Tuesday, July 31, 2012

ironman Q&A: part II

The second half of the Q&A is much more opinion than it is facts about the race, just so you are warned.  The same disclaimers about this being my first attempt at the distance and generally knowing nothing about how to be fast (or generally much at all, except how to pose for ass pictures) still apply.

Race Recon
What surprised you the most about each discipline at that distance on race day?
In the swim, I think I did an excellent job of scaring the crap out of myself about how much contact there was going to be.  On race day I was surprised to find that it wasn't nearly as bad as I had been imagining.  On the bike, I was surprised to feel happy well past the half split - this makes me excited to go race another 70.3, because usually I'm ready to get off at 56 miles.  I was also surprised by how low I felt after mile 60 and how long it lasted.  On the run, looking back I'm surprised at how positive I stayed inside my head, despite the fact that I was hurting pretty badly.  Even when I was walking, I wasn't mad and pissy, I was just....walking.  All day, time felt like it was passing incredibly quickly.  I remember someone around me asking the time of day during the run, and I was FLOORED when I heard the response of 5:30pm.  For whatever reason, I thought it was barely noon.


What mental tricks did you use to warn off fatigue?
I'm not sure I have any tricks, really.  I think I had a lot of long training days which prepared me to be in my head for a long time.  In the second loop of the bike, when I really started to get low, I attacked the problem.  I went after calories and caffeine and in-between doing those things, I focused on thinking about my family and how much they had sacrificed so I could be there, my friends who were all cheering for me, and of course my puppies.  I just tried to distract my brain from falling into a big sandpit of negativity.  When pain and fatigue were really getting me on the run, I pulled my visor over my face (sensory deprivation) and tried to go to an empty place in my head.  I didn't try to "think positive," I tried to not think at all.  


Where do you think you could see the most improvement in time and how?
Well, if I could spend 30+ less minutes dicking around on the bike, that would definitely make a huge difference in my day.  But I think I can make a bigger difference on the run.  The slowness on the bike was because I was off of it so much, peeing, so that's not a training improvement, that's an execution improvement.  On the run, now I know how much it's going to hurt.  Now I know that it hurts just as much to walk as it does to run, and I think that's going to help me with continuous forward motion the next time around.  
Did you ever think "WTF am I doing out here?" during the race? 
I thought it a few times before the race got started, but not once while the race was going on.  I was so happy to be out there.
Did you ever think "I hope he got a good shot of my ass" as you passed a race photographer or someone with a camera?
I didn't think that, exactly, but after my mom went by on the moto, I laughed because I figured she got plenty of good ones!  I actually don't remember seeing a single race photographer all day.
I imagine one of the biggest hurdles was knowing that after finishing the bike you still had a marathon to run.  What did you do to prepare for this and how did it go on race day?
A good friend of mine told me many times this spring to not think about the marathon while on the bike.  There were several days in training where I had long rides and then a run off the bike, and I can remember being so done with the bike that I was THRILLED to change into run shoes and run, just so I could not be on the bike anymore.  I channeled this pretty hard on race day.  I didn't think about the marathon as an entity even once, and I tried pretty hard to just focus on the leg I was on.  The bike course was broken up into four out-and-backs, so I just concentrated on getting back to town each time I passed through.  I remember crossing the 110 marker on the road and finally thinking, "Wow, only one more transition and then I'm headed towards the finish line."


Once I was running, I never thought of it as a marathon.  My longest run in training was 16 miles, so I just thought about that distance for a long time.  I was a bit annoyed with my body when it started hurting before then, but once I got past it, the thought, "this is the furtherest I've ever run in my life!" went through my head every few minutes.  But the whole day, I never felt like I was clicking off miles and counting up or down.  I never wanted to be looking ahead or backwards.  I wanted to stay in each moment, all day, because I knew I had worked hard to enjoy every single one.
What was your most earth shattering/entertaining/thought-provoking/soul-defining thought(s) on the course. I am sure there were many...
I'm actually a little sad to say that there actually weren't that many.  I have seen a pretty big change in my mental approach to racing this season - i.e., the work I'm doing in my head on race day.  I never realized I was doing such negative work in my head until this spring.  However, it hasn't been difficult to make this change.  Once I became aware of it, it was like flipping a switch.  I don't spend all day cheering myself on, it's more like I've found a way to become more emotionally detached from my own performance.  I saw this at Knoxville when I had a poor showing on the run but never got drowned in my own thoughts.  And I will argue that I saw it again at CdA - both when I started walking and didn't start hating myself and when I figured out how to start running again.  It's really hard to describe what is going on in my head and why it works, but it feels like a blank slate.  Like there is just air and space and waves washing onto the shore.


What was the first thing you wanted to do after finishing?
Hug my husband.  Eat a piece of pizza.  Do nice things to my legs. 
Do you feel like IM training gave you better perspective on what is stupid shit and what's actually worth caring about? 
I feel like I've talked so much about what this journey has done to my life.  Through this entire process, I think I am beginning to learn how to separate the things that matter in life from the things that don't.   I thank my little lucky stars that I crossed paths with Sonja when I was going through this because she has been exactly what I needed to grow.  A lot of ironman training was fun.  A lot of it was hard.  A lot of it broke me down over and over and over again.  And when life gets hard, when it throws hard shit your way, that's when you figure out who you are, what's important to you, the people that matter.  And the rest just falls away.  


