Don’t try anything new. This goes for food and drink. If you’re planning to take advantage of the food and drinks provided on the course, and especially if you’re planning on relying solely on them, you should try them out  in advance.
  • How does it taste? Do you like the flavor? For gels and chews: What’s the consistency like? Do you like it? If you don’t like it, this is good to know ahead of time. Race day, you’ll need to consume the gel and obviously this is easier to do if it doesn’t prompt a gag reflex. If you plan on And how do you manage when the gel or fluid is warm?
  • Then there is actually practicing the act of opening and eating – for example, if you’re on your bike – can you open the package it comes in without falling or crashing? Can you eat on the run (or bike)? If not, pre-open the packages. If you’re eating chomps or chews or bars, are they too big for you to chew and keep moving? Cut them in advance so they’re more manageable on race day.
  • How does your stomach feel? It can be a delicate balance. You don’t want to eat too much because your body can only digest so much while you’re on the move. And while biking, hunched over, this can be a challenge. But you also need make sure you get enough to keep fueled.
  • How are you planning on carrying everything? Do you have the right gear? A bento box for your bike? Some kind of race belt for the run? Are you used to carrying it?

If you’re looking for more:

Competitor Magazine has an article on race day fueling here: http://running.competitor.com/2012/03/nutrition/race-fueling-made-simple_8633/1

Active.com also has a useful article here: http://www.active.com/running/Articles/Fueling_for_peak_marathon_performance.htm

And of course, Runners’ World has a whole slew of articles on hydration and refueling here: http://www.runnersworld.com/topic/0,7122,s6-242-302-0-0,00.html

 

Happy training and here’s to no more bonking!

sometimes it takes a village…

We’ve all heard that quote before, “It takes a village to raise a child”. I think that quote, or at least the paraphrased version “It takes a village” definitely applies to me and my training. Only mine would end in “…of doctors to hold me together”. Not my intention, but it happened last 70.3 and it’s seemingly happened again.

I’ve posted prolifically about my shoe-orthotic debacle. Here is the grand take-away from my on-going shoe /orthotic / foot drama lest any of you run into comparable issues:

For those of you who are seeking medical attention of some sort, here’s my two cents (as obvious as it may seem):
Make sure that you like and trust the doctors and medical professionals with whom you are working. Ask the doctors what their experience is in training and participating in the kinds of events you are planning to complete. If they haven’t completed something similar themselves, have they treated someone who has? And what were the results?

They should know and understand your goals and the training program that’s required to get you from here to there. They should be aware of the commitment. And perhaps more importantly than anything, find someone who totally gets it – someone who’s been there, done that (or done something comparable), who understands the sacrifice and commitment. They will do whatever it takes to help you achieve your goals. These people will not tell you to STOP. On the contrary, they will troubleshoot, research, brainstorm, give you options and help you solve the problem. In my opinion, if your doctor tells you at your first visit that if running hurts, you should stop, get a second opinion. Get a third opinion if you need to. Get some options – alternatives to stopping. Alternatives that will help you solve the problem so you can keep on keepin’ on. You’ve put too much time and energy into preparing to get sidelined by a medical professional who is unwilling or unable to help you find a resolution that still allows you to meet your goals within reason.

So, how the heck do you figure out who’s the best physical therapist in town? Sports medicine doctor? Orthopedic specialist? Podiatrist? Massage Therapist? I’ve found that these medical professionals who specialize in treating athletes are often best found through word of mouth. Know a weekend warrior? Someone who runs marathons? Does triathlons? Epic century rides? At some point, it’s almost guaranteed that they’ve had some issues and they probably have a specialist they would be more than happy to recommend (or people to steer clear from, which is also valuable information!). A recommendation from people you know is a much better starting point than Google or the phone book – take it from someone who’s learning the hard way! I won’t make the same mistake twice, that’s for sure…