Thursday, April 23, 2015

Winter Running Block Recap

The thing about being a triathlete in the mid-Atlantic is that there are very few opportunities to race triathlon between mid-October and early May, unless you care to pack up your bike and travel a pretty sizable distance. Since most of us like competing, we find other races to do – swim meets, road races, etc – and over the 2014-2015 winter, I put in a lot of run training and racing. Since that block has wrapped up and I do my first triathlon of the 2015 season in less than 48 hours (what?), I guess it’s time to document how that went.

In summary, had I met all my goals for this run-focused block, I would have:

Broken 23 minutes in the 5k


Gone a 1:47:xx in a half marathon


Qualified for the Boston Marathon (sub-3:40 for my age group)


 Let’s take it race-by-race.

November 2: Race to End Women’s Cancer 5k – 24:02


I’d just run a 5k in a sprint tri in a 23:18 and figured there’s no way I’d go slower than that. In figuring that, I ignored 1. The likely slightly short course for the tri 2. The fact that I took a good 3 weeks of light training at the end of the triathlon season and 3. My tendency to run fastest right after biking (something about race-specific training blah blah blah). #2 was the biggest factor – can’t get upset by results you don’t get from work you don’t do, so this not-so-awesome time kicked my butt back into gear to train for more winter races.


November 27: SOME Trot for Hunger 5k – 22:58


Made that sub-23! Looks like training helps. Also, we got exercise before Thanksgiving dinner, so everybody wins.

December 6: Rehoboth Beach Half Marathon – 1:49:38


I was gunning for a 1:47:xx, and the 5k just 9 days before gave me confidence I could do it. Unfortunately (dudes go ahead and stop reading if you want), I had an ovarian cyst swell up in the interim, and it ruptured in the middle of the race. For anybody who is curious, MANY women with a rupturing ovarian cyst will go to the ER because the pain is so bad they can’t stand up. For me, it sounded like more fun to run 8 miles at about 8 minutes per mile, telling myself that I use my legs, not my ovaries, to run, and then almost blacking out from the pain and walking substantial portions of the race before gutting it out through the last mile of tunnel vision and dizziness to barely break 1:50 and set a 3 minute PR.

January 1: New Year’s Day 5k – 23:56 


Jason and I did this race together in 2013, a few weeks after we started dating. It’s a tradition for us at this point, so despite getting pretty sick while traveling over Christmas, I went to the start line anyway with the intention of getting in a good tempo workout. Went out at what felt “hard” but not like “racing” and went about my typical tempo pace without compromising illness recovery.


February 14: Myrtle Beach Marathon – 4:10:26


So, what was supposed to be the Boston Qualifier wound up being, like, half an hour too slow. I knew from the outset that this goal was a reach, had a few good long runs and then became a MESS about four weeks out from race day for a variety of reasons ranging from insufficient rest to difficulties balancing hard vs. easy miles. Come race day, I easily held onto goal pace for 14 miles until my quads said “Thanks, try again another time” and I more or less walked the remainder of the race. I don’t regret giving it a shot, though I do have to say that this is the only marathon I’ve done that wasn’t a negative split, and I would prefer to go back to that approach in the future because it is far less miserable.


March 1: St. Patrick’s 10k – 52:00


Since I walked a substantial portion of the marathon, I felt like my legs bounced back pretty quickly, and I was eager for a redemption race. I signed up for a fast and flat 10k in downtown DC, where I was greeted with an ice storm and fatigue so crushing that I literally contemplated stopping for a nap half a mile in. Finished the race in my 2nd worst 10k time ever and contemplated not racing ever again. Lesson: systemic marathon recovery needs are real even if your legs feel fine.

March 22: Shamrock Half Marathon – 1:48:17


After the miserable 10k, I decided I didn't care to race in hard conditions anymore this winter/spring, or possibly not race at all. I was already signed up to race the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, and decided to go ahead when the weather forecast called for temps around 40-42F. Perfect for running, I'd already paid, and Jason was running, too, so let's go and have a nice run. I wound up settling into a "challenging but not painful" pace the whole way and definitely did NOT leave it all out there, but had a fun day and set a 90 second PR, so fine, we'll go with that.

