Saturday, December 31, 2011


I've come to the conclusion that it's time to rename the blog.  The URL will stay the same, but, honestly, The Trouble with Living in Sin never quite fit.

When I started the blog back in  2007, I was moving to Australia, and I wanted to write a travel blog.  A few weeks before my departure, I was perusing a handy book of Australianisms, reading them aloud and laughing at their ridiculousness.

"''Chuffed!'  It means happy.  'Knackered' means tired.  'Seppo' means American.  'She'll be apples' means 'Everything is going to be all right.'"
"Shelby apples?" my friend asked.
"No, 'She'll be apples.'  Although, I sorta like the sound of that 'Shelby Apples.'  A misunderstanding of Australian culture, but meaning everything will be ok.  I think I'll name my blog Shelby Apples."
And thus, Shelby Apples was born.

One side note:  I don't think I ever heard any actual Australians use the phrase over the two years I lived there.

Then, I moved back.  Shelby Apples didn't feel like it fit anymore.  Paul and I had just moved in together, and discovered that neither of us owned the essentials like cutlery.  I was griping that the trouble with living in sin was that there's no registry, and a coworker commented that The Trouble with Living in Sin would make a great blog.  I thought that I'd be blogging more about my adventures with Paul, so the name would fit.

Obviously, that's not what's happened.  The blog is clearly triathlon focused.  So, baring any fantastic suggestions from my loyal readers (Paul is pushing for Team Riegle, but I'm not sure that fits), I'm going back to Shelby Apples.  It's a good story.

But, there's another reason why it can't be called The Trouble with Living in Sin.  Cause my days of living in sin are numbered.  On December 31, 2011, Paul proposed to me, and after some prompting (my head kept saying yes, but my mouth was stunned), I accepted. 2012 is going to be an amazing year.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Fun with numbers

I saw this comic at xkcd this other day (If you don't know xkcd, you should check it out.  It's always super geeky, sometimes culturally-relevant and once in a while incredibly informative), and it reminded me of the mnemonic I use for counting laps at the pool. 

Over the summer, I was reading Moonwalking with Einstein, a book that chronicles how the author became the US Memory Champion (yes, it's a thing).  That may seem a bit dull, but he starts roughly a year before the championship as just an every day guy, and then he infiltrates this subculture of competitive memorizers.  It's fascinating.

Anyway, he gives examples of how he memorizes names, numbers, to do lists, etc.  And it occurred to me, maybe I could use a technique like this when I'm counting laps.  You see, and this may come as a shock to some people, but I'm terrible with numbers.  Or at least, I'm terrible with numbers if I can't write them down.  Even simple math, if I don't have the calculation memorized, the numbers swim around, mix themselves up, and I end up being the MIT grad at the table desperately trying to divide the bill into 4 equal parts long after the cash has come and gone.

It's no different with remembering the lap that I'm on, particularly in the pool.  Even short sets like 3 x 300 start to become difficult.  Was that lap 4 or lap 5?  So here's what I do.  I associate images for each of the numbers 1-10.  Each of them has some relevance to the number, so it's easy to remember.  Then I place that image (usually person) at the end of the lane, mentally.  I picture them as I'm swimming.  If I'm not sure which lap I'm on, I just check the end of the lane.  Who's there is the lap.

For instance, the number one is Paul (cause he's my number one guy - AWWWWW)

Number two is my parents.  There is actually a specific photo that involved theatre t-shirts and suspenders, but I don't have a physical copy of it, so for your own enjoyment, here's a picture of my super cute mama (and a butterfly):

At three things start to get creative.  Three is the three kings:  the burger king, King Friday (the puppet) and a very sad looking Prince Charles (cause he's not actually a king).  In the book he explains that the more ridiculous the image, the stickier it is.  And for that reason the number six is the Easter Bunny, holding a basket of a dozen eggs and making a peace sign.

But isn't thinking of all these images just as hard to remember as remembering the number itself?  Well, no.  I don't really understand the science behind it, but somehow the images are easier.  Maybe it's using the other side of my brain or something.

Give it a try.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I don't want to go home yet

It's been a while.  I started running again two weeks ago, and my shin is not better.  It's been frustrating.

Last week Paul's dad suggested that someday (someday soon) I wouldn't be able to keep running.  My shin wouldn't recover.  What the hell?  Sure, I don't expect to be running when I'm 95, but at 32?  Come on, I'm bound to have a few good years left.

Then today, one of my running buddies went to the orthopedist for some nagging quad and knee trouble and came back with a recommendation to give up running or face knee replacement.  I guess we're not invincible after all.

It's got me sorta bummed out. Maybe three weeks wasn't enough time to heal.  I've tried ART, massage, acupuncture, changed my running gait, more aleve than any one should take and so much ice.  This shin is just stubborn.

Last weekend, I ran in (but didn't race) the Jingle Bell 5K.

This race was the largest in Somerville's history and featured runners dressed as 8 inflatable reindeer, Santa with a shopping cart sleigh, and a woman dressed as the lamp from A Christmas Story.  How could you miss that?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Recovery can be fun too

It’s been almost two weeks since the Chilly Half and exactly that long since I last ran.  And I feel ok, both physically and mentally.  Yesterday, I missed my first race due to this shin splint, and I didn’t have that nagging feeling of missing out.

As I trained for the half and the pain in my shin waxed and waned, I went through periods of despair that this injury would end my bid to run my best half marathon ever.  The morning of the Somerville Homeless Coalition 5K, I made peace with the thought that I was going to need to take some time off from running and forego the Chilly Half to allow my shin to heal.  But, then the week after the 5K my shin improved.  It was still not pain-free, but I could run on it without it impacting my stride.

I picked up my t-shirt and bib for the Gobble, Gobble,Gobble 4 miler last weekend, knowing full well that only half of those items would get any use.  Yesterday morning, I went out to the race course to support my friend A as she continues to make fantastic strides in her running (serious negative split and beat her goal!), and to cheer on both BPC and BTT athletes.  As I stood at the finish line, a man next to me asked why I wasn’t running, and I replied that I was signed up but had a bum leg.  It was as if fate had sent him to tell me, “See you’re not disappointed.  Taking care of your body and not running is ok, too.”

Of course, I miss running.  Maybe it’s that setting a PR at the Chilly Half has instilled a new confidence and calm within me.  I feel a bit like a kid in a candy store:  which PR do I want to tackle next, all of them are within reach.  I’m very tempted to return to the half marathon distance again this season with an “adequate endurance base.”  

You see the week before the Chilly, my coach told me that although I would likely set a PR at the race, I did not have an “adequate endurance base for a quality half.”  Can you hear the sound of tires screeching to a halt in my brain?  WHAT? I’d been training for 9 weeks for this race, and it’s not like I was starting from a couch potato fitness level.  What Alan meant was, there’s a difference between having the fitness to go out and run a half (maybe even your best half to date) and having the fitness to run the best half your body is capable of running.  Despite the long miles I had run in preparation, I hadn’t even come close to running the 20 mile long runs for 8-12 weeks that is necessary to prepare for that best half ever time.  

