Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Iron Family Tri Tech #001-Training Effect

I (John) have been training for endurance sports/activities for almost 10 years now.  I started out as a cyclist and made the leap to triathlon in 2011.  Over the years, I have done a ton of things wrong (and a few things correctly) pertaining to training, racing and nutrition.

From these successes and failures, I have been able to formulate a solid plan and strategy for my triathlon participation.  This will be the first of many posts specifically addressing what has worked and not worked for me on my journey.  So here we go:

Training Effect ("TE")

Recently, a local triathlete posted a picture of his Garmin 910XT screen after a training run, on a Facebook forum that I am active in.  Kudos to him for a successful run under difficult conditions.  In evaluating the photo of his workout summary screen, I took notice of his Training Effect ("TE") value.  I posted a comment asking him if he was familiar with that value, what it means and how to use it.  Although he was familiar with TE, he was unaware of the effects of a 4.7 TE value obtained from that workout.  Others in the group were also curious about TE, so I gave a brief summary as to what it is.  I am going to elaborate more on that explanation and how I use it in this post.

If you have a Garmin 910XT or a Suunto device, you have TE built in.  Most people do not know they have an extremely powerful training tool in their toolbox, even fewer know how to use it effectively.  TE is an algorithmic calculation developed by FirstBeat that uses the device's existing heart rate data to "accumulate" the cardiovascular and adrenal system effects of a particular workout or set of workouts.

Heart Rate ("HR") data is vitally important for effective endurance sport training.  However, there is one big inherent flaw.  HR is just an instantaneous snap shot of your exertion level.  We look at our watch on a recovery or aerobic workout and see a HR of 120.  That's good, we are not working very hard.  But, what about 10 minutes ago?  What about that hill we had to power up?  I still have X miles to go to get home, how hard should I work?  TE answers these questions.

Most athletes, when evaluating their workouts, look very closely at the average HR number.  This is useful, but does not tell the whole story.  Let's say you did a 90 minute run where you sprinted for the first 15 minutes, holding your HR at 180 BPM.  The rest of the workout, you did at a steady 120 BPM.  Doing the math (weighted average), you would have an average HR of 130 BPM.  This would appear to be a good recovery/aerobic workout based on the 130 average.  But, that 15 minutes at max effort just trashed your body.  It put huge stresses on all your systems, and without proper recovery, will adversely effect subsequent workouts.

Here is how TE is a much more effective training tool.  TE is a cumulative value that starts at 1.0 and goes as high as 5.0.  The accumulation of "points" is not linear, so getting from 1.0 to 2.0 takes less effort than going from 2.0 to 3.0.  In fact, if I am doing a run off the bike, the run TE value shoots to the 1.7 range in the first half mile or so.  As you stress your body, the value goes up.  One thing to keep in mind is that since it is cumulative, the value can NEVER go down.  If you overdo it, you overdid it and can't un-ring that bell!  This is why TE is much more effective than HR alone.  Decreasing your effort will stabilize the TE value, but if you don't back off enough, you could push it up further if the length of the workout is long.

The easiest way to start using TE is to set one of your data screens to TE, HR ZONE and TIME.  Make the TE window the largest because this value is what drives your training session.

On a side note, I have contacted Garmin and suggested that they allow TE value to be an "Alert" option on the 910XT.  This would allow us to set a value, do our thing and get feedback from the device when we have hit our goal.  I will keep you posted as to how they respond.

Since I started training with TE, I established a baseline recovery time for each value.  This is what I use, but you may want to vary it based on your fitness level and experience:

  • 2.0 = Twelve (12) hours of recovery.  Do a 2.0 effort in the morning and you can hit another discipline in the evening.  Most of your training volume each week should be done in this range.
  • 3.0 = Twenty-Four (24) hours of recovery.  I usually do these in the mornings when I do not have an evening workout planned.  I also try not to make both legs of a brick session 3.0 efforts.  Bike to 2.0 and then run to 3.0 or vice-versa.  About 2-3 sessions at this effort has worked well for me.
  • 4.0 = Thirty-Six (36) hours of recovery.  Harder or longer intervals that are near race-pace efforts.  I usually try to keep these to a maximum of one (1) per week, maybe even one (1) every other week.
  • 5.0 = Forty-Eight (48) hours of recovery, minimum!  I have only hit 5.0's in races.  This is reserved for all-out efforts in race conditions.  Simply stated, if you hit a 5.0 and you do not have a timing chip around your ankle, you waaaaaay over did it!  Take some time off.  You will be thankful later on.

Obviously, this is just a suggested baseline.  If I did a 4.0 workout, I have, 24 hours later, followed it up with a very easy (1.5 or less) trainer spin or a very easy swim effort.  Easy swims where you focus on form are a great way to get in some time when you are technically supposed to be recovering.  Just keep the effort low and the HR down.

I usually do workouts that would be described as "less than 2.0" or "build to 3.0."  Once you hit your number, back the effort down to Zone 2, or stop the workout all together.  Remember, you cannot undo over-training!