April 12: Cherry Blossom "I don't even know what distance it really is" Miler - 1:16:23



I lucked out and got into the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler via the lottery, and was excited to run what looked like a fun course (look, I like running around Hains Point, OK?). It's unfortunately a little close to the start of triathlon season, so there was no way I could target this as a running race. But, since I am focusing on Olympic and Sprint races this season, it would be a good chance to check my ability to hit my pace goals (open 10 miler pace is sort of close to off the bike 10k pace). The race course was re-routed because of an accident investigation and was shorter than 10 miles, so that shot the "I really don't care what my time is" factor up by an order of magnitude or two. Just like Shamrock, I ran at a "challenging but not painful" pace and enjoyed the day. My watch showed I held 8:01/mi for the distance we ran, and my run pacing goal for triathlon this year is to be under 8 minutes per mile. 

In the end, it looks promising, so let's get on with that triathlon business, shall we?



Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Two Things Tuesday

It's been a while since I last posted. I've raced four times since then, so you'd think maybe I'd write about those races, but no, not interested in that right now. Two non-racing things I'm here to discuss instead.

1. Our local amazing triathlon shop, Tri360, made me their featured athlete of the month. They run an awesome shop, and if you have any bike- or triathlon-related needs in the DC area, you should go there. They take amazing care of my bike, and when my powermeter acted up 5 days before Eagleman 2014, they were going to turn the world upside down to get me set for race day.

Luckily, I only needed to move a battery. Way easier than moving the Earth.

2. Having done a lot of deep water/pool running when my foot was broken, I've still been working in a session or two a week as cross training. It's obviously not the most mentally stimulating activity, but during Sunday's pool running session, I found the ultimate secret to keeping yourself entertained while pool running.

Music? Nope.

Intervals? They help, but only so much.

Friends? Not quite.

The secret, you see, is to go to the pool the one afternoon of the week that the diving boards are open for use. Crowds of kids, teenagers, and, erm, "adults" were there to show off their...I'm not even sure what...on the 1- and 3-meter boards. It was nonstop entertainment for all.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

2014 Waterman's Sprint Triathlon

As I noted last week, I’ve been able to run again post-fracture, and it’s been fun. The weather has (generally) given us cooler temperatures ideal for running nearly any time of day, and I’ve been pleased to find that I didn’t lose too much running speed. After a couple weeks of gradually longer runs (only one over an hour, don’t get excited) with decreasing walk intervals, I floated the idea of racing a sprint triathlon to my coach, figuring I could handle a 5k run at this point in my post-injury recovery. It may not be fast, but I’d been swimming and biking enough that I could bank some time on the first couple of legs, and maybe squeak out a qualification for the 2015 Age Group National Championships so that I could get that out of the way.

While I expected coach to question the wisdom of competing in a race less than 4 weeks after my first 20 minute run-walk, she gave me the green light, so I signed up for Waterman’s Sprint over in Rock Hall, MD, and made the early morning drive over to Maryland’s eastern shore with no idea of what to expect.

Turns out it went pretty well, and I turned in 4th place overall, which is the highest overall placement I’ve ever achieved – and I would have been 2nd overall had I been able to put on my shoes (see T2 time and ranking).


The good news is that I still won my age group, which means that unless USA Triathlon drastically changes their qualifying standards, I’m in for 2015 Age Group Olympic Distance Nationals!