I don't think you have to train for an ironman to go through these kinds of "ahaaa" moments.  But I think training for an ironman combined with my own life experiences and journey made it a perfect crossroads of change for me personally.  Even though I didn't know it at the beginning, I was ready to change, I was ready to face some tough truths about myself, and from all of that I have a much better grasp on what is important in my life.  I also know that I'm not done, ironman training hasn't popped out the most perfect version of me.  I'm still going to make mistakes, I'm still going to fail, it's still going to hurt a lot to keep growing, but routing my journey this way makes me happy.  

Training
I got a lot of questions about maintaining balance in life while training.  I'm not sure I'm qualified to answer those.  It was easy to whittle down things into priorities, but across the board, I didn't do a great job of maintaining balance while training.  I had a very supportive husband who did an incredible job of supporting me throughout these months.  I had some great friends, many of whom had done this before or were going through it themselves or just wanted to jump in the pool with me to keep me company, and they all helped me not lose my marbles.  
Did you lose a lot of weight during training?
No!  I had a range of about 5lbs that I fluctuated inside of over the course of about seven months.  Sometimes after long training weekends or too much ice cream, I'd be at the top of the range.  After a rest day or a recovery week, I'd be near the bottom.  I don't think my body changed significantly throughout.  There were some small changes in where I have muscles, especially after quadrupling the amount of swimming I was doing, but in general things pretty much stayed put.  


Do you have any tips for time management?  Recovery?  Managing the costs of this expensive sport?
Time management is basic.  I was lucky enough to be working from home (and then unemployed), so my time was perhaps more flexible than most.  But it's just a matter of being organized and prioritizing.


I can think of at least a dozen times where I asked Sonja for some magical recovery tips and was sad that there wasn't a big secret she could share.  Sleep, what goes in your mouth, stress, body work (foam rolling, massage, etc), all those things contribute towards recovery.  The spaces between training matter just as much as the training hours, maybe more.  I learned a lot this spring about how to make those things count much more.  


As for costs....sigh.  I got a great deal on a previous-year QR.  I bought all my shoes at Road Runner Sports, and most of them while on clearance/super sale (my Newtons were under $100 which is a miracle of the shoe gods).  I stocked up on nutrition when it went on sale on Amazon or in a local store.  I made it through all of this training on two pairs of running shorts and two pairs of bike shorts and Target-branded sports bras.  My (very cheap) gym membership includes a pool, and I swam there despite it being small and cloudy and full of huffalumps doing aqua-robics.  None of this means it wasn't expensive, because it was.  But I'm a frugal little miser, and I did everything I could to keep costs as low as possible.  When I first signed up, I decided to track every dollar spent along the way, but gave that up pretty quickly because I just didn't want to know.


We also made other sacrifices for things that were less important.  We've never really been people that eat out a lot, but we cut down in a huge way this year.  I learned how to cook a lot more meals.  We sucked it up and shopped at Costco even though it makes me so stabby to go there.  I've been cutting my own hair for over a year now.  I can't remember the last time I bought clothes that weren't from Target and absolutely necessary.  I don't wear makeup, I don't like jewelry, we don't have cable, we cut our own lawn.  Our furniture doesn't exactly match because we bought it at an outlet.  Budgeting was actually pretty manageable until I lost my job, and by then, almost everything had been paid for already.  And there were many times when I said no to things I didn't want to say no to, or I had to squeeze a few more miles out of running shoes until the next month, or use that weird gel that came in the race bag instead of buying more of my favorites.  It's all part of deciding what matters.  


I know you didn't talk hours/distances on the blog during training, but if you're willing to now, what was the time commitment like during peak weeks/during rest weeks?  What did your training schedule look like during some of your peak weeks?
Oh, this is such a difficult question, because it varied quite a bit based on where the volume was focused (on swimming, biking or running).  A big run week resulted in less overall hours than a big bike week, just due to the differences in time and distance.  That said.  All of my peak weeks were well over 20 hours of training.  I did one IM-focused block that overlapped the end of May/beginning of June and I believe all those weeks were over 20, even the first build week.  I know I got close to the 30 hour mark at some point (too much PTSD to look it up just now).  I had rotated through several 3 week build/1 week recovery blocks before that IM-specific block, and I'm sure that most of the peak training in those blocks resulted in 20+ hour weeks.  Recovery weeks varied from 6-12 hour weeks, again depending on where the volume was focused.  
But, I don't think that it's all about how many hours you do per week.  It's like adding up mileage and hoping you'll be the biggest bitch on race day.  I've seen people and plans do well off of far more and far less time commitment.  A lot of it has to do with the quality and intensity of your sessions and how to balance the training.  It's all far more complicated that I can explain, which is why I got a coach so I don't have to worry about it on my own.


As for during peak weeks, they were all different.  Because of the way my life allowed me to schedule, most of my bike volume was on the weekend and most of my swim/run volume was on the weekdays.  I'd usually have 1-2 shortish rides during the week, I did all of my long runs on Wednesday or Thursday, and both weekend days I'd be on the bike.  I actually like this because it separated long days on the bike and run.  My bigger weekends would generally be a 5-6 hour ride on one day and a 3-4 hour ride plus a run of some distance (usually at least an hour) on the other day.  And a short swim of some sort thrown in there.  When a complete rest day showed up at the end of a training block, I was ready to enjoy it.  


