Tag Archives: triathloning

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?

2014 Stamford KIC It Triathlon Recap

Two races in two weekends? And two team titles? Done and done!

full-throttle-endurance-stamford-kic-it-triathlon-team-champions

Our fearless coaching staff

On Sunday, Full Throttle Endurance sent 60 athletes to race the Stamford KIC It Triathlon. It’s a small, local race the team does every year, so I was excited to see how much I’ve improved. Plus, I wanted to do another Olympic-distance tri before Nationals in August. And I’d be lying if I said I did not want redemption after Griskus last weekend.

Although the swim and bike courses stayed the same, the race organizers changed the run route and created a sprint-distance race. From a team perspective, this addition worked to our benefit: We were able to “distribute” our athletes so we didn’t have five FTE people racing each other for three podium spots.

Anyway, two aspects that drew me to triathlon included making personal progress and chasing the “perfect” race. Yes, “perfect” isn’t totally realistic, but rather the idea of putting together a race that is as close to perfect as possible. And as any athlete knows, it’s rare when everything lines up and you have a stellar performance.

On Sunday, I came pretty darn close: I raced hard, raced smart, and above all, had so much fun.

stamford-kic-it-triathlon-age-group-champion

In summary, this race made me feel happy, proud, and satisfied.  Which almost never happens, by the way.

Swim – 0.9 mi. – 25:36

Held in the Long Island Sound, the swim course remained the same from last year.

stamford-kic-it-triathlon-swim-course

Overall, I wanted to learn from my race experience last weekend; this meant being honest with myself and saying I pushed too hard on the swim because it negatively affected my bike and run. Although I can swim a low-24 (maybe faster?), I decided to dial back. It’s all about energy allocation, and if pacing the swim better (read: slower) leads to a better bike and run, then that’s what needs to happen.

Anyway, I felt good during the swim. Good, not great. The lead pack of women dropped me after 100 yards or so, and instead of freaking out—ah, hop on their feet and draft!—I stayed composed, settled into a rhythm, and stuck to my plan. Like last year, I really enjoyed the swim and came out of the water feeling strong.

Last year’s time – 25:10

Transition 1 – 2:12

Since I didn’t crank the swim, I hit the sand running to start making up time. Other than struggling to take off my wetsuit because of the big timing chip, nothing too eventful happened.

Last year’s time – 2:36

Bike – 24.8 miles – 1:17:09

Pre-race, I had mixed feelings about the bike. Yes, I had done it before knew what to expect; it would be hilly, but not as grueling as Griskus. But after feeling absolutely awful last weekend, I wasn’t sure what to expect—but my body was ready to rock.

stamford-kic-it-triathlon-bike-elevation

Like last week, I planned to ride aggressively and race on feel. Even though I’m relatively new to this sport and still learning how to allocate energy across the disciplines, I have a good idea of how I should feel in the saddle. Basically, this meant pushing when I felt good and backing off when I didn’t.

Anyway, like Griskus, one of my teammates and I rode together. (She’s a little faster than me in the water, but I caught up to her on the bike.) We didn’t draft, but there is an advantage to racing with a training partner. We’re about the same speed, so I knew I could stick with her, and she kept me focused and pushed me too.

Bottom line, I did not want to get off the bike and was happy with how it went.

Last year’s time – 1:25:38

Transition 2 – 0:44

Total blur—get in and get out.

Last year’s time – 1:13

Run – 6.2 miles – 46:42

Like the bike strategy, I planned to run on feel. My Garmin came out of T2 with me, but I only wanted to see distance covered. Plus, my coach gave me a rough time goal—sub-47 would be awesome, he said—but I didn’t want to stress myself out with splits.

stamford-kic-it-triathlon-run-elevation

Coming off the bike, I wasn’t sure how the run would shake out. My calves tightened up immediately, but that’s normal. Oh yeah. This is what it feels like to really run off the bike! Also, it takes me about one or two miles to settle in and get my running legs under me, and the course worked to my advantage; the opening mile was totally flat.

stamford-kic-it-triathlon-run2

As I gain more experience racing, it has become easier to turn off my brain and just run. There were a couple of climbs—around miles 1.5 and 5—but I stuck to my plan of running by feel. My second wind kicked in around mile 3.5, and I couldn’t believe how great I felt, so I started pushing a little more. And the run route reminded me of home, so both my body and mind felt right.

