Ironman + Life

It’s been a long time.

See, unfortunately, Ironman training leaves little room for anything else in life, meaning that combined with a full-time job, family and friends, and you know, sleep, there is simply no time for unexpected obligations. However, in May we were notified that we would have to move out of our rental home. This created an avalanche of trying to find either a new home to buy, a place to rent, or worst case scenario, a temporary housing fix. With Ironman fast-approaching, we found a new rental at the last moment, but not without a very stressful month of house-hunting. Ironman training took top priority after my job, and that left this little blog completely neglected.

I’d like to fix that. I missed processing my workouts, the emotions that went along with training, and sharing my journey with all of you. I hope you’ll stick around.

So…what happened in the meantime?

I raced a Half Ironman. Race report to come, but it was a great stepping stone in my training, and I learned so much from the experience.

Starting the run at the Rock n Rollman Half

Starting the run at the Rock n Rollman Half

Ironman training kicked it up a notch…and then about 17 more notches. No training I have ever done has been as strenuous, consuming, or rewarding. This past weekend I completed the toughest workout day I will do in all of my training, and I am happy to say that I emerged feeling confident and optimistic about race day. Now I am technically in taper, but Ironman taper feels like normal Half Ironman training plus 10.

Post-triple!

Post-triple!

We moved, obviously. Packing an entire home while maintaining access to workout gear, clothes, and bikes was no easy feat. I got exactly one day off of training to complete the move, and the day after the move was a 14-mile run. Thanks, Coach. I despise packing, and I am even worse at unpacking. It was more emotionally stressful than anything, and I am so grateful it is over. I absolutely discourage anyone from trying to take on any major life project while Ironman training. I know there are people who can plan a wedding, raise umpteen kids, or work 80-hour weeks while training, but it was crushing for me.

Oh, speaking of life projects, my job underwent a major overhaul at the same time. Really bad timing.

None of these circumstances were under my control, which I believe was the hardest part. I was being pulled in too many directions, and the only thing I wanted to do was train. I’m not going to say I handled it with the most grace, but I did come out happy in the end.

Now things are settled in, and training has been incredible lately. I am so excited about the upcoming few weeks. I am already thinking ahead, while trying to remain focused on the present. It’s going to be a great fall!

Related posts:

Bike Camp 2013, part 2

This is a continuation from my Bike Camp saga. Check out part 1 here.

Hoping to avoid repeating the long day from Thursday, we had a much earlier start on Friday. The route was a planned 70-miler with a 26-mile out-and-back section along Highway 181 that consisted of 13 miles straight up, and 13 miles right back down. While I had intended to ride the longer route, Coach and I discussed Thursday that the shorter option was better for me, so I gleefully accepted the opportunity not to avoid the climb, but the descent that followed.

Almost immediately, it was apparent that Friday’s ride would be much more pleasant than Thursday’s. The sky had cleared for the most part, and we were able to start at an earlier time.

The ever-present gloomy skies.

The ever-present gloomy skies.

Friday’s route would take us around the banks of Lake James then along the edge of the Pisgah National Forest near Brown Mountain. From the beginning, Coach wanted our small group of five to form a pace line, and we readily obliged, suddenly seeing speeds we only dreamed of the day before.

The group taking our first break.

The group taking our first break.

25 miles in, we stopped for our first rest break where we could shed the extra layers we’d all put on in case of repeat storms. Five miles later, we found ourselves skirting Lake James, with gorgeous vistas to our right as we rolled quickly over the coasting road. The elevation changes were perfect – hills enough to make us work without reducing us to a crawl and long, curved descents gradual enough to build confidence. Throughout the ride, Coach and her friend and cycling aficionado, Perry, instructed us on the best way to climb and descend, helping us stay smooth on the bike and roll through the hills without increasing our effort. It was the perfect learning experience.

The hills at Lake James

The hills at Lake James

Just after the 50-mile mark, we stopped one last time to say goodbye to our teammates who would be ascending Highway 181 for 13 additional miles of climbing, only to turn around and descend the same path, and four of us set off to finish out the 70-mile day. Fatigue set in quickly as I found myself back on the same road we had pace-lined to start the day, and I couldn’t maintain the momentum I’d had before. Perry urged us on, ever spouting encouragement, and when that failed, mockery. The lightheartedness carried me on until we were two miles from the finish, at which point we were allowed an easy cool-down. It had been a tough day, taxing on our tired legs, but very productive.

