Thursday, May 26, 2011

Kids like to "Tri"

On Saturday, all three of my girls, ages 10, 8 & 5, will participate in a youth triathlon. This is a re-post of a fitness column I wrote for a local newspaper on Kids Triathlons:

Children are natural triathletes. By age 2 they’re off and running and by 7 most have learned to ride bikes and swim.

According to an article in The New York Times, it’s not only adults who have been flocking to triathlons; youth triathlons have become tremendously popular, with USA Triathlon, the sport’s governing body, reporting that it had 36 percent more members under 18 in 2008 than in 2006.

Last summer, two of my daughters, ages 9 and 7, expressed an interest in triathlon. We registered them for the TRI-TO “WIN-THE-FIGHT” Kids Triathlon in Frederick and spent a few days “training” for the event by swimming at the YMCA, riding bikes and running around the neighborhood.

The Frederick triathlon was a fun event that, according to its website, offers a safe, non-competitive triathlon experience for children, and more importantly, provides important lessons on staying “safe” in the sun. Children in the 9-under age division completed a 100-meter pool swim, a two-mile residential bike course and a .75-mile run on park paths.

My 7-year-old sprinted through the finish chute with a big smile on her face before promptly asking, “Where’s the food?” My 9-year-old’s first words upon finishing the race? “When can I do another one?”

With childhood obesity on the rise, regular participation in physical activities is encouraged as a means to promote and maintain good health. Triathlon not only combines three things kids like to do, but swimming, biking and running are lifetime sports that, according to, “provide an excellent means to obtain vigorous activity and develop a lifelong love of physical activity.” The site also notes that The American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation that triathlons for children and adolescents be designed with an emphasis on fun and safety.

Many local groups, including Racine Multisport, which hosts the Hagerstown Youth Triathlon, now offer triathlons geared toward children that emphasize fun and fitness and allow first-time triathletes to experience a positive introduction to the world of multisport.

The Maryland Youth Triathlon Series, which promotes sun-safe practices, encourages healthy lifestyle choices through multisport and shows kids that winning is finishing what you start, was formed to increase awareness of Melanoma skin cancer among adolescents and young adults and support the Joanna M. Nicolay Melanoma Foundation.

The Series kicks off with the Frederick race in May and continues through August with events held in Annapolis, Columbia and Mount Airy. All proceeds benefit Joanna M. Nicolay Melanoma Foundation.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

We wear short shorts

Despite slathering on 50+ SPF and hiding under umbrellas when I'm not training, I inevitably tan. For a triathlete, this results in a rather unsightly pattern, particularly the farmer tan on the legs--who wants to put on a bathing suit and sport tanned legs up to just a few inches above the knee only to display pasty white thighs, compliments of the cycling/tri-shorts?

My running shorts have only added to this problem and the more I run and the sweatier I am, the more they stick to my legs and bug the heck out of me; sometimes I end up tucking the edges up under the liner once I am safely out of my neighborhood--talk about unsightly!

I am "this close" to trying a running skirt (any thoughts out there on this?) but not sure if I'm ready for that, or if it's even my style (though, considering I have none--style, that is--that's probably not an issue).

So I decided to treat myself to some new running shorts while I was at the Columbia expo. I am a horrible shopper and was immediately overwhelmed by the huge selection, so I grabbed a pair of Brooks shorts off the rack without even trying them on--and I love them! They are super comfortable and fit perfectly, and though they have the same inseam as my other running shorts--3.5"--the scalloped design on the legs makes them hit higher on my thighs and the stretch fabric make them less baggy.

I wore them today for a short 3.29-mile run at a comfortable pace (3-4 RPE, Rate of Perceived Exertion) and they were great! Now that I've found something I like, I will shop in the only way I like to shop--online!

PS--Do you have a specific piece of gear that you just love and can't live without?

Note: I once read or heard somewhere that, with regard to running, you should take one day off for each mile you run in a race; for a 10-K run, that would mean 6 days off. I've never been able to do that! After Columbia, I did indeed take one day off but by that night I was itching to do something; I was so restless I felt like I could jump right out of my skin. So, yesterday, it was back to the pool and today, I decided on a steady 3-miler to take the edge off, and though I barely earned (or burned) my oatmeal, I feel satisfied. I was scanning some Iron Man training programs last night and I'm looking at 5-6 months of 1-3 workouts a day, 6 days a week; we're talking 18-hour workout weeks and maybe more during the peak periods. If I had any shred of sanity at all, I'd take this whole week off while I can and revel in it; instead, after Monday, I plotted out a relatively easy week with one moderate workout each day. It can't be helped.

Today's workout:
3.29-mile run
389 calories burned
best pace: 7:20

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The making of a Triathlon Mom

Ten years ago today, my life changed drastically; I became a mom. This beautiful little person changed everything; my heart, my purpose, my life.

After my daughter was born, there was no more eating macaroni & cheese out of the pot for dinner, no more last-minute happy hours (well, that actually stopped when we got a puppy a few years earlier), no more sleeping in--in fact, not much sleeping at all-- and no more triathlons--well, at least not for seven more years.

And that was absolutely okay. Forget triathlons--being a mom has been the most important, challenging, demanding, rewarding, amazing thing I have ever done.

In the late 90's, before my first daughter was born, my husband and I were on a master's swim team and we swam 4.4-miles across the Chesapeake Bay, twice. A group of swimmers on our team registered for the Dewey Beach Sprint Triathlon and we decided to join them. Beach, bike, beer . . . why not? We loaded our mountain bikes into the car and headed for the Delaware shore, and, unknowingly, toward our future passion.

For our second trip to Dewey, we were still on mountain bikes, but better prepared, which is why I couldn't figure out why I'd performed so poorly. A few weeks later I had my answer: a positive pregnancy test. No wonder I was so completely exhausted! (In retrospect, I had no idea what it really meant to be exhausted! That lesson was learned nine months later.)

