Monday, December 15, 2008

XTERRA Trail Race: Holy Crap

What a way to end the year. December 13 marked six months since my knee surgery, and I celebrated the next day with the Xterra 15K Crystal Cove Trail Race. Killer! I've been running the trail, El Moro, for a couple of months now in anticipation of Xterra mayhem, and I knew it was a difficult run, but nothing compared to race day... for several reasons:

They changed the course due to construction. Coming from someone who's been running the planned course, the altered version was way more difficult -- the first 3 miles, that is. I also heard the trail had about a 4,000-foot elevation gain in total and the 15K grew to over a 10-mile run with the change.

It was freakin freezing. 38 degrees when we arrived, low 40s when we started, and a frigid ocean breeze keeping it chilly.

The runners were gnarly. Xterra races clearly attract a legit group of athletes who know what they're doing! In fact, I think I was the youngest female out there.

I went into the race with the mentality that'd I push myself to finish on top. Things didn't work out how I planned. Ha. But I was able to pull off 11th female out of 100+ women and first in my age group (but my AG was a very insignificant group, so that's not that impressive, ha).

My mom, who also raced, and me with our AG & finisher medals:

The Race:
My mom, dad and I got to the race super early, about 5:45 a.m. for an 8 a.m. start. Why so early? It wasn't just to get a good parking spot in that small lot :) My dad was a volunteer, how cool! So while he helped set up aid stations and whatnot I hung out half asleep in the Ford F150. The frigid temp didn't help my enthusiasm. That wait sucked. I would have rather started in the dark at 6. I'm in the back here, about 6 a.m., looking tired and mean in this pic:

Finally, after bathroom breaks, food and warmup laps, I was antsy to GO! I placed myself at the front of the group this time (given the disastrous Turkey Trot start), and with the countdown so began the burn. Pure uphill for the first mile, as about 50 or so people jetted far out beyond any level I could run. Then the detour. Ouch. Right turn downhill, and down we went and went... I knew going down that far was bad news cause it meant we'd have to run up more than 1,000 feet to get back to the main trail.

As expected, that uphill lasted forever!!! No mercy, lots of pain. I was so happy to reach the top, which happened to be where my dad's aid station was. He frantically got some pictures of me:

At that point there was about 10k to go. At least I knew what to expect for the rest. Not that knowing the course was comforting: all a gradual uphill grade and hill climbs with only a few breaks. It doesn't really ease up until about the last few miles; and even that consists of steep rolling hills...uuuppp annddd ddooowwnnn...until the last 3/4 mile of pure decent.

Honestly, at any moment through the run I could have easily given up cause it just plain hurt. Even taking Saturday off didn't seem to matter. I kept thinking of excuses to stop and then I'd counter that with excuses to keep going. Mental strength was my saving grace. Not that I finished as well as I wanted to, but I at least didn't stop or walk ever.

I also tried to keep an eye on the other women racing. I felt somewhat high up in the pack, but I knew a handfull passed me and I'd never catch them. (I later found out that one of those top women happened to be a fellow blogger, Beth, who ended up third overall. I met her and her boyfriend (I'm guessing) after the race... congrats guys!)

Once I saw mile-marker 7 I was stoked, almost done! I sprinted hard on the last decent and was able to pass a couple of women to put me at 11th. Felt a little naseous at the finish, but still powered down some drinks and food. About 20 minutes after finishing, I became freezing cold... thankfully I had a cup of coffee waiting for me in the car, still hot.

I waited for my mom, who ended up third in her AG. We all stuck around for the awards, and I got some more food with my parents -- they had a great breakfast for us, even fresh scrambled eggs!

Getting my medal...

Mom, dad and me...

I'm so glad I was able to get three races in this year. Six months ago, I would have never thought that'd be possible. Especially this Xterra craziness. Geez!

Now, it's time to focus on IMCA (oh yea, and a half-marathon in a month, ha).

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Despite a Bad Economy...

...Triathlon continues to grow, and I'm not surprised. Read the just-released article here. I know I'll keep pouring my money into it even though I'm on a very tight budget!

"...'In some respects, it's a recession-proof sport,' says [Blair LaHaye, spokesperson for World Triathlon Corp., the parent company of Ironman]... 'We have been fortunate not to see a downturn based on the state of economy.'"

Monday, December 8, 2008

Spoiled by SoCal Weather

I'm starting to see other tri bloggers post about snow, freezing temperatures and the winter conditions that affect, and even prevent, their outdoor workouts. I have a lot of respect for all you who deal with real winters. When I signed up for an April half-Ironman, I knew winter training was inevitable, but living in Southern California, I admit, I have it easy. Occasional rain storm, a cloudy day in the 50s...

