Saturday, July 27, 2013

Memory Lane: My First Triathlon This Weekend in 2007

Oh my goodness. So I saw that this weekend is the Solana Beach Sprint Triathlon, and immediately a wave of nostalgia hit me. That was my first-ever triathlon 2007. I had just graduated from college, had a terrible haircut, and was about to find my life passion on that overcast morning. That one single day holds so much importance in my life, it's arguably the catalyst that led me to taking a different career path and becoming who I am now. Only six years ago -- but man did I go for it with full fervor!

I really had no freakin clue what I was getting into. I bought a bike only a short time prior to Solana, maybe that April/May? I forget. But I do know it was a Trek 5200 road bike, and it was my graduation present to myself -- the biggest purchase of my life at that point. I fell in love with riding immediately, and although 20-mile rides felt crazy hard and long, a new world opened up to me and the bike quickly became my favorite.

I had "trained" for Solana mostly with my ex-boyfriend, which included some 500-yard swims (+/- a few hundred) at 24 Hour Fitness (those sessions usually ended with my calf or toes cramping), bike rides of probably 6- to 20-miles long (going 20 then felt like the equivalent to a 100-miler on the bike now), and of course some running. I was always running even before tri, so that part was decent from the get go. As far as structured training? Don't know what I was doing. I wish I had kept a training log then. Would love to look back at it...

So, race day. July 29, 2007. I had actually moved back to Orange County before the race because I got a job in the area at a newspaper. So that morning my parents -- who've been by my side for this triathlon stuff since Day 1 -- drove me to North County SD at an ungodly hour. I was nervous -- heck, that whole week prior I was nervous to the point of sickness -- but I also remember being as excited as a kid on Christmas morning. That first race experience did not disappoint, and I knew from that day on I was going to make this endurance stuff more than a hobby....

So, from here, I'm going to let the following pictures tell the story of that first race.
Arriving to the race. I look 12 years old, haha. 
My mom is biggest fan #1 and has been there since the beginning. She did her first tri shortly after watching this one -- I think it was the Imperial Beach Sprint, in the Koz Series.

Before the swim with said ex-boyfriend. 
Rented wetsuit, of course! I look at my face here and think: This screams nerves and excitement as I'm about to embark into unknown territory... scary but exciting!
No turning back now!

That's me in the front thinking, "Good lord, I survived that swim." Surfing skills definitely helped me through the waves in that effort!

Get this biatch off me!

Damn this ramp is a steep mofo!

Aw yea, gotta love some rookie transition pics! Thanks mom! Um, for the record, I still wear those Fox bike shorts I'm sporting there haha.

Clock is ticking Tawnee.....

Tick tick tick....

I love this shot, especially with the copyright year! Remember Opix?
Are they still out there shooting?
Making the pass!
Long before aerobars -- those things scared me!!! I look so innocent on that bike. Love it.

Waving to all my fans, of course.

Now, the progression of this T2 cracks me up! Here's me probably talking to me mom over a HR of 190+ saying
something like, "That bike was awesome, mom!"

Wait for it...

Oh yea, sexy socks going on! 
Then come the shoes. Tick tick tick...

Oh, but wait...

...I must take the time to get in some water. After all, I carried two full bottles for a grueling ~9-mile bike...and probably didn't take a sip of either the whole time while riding haha.
And finally on that 5k run. I think this was just before the finish.

Pretty stoked to be going faster than the buff dude behind me ;)

Almost there... I can taste the feeling of victory!

A pivotal moment in my life. Not the best quality picture, but still grateful that one of my parents
captured this moment!

Celebrating at the finish, warning: Serious dork alert here! Check out those shades I'm sporting -- oh man!!!
I was hesitant to include this one, and keep showing me with a now-ex, but ya know what? It's part of the memory,
and there's no shame. That was then, and we all know I am in a very very happy relationship now with John :)

My other biggest fan, Dad! I'm a super lucky girl.... 