The best investment I made during Ironman training was______.
A coach.  No question.
What is your weakest sport?  How did you overcome fear in that sport?
It's interesting, because last summer I would have told you that cycling was my strength, then running, then swimming.  I worked hard on all three sports this year, but the one that showed the most improvement by race day had to be swimming, which kicks running down to being my weakest.  Which is sadly accurate.  If I got to choose, I would be strongest on the run and weakest on the swim.  I'd also be 5'10" and stacked with a flat ass, if we're choosing.
However, being weak on the run, comparatively, isn't something that made me fearful.  When I got off the bike, I knew I had plenty of time to make my way to the finish line.  When you stop swimming you drown and when you stop riding you fall over, but when you stop running you walk.  There's no fear there.


What is one thing you'd do differently in your training?
I'm not sure I can pick a thing.  I wish I had understood the whole-body approach to training earlier in my life, because once I started paying attention to the spaces between training, I felt like everything just got better.


Did you deal with any injuries during training?
I dealt with lingering issues from last year's back problems all throughout this cycle.  The back problems stemmed from lazy/weak glutes, so a lot of my strength training was focused on that chain.  I tore my calf in February and ended up missing about four weeks of run training from it.  I periodically have a cranky shoulder that pulls on my bicep tendon, which I also address through regular strength training.  I did maintain strength training throughout ironman training, 1-2 sessions of full-body work per week.  Sometimes I would leave it out of a recovery week if I felt like the rest was more important, and I didn't do it while tapering because I wanted my body to really focus on healing.
How much sleep did you regularly get during training?
It varied, but I'm happiest when I am asleep before 9pm and get at least 8.5 solid hours.  There were nights after killer weekends where I would sleep 10+.  


How long after the race was it before you swam/biked/ran again?
I swam three days after the race, I biked eight days after the race, and I ran eleven days after the race.  I didn't do anything hard or long for several weeks.
How sore were you after the race?  How long did it take for the soreness to go away?
I was sore, but I've had worse post-race soreness after a hard half-marathon.  My soreness lasted for about two days and then was gone.  I felt a lot of deep fatigue for at least 3-4 weeks (I might still be feeling it now).  


What was your longest continuous training day before your IM, and how did you account for the difference between that and race day?
Someone once explained to me about half marathon training that your training is like a puzzle, and you don't put the pieces together until race day.  Short interval work is a piece, easy runs are a piece, tempo runs are another piece, and the long slow run is the last piece.  On race day they all fit together to make a complete picture.  Ironman training is exactly like that, spread out over the three disciplines (please see: why I think a coach is so valuable).  


What were the biggest sacrifices you made during training?
Probably the ability to spend significant quality time with my friends and family.  Time itself is the biggest sacrifice.
What is your best piece of advice to someone contemplating an ironman?
Ohhhh, I don't know, I'm not so good at the advice.  Probably something along the lines of, make sure you really want to do it.  Because there is a lot of it that is hard, and it sucks away so much time out of your life, and if your heart isn't in the training, you won't make it.  If you are in it just to hear Mike Reilly call your name, I don't think you are in it for the right reasons.  I've always enjoyed training so much more than racing, and I especially enjoy long days on the bike and I still had moments in training where I hated it and wanted to throw my precious bike in the bushes.  It's really important to have a strong support system in place as well, so you have people who will listen to your babbling when you've been sitting on the kitchen floor crying for two hours about how tired your legs are.  And figure out how to talk nice to yourself.  That might be the best thing I've learned from Sonja, over all this time.  There's no good to be found in yelling at yourself in your head.  Just be nice to your brain, be nice to your legs, be nice to your body as much as you are able.


Finally, I got a huge amount of questions that had to do with how to know if you are ready.  How do I know for sure I can do this, when did you feel ready, if you didn't feel ready why did you sign up, did you freak out during training about feeling ready, all kinds of great questions like that.  And I don't have an answer.  I do think that having reasonable expectations before signing up and during training helped tamp down a lot of those questions in my mind.  Being very honest with myself about where I was in my training and not having secret time goals in my head helped me to feel very ready on race day.  I knew I could cover all the distances and while I had no idea how long it would take, I knew I would get there.  I think the biggest mistake you can make while training for your first - and there are exceptions to this - is to have ambitious time goals.  If I had made realistic time goals for myself for CdA, I probably would have accomplished what I expected to do on the swim but not the bike and run, and then I would have been disappointed and started filling my mind with crap about not being ready.  Instead, I truthfully just wanted to enjoy the day, and I did.


And I was a little terrified when I signed up, but in the end, it was a fever that just wouldn't break.  Once the idea got in my head, I couldn't shake it, so I took the leap.  And now that I've been through it once, I can say that the cliche is true: Anyone can do an ironman.  Anyone.

Friday, July 27, 2012

ironman Q&A: part I

Ooookay, let's get this party started!
I tried to separate out the questions in a way that sorta made sense, and I got a lot of duplicates, so if you don't see your exactly-worded question, look around before you run screaming to twitter about how much I suck.  