Our improved pace enabled us to arrive back at camp at an hour that could still technically be deemed lunch. We spent the afternoon again cleaning our bikes, though the sparse rain we encountered meant only the drivetrain needed to be wiped down and lubricated. We spent the remainder of the afternoon relaxing and coddling our tired legs.

The original plan for the weekend was to run Saturday and finish the weekend with a long ride on Sunday, but the weather forecast showed heavy rain Sunday. After much debate, and many groans from the group, the decision was made to ride again on Saturday, three days in a row. Luckily, this would be the easiest of the weekend’s rides, but that much time in the saddle is never easy. Saturday’s ride would take us through Happy Valley on the Crippled Butterfly loop, avoiding any major climbs but with a tough 10-mile optional section toward the end.

The gorgeous yellow fields of Happy Valley

The gorgeous yellow fields of Happy Valley

The slow members of the group (myself, Coach, and Kelli) chose to head out for the ride earlier than the main pack, with the hope that we could get the beginning miles done and allow the pack to catch us just as we hit the main highway, which would be 13 miles of headwind. The pack could then pull us through the wind, and be on their merry way once we turned back into the valley. However, when we turned onto the highway they were nowhere to be found. We had entertained ourselves counting tractors through the first section and were having a pleasant ride until we turned into the wind and hit the hills along the highway. Instantly, the ride was harder and the fun faded away. It was 13 miles of hard work as we clung tight to each others’ wheels to gain any small break from the wind.

At mile 35 we turned off the highway and out of the wind, finally able to give our legs a break from the steady work. Just after mile 40, we stopped at a gas station for a potty break and to make our final decision.

Bathroom accessories at the rest stop

Bathroom accessories at the rest stop

The low chance of rain for the day had finally manifested, and it was beginning to rain steadily but strongly. Turning right would mean 10 additional miles, but they would be slow, painful, and soaking wet. Going straight would end the day at 60 miles total. We were still struggling with our decision when the remainder of the group staggered in to the stop. After little debate, as the rain continued to increase, we collectively decided to call it a day and rush to get out of the rain. We all left as a group, and though the fastest ones sprinted off ahead, the rest of us found a new surge of energy to race through the rain, eager enough to be done to ignore the pain and fatigue in our legs.

Yellow, green, horses and barns in Happy Valley

Yellow, green, horses and barns in Happy Valley

As we neared the finish, the rain slackened, and by the time we had traded our bike shoes for running shoes, it was a beautiful day. At our own paces, we all ran/walked/shuffled along for 3 miles on a cute little greenway tucked in the valley along the Yadkin River. During the ride, I had felt a sharp pain in my left inner thigh. It was sporadic, and I couldn’t find the source, so eventually I just ignored it, assuming the compression of my bike shorts was tightening a nerve or something equally ridiculous. Upon sitting in the car, though, I noticed a hole in my bike shorts. It turns out that my saddle bag velcro was loose, and with each pedal stroke I had steadily rubbed a hole in my shorts and through the skin of my thigh. It would be my only injury at bike camp.

Finally finished with our bikes, we returned to camp feeling very tired but lightened in a way. It was movie night and a great opportunity to simply relax and socialize with the group. We packed our things in preparation to leave in the morning and spent our last night at Zap.

Sunday morning we awoke to a steady rain and cold temperatures. Saturday’s decision to ride had been a good one, but none of us was looking forward to running through the rain. We drove to Moses Cone Memorial Park and parked at the Manor House. Fog surrounded the top of the mountain, and rain was pouring down in sheets and angled into the slopes.

Sheets of rain at Moses Cone

Sheets of rain at Moses Cone

Dauntless, our group began an easy descent down switchback horse trails. Again the slowest member of the group, I took it very easy and dreaded the ascent that was sure to mirror our steep downhill journey. As the terrain leveled out, we found ourselves alongside a large, fog-covered pond. The sight was worth the run. Luckily, the climb up the other side wouldn’t prove as awful as I’d imagined, and with our legs stretched out from a few miles under our belts, we maintained an solid pace up the other side. We came to a clearing with a split in the path, and we weren’t sure which way to head. Having chosen the straighter path, we soon realized that the enormous manor house was right in front of us, but the fog was so dense that we couldn’t see it from 50 yards away.

A fog-covered trail at Moses Cone

A fog-covered trail at Moses Cone

Finishing those 7 miles felt like an incredible victory, and the rain that had slacked off as we played along the slopes of the mountain picked back up to cement the finality of the day. Moses Cone fog

Bike Camp was a tremendous experience for me. I certainly became a better cyclist, smarter if not stronger, and it gave me a unique opportunity to bond with some members of the triathlon community that I can continue to learn from. I wondered before I attended if I could even survive camp, but now I am already looking forward to the next one. And next time, I won’t be taking the shorter route options!

Related posts:

I Will Be There

I had a ridiculously packed day with training and a stressful day at work, so my Bike Camp Part 2 is delayed a day. However, I just found out that a little project I helped out with last year has been finalized, so in the interim, please check out the video below. {re}vici and Omega Sports, two companies near and dear to me, have partnered to bring you “I Will Be There” t-shirts to support a local charity established to help the families of those injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, Be Strong Stay Strong.

The video touches on the tenacity of athletes to unite despite hard times. Runners have flocked to qualify and register for Boston, and I know it has been bumped up on my bucket list, though still a long way off.

Will you be there? What’s your Boston?

I WILL BE THERE – Boston Marathon Tribute from Sue Falco on Vimeo.

Related posts:

Bike Camp 2013, part 1

It has been a crazy couple of weeks! Two weeks ago, I joined the Omega Sports crew in an epic fun adventure to Nashville to run the Country Music Half Marathon (post coming soon!) and returned to Charlotte just in time to unload my running gear and exchange it for cycling gear. May 1 I loaded my neglected and ignored road bike into the car and drove to Blowing Rock, NC to join my coach’s training group, Trijinx, for four days of cycling and running in the Appalachian Mountains. I came home to a hard-earned rest week, and I’m only now starting to feel normal again.

Bike Camp is held at Zap Fitness, an elite-running training facility nestled in a valley off the main highway and down a winding asphalt-turned-dirt road. The compound houses Olympic-hopefuls with an add-on dorm for overnight groups. A solid crew of Trijinxers came ready for camp, and to say I was intimidated by the Ironman athletes surrounding me was an understatement. The group was incredibly welcoming to me, though, and almost instantly put me at ease with the relaxed dynamic. I was the newest member of the group, and only one other girl was a camp neophyte. Wednesday night we straggled in and had an introductory meeting to go over the next day’s route and some camp logistics. It was quickly established that we were there to eat, sleep, bike, and eat some more.

Zap Fitness valley

The view from Zap Fitness

Thursday morning started on a bleary note. Despite a relatively late start time to avoid the worst of the rain, the ride was delayed another hour due to constant rain and overcast skies. Temperatures in the 40s didn’t increase our enthusiasm, but by 8:30 we were loaded into cars for the 45-minute drive to our starting point in Newland, NC.

Day 1 Route

Day 1 Route

The ride began pleasantly enough despite being wet and cold from the moment we started. The rain seemed to refuse to let up, so we quickly resigned ourselves to the deluge and cycled on. I was in the last group and clearly the slowest cyclist from the offset. However, I knew it was a long weekend and made a conscious effort to just let myself ride easy without trying to push the pace to prove something. Fives miles in and barely beginning to warm up, we hit our first climb, and it was a tough one. My speed dropped to 6mph, and I was barely creeping up the hill. My sunglasses fogged from the heat I was generated against the cold, wet air, and I couldn’t see a thing. Almost instantly, I convinced myself that I wouldn’t survive this climb, let alone the whole weekend, but just as quickly I forced my hand off the handlebars to push the glasses off my eyes. My mood improved tenfold with the ability to see the road, despite hating how much it angled upward, and I came out of the climb a much happier person.

The remainder of the ride held several more steep but short climbs, and on each one I questioned my ability to continue turning the pedals, always finding my last gear all too soon and wishing for just one more. Each time, though, I just kept my legs moving and celebrated at the crest of climb. If climbing was difficult, though, descending was terrifying. I have never enjoyed flying down a mountain on the prettiest of days, and I knew one of my goals for camp was to improve my descents, but Thursday was not a day for doing that. The ever-present rain and fog made even the straight sections feel treacherous, and I crept down the mountains as slowly as I went up. It was not a day to work on confidence-building.

The Blue Ridge Parkway on our drive back to camp

The Blue Ridge Parkway on our drive back to camp

Throughout the day, I tried to heed Coach’s advice to eat and drink often, but I found myself rarely removing my hands from the handlebars and only properly fueling at stops. Fortunately, stops were frequent, but I know I certainly didn’t drink enough throughout the ride. The downside to our many rest breaks, combined with our late start, was an exceptionally late finish. Though the ride was only 60 miles, it took 4 hours, 51 minutes of saddle time and 45 more minutes of total time to get it done. Somewhere near the halfway point, so much water had streamed into my shoes that I couldn’t feel my toes, so when we finally arrived at the parking lot to begin our short brick run, I was over it. The planned 3-mile run became a “just move for a little while” run, amounting to about a mile and a half of trying to put one foot in front of the other. Coupled with a 45-minute drive back to camp, it was 4:00 before we straggled in to eat “lunch.”

No rest for the weary, though. Cycling through loose gravel, endless water, and the odd mud patch meant that our bikes absolutely had to be cleaned in preparation for the next day. As soon as I got some food in my belly, I enlisted the help of some seasoned pros in thoroughly cleaning the essential elements of my bike: the brakes and the drive-train.

Dirty bike

My poor, grit-covered bike

Once everything was adequately soaked, scrubbed, dried, and lubricated, it was time for dinner, and I ate like a person who’d never seen food. Thankfully, it was delicious, but cardboard would have sufficed as long as it was coated in peanut butter. After dinner, while my legs had a nice date with my new travel roller, the group discussed the next day’s route before I shuffled off to bed.

Day one totaled 63 miles of cycling and 1.5 miles of running. It was certainly a tough initiation into a weekend full of riding. Check back tomorrow for the remainder of the weekend.

Do you like to fly down the mountains or are you a more cautious descender?

 

Related posts:

A Day in the Life of Ironman Training

Several people have approached me since my last post remarking on how tired the account of my training made them, so I thought I’d give you a little insight into a somewhat typical training day. It warrants being tired.

4:55am – Alarm goes off. Snooze!

5:00am – Alarm goes off. Bleary-eyed, hit snooze.

5:03am – Gray calls. “Yeah, yeah, I’m awake. See you soon.”

5:08am – Crawl out of bed, pet the cat, brush teeth, throw on swimsuit.

5:12am – Coax sleeping dog out from under the bed, walk dog, kiss Matt goodbye, drive to the YMCA.

5:30am – Park in the oddly-full parking lot. Why are so many people at the Y at 5:30??

5:38am – Stand on pool deck, convincing myself to get in.

5:40am – Swim. 2600 yard workout:

WU: 300 swim, 200 kick, 200 pull – 50 2 finger/50 swim.
MS: 3 X (50-100-150-200).Each time through: 1) hold same pace from 50 to 200; 2) each set, pace should get faster; 3) Set #1 – 5″ rest; Set #2 – 10″ rest; Set #3 – 15″ rest; longer recovery after each 200.
CD: 300 choice: pull, drill, mix, etc.

Felt totally sluggish and tired throughout the workout. My third set (the fastest set) was still not as fast as it should have been, but since I left my Garmin charging next to the bed, I had no reference for time. I’m NOT a morning person.

6:40am – Shower, get dressed, smear makeup on my face, blow dry hair.

7:05am – Drive to Starbucks.

7:15am – Triple venti, skim Hazelnut Macchiato, with three pumps vanilla and three pumps hazelnut. Yeah, I’m that girl. Throw in a reduced-fat Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake (reduced fat matters, after all). Devour food in the car.2013-04-23 18-02-22 - 0011

7:30am – Work. Chug coffee.

12:00pm – Leave for lunch.

12:05pm – Pick up subs, head home.

12:15pm – Eat lunch. Walk dog. Start a load of laundry. Sort through mail.

12:50pm – Leave for work.

1:00pm – Work.

5:00pm – Head home. Walk dog, change to running clothes, switch laundry, hug the boy.

5:40pm – Get in car.

5:41pm – Run back inside for my sunglasses. Eat snack on the way to the track.

2013-04-23 16-48-55 - 00086:00pm – Arrive at track. Chit chat for a few minutes.

6:05pm – Begin run workout:

15-minute warmup, 4x (3′ on, 2′ off intervals. On pace is 8:35 to 8:45), 12-minute cooldown.

2013-04-23 17-51-44 - 00096:52pm – Stretch!

7:05pm – Leave track, head home.

7:20pm – Reheat leftovers, switch out loads of laundry, hug boy.

7:30pm – Eat dinner.

8:00pm – Fold laundry while catching up on Smash.

9:00pm – Shower, brush teeth, scramble around house trying to pack bag for morning swim. Switch more laundry. Walk dog again. Edit blog pictures.

10:00pm – Fall into bed. Set alarm for 4:55am.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my days. They aren’t all this hectic, but the days I oversleep and have to swim in the evening in addition to my afternoon workout are even crazier! Splitting the workouts into morning and evening makes me a bit more tired in the morning, but my energy level for both workouts is so much higher.

Do you have any tricks to fitting training into your busy schedule?

Related posts:

IMKY Training – Week 2 & Week 3

So, I’m still doing this triathlon thing. My training just went from “what’s free time?” to “haha, get back on the bike” in about a day. My coach had me in a three-week build, and I honestly felt like I didn’t have time for anything outside of training. It was, however, the first time that I truly felt like I was Ironman training, rather than just marathon training with some heavy cross-training. Here’s how the last two weeks shaped up:

Week 2

Monday:

Short, hard intervals on the bike. 1 minute all out followed by 3 minutes off, times 10. I really enjoy this workout. It’s enough of a challenge during the interval to get my heart rate up, sweat rolling, and really force me to tough it out, but there is plenty of recovery in between sets. 13.7 miles on the trainer.

Tuesday:

5 mile run on the track with strides. Strides are 30 seconds of fast turnover. The goal here is fast feet, not necessarily fast pace. These are thrown in at random.

2400-yard swim with an emphasis on pacing. This included long sets of 50-100-150-200 all done at the same pace, but with pace building through repeats of the set. Of course, I didn’t wake up in the morning to swim, so I had to force my tired legs through a swim after the 5-mile run.

Wednesday:

10 climbs on the bike trainer. This is a tough workout. 2 minutes of simulated seated climbs times 10 leaves me absolutely dripping with sweat.

Thursday:

A rainy and cold night forced me to rearrange my schedule. I was not going to run 8 miles of hills in that! Instead, I switched out my hill run for a bike/run brick workout. On the bike, I had three repeats of 8-minute steady state spins. Down in the aero bars, focused on a steady pace to simulate race day. Immediately after the bike, I ventured into the rain for a quick 2-mile run with the puppy, but she was not having it. After 1.5 miles I was urging her along. As we rounded the last turn, though, she leaped and started happily trotting toward home. Faker.

Friday:

Missing my morning workouts meant pushing things back until there was no farther to push. Friday morning I had to squeeze in my hill repeats. If there is one thing I don’t like for breakfast, it’s hills. My pace was down to 11:00/mile, even on the recovery sections! Still, 6.3 miles before is nothing to scoff at.

Morning hill repeats

Morning hill repeats

Friday afternoon I headed straight to the Y to get 2800 yards in.4-12-13 Swim

Saturday:

When I am marathon training, and our last taper run is 10 miles, it feels awesome. When 10 miles is my long run though, it feels awful! This run just dragged, but I was happy for company. Despite feeling sluggish, my pace was good throughout.

Saturday afternoon I met with physical therapist Dr. Mark Kane for a functional movement screen and dry-needling. The end result was finding out that I am not capable of moving in a way that would avoid injuring myself. Uh oh. Dr. Kane gave me a series of exercises to work on 4 times per week to strengthen my potential injury-causing weaknesses, and he use dry-needling to alleviate some knots in both my left calf and right lat.

Sunday:

My first real long ride of training – 61 miles! My coach has me training for time on the bike, not necessarily mileage, so I met with some friends for an easy 4 hours on a rolling course. I am ashamed to say this was an awful ride for me. Everything about my bike was uncomfortable, and I just couldn’t get settled. I felt completely powerless on the climbs, but I will say that the ride got better as it went along. After the ride, I ran 3 miles solo. After being out of my element on the bike, it was actually nice to get back to running.Bike stop

Totals:

26.26 miles of running, 103 miles of biking, 5,200 yards of swimming for 13 hours, 30 minutes total.

Week 3

Monday:

Another short, hard interval session, this time with longer intervals – 90 seconds all out with 3.5 minutes recovery. This never ceases to be a butt-kicker!

Tuesday:

Thanks to a planned later evening run, I went straight to the pool after work to do my 2600-yard swim with Gray. We rushed from the Y to Selwyn Avenue to meet some other Omega runners for a 4-mile loop, but I arrived a few minutes early to get in the extra mile I needed. It felt great to tag onto the heels of the faster runners and knock out a great run now that spring has finally moved in. Unfortunately, the combined swim and strong run effort came back to haunt me during our strength and core session hosted by Jen, manager at Metro Fitness and fellow Charlotte blogger. Jen led us through a complete core and strength circuit, and by the end of the night I was completely exhausted!

Strength circuit

Strength circuit

Wednesday:

I didn’t even attempt a morning workout after the hard Tuesday schedule. Wednesday night I did an hour of seated climbs on the trainer, with 10 repeats of 90 seconds climbs increasing in intensity every 30 seconds. OUCH.

Thursday:

I met Gray and Amy early in the afternoon to start our hill repeat workout before Janice joined us a bit later. Amazingly, the five hill repeats got easier as we went along. This was a fantastic workout. I planned to swim afterword, but when I pulled into the parking lot at the Y and the first two lots were full, I got very frustrated and turned around to go home. It’s amazing how I can run 7 miles yet not want to walk across the parking lot, but the weeks of build were catching up with me. I was beyond tired in general, and the allure of coming home to relax was stronger than the pull of the pool.

Friday:

Thursday relaxation would kick me on Friday. I woke up at 5am to do a one-hour trainer ride before a 2-mile run. The ride was fine, but I needed a couple of walk breaks even on the short run. After work, it was straight to the pool again for 2800 yards. My coach had given me some timed sets to do, and I could not make the times. Let that be a lesson – do not push everything back until Friday!

The upside to Friday afternoon swims - a nearly empty pool!

The upside to Friday afternoon swims – a nearly empty pool!

Saturday:

Thankfully, this weekend’s 11-mile run was much better than the prior week. I chatted with Sara for 8 miles before heading back out on the greenway for some additional miles, luckily running into Rashawn, who joined me for the final 2. Friends can make all the difference!

Sunday:

I led an early 15-mile bike ride for the aspiring triathletes in Omega Nation. It was a slow, easy loop but great for helping beginners get used to the road. After finishing the first loop, Gray, Gerald and I set out for a longer loop, before dropping Gerald off and continuing on for my total 5-hour ride. I couldn’t talk Gray into a 3-mile run afterword, so I went solo. This was a fantastic run, except for the thousands of inch worms dangling from the trees and landing all over me. Apparently at some point along the bike ride, I had their silk streaming off of me. Spring is beautiful, but it has its downsides!Omega bike crew

Totals:

29 miles of running, 112 miles of cycling, 5400 yards of swimming for 14 hours, 35 minutes total.

Thankfully, Sunday was the end of a long build session, and knowing that this would would be a recovery week really helped me to push through the latter end of last week. It was very physically demanding, and by the end I was completely exhausted. However, the overall toughness of the weeks boosted my confidence as crunch-time approaches for the Ironman. I’m getting stronger!

What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of the first weeks of spring? I love the first few runs in tank tops, but I could live without the blanket of insects!

Related posts:

Runners Unite

Yesterday we looked on awestruck as the race that represents the pinnacle of marathons for many was struck by tragedy. Fortunately, all of my friends participating in the race were safe, but many others were not as lucky. As the day went on, though, it became apparent that the prominent theme was not one of fear but rather one of solidarity. Running groups across the country banded together, the City of Boston and its inhabitants opened their hearts and homes to participants, and video footage showed streams of people running into the fray to help others.

From afar, it’s easy to feel helpless. I won’t attempt to put into words how others may feel about what happened, but I know I have encountered a rainbow of emotions. So I turned to the thing that normally helps me to sort out my feelings: running. Boston Marathon FB statusI invited my running group to come together for a run. We met tonight wearing race shirts and memorial bibs to honor those affected by the Boston Marathon bombings, and together we ran. At times, we spoke of how we felt, of the tragedies that occurred, of what could have brought on this attack. We also spoke of the normal things, though, of houses, workouts, and family. In other words, we let running help us work through it.Omega Nation Boston runI have only dreamed of being fast enough to qualify for Boston, and it may never happen. Simply toeing the line would be an honor. What struck me hardest, though, was that the bombs went off at my current marathon finish time. The runners approaching the finish line were okay in the end; the spectators on the sidelines were not. For years now, Matt has stood at the finish line of races for no prize of his own, simply being there to celebrate my achievements. I can’t begin to imagine how I would feel if he were in the crowd. It is too great a price. But I will not let fear steal the joy that running gives me.

I don’t honestly have a coherent thought here. I’m still working through it, as I am sure many others are. In the end though, I’m still going to run. I’m still going to race. I hope that the Boston Marathon and the City of Boston emerge from this stronger and more united than ever.Boston bibRunners are a resilient crowd. We tough it out; we fight; we come together. We do it because running gives us something that no one can take away. It gives us peace, confidence, humility, dreams, clarity, and love. It gives us strength and allows us to embrace weakness. It shows us who we are and who we can be. Running makes each of us a better person, a more complete person.