During my pregnancy, I continued to stay active and teach aerobics classes, but I gave up running in my 5th month. I know some women continue to run right up until that baby is crowning but, it wasn't for me; it hurt my belly too much. (My absolute hero in this regard was a woman I knew who had three kids and continued to push them all in her triple baby jogger while she was pregnant with . . . triplets!)

And so it went. Baby #1 became a big sister 22 months later and baby #3 arrived 26 months after that. We were in total baby mode. That is, until the baby turned two, and something changed. In the same sudden way we were immersed in a world full of diapers and bottles, one day we were suddenly on the other side of it; we'd emerged from the fog and we could breathe again. At least a little.

I'd spent seven years in the land of Gymboree and Wiggles and Pasta Pickups and I was more than ready to venture out into the world again. I'd dutifully pushed my babies around the pool in their sun-shaded floats and towed a toddler trailer behind my bike and jogged along behind the stroller, but I was ready to do these thing on my own again, free and unencumbered--alone! Triathlons were calling to me. I needed to find that part of myself again that was not just a mom but was also, me.

But where, and how, to begin? I wasn't sure if it would stick, if my mommy-brain was playing tricks on me, so I didn't want to invest a lot of time or money prematurely. I reached out to my friends and neighbors to see if anyone had a road bike I could borrow or rent and I found someone who had a Fuji he wasn't using and was happy to loan it to me for the season. The frame was much too big for me but I didn't care. I ventured back to Dewey beach on my "something borrowed" and was amazed by what a difference it made to ride on a road bike instead of a mountain bike.

When I realized my renewed interest in triathlon was not a passing phase, I bought a bike of my own on Ebay--a Cannondale that I loved--and re-entered the world of triathlons. My husband, who could no longer keep up with me while riding his mountain bike, followed suit and trolled Ebay for a bike of his own; a Trek soon showed up on our doorstep.

While it is challenging for both of us to find time to train and work while still having young children at home, we are fortunate that it is a passion we both share, otherwise one of us would be a "triathlon widow." Twice a week we hire a sitter and, instead of dinner and a movie, date night for us is a bike ride and a run. We rely on an army of babysitters and willing family members to make it all happen, but we've been fortunate to have had so much support and have transitioned over the years from novices on mountain bikes at sprint triathlons to novices on road bikes (and possibly crack) who've signed up for the Iron Man. (We upgraded our bikes in December 2009 t0 a pair of Felt tri bikes; Santa brought something for Mom & Dad too!)

Last summer, two of our daughters participated in youth triathlons and had a blast. After the first one, the first thing my oldest said after crossing the finish line was, "when can I do another one?" And so they did another one, and this year, the youngest will join them too. Someday, triathlon may be a sport we can all enjoy together--you never know what a difference a decade can make.

Today's workout: 1800 swim

Swim workout #13 (1800 m)

Warm Up (200)
200 Free, easy

Set 1 (500)
10 x 50; IM + choice down, free back @ 1 min

Set 2 (300)
300 Kick, 3 lengths of each stroke, IM order

Set 3 (300)
300 Pull

Set 4 (300)
200 Free
100 Scull down (push ups/pull ups), kick back (dips)

Cool down (200)
200 easy, IM order down, Free back

Healthy snack/dessert: Banana Pops

When bananas become too ripe, peel and cut in half. Insert popsicle stick and freeze.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Columbia Triathlon 2011

The Columbia Triathlon, my first race of the season, and I walked away with a smile on my lips and a gash by my eye. All in all, things went much better than I expected.

Pre-race follies: I was worked out, stressed out and burnt out. In the days leading up to the race, my klutzy side was in top form; I managed to injure my hand while playing with my dog, injured my ankle when I fell down two steps, and had a three-day headache that Advil couldn't touch.

Race Morning: However, race day dawned clear and warm. My alarm sounded at 3:50 AM (yes, that's not a typo: 3:50 AM!) and after managing two decent nights of sleep, I woke up feeling reasonably rested and alert. My gear was packed and I enjoyed a leisurely bowl of power oatmeal before heading out with a mug of Chai to go. My husband and I left the house at 5 AM and cruised right to Centennial Lake without a single delay and parked in the main lot with plenty of room and time to spare. After my experience at Columbia Iron Girl in 2009, where, despite my early morning trek to the race, I sat in traffic for nearly 45 nerve-wracking minutes and barely made it into the parking lot, I had been dreading the race day logistics and was totally shocked by the easy start to our day.

Waiting for the Wave: The other logistical piece I'd been dreading was that my wave was the next to last to start. After transition closed at 6:45 AM and I'd wished my husband well and saw him off for his 7:10 AM start, I had an hour to wait. Had the weather been less favorable, it really could have been miserable, but the warm, sunny morning made the wait much more pleasant and I had plenty of time to wander the venue, stretch, focus, watch the other wave starts, eat a piece of almond-butter and honey toast, drink water and make at least four trips to the port-o-pot. My 8:06 wave arrived in no time.

The swim: Though I am a decent swimmer, I've had some negative, panicky experiences with mass open-water starts. No sooner do I begin the swim leg and I am wishing for it to be over so I can move on to the bike, which is my favorite. But, with practice, I've learned how to cope with my swim start phobia and, this year, I've trained more for the swim then I have since preparing for the 4.4-mile Chesapeake Bay Swim in the late 90's. It's often hard for me to find my "home" in a mass-start wave. Near the front, I tend to get plowed over. Near the back, I end up having to dodge all the kicking feet to pass the slower swimmers ahead of me. In the water, I like my space. I may be mildly claustrophobic. And, as a contact-wearer, one of my biggest fears is getting my goggles kicked off and losing a contact lens. In the past, when I'd encounter another swimmer, I'd break form and breast stroke while plotting a new path of least resistance. This year was different; I had a new attitude. I felt unusually confident and selected a starting position to the far inside in the second row. At the horn, arms were churning and feet were thrashing as always, but I felt calm. When I collided with another swimmer, I stayed the course. During one encounter, I took an elbow to the temple but still kept going. It wasn't until I got home that I realized I had a small, fingernail-sized gash near my right eye; a battle wound to be proud of! I finished the swim with my second best time and felt great coming out of the water.