For example, this picture was taken before a run at El Morro (Crystal Cove State Park) last week. The fog on the coast was a thick as it gets around here, and I still ended up taking off my shirt because I got so hot (also due in part because I ran inland so far that I left the fog bank behind).
And PS... This picture is also the sight where I'll be racing this Sunday in the Xterra 15K Trail Run. I'm super excited. My first race ever was a trail run, and this race is going to be very challenging to say the least. Click here to see an old blog of mine that shows the elevation chart.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Training Stimulation

I tried something new on my long run and bike this weekend -- podcasts. I usually have my iPod shuffle on while I work out; the music motivates me and pumps me up. (I keep it on a low volume, though, b/c I still like to be aware of my surroundings, especially on the bike; in fact, I turn it off in high traffic areas.) Lately, though, I've left the iPod behind to enjoy the sounds of Mother Nature, a riding partner I'm with or even just my own breathing.

But Saturday, I found a new addiction. I downloaded a bunch of free podcasts on iTunes of the Competitor Radio Show, as well as some podcasts from Triathlete Magazine and others. (Search "triathlon" on iTunes.) I've only listened to Competitor Radio so far, and man is it entertaining to hear Bob Babbit -- who I love and admire so much -- and Paul Huddle talk to some amazing athletes: Craig Alexander fresh off his win in Kona; Dean Karnazes, whose interview was done while he was literally running during his 700-mile "mission to mission" run (he ran from Sonoma County to San Diego, stopping at all the CA missions on the way); Norman Stadler, Mark Allen and many more. The best part is, there are endless podcasts, which means hours of pure triathlon and endurance sports entertainment!

Some people I've talked to can't imagine concentrating on a radio show while working out. My dad is definitely one of those people, but then again, he spends hours just trying to get music onto an iPod. It's a valid point -- I mean, I don't know how people read books and magazines on cardio machines at the gym, are you kidding me? -- but to be honest, having a podcast fill my brain made me faster! It diverts the focus away from looking at the watch, you forget about any tiredness, fatigue or even boredom, and you just go while hearing amazing stories.

In my opinion, it's a great way to spice up training. I can learn the stories and personalities of all the athletes I admire so much. I mean, I didn't know Faris Al-Sultan covers up his power meter cause he just doesn't want to know, I didn't know the story behind Mark Allen's sixth Kona win (and holy shit is it a story!), I didn't know Andy Potts' wife battled cancer or that Ryan Hall adds GUs into his water bottles.... I could go on for a while from all I learned in just two workouts!

With all those hours spent working out, why not learn something while you're at it?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Turkey Trot in Pouring Rain

I am thankful for running the Dana Point 10k Turkey Trot in the rain. No, not just rain... torrential downpours (at least in SoCal terms). But the enthusiasm of the racers and volunteers was amazing, and we all earned our Thanksgiving meals.............

It's been raining here lately, but I optimistically shunned off the idea that it would affect our race (subconsiously I chose not to bring an umbrella, pancho or any rain gear). Got to the race super early (typical me) and it started raining. No big deal. Rain got harder. Hm. So I just stood under a tent with my Catalina tri friend, Bill, who was also racing as part of his marathon training. There was no warm-up run like I'd planned; didn't want to get wet, stop and get cold.

By the time we lined up at the start line, the rain had subsided. Sweet, we were in the clear, I thought. However, I made a major mistake here: My mom (who also ran), Bill and I placed ourselves way too far back in the sea of 3,000+ runners. (My race results show I went off 5 minutes after the starting gun, shows how many people there were in front of me!) I would later realize that this would hold me back from running at MY pace because I spent too much time maneuvering around people and getting stuck behind runners who were slower than me. Not to mention, the course was also waaaayyy too narrow for the hords of people trekking though making passing that much harder.

But, back to the start. It was crazy: The race gun went off, and as if it were planned the skies let unleashed... It started raining hhhaaarrrddd. Then harder. I was sopping in less than 5 minutes. And despite my frustration of being stuck behind slower runners, I was stoked, soaked and loving the rain! At that point, I realized this race would not be about setting a PR or even getting sub-45 minute run like I wanted, too many factors would obviously prevent that. But I didn't care, running through the puddles and hearing everyone's laughter at our situation was so cool!

The rain worked to my advantage in one way: The sole of my left foot has been hurting ever since a did a 12-mile street run Nov. 14 (possibly plantar fasciitis; feels like I'm running on a giant bruise), so running in giants puddles and soaking wet shoes eased the pain... I had lots of extra cushioning!

After about 2 or so miles, the crowd thinned out a bit and I was able to get a good pace going; not enough to make up for the time I lost dodging crowds, but whatever. My pace got faster
with each mile, and all the while I was running though huge puddles, sometimes ankle deep. I felt pretty good the whole race and ended up finishing at 48 minutes. Not the greatest, but nevertheless an amazing experience!

Check out me and the crew post-race (drowned rats), and see some race photos here to get an idea of the weather!

What a Week Leading Up to the Trot...