This is a graph of one of my "less than 2.0" runs.  Notice the varied pace to stabilize my HR.  Also notice the slow pace (10:59 min/mile average).  When using TE, don't worry about pace and speed.  That will come all by itself with effective training.  Just for reference, that same run, on the same course only 5 months ago was completed at a 14:37 min/mile average pace.  Next year, this easy run may be at my current race pace!

See the complete data set for this run here.

HR is in Red, Pace in Blue, Cadence in Yellow.  My Zone 2 for runs is 118-133 BPM.  This run's average HR was 126.

Below is a graph of my "build to 3.0" bike trainer workout from earlier this week.  I did about 30 minutes in Zone 2 then dropped the hammer.  As soon as TE hit 3.0, I backed it down to an easy effort to finish out the workout.  Notice the very sharp HR drop after I let off the gas.  This comes from tons of TE 2.0 workouts.  I can recover from over-exertions very easily.  This comes in handy during a race when you go off your race plan or have to go harder than you wanted to on hills or to chase down a rival.

See the complete data set for this bike trainer session here.

I hope this post helped identify why using TE is valuable and why you should pay attention to this feature if you have it.  You can find more info about TE here.  Also, feel free comment and ask questions if you have them.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Weekend Recap: I Survived!

This weekend was a big weekend.  John headed up to Lake Placid on Friday evening to volunteer for the Ironman Lake Placid event (IMLP).  Volunteering is so important because without volunteers many of these races (whether a running race or triathlon) couldn't happen.  The sheer amount of coordination and bodies required is enormous.  Not a completely selfless trip...for volunteering John gets to register for IMLP 2014 before registration opens to the masses.  A huge advantage.  John will be recapping his experience on the blog later in the week.

It is with a mixture of jealousy and sadness that I stayed behind to be on kid duty.  It would have been epicly epic (you get the point) to have this experience with John.  While I am a mom and am no stranger to long spans of time trying to occupy the very active A Team, this weekend has had me in a panic for months!  Months!  They were mine, all mine from Friday night until Monday afternoon.  I was consumed with anxiety that I would make this a fun weekend where they didn't dwell on missing dad. I needed to ensure I was able to endure all the endless requests and negotiations (solo!). Also, I needed to be able to do man things...like put a bike on a bike rack!

Rocked it!
Despite the amount of time my husband spends training (15-20 hours/week), he is a huge help!  One would think he would be too tired to engage with the kids after 2-4 hours of training.  It happens to be the opposite.  John is more engaged and present after training.  He often jumps right from a sweat session into the thick of cat herding!  Often times he is still sweaty and still in bib shorts.  He is my ROCK star.
Playing in the pool before heading out for a run
(while on vacation!).

Anyway, back to my weekend.  I prepared for this weekend like I was training for a race.  Here is what worked for me and made this weekend a success!
First, I made the kids pinky promise to
be excellent.
  1. Plan ahead: A few weeks ahead of time I started putting together an outline of our activities.  I let it ruminate and made changes.  I definitely over scheduled us at first.  
    Master Schedule
  2. KNOW yourself and be honest: I toyed with a beach trip but deep down I knew that would test my patience too much. Plus, Alasdair has triathlon camp on Saturday afternoons for two hours.  Tri camp isn't close to anything so it takes some planning to get there.
    Like a Boss at Triathlon Camp
  3. Ask for HELP: I was conflicted on this.  I like to be so dang independent.  I am always so grateful that my parents live in the same town.  I don't like to impose upon them but they both graciously offered their time.  Additionally, I hired a sitter on Sunday morning so I could get my swim done and have a few hours of peace.  This was worth every penny...plus some.  I made sure I scheduled my sitter well in advance to ensure her availability.
    My mom watched Avery so I could
    focus on schlepping Alasdair's gear at Tri Camp.
  4. Take an ENTIRE day to get organized: This is preferably without kids.  I planned to minimize the amount of housework and errands that needed to get done.  I took Friday off from work to clean, organize, and run errands.  Also, I needed to ensure I got my long run done!
  5. Take a shortcut OR two:  For $15.30, I dropped my laundry at the laundry mat to be done and
    folded.  I minimized how many meals I would be responsible for making on my own and combined it with some fun time with my parents.  We ate dinner with my Dad and Stepmom on Friday.  Saturday we ate with my Mom.  We also did take out once or twice which we normally don't do.
  6. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate:  The week before I repeatedly communicated my expectations for their behavior. I also shared the schedule with them so they could become familiar with our plan.  If they didn't like something, they had plenty of time to voice their opinion.  Then it was LAW.
  7. Do something special: I made sure we did things we wouldn't normally do like go to the movies.  We invited friends to amp the fun factor.
  8. Have a reward (or bribe) thought out in advance: They love to have sleep overs in each others rooms, I allowed for this on Saturday AND Sunday night.  Sunday would typically be a no-no because it is a school/camp night.  However, they were so excited they got into bed early (7:00 pm) so they could watch a movie.  SCORE!
    TWO night sleep over.
  9. Take Control: There were going to be big consequences for giving me a hard time.  I did have to enforce this a few times.  I just can't stand the bickering or little A's constant crying.  Every time she lets out a shriek I think it is a hospital visit in the making!
  10. Don't sweat the small stuff!  Like I might have skipped a bath but their was no sunscreen and
    chlorine that day so I figured I was safe.  I may have raised my voice this weekend...it was more to be heard than because I was frustrated.  I tried (this is hard for me!) to be casual, laid back and fun.
    No filter will ever make this look good.
    Taking time for myself was a huge help!
I could tack another one on here...be grateful! I was grateful that I only had to do this for a short period of time.  Single parenting is no joke! 