As for the details…

Swim, 750m: (11:58 in the water (1:36/100m), but 12:22 once I got off the dock and across the timing mat. 5th/154 women, 1st/15 AG)

Despite the cold temperatures race morning, I still planned to get into the water to warm up for 10 minutes before the race. That is, I planned that, until it turns out we weren’t able to do so. Instead, we got about 3 minutes to bob around before our wave started, which turned out to be insufficient warm up (shocking, I know). I spent the first half of the swim very much not with it mentally, and was definitely not putting out a sprint-level effort. It was probably about 10k swim effort, if that. I picked it up a little bit for the 2nd half, and just barely came in under 12 minutes and soon heard somebody tell me that I was the 4th woman out of the water. Not ideal, but not catastrophic, so I put the swim behind me and moved on to the next task at hand.

T1: 2:08, 4th/154 women, 1st/15 AG

I passed one of the women in front of me in transition. Then I probably wasted a few seconds at the mount line clipping into my shoes because who has time to practice flying mounts?

Bike, 15mi (maybe): 43:29 (20.7 mph), 8th/154 women, 2nd/15 AG

Though it was still chilly, I didn't bother with arm warmers or gloves, and reasoned that I could warm myself up by making more watts. This works for a sprint, when there isn’t as much concern about blowing out your legs as there might be for a longer race. I averaged 190-200W for most of the time I was pedaling, but bled off a little power going around turns and the like. While keeping me warm, that power output helped me handle the pretty substantial wind with ease, and also helped me pass one of the two women in front of me a few miles in. Given the wind, I was definitely glad to have my powermeter keeping my effort level even – you can see that my speed, which is in green, varied substantially despite the flat course, owing to the variable wind direction. My power output, however, stayed relatively even except when passing or taking turns.



I was also glad I had my powermeter because my heart rate monitor wasn’t functional thanks to the brackish water we had for the swim. No, I was not putting out almost 200 watts with a heart rate in the 60s, but I can dream, right?

Anyhow, at least one piece of technology held up throughout the bike, and I kept ahead of the rest of the women’s field to roll into T2 behind only one woman.

T2: 1:22, 38th/154 women, 7th/15 AG

Since I’m still a little iffy about my foot, I was running in super supportive shoes (Hoka Bondis) without speedlaces. And I now know this is where I lost my overall podium spot. Sad trombone. 

Run, 5k (again…maybe not quite): 23:18 (7:30/mi) 13th/154 women, 2nd/15 AG

I set out onto the run course and focused on trying to hold threshold effort, or perhaps a little faster. My run legs came out pretty quickly, and I passed through mile 1 in 7:30, and figured I was either going to blow up and barely avoid walking while watching speedy female runners stream past me, or I was going to run faster than I have all season.

Of course, even running faster than I have all season, I could still get passed by a bunch of women. There were some speedy ladies out there, so I was bracing myself to see a stampede of them right behind me when I got to the turnaround.

And didn’t see anybody. Eventually I saw a dude, and a few more dudes, and finally saw a few women about three minutes behind me.

What?

Essentially, it was my podium place to lose, so I kept running at a high effort level – definitely close to redlining the heart rate and periodically looking over my shoulder. Knowing that half the women started four minutes behind us, I didn’t let up despite the space behind me, and was definitely DONE when I crossed the finish line. I got a temporary boost from being announced as the second woman across the line (this may never happen again so don’t expect me to ever shut up about it), walked through the finish chute, and immediately laid down for a substantial chunk of time before going over to inspect the results.

Total time: 1:22:36, 4th/154 women, 1st/15 AG

Turns out that two women starting in that wave behind us were 8 seconds and 20 seconds faster than me, so all the glances over the shoulder in the world wouldn’t have told me that. I won’t lie, I was a little upset that I was SO CLOSE to being 2nd overall. But I really think I put everything I had out there that day. Sure, I could have been faster in transition, but it would have been at the risk of reinjuring my foot. And I could have swum a little faster, maybe put out a few more watts, what if, etc.

In the end, I didn’t. And even though I didn’t, I can’t be too upset about the results, because I’d just started run/walking 27 days before this race, finished 4th out of 154 women in the field, and actually set a 5k PR by almost 30 seconds despite having biked pretty hard for 40 minutes immediately beforehand.


