Tag Archives: Philadelphia Half-Marathon

My 2015 Running and Triathloning Recap

So long, 2015! I have mixed feelings saying goodbye to this year. It felt like a roller coaster ride right out of the gate, and almost immediately, there were some big triathlon and work changes. The highs were high, and the lows were low—and I was always on my toes. I did a lot of learning, growing, contemplating, and of course, swimming, biking, and running. Let’s take an easy, zone two jog down memory lane.

2015-christmas-eve-sunset-lakeside

Christmas Eve lakeside bliss

Best race experience

Several factors comprise an awesome race experience. Of course, there’s the training—dedicating yourself to the process and doing everything in your power to prepare for a successful outing—but there’s also the traveling, hanging out with friends, and soaking in the overall race atmosphere. In 2015, I didn’t complete an event that rose above the others as the pinnacle of racing. Whether that’s good or bad, I’m not sure. But I enjoyed every race.

2015-trail-running-denver-wipe-out

Post-trail run in Denver. This is why people wear trail shoes.

When I went to South Beach in April, I had a blast hanging out with friends before and after the hotter-than-hot classic-distance event (a.k.a. eating all the food). At Kingston in July, I had fun getting to know my Tailwind Endurance buddies more and executing a decent race given the weather. At Nationals in August, I loved trying on “autopilot” and doing me. A few weeks later, I returned home and did the same course that served as my first triathlon ever, which was a neat way to look back and see my progress. And at the Philadelphia Half-Marathon in November, I proved to myself I am a mentally strong runner who can execute 13.67 solid miles.

Best swim

Swimming and I have an interesting relationship. Simply going to the pool for a workout requires so much logistical coordination: getting my cap, goggles, swimsuit, towel, and flip-flops together; walking the 17 minutes to the facility; jumping in the freezing water and attempting to warm up. It’s a wonder I manage to swim at all! (Full disclosure: I still haven’t been in the water since September.) But I never struggle to swim when I’m in Lake Placid.

2015-ironman-lake-placid-mirror-lake-rock

Swimming in Mirror Lake is therapeutic. During these mile outings, my mind wanders. I reflect on the past year or so—the last time I was in Placid is usually the baseline—and what was going on in my life then. I love getting this headspace. Hitting paces and making intervals are the last things on my mind.

But as far as those lung-busting swims go, the best one I had during a race was at Nationals. Not only did I lay down a respectable split, but I also knew within a 15-second ballpark what my time was. (Related: I plan to start swimming again next week.)

Best bike

Thinking back to the time I spent in the saddle, a few things jump out: starting my training early at Tailwind Endurance; sustaining a crash (and concussion); recovering from said crash physically and mentally; logging blissful rides in Placid; and executing a decent 40-K at Nationals. The happiest miles I rode definitely occurred in Placid, but I can’t discount the comeback process.

2015-bike-crash-black-eye-trainer-selfie

Everyone loves a good #TrainerSelfie, especially when it showcases a black eye.

I vividly remember my first outdoor ride post-crash, and even though I was a bit twitchy, the outing restored my confidence.

Best run

I didn’t run to my potential off the bike this year; I never found that effortless, invincible feeling, and I failed to execute strong, mentally sound miles. But that’s OK. These “close, but no cigar” experiences helped me fully devote myself to Philadelphia Half-Marathon training.

west-side-highway-running-artsy-blurry

… and refocus my run training

The goal was to run strong and bring home a PR, and this running block catapulted my 2016 triathlon training. And during the race itself, I felt smooth, strong, and confident in my ability to execute.

Best piece of new gear

Santa delivered: hello, power meter!

quarq-riken-power-meter

Watts, watts, WATTS!

Obviously, I haven’t used it yet, but this tool will revolutionize my racing. I’ll be able to see how many watts I make!

Best piece of running/triathloning advice you received

This year will go down as the year of the bike crash, and as I mentioned previously, it really forced me to let go and trust the process.

5:28-tailwind-endurance-power-hour

Head down and getting to work

The crash affected me mentally too, and as I recuperated and approached my races, Earl gave me some sound advice: “Confidence is a choice. You need to choose to be confident.”

Most inspirational runner

Like last year, I continue to train and work with some stellar humans who also run—and they run fast, far, and a lot.

 If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be?

Challenging, humbling, and memorable

2015-best-nine

#2015bestnine

Thanks for following along this year–bring it on, 2016!

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.

2015-philadelphia-half-marathon-bib

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.

2015-philadelphia-half-marathon-garmin-data

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

2015-philadelphia-half-marathon-splits

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.