Since I’ve stopped running, I’ve been swimming and biking more, and I’ve added some legitimate weight training.  For the last several months, my strength training has been limited to body-weight core exercises (think planks and bridges).  Though I enjoy these, it doesn’t compare to the pleasure of hitting the gym for bench presses and lunges.  The weight room at one time was a place that raised my heart rate just by going in.  After training with Paul two years ago, it’s no longer daunting.  I know what I’m doing, and I emerge feeling stronger for it.

My shin is improving, too.  I can run my finger over the spot that once was too sensitive to the touch and have no pain.  I’m still on NSAIDs, so I’m not quite ready to declare victory just yet, but I’m encouraged. They say that triathletes are either injured or racing or both.  My goal for right now is to be neither, so that come August I can be firmly in the racing camp.  Of course, a lot can happen between now and then:  there are no guarantees.  All I can do is put my faith in the process and enjoy the (bike) ride.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Signs of good things to come

I can now wholeheartedly recommend actually training for a Half Marathon. 

I was surprised at how nervous I was for this race.  I'd had three less than optimal runs this week that didn't do much for my confidence.  Saturday was all about the details:  what to wear, how to use my watch, what time to arrive.  Luckily, I have a very detail-oriented coach who loves getting into this stuff.  Seriously, we were discussing the blend of polyester and spandex in my tights to determine whether or not they would be appropriate for the slightly warmer than anticipated temperatures (they were).  And he gave me the ok to use not just the virtual partner, but also the advanced workouts in my garmin (so I could have a visual on pace and an auditory alert if my heart rate exceeded the prescribed zone for each portion of the race).

Sunday morning with my wardrobe approved and my watch programmed, I felt ready.  I got to the race course early, and got a great parking spot.  The race began and ended at the Newton South High School, which was great to have a structure to wait in and indoor plumbing!  I caught up with a few friends, and before long it was 7:05, time to warm up.  I ran my 16 minute warm up, ate a gel, drank some water and headed for the start line. 

Despite having finely tuned my garmin, as I was attempting to lock the bezel, I managed to start the watch.  I think about 30 seconds elapsed by the time I realized this and stopped it.  I didn't have time to reset the watch, so I just restarted it when the gun went off.  This meant that when I started running, I was already well behind my virtual partner.  I tried to stay a consistent number of seconds behind the VP.

And that worked until I got to the first hill.  You see, This course covers some of the heart break hill area from the Boston Marathon.  I've heard it referred to as the Chilly Hilly Half.  I was prepared for the "big hill" at 5.6 miles, but there was still a fair bit of "undulation" before you got there.  I decided as I floated down a hill, pulling my VP back to 10 seconds ahead of me that this was ok.  Having an average 7:45 was the goal, I can't expect to go the same speed uphill as downhill, and I might as well take advantage of the free speed on the downhill.

Touring some expensive neighborhoods in the western suburbs of Boston, the miles peeled off. It was mile 10, and I was feeling pretty good, but also getting a bit anxious to be done.  I wanted to pick up the pace, but of course the plan was to stick to the 7:45s til 11.1.  And I was very glad that I did.  I picked it up at 11 and started passing people, only to hit one last hill at 12 that allowed some one to pass me back.  Ok, none of that, keep picking people off.  Just as the finish line came into view, a woman sprinted up next to me.  No way.  I dig deep, find my last ounce of effort, and sprint past her, finishing 2 seconds ahead.

I came in in 1:40:02.  Two minutes faster than my goal and over six minutes improvement on my previous PR.  And 10th in my age group out of 154.  This race gives me a lot of confidence for the coming season.

Of course in every race, there are things that you could do better, in this one, I did not negative split.  As best I can tell I ran 49:55 for the first half and 50:04 in the second (oh, and according to my watch the course was short by about a tenth of a mile).  And the first half of the course had more climbs (247 ft versus 146 ft), so that only accentuates my getting slower over the race. 

My shin felt ok throughout the race.  Not recovered, but it didn't bother me.  In fact, right now the thing that's bothering me most is my left hip.  Maybe it was all the climbing or descending, but it's very sore.  Regardless, both will have 3 weeks to recover with no running as I take a break to try to get back to injury-free running.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Chilly Half Race Plan

The Newton Chilly Half is just 5 days away.  It will be my seventh half marathon, and the first that I've really trained for.  You see, three of those half marathons were part of half ironmans.  Totally different game.  My first half, back in Australia was just after I had moved to Brisbane, I used it as an excuse to keep myself training, but I think I only did one ten mile run in preparation.  Then two BAA Half Marathons, each on the tail ends of tri seasons where I was taking some time off from training, but not racing.  The danger of half marathons is that they are just short enough that I feel like I can just go out and run it without training.

Not so this time.  That is not the Coach Alan way.  I've been training for 9 weeks with increasing distance each week, starting around 7 miles, topping out around 11.

Race starts at 7:30, it's gonna be about 35 degrees then with winds around 10 mph.  I'm planning on wearing the same gear as the Devils Chase.  Brief warmup.  I'm gonna be racing at a 7:45 pace (hopefully with my virtual partner on my Garmin if I can get everything working right) with heartrate varying with the HILLS. 

That's right, this course has several of the hills from the Boston Marathon itself.  So, yeah there's that.

My current Half Marathon PR is 1:46.  I'm feeling pretty confident I can beat that.  If I hold my 7:45s, I'll come in at 1:42.

Finally, the most important part of the half marathon:  the BPC Brunch.  No training can prepare me for that.  See you on the course.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Calculating your resting heart rate

As I've mentioned before, I've started tracking my daily resting heart rate.

(Not sure why it says weight.  It should say pulse.  I promise I don't weigh 61 pounds.)  So, first it's pretty erratic, but what I can see are tough workouts.  Like say, Saturday's race.  On Sunday, my resting heart rate was up to 59.  After 2 days it recovered (only to spike again today, I don't have a good rationale for that one).

But trickier than figuring out what the heart rate data means, is figuring out what my resting heart rate is.  I've taken to keeping my garmin next to my bed.  When the alarm goes off, I pull on the strap, start my watch, and snooze/check my phone for >5 minutes.  Then I upload this data to garmin connect.  It looks like this:

As you can see, it moves around quite a bit, and it always has a peak near the beginning as my heart rate recovers from putting the strap on.  I couldn't just use the average over the whole interval cause that peak would throw it off.  I had been eyeballing the average heart rate over what looked like the minimal minute.  But the engineer in me just couldn't cope with the inaccuracy.  I needed... a spreadsheet!

I've created a google spreadsheet, although the same functions work equally well in excel.  You're welcome to just use it to calculate your minimum heart rate, or you can read further where I'll explain how I created it.  

Either way, you'll download a TCX file from garmin.  Excel whines a bit and throws several errors about the data, but after accepting the risks and data formatting problems, it will open.  In the file, you'll see a column with the time you started the workout, the max heart rate, average heart rate, then observation times, heart rates at each observation.  Those last two are the only ones you need.

Those first two columns are directly from the TCX, just copy and paste.  If you're creating your own file in  excel, you'll need to paste as text, in the google spreadsheet you can just paste.  You're calculated minimum heart rate over a minute will display in cell J3.  

Now, if you're still with me, here's the fun stuff.  First, we need to get the time stamp out of the string in that first column.  We can do that using the =time() function and the =mid() function (which just takes characters out of a string).  I'm not worried about the the hours here, so I just set it to zero.

