Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Dog's Life

For the past week, I've been a dog owner.  It's a temporary title, but I'm gladly serving as caretaker and servant to Bailey while her Mommy and Daddy are vacationing on the West coast.  In no time at all she has settled in and is keeping me on my toes with her every need.  I'll let you be the judge from these pictures, but I think she has a pretty fantastic life.

Evening playtime - the more toys the better!
It's a beautiful Sunday morning to spend on the deck soaking up the sun.
The first day that Bailey was here she disappeared while I was making dinner.  I went on the hunt and found her curled up on the guest bedroom bed.  I wonder if she smelled the scent of her Mom and Dad?
Taking one for the team and enjoying some lazy time so that "sissy" can recover
from her half-ironman
Somebody might just have looked far too comfortable on the bed to make her sleep in her crate.   
Mission "Lazy Weekend Morning".  Toasty warm underneath her blanket!
"Does Bailey want to go for a run?"
We covered 21 miles of squirrel-filled streets over 5 days.  
Striking a model-like pose during a walk through Freedom Park.
It takes some serious maintenance and hard work to be so picture perfect.
There are two lounge chairs on the deck, yet someone had to be right in the middle of my studying and presentation preparation. 
Run hard, play hard, sleep hard.
It's a tough life, but someone has to do it.
It's the best day of my life!
So far I'd say doggy summer camp has been a complete success and I have one very happy puppy!

It's now just 7 weeks until Ironman Chattanooga and training has been going well.  I was nervous about how my legs would respond to the increasing running mileage, but I've been feeling good for each of my runs and recovering much faster than I anticipated.  My left glute has still been sore, but persistent foam rolling, stretching, and icing has kept it manageable.

Week 29 - Light training leading up to Lake Logan Half Ironman
Swim: 7100 yards
Bike: 5 hours, 47 minutes
Run: 18.7 miles
Total: 11 hours, 7 minutes

Week 30 - A couple of post-race recovery days, then back to the grind
Swim: 11000 yards (including 2x2000 for time - 31:01, 31:06)
Bike: 7 hours (weekend rain forced me onto the trainer for 4 hours)
Run: 34 miles (including a 17 mile long run - a new PDR!)
Total: 15 hours

Next weekend I'll be in Chattanooga to ride and run the Ironman course.  It should be a great test of fitness as well as an opportunity to mentally prepare for race day.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Lake Logan Half Race Report

1.2 mile swim, 52 mile bike, 13.1 mile run

Swim  26:58  (1:25 / 100m)
T1  3:16
Bike    2:46:27 (18.7 mph)
T2  1:37
Run     1:35:37  (7:39 / mi)
Finish Time   4:54:51
Placement: 5th overall female

Pre-Race: Earlier this week, I was doubtful that I'd be writing this race report.  After a bike crash at 24 Hours of Booty 1 week ago, I was left with a broken bike and a very sore left hip and knee.  While the soreness improved each day, getting my bike fixed was a different story.  I finally got my bike back with a new base bar Friday night.  My pre-race brick was done on a spin bike at the gym, a couple miles of running outside, and a couple laps around the block to make sure  my bike and race wheels were in working order.  Race morning came painfully early - 3am.  Fueled with tea, peanut butter toast, and a banana, I made the 2.5 hour drive to Canton, NC, just outside of Asheville.  Despite giving myself plenty of time, there was a very long line of barely moving cars entering the race area.  We were ushered into a field to park, and I was more than a mile back in the field before finally being directed to my parking spot.  At this point, it was 6:30am (the time they said packet pick-up would close) and I had to hustle with my tri bag and bike to transition.  This is where having a friend or family member to act as sherpa would really pay off!  I made a mad dash from packet pick-up, to chip pick-up, to body marking, and finally transition just as they were announcing that transition closed in 5 minutes.  Excellent!  Once all of my gear was organized (or so I thought - I left my sunglasses and visor in my bag) , I gave a quick spin to my wheels to ensure the brakes weren't rubbing, and then grabbed my wetsuit and made a mad dash towards the swim start.  

