May 30, 2009

Brooklyn Half

Today was the Brooklyn Half Marathon, my third half marathon of the season and the first I could actually race. My first was back in January and I paced a friend doing her first half marathon so I ran her pace. My second was in February and I had just started training for New Orleans so my coach had me do it at long run pace. But today I had a chance to go for a PR and knowing it was likely my only chance this year, I wanted to give it my best.

I asked my coach for a pacing strategy prior to the race to avoid my usual go all out at the start and crash at the end approach. The plan was: Miles 1-6 - 8:30/mile; Miles 6-10 - 8:15/mile; Miles 10-13.1 - 8:00/mile and if I felt good with 1.5 miles or less to go, run as fast as I could. Here's how I did:

  • Miles 1-6: I started out good even though it was incredibly crowded - nearly 12,000 runners. I hit close to my goal pace on just about every mile, most around 8:21-8:24 with one just around 8 so I had a bit of a cushion built up. The more conservative start was perfect since this entire stretch was in Prospect Park with the only hills I'd see on the course.
  • Miles 6-10: I'm no good at sensing pace so when it was time to speed up I just ran faster and figured I'd sort it out after a mile. My first split was 7:49. Oops. I backed off and hovered right around 8:15 where I was supposed to be. We exited the park and hit Ocean Parkway. I love running on closed streets instead of in the park, it makes the race so much more interesting. We were headed straight to Coney Island.
  • Miles 10-13.1: Despite my hopes of having tons of energy at the end, I was fading. Ocean Parkway felt and looked like a false flat. I'd swear there was just enough grade to make your legs tired or perhaps my legs were just tired. I started skipping fluid stations to avoid stomach cramps and save time. I wasn't able to get to an 8:00 pace, instead I remained around 8:15 pretty consistently up until Mile 12. Coming into this fluid station I made a decision. I'd grab a Gatorade and take as many walking steps as needed to drink the small cup, then start to run again. I hoped it would act as a mini rest interval and give me that final kick I needed to come in under 1:50:00. It was a gamble because I lost about 30 seconds, but luckily it paid off. I ran the next mile in 7:54 and did the final .1 at a 7:20 pace, finishing in 1:48:53.
My previous PR was 1:52:33 last July at the NYC Half Marathon so this was an almost 4-minute improvement. I was thrilled. The race ended on the Coney Island boardwalk so I met up with friends and we waded into the water for a bit. It was freezing so I'd like to think it had the benefits of an ice bath. After standing there for several minutes, my friend Mary and I got brave enough to jump in all the way. The water was so cold it totally took my breath away, yet we managed to tough it out for another 5 minutes or so.

We did a stealth clothing change on the boardwalk, got hot coffee and headed home where we had an impromptu BBQ and lounged outside all afternoon. My optional swim didn't happen. Instead I drank summery wine and went for homemade ice cream before coming home and relaxing some more. Sometimes you just need to be lazy after a race.

Distance - 13.1 miles
Time - 1:48:53

May 29, 2009

Friday is Tri Day

My Fridays off are getting more and more packed as my training progresses. It used to be that I slept a little later, did some training, and ran errands or did things around the apartment that I don't have time for during the week. But now that my training has progressed and I'm getting closer to my busiest weeks, my Fridays consist of very little outside of tri focused activities, which is not a bad thing. I had a client call today at 9 a.m. so I did 40 minutes of my trainer ride, took a break for the call and did the final 50 minutes after.

I had to go into the city for my long swim so I decided to have a look at wetsuits while there. I had my eye on the Helix, Blue Seventy's top of the line suit. I have a sleeveless suit and while it's been good thus far, I don't like wearing it for long swims due to the risk of arm chafing. I figured the Ironman was a good reason to upgrade. If I were a normal swimmer I wouldn't need a suit as premium as the Helix, but with my shoulder injury and ongoing issues, the Helix was recommended due to the flexibility.

I went to try the suit on before my swim to avoid being sweaty and smelling like rubber after my swim. It took about 5 minutes to get into and the sales guy helped me with the final adjustments and zip. It felt like a perfect fit but you never really know until you swim in it, which is the hard part about buying wetsuits. And this is where one of my coolest NYC shopping experiences began. I had tried on a demo model and this store has an endless pool for training sessions. No one was in it so the guy asked if I wanted to give it a try. I was in my underwear under the suit but figured I could just go without after the swim. He asked if I had a swim cap and I said no, but then realized not only did I have a cap, but I had my goggles too since I was on my way to swim. I grabbed them, signed a waiver and hopped in. He had me lay on my face and back at first to feel the buoyancy of the suit, then he turned on the pool and let me swim in it. I've never been in an endless pool before so it was a pretty fun experience. Plus I was blown away by how great the suit felt. I didn't even feel like I was in a wetsuit because it was so flexible. I was sold.