The bike: I love my bike. Once I can pry myself out of the wetsuit and make it through T1 (which still needs improvement) this is the most exhilarating and exciting part of the race for me. Having warmed up during the swim, I can hit the pedals at full throttle. My biggest fear on the bike is blowing a tire, which has happened during training, but never yet during a race (knock on wood.) I would be heartbroken if a mechanical put me out of the race. But, luck was on my side again and I posted a PR on the course. Out of 106 women in my division, I finished 11th on the bike. I love my bike. (Did I mention that already?)

The run: The dreaded run. I have no panicky experiences with running like I've had with swimming but the fact is, I'm not a strong runner--I've had to work super hard to get to where I am and it's not always been fun--and I'm injury-prone. First it was IT band problems, Then, in 2009, I suffered a double case of plantar fasciitis that has take me two years to recover from. It was a long, frustrating road and every time I run I live with the fear that, as a chronic condition, the "vampire bite of running injuries" will return. I dread taking a step and feeling that telltale twinge in my heel. And, no sooner did I have the plantar under control, I fractured a metatarsal that put me out of one race and caused me to downgrade two others. Every time I run, my fingers (and toes) are crossed. So, here I am, recovered for the moment, and starting over at the beginning. But, with running, it also doesn't help that, after I've had a strong bike and passed lots of people (ego boost), those same people pass me with ease on the run (demoralizing). And Columbia has a notoriously difficult run--very hilly. But, to my surprise and delight, I was passed by very few people this time. I wasn't fast by any means, but I also wasn't slow; I felt strong and happy to be running pain-free again after such a long struggle. It gave me the lift I needed to push through the final miles at a progressively decreasing pace.

Running entertainment: USAT does not allow iPods, so entertainment has to be found elsewhere on the course. It is always interesting to see the variety of running strides and forms. Sometimes there are costumes, but not at Columbia. Here are three things I did see, but wish I hadn't: Onesies (or unitards, or whatever those things are called) that have seen better days. Let me just say this: if you own one of these things and they've been stripped to nothing by wear and tear and chlorine, then it's time to buck up and buy a new one. Two men on the course were wearing tri-suits that were so threadbare that on one you could see his hairy backside through the thin white material and, on the other, his fuel pocket on the back hung so low that the energy bar he'd stashed there looked as if he'd had an accident in his pants; it just dangled there in a most unsightly way. And one poor woman had tri shorts with a quarter-sized hole right in the middle of the back seam, so she was flashing a little crack with every step.

The finish: It's an amazing feeling to finish a race with a dose of euphoria to counteract the nausea. This is the first time I've raced with a GPS watch so, when I crossed the finish line, I immediately knew two things: I'd had a good race and I'd done better than I'd expected. I don't think I could have asked much more of myself that day, and that's a happy feeling.

The results: I finished in the top 20 out of 106 in my division, 114th out of 539 women overall, and 616th out of all 1633 total participants, including 22 professional and 39 elite athletes--a great way to kick off the season!

The aftermath: When I woke up today, the headache was gone, but I could feel every other muscle in my body. I'd planned to lay low (and treated myself to a post-race massage) but, rather than feeling mellow, I was on a high all day. It is precisely that feeling that keeps me going back for more and wanting to continue challenging myself.

Next up: Planning to have fun and blow off some steam at Warrior Dash next month before the next race--a sprint triathlon on Father's Day.

Camera-challenged: My camera is broken and the only other working one in the house is my daughter's, and it's memory card is always filled to capacity with her random snaps. So, unfortunately, I don't have any race day photos to post but I hope to purchase a few from the event photographer that I can share.

Friday, May 20, 2011

C'est tout!

Final taper ride--check. A short bike at a decent pace and I managed to beat the rain, too. So, that's all--c'est tout. Nothing left to do now but relax, stretch, pack, sleep, eat and hope the bacteria clear out of the lake. (Oh, and spend five hours at the lacrosse play day tomorrow.)

As for the hand, I think it's good to go. It's slightly swollen and sore today, but I can move it easily. Luckily, I think the main point of contact involved muscle/tendon and not bone, and I think the ice really helped--for once, I decided to play it safe and iced that sucker for 30 minutes last night. RICE is such a challenge for me but if there's one thing I've learned, it's that inflammation is the enemy!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bones and bacteria

It's been a great feeling to check things off the list first thing in the morning.

Today I squeezed in my 2-mile taper run before my yoga class. Check!

Now, all that's left is a short taper ride tomorrow and Columbia, here I come!

But, first things first . . . here is the special notice that is now posted on the Columbia Triathlon's website:

During the last two decades, Howard County’s Department of Recreation & Parks has partnered with The Columbia Triathlon Association in bringing triathlon events to the County. In charge of overseeing and maintaining County parks, Recreation & Parks performs water quality testing on Centennial Lake (home to Columbia Tri events) on a regular basis throughout the year. In the weeks leading up to any swim event, this water quality testing is done more frequently. In testing completed over the last couple of days, some sample results have shown an increased level of transient bacteria, due in part to the significant amount of rainfall and run off we have experienced these past weeks. These levels are temporary and do fluctuate with environmental conditions, but we cannot predict what those levels may be in the next few days. As a result, we will keep you posted should any changes occur to this Sunday’s Columbia Triathlon.

What this actually means is that there is a chance that the triathlon could become a duathlon--Run, bike, run--and I can't begin to say how many ways this frustrates me, but here's the short list:

1) I don't really like to run. I don't hate it, but it's definitely my weakest link and definitely the area that I've struggled with most in terms of performance and injury. Now way do I want to swap the swim segment for another run!

2) If I wanted to do a duathlon, I'd do one. I don't.

3) One of our races last year was changed to a du because of a crazy early AM thunderstorm that passed through right at race start time. I'd been injured and had only run up to 3.5 miles before that race; I was prepared to run 5 miles that day, but not 8! To make matters worse, I ran those 8 miles on a broken foot! (I'd hurt it in a previous race but had not yet learned it was a metatarsal stress fracture.) Not exactly the high point of my 2010 race season.

