My First Triathlon

As I finish up my 7th season as a triathlete my mind sometimes wanders back to 2004 when I completed my first triathlon. And man oh man was that race a disaster! But I guess it sparked my triathlon career 6 years before I even knew it.

I decided to do the Devils Lake Triathlon kind of out of no where. I was home from college for a semester and thought, “what the heck? This looks fun.” My training consisted of riding my mountain bike around, swimming enough laps to get 400 yards, and running every now and then while playing soccer.

Come race weekend I drove up to Wisconsin and camped out at the state park. Ate no dinner or had no plan for breakfast outside of a granola bar I had. That was just one of the mistakes I made. I also thought it was a good idea to change wheels with my dad’s bike. I mean why wouldn’t that work out? It may or may not have the same cassette, may or may not have the same gearing, but it did have thinner tires so why not?!

With those mistakes out-of-the-way things could only go up right? Wrong. I was only equipped with tri shorts for the cold swim so when I tried to put my head in I freaked out. So I hung on the buoy for a little while then somehow made it to the swim exit. I got to my bike, laced up my running shoes, put on a running shirt then started the ride. No tri kit or cycling shoes for me!

It was a hilly bike ride and the wheel change I made would quickly be an issue. I dropped my chain 3-4 times on the ride and it was a struggle most of the way. But the good thing is I had my running shoes and shirt on already so it made for a quick T2! Running was the easy part. I made it through the run and got to the finish.

What is the point I am trying to make in this post? Is that everyone has to start somewhere! Whether it is triathlon, running, a new job, a new school, whatever it is, everyone has to start at step one. Some make it to step 2 a bit faster than others but we all start somewhere. If you work hard and put in the effort then things will go your way!

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Winter Training Woes

Chicago winters are dark, dreary, cold, windy, LONG, icy, boring, and did I mention long?! The winters around here can do a few things to training. They can kick start the mental toughness that comes along with endurance sports, and/or it can start a process that saps you mentally so you might not want to train! For me it does both. But if I can keep coming back and waking up to train when I am mentally drained I know that I will be ready to go when the season comes along.

I don’t mind riding on the trainer as long as I have some good music of TV to watch. I don’t mind running outside in the cold. What really gets me is waking up early to go swim and it is pitch black outside! I then have to drive to the pool, get in the “cold” water and swim. But once I am in the water things change, well usually. There are times when I am swimming and I think “man I wish I was a duathlete!” But I feel like this is all a part of the process of becoming mentally strong. Winter training separates the weak from the strong and it is the building block to a solid season.

I do get a bit worn down around this time because I want to get outside and ride my bike! Even during the season when the weather is nice I don’t ride outside all of the time. That is mostly because I live in the city and riding, or driving, to an area that is good to ride take a bit of time. But it is also because I know I can get a lot of great quality training done on the trainer since there are no stop lights, no coasting, nothing but me and the numbers!

I am VERY excited for this upcoming year. There are a lot of things that will be going on and triathlon is only a small portion. 2016 is going to be a great year!

Hard Work is King

Before I get to my actual blog post I wanted to give a super short race report of the Chicago Marathon. Wanted around 2:40. Started off at about 2:45 pace. Felt good until mile 14. Then it hurt. And hurt some more. And then really hurt. Why am I doing this? I will never do another marathon again. Finish race. Disappointed with a PR of 2:44:46. Take a few days to realize I only had a month of true marathon prep. So now not as disappointed. The end.

Now to start the real blog post. In the 4ish years I have been training/racing I have learned a lot. I have learned a lot about nutrition, fueling, injuries, bikes, running, aerodynamics. But one of the things that I have come to realize is that there is no one workout that will get you ready for a race. What gets you ready for a race is A LOT of hard work and consistency. I have thought back to what I did the last two years to get to where I am today and realized that it has all been a progression of smart, hard training year after year to get me in this position.

I have had different coaches over the last 4 years and I have been with my current coach for the last 2 years. What have we done differently? Honestly, I am not exactly sure if we have done much differently we have just attacked training with a different mindset. We have changed my swim sets to work on my weaknesses but distances are still around the same. We have focused on the bike a lot to allow me to run better off the bike. We are still doing good volume, like in the past, but we are also working on A LOT of quality, and it is painful, but rewarding quality.