Yesterday a little bit of that peace was stolen, and many lives were changed forever. All we can do is unite and keep running.

Hug a runner today; and runners, please hug your supporters. I know I will.

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Joining the Felt Mafia

As I mentioned in my last post, I added a new bicycle to my collection about a month ago. My new two-wheeled bundle of joy is a 2012 Felt DA4W.

Felt DA4WI started looking at triathlon bikes last year before the White Lake Half Iron, but I never pulled the trigger. When I started looking again this year, I still had this bike in mind. I did a lot of online research and visited most triathlon and bike shops in the area to narrow down my options, and in the end I was torn between a Trek Speed Concept and the Felt DA4W. I liked that both options had a women’s specific design, combined with the fact that both had all-carbon frames.

Having a triathlon bike for Ironman, as opposed to my road bike, was important to me for a number of reasons, the primary purpose being that a tri bike is supposed to leave you better suited for the run. This article does a much better job than I could explaining the key differences between the two.

I went into TrySports to chat with the resident bike fit guru, Francisco, where I learned that not only could I get last year’s model of the Felt, but I could also get it at a nice discount. It’s so much prettier than this year’s model and has better components, so my mind was made up.Felt DA4W Saddle

Before I could take it home, though, I had to have a thorough bike fitting. Francisco set me up on the trainer and ensured that every aspect of the bike was completely suited to my body, from the shoes on my feet to the length and position of the aero bars. He started by making sure that not only did my shoes fit but also moving the cleats to be in the most optimal position relative to my foot. He adjusted saddle height, tilt, and position over the bottom bracket, using a measuring tape, laser level, plum bob, and goniometer. Felt DA4W chainstay

Once my legs and back were properly situated, he moved on to the stem and aerobars to make sure my upper body was as optimally positioned as my lower body. Bike fit is even dependent on distance, as sprinters tend to have more aggressive aero positions due to a shorter time on the bars, whereas in racing Ironman, I will need a more sustainable stance. Bike fit headset

In the end, I had to leave the bike with Francisco to cut the bars down to length and re-route the cables. I just took the bike in again to have the cables tightened (they always stretch quite a bit in the first month) and to make some minor adjustments to the fit after I’ve had time to see what works and what needs fine tuning. The service has been excellent, and I love my new bike. My poor road bike doesn’t appreciate the time it’s spending on the sidelines, but I need to spend every moment on this new bike to ensure that I am completely comfortable on race day!Bike fitting

IMKY Training – Week 1

Ironman training is a 9-month process for me, so I have decided to break my recaps into smaller segments now that marathon season is officially over. I am in actual triathlon training now, so I will re-start at week 1 to make summarizing more manageable going forward.

After a refreshing week off, my coach wasted no time throwing me into the deep end of training. Week 1 was intense and demanding, and I hate to say I feel like a failure at the end of it. My entire schedule is adjusting to back off the run focus I had in preparation for the Tobacco Road Marathon, but I still have to account for some long run and track obligations as part of my role as a coach for Omega Nation. In order to accomplish this dual focus, my coach is putting me on the bike for intense trainer rides three times a week, with a weekend long ride to bulk up the mileage. Swims are increasing too, and I am amazed at how quickly I am having to adapt to the added volume.

Monday:

2,300 yard swim. This swim felt great, since I didn’t swim at all for two weeks with marathon taper and recovery. Swimming is a great way to get back into exercise, and this was no exception. However, my coach wants me to do my swims in the mornings, and I am really struggling to master the 5am wake up call. After refusing to drag my body out of bed that early, I squeezed the swim in after work, but before meeting Omega Nation for a Monday night run.

5 mile run. I rushed to Hawthorne’s Pizza after my swim, and though I arrived a few minutes late, I met the group out on the course. Coach dictated an easy running pace with some 30 second pickups strewn through the latter half, and I was amazed to see my pace hovering in the low 9s. Recovery does a body good! The best part was celebrating my return to training with friends over some good food post-run.

Tuesday:

Run – Hill Repeats. Luckily, Omega runners needed to run hill repeats and so did I, so I took a group to a local 0.3-mile steady hill to run hill repeats. Though we’ve run this hill before, this time we changed it up to include a nice 0.9-mile recovery loop into the repeats, allowing for complete recovery before attacking the hill again. I made this route on the fly, and I was very pleased with how well it turned out. I will be revisiting this hill! 3 repeats plus a long warmup and nice cooldown added up to a 5.5-mile run.