Now that I've wandered over to the topic of broken bones, let's talk injuries for a moment. How many broken bones have you had? How many of those have affected your fitness routines? Post a reply if you have a good broken bone story to share . . . especially if you had a creative way to still keep the workouts coming . . .

Luckily, I've had very few broken bones. The first and worse was in December 1994 when an oncoming vehicle lost control and crashed into my car. The flat bone under my left ankle was shattered and three metatarsals were broken. I was in a cast for three months. When the pain subsided and I was solidly into the healing phase, I hobbled my way to the gym after work (after hobbling around Baltimore city on crutches all day as a transportation sales rep) and rode the bikes, cast and all; getting some form of exercise was the only thing keeping me sane.

I've since broken three toes--one when I saved my infant daughter from falling backward off a couch and onto a table; I sacrificed the toe for her skull; one of my best wagers to date.

The second one was the pinky, taken out during a backyard game of volleyball just a few days before a sprint triathlon; I taped it up and raced anyway.

The opposing pinky toe was close to following in the other's footsteps (haha) when it collided with the back leg of my boisterous Labrador. I think it was only a sprain.

However, the Labrador was not to be denied. Just a few hours ago she made an attempt on my left hand; the jury is out as to whether or not she was successful. During a rowdy round of rough-housing, I swung my arm out to reach for her just as she swung her big head, open-mouthed, in my direction and hand collided with tooth. The thumb is now stiff, swelling a bit, and quite uncomfortable to the point that packing lunches proved a minor challenge. In fact, trying to type this post is causing the ache to travel down to the wrist.

So, with that, I'll wrap it up. If my hand turns out to be broken, or sprained, I'll still race on Sunday. Unless, of course, it's a duathlon, in which case the pain will surely be too great.

Today's workout:
2-mile taper run; 248 cal
60 minutes yoga
30 minutes light lifting and stretching

Today's recipes: (compliments of the American Institute for Cancer Research on how to Make Your Cuisine Green)

Barley and Spring Greens

Canola oil spray
3/4 cup chopped onions
1 fennel bulb, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 Tbsp. canola oil
1-3 cloves garlic (or to taste), finely chopped
3/4 cup thin slices of red, orange and/or yellow bell pepper (about 1 medium)
1 cup pearl barley
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried marjoram
4-5 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup spinach leaves, torn into pieces
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. finely-chopped fresh basil

Generously coat large, heavy pot with spray oil and place over medium-high heat. Add onions and fennel and sauté until tender, 5 to10 minutes. Add oil and heat until hot. Add garlic and bell peppers and sauté lightly for 1 to 2 minutes.

Stir in barley, thyme, marjoram and broth. Bring to boil, immediate reduce heat to low and simmer until liquid is almost absorbed, stirring occasionally, 40 to 50 minutes or until barley is tender. Midway through cooking process, add salt and pepper to taste.

When barley is cooked, add spinach, cheese and basil. Stir to blend and adjust seasonings.

Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 172 calories, 3 g. total fat (less than 1 g. saturated fat), 32 g. carbohydrate, 7 g. protein, 7 g. dietary fiber, 464 mg. sodium.

Swiss Chard with Dried Cherries and Pine Nuts

3 Tbsp. dried cherries*
1/2 lb. fresh Swiss chard, washed well and dried**
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. pine nuts
Salt and pepper, to taste

In small pan, place cherries with water to cover. Bring to boil, remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Cut chard leaves away from stems and central rib. Cut leaves into 1/4 inch slices crosswise. In large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add chard leaves and garlic. Sauté, stirring frequently, 6-8 minutes or until chard is tender. Drain cherries and add with pine nuts to chard. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 91 calories, 6 g. total fat (<1 g saturated fat), 8 g. carbohydrates, 2 g. protein, 3 g. dietary fiber, 121 mg. sodium.

*Dried cranberries may be substituted for dried cherries.
**One package (9 oz.) of pre-washed baby spinach leaves may be substituted for chard.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Puddles and a smile

Between the hours of 8:30 AM and 11:50 AM, I managed to make a run to PetSmart for two 40-pound bags of dog food and a sack of rawhides, swim an 1800 meter taper swim (my last before Sunday's race), bike a short 14-mile ride and return a phone call to my father. Now that's what I call a productive morning!

PetSmart, the swim (workout below) and the phone call were all uneventful. The bike--not as much. My chain was offline before I left the driveway and the rain started coming down before I'd left the neighborhood, but I was determined to get that ride in. Thankfully, the rain was mostly light and intermittent until the last five miles; but those last five were wet and wild! I arrived home with rain streaming out of my helmet, puddles in my shoes, and a smile on my face.

Today's workout:
1800 meter taper swim (workout to follow)
14-mile bike: 769 calories burned, max speed 37.2

Swim workout #12 (1800 m, taper)

Warm Up (500)
500 Free, easy

Set 1 (300)
300 Kick, choice

Set 2 (300)
300 Pull

Set 3 (300)
300 Backstroke down, Free back

Set 4 (200)
100 Fly down, Fly kick back
100 Breast

Cool Down (200)
200 Free, easy

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Losing it

This is taper week, and I'm losing it alright. Not only am I losing miles and intensity in my workouts, I'm losing my mind, my sanity and my patience, too.

Tonight I was so crazed and stressed that I forgot to eat dinner. Now I am munching on some carrots and hummus at 9:30 PM, but this can't be good for taper week nutrition and rest.

Usually, I love taper week--the point at which you've done all you can to prepare for a race and make peace with it; it's the post intense workout phase and pre pre-race jitters--the little, lovely lull in between.

But this week, I don't love it, I'm losing it. I don't feel relaxed or rested. I'm still juggling getting my kids to gymnastics, lacrosse and piano in the evenings after the afternoon witching hour of homework and dinner. I'm still teaching two yoga classes a week and writing on deadline for the newspaper. My husband and I have a tough race decision hanging over our heads and his own work schedule is nipping at his sanity too.