I haven't really posted much lately because my personal life has seen some major changes, and I've been quite busy as a result. I resigned from my job to go back to college and get a master's in kinesiology and become a personal trainer on the side. My last day was Nov. 13, and the very next day I went into a three-day personal trainer workshop through the American College of Sports Medicine, the organization I've chosen to get my certification (e-mail if you want to know why).

The class was refreshing and definitely verified to me that I'm making the right decision with a career/life change. Not only was the material so rad to learn, but I met some people who were like me -- one being a triathlete who did IMCA 70.3 and is doing it again on April 4; check out her blog here; she's an awesome chick. She was taking the PT class with her boyfriend and his brother, who are pro-mountain bikers. Now, these are the type of people I want to be around in my life!! We "whined" that our typical weekend workouts were being screwed by the all-day workshops. I swear, it's harder on me to be told to sit in a chair for hours than to make me go do a 50-mile bike ride. Sick, twisted... I know :) But I did fit in some workouts at odd hours and am now ready and looking forward to getting my ACSM certification!

After that workshop, I decided to leave the OC for a week. First, I packed my bags and headed to San Luis Obispo to visit my sister, who goes to Cal Poly, and to see a good friend of mine, who's also a triathlete. I used Cal Poly's pool and gym, ate college cafe food, did sushi (which included a crazy quail egg shot?!?!) and had a great time.

The highlight at SLO was my Wednesday-morning bike ride. I was alone and headed out with no plan... that initially led me around campus and onto Hwy 1 going north up to the prison. Sketchy. Turned around and eventually found heaven: a one-lane highway through SLO wine country. oh. my. god. b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l. I could have ridden that road (Orcutt Road for those interested) all day and have never gotten tired or bored. It was blissful and perfect weather. No one around; I just smiled and took in the beauty. Then, my sis took me to an awesome restaurant -- The Natural Cafe -- to grub. I Highly reccommend it; everything on the menu is healthy, fresh and delicious!

After SLO, I took off to Vegas. Very random, I know. But, I had the time and means to pull it off, so what the heck! And I went into it planning to workout. I did get in one 12-mile run on the strip that was really fun -- my idea of sightseeing -- and I used the spa/gym facilites at Planet Hollywood (where we stayed). That 12-mile run, however, has had lasting repercussions with the aching foot problem (uh-oh). And, being a Vegas virgin, I let the city get the best of me and had some late nights with lots of cocktails, but I recovered just fine -- got home Monday and did the fasted 50-mile bike ride I've done to date.

Life's too short just to stay in the status quo if your dreams are bigger. I'm in a place where I want to experience it all and build a life for myself that makes me happy and satisfied. Right now, that means hard work and self-discipline to achieve my triathlon and career dreams, but it also means taking off a day or two to let loose and relax... it's all about balance!!

Monday, November 10, 2008

RACE REPORT: Catalina Triathlon

Words cannot describe how amazing this past weekend was. I'm still in shock! I did the Catalina Island Triathlon on Saturday -- 1/2-mile swim, 15k bike and 5k run -- and pulled off 1:14:38, good enough to get me 3rd and podium in my age group, 6th female and 49th overall out of about 500. It was a very hilly course, ideal weather and extremely cool people. One of the highlights was the winds got so bad the day after the race that they shut down ferry service and no one could leave the island until Monday, so we all got an extended vacation. Let's just say the celebrating was very memorable.

Here's my mom and I before the race. If it's not obvious, I'm very happy here...

So here's how it went down: We got to Catalina Thursday so we could take our sweet time and not be rushed (mom's idea). Being that it's November, the weather could have been cold and wintery. Last weekend, for example, I got rained on 15 miles into my bike ride (still went my intended 40 miles). Not the case at Catalina, though. It felt like mid-July! Luckily it stayed like that through race day and changed all worked out perfectly in a odd, surreal sort of way, actually.

Out hotel room was super small, but cheap and right in town -- on the street that the race finished in fact -- so no problem. The beachfront part of the island reminded me of Cozumel, but there were major hills, and that reminded me of the Mediterranean.

Here's one thing I love so much about tri...everyone's like family even if you don't know each other: We met a guy on the ferry who was doing the race solo (his tri-travel friend had a last-minute emergency and couldn't go), so we became friends and all ended up having dinner together, and even hanging out over the weekend. As I always say, the more the merrier.
On Friday morning we did a bike ride on the course route, and it totally calmed my nerves. I was expecting some major hillage, and though it definitely was not flat, it wasn't anywhere as gnarly as I thought. Met some interesting people that day, including a man fishing with pizza dough. That night we did the traditional pre-race pasta fest (and chicken and dessert) at a legit Italian restaurant -- Villa Portofino, a must if you're ever out there. Some restaurants even advertised "Runner's Special" meals. Got to bed around 9:30 or 10 and slept like crap. It was loud outside -- lots of drunks out it seemed -- every hour I thought it was time to wake up and I was sharing a bed the size of nothing with my mom.