I was determined to allow John this time away graciously and lovingly with no stress about what may or may not be happening at home.  Knowing I gave him this freedom kept me going and gave me strength. It wasn't perfect.  Nothing with kids ever is but it worked. Turns out they had a great time and that is all that matters.

The BONUS for the weekend...I got to sleep in the middle of the bed and I got to load the dishwasher any way I wanted.  Note: John is certifiable when it comes to dishwasher loading.  Don't believe me? I have PLENTY of witnesses!

More pictures from the weekend:
Watching for Daddy and one of his Triathlon Coaches.
This woman is one serious badass.
Alasdair's swim coach at Triathlon Camp
Barbara Cronin-Stagnari...there are just no words! Finished
in 11:53:20.  Swam 2.4 miles in under an HOUR!

There he is!

Ready for Camp...usually John's job.  I executed flawlessly.
I am looking for any and all tips on occupying kids solo.  What works for you? With John's Ironman training I have a feeling this will become my norm!

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Random Round Up

Sorry for such a divergence from Triathlon and Training.  However, John and I do have a life that includes other activities while they may not be that obvious.  This week I had my hand in a number of different research projects. Here is a look at how I have been occupying my internet time.

Summer reading striking fear in your heart? Big A is expected to read 15 minutes a day, Monday through Friday.  Big A is a 7 1/2 year old boy on summer vacation...need I say more? We go to the library each week, he picks out a trillion books, and then half reads a few.  Desperate not to turn this into a battle I am trying to walk a fine line. I have been reduced to coaxing, begging, and bribing.

I saw an ad on Facebook for a reading app called FarFaria and decided why not!  I tooled around the app and thought the layout and fantasy land feel would be appealing.  Holding my breath, I demonstrated how to use the app to Big A,  He was hooked.  Here are the Pros' and Con's:

  • Big A loves this app.  First thing in the morning he is looking for the app so he can read a book.
  • It has an inviting, fantasy type look.
  • Your child can read the book or the book has audio.  Great for Little A but also great for Big A to get a better understanding of how to use inflection and emotion in his reading.
  • Reading level is clearly marked.
  • No advertising.
  • Its free.
  • Content isn't as robust as I would hope but I am sure there are licensing issues or something.
  • Content is definitely geared toward a younger age group.  I didn't see any real chapter books (I could be wrong).
  • While free you get one download a day.  Big A is interested in reading more but I am not sure the content is worth buying up.
Download it, it is free! Let you child enjoy the one book a day.  It is definitely worth trying.

Other reading app recommendations: 
  • Reading Rainbow.  The content for this app is more robust but still not what I had hoped.  I did buy the six month subscription because they not only had books, they had virtual field trip videos and National Geographic KIDS magazines.
  • Live-brary: this app allows me to download e-books for free from my library.  Since Big A seems to like reading electronically, I am running with it!
For work I have been researching ways to engage our workforce.  I came across Daniel Pink's TED Talk, The Puzzle of Motivation. Daniel Pink has authored a few New York Times Bestsellers including Drive and a
Whole New Mind.  I thought the points he made were widely applicable to business, parenting, and sport.

I am always looking for ways to better organize my house.  Air tight organization is the only way John and I can manage our busy schedules.   With the last month being so hectic things had started to stray.  Slowly, I am starting to get it back together.

My favorite site for home organizing is iheartorganizing.  I find tons of great ideas there. Then you can go shopping. Can you tell I have some weekend projects planned?

Personal Development:
A blog that I follow is Michael Hyatt Intentional Leadership.  He writes on a variety of topics including leadership, personal development, productivity and publishing.  Michael has an easy to listen to podcast.  A more recent podcast was dedicated to The 7 Benefits of Keeping a Journal.  I picked up a number of good tips including some journaling/writing apps that I am testing out.

Hope you are able to find something of interest from my week of research.  What are the topics that are on your minds lately?

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Maffetone Training: Where I'm at

I --Tara-- first noted that I was following Dr. Phil Maffetone's 180 formula in a post I wrote on my July Goals.  I have seen it work for other athletes, people I respect prescribe to a similar method, and the Endurance Planet Podcast really spoke to where I was with my life.  Tawnee Prazak of Endurance Planet has done a subsequent episode with Dr. Maffetone that elaborated further on his method and answered listener questions.  I would recommend listening to both.

It has been about six weeks and I noticed two other bloggers give an update on where they were with their Maffetone Training.  Both posts are well written and informative.  Miss Zippy wrote The Solo Run and Midwest Multisport Life wrote MAF Training: Initial Thoughts.