We hung out in Solana all day after the race, and I remember feeling on top of the world.
I eventually took the train home that night, greeted by my parents with signs congratulating me. So cute.
So that's the story of my first triathlon! I was 8th in my age group, and to me that was THE best thing ever. I was so shocked and impressed to crack the top-10 in my first race. That year I went on to do most the races in the Koz Series, which, by the way, they are great events, well-run and awesome for the first-timers all the way to the speedy SD locals...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Vineman 70.3 Race Report

Wow, well I think I've had plenty of time by now to replay Vineman 70.3 over and over in my head, as well as go over this blog a million times. It's one of those where I edit out, add in, and so on. You've been there, you know it ;)

Vineman 70.3 this year was an interesting race for me. I was fairly uncertain going in, as it's been a rocky few months. But by the time we hit the 5 freeway due north I was totally at peace and ready to rock. Mind over matter, baby. Life doesn't always go smoothly, and I coulda woulda shoulda been more prepared for this race, but it wasn't in the cards this year (if you don't read this blog regularly, this includes a broken wrist 2 months before Vineman). Accept it. No matter what went down since Oceanside earlier this year, I know me and I knew I had to go for it. I entered wine country with feelings of pure excitement -- for the race, too, not just the wine (and beer) ;) Experience and my will to persevere would get me to the finish. And it did, as I ended up going 5:10 and change, which was a course PR.

Ya know what I really loved about this race? I stayed honest to letting go of the BS, and just enjoyed the day. Of course, don't let "enjoyment" lead you to believe I took it easy. Hell no! I freakin pushed myself! But, I stopped paying attention to that stupid clock, and I shut off the rest of the world and just focused on my race. Case in point: I was running with a guy through La Crema -- nice guy, even asked if it was ok that he ran with me and of course I said no problem -- and he asked my time goals, if I was I on target, and all that jazz. I said, through the huff and puff, "I honestly have no idea how long I've been racing, what my times are, or how I'm going to finish today. I'm just going for it. And loving it." It was the truth -- that was mile 7ish of the run and not once had I looked at my overall race time on my watch (expect for on the swim, oops). Definitely a first for me to ignore that number. Normally I'm doing math the whole time trying to see how I will finish.

When I finally did cross the finish and saw that I had that course PR and a half-Ironman run PR, it was a fun surprise. And my first thoughts were not the ususal, "How did I do in my AG blah blah...." my first thoughts were more like, "That was rad. How did John and my athlete do, and how soon till Pliny and pizza?!" (However, I did find out at some point I was 6th AG, so a top 10 in this race is always a good thing and keeps my streak of top-10 finishes alive!)

So this is essentially how it went down. I try to keep these things brief, but that gets tough, sorry:

I literally wore my slippers to T1. I had no extra shoes (run shoes were in T2), and I had to keep my little tosies warm! If you know me, you know my feet are chronically cold, and it was a chilly morning. I hate starting a race freezing. I got a few looks for my uber-relaxed morning look, but, hey, I was comfy.

Fast forward through all the pre-race poop and prep, and I still had a lot of spare time before my 7:12 wave. John's wave went off ~20 minutes before mine, and at that point I was all suited up and ready to go, so I just hung out, taking in the environment and energy of those moments before a race. I felt at ease and an overwhelming sense that I was meant to be standing in that exact spot, doing this race. Took 5 MAP* (had also taken 5 when I first woke up), and gathered with the 29 & unders.

Started the swim sans legit warmup (down river was too shallow), and I knew from the first second it was going to be ugly. I felt like I had no power and was just sinking. I was hoping this was not going to be the theme for the day, but tried to just focus on the task at hand. Unfortunately I felt the sensation of calf cramping coming on, too, and this time I think it's because I was too hot combined with lack of swim fitness. That meant my kick resorted to mush to save the legs. The sinking continued.