Next, I want to find the time that is one minute before the time stamp (this is the time I'll be looking for to determine how many rows to go back to average).
Then I confirm that I have at least a minute of data to average by comparing the minute back time to the first time stamp in the set (don't forget the absolute reference otherwise bad things may happen).
=if(E3<$D$3,false, true)
Now for the magic.  You see, the garmin doesn't record obervations at regular intervals.  If it loses its connection to the heart rate monitor, then it doesn't record anything, so we can't just do a rolling average of say, the last 10 records.  We have to figure out how many observations were in that last minute.  We use the =match() function.  This finds the greatest value that is less than the sought value, so if we're looking for the minute before an observation at 2:59, match will look for the greatest value that is less than 1:59.  The result is the number of cells from the top of the field where that minute starts.

Now all we have to do is compute the average.  We use the =offset() function to compute the range of observations to average.  Offset takes an initial cell, shifts from that cell down a number of rows and columns, and then returns an array of the number of rows/columns specified, so we give offset the first heart rate value B3, shift by the index we just calculated, and then tell it the number of rows from that cell to the cell we started at.  

That was easy.  Now we have a column that gives the trailing average heart rate, we take the minimum of that column and we're good to go.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Planning for 2012

Got any good recommendations for spring races?  I'm thinking of another half marathon before the tri season and I'd like to get in a few more 5 and 10Ks. 

Tentatively, I've got:

  • Feb 5:  Super Sunday 5K/10K, I think, website not updated from last year
  • Mar 18:  Ras Na hEirann (or an Ras Mor)
  • Apr 15:  BAA 5K
  • May 13:  M.O.M.'s Day 5K
  • May 27:  Run to Remember 5mi/Half Mara
What do you think?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Devils Chase Race Report: Following the plan

Coming into the last mile of the Devil's Chase this morning I had one thought in my mind: My coach was right. He was right about the pacing, he was right about using the virtual partner on the watch, he was right about what to wear.

This was my best running race in I don't remember how long. Like many good races, then pre-race had a few hiccups, but I'll get into that later. First, the race. 1200 people, at least half dressed in some devil-themed fashion, including a guy in a red speedo and body paint and many variations of deviled eggs (unofficial pictures here).

The plan was to run 7:34s throughout the race, monitoring my heart rate and reducing pace if the heart rate rose too much. I didn't want to go out too hard like I had in the Somerville Homeless Coalition 5K. I've spent a lot of my run training in low heart rate/ low pace zones, so I was a little worried about how fast 7:34 would feel. Turns out, it felt great. Comfortable for the first few miles, then hard, but not impossible.

I love using my garmin for to manage my run. Because the plan was pretty straightforward and because I can only program 1 "advanced" workout into my run, I had uploaded the warm up workout. Unfortunately, I had cut it a bit too fine and didn't have time to reprogram the watch for the actual race. So I just had the instantaneous pace displayed to work with. I hadn't appreciated just how much this metric varies. I'd look down and see a pace of 8 minutes then of 7, then back to 7:20. I knew I wasn't varying that much, so I tried to keep it fast and consistent. Next time I'll definitely use the virtual partner for this type of run.

Just past mile 2, a woman caught up to me. I held with her for a bit, then saw that we were some where near a 7:15 mile. Too fast. I thought about what my coach had said about catching people holding my pace and catching people at the finish. I let her go. She never got out of sight, and I caught her and held her off around 4.5 miles. :)

At mile 5 I was still feeling good. We came around a corner close to 5.2 miles, and I decided it was time to see what I still had left in the legs. I started picking people off. I got passed by one guy between there and the 6 mile mark. After that no more.

I did the 6th mile in 7:17, then sped up a bit more and did the final 6 tenths at a 7:04 pace. (Note: the first lap is 3 miles.)

I did the first 10K in 45:47 which is right around my best 10K time. I was so happy with this. I was the 104th person out of over 1200 and the 6th in the women 30-39 age group. So pleased.

Ok, back to the start. We got to the course a bit later than planned. You see 95 and 128 are pretty much synonymous in Boston, but apparently as you get to the north shore, they diverge. Andrea and I were engaged in a very in depth conversation about cords of firewood and missed the split. We still got to the course well before the start, but with registration and port-o-potty queues and dropping our warm, outer layers at the car, there wasn't a lot of extra time. So as we were dropping our clothes off, I thought I'd rather just run into the bushes to pee, rather than risking missing the start waiting for a port-o-potty. I searched out a spot that wasn't visible from the road and squatted. Then I noticed there was a bur on my gloves. Wait, there are burs on my jacket. Oh, no there are burs everywhere, outside and inside my tights. I did my best to de-bur-ify myself, but those were some scratchy tights. Luckily, the cool temperatures were numbing.

This little guy followed me home:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What to wear for cold weather running

Double post today!

One other factor I'm thinking about for the race Saturday is weather. It's supposed to be 35 degrees And sunny (it's sleeting right now - hooray, Boston). I was talking with my coach last night about how best to dress for that weather.

Coach Alan sent this link along to me that I wanted to share with you:

My plan is tights, long sleeves, gloves and newly purchase headband to protect my ears. And I'll bring a light windbreaker as well.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Race prep: Salem Devil's Chase 6.66 miler

After five days at the beach and a visit to my coach in DC, I'm back and settled in to my routine and ready to take on the 6.66 miler this weekend.

The trip to Galveston for Paul's family reunion was fantastic. I still did some training: one open water swim, a little over 20 miles of running and a fun bike, but mostly it was about hanging out. My days looked like this.

Catch the sunrise


This weekend is the 6.66 mile Devil's Chase in Salem. I've been training for the Chilly Half Marathon coming up in 2.5 weeks. This weekend's race is a fun one, to practice for the half.

The plan is to not go out too hard (again, just like the 5K, except this time, I'll follow the plan). I've got a pace to hold and heart rates to stay under. I'm feeling good about it.

This weekend is also R's second 5K. I'm looking forward to cheering her on Sunday at the Superhero 5K.

Finally, I was a little nervous about working with a coach at a distance, but it's been great. Getting to run and swim with him last week was definitely a highlight. And then today, I got my feedback on my last run, including this:

Look at that cadence improvement. Yay.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

The Anti-Social Triathlete

It's been four weeks since I started working with my new coach. I have a few thoughts on how it's going.

  1. Holy running, batman.
  2. I'm becoming an anti-social triathlete.
  3. I'm officially hardcore.
1. Running.
Fall running season is upon us. The Newton Chilly Half is just 5 weeks away, and as a result I've run 74 miles in the last 4 weeks. That's not a lot for real runners, but for me, let's put this in perspective. Prior to starting with the new coach, it took 10 weeks to get to 74 miles. Over the last 4 weeks running has made up 38% of my training time.

I've been struggling to balance this volume with my low shin splint. It hurt a lot in the warm up before last week's 5K. I was pretty much ready to throw in the towel on the half. But, Coach Alan gave me Tuesday off from running to help it recover. That meant, I didn't run from Saturday until Thursday of this week. The rest in conjunction with some ART and my own "squatting stretch" has helped immensely. (This stretch is one I made up a few years ago that seems to help with my shin splints. It's just squatting down with heals off the ground and shifting weight from one side to the other. I think it's stretching my tibialis posterior. At a minimum it feels good. Do you have any suggested stretches of your own?)