The obligatory disclaimer: I AM NOT FAST.  I DID NOT WIN THE RACE.  If you want tips on how to do those things, you are in the wrong freaking place.  If you've been around for a while, you know my background, but I'm just a runner that kept getting hurt that fell in love with cycling and thought it would be a good idea to go long.  And this was my first attempt at this distance.  I'm going to answer all these questions with my opinion, but that's all it is.  In fact, you might disagree with my answers or my methods and I am okay with that.  I'm not an expert, I'm just a little blogger with a big mouth that made it to the finish line.  
Last disclaimer: I separated this into two posts because it went from kinda long to OMG-am-I-really-supposed-to-read-this-whole-thing long.  My attention span is too short for that, so the first post is swim/bike/run/nutrition and the second post is training/overall race recon/FINALLY final-no-for-real-this-time-final thoughts.  


Swim

You've talked before about panicking in open water swims.  How did you get over this?
It sounds simple, but I think the best way to get over it is to just keep doing it.  I freaked hard the first time I swam in open water.  A lot of that was because I couldn't see and was afraid of what was hiding in the dark murkiness.  At Coeur d'Alene, I freaked out during the practice swim because of the shock of cold water to my body.  So I made a plan on race morning to get in and out of the lake a few times before the race started, and then I didn't race into the water and start crushing the swim looking for feet.  Instead, I stroked very easy until I knew I was acclimated.  I think it's important to have a plan; it matters less what the plan is.  

Any tips on drafting and not getting kicked repeatedly?
One of the silly things about drafting is that some water is too dark to see feet, so instead, look for bubbles.  I didn't find anyone to really draft off of at CdA - although I wasn't really looking that hard - but in other swims, if I try and keep feet in my vision and the water is cloudy, I end up too close and will slap those nice feet.  Look for the bubbles!  Also, this will sound incredibly stupid, but sometimes I confuse the bubbles my stroke is making with bubbles from feet, so look up every now and then to make sure it's a person you are following and not your own hands out into the middle of the lake alone.
As far as getting kicked repeatedly, I think the best way to approach it is to presume that no one is doing it on purpose.  Every time I got kicked or whacked or made contact in CdA, I looked up and paused or moved in a different direction to give myself space.  This certainly isn't a recipe for a fast swim, but if contact freaks you out, it might be worth it just to know that you can move away.  There isn't a lot of room in the water, but it's there.


You've said before that you've only been swimming for a year or two.  How did you approach training for the swim?
My coach took a lot of this out of my hands, but I think the thing that worked for me was simply getting in the pool as often as I could.  I completed every swim on my schedule that was planned for me, and early on my coach told me that I was welcome to swim more than what was planned (almost) as much as I wanted, as long as it was easy.  I think her words were, "extra swimming will almost never hurt you."  So I was adding 1-2 swims per week that were easy and only 20-40 minutes long, but I think it made a difference.  It definitely added up over the course of several months.  I read somewhere that you need to swim 2-3 times a week for maintenance, 4 times for progress and 5 times for significant progress.  I'd guess that I swam, on average, at least 5 times per week from December - June.  



What did you wear under your wetsuit?
I wore my SOAS tri kit.  I had talked to my coach about just wearing a bathing suit and then changing so I'd be in dry clothes on the bike, but we decided that was a waste of time because it wasn't THAT cold out.  When I rode through town the first time, the temperature on the bank said 54ยบ.  I added arm warmers in transition but I wished I had worn them under my wetsuit because they were a pain in the ass to get on.  Or I should have rolled them up into little bracelets like I've done before.



Did you wear a neoprene cap or booties?
I bought a neoprene cap last year the day after I signed up for CdA, and I wore it.  I think two swim caps would have been just as effective (the underneath one silicone instead of latex, maybe) as the neoprene cap, but I'm not sure.  No booties for me.  My feet lost feeling in the first lap of the swim and didn't wake up until about two hours into the bike, but it didn't bother me.



Bike
Did you get totally naked in transition and let strangers apply ride glide?
In swim-to-bike transition, I let strippers rip off my wetsuit, added socks, shoes, arm warmers, helmet, race belt, and left.  I had pre-ride-glided before the race started but added an extra layer of my own in T1.  I did not need assistance with the ride glide but the volunteers were amazing - I'm sure someone would have lubed up my nethers for me if required.
Any special tips on what to pack in the transition bags?
In both of my bags, I packed a tiny travel-sized container of spray sunscreen.  While I was dealing with my shoes/armwarmers/socks/etc, I asked a volunteer to spray me liberally everywhere she could.  I also packed a tiny bottle of water (4oz) in my run bag so I could have something until the first aid station if I needed it.  I actually drank it coming out of the tent and tossed it to hug the poet.  

I packed a C02 and a spare tube in my bike special needs bag, just in case I went through the two of each I was carrying.  My three bottles of nutrition and my snickers bar were in there as well.  I had no idea what to pack in run special needs, and ended up just putting an EFS liquid shot in there in case everything else I had/on the course sounded awful.  I skipped run special needs.  