About 400m from the finish line, I spotted one of my teammates and coaches who were cheering and running people in. They did the same thing at Griskus, and I was not in a good place physically then—but it was the complete opposite this time: I gave them a thumbs up and starting smiling. “Carrie, stop smiling! There are still people to pass!” Yeah, yeah, yeah, so I picked them off and finished strong.

stamford-kic-it-triathlon-run

Last year’s time (different run course) – 50:23

Official finishing time – 2:32:25

Last year’s time – 2:45:02

I could not stop smiling after crossing the finish line. I was actually happy and completely elated. (And did I seriously run 7:30s off a hilly bike? What the what?!)

As a type-A person, I immediately think about what could’ve been done better, but there was absolutely none of that on Sunday. Honestly, the only two races where I’ve experienced the same high included my first race and South Beach last year. And it was this feeling that got me hooked.

Yes, age group awards are always great, but I’m concerned with times and how I felt: My splits were solid (excluding the two or three seeded elites, I was the sixth female overall), and I felt good while putting forth the effort required to hit those times.

Two takeaways from this outing: First, I cannot believe how different I felt during Griskus and during this race. My training and tapering were the same, but it really just boils down to how you feel on race day. And two, I need to trust myself and continue racing by feel. If I had seen my pace running off the bike, I absolutely would’ve dialed back; I would’ve eased off the gas because in my mind, I can’t hold that pace—but clearly I can. I mean, I did hold that pace. Also, I’m pretty sure this is my 10-K PR—standalone and off the bike.

Overall, I really needed a solid race, and this gives me confidence for Nationals.

Pat Griskus Triathlon Recap

On Saturday, Full Throttle Endurance raced the Pat Griskus Triathlon, an Olympic-distance event (one-mile swim, 25-mile bike, and 6.2-mile run) that served as USA Triathlon’s Northeast Regional Club Championships. And we took home the team crown!

full-throttle-endurance-usa-triathlon-northeast-regional-team-champions

Woohoo!

Situated in Connecticut’s Quassy Amusement Park (tri/local folks: it basically takes place on the Rev3 Quassy course), this race boasted a gorgeous swim—and brutally hilly bike and run courses.

They say you learn more from a loss than a win; and by extension, you learn more from a tough race than a cake walk. No, I didn’t “lose” this race—I actually finished second in my age group—but this outing challenged me and ended up being a beneficial learning experience. And that’s what this sport is all about: training, racing, and learning.

Swim – one mile – 27:29

So remember my “swim solid” pre-race goal? I actually accomplished this objective. The calm water and wetsuit-legal conditions (temperature measured 69 degrees Fahrenheit) made for a smooth, fast swim. And there were folks who complained about the diamond-shaped course, but thankfully, I had no problems sighting and swimming a relatively straight line.

Anyway, as a smaller race with about 350 athletes, the waves included several divisions: men 39 and under; women 39 and under; men 40 and older; women 40 and older; Clydesdale, Athena, aquabike, and relay. My wave started third, and I seeded myself near the front of the pack. It was a land-start, so we began on the beach and charged into the water. I had no issues finding clean water and settling into a rhythm. Hands down, I had a great swim. I felt smooth and strong, and even though I dialed into a “solid” pace, I stayed out of the red.

During the swim, I noticed how much water I was taking in. I made two mental notes, actually, but I didn’t think it would be an issue. In hindsight, this should’ve prompted me to back off the pace and focus on breathing, but since I felt good, I maintained my speed.

Bike – 25 miles – 1:25:07

As I hit the mount line and started pedaling, I immediately noticed my both stomach and legs felt awful. Throwing up seemed inevitable, and my legs refused to turn over. It was going to be a long, long ride.