Thursday's run felt ok. Not pain-free, but it was the first run that was actually better than the previous one. I ran again yesterday, and it seemed ok again. So, I'm hopeful that the half marathon is still in the cards.

2. The Anti-Social Triathlete

I've done a lot more of my workouts over the last four weeks on my own. Sure, I've done my Thursday runs with Lauren, a ride with Chad, a few swims and a trainer ride with Andrea, but I've done a majority on my own. I was worried that I might get bored or lazy without that local person to be accountable to, but instead, I sort of enjoy having a few workouts all to myself.

You see, the workouts are very prescriptive. An 80 minute run with a heart rate between 151 and 159 means that the only people I can run with are those who are willing to run at the pace that gets me to that heart rate. Sometimes it works out, like it did yesterday with some BTT folks out by the river, but sometimes it's just too hard to make the logistics work. And, other times it's nice to just tune into my workout, no distractions.

And that got me thinking. My friend R who's just started running doesn't like to run with anyone else. When I first started running, I didn't want to run with any one else either. But slowly, as I developed confidence in my running, I started wanting to run with people. And, as I started running with people, I started getting faster. Now I'm not superfast, but it is interesting to feel this shift away from the social element of my training.

And then the consultant in me had to make a visualization.

3. I'm hardcore.

If you're still with me, thanks! I promise this is worth it. Yesterday, I was running the river with two other people. At almost 8 miles in, something hit my eye. What was that? I wiped my eye and came away with bird shit. EW!!!

But here's the thing. I kept running. Didn't even mention it to my running buddies. There's not much that could be done about it at the time. When I finished the run, I went into a Dunkin Donuts and washed up.

Told you it was worth it. :)

Sunday, October 02, 2011

SHC 5K Race Report: Jack rabbit starts always hurt

This 5K felt like a race, which was weird. How did I know it was a race? I made a morning schedule:

  • 6:45 - Wake up, check heart rate and weight, eat, bathroom, warm up ankle, bathroom, grab wine (as you do... see below), water
  • 7:10 - Leave home
  • 7:30 - Arrive at R's, assemble strata for brunch (hence the wine)
  • 8:20 - Head to the race
  • 8:39 - Warm up
  • 8:55 - Water + gel
  • 9:00 - Race
I usually approach road races as just fun training, but yesterday I was out for a PR. Then again, it's also been 18 months since I've run a 5K (I know, I was surprised by this as well), and I've gotten more competitive in that time.

This being the first race with the new coach there were several new elements to it. Like a warm up. Coach gave me about 2 miles with progressively harder effort to get warm and ready. I've been struggling with the development of a low shin splint (originally occurred just before nationals, but keeps acting up). It hurt on this warm up, but the combination of the adrenaline and the warm up made it pain-free during the actual race.

The race strategy was to not go out too hard and to negative split the race. I got to the start line just as the gun went off. I tried to stay with friend D. But within a few yards, it was clear that keeping up with him was out of the question. I tried to keep the feeling of pushing hard, but not crazy. And then I passed the 1 mile mark. 6:52. Shit. That's way too fast. Ok. now I'm trying to maintain a hard effort, but still have something left in the tank for the last mile. Not the plan.

The second mile was 7:19. Gah, over-correction. Ok, all out for this last mile. This hurt. And then it was over. In fact, that was the thing about this race, the time felt like it went fast. And it was fast 22:17. A new PR (and 5th of the 116 women aged 30-39). But Coach says if I had followed the race plan, it would have been even faster

But that's not the end of the story. I wasn't the only one with PR. Coworkers D, J and K all posted PRs too. And as I mentioned in my last post, my officemate R was running as well. I've been playing fake coach and real cheerleader to R over the last 6 weeks. This was her second attempt at the 5K distance. She ran the whole thing and smashed her goal of running in twice my time. In fact she ran sub-40 minutes. (We're gearing up now for the Jingle Bell Run 5K in 9 weeks.) To celebrate, we enjoyed a homemade brunch crepes, coffee, potatoes, fruit salad, banana bread and, yes, strata. The only thing we were missing was some post race photos.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Running in the Blue Ridge Mountains

This past weekend, Paul and I went down to Asheville for my sister's wedding. It was a beautiful day with a very laid-back ceremony and reception. Absolutely perfect.

But beyond the wedding, we had a weekend to hang out in this fantastic log cabin way up on a mountain. The image above is from the driveway, looking back down to the street. Here's the topography of the neighborhood (yes, that is a 20% incline, and that doesn't even include the driveway which was the by far the steepest part of the trek).

Needless to say, I didn't do my Saturday run from the cabin. Since I've started my new training regime for the fall running season, I've been running 3 days a week. One long zone 2 run, one long run with mile repeats at pace and one long treadmill hill run. See a pattern here? It's only been two weeks, but here's my mileage:

24 miles last week. Whew. Considering my previous weekly run distance was closer to the 6-10 mile range, this is a big step up. Saturday's run was one of the zone 2 runs. I set my garmin to beep at me if I go out of the zone 2 range, I drove out of the neighborhood, and I took off. I've also discovered that I can download workouts to my garmin, so I can specify heart rate or pace goals, and it will beep at me when I'm outside of them. Very nice for those 2nd type of runs.

This week will be much shorter (~13 miles) with my first 5K race of the season on Saturday. Expect a race report on Sunday. By the way, if you know my officemate R, wish her good luck in the 5K race. She's gonna PR (and she's not gonna walk - unless it's at a water stop).

Friday, September 16, 2011


September already and another New England triathlon season has come to a close. Those Brisbanites have it so good with races straight from October to March and "winter" training that still includes outdoor rides.

This has been the most successful season on record. I competed in 6 races, podiumed in 4 and went to the National Championship.

I have the coaches and athletes at BPC to thank for that. When I first arrived back in Boston, I was looking for a team similar to my Aussie team, the Brisbane Tri Squad. I wanted more than just a team, and I wanted more than just a coach. I was looking for a team that offered group coaching to keep me motivated (nothing gets you out of bed like knowing your friends will all be at the pool). BPC was that team.

Over the last two years, I've gone from a participant to a competitor. With Duxbury last year, I took my first climb up the podium, and I qualified for Nationals. After my first taste of victory, there was no turning back. I bought a tri bike, and I kept myself mostly injury-free. This season has been all about getting ready for and competing at Nationals.

As I start looking toward next season (and, yes, I'm already thinking about and planning for June 2012), I've decided I want to try something new with my coaching. I started researching coaches online, reading bios, talking to friends about their coaches, reading blog post after blog post on why I need a coach and why I don't. I narrowed it down to four coaches who all came highly-recommended and who I thought would be a good fit.