Swim: No sooner did I arrive at the swim start when they announced 4 minutes until the open wave would begin.  I dove into the water (a chilly 68 degrees) to get acclimated.  And before I knew it, the gun went off and I made a quick start towards clean water and the first bouy.  I remember a bit of contact during the first 100 meters, but after that I had clean water for nearly the entire course.  My left tricep starting cramping about mid-swim, and I'm still not sure why that happened.  I had arm warmers on under my wetsuit, so I can only imagine that had something to do with it.  The final couple hundred meters take you under a bridge and into the spring-fed stream that feeds the lake.  I had heard that the water temperature drops 10 degrees in this section, but I think it was more like 20 degrees.  It was freezing!  Fortunately that was a short section and then I was climbing out the ladder at the dock.  Before looking at my watch, I felt like I had an "average" swim for me, feeling a bit more tired than I would have liked for that distance and feeling as though I could have swam a straighter path in some sections.  Seeing 26+ minutes on my watch definitely put a smile on my face though!  My Garmin measured 1.1 miles, so perhaps it's a bit short, but I still managed a 4th fastest swim among women (out of 189) and 25th overall (out of 528).  

T1: As much as I enjoy a wetsuit legal swim, I hate the time that I waste in transition getting out of it.  There was a third-mile uphill run into transition that I used to get my wetsuit down to my waste, but I still had to sit down to get it off of my ankles.  The lack of body glide also didn't help matters.  The whole process just felt sluggish.
14th / 189

Bike: As I was putting on my helmet, I realized that my sunglasses were in my transition bag (put off to the side).  I was too frustrated to waste the time going to get them, but also nervous how my contacts would handle the wind on the bike.  Fortunately, I adjusted and it didn't cause too much trouble.  This was the first year for the half-iron distance race, but the bike course for the olympic race is advertised as mostly flat and fast.  The more accurate description would be fast for the first 20 miles and then killer for the remaining 32 miles.  I got off to a great start, was more comfortable in aero than I have in a while, and was loving seeing the 20+ mph splits.  Around mile 20, however, the long open road because twisting sections through town with turn after turn that negated any speed you had built.  Then we hit the hills (mountains might be a better description).  I had planned to ride the bike at my ironman watts, so I made a conscious effort to drop into my small ring and spin up the climbs.  I tried not to let the fact that I was being passed bother me, since others were literally mashing up the hills and likely placing a toll on their running legs.  I kept leapfrogging with one of my training partners on the climbs before she eventually pulled ahead.  The climb at mile 40 went on FOREVER!  I was thankful for my new 12-27 cassette and although crawling up the mountain, felt as though I was in a reasonable gear for a steady climb.  Hopefully there won't be anything quite as steep or long in Chattanooga.  I had the course at 3000 feet of elevation change in 52 miles.  Normalized power was 177 watts (higher than my planned Ironman wattage, but I think all of the climbing contributed to this).  I was reminded the critical importance of reigning in too much power on the bike though, because I was ready to be done those last few miles - which would have only been the half-way point in Chattanooga.  I truly do think my biking has improved this season, but it continues to be my weakness across the field, putting me 26th out of 189 women.

T2: This went much more smoothly than T1, although I was yet again missing something left in my bag - my visor.  Fortunately it was a mostly cloudy day with temperatures in the upper 60s, so it wasn't quite as necessary as it usually is.
4th / 189

Run: The course is two laps on an out and back road with a run past the finish line and through a field between each lap.  The 3 mile outbound leg is a stead 1-2% grade, with the return 3 miles being a well-deserved downhill.  Leaving transition I was feeling better than my last half, which I attribute to my better attention to nutrition and hydration on the bike.  My goal was to find a steady controlled pace for the first three miles, then "cruise" at a faster pace on the return leg.  The first few miles were 7:37, 7:56, 7:33 and then I followed that with 7:20, 7:24, 8:01.  It's always a frustrating feeling to run past the finish line (where the olympic distance racers were finishing) and being directed out into a grassy field to make yet another loop.  I was beginning to feel the fatigue in my legs at that point, and set my sights on 1.5 mile increments as I ran back uphill.  I walked for ~10 seconds at two aid stations, before making the turn around for the final 3 miles.  (8:10, 8:05, 7:56).  I was definitely hurting those last 3 miles, particularly my left hip which has been a problem and then irritated by my fall, but was determined to hang on to what felt like it would be my best ever half-marathon off a half-ironman bike.  My final 3 miles were 7:35, 7:28, 7:23, and for the first time all day, I changed the screen on my watch over to total time as I rounded the corner towards the finish line.  I had only been watching my individual mile splits, had no idea what my half marathon time was, but was shocked to see 4:54 on my watch as a crossed the finish line.  I later learned I had run a 1:35 half marathon, which is a PR for me at that distance, even in a stand-alone 13.1 miler.  It appears the course was short though.  My Garmin kept dropping signal throughout the run, so I suspect it was a bit longer than the 12.5 miles I measured.  I went into this race with the hope to have a strong run, and I was thrilled that I had finally accomplished that goal.  I had the 3rd fastest run among women and can't help but love the fact that only 37 of 340 guys ran faster than me!  "Bike for show, run for dough."