2015-philadelphia-half-marathon-medal

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.

2015-central-park-nyc-fall

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

2015-nyc-marathon-mile-21-cheer-zone

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

2015-nyc-marathon-jackrabbit-thundersticks

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

jackrabbit-adulting

#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.

2015-tonights-forecast-wine

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.

2015-central-park-fall-pre-nyc-marathon

Central Park fall bliss

Week of Oct. 19

Workouts logged: five

Total miles: 31.15

2015-jackrabbit-last-ten-run

… 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

2015-nyc-marathon-week-dean-karnazes

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

2015-central-park-resevoir

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.?

Playing the Game: 2015 Off-Season Goals – Part I

My 2015 triathlon season came to an official close about a month ago after the Cazenovia Triathlon, and since then, I’ve spent some time reflecting on what went well and what I can improve from now until January.

west-side-highway-running-artsy-blurry

And this is where I write an insightful caption on refocusing my run training.

The biggest change between 2014 and 2015 centered on my training structure. For the past two seasons, I trained with a team. Since I was relatively new to the sport, it was beneficial to have coaches leading workouts and to train alongside more experienced athletes on a regular basis. Although the atmosphere helped me improve tremendously from 2013 to 2014, the model became unsustainable as my training outlook shifted; that’s when I broke off and enlisted Coach Pat to do my run programming. And ultimately, when the 2015 season started, I developed a solid triathlon arsenal and put together a “piecemeal” approach: I swam with the Bearcat masters; I biked with power and periodized workouts at Tailwind Endurance; I ran under Coach Pat’s expertise. Overall, this training approach led to all-around progress and some decent race results so this structure will stay in place for 2016. (There is an important update regarding my triathlon arsenal that I’ll share once everything is solidified.)

above-the-clouds-milwaukee

And this is where I write an insightful caption on taking a bird’s-eye view of my training and keeping the big picture in mind.

All right, discipline by discipline—let’s go in race order.

From day one, my swim has been a relative strength. Honestly, I’m still not sure how that happened because I did not compete in high school or college, but I’m grateful for all those summers my Mom shuffled me to swimming lessons. However, since I do not have the sheer amount of experience swimmers-turned-triathletes boast, I thought my swim had come close to reaching its potential. Sure, I could devote a few months to a swimming block, but those training hours would yield a relatively small return on investment compared to what they could do for the bike or run.

Enter: Bearcat masters.

Joining a swimming team totally took me out of my comfort zone, and logging laps with these folks from February through August helped me become faster and hone my technique. I still consider myself a #wannabeswimmer, but I throw down flip-turns, do all the strokes, and dive off the blocks—and most importantly, I can hold my own during practices.

bearcat-masters-swim-effort-grade

C’s get degrees, right? I’m also fairly sure I was tapering that week.

I’m only a few weeks into the triathlon off-season, but I can already tell it will be much more productive from a swimming standpoint: last year, I went about three months without getting in the water; this year, I lasted 19 days. From now until January, I’ll hit the pool once each week for recovery/cross-training/maintenance purposes.

Time for my favorite: let’s talk watts.

biking-9w-smashfestqueen-kit

Solo smashfest = the BEST

It’s no secret the bike is my ace in the hole, and becoming a Tailwind groupie further helped me develop wattage manufacturing skills. Although the saddle is where I spent the majority of my in-season training hours, the bike will take a backseat during the off-season. Like the swim, I’ll ride once each week for recovery/cross-training/maintenance purposes. (I may potentially ride outdoors on the weekend, but I haven’t been outside since my last race.) Once January rolls around, the intensity and volume will increase.

That leaves the run.

Here’s what worked: enlisting an expert and handing off the reins; logging 15-20 miles per week, which was a huge increase from my 2014 average weekly mileage; doing my run training solo, which gave me some great headspace and helped me fall in love with it again.

cazenovia-lake-sunset-summer

Lakeside love

From a physical standpoint, everything running-related improved: my easy pace is about 45 seconds faster than it was last year; my cadence and turnover is getting better; I’m lighter and leaner than I was at this point last year (and that’s another post entirely too). Despite logging miles, nailing workouts, and priming my engine to do work, I failed to address the mental aspect of racing.

Hindsight is 20-20, and there proved to be a reoccurring theme during races: I’d lay down a decent swim-bike combo, start the run feeling strong, but eventually get caught and become mentally dejected. At first, I was able to justify it. During SoBe I got run down within the last mile and lost the top spot in my age group by a few seconds. It stung: ‘But a second-place showing is still a great day.’ However, the same thing happened when the stakes were higher at Kingston: I got caught within the last quarter mile and lost the third place female overall slot. Again, that one hurt—‘but fourth female overall? Not a bad day.’ So you can see how I downplayed this problem. During workouts, I executed and hit paces; after both SoBe and Kingston, I knew my run splits were not indicative of my level of fitness. And plus, I was caught in the final stretch of these races, so I was able to get away with an expletive-laced dialogue in my head, but hang on and finish the race.

jackrabbit-spirit-week-superhero-tuesday-spiderman

Yes, I know Spiderman doesn’t have a cape. I exercised some creative liberty during spirit week’s Superhero Tuesday.

Big-time events—whether it’s high school basketball sectionals or USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships—promise to highlight strengths and weaknesses. In Milwaukee, the competition was tough, especially in my new age group, and my work would be cut out for me; even if I laid down a solid swim and smoked the bike, I would still get run down. (Spoiler alert: I can’t run a 40-minute 10-K off the bike.) Anyway, my mental stoicism and positivity was totally controllable, but every time a girl passed me, I’d come out of my headspace. There would be a few curse words followed by a variation of, ‘she looks so fast/smooth/tiny.’ And then I’d struggle to dial back in. Those 6.2 miles were mentally draining.

In triathlon and in life, you can only control the controllables. I can’t control the humidity level or heat index or number of pocket-friends on the course, but I can 100 percent control my mind.

usa-triathlon-age-group-national-championships-milwaukee-be-positive

Spotted pre-race in Milwaukee. I should’ve heeded this advice.

As one of my coaches said, to race at the level I want to race at, I need to play the game: when a competitor catches me on the run during a race, I need to have to the stamina, confidence, and mental resolve to hop on her shoulder, put the pressure back on her, and challenge her to sustain the pace. This means I will be running all the miles this off-season under Coach Pat’s guidance, and we’ll also work on my mental game.

The “goal race” will be the Philadelphia Half on Nov. 22. Simply having an event on the calendar gives my training more purpose. However, even though I hope to PR, we won’t be doing a ton of 13.1-specific work because I’ll stick to short-course triathlons next year. Most likely, it will be a fun long run.

In terms of my mental game, Coach Pat recommended Running Within. I’m almost halfway through, I’m already implementing some of the strategies and visualization techniques—and it’s working.

This post is longer than I anticipated, so I’ll wrap it up here for now. Basically, the overall goals of this off-season include to safely ramping up my mileage, gaining more physical/mental experience on the run, and entering the 2016 season lighter, leaner, and fitter than last year.

My 2015 Triathlon/Race Schedule (So Far)

All right folks—let’s talk watts races. It’s no secret I’m a type-A person, and needless to say, my 2015 race schedule has been solidified for quite some time. I’ll be repeating a handful of favorite tris, and after talking with Coach Pat, I even registered for a few road races. As you’ll see, this calendar goes through August. I’d love to do another run-focused block and target a few fall half-marathons, but that will depend on how the tri season goes and how I’m feeling mid-August (hence the “so far” part of the title).

NYRR Al Gordon 4 Miler

Date: Saturday, Feb. 21

Distance: 4 miles

Priority: Uhhh

I finally, finally bit the bullet and became a member of New York Road Runners. (File this under “things that happen when you work at a running store.”) At first glance, this seems like a weird pick: four miles (as opposed to the more standard 5- and 10-K distance) in Brooklyn. But, I chose it strategically. At the South Beach Triathlon (see below), I’ll do the classic distance, which contains a four-mile run. Obviously the conditions will be different, but I want to use this race as an opportunity to see what I can piece together on a hilly-ish course. At the very least, it will give me a ballpark time to shoot for in SoBe.

NYRR 10-K Spring Melt Down

Date: Sunday, March 29

Distance: 10-K

Priority: Uhhh

Like the four miler, this 10-K will serve as a training check-in point; seeing how fast I can go will not only be a confidence boost, but it will also be a good gauge of what I can run off the bike as the tri racing season progresses.

South Beach Triathlon

Date: Sunday, April 19

Distance: Classic—0.5-mile ocean swim, 19-mile bike, 4-mile run

Priority: “C” race

I mean, obviously. Thanks to this race, I find myself excited to start training in January. Plus, this will also be the first tri where I race in my new age group (25-29), so I’m mentally prepared to be a small fish in a big pond and to get my butt handed to me. Goals may change come April, but right now, SoBe will serve as a training check-in point, specifically in terms of my bike and run fitness. I’d love to crush this course—smoke the bike and unload on the run—but we’ll see how training progresses. Plus, no one is trying to peak in April.