Today I chaperoned what feels like my zillionth field trip to the Science Center--a noisy busy ride to a noisy, crowded place, with energetic kids and four hours on my feet. I'm left scrutinizing my schedule and wondering now where I will fit in the rest of my taper workouts. This is a rest day?

My kids' night time routine ended with one of them (accidentally) giving the other a bloody nose so one was howling and the other was tracking blood from one end of the house to the other. My patience runneth dry and my kettle set to boiling. It was not a happy ending to the day.

A friend recently mentioned that she was having a "Calgon moment." I, too, now feel the urge to scream, "Calgon, take me away!" I resist for fear that I'd be taken to the funny farm.

Today's workout:
4 hours chasing kids around the Science Center

Today's dinner fuel:
Carrots and hummus. I might throw in some ice cream too. Why not?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Taper Time

Trying, once again, to pull myself out of that weekend vortex long enough to post an update.

The good news . . . it's taper time!! But, it's been an uphill climb to get here. The past several days have been the final push--toward training, and toward my daughters wrapping up their lacrosse season.

Thursday was yoga day, as usual, plus 30-minutes of strength training.

Friday, our schedules were so busy that my husband and I had to train separately, so I headed out on my own for a 27-mile ride followed by a 2-mile interval run. I was having a hard time with the "go hard" philosophy on the bike, but was able to push through for a good run and took almost 2 mins/mile off my previous run's pace. Very happy about that!

Friday training:
27-mile ride
max speed 40.5
1452 cal burn

2.24-mile interval run
263 cal burn

The week's events were topped off with a 3-hour stint at the school talent show where we took in 44 acts ranging from singing and dancing to guitar playing and comedy. All three of my girls participated; one sang a song, one wrote and acted in a skit and one played piano. I am so proud!

Saturday was my day "off" and, as usual, was filled with family activities. We had four lacrosse games--all away games--so we had to divide and conquer, and then it was off to my middle daughter's book club that night. Bye-bye weekend. Where, oh where, have my happy hours gone?

Sunday marked the one-week-until-race-day-countdown and the last long ride before taper, which we squeaked in after two more lacrosse games and just before the storms rolled in. Under rapidly changing skies--morphing from bright sunshine and still, humid air, into ominous skies with gusting winds and towering cumulonimbus--we pedaled 32-miles of hills, then topped it off with a short sprint-brick.

Sunday's workout:
32-mile ride
max speed 41.7 mph (Do you know how amazing it feels to go almost 42 mph on a bike?!?! So freeing and exhilarating! I highly recommend it! ;)
1875 cal burned

1.08-mile sprint run/brick (at same happy/quick pace as Friday)
126 cal

And thus, today, was my last long run--a 6-miler, plus 30 minutes of strength training. The first half of the run was strong. I could finally feel the dreaded interval training paying off as I clicked off the first 3 miles at interval pace and then, at 3.5 miles, I crashed. Usually a negative-split racer/runner, I was disappointed to see my pace slow as I struggled with the last 2.5 miles, finishing with an average that was a minute slower per mile than my interval pace. Sigh. It was nice to end this busy day with an hour of yoga plus the 15-minute p90X abs DVD.

Monday's workout:
6.11-mile run
724 cal burn

30 mins strength training
60 mins yoga
15 mins ab workout

And now, I am officially tapering. Six more days to go until race day. My goal this week, in addition to reducing my workouts, is to eat extra-healthy and get more sleep! (That's a tough one for me!)

So, it's off to bed I go.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Get fit, not fixed

This week's thinking has gone like this:

Monday: "I might be slow, but at least I'm out there."
Tuesday: "Go hard, or don't go at all."
Wednesday: "Get fit, not fixed."

In the pool, the "go hard" mantra wasn't sticking. I felt so tired it was difficult to push the envelope. Luckily, I rebounded for the run and averaged more than 1.5 min/mile faster on today's 4-miler than on Monday's turtle trot.

Today's workout:
15 min abs/core workout (pre-swim)
45 min swim workout (workout #12 to follow)
4-mile pace run.
Total calorie burn: approx 1200

When I returned to the locker room post-run, an Aqua Fit class was wrapping up and I overheard one woman detailing her list of physical woes. This poor woman, overweight and probably in her 60's, had a list that included double knee replacements, a tummy-tuck that needed to be "finished," breasts that are different sizes--a B and a D, and somehow related to the tummy-tuck surgery (?), blood pressure issues and medication that was ruining her liver.

I applaud this woman for participating in the Aqua Fit class despite all her physical and medical problems--it is probably one of the best things she can do for herself, in addition to eating a healthy, balanced diet. Just being there, she has taken one big, important step toward improving her health.

This led me to wonder, though, could some of her ailments have been avoided if she'd been taking these steps all along? By embracing a healthy lifestyle, one that includes good eating habits and regular exercise, many health problems, such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure can be avoided, thereby avoiding future invasive medical procedures such as knee replacements and tummy tucks. Mulling this over while packing up my swim gear, I found myself thinking the goal should be to "get fit, not fixed."

Of course, this idea had my mind spinning onto a topic entirely opposite of getting "fixed" for necessary health reasons verses getting "fixed" for mere aesthetics. Stay tuned for more on this controversial subject . . .

Dinner tonight was Southwestern Bean Soup. My girls gobbled it up and requested seconds. Simple, healthy and easy to prepare in advance: (Props once again going out to Jen for finding and sharing this one.)

Southwestern Bean Soup

1 lg onion, chopped
1 tsp vegetable oil (I use olive oil)
2 cans (15 oz each) black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans (14.5 oz each) diced tomatoes with garlic and onion, undrained
2 cans (14.5 oz each) chicken broth (I use vegetable broth)
1 can (16 oz) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (16 0z) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 c. fresh or frozen corn
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp chili powder

In a large pot, Dutch oven or soup kettle, saute the onion in oil until tender.
Stir in the remaining ingredients; bring to a boil.
Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

Swim workout #12 (45 minute swim)

Warm Up (dry land + 500)
15 minutes abs/core work on pool deck
500 Choice, easy

Set 1 (400)
IM order, 3 lengths of each stroke (Kick, drill, swim)

Set 2 (300)
300 Pull

Set 3 (6-minute kick set)
Free kick, 45 sec hard/sprint; followed by Breast kick, 15 sec easy. Repeat for 6 minutes.