Post-Race: Immediately after I finished, I was hurting big time.  More than any race in a long time, my legs were instantaneously painful.  I walked around, stretched, and downed a recovery shake, before finally starting to feel a bit better.   For a while though, all I really wanted was to lie flat on my back, but I knew better than to give in to that.  The awards ceremony had yet to start for the olympic distance race, meaning that it would be at least a couple hours before the half awards.  I gathered some food and trekked back through the field to my car.  Despite the stunningly beautiful race venue and great day that I had, sitting in a giant traffic snarl for 1 HOUR without moving from the parking lot was beyond frustrating.  Without pointing fingers and calling out the idiots who were directing traffic, SetUp Events has some major work to do from a traffic flow standpoint before next year.

All in all, a successful day of racing, and a huge PR!  Even if I corrected the slightly short course to the full 70.3, I would have been roughly 5:10, which would still be a PR.

The next race report you read will be 140.6 miles - IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA in t-minus 8 weeks. Ahhh!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Ups and Downs

The past couple of weeks have been a mix of ups and downs - all seemingly stemming from increased training volume.  Let's start with the good stuff.  Royce and Erin came to visit last weekend and we had a great few days of sibling time.  Royce had an appointment with a customer just outside the Charlotte area, making my place a perfect hotel.  Check out my handsome little brother and his beautiful bride!  He cleans up pretty well when business demands it.

Friday afternoon we grabbed lunch from Laurel Market and spent the afternoon at McDowell Nature Preserve along the banks of Lake Wylie.  We all agreed that Laurel Market makes the absolute best sandwiches.  It was an oddly cool afternoon and between wind, overcast skies, and threats of rain we were actually chilled along the water.


The three of us + Kahlua set out on a hike after lunch, covering a few miles of trails.  Kahlua kept close watch on the water, but was never let off her leash to avoid having a very wet and muddy dog on our hands.

A lazy late afternoon was enjoyed by all, complete with long naps and lounging on the back deck.  That night we had a fantastic dinner at 300 East.  My picks from their restaurant week menu included a salad with port wine soaked cherries and goat cheese, miso-glazed salmon with brown rice and sautéed spinach, and goat cheese panna cotta.

Speaking of food, here's what I've been been eating over the past few weeks.

Veggie Burgers, Grilled Corn-On-The-Cob, Potato Salad
Caramel Latte from Not Just Coffee
My bribe and recovery after a 14 mile Saturday morning run.
Tofu-Lentil Stir-Fry, Kale Chips, Grilled Flatbread
Breakfast for Dinner
Veggie-filled Omelet and Cherries
I've been addicted to tomato sandwiches, especially on a new loaf of Hummus Bread from Great Harvest.  The combination of toasted fresh bread, home-grown tomatoes, and a homemade basil pesto makes for a simple and delicious meal.  One night I added a fried egg for an extra protein boost.

Sweet Chili Salmon, Turnips Two Ways (roasted and mashed), Sautéed Zucchini and Onion
Let's talk about training for a moment.  With t-minus 63 days remaining until I tow the starting line at Ironman Chattanooga, training has understandably increased in volume.  I was handling it well until suddenly I wasn't.  Two weeks ago I was ready to throw in the towel and forget about Ironman.  I was simultaneously feeling overwhelmed, sleep deprived, and generally frustrated with the feeling that I was always two steps behind.  In general, I excel with multi-tasking and thrive when I'm the busiest, but there is nothing easy about the weekly combination of 15+ hours of swim/bike/run, prep and recovery from workouts, 60-80 hours of work, reading and preparing for cases/conferences, eating, and sleeping.

It took me a few days to regroup and get my head back in the game, but I'm back and recommitted to the next 2 months of of training.  This quote was posted on an Ironman Chattanooga Facebook page juts as I was struggling, and it resonates strongly.  

Speaking of mental toughness, I needed every ounce possible to survive four hours on the trainer on a rainy Saturday morning.  4 x (45 minutes @80% FTP, 15 minutes @ 90% FTP) without recovery between sets was a test of my sanity and commitment.  Despite pouring a disgusting volume of sweat and being bored out of my mind, I completed the workout as prescribed.

24 Hours of Booty kicked off last night, and I've been looking forward to this weekend for many months.  It's a national event to raise money for cancer research and also provides a large contribution to our hospital's cancer center.  From Friday at 7pm to Saturday at 7pm, cyclists ride endless circles around the "Booty Loop," a 2.84 mile route through Myers Park.  My plan was to ride a few laps on Friday night and then wake-up really early on Saturday to knock out 100 miles.  Friday night's weather was perfect and the opening ceremonies were heart-wrenching and inspiring.  I rode 25 miles with my teammates and then opted for some sleep.

This morning I left the house at 4:45am and rode the short distance from my house to the Booty Loop to begin my 100 mile ride.  Riding in the pitch darkness with only flashing bike lights to illuminate the road was awesome and definitely my favorite hour of the day.  Aside from the boredom of riding in circles, the ride went really good.  My new favorite riding fuel is fresh Great Harvest bread smothered with nutella or crunchy peanut butter and jelly.  That, combined with a cup of Peet's coffee at the half-way point really energized me.

At the 85 mile mark, I made one last quick stop into "Bootyville" for a gel and water to fuel the last 15 miles and prepare me for my 8 mile run to follow.  Just as I was headed back out onto the course, I crossed a speed bump (the same one I had crossed multiple times earlier in the day), heard a loud crack, and was instantly crashing onto my left side.  My Felt Bayonet base bar snapped completely in half on the left side, obviously some sort of manufacturing defect.

The costs of the crash are a bruised hip (the same hip that has already been bugging me), a sore knee, and road rash on my leg.  Right now, I'm frustrated that it had to happen just one week before a key race.  However, I'm also really thankful that it wasn't any worse.  I can only imaging how terrible it could have been if it had happened while I was up to speed in aero position.  Now I'm just hoping Felt will warranty their faulty product.

So at that point, riding the remaining 15 miles wasn't much of an option.  Instead, I very gingerly rode the 1.5 miles back home while balancing on a single handlebar.  Remember that 8 mile brick run that was on the schedule to follow my ride?  Despite soreness and blood dripping down my leg, I sucked it up and knocked out a solid 5+ miles (cutting it short to avoid making the injury any worse).

In total between Friday and Saturday I rode 110 miles, all in the name of cancer.  If you're interesting in contributing to my fundraising effort, here's my page where you can make an online donation.

Last, but not least, I present to you the official training update.  

Week 26
Swim: 10500 yards
Bike: 4 hours, 50 minutes (no long ride due to working all weekend)
Run: 20 miles (including a 14 mile long run)
Total: 11 hours, 45 minutes

Week 27 - This was the week of struggle that I discussed.  For the first time since I started Ironman training, I intentionally skipped a workout.
Swim: 10800 yards (including 4 x 1000m at 1:30/100 pace)
Bike: 10 hours, 30 minutes (including the dreaded 4-hour trainer ride and a long brick)
Run: 18.2 miles (skipped one run and cut my 15 mile run short due to work)
Total: 16 hours

Week 28 - Regained my focus and knocked out some quality training.
Swim: 9600 yards
Bike: 7 hours, 50 minutes (including 110 miles at 24 Hours of Booty)
Run: 30 miles
Total: 14 hours, 45 minutes

All I have to do is get through a swim workout tomorrow (2 x 2000 yards for time) and then it's taper time!  My mind and body are definitely in need of some recovery.  Next weekend I'll be racing a half-ironman at Lake Logan!