But on race morning I was ready to go. When I first signed up for this race, I was stoked it didn't start till 9 a.m.; however, I of course woke up super early and had way too much time to kill. Had my oatmeal made from water heated in the coffee pot (which happened to be in the bathroom), as well as coffee, bread (not toast) and a banana. Oh yea, an FRS drink too. I was one of the first out on the transition area, which was on the sand, but I got a good spot on a brick wall. Then my friend and I went running about 2 miles, I took pics, talked to people I knew, etc. Did a short swim before the race, and, oh man, how amazing! The water was clear to the bottom, a nice 65 degrees, lots of fish and I forgot how much wetsuits make you float -- love it!

I was in Wave 3 and pretty calm even down to the 10-second countdown to start. I knew I had to pace myself on the swim given it's my weakness, but I was feeling confident. We ran into the water and got going. I found my rhythym pretty soon into it, but that got screwed by run-ins with chicks and whatnot. Also, my spotting was really poor, and I know I veered off course several times, which inevitably made my swim longer. That's definitely something I need to work on. Did it all in about 15 minutes, wish I had done better.

T1 went smooth, and I knew my bike had to be strong to make up for the swim, as usual. The bike course involved three loops: going up a hill, then back down, around town and repeat. My heart rate was ridiculously high going up the first hill right off the swim, but I pushed through and tried to suck down Cytomax in between heavy breathing. Got a break coming down -- while getting up to 43 mph on the downhill. That whole hill scene was sort of sketchy cause there was one narrow road with people trucking up on one side and others hauling ass on the other side. Mix in people passing -- lots of "ON YOUR LEFT" -- and geez... There were some crashes that day! At one point during the bike, I heard my boss shout out my name and cheer me on (he happened to be on the island for a different event, ironic).

T2 was so-so, I couldn't get my socks on cause my feet were numb and I also got a stomach cramp unlike any I ever had; it was a twisting knot and it scared me. But drinking and breathing eased it, and my legs felt great going into the run. I knew to expect a big hill so I went fast on the flats to balance my pace. Notice: I thought there was one hill -- so coming down that I thought I was in the clear to finish on flats. (All the while, I noticed there weren't too many girls around, so I was stoked!!) But then reality hit: Coming back into town, I turned right to see the mother of hills in my immediate future. CRAP. But I got up -- my friends were walking by at the time and later told me I was looking strong still (yay). Then turning the corner to the finish line was awesome, I "sprinted" to the end and felt great. I knew I had to be one of the top female finishers. Turned out, I was only 3 minutes behind the 1st-place overall female. Not too shabby.

My mom also did amazing: 2nd in her division (50-54 F) with a 1:23 finish!! Not too bad for a 51-year-old riding a mountain bike! Dang.

We both medaled, so that was very special and unexpected, to be honest. I went into this race not putting pressure on myself to podium. I guess that stress-free attitude paid off.

After we got our medals, we grubbed and drank some celebratory beers. The rest of the day was so fun, talking to fellow racers and hearing their stories and later that night going to the bars where a lot of the 21-and-older crowd got pretty crazy at El Galleon. Goes to show: triathletes work hard and sacrifice a lot to perform well, but they also love to let loose when the racing is over!! I'm definitely in the right sport :)

And to top it off, the weather made a 180-degree turn Sunday. It was so incredibly windy they canceled all the ferry shuttles, which meant we all got an extra vacation day!! We found out that only happens maybe two or three times a year; the swells were up to 15 feet in the channel. Quite crazy. One: I'm so glad we didn't have that weather race day; two: I was forced to stay on vacation... amazing! Talk about lucky...

To see more of my pictures click here; for race results click here.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Leaving for Catalina Today

It's finally here. After a year of wondering when I'd race again (my last tri was SOMA in 10/07) and after months of agonizing over a knee injury, I'm finally going to race on Saturday! Yea, it's only a sprint, and, yea, I'm not putting extreme expectations on my performance, but I'm damn excited nevertheless. Especially because the tri is on Catalina Island and I'll be out there for about four days... a mini vacation!

My mom and I are leaving on the ferry out of Long Beach in a little while -- my mom is racing, too! It's pretty cool to have someone so close to me who's interested in the crazy tri life. It's funny cause she's more nervous than me, so it helps my own nerves in convincing her not to stress/worry.

Still, we're both highly anticipating what this course holds, particularly the bike... From my research, portions of the bike course are a 7% to 9% uphill grade, and we go from sea level up to almost 400 feet three times (three loops), that's not too bad. But I've also read numerous accounts of people crashing from sharp turns, slippery roads, tight space, etc. Should be interesting!!