Set 4 (250)
50 V-scull; (10 push ups/pull ups/dips at the walls)
200 Free, pace

Cool Down (200)
IM down, Free back; easy

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Go hard, or don't go at all

I have a new student in my yoga class and he is a true-blue endurance athlete, the kind of athlete I hope to be when I grow up. His idea of a casual Saturday morning run is a 20-miler. He has run Boston as well as a few 50-milers and he has several Iron Man races on his resume. This fall, he's doing a "double Iron." I'd never even heard of such a thing! (And possibly was better off not knowing.)

But he is a wealth of information and seems happy to talk about his experiences--he's like a kid in a candy store when we start talking "shop;" he completely lights up, a perma-grin affixed to his face, a gleam in his eye, enthusiasm in his voice. It's easy to see he is passionate about endurance racing. (I wonder, do I sound like that when I talk about triathlon?)

Last night he said something that has stuck with me all day and turned my way of thinking upside down. To paraphrase his words: "When I was training, if I didn't run sub-seven miles I just went home." He went on to explain his theory that your body will acclimate to whatever level of performance you push it to. In other words, if you allow your body to run at a slower pace, that is what it will settle for. This concept reminded me of dog-training classes that emphasize "first time obedience;" he is requiring his body to respond in a specific way the first time and every time.

Whereas, on the other hand, I'm out there running my dismally slow pace and trying to console myself with the thought that "at least I'm out there logging the miles." He may be on to something. My body is going slow because I allow it to, again and again. If I were my body, I wouldn't run faster either!

So, today, I tried this theory on for size. I was 15-minutes late for my swim class; all the more reason to make the most of the time I had. The whole time I was in the pool, I pushed as hard as I could and managed to get the entire workout in, despite having 15 minutes less time to work with. (Swim workout #11 below.)

Tonight, on the bike, I rode an upcoming course for speed. The whole time I kept the same refrain repeating in my head, "go hard, or don't go at all."

And I logged my best time and pace to date on that course tonight. (My aching quads are proof!)

He really just might be on to something . . .

Today's workout:
2400 meter swim
25-mile bike (1238 calories)

Swim workout #10 (2400)

Warm Up (400)
400 Free, easy

Set 1 (500)
25 Fly
50 Back
75 Breast
100 Free
100 Free
75 Breast
50 Back
25 Fly

Set 2 (500)
Repeat the above, Kick only

Set 3 (400)
200 Fly down, streamline kick back
200 Backstroke down, breast back

Set 4 (400)
200 Pull
200 Free, pace

Cool down (200)
200 Free, easy

Monday, May 9, 2011


Where, oh where, do the days go?

For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, you might notice that the well-thought out entries of the past (that sometimes had a point, a plot, or at least made sense) have been replaced by a simple stream of conscious. My apologies. I hope to someday return to more quality output but, for now, I am simple trying to put "pen to paper") Please bear with me!
The weekends seem to suck me into a vortex from which I cannot escape until it spits me out into the next week. Time has little meaning these days except for the fact that there is never enough of it. We are literally living from hour to hour around here, just trying to make schedules meet and survive one task before spiraling into the next one.

My husband and I did enjoy a rare night out on the town on Saturday--no helmets or Hammer Gel required. I even risked wearing a pair of heels since the event--a comedy show--had us seated most of the time. I picked my most comfortable strappy, wedge heels and paired them with my favorite go-to pants and and a black racer-back top and . . . the pants didn't fit! Though my scale has barely budged, as usual, my body has already started to change. The pants were probably close to a size too big and hung extra low on my hips. (Luckily, the shirt was long enough to go the extra mile.) This, clearly, is not a problem I mind having.

Just two months into this year's training and my body is bouncing back to prime-season shape. Last year, it took almost the whole season to get to this point. This is where muscle memory comes in. It's like pregnancy deja vu; when I was pregnant the first time, I didn't show for months--nearly 20 weeks. With each subsequent pregnancy I showed sooner so that by the third go-round, my belly had popped out before I'd even seen the two pink lines on the stick. Body was like, "been there, done that."

When it comes to fitness, the pattern seems to be repeating and my body is kindly snapping back into shape sooner than I expected; a nice perk. (Though, while it's nice to see my pants going all MC Hammer, I still have a ways to go in the pace department.)

The comedy club was great; the headliner had us rolling for his whole bit. Our faces hurt from laughing so much. But, having become a teetotaler lately--consuming three drinks in one night caught up with me on Sunday. I didn't feel bad; just dehydrated and sluggish, and it showed on my ride: a hilly 38-miler that kicked my butt! The one-mile Vibram form run that followed wasn't much better; my five-year old ran at nearly the same pace.

Despite the lousy ride, it was a good day. After a nice sleep-in, I woke to find the house decorated in streamers and "Happy Mother's Day" signs, a carefully chosen playlist of songs serving as the backdrop to the festive environment. Post-ride, I enjoyed a Thai dinner, flowers, and thoughtful, handmade gifts from my daughters. Sluggishness, shmuggishness.

Today I slipped into ultra-productive mode, knocking out all of my chores and errands before noon and setting off for a six-mile run. I wish I could say it, too, was productive, but the snail's pace has me a bit demoralized. On the bright side, at least I got out there and, after two years of clawing my way back from the abyss of running injuries, I've finally arrived at base camp. Now the uphill climb continues . . .

Saturday's workout:
Laughing for a full hour non-stop. That's good stuff!

Sunday's workout:
38-mile bike
max speed: 40.3 mph
cal burn: 2171

1-mile form run
cal burn: 120

Monday's workout:
30 mins lifting
6-mile run; cal burn: 722
1 hour of yoga

Saturday, May 7, 2011

You take the good, you take the bad

The good news is that I ran 3 miles yesterday and my lower legs/shins/anterior tendons or whatever you call them felt pretty good then and they still feel good now. Whether it was the rest, the acupuncture, the pre-run cross friction massage technique (thanks Kari and Andrea), or the soft surface, I don't know, I just hope I can hang on to this feel-good feeling. Since it was a short run, I opted to trot a boring 6 or 7 laps around the same, relatively flat circle for its crushed-gravel surface and give my legs a break from the usual concrete and asphalt.

The bad news is that the boring, but pain-free run was followed by a painfully boring swim. I was going for distance, baby, and omg, in a pool that is indescribably monotonous. Please just shoot me now, was my motivational refrain as I swam back and forth, back and forth. I consoled myself with the thought that the distance was almost a full Iron swim, so I could put that check in the box.

The first 1200 felt pretty good, but by the time I hit 2000 I started to slow down. By 2600 I think I was groaning underwater and by 3000 my hands had morphed into shriveled, wrinkly prunes. And I still had 400 to go. Just shoot me now. (Swim workout #10 below)

But now it's Saturday and yesterday's efforts will allow me to enjoy this day of rest even more as I take in a lacrosse game and then prepare for a true blue date night with my husband that doesn't involve helmets and Hammer Gel. We're off to a comedy show benefit--I'm looking forward to a grown-up night on the town with a lot of laughs and in support of a good cause. (Can't decide if I want to risk wearing the heels, though.)

Yoga insight: "Practice non-attachment; let go of struggling to get things to be a certain way."

Friday's Workout:
3-mile run
3400 swim

Swim workout #10 (3400)

Warm up (200)
100 Free, easy
100 IM, easy

Main Set (3000)*
1000 Free
800 Free
600 Free
400 Free
200 Free
*follow each set with 15 seconds rest)

Cool Down (200)
200 IM order down, Free back; Easy

Friday, May 6, 2011

Yoga does a mind and body good.

Yoga does my mind and body good. I always sleep better on yoga nights; my body feels relaxed and my mind is calm. Our class began with centering, breathing and focus on the day's affirmation: "I trust myself and others." Very freeing.

Two other positive thoughts for the day:

"Intentionally start your day in a more mindful fashion."

"True friends try to raise you up and help you meet your full potential; as each person in this world gets better, we all get better."


Thursday's workout/rest day:

Yoga: 60 minutes
Strength training: 30 mins light lifting + 15 minute abs DVD

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The weekend in review Part Three: Running out of steam

A pattern is developing: things all around me are slowing to a halt.

Friday, the car ran out of gas and came to an abrupt stop.

Monday, my iPod ran out of batteries and cut Shaggy off mid-groove. (Cheesy or not, Shaggy and MJ's 'lil sis Janet were just what I needed that day to add a little pep to my step.) I shuffled through a 5.5-miler at a turtle's crawl, stepping gingerly and aiming for level grass whenever possible to minimize the impact to my inner-shins.

Thankfully, my new evening yoga session started that night and the dedicated time to stretch, focus and center was much-needed.

Tuesday night, my body threatened to put on the breaks. I cycled the first third of my ride at an appallingly slow pace, but managed to rebound for the second half.

I refused to pack lunches last night and went to bed instead, then overslept this morning. The lunches got made but, had they not, I was prepared to dole out the dollars for a cafeteria meal.

So, today, I purposely held back in the pool, both by choice and not. My beaten-down body hasn't been in the water in a week and by the end of the 10 x 50 intervals, I could barely lift my arms out of the water, especially for the last Fly. (Swim workout #9 to follow.)

Now, after an hour-long session with the acupuncturist, I plan to hold off on running until Friday and hope that between the rest and the needles, my lower legs will be feeling better. We are contemplating Iron, so these running injuries are one thing that must come to a halt!

Swim workout #9 (1600 meters)

Warm Up (400 m)
400 Choice, easy

Main Set (1000 m)
10 x 50 @ 1 minute (IM order + choice up, Freestyle back. Repeat in reverse choice/IM order)
300 Pull
200 IM kick

Cool Down (200)
200 Free, easy

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The weekend in review Part Two: Rest wanted

I'm feeling unbalanced.

I'm not getting enough sleep, I'm not eating as well as I should, and I'm rushing from one activity to the next without really being in the moment for any of them. And I am desperately seeking some rest.

My oldest daughter is not particularly enjoying playing lacrosse and "can't wait for it to be over." We won't let her quit, because we believe in teaching the basic principles of honoring commitments and seeing things through, but I must admit, she's not the only one who can't wait for it to be over. (Though I would never tell her this!)

Saturday was my only day of "rest" last week, yet it was far from my ideal day of sleeping in, enjoying a relaxing breakfast, taking a leisurely walk around the neighborhood or hiking some local trails with the fam, and getting lost in a good book.

I'll emerge from this fantasy world to share the reality of my day off: Four early-morning hours at the lacrosse fields, followed by three hours at the airport flying an airplane (long story), and then, after a short respite for take-out Thai with my husband, back to the lacrosse fields for another two hours.

It's not that these activities aren't enjoyable; it's just that they're not particularly restful.

I'm just glad I didn't fall asleep in my plate of Pad Thai.

I'm on a ride and I want to get off

Oh, fertheluvvaPete.

I just had to steal that from a Facebook pal. (Thanks, David.) Those words are perfect for how I'm feeling right now.

Here's an even better one: "I'm on a ride and I want to get off. But they won't slow down the roundabout."--Duran Duran. That about sums it up.

I will spare you the whining (as much as possible) and simply say that I spent the day on a field trip with fourth graders to Annapolis for a walking tour of the city. Somewhat interesting and I am glad I had the opportunity to go with my daughter, but it was exhausting.

Then it was straight home from school with all the kiddos in tow to begin the daily witching hour activities of unpacking, snacks, homework and dinner before heading out for a 25-mile ride. Another one of those days where I was gone from 8:30 AM until 8:30 PM, with the exception of 2.5 witching hours in-between.

Needless to say, I got no work done, no bills paid, no groceries stocked and 3 loads of clean laundry are folded but still covering my bedroom floor, waiting to be put away. Now it's after 10 and I'm off to make the donuts. I mean, pack the lunches.