I also can’t be that upset because the overall winners got tubs of HEED as a prize. Who needs that? I’ll take the bottle opener, thanks.


And that’s it for the 2014 triathlon season. It definitely didn’t turn out the way I thought it would, with a DNS in my first scheduled race, a broken foot, and some races I hadn’t even planned on doing. But it was a pretty good season regardless, and I know what I want to do with the 2015 season – and that’s a discussion for another day.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Recently...

It's been over a month since my broken foot was declared healed.

What have I been up to since then?


Namely, talking so much about running while I transitioned out of the boot that my 20 minute run/walk was a major event anticipated by many.


Sure, I waited an extra week to run, since the boot had screwed up my gait, but I was super-excited for my first run/walk back. Hot pink shoes help.


The title says it all.


Eventually, I even got to go back to the track for some 800s, though still not full speed/effort.


A run over an hour! A real "long run" (sort of).


And even a run back at the scene of the races that I did with a broken foot while in town for work this month. Far more enjoyable when you're healthy.

If that isn't motivation to take rehab exercises and cross training seriously, I don't know what is.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Luck is most apparent in retrospect

I got a pretty serious reminder of just how lucky I am last week.


See, I've had my time trial bike for almost three years now. And last week, I was chatting with a friend about a flat she'd gotten on her commute, and I noted that I had never had a flat on my time trial bike.


Not racing.

Not training.

Nothing.

And while I realize how lucky THAT facts is, I didn't yet know just how lucky I was. As I was finishing up my ride Saturday morning, I got a flat. Giggled about how I'd just boasted about my luck and this was probably payback, but was happy that I was less than a block from home and simply walked the bike home, flat to be dealt with later.

And when I did get to it a few hours later, I discovered something very interesting. You see, my bike came with Felt's TTR2 wheels, which have a slightly deeper than normal rim. Observe.


It turns out that they are just deep enough that a standard valve stem on a tube won't reach through far enough to support inflation. Meaning that for 3 years, hundreds of miles of racing, thousands of miles training on roads that are often quite far from home, or the nearest bike shop, for that matter, I was riding with spare tubes that would have been useless.

And I discovered this after getting a flat one block from home. 

My luck has probably run out, I'd best hide from society for a few days.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

On Being a Medical Abnormality

The normal healing time for a metatarsal stress fracture is 4-6 weeks. That meant that, since today is September 2, and I got my fracture diagnosed on August 11, I should have at least another week or two in this fine footwear.


Since I had no intention of prolonging this situation, I kept this boot on pretty much nonstop, to the point that I took it off right by the edge of the pool when I got in to swim or enjoy some deep-water running, and otherwise only took it off to change clothes or bathe. While I've been logging a good deal of doctor-approved activity - biking in hard-soled shoes, deep-water running, and swimming while avoiding pushing off the wall with the bum foot - I've also been staying off my feet as much as possible outside those activities.


(Pretty much)

Although I am still smack in the middle of the normal healing timeframe, I've felt absolutely no pain from the fracture site since about August 18. While this tempted me to ditch the boot and go back to normal flip turns in the pool, I kept complying with doctor's orders. However, since the original podiatrist was dead-set on my staying in the boot for a month no matter what, I decided to seek a second opinion. So I kicked off last Friday with a fun swim (one-leg flip turns only, of course), and thought that after an appointment with a podiatrist later that day, maybe I'd be able to lose the boot a few days early.


The new podiatrist listened to the history of my injury (first pain on July 29, stopped running as of August 10, in the boot since August 11, clear bone healing showed on an x-ray on August 20), and tried to prepare me for the 99.999% chance that the bone wouldn't be fully healed and that I'd still be looking at another couple of weeks in the boot because "healing at this rate would only occur for a medically abnormal case."

Since "medically abnormal" is pretty much my middle name (no joke: 5 years ago, I had surgery that was so rare for an adult that a dozen or so residents from GW watched the procedure), I retained some hope, got the x-rays done, and waited for her to come back with the results.

