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.

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