Just after the turnaround it got really freaking shallow, more than I've ever experienced here. I was trying to swim, but there was almost no room to pull all the way through. I saw 80+ percent or more of the people around me get up to walk/run, and I thought that maybe doing the same would help ease the calf issue, too, so I stood and yogged. Mmm, probably a dumb move, as that pissed off calves more, so less than a minute later I was "swimming" again. When I stood I saw my watch said 25:xx and I laughed, thinking of my last blog and how I said I'd be happy with a sub-40 swim without a wetsuit. Revise that: now I'd be happy with sub-40 WITH a wetsuit haha. Oh well. Terrible swim, but I sneaked in under 40 with 39-something. Yikes. That was a reality check.

I was talking about the swim with my buddy, Mike (gym owner and IMC training partner), and he said to me, "who cares about that time -- it's a triathlon with three sports and you PR'd overall." Point taken.

Oh ya: My Garmin clocked 1.5 miles of swim and John's said 1.7 mi... did anyone else have a long swim? Other folks' times didn't seem to reflect a long swim, so I'm curious. I swam fairly straight it seemed.

I didn't let the swim leave me feeling defeated. I expected it to be bad -- not that bad -- but even a half IM is a long day and I wanted to be in a good mood for it. I could control that. So I focused then on controlling HR, which was ridic. Needed to chilllll. Got my 5 MAP ready to take in as soon as I mounted.

This a very decent ride for me, and probably the best I felt all day. Never had that urge to get off the bike, as can sometimes happen at mile ~50. Went 2:43 and change, which is 4 minutes faster than on this course last year. My average watts were on target (mid-180w average), power never dropped off, and it was always 200w+ on climbs, which felt fine for me. Those long climbs in Big Bear and around home have paid off because the Sonoma hills felt like cake walk.

It helped that the weather was very mild. No sun at all until nearly mile 40, and wind seemed almost non-existent. Although, later I heard others said they felt the headwind was bad. Just a matter of perspective I guess. The only negative of the foggy and chilly morning was that I screwed up and didn't drink enough, only 2 out of 3 bottles. Oops.

John and I drove the course the day prior, and I was thinking about how much of it I didn't remember! On one hand, I think that's acceptable because I do have a tendency to get in the zone. But on the other hand, I think I rush through races too much and forget to appreciate the moment. So I made a point to take it all in this time. I definitely was able to do just that, without sacrificing speed. I enjoyed the heck out of it.

Being that this course is not too hilly, there is often a lot of traffic buildup. I didn't see too much drafting, but bigger lines of riders would form, and many times they were going a pace slower than mine. Even though they're slower, it's still hard to pass a big group like that safely and legally. Essentially you have to burn some matches when you release a burst of energy like that and surge ahead. I had quite a few of those situations, and was rarely on my own during the bike -- but that's how it is for us AG'ers, expected. The good thing about racing with others are those friendly riders who give kind shoutouts. I personally made more of an effort to be one of those folks, and was more vocal than usual giving shoutouts to others, especially the volunteers.

My nutrition was good not great. As mentioned, I only drank 2 out of 3 bottles of my Skratch. Thankfully I went into the race extremely well-hydrated so it didn't seem to negatively impact me too much. I often drink ad libitum when training, and my intake always seems to vary based on weather, sweat rate, etc, and I do well with that. However, I don't think I drank enough for a 2:43 ride with a run to follow, regardless of weather.

The good thing about my nutrition was eating nearly 3 Bonk Breakers (each bite with a swig of drink) and the tummy handled that just fine -- and no repercussions on the subsequent run. I pre-cut each bar into 6 pieces and put in baggies. Thank you Bonk Breaker for making a product that I continue to enjoy every time I take a bite, whether training, racing or snacking! Never get sick of those things, and, my system handles them well.

More bike stats: My Garmin got 1,464 ft of elevation gain, and just under 56 miles by a hair. Average speed was 20.5 mph or something. HR average mid 150s.

