Monday, September 28, 2009

OC Tri RR: Fueling the 2010 Fire

Got to start off with this, too cute: Our neighbors and their two little boys came out to cheer along the run portion of the OC Tri yesterday, and the boys drew this picture after, doing good justice to the hilly run course:Check out that uphill grade! I'm at the top, my mom is following close behind, and according to the boys the brown guys are getting sick and/or are walking.... pretty accurate :)

Sooo, another race in the books: OC International Triathlon. Good times for sure, but I'd be lying if I said I was completely content with my performance. Nope. I know I have it in me to do better. My mental game was lacking. I've been preoccupied with school, work, etc lately, and it showed; I didn't race to my potential. Need to focus! (Maybe I should be more like Peter Reid.) Still, don't get me wrong, the day was a blast and great things happened....
My mom raced in the OC Tri, too, and got 1st in her AG!!!!!!!! A first for her. As her live-in coach, I'll take the credit for that amazing achievement :) But really, she killed it out there and I'm super proud because she did race to her potential, she was in the zone and the hard work she's put in showed out there. She can really get a crowd fired up in her award-acceptance jumping-for-joy routine, love it:
Plus, during awards it was announced that I got 2nd overall in the '09 Orange County Tri Race Series for Women 39 & Under. Yes, for once I was thrown into a bigger age-group pool and got a podium! The award was a complete surprise, and I was stoked, as you can see on my face here (Ian's apparently stoked for me too):

A big highlight of the day was seeing so many familiar faces. Yea, I'm not the biggest fan of where I live (need the beach!), but we do have some nice trails and bike routes, and lots of tri peeps I know showed up to dominate... like tri superstars Charisa & Ian who were 1st overall amateur male & female:
BFF Sara Davis did the relay; local friends from my swim class, bike shops, etc, were there racing; my aunt, uncle and cutie cousin came; saw Beth and met people I "know" from Internet land--like Maggs, Kristin Mayer, Chris Berg. Makes triathlon a lot more enjoyable when you have friends, family and FAST people around.
So, here's how my race went down...
NO wetsuit; water was in the 80s. That was a first for me, but I managed just fine. I was expecting it, plus my confidence in my swim has grown as my weekly yardage has increased and times have dropped. Although, after my warmup swim I was FREEZING on the beach before our start, see below. I was ready to hug people for body warmth.The first half went spectacular minus the extra rough thrashing (big wave w/ men and women). The water was so clear that I glanced at my watch at the turnaround buoy & it was :12.30 setting me up for ~:25 swim for 1.5k. Ideal for me. Except on the way back I got way off track, realized I was by myself and ended up in the middle of the dang lake alone. No doubt I probably added an extra 300+ yds to my swim, which including dead time stopping and trying to see where to go while the rising sun blinded me. Bonehead mistake! That was so frustrating, and very devastating because I was on track to possibly PR that swim. Ahhhh!!!!

I know Santiago Canyon like the back of my hand... every little bump, every hill and turn; therefore, I am confident to go fast out there. But I tried to find a happy balance between playing catch-up from the swim while still pacing myself on the the conservative side. I didn't want to go all out TT style for the 40k for two reasons: 1) I've had a nagging R hamstring issue that's left me less than 100% and I didn't want to blow it; 2) The run is killer hard and I wanted to leave something in my legs for it. Overall, the bike went fine, passed one girl in my AG. In retrospect, I should have laid the hammer down a little bit more.

Had a great T2 spot and was in & out in no time. The first 2.5 miles of the run are slight downhill on solid ground, nice for finding a smokin' pace. But I didn't start off like a bat outta hell because everything changes. Gnarly uphills, dirt/woodchip trails... terrain that can slow you down. Vista Del Lago aka "the hill of death" is truly an insane climb. A huge chunk of racers walk up; it's by far the hardest uphill I've experienced in a triathlon. This is the start of "the hill" (pic doesn't do it justice at all):
I was passed on the run by that same girl in my ag who I passed on the bike, and she got a decent, but not insane, lead on me. I didn't think I had that "extra gear" to get her and hold it for the entire 10k, but I'm sure I could have dug deeper, ignored hamstring pain and charged. Especially looking at the results: She finished only seconds ahead of me, leaving me in 2nd place, again.
Perhaps I raced too conservatively for the day? I haven't really found my Olympic-distance pace yet. This was only my second real attempt at an Oly.
Losing the next spot up in the rankings by seconds has happened to me quite a few times this year. It's one thing when you're beaten by a significant margin (like Tatiana beat me in SB), but when it's seconds, that hurts.

It also fuels my fire.