As for the weather, there's definitely a chill in the air (I have the chills right now sitting by an open door). However, I'm outdoors swimming pre-6 a.m. these days, so I'm not too worried, it's all about keeping the body in motion. Plus, the race starts at 9 a.m. -- legit! More than enough time to enjoy my typical pre-race meal: oatmeal, toast, coffee, a little bit of protein and Cytomax.

After the race, we're going to hang out in Catalina until Sunday afternoon; and, yes, I plan on enjoying a post-race drink to celebrate! We'll be at the Atwater Hotel, which is right in the heart of Avalon... so good times!

Expect a race report and pictures when I get back...........

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Off-Day Fun

When I take a day off from training I often don't know what to do with myself and all that extra time. Thankfully, yesterday was here's what I did:

The Puking Pumpkin

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Elevation Gain on Runs & Rides

Look at the first two miles of this trail run. XTERRA doesn't mess around. I signed up for this 15K race at El Moro in Crystal Cove State Park -- one of seven in XTERRA's current SoCal series -- before I had run the trail. Ha, that was smart. I have my work cut out for me if I intend to finish with a respectable time.

After "running" this loop for the first time, I declared I'd run it every weekend up until Dec. 14 -- race day! That's cause I had to slow down and walk some of the uphills, grrr. However, on round two, which I did last Sunday, I was able to run the whole thing (minus one trail detour I made on mistake). And that was after 52 hard miles (hill repeats) on the bike the day before. Making progress ... that's what matters.

Another thing about this trail that makes it amazing: It overlooks the Pacific Ocean, which not only offers breathtaking sights, there's a nice sea breeze as you run. ahhhhhh... Here's a photo of the scene (not my own; courtesy of

You can kind of get an idea of how high up you climb, given that you're looking at sea level -- where the run starts.

On that note, I've been going crazy wanting to know how much elevation I gain on my bikes and runs. I'm too poor at this point to run out and buy a GPS, so I searched the Internet hoping someone's created a site that I could map out my rides/runs and see the elevation, as well as check out future races that don't provide that info (i.e. Catalina Tri)!

Well I found that sight: You can personally map out your path of any ride in the world and it tells you your elevation gain, grade of the hills, distance, etc..... great for all us without GPS luxuries!

By the way, El Moro is very popular for mountain bikers, too!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Flip Turns and Santa Ana Winds

I was feeling sore early on in my swim class this morning. But, I caught a little break. My coach decided to hold "Doing a Flip Turn 101." The tradeoff was losing about 1,000 meters of the main set, but I can now do the twisty thing under water. Well, some of the time.

Initially, I told my coach I wasn't interested in learning flip turns. Don't have to use 'em in triathlon, so why bother. I know in the back of my head, however, I'm "cheating" with that breath/break I get by turning around sans flip turn -- that's not something you get during a tri swim. So, I figured losing the extra laps this morning were worth learning the flip-T. Check out this example.
We learned in steps (let me know if you want details), and I quickly singled myself out as a goof. Ass popping out of the water. Water up the nose. Missing the wall. Awkward last-second breaths. I could do all the elements separately just fine... but putting it together was the interesting (read: funny) part. What a Flip-T boils down to is: Swimming to the wall, taking the last breath at the right moment, doing the somersault motion using your arm to thrust you over (while blowing out the nose), pushing off upside down them flipping over while starting to streamline; my goal: get air! Whew. I'm sure my coached laughebotch the process. Which brings me to:

Screwing Up Flip Turns -- Learn From My Top 6 Mistakes:

1. Lifting my head to take an extra, and random, breath before the flip turn = kills the momentum.
2. Starting the flip turn too far from the wall = can't push off.
3. Not thrusting myself deep or fast enough = awkwardly moving slow-mo in water, the ass ventures out of the water into the air and precious breath is lost each millisecond.
4. Pushing off with one foot = you shoot off in wrong direction (potential to run into a lane mate)!
5. Not having the stroke/breath rhythm coordinate with flip time = just plain awkward, and potential for a long time w/o breathing.
6. Not streamlining after flip-T = Got to streamline according to coach. But, I just want that breath asap!
~~~Santa Ana Winds~~~
I was also going to write about my 22-mile bike ride yesterday through the Santa Ana winds, but I've been a bottomless pit today and food is my No. 1 priority, so I'm going to stick to that. Let's just say going against the winds sucked hardcore, but coming back, I was crusin' at an average of almost 40 mph. Overall, I say: take advantage of training in the wind when possible!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

OC Tri Club

Last night I went to the Orange County Triathlon Club's monthly meeting. I had been planning on joining once the knee was better... and I'm now officially a member!

The meeting was refreshing to say the least; I was surrounded by "crazy" people just like me. (I'm always told that I'm crazy for the workouts I do, not the case at tri club.)
The meeting was geared toward new members and covered training events, social gatherings, the logistics of the club, races, club gear and so on.

We scarfed pizza and salad in the beginning (free), which is when I realized I was in the right place! It wasn't just the pizza, it was the people I talked to. I can be shy around a new group, and maybe I was last night, but I definitely felt comfortable. (As a side note, I spent the better part of eight or so years partying my way through high school and college. I only graduated May 2007, so that life ain't so ancient in my book yet. But, I'm so over late-night drunken escapades. So over hangovers.)

...I'm onto having self-discipline. I'll squeeze in a bike ride after work before the sun sets or roll out of bed at 4:45 in the morning to swim outside in the dark. It's not easy, and never gets easier. But that's what it's going to take to get goooood.

Back to the Tri Club meeting. The point is: It's nice to hang out with people who share this "crazy" lifestyle -- whatever level they're at.

The OC Tri Club isn't new. It's been around since 1998. But it seems it's only exploded just in recent years. One stat read off last night said the club's grown by 29% just in the last six months (I think that' accurate). That's big. I did some stuff with the San Diego Tri Club when I was still living down there, and they have a giant group. But it seems the OC Club is on SD's heels. I'm glad to be a part of it.


I signed up for another race!! These days, I spend my money on races, not beers and cocktails :) Anyways, the race is a 15K trail run at El Moro (Crystal Cove area) and is December 14. Heard at the meeting last night that it's a popular one (there's also a 5K), and it usually sells out -- supposedly there's a mean post-run breakfast, maybe that's why??

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Kona Ironman World Championships

Well she did it again: Chrissie Wellington is amazing. What an athlete, what a great attitude, what an inspiration -- can I be her?? The girl got a flat, stopped to pee, etc., and still was the women's winner at 9:06.23, about 15 minutes ahead of second place (huge gap!). Not to mention, she finished less than an hour after men's champ Craig Alexander (8:17.45) and did it with a huge smile on her face.

I had planned on doing an a.m. ride Saturday, but live Kona coverage had me tied up until about 11 a.m. I had butterflies in my stomach watching everyone getting ready before the race. I can't believe Chrissie and Maca sat down for a quick prerace interview (poor Maca in the end, though).

The swim start of an Ironman is amazing. There's nothing like watching the water go from a calm sea of bobbing heads to a frenzy of thrashing white water. Andy Potts rocked that swim! Once he went into T1, I went on my ride, which ended up being the Santiago-Plus Loop, for a total of more than 40 miles and lots of hill work, including my beloved Modjeska Grade Road. Here I am at the top after my HR was back to normal:

Those pictures honestly don't do Modjeska justice. It's less than a mile, but it's crazy. Try it!!!

After chowing down a post-ride meal and letting that settle, I pushed myself to the gym for a swim. I hate the pool at 24-hour fitness (or any gross indoor pool for that matter), but I just wanted to knock out some laps ... I did about 2,200 meters (with a 14-minute 800). That's decent for me at this point.

Coming home for dinner and watching the Ironman finishes was a great treat after a hard day. And even as hard as I pushed myself, knowing they were working out all that time (with no lunch breaks, etc.), is truly inspiring!!


Got in an hour yoga session Sunday at 24 Hour Fitness. I need to do that more. Man, am I tight and not very flexible in yoga standards! That definitely should be in the routine for all triathletes. I also did a little weight-lifting, but the highlight of the day was my run:

I ran Whiting Ranch (about 7 miles of hills, hills and more hills, then downhills, yee-haw) in just over an hour. Then, the best part: I ran home (4 1/4 miles)! I only stopped when a stoplight stopped me. It felt good and definitely was a confidence booster considering I could barely run at all this whole year with the knee injury. On that note: If you can run on dirt/sand, do it. I ran on concrete and asphalt for so many years, I swear that contributed to my knee problem.