How did you approach cycling training?  I haven't been on my bike in YEARS.
Again, most of this was in my coach's hands (and I'll talk more about training tomorrow in detail).  However, when we first started, she had me on the bike more to help building my aerobic endurance - essentially, to peel me away from the frustration of all the walking I was doing on the run due to my entrance to heart rate training.  I've always been able to tolerate fairly high mileage on bike, all things being relative, which I think prepared me well for ironman training.  My training weeks were almost always bike-heavy as far as time is concerned, especially during peak weeks.  


How did you feel about wearing tri shorts, with a thinner chamois for 112 miles?  Would you do bike shorts next time?  How do you like your SOAS kit?  Does it have enough pockets?
So, during training, I almost always wore bike shorts.  I have a Pearl Izumi pair that I wore the shit out of all spring, and a hand-me-down pair of whoever the lobster logo is that I wore on days the PIs were dirty.  As I came out of the winter and got closer to racing, I would wear my tri shorts on some short rides.  On one particularly painful ride the day after a century ride, I rode them for the first two hours and then had to change.  For most of the rest of training, I wore bike shorts to train in.  I used to feel like I had to get adjusted to tri shorts by force, but now I think it's okay to wear bike shorts most of the time and tri shorts on race day.  For peeing purposes, I don't think I would ever want to wear real bike shorts on race day.  I had no problems at Coeur d'Alene in my thin-chamois'd tri shorts and will definitely wear them again.

As for SOAS, I was introduced to this company last year and am in love.  The material is really comfortable - most of the time I don't even notice my race kit, which I think is ideal.  The pockets on the top always seem like they aren't deep enough to me, but I've never had anything fall out.  I've never used the pockets on the shorts for whatever reason, but there are quite a few.  At CdA, I actually didn't use any of the pockets because on the bike I had everything I needed in bottles or my bento box.  I'm not just saying good stuff about them because I'm an ambassador - rather, I'm an ambassador because of how much I love the clothing and the company as a whole.  They are getting ready to release running shorts and I tried to finagle a pair out of Kebby to show off at CdA but they weren't stitched together quite yet.  
What's the minimum ride distance someone would need to begin considering nutrition on?
In training, I'd say that you need nutrition (i.e. calories) on any ride longer than 90 minutes, sooner if it's hot out or very intense or if you have a back-to-back workout.  In a race, I think you need to consider nutrition on the bike no matter what the distance, because you need to run after.  Even in my sprint this spring, I put down about 150 calories on the bike, just to make sure I was topped off.  

Since you had trained with liquid fuel only and then had other fuel on the course do you think you will continue to train with only liquids?
Short answer, yes (on the bike).  I'll talk more about the specifics of my nutrition below, but all the fuel I took in on the course was gel with the exception of maybe 200 calories of gummies (Gu chomps) which are not a liquid but not a solid and my 220 calorie Snickers "treat" which I did not need but wanted.  I am very glad that I trained with all liquids this spring.  The changes I made in the six weeks leading up to CdA seem to have been very positive especially after the shit show that was Knoxville.


Did you eat & drink more, less, or the same as on your training rides?
I was actually surprised to find it right about the same.  I practiced IM nutrition on my last 4-5 really long rides and just replicated it on race day.  That sounds like an obvious thing to do but I think it's surprising how many people have "race day" nutrition that is radically different from training.  I expected to take in slightly less nutrition because I expected to not stop during the race, but we all know how that went.


Are you glad that you bought a triathlon-specific bike?  Do you think it's necessary?  What about an aero helmet and race wheels and a powertap, do I need those things?
Yes, I am so happy that I bought a triathlon-specific bike.  I absolutely love my QR, and it was the right decision for me.  However, I don't at all think it was necessary.  I saw plenty of people on the course with road bikes - some with clip-on aerobars, some without - and plenty of them finished ahead of me.  For me, I was able to find a bike that I loved and a year ago, it fit into my budget and I could afford to do it.  I do think that it's incredibly important to get a proper fit, and I remain thrilled that I flew to Colorado and had Scott Geffre fit me in my April.  In general, it's more important to just be happy with what you've got, and I plan to ride my QR into the ground.
As for the rest of the crap, I don't think you NEED any of it.  I wore an aero helmet that a friend gave me because it didn't fit her (cost outlay: $0).  I swapped my Reynolds wheels with a different friend for slightly deeper wheels because I like to be noisy and make things difficult (cost outlay: $0).  And I trained with heart rate instead of power because I believe that heart rate is sufficient for anyone training for their first.  I also think that you don't need power until you are attempting to be seriously competitive in the field, but that's a soap box I don't need to climb on.  If it's your first and you are trying to do it on a budget, you don't need power.  I spent a little bit more money to get a sexy bike instead of getting a cheap bike with power and I don't regret any of those choices.  Will I train with power in the future?  Probably at some point.  I'm certainly not going to invest the money in power now, so I'll be through my second and possibly third attempt at this distance before I made the switch.  Do I think I will suffer for it?  Not even a little.  