Their posts have prompted me to write my own.  

I concur with what most people feel about MAF Training:
  • It's lonely
  • It's frustrating
  • It's discouraging
  • It's mentally challenging
It is downright difficult...but NOT impossible.  Some days, yes, it is impossible.  Like when the humidity and heat are high and I am "running" a confidence crushing pace.  I have always struggled with keeping my heart rate down and it has significantly impaired me as a runner.  I have been near tears on a number of occasions during MAF Training.  So let's add mortifying to the above list.  When others shoot past you and give you a faint (pity) wave.  When the blue haired grannies with their walkers leave you eating their dust.  Except for one thing -- I am loving these zen like, cerebral runs where life is unfolding in front of me in splendor.

The method of running has become a catalyst for an abundance of thought provoking change in my life.  It is amazing what happens when your heart isn't beating a deafening cacophony in your ear drums.

Last week I had to take my runs back indoors.  The heat and humidity have been oppressive beyond measure.  What seemed like stalled progress in the moist, thick morning air has become improvement on the treadmill where I can breathe more normally.  Yes, I said it...improvement.  Glorious progress. For me right now, it is ever so slight but it is there.  It gives me hope.

Aside from this magnificent mental maturation there have been other positives:
  • I look forward to my runs.
  • I have learned to dream big, have faith, and embrace my fears.
  • A greater body awareness allowing me to train more by feel.  I can feel the exact moment my heart rate goes into the next zone.
  • I need much less recovery allowing me to train more.
  • The change in my diet combined with running in my fat burning zone is starting to lean me out.
  • I can feel myself getting so much stronger in sport and in life.
My energy for continuing with this process is high and I am excited to see what the next few months have in store for me.  Great things for sure.  Dream big my friends...you never know what you might achieve!

This has to be the most humid summer
Are you heart rate training?  Using Maffetone or another method?  How's it going?

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

NYC Triathlon Race Report

Everyone I had spoken to that has done the Aquaphor New York City Triathlon has said two things about this race.  First, it is a MUST do race.  Second, just getting to the starting line will wear you out.  Now that this race is in my rear view mirror, I have joined their camp and would endorse this race in the exact same fashion.

The logistics and pre-race requirements, especially with two young kids, are crazy.  Need to ditch the kids for 2 days (thanks Mom!), book a hotel in Manhattan without dipping into the college funds, find a parking garage near the hotel, get all the Triathlon stuff together, get all of the overnight stuff together and so on.  Tara did an awesome job making necessary arrangements and getting us to the city when we needed to be there.

This race deserves a few more sections than usual, so here is the breakdown:

Pre-Race, Saturday

Our abode and gear storage for the weekend.
We got into the city at about noon, checked into the hotel and then I attended the pre-race briefing.  When the guy giving the briefing asked a room of about 300 athletes, "How many of you are doing your first triathlon here tomorrow?" I was astonished that about 25% of the room raised their hand.  This is a notoriously tough race with 2 transition areas, swimming in the currents of the Hudson and a hilly bike and run.  I am not sure these people knew what they were in for!

The other issue that needed to be addressed on Saturday was getting my bike into transition.  After a nice 2 mile walk through the streets of Manhattan, my bike was racked and we were on our way back to the hotel, another 2 mile walk!  A quick dinner and then to bed.

Pre-Race, Sunday

We were up at 3am and out of the hotel at 4.  Luckily, we got a couple seats on the shuttle to transition.  That saved another long walk for both Tara and me.

Due to the Boston Marathon incident, security was tighter than an airport.  They issued big clear "garbage" bags to everyone to take into transition.  No backpacks or opaque bags would be allowed.  Over the last few years, I have made setting up transition a bit of a ritualistic event.  I have my TYR transition bag with everything neatly organized and positioned.  Now, I had to literally dump all of my stuff into a clear plastic bag and get myself set.  By the way, no bag check either.  Whatever was left over, I needed to keep in my 24" wide "slot" in transition.  Needless to say, I was a bit off-kilter getting set up.

Now, we had to walk a mile up town to the swim start.  I was unable to take any food in before the race, which was uncommon for me.  Although it was not ideal, I did have comfort in knowing that my efforts to become fat adaptive and more metabolically efficient have paid huge dividends over the last few months.  I typically do 3-4 hour training sessions in a fasted state, only taking in a few Amrita bars on the bike.  Not being a "sugar-burner" any more has really improved my performance and nutrition needs in training and racing.  Sat around for a few minutes, made a final stop at the port-a-potties, donned the wetsuit, found my corral, and then it was race time.


I was in the second wave after the pros.  I made sure I worked my way to the front of the corral so I didn't have to swim over all of those first-timers.  It worked out great.  I basically did the swim in my own little pond, only having to deal with a pack at the end, getting on to the barge.

