Monthly Archives: November 2015

Reviewed: 2015 Triathlon Off-Season Goals – Part II

Whoops—I’ve had this post drafted for months and failed to edit/publish in a timely manner. Can I still blame the NYC Marathon for stealing my life during the month of October? And seeing as my 2016 triathlon base building phrase begins—oh—tomorrow, the off-season has officially ended. Plus, I don’t have weekly training updates to report due to Sloth Week. Note to self: make sure Sloth Week always falls on Thanksgiving. Eating too much and doing nothing equals the ultimate recovery week!

After an eight-month triathlon campaign that contained its fair share of challenges—leaving my former team, mapping out my “piecemeal” training approach, and sustaining a bike crash—I craved a break following my final race in August. It was a long season, and I needed to back off the intensity and slowly become a real person again. But the “off season” is not the “soft season.” This period is a prime time to take a break from rigid swim/bike/run workouts, but I also used the past 14 weeks as an opportunity to address weaknesses and slowly lay the groundwork for 2016. In my most recent off-season post, I discussed my overall game plan for these three months. Here, I map out tangible goals … and review them since this post did not go live when it should have …

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Crunching, er, crushing miles

Swim

What I wanted to happen: swim once per week for recovery/cross-training purposes and participate in my first swim meet

What actually happened: avoided the pool (I have not been in the water since Sept. 18) and started doing November Project workouts on Friday mornings instead

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Just doing work with some November Project humans and Dean Karnazes

Soooo … whoops? I said the same thing last year too: ‘I will not avoid the pool for months on end,’ and look what happened. In my defense, though, I got the green light to forgo water time and try other off-season fun activities, specifically the bootcamp-style November Project workouts. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to keep doing these on Friday mornings during the season so I’ve been enjoying them while I can.

Bike

What I wanted to happen: ride once per week for recovery/cross-training purposes and occasionally ride outside

What actually happened: rode Wednesday mornings at Tailwind Endurance and dropped my FTP by 20 watts

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Keeping my head up, though. Hello, One World Trade Center.

Since this off-season was all about the run, I was prepared to back off the bike. Full disclosure, I can be a stubborn athlete, so it was tough to admit my in-season FTP was not the same as my off-season one.

Run

What I wanted to happen: run all the (injury-free) miles under Coach Pat’s direction and develop my mental game

What actually happened: averaged 25-ish miles per week, read Running Within, and ran a mentally sound 13.67 miles at the Philadelphia Half

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Also survived a grand reopening party with about 100 of our closest friends

All in all, this off-season resulted in some solid running gains. Thanks to Coach Pat, we increased my weekly mileage, and as I ran more than ever before, I remained injury-free (aside from rolling my ankle during speedwork). During this block, running started to feel natural. In fact, I felt more “at home” running than biking, which is huge. I was also able to demystify the 10-13.1-mi. distance, and hopefully this translates to comfort (?) entering the paincave and running 6.2 miles off the bike.

Finally, as I mentioned in my previous post, my piecemeal training structure—swimming with the Bearcat masters, biking on the CompuTrainer at Tailwind Endurance, and running under the guidance of Coach Pat—will remain the same. However, I decided to hand over the reins to Earl Walton, founder and head coach of Tailwind Endurance. Even though I did an OK job overseeing everything last year, I’ve reached the point in my triathlon career where I need the guidance of a professional. Earl gave me a lot of input this past season—writing race simulation workouts, guiding me through taper weeks, and helping me get my head right after my bike crash—and this partnership is now official. Essentially, he will be functioning as my mayor, making sure we’re balancing the three disciplines, creating periodized workouts, and functioning as a sounding board/voice of reason when I get crazy ideas and/or freak out during taper weeks. We’ve already talked short- and long-term goals, and I feel very confident and motivated knowing I have an experienced captain guiding the ship. Plus, it was neat—and a little mind-blowing—to verbalize my triathlon goals for the next three, five, and 10 years.

Let the 2016 campaign begin!

2015 Philadelphia Half-Marathon Recap

This past weekend, I once again escaped New York City for a race. However, this one did not follow the normal swim-bike-run format: on Sunday, I ran the Philadelphia Half-Marathon, a.k.a. a 13.1 miles through the city sans swimming and biking.