I put together a bunch of questions on their athletes:

  • How many?
  • Breakdown of long versus short course?
  • Athlete profile (just getting fit versus national champ)?
their training philosophy:
  • Hours per week and breakdown by discipline?
  • Periodization?
  • Role of recovery and forms?
  • Role of strength training and forms?
  • Training metrics (e.g., power, heart rate, speed)?
and their communication style:
  • Forms?
  • Frequency?
  • Number of weeks in a program? How far before starting the program will I receive it?
In the end, I'm lucky to be working with Coach Alan of DCRainmaker fame. First goal with the new coach is the Newton Chilly Half Marathon in 8 weeks. It will be the first half marathon that I've really trained for, so I'm excited to see how far we can go.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Lobsterman Race Report: Bringing it home

The final race of the season was a gorgeous one. Before we get into the recap though, I have to recognize how well this race was organized. Not just for the athletes (most races have knowledgeable volunteers and well-marked courses), but for spectators as well. This may seem small, but they had spectator food. Many races just have their sponsors (e.g., a protein shake, a yogurt sample) available, but for a longer race like this, it's really nice to have breakfast available to the families out there supporting. So, thanks, Lobsterman.

One note, more to myself than the organizers, get the extra-small shirt. The vendor for the shirts has clearly changed their sizing. My small shirt from this year's race is about 2 inches wider than the one from two years ago.

Onto the race. The water which I was expecting to be quite cold, was fine. They announced it was 68 when they measured in the morning (before the tide had really come in). I think it was a little cooler than that, but still nothing compared with two years ago.

The swim was only 3 buoys: 3 turns, a diamond shape. The way out to the first buoy was smooth sailing. I could see I was in second place about 20 feet behind the first place girl, but she wasn't putting any more water between us. It was a little seaweedy, but reminded me how much I love swimming in salt water - so buoyant. Making the first turn it was tough to find the 2nd buoy: sunshine, rougher water, catching the wave ahead of us and about 400 yards of distance all made it difficult, but no repeats of Nationals.

Coming out of the water, a friend told me I was in third for the age group. Transition was tough. I struggled to put on my garmin after the swim. I needed to use it so that I'd have heart rate data for the ride, but I can't swim in the watch. It felt like forever. Looking back, however, my transition time wasn't that far off. Onto the bike.

Note to Future-Laura: Next time you do this race, remember that first hill deserves a granny gear. It looks like it's not that tall, but it just keeps turning and climbing, and I definitely attempted it in too high of a gear, which is clear from that heart rate spike in the first mile. There was not a single foot of flat on this course. And heading out it just did not feel very fast, but I just kept grinding away at it. I got passed by several women in the 40-49 age groups (geez, those ladies are fast), but wasn't until about half way that I got passed by a woman with 34 on her calf. Then at mile 20 or so, I got passed by Lauren. I thought that put me in 5th.

Off the bike, I thought about what my coach told me, about getting faster throughout the race. The first thing you have to do is go back up that killer hill. Ok, head down, cadence up. Not much really stands out from the run: it was hilly, and it hurt. I didn't look at the watch much other than to occassionally check my pace. That was it, just run hard.

Coming back into the park, I knew I'd be close to my 2:40 goal. I hadn't timed the swim, but I knew the bike and run were coming in just under 2:10, that meant if my swim and T1 were on target, I would hit it.

And the verdict: 2:40:20. So close to breaking into the 2:30s. I can review every detail of this race to try to find those last 20 seconds. Could I have gotten that watch on more quickly, could I have pushed the downhills just a little bit more? I'm not going to beat myself up about it. 2:40 is still a minute better than nationals on a much trickier course. And I felt good throughout the race.

Here we have it. Looks like I was second out of the water, and further passed the first person in transition, putting me in first as we went out onto the bike. On the bike I was passed by two people, putting me in third, which I held for the remainder of the race.

Here we are winning our mugs. I was awarded second (once again my height makes me look like third. As best I can tell, the woman who came in second had a bib number that was out of the range of our age group. I'm guessing this meant she registered late, so she didn't get included in our age group awards. That is definitely a shame.

Next up, fall running season!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Getting fitter

Way back in 2008 I got my first heart rate monitor. The first thing I did with it was to measure my resting heart rate: 72. Hmm. That was a little higher than I expected, but still in normal ranges. I tried again. Same results. I resigned myself to the fact that I just had a high resting heart rate. I chalked it up to being a mathlete for so many years.

Last night I took my resting heart rate again: 57. That's 15 beats. I'll take it.

UPDATE: Thursday night, it was down to 52!

Monday, September 05, 2011

Lobsterman Race Plan: Last Dance (for this year)

UPDATE: I came down with a cold on Wednesday. I'm taking it easy and trying to get myself better, but there's a real chance I don't make it up to Maine this weekend. Disappointing, but I don't want to do it if I'm not 100%.


It's been two years since I've been to the Lobsterman race in Maine. It was one of the few races I did in 2009 after moving back to the states, and what stands out in my mind is that it 1) still holds the record for the coldest tri-swim I've ever done and 2) has a very hilly bike.

On top of this, Lobsterman is my final triathlon of the 2011 season, which feels like it went really fast. And I still haven't cracked 2:40. With this last tri, I will try once again to make this barrier tumble.

Water temperature today ranged from 61 degrees to 63 degrees, so I think it's safe to say it's gonna be a cold one again. Plus, the air temperature is only supposed to top out at 68. Generally a great air temperature for riding and running, but less exciting after 30 minutes in the some cold water. So... good news: I will not overheat at this race. Bad news: I may need to consider adding a layer in T1, so I don't have a repeat of Mooseman.

Onto the bike. I'm still not going to get a chance to preview the bike course before the race. And this year, there's apparently a significant stretch of road that is currently packed gravel. Two years ago, I completed the bike course with an average speed of 17.25. Last year's top speed for the course in my age group was 21.5. I doubt I'm gonna hit 21 mph, but I think high 18s seems possible, given Griskus average of 18.8 and the new bike.

The run's focus will be high cadence and bringing it home strong. I'll report on how it went on Sunday.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cranberry Sprint Race Report: Going fast.

After a whole season of races that take more than two and a half hours, it was really nice to have a race that I finished in just over an hour. That's not to say that I wasn't sore after this race or I didn't take a mondo nap. It's just nice to go fast and be done.

[Bikes racked, goggles checked, ready to race. ]

I had planned on it being a wetsuit legal race, but when I got there, the water temperature was 79 degrees. At that temperature, wetsuits are allowed, but you're not eligible for prizes. The swim was supposed to be a half mile. I had estimated that without a wetsuit, I'd probably finish in about 14 minutes.

Another change: I had decided to try out a different top this time around. Both my head coach and one of our assistant coaches race in the "running singlet" rather than the tri top, so I thought I'd give it a go (the tri top zipper sometimes chafes).
I started the swim on towards the front and on the left with all the other women in 30-34 and 35-39. When the horn sounded I started swimming hard. Quickly, I was out ahead of the mele. I could see about 6-7 girls ahead of me all swimming together, but I was mostly alone. Without my wetsuit the top swished around a bit in the water. Not a big deal, but my heart rate strap also came dislodged and started inching its way down my waste. Just at the final buoy, I saw another woman from my wave come up on my right. I held onto her as best I could, but she got out of the water about 5 seconds ahead of me. Paul was waiting for me on shore and told me I was less than a minute behind the leaders and in 8th or so place. My watch said 7:30. That swim was short! Afterwards the officials said it was closer to 0.3 miles.