The current was really strong, and it was in our favor.  To my complete surprise, the Hudson River was absolutely pristine.  Probably the second cleanest water I have ever swam in behind Wildwood Lake.  The strong current made for an interesting swim.  I wanted to use it as much as I could, so I didn't push too hard.  It was actually difficult to tell how much effort I was putting in because I was moving so quickly.  In hindsight, I probably could have gone a little harder.  Overall, uneventful and a decent time, out of the water in 17:15.


The run from the swim exit was about 0.61 miles.  That is a tough run, barefoot and in a wetsuit.  Because transition was so large, I made sure that I wrote my row number and directional arrows on my left forearm.  I had a right arrow, then "Rows 15-16" then a left arrow.  I needed to make sure that when I entered transition, I went to the right side, down the aisle between rows 15 and 16, then made a left turn out of the row.

Keeping a Sharpie in your bag of tricks is a pretty good idea.  You can also write down aid station locations, time benchmarks and any other info you need to remember.

A nicely executed flying mount, and I was off on the bike.  Total time was 5:57.


For some unknown reason, I had it in my head that Manhattan was fairly flat.  Wow, was I wrong.

In the first few miles, I came up on the first wave of riders.  A little navigating and I was free and clear of most riders.  I wound up trading off with a few guys in my AG for most of the ride.  I would pass them on the hills,they would regain the lead on the descents.  The hills were, for the most part, not really steep, but they just kept coming, and some seemed to go on for miles.  I rode at a steady effort and tried not to burn too many matches keeping up with other riders.  Although it is nice to be in the front end of a race, you can easily lose your sense of your effort.  Only a few people to pass and only a few passing me made it difficult to judge if my effort was hard enough or too hard.

My Garmin recorded (and I ran it through elevation correction to make sure) over 3000 feet of climbing in 25 miles.  Let me put that into perspective.  Ironman Lake Placid, known as a hilly race, has a total elevation gain of 4804 feet in 112 miles.  That equates to 428 feet of gain for every 10 miles.  This race was 3056 feet of gain in 25.9 miles, or 1179 feet of gain for every 10 miles. Yes folks, NYC Triathlon has almost THREE TIMES the hill climbing as IMLP!  Something I never would have expected.

I hydrated as planned, but fueled a little less.  I called an audible due to the heat and humidity and rolled the dice.  Turned out OK, but it was a little risky.  In those conditions, my body just didn't want to accept food easily, so I went with it.  Sometimes you just have to race by feel.  One addition I have made recently was to use Salt Stix caps.  I had trained with them over the previous few weeks with good results.  They worked very well in this race to stave off cramps from the heat and humidity.

All told, I was pretty happy with my bike split.  Finished in 1:14:40, only 6 minutes off the fastest bike split in my age group and 51st out of 397.

Bike leg profile from my Garmin 910XT.  There was NOTHING flat in this race.

The last mile of the bike route was a bit slow and winding, having to navigate through the exit ramps, traffic circles and park sidewalks.  Writing the row number on my arm helped for a second time, so after a quick equipment change, I was out of T2 in 1:26.


Transition areas are in Riverside Park, a place we walk to and through several times prior to the race.  The one thing I failed to notice was that the super steep 15% grade hill leading into the park was, in fact, the run out of Yellow transition.  How did I get so lucky?  Running off the bike is tough in general.  Throw in crazy climbing on the bike and then this wall at the start of the run and your legs will begin a rebellion against you.

Once you get out of the park, you head across town on 72nd Street to get in Central Park.  I was chatting with one of the guys that I was trading off with on the bike while we were finding our running legs.  To my surprise (this guy looked like he could smoke me on the run), we parted ways with me pulling away fairly easily.  I held a steady tempo into Central park and was feeling decent in spite of the heat and humidity.

Central park felt like a climb up the side of a mountain.  Where was the downhill that we should get after all the uphill?  I didn't see it.  I passed through the first run split with an average pace of 7:28 min/mile.  I was pretty happy with that.  For the second half of the run, I was starting to feel the effects of the heat and the course. My pace slowed a bit, but I ended with a final average pace of 8:02 min/mile.  Final run split was 49:50.  Not great, but I am not going to complain about it.

Final time was 2:29:06.  I finished 60 out of 397 in my age group (20 minutes behind the AG winner).  Overall is a little tricky.  The transition areas were 5 blocks apart which created 2 different races depending on which one your AG was in.  When Tara was tracking me in real-time, I was 151 overall before the Red transition folks started to come in.  That put me right at the top 10% overall for Yellow transition.

Overall, I am glad I did this race, and would recommend it to everyone.  However, I am not sure I will be rushing to sign up for it in the next few years.

Big thanks to Tara for all she did, and my mother-in-law Sandy for doing the hard part and watching the kids for the weekend.

Keep the rubber side down and I will see you on the road.


Weekend Recap - Aquaphor NYC Triathlon

For all of you Triathlon Geeks tuning in for John's race report of the Aquaphor NYC Triathlon sorry to disappoint.  This is our weekend recap "sherpa style".  Official race report with all of John's technical goodness will be out as soon as he can break free from training, work, and kid wrangling.

We kicked off our weekend on Friday night by dropping The A Team at my mom's house...for the ENTIRE WEEKEND!!! A full 48 hours to ourselves... and we are going to be schlepping all over the city with gear.  Then the anticipation, nerves, energy expense and exhaustion that comes with race day.  I want a white sandy beach.  I want a spa weekend.  Heck, I would have settled for a staycation at Casa Newman where I didn't need to lift a finger.  Could have read all day, watched mindless TV, organized the house (I love to organize), had quiet conversation with my man, etc.  NOPE.  Sherpa Wives spend their 48 hours of freedom schlepping MILES around the city with gear, navigating transition, doing course recon, visiting expos, hanging back during athlete briefings, and sweating their asses off in a hot, dirty city.  A large part of me thinks "yup, no better way to spend the weekend" and the other part of me says "I want a spa weekend pronto."  Balance is such a fickle friend.

Here Babe.  Take me HERE please!
This weekend, while exhausting on a level beyond my initial comprehension, was a great adventure.  Below are the Pros and Cons (or maybe the not so Pros) of the weekend.  John usually races very local so we don't need to factor in travel.  We learned some mighty lessons this weekend.

The Pro's:
  • We stayed at the host hotel which was the Hilton on 54th and 6th.  The hotel was OK...not sleek and shiny like I had hoped or expected.  However, we didn't really get too much time in our hotel room anyway.  We paid for early check-in.  John wasn't for this idea but thanked me after.  Staying at the host hotel for the event made it convenient to packet pick up, athlete briefing, and the expo.
  • We got to meet up with Arshad Bahl from Amrita Health.  We love Amrita's nutrition bars and meeting Arshad himself didn't disappoint.  He is an amazing human being who radiates light on everyone and everything. Arshad has a great story and quality product.  Check him out!

  • The race was well planned out:  spectator guides, athlete guides, real time tracking app, lots of security and an athlete bus to take you to transition the morning of the race.  A little note on the athlete bus: The bus was only for athletes but they didn't give me a hard time.  Wouldn't you know -- the bus driver had no idea where he was going (even with GPS).  This was starting to get my incredibly punctual, slightly OCD, already experiencing race nerves, athlete incredibly agitated.  
This App was amazing.  It was definitely real time.
The NOT SO Pro's:
  • The distance from the host hotel to transition area.  We walked this almost two mile distance three times over the weekend.  We had to get the bike to transition in Riverside Park the night before the race.  It was HOT!  Some of the crazier athletes rode their bikes to the start.

Heading to transition
  • This is not the best course for spectating all disciplines.  They discouraged you from watching the athletes swim and the bike course was the West Side Highway.  It really came down to the run (doesn't it always!).
  • All items brought into transition needed to be in a clear plastic bag (security!).  This took a little bit to sort out.   I could tell this made John incredibly uneasy.  John trains for transition just like he trains for the other disciplines.  His normal transition bag has all his needs in one spot, laid out just how he likes it.  Change is never good on race day.
Some lessons learned (in my opinion):
  • We did some course recon but not good enough.  While we noted the almost one mile walk to the swim start and almost half mile run into T1, we failed to notice the STEEP hill coming out of T2.  In the end, I think this might have been a benefit.  Less for John to obsess over!
Transition was Riverside Park on 72nd - 79th
  • We ate dinner in a restaurant that the hotel recommended.  They had THE shittiest food ever.  We put no time into evaluating restaurant choices.  We are used to John racing local and eating at home.  He did OK with a black bean burger but could have used more food for sure.  We did enjoy dining alone and being able to have a conversation that doesn't start and stop a bazillion times.  
But hey, I got this guy all to myself!
  • Again on the food front, we didn't research where John could get his traditional bagel with peanut butter on the morning of the race.  At 3:30 am.  In the middle of a city that apparently NEVER sleeps. Luckily there were a few local delis open at that time.  As well as a line around the Hallal truck.  Really?
Race Day:
Sunday morning was a 3:00 am wake up.  Yup!  This is my life.
Does anyone else find this funny?
I thought I was pretty HYSTERICAL!
While we were organized, it felt disjointed not being in our own home.  For one I couldn't make myself a cup of coffee and I had no expectation of finding a good cup that early.  Coffee is largely responsible for my charm at 3:00 am.  John quadruple checked he had everything he needed and we kept running through the checklist while we were trying to chase down a bagel and peanut butter for him.

Found on www.kristenmcashan.com
Walking to the swim start was fun.  Tons of athletes walking together.  I left him at the swim start a half hour before the start of the race.  I headed back to get...COFFEE.  I felt bad leaving him to wait at the start by himself but the race officials kept saying that certain areas were going to be closed to spectators.  I am always very compliant (mmm hmm).  Turns out they were a little more lenient than they led you to believe and I could have hung around a little more.

Heading up to the swim start -- The Hudson at its finest
It was so crazy hot, even at 5:00 am, by the time I got to Starbucks (a mile or so walk) I was DRENCHED.   I hung out there for a while monitoring the Aquaphor NYC Triathlon app.  Thanks to the app I knew when John headed out on the bike and at what time I should start making my way to 72nd and West End Avenue (my first spectating position).

I was excited to see John start his run.  I am always so relieved when he is off the bike.  Cheering my head off as he passed and he didn't even see me.  Then I made my way to the finish line (another mile!).  There were a lot of people spectating but never did it feel crowded.  I was able to cheer for him as he headed down the finishing shoot.  I am an obnoxiously proud Iron Widow!  Again, he didn't see me.  Thanks babe! So glad I got up at 3:00 am!

Smiling and happy at the finish.
You would think we could rest easy, the race was over.  NOPE! We then walked the almost 2 miles back to the hotel so he could get cleaned up.  Anyone spotting a theme in my weekend? WALKING! This country mouse doesn't use the subway.  I assume that might have saved my legs a bit.  We still needed to head back to transition and grab John's bike/gear but we had a few hours before they would let us back in the area.  We eventually drove back and surprisingly found parking nearby.

Despite my complaining about the heat, it was a weekend that will live forever in our hearts and minds.  Spending time with John doing something we both love (without interruption) was priceless.
Just me and my guy!
This race was executed flawlessly by the race officials.  Organized, well mapped out, solid execution and a lot of fun.  We would definitely recommend any triathlete, beginner or seasoned to do this race.  Yes, even you beginners.  There were a ton of people that were doing a triathlon for the first time.  I have the sign to prove it.

I thought if we had to post this sign,
we are in BIG trouble!

Do you have any tips for traveling to a race location? How do you prepare differently? Do you prefer to travel or race local?

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Tired, Truckin' On, and Tunes

SO tired! I--Tara--am SO, SO, very tired (and sore)!  The last two weeks have be B-A-N-A-N-A-S! John had two races and we had a family vacation with a long drive in between.  On top of that, the littlest A has been getting us up almost every night for the last TWO weeks.  Her bug bites itch, her earrings (just got them) are bothering her, it is too dark in her room, or for no good reason.  Always around the 3 am hour which is like a giant "F You" because we get up between 4 am and 4:30 am.  I usually can't fall back to sleep at that point. Oh, and I am sore from all the miles I put on my legs (and feet) between my runs and walking all over the city this weekend.  Yes, John and I both have weekend recaps coming for the Aquaphor NYC Triathlon...stay tuned.

Truckin' on - somehow while tired I am also very motivated to get some good training sessions in.  I don't have any races coming up (officially) but I have ideas.  I truly love to train. I feel more connected to everything around me (including my husband).  I like to feel strong.  I like watching how my body adapts to different challenges.  Maybe the biggest payoff is how my mind works while "on training".  Gone are the worries, anxieties, and insecurities that come with everyday life.

However, this morning I woke up and DID NOT want to get on that bike! Period.  I ran yesterday morning.  I swam last night. All "shake out" (easy) stuff because I am STILL sore.  My bed was calling my name.
The color of my bike is Sexy Candy Mango
I love the name of the color!
I made myself get up.  I told myself I am an athlete.  I caught John before he was headed out for a ride and complained.  He was in "Coach John" mode.  Never one to engage me in my complaints, he chatted with me about random stuff.  Then very diplomatically told me (encouraged me) to get on the trainer.  It wasn't enough to get me there so I put on some gear that would help me feel more like an athlete.
Clothes that make me feel
Following John's protocol of "just spinning out my legs", I found an easy cadence.  Pedaling at a 12 mph average speed, I cranked up some good music.  Managing to eek out 40 minutes was enough to put me in the happy place.

In the "Pain Cave"

Tunes - 
I get a lot of questions for playlist recommendations.  My music tastes are ridiculously eclectic (don't judge!).  Here are the songs that I listened to this morning:
  1. Light 'em Up - Fall Out Boy
  2. Calculate - Everyday Sunday
  3. Hot Like Sauce - Pretty Lights
  4. No Sugar in My Coffee - Caught a Ghost
  5. Greyhound - Swedish House Mafia
  6. We Run the Night - Havana Brown
  7. Between the Raindrops - Lifehouse
If you are looking for the magic motivation bullet to get your workout in, it doesn't really exist.  I like to have a "toolbox" of motivational techniques that I can pull out when needed.  Sometimes, like today, multiple tools are necessary.  
  • I needed to have a chat with myself -- 'be an athlete'.
  • I needed an external motivator (John).  
  • I needed to feel/look the part (badass clothes).  
  • I needed to pump myself up with a good beat (helpful playlists).  
Other days, its easier.  Once the sweat starts to come you never regret that first step (or pedal stroke).
Picture from 14thandVine.org

What motivates you to train?  Do you need external motivators, internal motivators, both? 

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Rain Running

To kick off John's Aquaphor NYC Triathlon weekend (more on this tomorrow) my mother was saintly enough to take our kids for 48 hours -- the longest J and I have been without kids.  All hail the "Sherpa Grandma".