Healed. Only a faint sign there was ever a break at all.

Now while you might think I went out and immediately celebrated with a double-digit mileage run, even I have some sense about me. Before leaving the podiatrist's office, I asked about when I could run again (next Monday), when I could hit up the elliptical (Thursday), and how to transition out of the boot (slowly, over the course of 4-5 days).

And believe me, upon taking myself out for a stellar 15 minute walk in super stable running shoes later that day, I understand the need to ease back into normal life before running again. That boot messed up my hip and calf pretty nicely, but I'll get back to running far sooner than anybody would have thought.

Usually, I lament my massive, dense bones, gigantic body frame, high weight, and super sluggish metabolism. But it all finally pulled through for me this one time. Being a freak of nature isn't always so bad.





Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Racing on an Injury: It's (Almost Always) Stupid

 It’s kind of hard to hide some injuries.

Since almost everybody I encounter asks about my injury given my footwear “selection,” I should probably just walk around with a stack of handouts explaining my foot situation. When asked, I try to be as brief as possible– I had some foot pain 1.5 weeks out from a major goal race, minimized how much I ran on it, developed/worsened a stress reaction/fracture while competing in two races one weekend, and got the confirmed diagnosis a few hours after getting back to DC. The reaction from the (mostly non-athletes) I run into on a daily basis is generally something along the lines of “Wow, you are really tough! You did those two races on a broken foot?”

Not exactly the reaction I’m looking for.

What? Doesn’t everybody like to get some affirmation that they are super hard-working, determined, and altogether badass?

Maybe under some circumstances. But to be honest, racing on a known injury is arguably stupid, and should really only be undertaken in some very rare circumstances.

Hypocrite much? Maybe. Read on.

Racing on a known injury puts your long term athletic goals and health in jeopardy, and is highly unlikely to result in a stellar performance. There are rarely good reasons to do it.

Because you paid for the race/travel? Nope. That’s a sunk cost, and by racing on an injury, you could potentially hurt yourself badly enough to set yourself back even MORE cash as you try to heal in the months after the race.

Because you trained really hard? Uh-uh. See note about low likelihood of a stellar performance. Better to delay, maintain fitness as best you can with the injury, and bank those months of work for a later, healthier, race.

Because your friends are racing? Sorry, 6th grade is over.

Because you are in PR shape? Funny, if you are injured, you aren’t in PR shape, regardless of what those 800s at the track two weeks ago said.

Because you want to prove what a badass you are? Hardly. It takes a lot more strength to back away from a major goal and save yourself for a better race down the road than to stubbornly slog away through the original goal.

So then, why would you do it?

I can only speak for my reasons for racing two weekends ago, but it can be summed up as follows: it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I was unlikely to come across again, and it was meaningful enough to me that I was willing to spend 3+ months under serious activity restriction following the race if I had to. In this case, I had qualified for a national championship taking place in my childhood hometown. This is a situation that would quite likely never happen again in my life (though we now know the race is going back to Milwaukee next year, and that I probably already met qualification).

Had this just been a target Olympic distance race, I’d have pulled the plug and found another race to build back up and taper for once the foot healed up. But this was a very different, very special situation.

This level of “worth it” might be different for everybody. Maybe it’s your only shot at running the New York Marathon, maybe it’s your final championship NCAA race, maybe you are racing with a dying relative, maybe it’s meaningful to you in some way that you can’t explain to anybody else. But the common thread in the decision HAS to be that you fully understand the potential consequences, and that you are willing to accept them WITHOUT whining about it after the fact.


This is why you won’t see me complaining about 2+ hour pool runs or races I might be missing this fall – I made my bed, time to lie in it. It had nothing to do with proving how tough I was, and everything to do with taking advantage of an experience that I thought I might never get again. I don’t regret it, but won’t hesitate to pull out of another race in the future if I’m injured. It’s highly unlikely I’ll find something so special in a race again.