[trying to get the heart rate strap back in place]

[I had pretty decent rack positioning, near the bike out, though a bit off to the side]

I beat the woman who overtook me in the swim out of transition by about 40 seconds, and successfully mounted my bike. The bike route was two loops of 5.5 miles, and it went pretty fast. On the first lap, I was passing people, but never sure if I was passing people in my age group. I saw a few 25-29, at least one 35-39, and I was pretty sure one 30-34. I did get passed by the elite woman toward the end of the first lap. On the second lap, all bets were off. I was passing people a lot, but I stopped even trying to keep track of age groups. I didn't get passed by any other women.

[heading out on the run]

Paul was waiting for me at T2. I asked him how many girls were ahead of me. He said he thought I was in 5th place (out of 30-34 and 35-39). Off I went. Got about 300 yards outside of transition and decided I really didn't need to be running in my visor. It was cloudy and misty out, no need to shield my face. So as we rounded the corner of the parking lot, I tossed it onto the fence post.

I got passed by a few men but mostly just focused on picking people off. At the one mile mark, I saw a guy pull over and star to walk. As I made the pass, I reminded him, "Only 2 more miles, dude." He said thanks and started running again.

I got to the hill and saw a female runner up ahead of me. I forced myself to up my cadence and direct my eyes down at the pavement. Whew, made it to the turn (the halfway point in the hill), and I've gained some ground on this woman. Eyes down, cadence up, and we've cleared the top of the hill and come into the water stop. Just after the water stop, I caught up to her. I asked, "Are you 37?" She said, "yes, and you?" I told her 32. She said, "oh, well done then." I said, "you, too." She said she would have wished me luck even if I had been in her age group. Isn't that nice.

My next mark was a 50 year old man, but I just couldn't seem to pass him. I followed him all the way back to the park. Just as we were about to turn in, I finally catch him. The volunteer rightly tells us, it's about two tenths of a mile to the finish (I hate it when they throw out completely inaccurate numbers). And I try to squeeze out every last drop.

[my favorite shot from the race: the finish line, just after I had crossed it]

Paul tells me he thinks I was 4th in my age group. But I ask if that included 35-39 year olds, and he wasn't sure. We wait for Andrea and Rachel to finish up and snap this shot:

The results come in: 3rd place in age group. We find a dry spot in the tent for the awards, just as it starts to rain.
[Third place and looking pretty short on that podium]

It's not quite the win I'd planned, but I feel like I really went hard, and I'm very satisfied with the outcome.

Analyzing your results

I took 3rd in my age group yesterday at the Cranberry Sprint, and I'll post a full race report tomorrow. Today, I wanted to talk about analyzing race results.

You see, this morning, I awoke to find the full results from the race posted to Cool Runnings. I wanted to find out how my discipline times stacked up against the rest of the girls in my age group, but with the raw dump of results it's hard to figure out. You can use excel, but excel is, let's just say, not very graceful with this kind of data. I had to use a handful of tricks to massage the data to a usable format. Here's how I did it.

Just the basics

First, copy and paste. I usually paste results in as text (Using excel, 2007, from the Paste drop-down, select Paste Special, then choose Text.) Depending on how the data is organized it may pasted into individual cells. If not, from the the Data menu, use Text to Columns to quickly spread the data into columns.

I then use an autofilter to view just my age group results (from the home menu, select Sort and Filter, then Filter to add the filter). In the column labeled div (i.e., division), use the drop down to select just your age group.

Then I can sort by each discipline to see how my times stacked up. Sorting by swim, I see that I had the 5th fastest swim in my age group. By bike, I had the 4th fastest time, and by run I had the 4th fastest time, which led to my overall 3rd place age group finish. Nice.

With a race where each of the discipline times is under an hour, this works well. But try sorting by Tottime (Total Time) smallest to largest. You'll see the folks who completed the race in under an hour end up at the bottom of the sheet, not at the top.

Fixing times
Excel is looking at the times for the top 9 finishers and thinking they did a 50+ hour race, not 50+ minute. To fix this you need to use several time functions: TIME, HOUR, DAY and MINUTE. Here's the equation you can use (where E2 is the Tottime):


TIME takes 3 inputs: hours, minutes and seconds. Basically, this says, set hours to 0, set minutes to the hours field (plus days because the HOUR function doesn't return values great than 24), and set seconds to minutes. You can use this function for everyone in the top 9 in a separate column, then copy and paste-value to the Tottime field.

I use similar functions to this one to convert each of the discipline times, so they are comparable.

Fixing the rankings
Excel tries to be smart. When you enter 1/18 in the Div/Tot field (i.e., your rank within your age group), it reads that as the date Jan 18, 2011. This is probably helpful much of the time, but doesn't work when you're trying to show that a person was the first out of 18 in his age group. You'll notice for people in the top 12 of their age group excel is replacing the rank with dates, but after 12 it displays them properly. The short answer for how to fix this is:


Basically, this function first checks if the entry has been converted to a date, then it recreates the ranking as a text item. (There's also a little funny business in there about the year being outside of 2011.)

Cumulative time

Finally, I like to look at my positioning in the pack at relevant points in the race. Having fixed each of the discipline times above, I create a cumulative time exiting T1, entering T2, exiting T2, to see how I'm fairing versus the competition. It's pretty simple: Exiting T1 = swim time + T1 time, Entering T2 = Exiting T1 + bike time, Exiting T2 = Entering T2 + T2. I then graphed the resulting ranks in powerpoint (I'm in orange!).

You can see the first woman out of the water held onto her lead throughout the race. I came out of the water 5th, passed one person in transition and another on the bike to put myself in 3rd place, which I held onto for the remainder of the race.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cranberry Sprint Race Plan: The Encore

It seems like it was just last week I was planning for Age Group Nationals. Ok, it doesn't just seem that way. This weekend, I've got the sprint at Cranberry.

Every year since I returned from Australia, I've done the Timberman Sprint with my good friend Andrea. She and I did our very first triathlon together way back in 2005, so it's sorta special to get to do Timberman with her each year. This year, unfortunately, Timberman Sprint was scheduled for the same day as Nationals. Andrea competed in Timberman without me last weekend (and beat her previous best course time by five minutes!), while I raced at Nationals. We decided we'd need to find another sprint to do. Enter the Cranberry Sprint. We chose it because it was close enough to our A races that we wouldn't really have to train for it. In fact, since Nationals I have trained exactly once: a 20 minute or so open water swim yesterday.

I raced Cranberry Olympic last year. This year, I'm pleased to be doing the sprint because (a) it appears we'll be able to get it in before the hurricane hits (the olympic distance may not be so lucky) and (b) it's my only sprint for the season. Last year's Timberman plan was to have fun and go hard. Plan for Cranberry is the same. And add to that a win. We'll see how I'm feeling race day, but from this comfy couch, it certainly feels doable.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

USATAGN Race Report: My best meets the best

2:41:20. Not quite the 2:35, that I still believe I'm capable of, but still a PR by two minutes. The short story: bad swim, great bike, hit the wall on the run. Grab a snack, cause this recap may take as long as the actual race.