Wednesday:

2,700-yard swim. I conned Gray into meeting me at the Y, since I once again overslept my 5am alarm and needed some extra motivation to get my swim in the afternoon. This workout included a lot of pace-building through sets and varied distances at a hard effort. An easy workout by no means, and I felt like it would never end.

Swim gearTrainer ride – Flats to Alps: My coach has mastered the art of inflicting pain without my realizing it, and this workout is a prime example. The workout progresses through easy spinning to short bursts of hard gears, all leading up to one large block of standing climbing on the trainer, but because it simulates riding every stage of the flats to the mountains, I never realize how hard it’s getting until the very end. I love this workout, but I reach the point of crying out every time toward the end.

Thursday:

Trainer ride – Shorter, Harder Intervals: Call me a masochist, but I love short, high intensity intervals. My coach even commented in computrainer class that I am built for sprints (not exactly what you want to hear when training for an Ironman). This may do me no good in the long run, but it means I can really push it on interval workouts. This trainer ride called for 30 seconds all out, followed by 1:30 recovery.

Friday:

One-hour group ride. I once again called on Gray to help me with my training, and he met me for my first ride on the road with my new tri bike (post coming soon!). My coach gave me the option of a group ride or trainer ride, and with the sporadic beautiful weather, I couldn’t pass up a chance to get on the road. However, the universe was not aligned with my enthusiasm. The geometry on my tri bike is drastically different than my road bike, and I was too intimidated to really push the pace. A few miles into the ride we hit a major hill, and my chain caught onto my chain ring halfway up, forcing me to pull off to jerk it loose. I had a moment or two of questioning continuing the ride, but Gray got me going again. I focused the remainder of the ride on just growing accustomed to my new bike and finished feeling better than I started.

Saturday:

13-mile run. Charlotte boasts some beautiful races, and one of my favorites is soon approaching. Racefest runs through the Southpark and Myers Park area, and it notoriously hilly. Each year, Omega Nation hosts a preview run to show the course to our runners who may be racing the event or need extra hills in their training. Determined to maintain an easy pace, I paced the latter half of our group. Halfway through, my left calf knotted up again as it did in the weeks before Tobacco Road, but I took some stretch breaks to alleviate the pain. We had a great run at a consistent pace, but I knew in the end that my calf was not okay.

My calf taper prior to Tobacco Road

My calf taper prior to Tobacco Road

Sunday:

The forecast promised rain so many group ride options in Charlotte were cancelled. Coupled with heavy winds and a family-oriented holiday, I had every excuse not to ride. My calf was still aching and tight, painful to the touch, and despite my good intentions, I did not complete my prescribed three-hour bike ride. So much for the great training week I started with! I need to focus more on why I SHOULD train when I have excuses, rather than why I shouldn’t.

Totals:

I finished out the week with 5,000 yards of swimming, 2 hours of indoor cycling, 17 miles of road cycling, and 24 miles of running.

03-25-13 Week

 

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Hitting Pause

Last Sunday night on our drive home from Cary, my coach called and left me a voicemail congratulating me on a great race (she’d looked up my time), and telling me to enjoy my week off.

Wait, what?

An entire week off. No runs, no rides, no swims, nada. At first my mind filled with all the workout-related things I actually could do: go to yoga or go rock climbing. In reality, though, I didn’t lift a finger. I took the entire week off and just experienced normalcy for a moment.

However, it became very apparent Monday morning that I was sick. An annoying cold knocked me out all week, and I am still sniffling. This was definitely not the way I wanted to spend my only sanctioned time off in months years. I tried to make the best of it, though, and by the weekend I had bolstered myself enough to enjoy a fantastic weekend with my best friend, in town for us to go see Wicked.

Part of the week off was for actual recovery. Marathons are hard on my body, and it was definitely Tuesday before I felt like I could walk in a way that imitated a normal human being. Part of it, though, was to get my head in the game. Ironman training started this Monday, and it’s no joke. I didn’t realize going into last week how much I would need and appreciate the time off, but I am grateful for the reset. Normally I’d be going crazy after two days without workouts, but I didn’t miss it at all this time. I was ready for a break.

A week off, followed by a tough start to training!

A week off, followed by a tough start to training!

The break is over, now, and training is starting at full steam ahead. The current plan includes two double-days each week with a significant bike ride each weekend. I am already feeling intimidated by the upcoming training, but I know it’s a necessity to be ready for race day.

Do you take time off after a race or jump right back into training?

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