There is no magic to training. Waking up at 5 AM to swim then cycling/running after work when you are tired day after day then again on the weekends is no secret. But it works. It might take 2 years, 4 years, 5 years to get to your potential but it is worth it. I don’t think I have hit my top end yet and I know I can still improve. It is now time to keep up the hard work and consistency to ensure that I keep getting faster. I am looking forward to the 2016, not only for racing, but also because I am getting married in June! I will have a lot going on this year and my life is changing but I will go after it like I have been the last 5 years; with passion and dedication!

Age Group Nationals: An unexpected AG silver medal!

3 weeks ago I raced 70.3 Racine and won my age group and placed 11th amateur. I was very happy with the end result but was not completely satisfied because I was not able to show my bike fitness. Fast forward 3 weeks and I am sitting here still in a bit of disbelief with my result at Saturday’s USAT Age Group National Championship. Last month I was going back and forth between signing up for this race of 70.3 Steelhead. I decided on this race because it was going to be moving away from Milwaukee and I was able to drive up the morning of the race. And I sure am happy I made that decision!

Last week I was looking at the USAT AG national rankings and to my surprise I was ranked 15th in the country in my AG. I know I am a good triathlete and I know I can get really good results and I see myself at the front of the race but I am still a bit unsure of myself since this is really the first year that I have been able to put a bunch of good results together. After I saw that I started to think about how I could do in this race. Two years ago I raced there and was like 48th in my AG with a 2:05:xx time which is my PR, well ITU Chicago is the PR but the course was short. I was thinking with my new fitness and experience I thought a top 20 result was realistic. I don’t fancy myself as a short course racer, I think 70.3 is my distance because I have more time to make up time on the run.

My fiancé drove up with me and was my supporter for the day since my parents were, unfortunately, out-of-town. I gave her instructions to tell me my placing after the swim and bike. Thankfully I was in the first wave or else that would have been all but impossible. I gave her rough time estimates of 23 for the swim, an hour for the bike, and 36 for the run. So I thought a 2:02-03 was a realistic result. But my goal was to push from start to finish and let it all fall into place from there.

Swim: 21:53 (1:16 min/100 yards) 14th AG/136th Overall swim time

The swim start was a bit interesting. We were all lined up on the dock in the water and we had to have one hand touching the dock. Now it might not have been so bad but we were PACKED in there. I was on the inside and was getting a bit nervous about the start. I am still not a fan of rough swims so I had to hope that I could get off the line fast and get into a good groove. Thankfully I did! I shot off the line and did not get touched. I tried to find feet and I found some, then I lost them, then found some more, then lost them. I tried to sight to see where I was but it was tough to tell. I figured top 20ish but not sure. Swim went well and felt pretty good. I was pushing it but still wish I could have stayed on someone’s feet to save energy. I got out of the water and saw 22:xx but knew I started my watch about 45 seconds early. So a good start to the race!

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Bike: 58:34 (25.5 MPH/268 NP) 3rd AG off the bike..2nd AG/60th Overall bike time

The good thing/bad thing about being #12 I was racked at the first bike rack. So almost as far away from bike/run exit as possible but also as close to swim in/bike in as possible. Got on my bike and heard my fiancé say 13th. I was very happy with that start and with the way my legs felt. I started pushing right away and knew I had good legs so I was pushing it from the start. There were a bunch of riders within a minute or so of me so I was able to get into top 10 pretty fast. Then slowly started pulling others back. I saw the first two riders and they looked a fair distance ahead so I was hoping I could make up some time on the bike and hopefully be able to run some more time into them. Made it into the top 5 at the turn back to transition then I hit a bump and my right aerobar came loose. It was more of an annoyance than a real issue. If it was a longer race it would have been worse but I only had about 15 minutes left so I knew I could just focus on putting weight on the back of the pad so I didn’t fall forward. Made it into 3rd place with a few minutes left and I saw 2nd place up the road. I wasn’t able to catch him but I was VERY happy to get off the bike in 3rd. I was a bit worried that someone behind me would run me down at a race like this so I wanted to push it from the start and see how the legs felt.

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Run: 35:13 (5:41 min/mile) 2nd AG…fastest run in AG and 15th fastest overall

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If you have been following me for the last few years you know that the run is where I shine. I was hoping that I could keep that going and at least get up into 2nd and hope that no one passed me. Legs felt good out of transition and started to tick off the miles. First mile was 5:43. I saw the leader and started timing him to see how far ahead he was…I looked at my watch and saw 4 minutes! Well no chance of catching him! But 2nd place was close and I made the pass about a mile and a half in. I kept the pedal to the metal and pushed as hard as I could. My legs were feeling VERY good but I also wanted to make sure that the 3rd place guy didn’t catch back up so I was pushing it but making sure I had energy left for my final 2 mile pick up. At the turn with about 2 miles left I knew I wasn’t catching 1st but wasn’t sure exactly how far 3rd was back and then I saw a group of runners looking pretty good so I had to keep focus on breathing and my stride to not let anyone back in the game. I saw my friend Nick and he yelled some encouragement to me and that gave me a little added push. The last few miles hurt very bad because I now wanted to gain every second possible so my overall placing would be as high as possible since at a race this short seconds matter. With a half mile to go someone told me no one was going to catch me but to kick it in because I was racing against the clock. So I ignored the pain and discomfort and hit it. I ran down the finishing chute to a nice big crowd and announcers calling my name.

Finish: 1:57:30 2nd AG/24th Overall

Pure relief!

Pure relief!

I cross the finish line and someone congratulates me. I take a second look and it was Mark Allen. For those who don’t know he is one of the best triathletes EVER. He won 5 straight Ironman World Championships and 6 in all and is famous for his show down with Dave Scott in the 1989 “Iron War”. Two years ago I got my medal from Chrissie Wellington, arguably best woman triathlete ever, and this year Mark Allen, pretty cool! Right after that another person shakes my hand, I thought he was just saying good race but he said “you’ve been selected for doping control.” Well then, I guess I get to pee in a cup! I found Jessica to get my ID then walked over to the testing area. After chugging a bunch of Gatorade and water and answering a bunch of questions I was ready to give my sample. They need a lot of urine so I wanted to make sure I was ready for it. Thankfully Jessica followed others over so she was there with me and I was able to answer text messages from family and friends. I was able to get it done in one try. But it sure was a VERY awkward trip to the bathroom. As annoying as it was to not be able to relax and soak in the finish I am extremely happy USAT is taking age group doping seriously. It is sad to say that I am sure there were plenty of athletes who were taking something illegal. Testosterone supplementation has been such a big issue that it is nice to see them testing. But when they were asking questions I wanted to be like “I am a 3rd year elementary education teacher, I don’t have money for doping!”

I am extremely happy with this result and very happy that I was able to put a great race together from start to finish. Now time to start the real big training of the Chicago Marathon but I still have the Chicago Triathlon at the end of the month. But the focus will be to get A LOT of run miles in and not lose too much swim/bike fitness. Thanks everyone for the support!

Motivation

It has been way too long since I have posted, and I know it has been since my best friend who isn’t a triathlete commented about it! I have been kind of busy but also just wasn’t sure what to write about. But last week I started to think about my motivation to train then today during my cool down I started to think about what I would write about motivation. So here goes!

Everyone has to motivate themselves on a daily basis. Do I wake up 10 minutes earlier to make breakfast or grab a pop tart (my pre race breakfast!) on the go? Do I eat the donut in the kitchen at work or just drink some water and eat an apple? Do I go out to eat with coworkers even though I made my healthy lunch? Do I order pizza or Chinese instead of cook at home?

These are all questions everyone has on a daily basis. Okay maybe not those exact questions but ones that are very similar. I go through those questions everyday as well too but because of the amount of training I do I have added questions that come up. Do I wake up at 5 to go for this swim? Do I take a nap after work and push back my run? Do I do 5×1 mile repeats or 4? Do I push as hard as I know I should even though I am tired? These questions happen sometime but sometimes training is just, well training. I get through it and I enjoy it. But on other days those early wake ups are really annoying and on days like today I just want to relax with my fiancé and watch Fixer Upper.

Then I get to thinking…why am I doing all of this training? What do I get out of it? Do I enjoy it because it is fun? Do I enjoy it because I am pretty good? Am I just scared to suck so I make myself train? I think at different times I train because I love it, because I am scared, because it is fun, because I am good at it, and because I want to get better.

The tough times are when I REALLY think about it. I do a lot of thinking on long swims, rides, or runs. So I get to go through many different things everyday. I really do enjoy training and racing a lot. Like A LOT. I LOVE pushing my body to see how far it can go and how well I can do. But then part of my knows that I also train so much because I am scared to fail. I train so much that when I fail I not only feel bad for myself but I feel bad for my family and friends that I take time away from to train. I know they are all happy with whatever place I come in and no matter how I feel but I want to do well FOR them almost more than me.

There are times where I do think that I need to cut back a bit on training to just let loose a bit. Not worry too much about what I am eating or drinking but that will come. I think I have come a long way with being so structured and regimented. I still am that but just a few years ago I was so paranoid that if I had one bad meal, or one bad part of a meal I would regret it. Like I would get mad at myself and be very frustrated. But now I know that if I have a piece of cake, or two, if I have fries, or a beer (which I am enjoying now!), I won’t automatically gain a pound or two.

I am very happy that I have a race coming up in two weeks so I will be able to have all of this hard work and dedication pay off! I might post before then since I need to get back into the swing of it. I am not sure what other races I am doing this year but right now the ones that I have signed up for are Challenge/Rev3 Knoxville, Pleasant Prairie Olympic, and the Chicago Marathon. I will add a mock schedule to the site and add the races I think I am going to do. Well, as always, thanks for reading and if you have any suggestions on what to write about let me know! I am always up for some reader feedback!

2013 Season in Review

My 2013 season was probably my most successful season yet.  I got to experience some new races and places, set new PRs, and coach myself.  I learned a lot about myself as an athlete, and a coach, and I hope to continue the upward trend for 2014!  2013 was a focus on speed, shorter races, and getting back to the fun of training/racing.  (I was also broke so I couldn’t race as much as I wanted)

My season started off with a PR 1/2 marathon in March in freezing cold weather leading up to the Boston Marathon.  During this time I was mainly run focused and I was still being coached and it led to an amazing Boston Marathon race.  I don’t want to get into details about the race or my experience since I already wrote about it but whenever I wear my Boston Marathon shirt I still have flashbacks to the good parts of the race but mostly to the terrorist attack that happened while I was on the train heading to the airport.  I am still amazed that a different decision here or there could have led to me still being near the finish when the explosion happened.  It still brings chills to me.

Finish line picture I took before the race.  The first bomb went off just a bit closer to the finish.  Still in disbelief.

Finish line picture I took before the race. The first bomb went off just a bit closer to the finish. Still in disbelief.

Starting line!!!

Starting line!!!

A few weeks post Boston I made the decision to learn something about myself as an athlete and a coach and go the self coached route.  My coach had been great and it had nothing to do with her.  I just really wanted to see what I could do alone and how I could train and race with all the pressure being on me.  I thought I did pretty well with that. I had a few races before 70.3 Muncie which would be an “A” race of the year but nothing super successful.

70.3 Muncie ended up having PERFECT weather and was even wetsuit legal.  The year before the race had to be shortened because of the heat so it was pretty nice to have great weather because I knew if I put a race together I would be able to put down a good race.  And thankfully that happened.  Swim was mediocre at best but thankfully my wave was early so when I got on the bike course it was clear and I took advantage of the nice weather and flat course.  Worked my way up then got on my runners and now was where the “money” was made.  I had a time that I wanted to run, 1:25, but the run course was hillyish so I figured it might not work out but I kept pushing and pushing and ended up in a battle with another athlete for the last mile or so that I ended up winning on a sprint right before the finish, which is crazy because this happened in 2011 when I raced here too.  That race I ended up the 10th Amateur and 3rd in my AG which was amazing.  I ended up beating some pros which was super cool too.  Granted the race a totally different race but I’ll take it!

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The weeks kept ticking by and training kept going well.  I geared my training to the Age Group National Championships and the Chicago Marathon.  So training for the swim/bike were shorter more intense and the run was keeping mileage high and working on getting speed in prep for the marathon.  Raced the AG Nationals to a BIG PR.  It was great to race a good race against the best in the country but it humbled me since I was only 38th in my AG which means I got SMOKED by a lot of people.  I had a blast either way and loved the course.

Love this picture!  Thanks Chi Tri bloggers for the pic!

Love this picture! Thanks Chi Tri bloggers for the pic!

The final triathlon of the season was the Chicago Triathlon but after the AG Nationals I was more focused on the Chicago Marathon so my triathlon training lacked and basically involved little swimming, see things I learned in 2013 below.  But I was fine with that because I REALLY wanted to race my best race at the Chicago Marathon and that would mean sacrificing some triathlon fitness.  Race day was hot, and I had to wait a while for my wave to go on but thankfully I was in the Elite AG wave so I went off before any other of the Olympic waves.  Ended that race struggling through a hot/humid 10k to finish 9th in the Elite wave which was pretty good.  I had a great bike that day too but I learned a few lessons on the bike about hydration that I will use in 2014.

Finally it was all about running.  The Chicago Triathlon was my last swim until a few weeks after the Chicago Marathon.  I was 100% focused on that race and I got hooked up with a great run coach Scott Fishman and he helped eek out all of the run fitness I had in my body and it paid off 100%.  My goal after Boston was to run a sub 2:50 marathon and I achieved that goal by going 2:48:46 on a perfect day in Chicago.  My race basically comes down to good pace and race tactics.  I made sure to race my race and it turned out great.

Tossing my gloves to Jessica!

Tossing my gloves to Jessica!

All in all I am super happy with my 2013 race season.  I hit good times, worked my butt off, made training work with my schedule rather than my schedule work with my training, and I got a job!  I am really looking forward to racing in 2014.  Right now the big race is Ironman Wisconsin but I have signed up for Rev3 half iron Wisconsin Dells and ITU Chicago but I am sure I will add other to the schedule in the near future.  As always, thanks for reading and I hope I can provide some insight to training and racing strategies and other fun stuff.

Things I learned in 2013

  • I need to swim more
  • I need to NOT cut swim workouts short
  • I am good at following a training plan made by myself
  • I am getting better at racing in the red
  • Have more than 20 oz of liquid on bike for hot Oly race!
  • Embrace the suck–but do it better in 2014
  • Have fun!

EnduroPacks!

I did a quick review of EnduroPacks a week after I started the product but I wanted to write a review after the full month of using the product.  First off, let me say it does not disappoint.

A quick summary of my training during the time I took the product.  I was towards the end of my triathlon training and getting into my full on Chicago Marathon training.  Putting in 60 miles per week running as well as some riding and swimming.  I am training everyday of the week as well as being on my feet all day teaching.

The monthly supply comes with 4 parts; the multivitamin liquid, the electrolyte spray, amino acid patch, and the glutamine tablet. Combined they are to replace all vitamins and because they are in patch, liquid, or quick release tablet, they actually make it into the body and are broken down which enables the body to actually use them and not just produce expensive pee like a lot of vitamins.

Multivitamin

The multivitamin is added to water and taken once a day.  I usually add some of the electrolyte spray to it as well since I do most of my runs in the morning and I want to get some recovery fluids in there as well.  When added to 8 ounces of water it doesn’t taste great but it doesn’t taste bad.  It has a mild flavor but is easy to drink.  Not sure if it is the vitamin, the coffee, or a combo of many other things, but I feel pretty fresh and awake throughout the whole day which is great since I need all the energy I can get when working with Kindergarten to third graders all day.

Electrolyte Spray

The spray is very, very handy.  I have added it to my multivitamin, plain water during the day, and to my bottles during long runs.  It tastes good, not over powering which is good during a workout.  I have also added it to wage with Nuun in which makes for an electrolyte heavy drink that tastes great.

Amino acid patch and glutamine tablet

These two things are pure amazingness!  I have gone on countless longish runs, multiple 17+ mile runs and have felt surprisingly fresh the next day thanks to the patch and the recovery tablet that is taken before bed.  The patch is put on the inner wrist or lower stomach, I have pick the lower stomach so as not to get confused with a nicotine patch.  THe concept behind the patch is great and it seems to do what it supposed to do.  It releases the much-needed amino acids slowly throughout the 7-8 hours the patch is good for which allows the body to fully absorb and use it for recovery.

All in all I think this product is a great value and an amazing concept.  The company is also super helpful and know what they are doing.  Check out EnduroPacks and you won’t regret it!