So, bottom line: It's 2010 planning time, and I'm setting some big goals for myself. Although looking at my competition is important, it's not the other guy (or gal, in my case) that concerns me so much, as long as I can walk away from a race saying, "I gave that my all and I'm content." Part of that means, I'll be a lot more picky with my race schedule and prioritizing races, as well as strategically planning out my year.

If you haven't noticed, I'm hard on myself, but I still enjoy a nice well-deserved post-race indulgence (mom's idea):

Lastely, a few more more fun shots from the day.....
The top Best of the US men & women:

Sara and I devising our "master plan" hahaha:

Hanging with super moms (Mikelson & Prazak):

Friday, September 25, 2009

Quick: What's 40ºC in Farenheit??'s HOT, like 104ºF hot. And, that's the theme of this post. (Yes, I'm just learning Celsius conversions; why does the U.S. have to be so difficult by using all these non-universal measuring systems?!)

Anyways, as triathletes, families, friends, etc., head out to Kona for Ironman, knowing a little about what happens to the body in a hot, humid environment can be useful--or scary, possibly. (Plus, I know some of you wanted me to talk about it, and I have a test on Thermal Physiology next week so I could use this as a study opportunity.)

First, though, on the topic of heat: OC Tri is this weekend and word on the street is that Lake Mission Viejo is apparently 85ºF. That's way over USAT's 78ºF cutoff. And, inland OC has been freakin scorching lately, with no end to the heat wave in sight, so chances that the lake cools down? Um, like zero. Which means: NO WETSUITS on Sunday. I have mixed feelings about this. A wetsuit is like my security blanket, and I'm not ready to give it up. Just think of me like this guy:

But there's no way I'd pull myself out of contention for awards/rankings (the consequence for those who choose to wear a wetsuit still). Thinking positively, I am looking forward to not dying of claustrophobic overheating in my wetsuit and to having a faster T1 time.

Heat & Exercise
Now to that nerdy exercise science stuff. We all know that it sucks to exercise in the heat and humidity. But why? Physiologically what's going on in the body that makes exercise in heat so difficult and detrimental to performance, etc? Anyone, anyone? (fyi: I love this stuff, so I might go overboard. Stop reading now if you have a short attention span or just don't care about phys.)

The following are acute responses to heat. After acclimatization (~2 wks) the body adapts to better handle heat stress; more on that at the end. Repeated training in SoCal's heat waves before Kona is obviously a good thing, then.

1) Humidity Hinders Cooling
First the humidity factor. The body cools itself by sweating, but sweating itself doesn't cool you--it's the evaporation of sweat that's key to cooling. The problem with humidity is that the more humid it is the more saturated the air is and the harder it becomes to evaporate sweat. (Relative humidity is the amount of water in the air compared to the theoretical maximum amount of water in the air.) So, you don't technically sweat more in humidity, it's that evaporation doesn't occur as well so the sweat stays on your skin, which makes it feel like you're sweating more, and, worst of all, prevents your body from successfully cooling down.

2) Blood Flow Changes
In heat, blood vessels vasodilate allowing more blood flow to the skin in order to dissipate heat (sweat, which is blood plasma). The problems are blood also needs to go to working muscles, the heart, etc, and as blood flows to skin and is sweat out you're losing blood volume. So less blood to the muscles that need it, less blood back to the heart, hurting your cardiovascular system. No bueno. This one reason why hydration is so essential to replace sweat loss.

3) Cardiac Output Suffers
Cardiac Output (Q) is the product of Heart Rate x Stroke Volume. SV is the amount of blood pumped out of the heart per beat (higher SV = good). But in heat, there's less venous return (due to increase in skin blood flow), which means SV decreases. To compensate, HR increases. So although Q is unchanged at submaximal intensities, a higher HR and lower SV isn't exactly a good thing.

It gets worse. At max, intensities, Q decreases because HRmax decreases. An Ironman athlete is hopefully not working at HRmax, but because HRmax is lower, this means at any exercise intensity you're working at a higher % of your HRmax than in a thermoneutral climate. Ouch.

4) VO2max Decreases
Changes in Q directly affects VO2, and in heat VO2max is reduced. In endurance sports, obviously the higher your VO2max, the better. (VO2max is maximum amount of oxygen that the body can take in and use for important stuff like working muscle!)

Now here's the thing: At submaximal exercise in heat, VO2 is the same, but (like HRmax) since VO2max decreases, at any exercise intensity you'll be working at a higher % of VO2max. Again, ouch.

(If you don't know your VO2max, you can use % of HRmax to estimate % of VO2max. Click here for a conversion chart.)

5) Increased Anaerobiosis & Metabolic Rate With the changes in Q & VO2max, the body's maximal aerobic (with oxygen) exercise intensities are limited. Meaning, you start relying on anaerobic (w/o oxygen) means of producing energy. We all know what it feels like to work in that anaerobic state: mega ouch! It results in more blood lactate accumulating, carb metabolism increases while lipolysis (fat utilization) decreases.