Iced both knees when I got home and enjoyed a classic steak-and-potato dinner. I was asleep by 9-something. What a weekend :)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

XTERRA Wetsuits & Swimming

I bought an XTERRA Wetsuit at 50 percent off last weekend during the Mission Bay Triathlon pre-race expo. Paying around $200 for a $400 wetsuit was so worth the drive to good ol' San Diego (amazing place for triathletes; I know, I've lived there). But it made me think about something that happened back in April: San Diego Tri Club member David Martin, 66, was on a training swim in Fletcher Cove at Solana Beach and was tragically attacked and killed by a shark. Wow. That's heavy. First off, I offer my condolences to his family. Second: A triathlete? Fletcher Cove? That hits home. I did my first triathlon ever at that location -- the Solana Beach Triathlon in 2007 -- and after this news, I think my reaction was, "OK, well I'm done with ocean swims."

But now, six months later, though I see it as a tragic event -- it's one that I refuse to let go to my head. I remember my first-ever ocean swim at
Main Beach in Laguna Beach -- it was a joke. I panicked, practically cried and refused to open my eyes under water! I've surfed for years, but something about being far out in the ocean minus a board scared the crap out of me. Eventually, I got over that with practice -- physically and mentally speaking -- and I won't let sharks prevent me from doing a tri. I tell people that I'm more afraid of a flat on the bike than any shark! But, ask my sister about that first ocean swim, she basically saved me! (P.S. The Catalina Island Triathlon is in an area where sharks have been spotted...check this out.)

Anyways, the point is: No. 1 - My new XTERRA wetsuit kicks ass; and No. 2 - Mind over matter. The chances of a shark gettin' you is unlikely. You're more likey to get killed on the way to your ocean swim!

Training Update

Good week so far: Got a 20-mile hilly bike in before the sunset last night. It will be a tragic day when daylight savings ends!! Rode up the lovely Modjeska Grade Road -- I plan to start hill repeats on that soon, considering the rumor of Oceanside's bike course. And this morning, the swim was great. It sucked getting out of bed at 4:30 a.m., but my swim endurance is significantly improving. Got in a little under 3,000 meters in a little over an hour. For me, that's legit.

Swim Workout:

200 m warmup (and coach telling me what to fix, haha)
10x50 @1:15
1x500 w/paddles, focus on stroke, faster on 2nd 200
5x150 descending w/ a 50 "chill lap" after each
5x75 of under/overs: 25 underwater, 50 freestyle
8x25 sprints at 100% effort
cooldown of about 100-200m

Swim tip of the day:

"Scoop sand," my
coach says. In your stroke, reach out as far as you can, then bend the elbow and "scoop" under your chest/abdomen and follow through at the side with a nice slighly pausing glide with each stroke.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sports Drinks: The Best?

I'm definitely taking my workouts up a notch. The last three days I've done an Olympic brick, weight-lifting, spin class, 3,000m pre-sunrise swim and I'll be running/strength-training later on. I'm looking into getting a better sports drink that will yield the maximum benefits: fuel my muscles, help my endurance, faster recovery, etc. I looked at a ton of options yesterday, and those giant tubs of powder mix aren't cheap considering how fast I'll use it, so I want to invest in a quality product. What's the best?

Sports Drinks -- What to Consider:

1. SUGARS: Different drinks use and combine different types of sugars. Get familiar with the GI Index if you're not already, then take a look at the types:

Fructose -- Low GI; preferred simple sugar to restore glycogen; slow absorption rate b/c metabolized by liver before going to muscles (gastrointestinal distress warning!!)
Sucrose (common table sugar) -- Mid-range GI; faster absorption than fructose; won't make you fat unless you over-do it :)
Maltodextrin -- Complete solubility (no gas-distress worries); instant energy; complex carb/polysaccharide
Dextrose -- High GI; simple sugar; stimulates sodium re-absorption (a good thing); no metabolizing in liver first (no gas worries)

Simple carb -- basic sugar, a monosaccharide or disaccharide
Complex carb -- polymer of simple sugars

2. ADD PROTEIN? Definitely key post-exercise, but what about during? I'm leaning toward a sports drinks that has some protein added with carbs -- a 4:1 C-P ratio. Research on C-P drinks (vs. just C drinks) shows (1) Increased endurance/enhance performance, (2) less muscle damage/soreness (3) faster recovery. However, C-Ps more often have higher calories, which could aid in higher endurance factor. Still, it seems clear that some protein is beneficial -- I'm convinced. Now what to buy??

Sports Drinks with Protein (for during exercise)

Accelerade or Accelerade Hydro
Champion Nutrition Revenge
Hammer Nutrition's Perpetuem or Sustained Energy

Also, as an aside, on lighter less-than-one-hour workouts, I'll just use an electrolyte tablet mixed into water. My favorites are Nuun and Zym. They're great to add to water just to get your electrolytes in! .

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Did a brick today ... "Oh, what a feelin!"

I just got back from doing a brick, the first I've done since last year. It was awesome. I did about 22 miles on the bike with lots of hill work and basically no flats. Anyone familiar with Orange County may know about Santiago Canyon, Modjeska Grade Road and the surrounding area (Cook's Corner too) about quality hill training!!