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Obligatory

This was my second time doing Philly, and like last year, it was supposed to be a low-key race weekend with family and friends. Unfortunately, my immediate family was sick, so they were unable to make it. And my entire friend group was simply on a different timetable: some of us were doing the marathon; some of us weren’t leaving NYC until Saturday afternoon; etc. This combination translated to pre- and post-race experiences that were much different from what I anticipated, but it turned out to be totally fun.

A few Tailwind Endurance training buds and I discovered we were taking the same Friday night train, so we traveled south together, went to the expo, and grabbed dinner. The next morning, we met up for a shake-out run, and we linked up race morning too. (And we reconvened after to go to Geno’s for Philly cheesesteaks.) I have to give credit to my diverse triathlon arsenal on this one because I would’ve been flying solo otherwise—and since this was not a goal race, I wanted to socialize a bit more.

So more about that “not goal race” part. The Philly Half has become a late-season staple in my schedule because it keeps me running during the off-season. This year, Coach Pat and I were able to be more aggressive with my run training, and after my last tri in August, we slowly increased my weekly volume to about 30 miles per week. That’s the most I’ve run ever! My “engine” (cardio base) from triathlon season carried over quite seamlessly too, so even though this was not a goal race—it was a “C” priority, but we did taper a bit—we planned to be more aggressive and execute the most perfect race possible.

Thinking about the most perfect running race intimidated me—just ask Jen or any of my work friends. After reading over the plan and calculating the splits, I realized if the stars aligned—if I felt great, ran smart, and stayed mentally sound—we were looking at a 1:43 half. Wait, is this me we’re talking about? Mind games ensued, but as soon as I hopped on the train, my outlook changed. Coach Pat has not steered me wrong. Earl has told me time and time again, “having confidence is a choice. You need to choose to be confident.” And as I reflected on my roller coaster of a triathlon season—leaving my former team, assembling my triathlon arsenal, sustaining a bike crash—I realized I was strong enough to overcome anything on that course.

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And on race day, I simply had so much fun I ran an extra half-mile—ha!

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The race plan: we would start easy (miles 1-2) and build to tempo effort (miles 2-6); relax on the first hill (mile 7); build the effort again (miles 8-9); relax on the second hill (mile 10); and then hang on and finish strong (miles 11-13.1). According to my Garmin, I ran 13.1 miles somewhere in the 1:44-1:45 ballpark and logged a total of 13.67. Unfortunately, this data did not translate to official race results. (Chip time was 1:49:40.) However, after reviewing the outing with both Coach Pat and Earl, we are viewing this (1:44-1:45 Garmin time) as PR.

Honestly, the race was a blur, but here are a few bits and pieces I remember:

Miles 1-2 – relax, settle in, and keep the pace easy

Target – 8:15; actual – 7:39, 8:01

Well, whoops. ‘Slow down, Red—this is not a 10-K off the bike.’ I didn’t feel amazing during these first two miles, but I felt strong. It usually takes me four or five miles to settle in and feel decent so I wasn’t worried.

Miles 3-6 – take advantage of the flat course and build the effort

Target – bring the pace to 7:40; actual – 7:56, 8:03, 8:13, 7:52

Within this chunk, I realized my watch was off. At first, it was only a 0.1-mile deviation, but it ballooned to 0.5. I felt like I was doing everything right: I was in control of the pace, I took a gel at the 45-minute mark as planned (hence the slower split at mile five), etc. My paces matched my effort level, but I couldn’t figure out where the extra mileage was coming from. Looking back, I realize I was probably bobbing and weaving too much.

Mile 7 – relax at the hill and run with confidence

Target – 8:15-8:20; actual – 7:38

Due to the Garmin deviation, this was not at the actual hill. This happened on Chestnut Street where the crowd lined up Tour de France style. This is one of my favorite times during the race, and I even ran into one of my old work friends. You know you’re a runner when …

Mile 8 – increase the effort

Target – 7:50-8:00; actual – 8:30

This is when I actually ran up the hill. The wind at this part of the exposed course prompted me to really back off the effort; I didn’t want to burn too many matches here. My hat also blew off, so I actually backtracked a few steps to retrieve it.