Since I was sans towel, I used a small cotton bag I had inside my other bag to dry off a little, then solved the no underwear problem by putting on my dry swimsuit with jeans over it. I looked in the mirror and noticed something on my chest. It was a faint impression of the mirror image of the word "Demo" which had been written in marker inside the suit and transposed on my chest. Just another great reason to have done the shopping before my swim!

My swim was good today. I did 3,200 yards at my Ironman race pace, which is pretty leisurely. I felt like I could swim forever at that speed. There were a lot of idiots in the pool today so I got kicked and hit a few times and a couple people entered the lane without announcing their presence. Nothing makes me more angry, it's a huge accident waiting to happen. But I outlasted all of them and eventually got the lane to myself. My swim was It was 6 sets of 500 with a 30-second rest interval so it was almost continuous. I haven't done many long swims so I really enjoyed it.

I paid for my Lake Placid training camp today as well and made it official. I haven't finalized my travel dates yet so for now my plan is to swim 1:15 and run 4 miles Friday, ride 112 miles and run 5 miles Saturday and do the half Ironman distance on Sunday if my legs can handle it. I am really looking forward to this. It's going to be the hardest training I've ever done and it's a unique way to celebrate my 34th birthday. It will remind me of how far I've come in just one year.

Distance - 23.3 miles
Time - 1:30:00

Distance - 3,200 yards
Time - 1:02:48

May 28, 2009

Sleeping and Eating

Two things in life that used to be my favorites - sleeping and eating - have now been reduced purely to training necessities.

Let's start with sleep, something that's been elusive since starting my new job and kicking the training into high gear. I've learned to adapt to 5-6 hours sleep per night, which has turned out to be a not so great thing. Every couple weeks I reach a point of exhaustion that is almost unbearable and I end up crashing and needing days of extra sleep to catch up. That's clearly not a good thing.

And then there's eating. I love food. I love restaurants. I love trying new things. One would think that training for an Ironman would mean you can eat whatever you want, that you'd be a calorie-burning machine. That is not the case for me.

Partially driven by the after effects of my gluttonous weekend in DC and partially driven by the realization that it's crunch time in my training, I decided it's time to get a grip on these two key elements of my Ironman preparation. I started by temporarily going back to logging everything I eat and drink to identify patterns and figure out what works best. I'm also increasing my calories at breakfast and lunch to minimize dinner since I eat so late at night anyway. I'm back on the no refined carbs wagon and toning down the alcohol consumption (tragic!). I'll save it for special occasions. After three days of paying close attention, I already have more energy and feel better overall. I had a slip with some Tim Tams yesterday but hey, I'm human.

Sleep is a bigger challenge. I have been logging 7 hours a night for the past few days, but slipped back to 6 hours last night. Tonight I'll aim for 8. I'm a night person so going to bed at 11 just isn't how I'm wired. I'm going to have to force this one because I know how critical it is to my training.

Speaking of training, I've had a good week so far. I did an interval session on the bike Tuesday, swam yesterday and did speed work today. I skipped strength training as usual and moved my optional swim to Saturday. I figured it would be a nice post-half marathon activity. I'm running the Brooklyn Half Marathon that day and hoping to feel good enough to shoot for a PR. But I'll wait and see what my legs tell me on race day before making that decision.

Biking (Tuesday)
Distance - 22.05 miles
Time - 1:30:00

Swimming (Wednesday)
Distance - 1,500 yards
Time - 27:45

Running (Today)
Distance - 5.4 miles
Time - 50:00

May 25, 2009

Number Three

Races in NYC are way too big and competitive to even dream about placing in my age group. I am always hearing how others are grabbing podium spots left and right and then I go out and race with 500 women in my group so the odds of even being in the top 10% are usually pretty slim. So when I signed up for a 4 mile race with my sister down in Maryland, I decided I'd make it my goal to finish in the top three of my age group. I did the race last year and while I had a decent run, I am much faster this year.