How many water bottles did you carry on your bike?  How did you refill them?
I have three bottle holders on my bike - two on the frame and one on the aerobars.  Each had liquid nutrition inside.  I aimed for one per hour.  When the first three were empty, I tossed them at an aid station.  I had three waiting for me in my special needs bags.  I refilled with water at a couple of my long bathroom stops, but I could have done without.  A few times that I grabbed a gel at an aid station, I would grab a bottle from a volunteer, chase the gel and then toss the bottle right away.
Run
Should I change into running shorts?
So, I decided to change.  I had a couple of long rides this spring where the greatest feeling all day when when I got back to the car and unearthed my sweaty nasty bike shorts from my crack and put on loose breathable shorts, and I wanted to feel that way on race day.  It was a small thing, but letting my sweaty parts air out in my trusty run shorts made me feel a little bit fresh.  I'm not sure that I would do it again, but if you're not out to race the clock, I think it's a good call.  Like so many things of the day, it's a personal choice.

Did you get completely naked in the transition tent?
No, but after the bike, I walked in and stripped off my tri shorts before realizing that I was standing in full view of everyone walking around outside the tents.  I'm pretty sure a nice lady helped me yank my shorts up over my sweaty naked crotch.  Trust me, you don't care, and neither does anyone else.  
Holy shit, I can't believe you ran in the Newtons.  Why?
It was simple, actually.  I've done three half-IMs and several shorter triathlons in either my Asics or my Ravennas.  Each time, my feet have been blistered and swollen and completely destroyed - and on one particularly memorable day, by mile 4 of the run.  I started working the Newtons back into the running rotation about four weeks after returning from my torn calf, and I was much more careful about it the second time around.  By the time race day rolled around, the longest run I had done in them was about 7 miles.  I had a conversation with Sonja the day before about which shoes to wear, and she said to avoid the known entity.  I knew the Ravennas had trashed my feet in the past, and the Newtons never had, so I wore the Newtons.  And finished a very long marathon with not a blister or scrape or swollen foot or rough spot or purple toenail.  My feet looked brand-new.  

The only regret I had about the Newtons was that I didn't do my longest runs in them, and on race day when my feet started to hurt, I blamed the lugs on the shoes.  Looking back now, I'm not sure if that was it after all, but the balls of my feet (along with the rest of my feet) were very sore the next day.  Do I think the Newtons are a magical shoe?  No, but I ran a marathon in them that included walking for about 90 minutes and had no lingering damage.  My only lingering ouch after the normal post-race soreness died down was a tight and over-used hamstring that is reacting to a lazy left glute.  I've been dealing with it since December and still am, but I'm certain it had nothing to do with the shoes.


You write "stuffed my ziploc bag of nutrition into my top" - is that a common way for triathletes to carry nutrition?
I think so - only because it's easier to pack your transition bag that way.  That way it's one grab-and-stuff instead of fishing around inside that bag for individual pieces of nutrition.  I packed several Gus, some Tums, some salt pills, and some chews inside that bag.  I had pre-loaded the zip pocket of my shorts with gels and actually never opened the ziploc bag that I can recall, but I was glad to have it.
Nutrition 
Can you run down all the nutrition you ate the day before and the day of the race?
Whew, that's a doozy, but let's try (hopefully I'll cover all the nutrition questions in here, too).  The day before the race I tried to eat normally.  I avoided beans and greens (fiber).  My biggest meal was lunch (48 tiny slices of pizza) and for dinner I had about half of a hoagie (that's a sub sandwich for you non-Philly folks).  I made sure that my belly was full by early afternoon and then snacked and hydrated for the rest of the day.  I'm hooked on Powerade Zero mixed with water (about a 1:6 ratio) and drank that into the night.


When I woke up, I had two english muffins with butter and jam.  I also had two cups of hot tea which I think were part of my massive peeing problem on the bike.  I brought a water bottle mixed with Powerade Zero to the race start, and I sipped on that while I got ready.  I put about 100 calories of EFS liquid shot and half a scoop of PreRace into a water bottle and drank about 1/3 of that 15 minutes before the swim started.  I intended to drink more but felt full, so I tossed it.
I probably drank about six cups of lake water during the swim.


The bike is harder to estimate.  I had three 20oz bottles on my bike (and three identical bottles in special needs).  Each had 1.5 scoops of EFS (144 calories) and I intended to get through one per hour.  There was a Snickers bar in my special needs bag, which I ate (220 calories).  I supplemented my bottles with a small bag of chomps in the first loop, and probably 3-4 gels in the second loop when I was trying to kick myself out of my slump.  My last water bottle had a scoop of PreRace in it, and that seemed to help perk me up a bit, although I didn't finish it before getting off the bike.  So roughly 1500 calories over roughly 7 hours = roughly 215 calories per hour, which is slightly high for me based on what I did in my long rides but not ridiculous.  If I had to guess on hydration, I'd guess 140-150oz of fluid (this includes my EFS mix), but the first four hours of the bike were cloudy and cool, and even when the sun came out, it wasn't hot.  I feel confident that I nailed my bike nutrition, and will continue to follow this plan moving forward because it worked well for me.  