As soon as I got back from dropping them off I wanted to plop my butt on the couch.  However, I went out in the rain and got my 90 minute run done (as per my July goals).  It was pouring raining.  POURING.
This picture doesn't do the rain justice.
This run goes down in the books as one of the most life altering runs I have had to date.  Not due to physical performance but due to the lasting impact it has had on my thoughts on life (not just sport).  I ran the majority of this run with no music.  Being alone with my thoughts and listening to my body work was equal parts profound and zen.  I left an overabundance of negative thought, doubt, and emotional nonsense on the pavement.  It was a rebirth...pruned skin and all.

It took me a few days to process the experience and here are some of my personal observations:

We all get to a place where believing in ourselves is a stumbling block.  We allow self doubt to cloud our minds and limit our dreams.  In my experience, having the tenacity to "push" through these limiting thoughts is what turns faith into belief.

But HOW?  How do you push through these limiting thoughts? Here is what I have found to be true for me:

  • Find a place in your mind where you can "sit" in compassionate observation of your thoughts and feelings.  
  • Practice patience and love for yourself (and others).  
  • Respect your choices in this moment.
  • Embrace your fears. 
  • Just be. 
In time, belief will overtake the limiting thoughts and energy for your goals will flow freely. 

I realize I use the word "push" which gives an aggressive tone.  Conversely, I use the word "sit" which gives a more passive tone.  I briefly thought about trying to find a word other than "push" but in the end it is the balance of aggressive pursuit and passive vigilance that somehow made this process work...for me.

With ever expanding gratitude for this journey,

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Riverhead Rocks Race Report

I was very excited when I signed up for this year's Riverhead Rocks Olympic Distance Triathlon.  I would be revisiting the site of my first Olympic distance race.  At last year's race, I established myself as a solid "middle-of-the-packer" at this distance.  My hopes for this year were to greatly improve in all four disciplines (I consider transitions one of them) and as a result, I set a somewhat unrealistic time goal for myself.

Over the years, some wise people have taught me three very important things about goals:
  1. Your goals should be "Specifficult", concatenated from Specific and Difficult.
  2. Be weary of setting your goals too low, you might just achieve them!
  3. A goal is a dream with a deadline.
For this race, I had set a goal finish time of 2:15:00.  Just for reference, I finished this race last year in 2:41:39.  Yes, I thought I would beat my time by more than 25 minutes!  As it turned out, that was a bit of a stretch.

Prior to the race, I developed time benchmarks, start the bike at 30 minutes, start the run at 1:35, run a 40 minute 10K and finish at 2:15.  Here is how it panned out:

The swim has always been my weakest discipline.  I am sure that if I took a survey, 90% of all triathletes would say the same thing, so I wasn't putting too much pressure on myself for the swim.  Since February, my coach has had me in the pool at least 3 times per week for one hour sessions.  In addition, he has come up with these torture sessions he calls intervals.  I have basically water-boarded myself every Wednesday for the last few months.  Well to my surprise, it worked.  I was out of the water in 24 minutes with a below-threshold effort.  This swim gave me a ton of confidence for the rest of the season.

I have been practicing with my shoes clipped in to the pedals and a "flying mount", but I have never done it in a race.  Although I was nervous about a possible face plant, I went full throttle and nailed it.  Out of T1 in 0:1:31.  I beat my benchmark by almost 5 minutes heading out on the bike.  So far, so good.

A near flawless T1 had me riding high as I started the bike leg.  I went at a comfortable level, but maybe pushed a little hard in the first 15 minutes.  Once I settled down, I found my rhythm.  I fueled on the bike with Amrita Bars and hydrated with Nuun.  My speed was right around where I thought it would be, but it turns out that the bike segment in this race was about 1.5K longer than the 40K listed.  I had the benefit of almost 5 minutes, so my 1:10 bike time only put me behind my benchmark by about 5 minutes.  At that point, I was satisfied with a possible 2:20:00.

I took my feet out of my bike shoes with about a mile to go on the bike.  This allowed me to incorporate my flying dismount going into T2.  Bike on rack, helmet off, shoes on and I was on my way.  Got out of T2 in 0:0:45.  Nailed this one also.

This is the discipline that I have been putting the most effort in to.  A few years ago, I HATED running.  Running a mile was nothing less than 15 minutes of hell.  Over the last 2 years, I have actually come to love running and I had all the confidence that I could tap out 7-minute miles for this race.  That is where it all went wrong.  No matter how hard I tried, I just could not get my legs to go any faster.  My Garmin chimed in with 1-mile splits: 7:45, 8:05, 8:15 and so on.  This was not the plan.  Maybe the humidity?  Under fueled?  Dehydrated?  Over trained?  Who knows.  I finished the run in 51 minutes, almost 10 minutes longer than expected.  I still don't know why I couldn't get the turnover I was seeking, but I hope I can figure it out before my next race at the NYC Triathlon.

The final result was pretty good.  2:29:11, 35th overall and 4th in my age group.  I discovered that I missed the podium by about a minute and a half.  That was also how much I missed qualifying for the Age Group Nationals this year.  Something I have to strive for next year.

It was great to have Tara at the race cheering me on.  It was also nice to meet some followers of this blog and your positive feedback was greatly appreciated.  Off to the next training session.

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