Mile 9 – relax at the hill and run with confidence

Target – 8:15-8:20; actual – 6:42

Yep, totally not at the hill. There was a big downhill here, and my legs simply took over. Muscle memory kicked in, and it was a really cool moment. It just happened, and I just ran.

Miles 10-13.1 – hold strong

Target – 7:30; actual – 8:51, 8:10, 8:13, 8:23, 5:36 for the last little bit

During this span, I actually hit that second hill and again eased off the gas. It wasn’t until after the hill where I let myself attempt to calculate my finishing time. (I do words, not math.) According to my Garmin, a 1:45 was totally within reach. ‘I’m doing it! I’m a runner!’ But my watch was off. Sure, the distance, time, and pace it recorded were accurate, but those values did not match up to what the course actually measured. When my watch went off for mile 13, and I saw 1:44:17, I was feeling all the feelings. An unofficial 13.1-mile PR somewhere between 1:44 and 1:45 was huge. Absolutely huge. But I couldn’t even see the finish line. It took me several seconds to realize that although I just logged a major PR on my watch, I may not even break 1:50 according to the race clock. That was an incredibly bizarre realization.

My mental game had been locked in the entire run, and only after hitting 13 miles on my watch did it begin to wander. I was incredibly frustrated, and I realized this would be the biggest mental test I’d face: I could check out and ease off the gas; or I could hang tough and stay in it. Granted, my legs didn’t have a finishing “pop” in them so I mostly cruised to the finish line. My first thought? ‘OK, so that happened. Now what?’

 It took some time to fully process everything and come to terms with the official race results. I learned I can run strong for 13-plus miles. I can stay positive and mentally engaged for 13-plus miles. I can execute even when things go awry. And if I can run a 1:44-1:45 half, then I can definitely run faster than my current 45:xx 10-K PR off the bike. All good things!

And with this 13.67-mile run through Philadelphia, my 2015 racing season is officially over. I will be slothing around for a few more days (#SlothWeek), and official base building for 2016 begins next week. Bring it on!

But first, bring me a piece of apple pie …

Training Log – Week of Nov. 16 (Week 46)

So this was a thing that happened this weekend.

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The Philadelphia Half-Marathon is always a blast. In fact, I was having so much fun I ran an extra half-mile on race day.

General training notes: In the lead-up to Philly, I felt absolutely junky. My legs felt heavy during every run, and I had no idea how I was going to string together 13.1 miles on Sunday. However, as soon as I hopped on the train Friday night, my entire outlook changed. I was ready, my legs were ready, and it was going to be a fun 13.1-mile run—except I ran 13.67 miles, but we’ll talk more about that later.

Monday – rest

Tuesday – a.m. run

Easy five miles along the West Side Highway

Wednesday – a.m. CompuTrainer class at Tailwind Endurance

Even though running is fun, I really love making watts: we faced 3×12-min. sweet spot blocks (staying between 88-92 percent) with four minutes recovery between each set. For the next few weeks, it’s all about logging time in our endurance, tempo, and sweet spot zones; woohoo for base building!

Thursday – a.m. run

Easy four miles along the West Side Highway. Felt absolutely c-r-a-p-p-y.

Friday – rest

Saturday – a.m. run

Conversational 20-minute shake-out run with some of my Tailwind buds. I spent the rest of the day on the couch in my hotel room napping, drinking water, and watching Friends on Netflix. I did manage to pull myself together and meet one of my work friends for dinner, though.

Saturday – a.m. run

Conversational 20-minute shake-out run with some of my Tailwind buds. I spent the rest of the day on the couch in my hotel room napping, drinking water, and watching Friends on Netflix. I did manage to pull myself together and meet one of my work friends for dinner, though.

Sunday – Philadelphia “Half-Marathon”

OK, so it was in fact 13.1 miles, but I ran 13.67. It’s a little frustrating because I executed the race plan and logged a huge and unofficial Garmin PR for 13.1 miles (1:45:xx!), but the race wasn’t officially over at that point. Oh well. On the bright side, 13.67 is a new personal distance record! Full recap coming later this week.

And now, Sloth Week 2015 begins: no physical activity for SEVEN days. If anyone needs me, I’ll be sleeping in, drinking flavored coffee, and live tweeting this week’s activities. (Related, I’m going home for Thanksgiving!) Feel free to play along and pepper your tweets with #SlothWeek.

How often do you take an official break from training?