With anaerobic systems kicking in, total energy expenditure increases (i.e. you're burning more calories). Think of it this way: as temperature increases exercise costs more energy. And, for most people, this generally decreases time to exhaustion (i.e you poop out sooner than later).

Heat Acclimatization
For those who've adapted to intense heat--like in the 30º-40º C range for at least 2 weeks--there's good news:

1) You become a better sweater
Sweat sooner, sweat more and at a faster rate, less salt loss via sweat, better sweat distribution.

2) Your plasma volume increases
This means all that stuff about blood volume and skin blood flow affecting Cardiac Output and VO2max is alleviated. More plasma = more blood = good.

Alright, whew! Killer study session for me! I also have a Stats exam next week, would you like me to blog about that? Aw, c'mon... Z scores, standard deviations, probability of error... good stuff!

Lastly, for those of you who don't know Celsius conversions (like me!) here's a hint: Starting at the point where water freezes (0º C, 32º F) for every 10º increase in C there's an 18º increase in F..... 10º C is cold (50º F); 50ºC is hot (122ºF); and the body is happy at 37ºC.

Let me know if you have any questions please!!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Coaching, Racing, Kona, More Racing, Marathon

For those of you who asked me to give the "nerdy details" about the physiological effects of training in heat, I promise I'll put together a good post on that sometime soon, before Kona for sure. Also, as I learn cool, relevant things in my classes concerning nutrition and environmental exercise stuff, I'll be sure to share the knowledge.

However, the theme of my last post--I'M BUSY--continues.

I'm getting ready to leave for Inglewood/Santa Monica tomorrow night after class to attend a three-day USAT Coaching Clinic. Yup, part of "the plan" is to become a triathlon coach! The clinic is in Santa Monica, so why Inglewood? It's where I'm staying. I know what you're thinking: gheee-tto, but it's where my grandparents live and have lived for probably 60+ years. Their little neighborhood is adorable and a flashback to the '50s, not scary... just leave the parameters with caution. I'm looking forward to spending some quality time with Gma & Gpa (both in their 90s) as I don't get to see that often these days.

The following weekend is the Orange County International Triathlon, which should be a doozy! The bike course is part of my typical weekend ride, so no worries there. But I've been training on the run course lately, and OH MAN! The hills are by far the steepest/hardest I've seen in a race. Wait, take that back. I think the Xterra 15k Crysal Cove Trail Run is gnarlier. Regardless, I'm mostly excited that a legit triathlon that brings in fast racers takes place right in my backyard.

After that, it's down to San Diego the next weekend for the Mission Bay Triathlon Oct. 4 where I will become the ultimate spectathlete! So excited. If you don't know why, click here.

Then, after thaaatttt I leave Oct. 7 for none other but KONA! Yup, I'm going to the Ironman World Championships!!! I pulled some strings and not only am I going to watch and experience the ultimate Ironman scene for an entire week, I'm actually covering the race and have an official press pass. Thanks to my friend, Roman Mica of, where I have a few bylines, I was lucky enough to get this opportunity to combine my journalism skillzzzz with my triathlon passion. Stoked!

So after all that hoopla, it'll be mid-October. By that time, my life will be something like this: Midterms, Clearwater, school projects, Clearwater, CSCS, Clearwater, thesis brainstorming, Clearwater.

Then when all is said and done triathlon-wise this season... drum roll... I'm going to start training for a marathon! I have not been able to get my running to the level I want at this year at all, so I think taking some time to focus on that skill will help going into the 2010 tri season. (I'll still swim a lot too, and just lay off the bike for a bit.)

I'm planning to run the Surf City Marathon in HB Feb. 7. Honestly, I didn't think I'd ever do a marathon unless it followed a 2.4 mi swim and 112 mi bike. But I'm looking forward it!

That's it from me! Back to work.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Busy Buzzee Bisseyyy

Do you ever say a word over and over and it starts to not sound like a real word? Just had to throw that out there ;-)

First off: I have to give a shout out to Andy Bailey, who I train at Sport Performance Insititute. Andy is a below-the-knee amputee and wears a prothetic leg (See his story here). You may recognize him from CAF. Well, Andy's a rockstar: This weekend he's doing the swim portion of the Malibu Triathlon as part of a relay team! I'm so excited for him. He's been working super hard and is very fit... I have no doubt he'll do great. Plus, he'll have his loving wife, Jeri, right there cheering him on. She's by far the most supportive spouse I've ever met. Words cannot express how devoted she is to her husband. I'm lucky to know both of them.

Now for a little on my status as of late.