My own personal opinion is that if you do nutrition right on the bike, it's pretty hard to massively fuck it up on the run.  That doesn't mean it can't be done, especially if you luck into a day that is hot.  I just think it's hard to START digging a hole once you are off the bike, especially if you aren't racing your brains out.  When I got off the bike I wasn't even noticing my stomach.  No sloshing, it wasn't full, it wasn't rumbling, it didn't feel tight.  It felt like nothing.  My plan for the run was to take half a gel every 20 minutes, so I decided to hit every other aid station.  One of my biggest mistakes at Knoxville was shoving too much down the hatch, so when I went through the water stop at mile one, I didn't touch a thing.  No water, gels, nothing.  At the second stop I took half my gel with water.  Skipped the third stop, finished the gel at the fourth.  I decided that taking half a gel was really annoying, so at the sixth stop I took a full gel with plenty of water.  I think I grabbed some coke and water at the seventh stop, and then Nicole found me and I skipped a few stops, including the last one before the turn-around in town.  That one was a mistake, because it was almost two miles until I got back to it and I felt starving by then (and had been walking).  That was when I ate the entire tray of potato chips.  From there on out, it's all fuzzy in my head.  I don't think I took any more gels.  I started taking coke pretty soon after that, and I knew that from the coke alone I was getting enough calories to bounce me along to the finish so I wasn't worried about calories.  I got into a routine at each stop - I'd walk and drink water, perform, water, coke, grab a few of the little hard pretzels or chips, then do another round of water, coke, water on my way out the back side.  I ignored the last four miles of aid stations because I didn't want to stop.  And while I did walk for quite a while, it wasn't a bonk.  I believe that a bonk is when you empty your nutrition reserves.  I walked because I was tired and wimpy.  Other than peeing my brains out on the bike, I had zero stomach problems the entire day.  Once I started running and sweating a bit more, my bladder calmed down.  I think I made two peeing pit stops on the run.  If I had to guess - and it would be a blind guess - I would guess that I took down between 500-700 calories on the run.  The only thing that I might change is to switch to a gel flask instead of the individual Gus, and to pump that sucker full of PreRace to try and keep my spirits up.  That's a dangerous path to go down - it's like being addicted to meth - and I didn't want to try it for my first, but I might test it out in training this fall.  


I did not need to take any salt tabs, Tums, advil, or any other supplements during the race (although I carried some of those things with me).  The gorgeous thing about the EFS is it had everything I needed.  On hot days, the EFS is sweet and makes me thirsty for plain water, but it was just right for CdA.  


When the race was over, I ate a banana, a slice of pizza and chocolate milk because those were the first things I stumbled across.  I murdered about half a family-sized bag of doritoes while I took my epsom salt bath because it was one of the few things that sounded appetizing.  I woke up at 2am and ate most of a box of wheat thins.  My appetite was pretty normal the next day.  
I think that's about it for today.  If I missed any specific questions about any of the legs of the race or nutrition, drop me a comment and I'll answer it there.  Coming up next: overall race recon, recovery, and training!  Have a great weekend, everyone!  Wish this guy some luck!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

three things thursday

1. I have officially declared my post-ironman bender over.  Sunday morning I joined a friend for a swim and was pretty shocked to see what was happening against a watch for the first time in a while.  I kicked over my new leaf with a rest day on Monday, but I got my life in order and ate well all day (another "first in a while").  Since then, I've put myself loosely back on a schedule - there is nothing hard at all happening, but I'm just trying to get my feet back under me.  I reintroduced my delicate parts to a bike seat on Tuesday morning after two solid weeks away from the bike (my, do those calluses fade away quickly) and that plus slowly improving nutrition and sleeping habits mean that I am starting to feel like myself again.  The past two months of our lives have been a rollercoaster for so many reasons, and I'm really looking forward to life calming down and settling back into what I consider our normal.


2. You may recall that the poet decided to sign up and train for a sprint earlier in the summer.  The race is this weekend up in Maryland, and I am pretty excited to rock some serious spectating.  He's been training on his hybrid bike, but for the race was able to borrow a road bike (that even has aerobars!) from a friend of ours.  It's pink and I think he looks oh-so-fabulous on it.
I'm trying to convince him to wear my aero helmet, so please leave your strongly-worded opinion on the matter in the comments and I'll make sure he reads them before packing his transition bag Saturday evening.


3. I've been working on the ironman Q&A post all week and it should be ready to go tomorrow, so this is "last call" for any questions for a just-a-hair-under-14-hour-IM-finisher.  Any questions about being fast or winning the race will be forwarded to my coach because I have no idea how to make any of that happen.  The questions that have come in so far have been pretty fun, and I'm looking forward to posting this one.


Happy Thursday, everyone!  Who's gearing up for a race this weekend?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

what the heart wants

I've been talking in broad, sketchy terms about what I want to do next year.  Mostly because IM events fill up within 82 seconds of opening, so you at least have to have an idea of what you'd like to do a year out.  But I wasn't expecting to decide anything until later in the fall, and I was planning for a fairly light year of no-flying-with-the-bike-cheap-local-races.  I've been chatting casually with friends about the possibility of a spring marathon, and a late year IM - maybe Arizona or Cozumel.  And after CdA Sonja recommended a few IMs that are similar in locale to CdA, so maybe Canada (the west Canada).  But I was waffling (a common IM-signup-theme) and figured that at some point I'd be hit by a bolt of lightening like I was last year when I fell in love with Coeur d'Alene for no explicable reason.
Sometimes, there is no bolt of lightening.
Sometimes, you just want to party with your friends (and your NY-residing-family).
Sometimes, you just get swept away.
*I was mainly compensated for this race entry by being a good daughter for the better part of 32 years, which I believe is far better than writing book reviews and pushing products for 8 cents a page view.  The remainder of the race entry was funded by FINALLY getting a new job and selling things that we have decided we can do without.  Other sacrifices have been and will continue to be made to pay the remainder of Graham's vet bills.  All opinions are my own, but if you doubt that I have the greatest mom in the world, I will beat the living shit out of you.