2015 Philadelphia Half-Marathon Goals

Race week, race week! It’s been three months since I’ve had an event on the calendar, and even though this is not my typical swim-bike-run outing, I’m pumped to take on the Philadelphia Half for the second year in a row. Last year, I had a blast, and even though it will be tough to replicate that race-day experience, I’m excited to escape NYC, spend some quality time with my fam, and *knock on wood* string together 13.1 solid miles.

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Another way to escape the city: retreat to Central Park

As a short-course triathlete, I do not view the Philly Half as a true goal race. This event found its way onto my calendar simply so I’d be motivated to focus on my run during the triathlon off-season—because if left to my own devices, I’ve be making watts around the clock. After my final tri in August, Coach Pat started increasing my running frequency and volume. I’m at the point in my running career where gaining experience (like muscle memory from running all the miles) and confidence (like logging strong 11- and 12-mile outings) is the goal. I will definitely race the half-marathon distance one day—which will most likely be preceded by a 1.2-mile swim and 56-mile bike—but for now, it’s about continuing to grow and transferring this development to triathlon.

So although there is a race plan for Philly, I feel as though I’ve already won. Thanks to Coach Pat, we’ve once again made productive use of the triathlon off-season, and I’ve improved a lot both physically and mentally as a runner. Going into last year’s Philly Half, I told him that was the most prepared for a race I’ve ever felt—and I feel even stronger and fitter this year. So even if race day doesn’t pan out as planned, I’m proud and motivated by the progress we’ve made—and I’m psyched to keep working at it. Here are my big three goals for Philly; accomplishing them will put me in a really good spot for performing my best.

Stay positive and mentally sound

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Po-si-tive! Po-si-tive! Cheering on the NYC marathoners a few weeks ago.

During this year’s triathlon racing season, my mental game proved to be a limiting factor. In addition to upping my running volume and frequency, Coach Pat also suggested reading Running Within, which helped me a lot, especially in terms of reframing challenges and race happenings (i.e. not swearing when a pocket-friend passes you). You’re always going to experience highs and lows on the run, and I was able to use the strategies outlined to cope with and ultimately overcome challenges. Although I hope it’s all smiles and cute guys like last year, I know there will be low points—and now I have the tools to work through them. Bottom line, I can run 13.1 miles; my mental game will determine just how quickly they get logged.

Execute the plan and focus on the feeling

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Marathon thunderstick fun #TheRabbitLife #branding

Last week, Coach Pat mapped out the race plan and broke it into sections: miles 1-2; miles 2-6; mile 7; miles 7-8; mile 9; and miles 10-13.1. Visualizing the race as smaller chunks helps me a lot mentally, especially when there is a target pace range involved. By focusing on each segment—instead of thinking about all of those 13.1 miles—and locking into the prescribed pace, I increase my chances of staying strong for the entire outing. Thinking about 1-4-mile sections seems much less intimidating too.

That being said, though, I cannot become emotionally attached to the numbers and let them overwhelm me. We have an aggressive plan. I know what I should be feeling. I know it’s sustainable. I just can’t be intimidated by the numeral values that accompany the feeling.

Have confidence—and have fun

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#TheRabbitLife isn’t all fun and games: “For when you just can’t ‘adult’ anymore.”

As one of my triathlon coaches told me before Nationals, “having confidence is a choice. You need to choose to be confident.” My fitness from the tri season has carried over to this run block, and I’ve been able to build on it. I’ve done everything to put myself in the best possible situation for success.

One of my elite runner friends asked how I was feeling in the lead-up, and I told him it will be nice to do a race without the pressure of winning my age group and potentially contending for an overall podium slot. Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely love racing. But there’s something to be said for toeing the start line and only competing against yourself. Last year, I smiled for 12.5 miles, and it was time I had fun running a half-marathon. I hope to have a similar experience this time around.

Training Log – Week of Nov. 9 (Week 45)

A tough week at work was vindicated by my family’s visit this weekend.

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Evening forecast: wine. Every night. We had a lot of fun!