Mighty Montauk Triathlon

Date: Saturday, June 13

Distance: Olympic (1-mi. swim, 22-mi. bike, 6.2-mi. run)

Priority: “B” race

Mighty Montauk got nixed last year for Pat Griskus, a race I have no desire to ever do again (much like the NYC Tri). Anyway, I’m hoping to round up a group of teammates and turn this into a long weekend. And like SoBe, this will be another training check-in point in which running a solid 6.2 miles off a hilly bike will be the primary goal.

Stamford KIC It Triathlon

Date: Sunday, June 28

Distance: Olympic

Priority: “B” race

Again, this is a definite “duh.” I’ve done this race the past two years for a slew of reasons: it’s extremely organized and well-run; it’s only 45 minutes or so outside of the city; and it has the best volunteers and post-race food. I mean, there was iced coffee last year. Most likely, this will be my final tune-up before the Big Dance in August, so executing a solid, all-around race will be the goal.

USAT Age Group Nationals – Milwaukee

Date: Saturday, Aug. 8

Distance: Olympic

Priority: “A” race

Third time’s the charm! I cannot wait to take on this course with another year of training and experience. The unofficial motto is #Hammerfest2015. (Thanks, Victoria!) It’s a long way off, so no concrete goals have been made yet—except for going faster than last year, of course.

Cazenovia Triathlon

Date: Sunday, Aug. 23

Distance: Sprint—0.5-mi. swim, 14-mi. bike, 3.1-mi. run

Priority: “C” race

Unexpected, yes. Totally psyched, also yes. If you’ve been reading a while, then you may remember this was my first triathlon ever, a.k.a. the race that started it all. The past two years, it overlapped with Nationals, but not this time. I’m pumped to return to my hometown and take on the same course with three years of structured training. To me, this sport centers on relentless progress forward, and I cannot wait to see the improvement across the disciplines.

I also signed up for the Prospect Park Cherry Tree 10 Miler (Feb. 15) as a long run; Coach Pat says we’ll make it a “fun workout.” Other races on the radar include Rock the River 5-K (May 3), the bike-run-bike training day I’ve done for the past two years and Hopkins Vineyard Triathlon (July 18), which will be tough to swing because it’s the day before the NYC Triathlon. And after tri season ends, I’ll definitely do the Philadelphia Half (Nov. 22) again, and a few friends also signed up for the Wineglass Half (Oct. 4), so that’s on the table too.

Let’s do it big in 2015!

What does your race schedule look like so far?

My 2014 Running and Triathloning Recap

Happy New Year’s Eve, friends! Can you believe it’s that time again? Wowza, 2014 flew by. But before saying goodbye to this bittersweet year, I want to reflect on some awesome, pivotal, and memorable swimming, biking, and running moments.

Best race experience

Given the number of triathlons I did in 2014, this surprised me: The Philadelphia Half-Marathon.

jackrabbit-usq-philadelphia

Pre-race cold temperatures and throwaway clothes. Good times with good friends.

Not only was it the actual race-day experience—feeling invincible for 12.5 miles, seeing a bunch of funny signs and cute spectators, hanging out with friends and family during the weekend—but it was also the pre-race preparation. I’ve talked about my running progression, but Coach Pat really dialed in the plan; I crushed key workouts, felt prepared, and simply exuded calm confidence. Above all, everything lined up on race day, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. And now I want to go 1:45 (let’s be real, 1:40), which speaks volumes: I want to run more and faster miles!

Best swim

Total no-brainer: swimming in Mirror Lake during Ironman Lake Placid weekend.

2014-mirror-lake-ironman-lake-placid

The course, the atmosphere, everything that comprises Placid is magical. Being there always ends up being a highpoint of the triathlon season and overall year, and I’m already looking forward to going back for another Sherpa stint in 2015.

Best bike

Rather than wax and wane about nearly perfect training rides, I’ll simply say my bike split at Nationals best exemplifies progress: In 2013, I logged a 1:17; in 2014, I rode a 1:10. That’s seven minutes shaved off.

cannondale-slice-5-105-womens-nationals

I have no pictures of me doing work on the Slice. Womp, womp.

And yes, some of that time can be attributed to equipment upgrades (tri bike, race wheels, aero helmet), but most is sheer improvement. To me, that’s what this sport is all about.

Best run

Aside from the abovementioned 12.5 miles of bliss, one that sticks out is the 10-K I ran off the bike in Stamford.

stamford-kic-it-triathlon-run2

Hot outta T-2!

That’s my standalone and off-the-bike 10-K PR, and more importantly, I felt comfortably uncomfortable the entire time—and felt in control. I’ve also had some great training runs—both steady where I’ve pushed the pace a bit and long where I’ve chilled out—but that 6.2 miles off the bike is what I’ll be chasing in 2015: the split (I want to go faster!) and the feeling.

Best piece of new gear

Since I actually raced on it this year—my Slice! Yes, it’s all about the engine in endurance sports, but the tri bike set-up has been a game changer. I’ve been able to ride stronger and faster, plus run better off the bike. Now about that power meter …

Best piece of running/triathloning advice you received

Nothing newsworthy: trust your training, trust the process, listen to your body. But these messages resonated with me this year thanks to knowledgeable coaches (looking at you, Coach Pat!) and trustworthy teammates.

Most inspirational runner

I’m totally pulling the sap card: I train and work with some phenomenal people who also happen to run, and they inspire me to keep pushing, keep improving, and keep striving for that perfect race.

If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be?

Memorable, nearly perfect.

2014-west-side-highway-nyc

In terms of training and racing, I really couldn’t have asked for a better year. Sure, I powered through some not-so-great showings, but for the most part, I’m happy with how the cards fell. On the non-triathlon front, it was a challenging, yet rewarding year (#vagueblogging #sorryimnotsorry), and bottom line, I’m amped for 2015.

What is your best, most memorable moment from 2014?

My Thoughts on Running

Seeing as how I’ve been running all the (pain- and injury-free) miles this off-season, I finally gathered my thoughts and wrote about running all the (pain- and injury-free) miles. I’m always game to talk watts, but let’s talk … splits? Miles? Paces? Hey, I’m still learning.

white-thanksgiving-2014

From Thanksgiving: A slow and snowy run back home.  On the bright side, the dicey conditions ensured I ran easy.

When my triathlon season ended in August, I took about a week off before I started making off-season moves. Hey, it’s the off-season not the soft season. Anyway, as I briefly mentioned in my Philadelphia Half-Marathon recap, I needed to tackle my run head-on. During the season, it was all about minimizing this Achilles heel—laying down a solid swim-bike combo so a blazing-fast run wouldn’t be necessary. But still, my run wasn’t where it needed to be, which became evident at Nationals. And I “age up” next year, which means stiffer competition—which also means a faster run is necessary.

Plus, not only did I need to shave off time, but I also needed to reformulate how I thought about the run. Biking became my favorite (watts, watts, watts!), and running suffered. I dreaded it, and my mentally further fueled this bias: ‘Why run when you can bike? … It’s fun to go fast! … you have to set yourself up on the bike, so I should bike more …’ You get the picture.

Aside from running more (than 12 miles a week, which is so low it’s not even funny), I had no idea how to structure my run-specific training. Sure, logging more miles was step one, but in terms of speedwork, tempo runs, those types of crucial sessions, I was totally lost. Obviously, it became clear improvement would go hand-in-hand with a coach, so I enlisted Patrick Hammond (the Great). We’re friends and coworkers, and he started Educated Running. Not to mention he has triathlon experience and wins races. Sign me up!

london-bridging

Some coworkers “London Bridging” out of the store before Philly.  You can’t hear the cheering, but trust me–it was awesome.

Overall, since becoming an Educated Runner, every aspect of my run has improved: how I run, how I view the run, and how I think during the run. Every run has a purpose, and I’m getting better at executing workouts. This proved especially tough when I first started working with Coach Pat in September; as we built my base, I wanted to run faster than prescribed—but I trusted the process. This is common sense, but I’ve learned to take the easy days easy, and I’ve become comfortable with being uncomfortable on the tough days. After all, that’s where the magic happens. Along these lines, recovery and injury-prevention have an increased focus: I do dynamic stretches, I foam roll, and I get monthly sports massages. I’m a runner now!

Above all, I run with purpose. I look forward to running. I stay mentally focused—which has been huge. Running more means more experience working through those “character-building” outings and ultimately becoming strong enough to limit the mental breakdowns.

Triathlon training starts next month, which will shake things up a bit: Official team workouts will resume, but I will continue working with Coach Pat. I’ve improved so much during the past few months so it would be crazy to change that part of the equation. Honestly, I’m not totally sure how my workouts will be structured (read: balanced) in 2015; my current bike volume needs to increase, and I will be running more than 12 miles per week. And for the time being, I think swimming twice a week will be OK.

Bottom line, 2015 will be the year of the run—and hopefully, I can find the illusive balance to execute a solid bike-run combo in Milwaukee.

To paraphrase the words of Haruki Murakami, what do you think about when you think about running?