Long T2 because there's a long way to run once you dismount. Simple concept ;) No biggie. Took another 5 MAP while still within transition land.  Had a bottle of lemon lime Skratch waiting for me, as well as a gel.

Surprise! Run PR of 1:41 and change, and actually the first time I've kept all my mile splits sub-8 in a half-Ironman (7:44 average pace). Still a long way to go to get closer to my open half time, but at least it's going in the right direction.

My run training this year has been mostly all MAF, if you're curious, and very little speedwork. Also, I've done a handful of long runs (longer than I used to do) off the bike, and while those sessions were few and far between, I think they paid off, even if overall training was rather blah. Plus, we got lucky and the weather was ideal on race day. Probably 70s and a light breeze. Not too hot at all. i.e. not those 100+ temps they had just days prior, whew.

The Vineman run has some decent rolling hills, but nothing more than what I have right outside my front door, so I felt fine on those and just took them comfortably hard, and let HR settle down on the downhill that would follow. The "biggest" hill comes at mile 4, but it's not so bad, I think that mile had 50ft of elevation gain?

After that hill, I finally started to feel my feet. Yup -- my feet were literally numb for the first 4+ miles, no joke. I got off that bike feeling warm, but the feet were still suffering, and it literally took almost a half hour to get rid of that feeling of running on bricks at first, and then pins and needles. I'm used to that by now, but that doesn't mean it's normal :/

Overall, I didn't feel that great on the run (to be expected to some degree, right?), but I knew some decent fitness was there because the legs were responding to the task and my pace didn't really drop off too much at any point. I recall at Oceanside this year going through a dark patch -- that didn't happen this race. I ended with a strong finish that was slightly faster than my overall average. That said, the last ~5k I finally started feeling it -- you know, those miles where your effort is increasing like crazy just to hold on to your pace. I held on to a sub-7:50 pace for the most part as I finished, but it was getting tougher by the second... and then, ahhhh. finish line.

Nutrition-wise: I drank that full bottle of Skratch, I think it was a 24oz bottle, had one gel, and water at aid stations after the bottle was gone. Looking back, maybe I could have had more calories on the run, but my stomach felt great and I was afraid to shove too much into and have that change (it's happened) so I played it conservatively. It's a gamble, and yea maybe I could have used more and gone faster... or maybe I could have had more and caused GI issues. Overall, I averaged ~240 calories per hour on the bike and run (more of that, though, on the bike), so that's pretty good.

What can I say? It was a good effort on my part: I was mentally strong, and physically able to execute. While I feel that I'm at a point in my tri career where I want/should be seeing bigger more significant drops in times, I have to look at the bigger picture and keep perspective. Clearly some things will need to change to get to that next level. I'll figure out what I need, and want, to do about all that.

But honestly I didn't feel any disappointment when I finished. Not in the least! My spirits were high as can be, I was smiling at the finish from ear to ear, and I got to share that post-race high with good people... And the laughing and fun continued well into the night over pizza and beer. We also got to celebrate half-Ironman PRs for John and my athlete, yay!
I sorta failed on pictures this trip, but I have the obligatory
post-race beer photo, this time with a fresh Hop Stoopid
straight from the course at Lagunitas. Makin Lucho proud.
What's next is not going to be easy, but I'm giving it my best shot. I have 6 weeks. Go!


I'll finish with a BIG thanks to all those folks who support me; love you all: 110% Play Harder Compression (wore my socks during the race), Bonk Breakers, Skratch, Specialized, Shimano, Betty Designs (will ask you to make you click banner to your right), my family and friends.... xoxo

*MAP- I continue to be a huge believer in this product. Even when "life" doesn't go as planned, this supplement undoubtedly gives me that extra boost and prevents fatigue on race day, training, etc. Try it out, you will see for yourself!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

On My Radar: Good Reads

Salt Sugar Fat
Michael Moss

I've mentioned this book a few times now on podcasts and whatnot. It is legit. If you ever need a reason to stop eating shitty processed good, read this book.This book goes behind the scenes of what big food corporations do to essentially create food products then market them to the public that they're good and need to be consumed. It's really quite disturbing -- especially when you hear that many of the people working for these food giants won't even eat the same products they sell and make a living off of. It's divided into three sections on sugar, fat and salt and each section dives into the nitty gritty of products that contain a good amount of each of those things. Like the cereal aisle, and how it's easily filled with boxes that are more than 50 percent sugar, yet still touted as healthy.

I'm of course a fan of fat, and it makes up a huge part of my diet, but in this case the book is taking about the added fats to processed foods to increase flavor, palatability, and the desire to want to just keep eating and eating.... and poor-quality fat and crap that you find in processed cheese, things like that.

What I also love is that the author goes into the history of many food products, like cereal (anyone know the story of John Harvey Kellogg? Quite interesting -- even a movie on it with Matthew Broderick). There is also a lot of science (written in a way you can understand), and sociology tied in. Really fascinating stuff.

Fitness Confidential
Vinnie Tortorich

Ok, how did I know not about this guy sooner?! Vinnie is rad. He is a Hollywood fitness trainer, but not a "Biggest Loser" type of trainer -- more like the evil cousin, in a good way. He says it straight up, and he knows his sh*t. If I had to summarize his "whole thing" into one phrase it's "Cut The Crap." He's really dialed in with fitness, wellness and nutrition. He, personally, is an ultra endurance athlete (when not busy) and lives a "no sugar, no grain" lifestyle -- to the extent where you'll frequently hear him say, "f*ck quinoa." On the job front, he's famous for getting Hollywood's best in shape.

Vinnie is also a host of a very entertaining health and fitness podcast -- which he and I found out through conversation is more popular than my Endurance Planet ;) All good. All love. In fact, I got lucky and just had him on my podcast this week; you can listen to the show by clicking right here.

So the book? Pure awesome. Fitness Confidential is basically part biography, part how-to on fitness and health. It's really not your average diet and fitness book. It's kind of like a coherent rant that very informative yet funny all the while. I love his take on big corporate gyms (and why they suck), and on "buyer beware" of choosing a trainer/coach, or how about why you can't target where you lose fat (I get asked that a lot), and even a little bit on endurance athletes. Beyond that you get the whole scoop on Vinnie's life -- he has some great race stories (Furnace Creek 508 anyone?), and interesting life stories in general. I can't give anymore away. You just have to read.

I highly recommend this book.

Running for Women
Dr. Jason Karp & Dr. Carolyn Smith

I mentioned this book before on the blog, but now I've had a chance to read most of it and interview the author so I have more to say.

Let me ask this: How many of you ladies know the details of the menstrual cycle and, personally, where you're at in your cycle (even when you're not on your period)? Not many of us. But if you did, you could work it to your advantage in your training and racing. Hormones are a crazy thing, and we can empower ourselves by knowing how we operate. The authors explain.

That's just the beginning. Running for Women is a total gem. As a female athlete and a coach of other female athletes, this book is a must have. It's the most comprehensive and up-to-date book I've found on female athletes and how we tick -- oh my are we complicated compared to our male counterparts. And don't let the title fool you, it applies to all female athletes, especially those in endurance sports. As with Vinnie, I also had Dr. Jason Karp on Endurance Planet for a great interview, which will be released Tuesday, July 16. Check back here. I think you will learn something new - we talk about what's in the book in detail, not just teasers.

The book is divided into three parts: 1) Physiology, 2) Training, 3) Health and Wellness. Throughout it covers unique aspects of female athletes and sites current research. For example, how we have the ability to be better fat burners. Or why it's true that we have the potential to struggle more in heat. Of course, more serious topics are covered, too, namely the Female Athlete Triad, and the risks of that condition. Also special cases, such as pregnant athletes and older menopausal athletes, and how to navigate through that. There are tips on building a sound training plan, the best strength training for bone health, and much much more....

Monday, July 8, 2013

Getting Real on Race Week... NorCal or Bust!

I've been hesitant to write and post this blog because I risk coming across as a bit whiny and "oh woe is me," but this is also the reality of [my training] life right now so why not share the truth. It's not always "omg, things are sooooo great"... haha....I think this blog has a nice ending though :)

So.... Vineman, take 3, here we go! I wish I could say I am feeling 100 percent ready and confident going into this half, my 11th time toeing the line at a 70.3, but sadly that's not the case. That set back with the wrist and a couple other things in May/June really affected things, particularly my swim. It's been a real struggle to find my mojo in the water again, and unfortunately I haven't been able to live in the pool/ocean to get it back. It's decent for me, but nowhere near what I wanted by July of this year. If I had been pounding out 15k+ swim weeks since the wrist healed, ya sure, I bet things would be better. But I haven't. Partly my fault, partly victim of circumstance. It's a choice, I get it.

Originally I was looking at Vineman to be that race where I finally aim to break 5 hours in a half (current PR is 5:01, which I've done twice). I'm not going to be a negative Nancy and say "waa waa" that'll never happen this Sunday, but looking at the training that's been done and what I know of my body, let's just say it will be a magical day if I go sub-5. I think at best I can break my time from last year, and that's really what I have my sights set on. And if it happens to be a non-wetsuit swim, well, I'll just try to keep it under 40 minutes because that would be a success for me, seriously ;)

Before most 70.3s I usually have that feeling of being super content with the training I've put in. This time, there are just a few key days/a couple weeks here and there that I look back on with satisfaction; on the other hand there are a lot of question marks and gaps in the training. Those question marks and the feeling that training has sucked was starting to eat away at me -- shocking: I am hard on myself -- to the point where there were tears, a couple times in fact. But I think after a good cry or two -- one in particular that happened during an open water swim last week! -- and looking at the bigger picture I was able to gain perspective and find contentment.

Most importantly, I'll be racing Vineman for me, and not for everyone else (that is a big one). Don't get me wrong, I always race for me because I love this sport with all my heart, but I do let the idea of what others think get into my head. Yuck. So this go around, I had to dig deep and find a way to let go of what others may, or may not, think about my race(s) and my time(s)... that is not easy being that I do have some presence in the sport, have some sponsors, I take triathlon seriously and I'm a competitive person who gives a sh*t.

But I also made a decision with myself a while back that I'm not going to sacrifice living a "normal" life in order to pretend living like a pro. I do this sport because it enhances my quality of life. I know I'm good at triathlon and could maybe even be better, but I like the rest of my life too -- that's where it gets tricky. I work very hard at my job(s) and enjoy them, I choose to partake in social invites and not live like a hermit, my diet isn't always perfect (despite the photos and recipes I post haha), I make health a priority and don't let my endurance training get to an unhealthy level... It's true, sometimes you need to sacrifice health in order to pursue better performance. Basically, I try to keep balance, sometimes at the sacrifice of better training/performance.

Here's the bottom line... Despite all that emotional and physical clutter in the paragraphs above, I am totally ok and in good spot right now -- no, a great spot! I can't imagine my life without triathlon!!! And I am DANG excited to get my butt up to Sonoma and be at Vineman. I absolutely LOVE this race and the whole vibe. Even if I were to go 6+ hours, I'm just grateful to be making the journey into another half, functional and able. Heck if my wrist break had been worse, surgery may have been required, then Vineman surely would have been out. I am lucky. Not to mention, John and I had an absolutely amazing trip up to this race last year, topped off with a couple indulgent days in Napa post-race, and this year we have the same plan. Lucky.

This sport may get me F'd up in my head sometimes, but I'll say it again: I can't imagine my life without triathlon. Literally. I don't know where I would be right now without it... for one, I wouldn't have the boyfriend I have now.