Monday, July 23, 2012

in which I am full of shit

You'll remember, because I'm going to remind you, that I wrote a post about my 2012 races back in December and set a few rules for myself.  They were actually rules for the first half of 2012, and I decided that I'd deal with the second half of 2012 after IMCdA came and went.  So just like bloggers learn how to do when they are small, let's check in on how that is going.  


Race schedule ingredient #1: I will run no 5Ks in 2012.
I almost broke this one Saturday night by racing the Twilighter 5K, which I've done every year (I think) since it started, but then the poet convinced me to cook him a delicious dinner with lots of iron instead.  But when I think about it, I've broken it twice - once in Rumpass when I ran a 5K at ironman heart rate off the bike.  And the other 5K I did only sort of breaks this rule because it was a swim, not a run.  
The poet has almost managed to convince me to break this rule again with him next weekend, and I'm actually a little curious about what my 5K fitness looks like right now.  So race ingredient rule #1 is in the garbage.


Race schedule ingredient #2: I will run less (or no) races as training runs in 2012.
That went out the window with the first race on my schedule, or more accurately, when I tore my calf four weeks before my half marathon and begged to still run it.  
That one was essentially a big training day (MAF test), along with the 10-miler, the century ride, and the 5K swim.  I did taper for Knoxville (and then puked the whole run) and Coeur d'Alene, and I haven't run a bunch of short road races for no reason, but I still think we can officially declare this one broken as well.


Race schedule ingredient #3: I will be smart about choosing a 70.3 and I will not let it eat me alive.
Despite the fact that I still think Knoxville was a better prep race than Monticelloman would have been, the weather differences alone between the two races made me kick myself a little for switching.  It was balls hot and rudely hilly at Knoxville....and everyone racing Monticelloman enjoyed cool and cloudy temps and a short bike course.  
I think it's fair to say Knoxville ate me alive.


Race schedule ingredient #4: I will race the balls off a 10 miler.
I did run one, finally, but it was the day after a 5-ish hour brick in the middle of a build and I was instructed to run it as a MAF test.  I couldn't find enough clear space to get my heart rate up to MAF, forget about balls hard, so this one is a big fail on two accounts.  It's also the race that made me give my CW-X shorts to Liz so I can stop looking at race pictures like this one.
My last race schedule ingredient wasn't really an ingredient but a rule, and I broke it almost as soon as I made it: don't sign up for anything after CdA until CdA has come and gone.


As I built my race schedule for the second half of the year, I tried to consider that I'm not very good about following my own rules.  I've also had plenty of time to sit and think about what I love.  I do this sport because I love it.  I fell in love with running a long time ago, but that doesn't even come close to the joy I get from being a triathlete.  
But it's also not my job.  It's just a hobby - a hobby that I work hard at, but a hobby nonetheless.  I am never going to become a professional triathlete.  I know some professional triathletes, I know some athletes who are rock star enough to go pro, and I know plenty of people for whom this is just a hobby, like it is for me.  And I have to say, the group of people that fusses and bitches and points fingers and makes the biggest deal out of things that are, in the long run, completely meaningless is the group of hobby athletes.  I'm not sure I've ever read a blog post from a professional triathlete that complains about a crowded pool or whines about training sessions being ruined by stupid shit, but my blog reader is filled to the brim with that kind of crap from age groupers like myself.  I'm attempting to refine what goes in my head just like I'm attempting to refine what goes into my body (now that my bender is over) because it doesn't do anyone any good.  It just doesn't matter.  You know what matters, in the scope of your life?  That you fill your life with people that love you and friends that will be there for you when your dog is dying and a tree fell on your house and that you make every attempt to be joyful in all things.  


That's what I thought about, when I considered what I wanted to do with the rest of my year.  I don't need to build a schedule like a pro, I need to build a schedule around distances and places that I love.  I thought back to what were the greatest days I've had in this sport, and I think it's easy to see that Coeur d'Alene was at the very top.  I didn't race the balls off the distance, I didn't win the race, I don't even know where I landed in my age group other than to guess it was somewhere in the middle.  And I don't care.  I'm not in this sport for the win, I'm in it for the joy, and there is no rule anywhere that says I need to wait until next year to do it all over again.  
So that's what I'm doing with the second half of my year (please note that I signed up on January 5th, not recently).  I've also picked out another 70.3 which I hope will finally be the fantastic race at that distance I've been hoping for, but it also might be another comedy of errors like the last three.  But it's okay.  The 70.3 doesn't have to be my distance.  If I have one more race that is full of fail, I can just retire from it and focus on other distances.  Especially now, when my heart is here.
(In a very long side note: I'm putting together an ironman Q&A post from a mid-packer [me].  I've gotten lots of awesome questions already, but please feel free to send me questions about anything and everything you'd like to know about training, the race, the aftermath, how many times I almost got divorced during peak week, all of it.  Drop me a comment or send me an email at runthisamazingday at gmail dot com and I'm going to post this one later in the week.)