[Pigtails do not enhance my tough-guy, pre-race face]

Things that worked well:

Mantras. I mentioned how I used the "If you want to get faster, you have to go faster" mantra at Griskus. Here, I had a transition mantra: "Quick, but not in a hurry," and an overall mantra "Get behind me, Unbelief." You see, I had a lot of doubts coming into this race. Last week, Paul reminded me of this speech from a Notre Dame pep rally last year:

On the bike I'd been going back and forth with a guy on a yellow cervelo (my oxygen-deprived brain was really entertained by that phrase). At mile 10, I checked my average speed: 17.2. I started thinking, "Guess I'm not gonna hit that bike split either." And, then I realized that was just Unbelief talking. Get behind me, Unbelief. And while I'm at it, Get behind me, Yellow Cervelo. I passed the Yellow Cervelo and dropped him.

Nutrition. Followed the plan exactly (Clif bar at 5:30, gel at 8, 200 calories of heed on the bike, plus gels at miles 5 and 20, water on the run). And it worked great! No stomach distress despite the high heart rates.

Hydration. The new speedfil bottle worked like a charm. I had forgotten to bring the cap for it when I racked the bike on Friday afternoon. Saturday morning, there were a few bugs hanging out in there. I rinsed them out, and I'm pretty sure I got them all. I had pre-mixed my heed in a 24 ounce bottle, poured that in, then topped off the the speedfil with another 10 oz or so of water. This worked surprisingly well, the heed and water, didn't completely mix, so as I drank, the solution got less sweet, which was refreshing. It also meant, I got more calories earlier on the bike. I was so well hydrated out on the run that I peed myself. Generally, I would think it a failing to not make it to the bathroom, but in triathlon, I'm actually sorta proud of it.

Hotel. Comfort Inn people let us stay an extra hour. I had set us up for a 1pm check out, but we didn't make it back from the course til 1:20. We came in prepared to plead and bitch and moan, but instead they just told us to take our time, which meant I got to have a shower before the long drive home. Win! Especially considering the last bullet point.

Things that didn't work so well:

The swim course. It was a big fail, not just for me, but for a majority of the athletes. I think a few things went wrong. First, I'm pretty sure that the course we swam was different to the one we planned. As best I could tell, here's the difference: The turn at the third buoy was much more acute than it had looked in the course map. Second, making that turn, you started swimming directly into the sun. When I came around the third buoy, I couldn't find the fourth buoy. I even breast stroked for several strokes trying to spot it. No luck. The pack I had been swimming with was getting further away from me, so I decided I should just follow the pack, but I kept looking up and trying to spot that fourth buoy. Finally after another 60 strokes or so, I switched back to breast stroke, and finally located the fourth buoy WAY OFF TO MY RIGHT. Ugh. Not much USAT can do about the blinding sun, but they could instruct their watercraft to help people make that turn. Why they weren't steering people back on course, I don't know, but it was very frustrating.

Speedfil. I lost a screw on the speedfil, and it rattled for much of the ride. Also, I had set up the straw too short. Each time I went to drink, my visibility went down to about 15 feet in front of me. Not ideal

The run. The first two miles, I reeled people in. Ran a little better than 8 min miles with a super steep first half mile. But after that, things started getting harder. My legs felt heavy, and the miles were just so far apart. Worse still, when we had ridden the course the day before, we hadn't gone all the way out to the turnaround, we thought we had, but no. So the run just kept going and going. At the final water stop near 4.5 miles, I walked through it. I picked it back up again, but my pace suffered. My heart rate was consistently around 190.

With nutrition and hydration squared away and weather out of control, what can I do to improve run performance? It's still an endurance race. I need to find the right balance of bike to run.

If I want to do a 2:35 (assuming 25 minute swim, 5 minutes of transition), then I need to average 18.8mph on the bike and 7:20 min miles, or 19mph and 7:30s.

One thing that did seem to work: form on the run was looking good even in the final shot:

Warm ups. I had a solid hour between when transition closed and when my wave went off. I did a quick warm up and some dynamics just before transition closed, but then sitting around for an hour seems like not the best thing. Any suggestions here?

PS. Only burned 1600 calories out there. I still don't understand what "workout" that fitbit person was doing.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

USAT Age Group Nationals Race Plan: Here we go

Well it's finally come together. The final touches have been put on the bike. The bags are packed. The list of morning items is complete. Here we go.

I've been thinking about and planning for this race for over a year. Since they announced the AGNC would be in Burlington. I watched some of my teammates compete for spots in Team Australia in 2009, and I've been wanting to get to go to the US champs ever since. With all this time to ruminate, the pressure had really been getting to me. Earlier this week the stress was making me feel like I might come down with a cold (and I'm not the only triathlete who experienced this). But after some good talks with my teammates and coaches, I'm feeling confident and rested, if not relaxed going in.

Last year, when I told my coach I wanted to go, I believe her first response was "those girls are fast." Now, 36 hours away, I'm thinking they better be fast if they're gonna help me get a PR.

Other than all the bike changes (a detailed list follows for your amusement), I'm planning a similar strategy to Mass State. Same nutrition plan, with a bit more fluid on the bike. Temperatures are only slated to be 72 by the time I finish, so I shouldn't have the same heat issues I had before. The swim is a strength for me, so I'm gonna try to use it to my advantage. On the bike, it's all about keeping people in my sights and hanging on. The woman I passed on the bike at Griskus will be at this race, so I'm gonna make it a goal to catch her again. The run will just be going crazy, pushing my limits and seeing what I can do. The Garmin has been acting up, so I won't have pace readings on the run, but I will still have my Polar. Go hard and go fast. That's it.

How to get a tri bike a month before your A race:

  • Decide you want a tri bike, 29 days before the race
  • Get the bike from your coach, 23 days before the race
  • Ride the bike for 40 miles and discover the computer is set up for 700 wheels instead of 650s, so the speed and distance are off (also swear that you will never ride that saddle again), 21 days before the race
  • Try to schedule a fitting at your favorite bike shop, only to have them tell you they can't fit you in til 5 days before the race, 19 days before the race
  • Schedule a fitting at another bike shop for 18 days before the race, 19 days before the race
  • Work from the road, so you can go to the shop for the fitting, only to find out that you've been double-booked and they won't be able to fit you for another week - But will give you the $300 fitting for the trouble, 18 days before the race
  • Take the aero pads off the bike to allow them to dry in the house rather than the basement after getting drenched, only to realize that I had separated the pads from the velcro, 18 days before the race
  • Order replacement pads online, 17 days before the race
  • UPS loses the pads, call the vendor to call UPS, discover that it's going to take a week to look for the package before they'll send you out a replacement, 14 days before the race
  • Attempt to change the wheel size in the computer only to discover that the you have to hook up the bike computer to a real computer to reset it, 14 days before the race
  • Go to the fitting, replace the stem, the saddle, add rear cages, replace the aero bars because the ones on there aren't adjustable (briefly consider taking the bars off the old bike to put on the new bike, until you're told the ones on the road bike are probably too short anyway) (briefly get excited that you at least have replacement aeropads that you could use with the new bars, only to discover profile designs changed the design), 11 days before the race
  • Decide to get a speedfil instead of using the rear cages, call around to many and online retailers because they are about to launch a new model so nobody's got the old model, find an old model, then order the seat-tube-mount-adapter kit online because your bike doesn't have a downtube bottle mount, 10 days before the race
  • Cancel the lost order for replacement aero pads, 10 days before the race
  • Call to see if you can pick up the bike, no, you cannot, 9 days before the race
  • Have your boyfriend rent you race wheels, 9 days before the race
  • Call at noon (might not be ready til tomorrow), at 4 (he's working on it now), at 5 (eh, probably another 90 minutes) to see if you can pick up the bike, finally at 7:30pm, pick up the bike, 8 days before the race
  • Get a mile away and realize the bike shop didn't give you back the old saddle, aero bars, etc, turn around and go back, 8 days before the race
  • Attempt to afix the new waterbottle with the seat-tube-mount-adapter, only to discover that the cage you have actually doesn't fit with the adapter, 8 days before the race
  • Freak the fuck out, 8 days before the race
  • Boyfriend contacts speedfil, gets them to send out another cage that will fit with the adapter, 8 days before the race
  • Take the bike out for a 25 mile loop, ooh, it feels so good, but I'm so thirsty, 7 days before the race
  • Decide I'm just going to have to replace that bike computer cable if I want accurate speeds, so order it too online, 7 days before the race
  • Bike computer cable arrives, 4 days before the race
  • Race wheels are attempted to be delivered, but no one is home to sign for them, have them redirected to a kinkos, 4 days before the race
  • Have an awesome send off dinner with the team, 3 days before the race
  • Pick up the wheels, 3 days before the race
  • Take wheels into yet another bike shop to have the cassette swapped over, 2 days before the race
  • Receive the water bottle cage and finally successfully mount the water bottle with limited water spilled, reset the computer to 650 wheels and put the race wheels on, 2 days before the race
  • I think that's it. I think I'm actually completely ready, and I've still got 36 hours!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fitness Marketing Hall of Shame