Overall, the course was brutal. Absolutely brutal. The hills made the route challenging, but I definitely underestimated the false flats. Basically, there were constant climbs, which made it difficult to get comfortable and settle into a rhythm.

pat-griskus-bike-course-elevation-profile

For the first five miles, I worked with one of my teammates; we took turns on the front (no drafting, don’t worry!), but my body was not having it. I hoped the stomach and leg issues would vanish as I warmed up, but if anything, both progressively got worse. At this point, I abandoned my coach’s advice to “go for it on the bike” and decided to ride based on feel—which essentially meant spinning for 20 miles and trying not vomit. Eventually, I caught another teammate, and he pulled me through the course. We rode together (again, no drafting, promise!), and he cheered, sang songs, and above all, helped me keep my head in an OK place. Around mile 15, I forced myself to take a gel; my stomach improved slightly, but my legs still felt horrible.

Bottom line, this was the toughest bike course I’ve ever completed, and even though I wanted to unload and see what I could do, Saturday was not my day; some days you have it, and some days you don’t. Also, after talking with some more experienced triathletes, the consensus was I should’ve pulled over, purged my system of the gross lake water, and continued riding. Race and learn, right?

Transition 2 – 0:57

As I neared T2, I started thinking about my game plan for the run. Since I felt like junk on the bike, I decided to settle into the run and see how things progressed. Again, instead of aiming for specific splits, I would run on feel.

Run – 6.2 miles – 49:25

The run was a two-loop out-and-back course—net downhill on the way out, uphill on the way back. Luckily, it contained a ton of shade. As I started the run, my legs felt OK—probably because I spun for 25 miles!—but my stomach still felt uneasy. This was a frustrating situation because endurance-wise, I was good to push, but my stomach said no way. Begrudgingly, I “mailed in” the run and settled into a steady pace.

pat-griskus-run

Some days you’re on, and some day’s you’re off. You hope the off days don’t coincide with races, but that’s the nature of the sport.

And since I was cruising on the run, I made an effort to do the little things right: staying positive, maintaining my form, and above all, cheering for my teammates. It wasn’t my day, so the least I could do was help everyone else.

Official finishing time – 2:44:56

So, what did I learn?

Cranking the swim resulted in increased water intake. I should’ve made adjustments either in terms of speed or breathing.

Biking 25 hilly miles with a distressed stomach is no bueno. And sticking to your nutrition plan is important. I had to force myself to take in fluids and probably didn’t drink as much as I should have. And it’s gross, but I should’ve thrown up.

Listening to your body and revaluating goals mid-race is OK. This was the main takeaway. I would’ve loved to hammer the bike, but my stomach and legs were not up to par.

On the bright side, I have a shot at redemption this weekend at the Stamford KIC It Triathlon—game on!

What I Do When I’m Not Training

… because swimming, biking, and running have taken over my life.  And I wouldn’t want it any other way.  But let’s be real:  The running, triathloning, and healthy living communities constantly surround me.  After all, I go to practice and then head to work and help others discover this lifestyle too.  With that being said, here’s how I spend my time when I’m not working or working out.

When I’m not training …

… I’m drinking coffee.

starbucks-coffee-carry

I am not a verb!

Please don’t tell me this surprises you.  Early-morning wake-up calls demand pre-workout java, and there’s no way I can ride the subsequent endorphin high all day.  However, I have discovered I can make it to 3:30 p.m. or so before crashing. (Which also means if there are evening plans on the agenda, then I need my second cup around this time.)

… I’m cooking and meal-prepping.  Again, this shouldn’t be a surprise.  Whenever I have 30-45 minutes at home, it’s likely broccoli, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, and/or sweet potatoes are roasting.

… I’m watching Downton Abbey and/or Parks and Recreation.

tumblr_mzx7fcocv81qazkdco1_500

Seriously two of the best TV shows ever.  Speaking of, happy Galentine’s Day!

parks-and-rec-galentine's-day

… I’m hanging out with coworkers, a.k.a. work friends.

jackrabbit-coworkers-collage

Whether it’s watching them race, grabbing drinks on the weekend, or simply supporting their non-JRab endeavors, I’m so grateful to call them friends.

And eventually, I will write one of those “day in the life” posts.

How do you balance fitness with other activities?  What do you do when you’re not working out?

Triathlon Training Log – Week of February 3 (Phase One, Week Five)

Whew, another Sunday and another week of training complete.  I totally planned to pop in Wednesday or Thursday, but there weren’t enough hours in the day.  And that really stinks because I have about four half-written posts that want to go live.  Let’s see if I can manage my time better this week.

first-annual-full-throttle-endurance-pie-off

And digest all this pie from our first annual pie-off.

General training notes:  With the initial base-building period complete, this current four-week span will incorporate solid/hard efforts across the disciplines, plus swimming and running speedwork.  I really struggled to hold back during past weeks, so it feels good to start pushing—and I know my body can handle it now.

Monday – a.m. swim and run

Well, recovery week is definitely over.  Moving forward, Monday’s swim will take the form of “speedwork in the pool,” and this main set was defined by “speed and pain.”  Yes, “speed and pain” were written on the whiteboard.  After warming up and doing a steady 300, we were split up so each lane contained swimmers from every group. (Each lane had a swimmer from fast lane number one, fast lane number two, etc.) Then we went head-to-head with our respective lanemates and raced each 25 yards other—sixteen times.  With five seconds rest.  Woof.  Luckily, the run was easier:  steady five miles, alternating between the track and treadmill.

Tuesday – a.m. indoor cycling and strength training

This 75-minute ride wasn’t too bad and focused on solid climbing and seated efforts.  “Suffer for three minutes” became the mantra because that’s how the entire bike should feel during South Beach in 55 days.  After, we did some corework, hamstring exercises, plus tons of chest/shoulder strength training with resistant bands.

Wednesday – a.m. run and swim

I kicked off my 24th birthday with speedwork—10 minutes at tempo, plus 4×800 repeats.  Another unexpected birthday present?  I survived an underwater 25 yarder during our swim workout (without fins).  It’s all about progress.

Thursday – a.m. long-course swim

Hello, wetsuit!  This was our first wetsuit-optional swim of the season, so we did a lot of interval work, plus several efforts at our race pace.

Friday – a.m. indoor cycling and strength training

Like Tuesday’s spin, this ride included solid intervals and lasted 80 minutes.  The corework was absolutely killer, and we also did some work with resistance bands, plus walking lunges.

Saturday – off

Sunday – a.m. CompuTrainer ride at Tailwind Endurance

Maybe it’s because I’m getting better, or maybe it’s because I sat directly in front of a fan, but this two-hour CompuTrainer ride did not completely kill me.  Broken into 15-20-minute increments, the main sets included build efforts with some sprints/passes sprinkled in.

How did your workouts go this week?

Triathlon Training Log – Week of January 27 (Phase One, Week Four)

So before talking about training … did anyone watch the Syracuse game last night?

syracuse-basketball-beat-duke

No?  It was definitely the best college game I’ve seen this season.  And what a nail-biter—the Orange finally put away the Duke Blue Devils 91-89 in overtime, and it’s safe to say a new rivalry has been born.

Anyway, happy February and Super Bowl Sunday!  This means my first month of structured training with Full Throttle Endurance has ended.  And it also means I turn the big 2-4 on Wednesday.  I did not sign up for this growing up nonsense.

Monday – a.m. swim and run

There was a rumor circulating about a 200-yd. time trial (TT) that proved to be accurate.  Before practice, I dug into my digital archives and found results from last year’s swimming TT where I swam a 2:59; as per usual, as per usual, my goal was to post a better time.  The TT itself was a blur.  The only memorable part occurred when I botched my first flip turn and decided not do those anymore, ha.  My game plan was to swim the first 100 solid and hammer the last 100, and I finished in 2:41, which is decent.  This time was also good enough to bump me up to the next fastest lane, aka fast lane number two.  Sweet!

After the swim (we did a total of 2,800 yards), I did an easy five-mile recovery run:  two miles on the track, two miles on the treadmill, and one more on the track.  I also did some corework with a teammate (who am I?), and we watched coach do the time trial—and casually throw down a 2:13.  One day …

Tuesday – a.m. indoor cycling and strength training

Monday’s TT was our only hard effort of the week, and we started the recover process with a steady 75-minute ride on the spin bikes.  There were some climbing and high-cadence efforts sprinkled throughout, but nothing too tough.  We followed it up with some upper-body strength training and ab work.

Wednesday – a.m. run and swim

Wednesdays are usually reserved for speedwork, but we kept the workout light:  one-mile warm-up, dynamic stretches, then three steady miles.  Our swimming workout was on the easier side (2,700 yards), too, which focused on pulling and hypoxic sets.

Thursday – a.m. swim and p.m. CompuTrainer ride at Tailwind Endurance

Another Thursday, another road trip to Stamford, CT (in a minivan!) for a long-course swim.  Like Wednesday, we had a lot of kicking, pulling, and hypoxic sets in the mix.  I’m not the best at hypoxic sets, and my coach always gives me a hard time, so I was thrilled when I successfully followed a hypoxic seven breathing pattern (breathing every seven strokes) for 100 yards.  Baby steps, folks!

That afternoon, I headed to Tailwind Endurance for a power hour on the CompuTrainer.  It took me longer than usual for my legs to loosen up (maybe because of the kicking?), and as per usual, this ride was killer:  There were four, five-minute blocks, and each contained endurance and threshold efforts; i.e. we’d start at two minutes endurance, then build to tempo and threshold for three minutes.  It doesn’t sound bad, but with only two minutes down between sets, it was challenging to recover.

Sunday – a.m. CompuTrainer ride at Tailwind Endurance

For the record, I would like to say how surprisingly well this two-hour ride went given my lack of sleep (around five hours) and Saturday night “carbo-loading” (red wine plus half of a gin and tonic); in fact, this combination strangely worked.  Dully noted.  Our main set included “watt chasers,” which I strangely enjoy.  The CompuTrainer tracks a ton of data, including average power output or wattage; and during this drill, we worked up to our tempo effort and then stopped pedaling for a set amount of time, which caused average wattage to drop.  And then you have a certain amount of time to get the average back up.

So recovery is over—let’s crank it up!

What are your fitness/training/racing goals for February?

Random Training Thoughts From Jan. 20-27 (Phase One, Weeks Three and Four)

Woah, I can finally stop and take a breath.  Has this week been busy for anyone else?  The weekend can’t come soon enough—mostly because Syracuse plays Duke on Saturday, and I want to wear this shirt.

syracuse-baketball-beat-duke

Yes, I bought it a few weeks ago.  Don’t judge me.

Anyway …

I joined a running team.  I know, right?  Three of my coworkers founded the Bronx Submariners—how could I not support them?  I had to get my first singlet!

bronx-submariners-instagram

This also means I’ll do a few roadraces with them—and hopefully I won’t embarrass the team and/or finish last. (These guys are fast; I’m talking 5:30/mile fast.)

Speaking of running, I signed up for a “normal” race—the Cherry Tree 10 Miler in February.  Full disclosure:  I will be doing it as a relay with two coworkers.  Did you really think I’d be able to run 10 miles in two weeks?  Anyway, the race actually falls on another coworker’s birthday, so he wanted some run-brunch action.  And I can run 3.3 miles or whatever, especially if there’s a mimosa at the finish line.

We spin every Tuesday and Friday, so my teammates taken turns bringing music—and my coach quizzes me on songs during every ride.  It’s kind of like I’m Cady from Mean Girls. (‘Carrie, do you even know who signs this?’) As “Young C,” I’m the youngest person on the team, and for the record, I would like to state I was not alive when the majority of our song selections were popular.  I did surprise everyone by knowing Thunderstruck by AC/DC today, though.

No one wins practice, but I posted the third-fastest female time during our 200-yd. time trial.  Granted, two girls who swim faster than me haven’t completed it yet, but my coach said I did a great job and put down a solid time. (2:41, which isn’t impressive for actual swimmers, but I’ll take it.  I’m a wannabe swimmer, remember?) And in two weeks, we’ll have our 500-yd. time trial.  The good news?  Wetsuits are legal!

Speaking of swimming, we drove to Stamford yesterday for a long-course swim—in a minivan.  There were five of us, so we definitely needed a big car, and it was very fitting rolling into the ‘burbs in a minivan.  I felt like I was back in high school.  Talk about the ultimate throwback Thursday!

Enjoy the weekend, friends!

My 2013 Running and Triathloning Recap

… but mostly triathloning.

Can you believe 2013 is coming to a close?  As part of Miss Zippy’s yearly roundup, bloggers post their “year in running” recaps, and since both Jen and Jamie shared their reviews, I decided to follow suit.  Below are some 2013 highlights.

Best race experience

Whew, starting with a toughie!  Three races stand out from this season, so I’ll briefly talk about each.  Going in chronological order, my first swim-bike-run contest of 2013 was the Nautica South Beach Triathlon.

nautica-south-beach-triathlon-run4

As my first official race “flying” the Full Throttle Endurance colors, this event served as a benchmark; it gave me an accurate idea of where I stood in terms of my training and showed which areas needed more work.  Due to the waves, the swim was hands down the most challenging one I’ve completed, but I put together a decent bike and run to take second place in my age group.

nautica-south-beach-podium

Another reason I loved this event?  I got to race, cheer for, hang out with my teammates!

Taking place in late June, the Stamford KIC It Triathlon was another favorite.  The race had an edge in terms of logistics:  located close to New York City, a.k.a. no overnight stay required.

stamford-kic-it-triathlon-run2

The event’s atmosphere made it one to remember too.  The volunteers and crowd support were awesome, and even though the bike course kicked my butt, I loved almost every minute.  The pictures from this race speak for themselves.

stamford-kic-it-triathlon-bike-course

Last but certainly not least was USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals in Milwaukee.  This was my first trip to the “Big Dance” of short-course racing, and wow, what an experience:  perfect venue, ideal course, and an exciting atmosphere.

usa-triathlon-age-group-nationals-milwaukee-run

I got my butt handed to me, but I loved racing and hanging out with my teammates.  I can’t wait to get back on this course in 2014 and see how much I can improve!

Best run

During the end of my season, I used to run long with one of my pace group teammates as she prepared for Timberman 70.3.  These outings were always fun; we slowed the pace, chilled out, and talked literally the entire time.  And during my half-marathon training, I had a lot of quality runs with my coach and teammates.  Gotta love going long, right?

In terms of best run off the bike, I finally started to get close to the lactate threshold “sweet spot” at the Darien ITPMAN Triathlon.  Giving credit where credit is due, my coach yelled at me, which helped a lot.  And I also wanted to leave everything on the course; after all, it was my last race of the year.

Best piece of new gear

OK, so I’m obviously pumped about my Slice (my parents bring it tomorrow!), but since I didn’t use it this season, I’ll go with my wetsuit.  As a wannabe swimmer, I need all the help I can get!  My new saddle comes in at a close second.  Again, I didn’t race on it this year, but it’s made my offseason CompuTrainer/indoor bike trainer workouts so much better. (For the trigeeks, I went with the Cobb Gen2.)

Best piece of running/triathloning advice you received

This has been drilled into my head:  “Shorter, shorter, quicker, quicker.”  The principle of taking short, quick strides has revolutionized my running.  I’ve become a midfoot striker, which has alleviated nearly all of the calf pain I experienced last year.  Also, reminding myself to run this way makes it easier to turn over my legs, maintain an ideal cadence, and overall hit and hold paces coming off the bike.

Most inspirational runner

Between teammates and customers at the store, I see inspirational runners everyday.  One woman does stand out, though.  Earlier this month, she stopped by to get a pair of sneakers because she just finished chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer.  She used to run half-marathons all the time, but things changed with her diagnosis.  Even after everything she’s been through, she absolutely radiated positivity.  We had an hour-long shoe fit and found two options that would help her start running again.  Working with folks like her in this component of my job make me feel like I’m actually making a difference.

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

Swim, bike, run, improve, repeat.

How did your year of running/triathloning go?

Humble Pie

Hey, hey—happy October!  Yikes, September sure flew by.  Even though this means no more triathlons until 2014,  I am doing a half-marathon soon (in less than two weeks!); and aside from running, I’ve been logging lots of swimming and biking time too, which is a direct result of getting “called up” to the racing team. (This group trains five days each week.) Throughout the past few weeks, I’ve experienced a new level of training intensity—and I love it.

But it isn’t without its frustrations and growing pains.

Sometimes, I can hang—like during last Thursday’s long-course pool swim.  Sometimes, I fail to execute the workout properly and crash—like during last Thursday’s speedwork.  And sometimes, I push, get dropped, but fight my way back—like during last Friday’s bike ride in Central Park. (Actually, the same series of events happened this morning too.) Basically, this is the hardest I’ve ever trained.  And it needless to say, it’s been one reality check after another.  But since food metaphors are irrefutably better, let’s say there have been several servings of humble pie. (And that’s also the phrase my coach used, so I’m accurately reporting the details, ha!)

humble-pie

[source]

My first serving of humble pie was consumed on Thursday when a few teammates and I made the drive from New York City to Stamford, CT for a swim workout in the long-course pool at Chelsea Piers Connecticut.  Even though my swim is at a good spot now, I’ve noticed improvements thanks to new-to-me drills this training group does regularly. (For the swimmers and those curious, we’ve been doing a lot of sculling and hypoxic breathing sets.) And during this workout, I tried to “punk out” of a hypoxic nine breathing set (or breathing once every nine stroke).  My coach called me out, yelled at me a bit, and said there’s no reason I couldn’t do it.  So I womaned up and did it.  Sweet!

However, after a quick rinse and gear change, a few teammates went out to do some speedwork on the Darien Triathlon run course, and I royally blew up.  The game plan was to do a 10-minute warm-up, then alternate between two minutes at lactate threshold and one minute off for five miles.  Long story short, I took the first three intervals too fast, then crashed and paid the price during the remaining sets.  It was frustrating because I knew the pace that I should hit, but I pushed too hard in an effort to keep up with the fast people.  Train and learn, right?

And last Friday’s ride in Central Park was solid, yet mildly frustrating as well.  When it became my turn to pull (or take the lead) the paceline, I struggled to maintain the speed, which usually isn’t an issue.  Later, I fell behind the group as we climbed Harlem Hill, but I somehow fought back and regained contact with the pack. (Shout out to the friendly cyclist who gave me gearing and climbing tips!)

When my coach asked me how I felt after the ride, I simply said frustrated.  And he put things into perspective:  Triathletes in this training group have been doing the sport longer than I’ve been alive.  Triathletes in this training group continually win their age groups—and win races overall.  Triathletes in this training group went to London for the World Championships.  Overall, the triathletes in this training group will make me better, but they will push, challenge, and humble me first.

Let the feast begin.

How do you deal with adversity?

My Next ‘Race’

So as you know, my triathlon racing season concluded last Saturday with a sprint in Darien, CT.  After a humbling yet motivating experience at Age Group Nationals, the ITPMAN served as an ideal last race; it reminded me why I love swimming, biking, and running—and training, racing, and hanging out with my teammates.

itpman-triathlon-full-throttle-endurance

Even though there won’t be any more swim-bike-run races until 2014 (boo!), I still plan to SBR with Full Throttle Endurance through mid-October.  A few weeks ago, I got “called up” to train with the five-day-a-week group. (I trained with the three-day-a-week group this season.)  Obviously, I don’t want to turn down this opportunity—oh, no, that’s OK; I’ll just see you guys in January!—and plus, this gives me a chance to work out with new teammates and develop a solid relationship with the head coach.

Anyway, so why am I sharing this information?  Well, I’ve been entertaining the idea of doing a half-marathon for a few weeks, and most of my five-day-a-week teammates are training for marathons (mainly New York City in November) or doing a few half-marathons.  And since I embarked on Operation: Go Long—and since I’m prone to succumbing to peer pressure—I officially registered for the 3rd Annual Fall Foliage Half-Marathon when I got home from Darien.

fall-foliage-half-marathon

The race takes place in four weeks, so there’s plenty of time to log some longer runs.  On Saturday, I completed a 10 miler sans music, which was a huge confidence booster, even though it didn’t go as well as I would’ve liked.

coach-pat-twitter

Coach Pat to the rescue!  This epitomizes “do as I say, not as I do”:  At the running store, I always tell half- and full-marathoners to carry water or make sure there will be water available on their route, practice their nutrition strategy, etc.  But during my run, I had zero water and zero nutrition.  Yes, I should—and do—know better.

Anyway, I’m locked into doing this 13.1, but I haven’t decided whether I want to truly race it.  Honestly, staying positive, running strong, and crossing the finish line will be a huge victory after last summer’s half from hell.  I’ve definitely matured and developed as a runner this year, but spending so much time in my head still makes me nervous.  And I know that sounds ridiculous because Olympic triathlons last longer than half-marathons, but switching sports breaks up the race.  Basically, I’m not used to spending so much interrupted time in my head.

How do you stay positive during longer workouts and when the going gets tough?