Somewhere along the line I've got to get off this ride and get some more rest.

Today's workout:

Walking: 2+ hours

Cycling: 25 miles

Fuel: Not enough of the good stuff.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The weekend in review Part One: "The Royal Brick."

Royal what? What wedding?

While many had set their alarms for ungodly early hours and were glued to their television sets, tea and scones at the ready, my husband and I were adding a lump of brick to our spot of training.

We put the kids on the bus and the bikes on the rack and headed east to Columbia, Maryland to preview our upcoming race course (and our current level of preparedness).

The Columbia Triathlon, which attracts world-class athletes, bills itself as TriColumbia's hallmark event and one of the most challenging and longest running triathlons in the USA. According to the website, this event, a widely acclaimed Olympic distance race that had its beginnings in 1984, attracts pro athletes and amateurs from across the country and across the world and is the "Best of The U.S." qualifier event for the state of Maryland.

Three weeks away from race day and already I'm feeling out of my league. One thing I've learned for certain after competing in 15 triathlons is that you are always only racing against yourself; you can't control the field of competitors, only your own performance. In other words, I could have my best race ever and not even rank in the top 20, and I could have my worst race ever and place in the top three. So, the only real way to measure success is by whether or not I posted a time that I'm happy with; one that shows improvement.

Another thing I've come to realize is that my race times are inversely proportional to my age. At some unknown point, I will max out; I will reach the point that I have gotten as good as I will ever be and it will be all downhill from there. Tick tock, tick tock.

So we set off on the 25-mile bike course, that sells molehills as mountains, and topped it off with a 5-mile chaser on a run course that walks the walk when it comes to its hills.

When I ride (or run or swim), I continuously and effortlessly compose posts about the experience, and about racing and fitness in general. With my mind and body in synch, and free of life's daily routines and demands, the prose just flows. If I had a portable,clip-on mike to use while I was training (and could delete the sounds of huffing, puffing and snuffling) you might actually get some really good stuff on this blog.

Alas, when my body comes to rest, the inspiration evaporates from my mind like mist rising up from the still surface of a lake.

But I will try to give you what I remember from my stream of conscious that day. With regard to the ride:

The 25-mile course is far more scenic and beautiful than it is hilly or challenging. Let me be clear: not that this makes me any more of a studette on this course; I'm just saying. As compared to the mega-hills Carroll County has to offer, Howard County is virtually sea level. The one thing it does have going for it is the trees. So many trees! Carroll, far less developed than Howard county, remains more agricultural and therefore offers wide, sweeping views of farms, pastures and meadows, but not nearly as many trees. Everywhere I looked, I was surrounded by green, and not just the kind you find on trees but also the kind you hope to find in your wallet. The further I pushed away from the center, the more "old Columbia" faded away and was replaced with huge, McMansions, rising boastfully from their foundations and obscuring the town's original vision. But, along with all this beauty and affluence comes people; in the form of traffic and congestion. Though we'd timed our ride to miss the worst of the rush hour traffic, we were inundated on several roads by service vehicles hauling lawn mowing equipment and tanks of pool water.

I finished the ride thinking that Columbia, with it's manicured lawns, green trees, and great parks, is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. There's no place like home!

After the bike, it was on to the run to complete my first nearly-full brick and this is the kicker: what the ride lacks in hills, the run makes up for it; that is one hilly-ass run course! Which is problematic for me since running is my weak-link to begin with. But I surprised myself with a decent pace and discovered later, when comparing my training times to the race times posted in my age group from last year, I would have come in around 15th, which is not too pitiful considering there were about 80 competitors in that division.

Who knows how it will unfold. I can't control the field, only my own performance. So, as always, I am only racing against myself. If I can manage to post decent times and, in doing so, manage to pull in a top 20 finish in my division, then I will consider it a job well done.

Three other points of interest on that day:

1) An enormous tree came down on one of the bike course roads just before we got there and landed on the bed of a small truck. Luckily, no one was hurt, but it was one of those moments that remind you of just how tiny we are in this big world.

2) We celebrated our brick with lunch at one of my favorite restaurants: The Great Sage, an all-organic vegan joint with insanely good food. If you're ever in the area, check it out: My non-vegetarian husband went along so willingly that I thought he'd missed the "vegetarian" part; turns out he had because he said, "except for the Thai Chicken Salad I ordered." Um, hated to break it to him, but "that's not really chicken." "Oh. Is that why it was in quotes?" HaHaHa. He's such a good sport!

3) There was no rest for the post-brick weary that day; As I posted on Triathlon Mom, we literally ran out of gas (long story) and had to make several trips back and forth to a gas station to fill a small gas can and deposit its contents into our car's fuel tank. This put us home just in time to greet our children as they climbed off the school bus to begin the daily witching hour. From there, it was off to two lacrosse events and one book club.

Friday's workout:

Bike: 25 miles
Calories burned: 1380

Run: 5 miles
Calories burned: 592

When training conflicts with honor

How to train with honor? Honor thy body or honor thy training schedule? That is the question. In this case, by honor, I mean honoring your body and what it is telling you. Like I used to say to my kids when they were little and not paying attention: "Put your listening ears on!"

So, what is one to do when a nagging, annoying, intermittent pain crops up just weeks before a race? How is it possible to both rest the problem area, yet still be adequately prepared for the race? If anyone has the answer to this problem, I'd gladly hear it.

After a grueling weekend (which I will attempt to recap in subsequent emails), I headed out today for my weekly long run. Not all that long in the big scope of things, but long for me in my post-injury world. I had two days off from running, during which time my pesky, lower-leg pain reared it's ugly mug. So, I was hesitant to run, but I only have two more weeks left until taper-time. Interestingly enough, this lower leg pain is present but dull and fleeting when I run, but often feels worse later when I'm just puttering about the house, running errands or even sitting here typing this post.

Well, whatever it is, I hope my acupuncturist can work her magic on Wednesday and get it the heck gone! Pain, pain, go away, Triathlon Mom still wants to play!

Today's workout:
5.53 mile run
660 cal burn