I came across this image on the fitbit website site, and it was just so ridiculous I had to comment on it. Fitbit is a pedometer that wireless connects to the internet uploading steps, distance and calorie burn information. So far, so good. They also have a website where you can enter additional information about what you're eating and your exercise routines. Also great - what gets measured gets done.

And then they have this copy: 80 calories in lunch, 2154 calories burned in work out. WTF. Who has an 80 calories lunch? Who does a workout that burns 2154 calories after that 80 calorie lunch? Let's put this in perspective, that apple she's holding, that's about 95 calories. Her lunch would need to be less than one apple. When was the last time you got most of the way through and apple and thought, "Whew, I'm stuffed!" I burn about 2000 calories in an olympic distance triathlon. I eat way more than 80 calories during that race. And, let's remember that this is a pedometer, used primarily for walking. I would need to walk 10 hours to burn 2000 calories. How many curls do you think this model would need to do with her 2lb dumbbells to get to 2000 calories?

The problem with this copy is it sets unreasonable expectations. I'd imagine the core demographic for fitbit are exercise newbies. One of the most challenging things about getting fit is understanding how much you burn and how much you take in. If you've bought a fitbit, it seems like you're really interested in gaining that understanding. But, then their website tells you that you should be having an 80 calorie lunch and burning 2000 calories at the gym. Either it will make your estimates totally off (that salad must have been less than 100 calories - it's a salad, afterall!) and you will not see the results you expect, or it will make you feel bad that you only burned 300 calories on that elliptical at the gym.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


One week from right now, I will have completed my first showing at the Age Group National Champs. At the moment, however, it's all about the pre-race jitters. I am constantly thinking about this race.

Two weeks ago, I tweaked my ankle. I'm not exactly sure what's up with it. I rolled it during a hill workout, and two days later it started hurting on my track workout. It's generally fine to walk on, only when there's significant impact does it get sore. I've been ginger with it since then, and it's improved, but it's not 100% back. I'm a little suspicious that it might be another shin splint, just much lower. I'm not worried about running on it next weekend. I will run on it, but it's definitely impacted my training the last two weeks.

Then we've got the bike. After my last race, I decided I needed to get a proper tri bike. Conveniently, my coach has been looking to sell her old tri bike. Best practice, of course, is not to change horses two weeks before the race. But then again, I'm not gonna get any faster over the next two weeks, but on this bike, I will go faster. There are lots of details that come with changing the bike: getting it fitted, replacing the saddle (ouch!), replacing the aero pads when I separated them from the velcro, trading out the aerobars for adjustable ones, returning the new aero pads since they don't fit the new aero bars, installing a new water bottle system, realizing the new water bottle cage will not fit on the new bike, replacing the power meter cable so I can change the wheel diameter in the device so I can have accurate speeds on the bike, renting race wheels (hooray, birthday presents). Each on their own is a small tweak, but taken all together, they begin to feel like there's no way I'll be ready to race on this entirely different machine.

Finally, there's the race goal. I had been hoping to come top 25. For one thing, last year, there were 55 women in my age group, so coming top half doesn't seem unreasonable. Also, Nationals qualifies you for Worlds. There are 18 spots for each age group, rolling down to the 25th place finisher. Worlds are in Auckland next year. So if I got offered a spot, I would go.

This year, however, there are 97 women in my age group (so far). Where did all these ladies come from? Upon registration, you are asked to submit an estimated finish time. Of the 71 athletes who submitted them, I would come 51 if I hit my target. I was feeling good with my performance at Griskus, but it's occurred to me that perhaps New England is not the hotbed of triathlete competition I had thought it was. So, I started googling people who I might have raced before. The first one comes up with a news article "Local Triathlete Heads to Kona." Ok, maybe that was a fluke. The next one was a 3rd place finish at Duxbury last year. Sweet, I won that race, so I'm feeling good. Oh, wait, that was 3rd place female, not age group. She beat me by several minutes.

Thinking about the competition out there sorta makes me queasy. So new goal: PR. My current PR is 2:43:05, set at Cranberry almost exactly a year ago. I've improved my run substantially since then, and the Cranberry ride is long. If everything went to plan, I think I should have a 2:35 in me. I'm putting Auckland out of my head and focusing on having best race I can and letting the fastest in the country push me.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mass State Race Report: Unexpected results

Well, that was rough. I was cooked on that run. It was hotter than expected, and I needed more water on the bike. Lesson learned, take a second bottle of just water. I got through the first mile and half before stopping to walk. My heart rate kept creeping up over 180, so I kept stopping. Eight times in total. Ended up running a 59 minute 10K. Yeesh.

At first I didn't like having the gps watch on the run cause those splits were brutal, but I ended up appreciating having it, monitoring my heart rate, slowing pace or walking when it got out of hand.

Here's the thing though: I had exactly the same time as last year. I did the swim in 23 minutes (so 5 minutes faster than last year - advantage: wetsuit), did the bike 1:19 (2 minutes faster, average of 18.5mph), and then did the run 7 minutes slower. And I took second in my age group, and I got a pint glass.

I felt sort of bad that after such a crappy run, I could still place. If I had been in one age group up or one age group down, I wouldn't have placed by about 20 minutes. But, that said, I came 2nd out of 18 in my age group.

Lessons for next time:
  • Water on the bike. Also drinking all the way up til the start.
  • My stomach was still not happy, but considering it was unhappy for the whole day I'm not sure how much of that was race-related.
  • Need to practice those mounts/dismounts again.
  • Definitely more taper for that next race.
  • Also may try to do a little more mid-day running to better acclimatize.

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