Time off from training certainly did help--physically and mentally--although it was not easy to be virtually sedentary for four days; a light ride around town just doesn't cut it. As of day 3 of no training I was super antsy to get in a real workout but I resisted the urge. Finally Monday came and I got back to it; I decided to ease into things (with much hesitation as the SD Palomar group ride was tempting) and stick to a swim and t-run. I think that was a good call because this week is continuing to kick my ars with the workouts on tap and all my non-training responsibilities at school and work.

One thing I am thoroughly enjoying (despite how hard it is to get my butt out of bed to do so) is riding the Felt to swim instead of driving the 8 miles. It's a trip to be on my bike in pitch dark decked out in flashing lights with a backpack 'o swim gear and not having to deal with cars on the road; not to mention it's a great warmup for the inevitably hard swim that awaits me. Although, I think my coach now considers me officially crazy. If he only knew that after swim I voluntarily take "the long way home" so I get in at least 20 miles of riding. Ha.

The kicker in all this is that from my house to swim it's a VERY hilly ride, and even more hilly on my long way home. I have to be honest, though, when it starts getting reaaaally cold and/or rainy, and after Clearwater/before CA 70.3 training starts, I don't know if this routine will continue. Still, it's nice to have a solid workout done with by 8 a.m.

Besides training, I feel like there's a million other things going on and my schedule is packed down to the minute, jumping from one thing to the next. But that's totally OK, I thrive of having a mega to-do list, especially when I'm enjoying it all. Grad school has quickly worked its way up to the top of my list of priorities and I couldn't be more thrilled. My classes rock: Sports Nutrition, Environmental Exercise Physiology and Stats for Kinesiology, and it's refreshing to make friends with college students who are like me... we talk about our favorite bars to snack on rather than bars to drink in.

Last night in EnvironExerPhys the lecture was on "acute responses to heat during exercise." Three hours never flew by so quickly. Loved it. Obviously, a super relevant topic for those heading into Kona, or any hot race for that matter, and I must say it's amazing to know the science of what heat does to us physiologically during endurance activities. I could write a whole blog on what I learned, but I'll spare you the nerdy details.

Other than that, life's great and I got some fun fun stuff coming up! More to come soon.

K, gotta go. Time to swim.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Ok, Ok, I Get it!

I started this blog planning to talk about my new-found love of bike commuting to the two colleges I attend. Saving money in no parking permits & less gas by biking instead? Yes please. For the first time this week, I left my house at the dark hour of 5 a.m. to ride to morning swim. It's so rad to pull up on your bike to this: And after a good beating in the pool, take "the long way home" like this: On roads that are clearly indicating a change in the season: ...And by 8 a.m. be all done with 3,000+ yds in the pool and 25 miles on the road. But that whole story will just have to wait because I have a more important issue going on that can no longer be ignored.

Plain and simple: I'm overtrained. Not only am I realizing this on my own, but I've had a couple people close to me, whose opinions I trust a ton, confirm this, including my biggest mentor at SPI. Ever since SB Long Course, it's becoming more clear that my everyday performance is falling flat and not meeting the standards for the amount of work I've put in. And it's by far the most frustrating thing ever.

I think I've continually kept going hard out of this "fear" that I need to get better. As a result, the rest/recovery part of the equation has suffered severely, and I keep digging myself deeper into this hole. As a kinesiology master's student, I should be ashamed. This is like exercise science 101 stuff. I mean, I wouldn't prescribe someone else what I've been doing to myself, especially given the recent symptoms... And I'm no exception to science!

But it's true what they say: It's harder to get an athlete to do nothing than to go out and give it her all for hours every day, every week. Add in hearing about the "epic training sessions" of my endurance-sport acquaintances; well, I want to be right there doing the same!

But I have to play my own game and not worry about others. All signs indicate that I need to slow down a bit and take a break, even with two more BIG races on the horizon.

So that's what I'm doing: resting. I have nothing to lose at this point. As of yesterday, I'm taking a full four days off, with maybe a bit of easy spinning around town and pool splashing thrown in. I'll see where that gets me, and then I may or may not embark the a Labor Day Palomar ride on Monday--I'm stoked just to have been invited by the SD peeps planning it, so I don't think I can stay away haha. From there, I have a new training plan made just for me to test out, compliments of a good friend who I can bug 24/7 with questions and concerns. Super excited for that.

In the meantime, I'm heading to San Diego to let loose a little with my favorite girls who I mentioned a few posts ago. We're going out in downtown tonight, and I told them I have NO IDEA what to wear... the only new clothes I've bought in the last year are for working out. They couldn't comprehend that. So, if you see some repeat outfits in some of the old pictures I posted vs. new ones that I'll soon put up, don't judge me, ok? You know where my priorities are.

No doubt, I'm going to miss being in this position over the weekend:

But I'm also looking forward to a good time in America's Finest City: