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!

Chicago Triatlon: My First Overall Win!!!!

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Just typing that title gave me goosebumps. I am about 48 hours removed from winning the Chicago Triathlon and I am still digesting what that really means. Winning any race is fantastic but thinking that I won a race that is 33 years old and is one of the most attended races in the world, and in my hometown, makes it even better! Even thinking that I am a bit unsure of what it really means. Was the competition good? I am not sure how deep the field was but I know that the second place athlete, Brett Collins, won the race last year and has some FANTASTIC results on his resume. Maybe I am not giving myself enough credit, or maybe I am still figuring out what it means.

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No matter what the field size or depth, no matter what race it is or where it is I was honored and very emotional when I crossed the finish line on Sunday. I am going to do this race recap a little differently because the race was, well, different! I will start at the end. Turning the corner and seeing the finish a few hundred yards away was the first time I really thought I was going to win the race. Up until then I thought I was going to get caught. I kept asking my lead-out cyclist if there was anyone behind me but he couldn’t really turn around because he was directing traffic on the path. I didn’t want to turn around and show weakness if someone was behind me. But I knew that if someone came up and tried to pass me I was going to run with them no matter what.

The emotions I felt running down the finish are indescribable. It was an amazing feeling but I think it was also a bit of relief. My parents were there and my fiancé was there too. I think that result kind of cemented to them that all the hard work and training paid off. I know that my family is happy no matter what place I get and no matter what kind of race I have but to be able to show them that the 12-18 hours of training I do a week on top of a full-time job and coaching soccer is working makes me feel better too. Getting that result is something that is still really hard to describe but emotional is about all I can say.

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As I said above it wasn’t until the finishing stretch that I really thought I had a chance to win even though I was in the lead for basically the last 3 miles. I came out of the water with a swim I would be happy with last year but not this year. For some reason I lost my breath a few times which caused me to slow down to catch it. I came out of the water 6th place and was kind of down on myself. The long run to transition gave me some time to settle down and realize that I have been cycling very well lately so I should be able to make up some ground then hopefully cut the lead to catch people on the run.

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Out on the bike I got into a good groove and started to hammer. My legs felt really good and the weather was basically perfect. Someone from the triple race passed me and I tried to stay with him so he could help pace me and I could LEGALLY ride with him. I was behind him and saw my power drop a lot so I tried to pass him a few times but saw surges up to 300 watts so I figured I might as well save some energy and ride LEGALLY behind him. The bike came to an end with my being in 3rd place. Still a lot of work to do.

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Off the bike I knew I was in 3rd but wasn’t sure how far back I was. I had a good, fast transition then got out onto the run and heard my dad say “2.5 minutes back”. Damn. That is a long time to make up in 10k. That comes out to about 25 seconds a mile. I ran 5:40s at Nationals so I was hoping the leader was going about 6 minutes. I started to push it from the start knowing I had to make up time quickly. Having a cyclist in front of me was pretty cool. They cleared the path to make sure I had a good running lane. I missed seeing my mom and fiancé about a mile in because I was already in some pain but knew if I wanted to make up time I was going to have to go hard. Sorry mom and Jessica! At about the 3 mile mark I made the pass into second. I saw first place and looked at my watch to get an idea of how far ahead he was. About 30 seconds close to the turn around. I knew I was going to be able to catch him but then after the turn I became concerned with the eventual 2nd place finisher because he looked strong. I made an effort to push a bit harder and hope that once he saw he wasn’t gaining time he would pack it in and be good with 2nd place.

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Now I was about a quarter mile from the finish and felt like death. We had to run up a slight incline which felt like a mountain then I made the right turn and saw the finish! And that is when the emotions started! As always thanks to EVERYONE for the support and following my road to my first win! But an even bigger thanks to my parents who come to every race no matter what and HUGE thanks to my fiancé who puts up with my training and my grumpiness during peak weeks when all I want to do is eat and sleep! Now time to focus on the Chicago Marathon!

Swim: 22:26 (1:22 min/100 yards)

Bike: 58:52 (256 NP/26.5 MPH)

Run: 34:42 (5:36 min/mile)

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!