Remember where the OC's fires were last year around this time? That's where I ride; there's still visible damage and some trails are still closed. Quite a sight. I recognized one lot where a house had burned down: I remember driving past it post-fire last year and seeing a lone man sitting in a lawn chair admist the smoldering ruins of his house. As of now, that same lot is just a vacant dirt field. Very sad; it's also very odd how some house burned and the next-door neighbors' house survived! Fires work in mysterious ways.

Anyways Modjeska is killer. I highly reccomend it for hill training. I keep hearing about these dreaded hills in the Oceanside IM bike, so I need all the steep shit I can get, and I need to do it over and over! Not to mention, the upcoming Catalina tri, although a sprint, is supposed to have some gnarly hills on the bike. Wow, I know how to pick 'em!

Back to the brick: During my bike-to-run transition, I scarfed a banana, peed, chugged Propel, changed and was off. I did a somewhat-hilly 6-mile run in 45 minutes. I must say, I was proud of myself. Especially since yesterday, I swam hard and did a 5K race-pace run later in the evening, as well as weight-lifting. I'm really trying to build that endurance. Tomorrow will likely be a recovery day.

Total time: 2 hrs/15 min. Max heart rate: 180; average: 135 (which includes a long post-workout stretch/yoga sess; so avg. workout HR may have been higher). Calorie burn: 1,350. Post-meal: Black bean mix (a Tawnee special), 2 pieces of toast, chicken, soy crisps, salsa, salad, fruit...and I'm still kind of hungry right now!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Toe cramps, potassium and a non-swimming background

I started triathlon with one big road block: I was not a swimmer. Even as far back as a kid taking swim lessons at the Y, swimming laps for fun just never turned me on. Over the years, surfing was my "swimming." Not until early 2007 did I get in the pool with the intent to swim laps, which was due to my interest in triathlon. I maybe went 500-700 meters at first and was spent. As I started going more, I realized I had a bigger problem: CRAMPS. My toes and/or calves would cringe with cramps at about 900 m, at least 70% of the time. I've always had poor circulation in my feet and toes, and cramps would end my workout on the spot. They became a good excuse to do short swims or not swim at all; in all of '07, I probably never swam more than 1,700 m in a session. It showed in my swim splits. They weren't so awful in sprint tris (well kinda), but I always felt awful. I was inefficient and panicky. It took me more than 25 minutes to make it through an Olympic-distance tri swim (1,000 m) in Oct '07 -- how awful!!

Fast-forward to Oct '08: I actually like swimming -- and I don't cramp! Part of my workout today was a 2,200 m swim at my alma mater, SDSU, and I did it like it was nothing. Why the drastic change? Mind over matter: Once me knee was better, I decided that if I want to do well in tri, I couldn't go on ignoring my swimming ineptness.

Here's what I've done to better my technique, increase my swimming endurance/session and not to prevent cramping:

No. 1: Take a Swim Class. Because of my job, I can only fit this in before work. So, I'm up at 4:40-ish a.m. Tues/Thurs and am in the pool at the local college at 5:45 a.m. (I plan to stick with this until next spring.) I have a great coach who dissected my stroke/breathing/etc., and told me how wrong I was doing it all (finally, my suckiness confirmed)! He's now trying to "fix" me. I think it surprises him how well I take the constant critiquing and being singled out in class, but I like it -- I need that nit-pickiness to get better! And so far, it's working, plus I don't mind getting up before the sun, honestly. I swim about 2,500-3,000 meters or more per class, do a lot of good drills and am doing a sub-10 min. 500. Here's an example of one of my swim sessions now (big change from '07):

10x50 @1:15 warm-up
2x400 with hand paddles
3x150 descending sets
1x500 negative splits
10x50 kicking w/ board and fins
8x25 sprints @:30 (ouch!)
2x100 cool-down
Total: 3,150 meters

No. 2 Strength-Train. More to come on this........but I am somewhat of a gym rat :)

No. 3: Enjoy PEP-C (Potassium, Electrolytes, Protein & Carbs). I have a banana and some turkey (random) or bread an hour before swimming. Immediately after swim, I have a protein shake and an electrolyte drink...all waiting for me in the locker room. Then, my real meal that follows is always full of those oh-so necessary carbs -- Kashi cereal, sandwich, etc. Can't prove it for sure, but this method leaves me cramp-free. Back to those bananas, though. Despite their reputation, they're not the greatest source of potassium; however, they're convenient, tasty and better than a potato at 5 a.m. Here's a breakdown of p-rich foods....

Potassium-Rich Foods
White beans -- 1,189 mg /for 1 cup
Potatoes -- 1,081 mg /per spud
Lima Beans -- 955 mg /cup
Winter squash -- 896 mg / cup
Soybeans -- 886 mg /cup
Spinach -- 839 mg /cup
Kidney beans -- 713 mg / cup
Artichoke -- 595 mg / cup
Avocado -- 540 mg /3 oz.
Sweet Potato -- 508 mg / cup
Banana -- 467mg /med-size

Friday, October 3, 2008

And I'm off and training ...

Last Monday, I sat there with the one more button to click. Good 'ol I'd entered all the info and was ready to pay and go on with my day. But I was still a little apprehensive. I had knee surgery June 13, which was actually Friday the 13th, believe it or not. Great day for surgery, right? Anyways, that's a story for a future blog. Back to September 29: I was staring at the computer screen wondering if I was ready to select that button. I mean, I've had the itch to get back into triathlon, well, since June 14. Realistically, though, it took until the end of September to feel confident that I could actually train hard and consistently. So, I decided to go big. I clicked the button. Now, I'm signed up for Ironman 70.3 California in Oceanside April 4. My heart is in this. I'm ready...