General training notes: The only major occurrence worth noting this week is when I rolled my ankle on Thursday during speedwork. It was kind of ridiculous, actually. Between my 400m repeats, I pulled over to the side of the running path so I wouldn’t get in the way of fellow runners and cyclists, and I simply stepped on the cobblestone at an awkward angle. For better or worse, my ankles are used to being rolled from my basketball years. (You can take the girl away from basketball, but you can’t take the basketball out of the girl.) As a precautionary measure, I ended my workout early and carefully jogged home. I saw my go-to massage therapist on Friday (I had a pre-race massage scheduled before the ankle incident), and she spent some time working on it. Luckily, it feels fine, although it’s pretty black and blue.

Monday – rest

Tuesday – a.m. run

Steady and uneventful five miles along the West Side Highway

Wednesday – a.m. CompuTrainer class at Tailwind Endurance

As I’ve said in past weeks, biking is starting to feel more natural. Getting and staying in the zone is easier, and even though I had to drop my FTP from 235 to 215 this week, I’m OK with sacrificing 20 (off-season) watts to focus on the run. Anyway, for the next eight weeks or so, these Tailwind classes are all about base building, a.k.a spending quality time in tempo and sweet spot zones. We faced a 3 x 10-min. sweet spot block (with four minutes rest between efforts), and I felt smooth and strong.

Thursday – a.m. run

With the Philly Half taking place next weekend (ahhh!), Coach Pat programmed 12x400m at 10-K race pace. If I execute precisely at Philly, then I’ll be spending a good amount of time at this pace. Overall, these intervals went well. I stayed within a three-second window for each, and even though I was working, it felt sustainable. And after the ninth repeat, the ankle roll occurred.

Friday – a.m. November Project workout off

The ankle was still bruised and swollen, so I opted to get extra rest and skip the NP workout. Plus, the group was meeting at a track, and I didn’t want to do intervals two days in a row. (I’m not that hardcore of a runner … yet!)

Saturday – a.m. run

Easy four miles along the West Side Highway. I unintentionally executed my pace plan for the opening four miles of the Philly Half, and I was pleasantly surprised with how everything felt.

Sunday – a.m. run

Easy six miles along the West Side Highway. The hay is in the barn. Next stop: Philly!

How often do you roll/tweak your ankles, hamstrings, etc.? I’ve gone a while without anything happening to my ankles so I guess I was overdue!

Training Log – Weeks of Oct. 19 – Nov. 2 (Weeks 42-44)

I’m back! These past three weeks have been crazy, chaotic, and intense thanks to a 50,000-plus person race called the NYC Marathon. In total, we produced 34 events in 32 days, including 10 events during marathon week. This data, of course, does not include the “optional” parties our vendors threw at night after said events. Somehow on little sleep and three cups of coffee daily (I usually stick to two), I survived—and I somehow managed to log my workouts too. Since I have three weeks of training to talk about, I’ll employ a list-style recap.

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Central Park fall bliss

Week of Oct. 19

Workouts logged: five

Total miles: 31.15

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… that time we hosted a course preview, and more than 700 people came.

Key takeaways: Even though I’m riding only once each week, the bike is starting to feel more natural. Granted, I’m not making as many watts as a should be, but my cadence is on point. Thanks to a Thursday evening work event, I opted to sleep in and skip what has become my normal November Project workout. And I also chose more rest because I had back-to-back long runs on the docket: Saturday, we hosted our annual Last Ten Run, which takes runners through the final 10 miles of the NYC Marathon. So I ran that on Saturday and then did my official long run of 12 miles Sunday.

Week of Oct. 26

Workouts logged: five

Total miles: 13.86

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Ultra-marathoner Dean Karnazes showed up to a group run. Just another day.

Key takeaways: Thanks to events every night, I really cut myself some slack on the workout front. Everything got logged during the week, but the not-enough-sleep/extra booze combo did not lead to workouts that felt great. My total mileage was down because I did not complete a long run; usually, I run long on Sundays, but that simply was not happening with the marathon.

Week of Nov. 2

Workouts logged: six

Total miles: 26.42

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Nothing but bliss

Whew, back to a normal workweek and normal workouts. It took me a few days to rest and catch up on sleep, but by Thursday, my runs felt a-OK again. Coach Pat has me tapering a bit for the Philly Half in a few weeks, so my long run was only eight miles. (Wow, does this mean I’m a runner now? Ha!) Everything clicked, and I hope things feel similar on race day.

How are things going with you—training, life, etc.?