I was a little worried about the toll my "rest day" Sunday would take. A holiday weekend, sunny weather, nothing on the training schedule and bottles and bottles of crisp, summery wine in the backyard equaled a recipe for disaster. I slept in, strolled the farmer's market and then plopped myself in a chair for some good company and day drinking. This was followed by a totally indulgent dinner at which I consumed about an entire day's worth of calories along with many more drinks. I know it's not how an Ironman-in-training should spend a rest day, but I don't have many more chances to forget I'm an Ironman-in-training so I went with it. It was also the first time I've gotten to hang out with my sister since the New Year. It was very much overdue.

Luckily I was feeling relatively good this morning. I started the race near the front with the fast looking guys and hit the first downhill stretch as hard as I could. This race is mostly through the woods on a paved path and across some bridges, a really beautiful course. There are two turnarounds so you can get a sense of where you stand. I did a rough count and figured I was somewhere within the top 20 females. I tried not to let any women pass me and toward the end I was able to pass three or four that were fading. I finished in 30:59, a definite PR for me.

When the results were posted later in the day I confirmed I finished third out of 16 women in my age group. I was 15 out of 111 women overall, by far the best finish ranking I've ever had. Yes, it was a small race compared to what I usually do, but it was still a race nonetheless and another big milestone for me.

I ran another 6 miles after the race to make it my long run for the week. It was torture and my legs really hated me for it. But once done I was free to enjoy a long, relaxing Memorial Day.

Running (race)
Distance - 4 miles
Time - 30:59

Distance - 6 miles
Time - 55:15

May 23, 2009

Swimming With the Fishes

I really enjoy open water swimming but it's not easy to do in and around New York City. So this year I decided to do a few swim races to gain experience swimming in crowds and get some interesting open water opportunities. I did my first this morning, the Great Hudson River Swim, a 1.3 mile race from the Christopher Street pier to Battery Cove. The weather was beautiful but the water was bracingly cold. We lined up on the pier and walked single file out onto the Water Taxi dock where we entered the river with a 6-8 foot drop into the water. The water was shocking at first. It took a few seconds to surface and it literally took my breath away. We were treading for a minute or so and I couldn't bring myself to put my face in the water for a warmup. I figured I'd warm up during the actual swim.

The race begins along the Christopher Street Pier before turning and heading south. We had to swim pretty far out into the river to avoid Pier 40, ferry docks, the Holland Tunnel vents and all sorts of other fun stuff. Getting past the buoy was tricky, swimmers were literally piling up and a few ended up right underneath the buoy. After the turn there was a lot of open space. I caught a few feet and elbows here and there but nothing crazy. It was a really tame group, one woman even apologized after hitting me.

There was a small current assist but nothing like the New York City tri last summer. I didn't feel like I was moving particularly fast and there were a couple spots I felt I really had to work hard to move forward. I was using buildings along the West Side Highway as landmarks and since I run along that path, it was easy to know the distance I had covered. I acclimated to the cold pretty quickly, but my feet and hands were a little numb. The water was relatively smooth at the start and got progressively choppier as we headed south and eventually had some pretty big waves, I'm assuming from boat traffic. The petroleum taste also intensified the further south we went. You could smell and taste the diesel fuel in the water. Yum. I kept trying to think of happy things to get my mind off the taste and started wondering if I'd puke from swallowing so much of it.

Swimming in the Hudson is really surreal. At one point I heard a loud boat motor and when I looked up the Water Taxi was zipping by on the right. The tourists on board looked utterly confused by the sight of (crazy) swimmers in the water. I could also hear ferry horns and other boat noises in the water. It was by far the most memorable way to see the city.

As we neared Battery Cove they had us swim back toward the seawall and into the cove where a pontoon with stairs served as the swim exit. As I got out of the water, I immediately noticed a guy down on his knees puking over the edge of the platform. I was thankful I didn't end up joining him, especially after a few big gulps I took near the end. There was also a girl wrapped up in heat sheets suffering from hypothermia. They were calling 911. I don't understand how anyone did this without a wetsuit.

They hosed us down as we exited so we wouldn't have to stroll around with black faces from all the dirt and oil. I met up with my friends Jonah and Barb who also raced. As I was getting a coffee at a nearby deli a woman said, "Congratulations - what did you run?" When I said we swam from Christopher Street she looked at me like I was nuts and said, "Wow, well congratulations." I remember the first time I saw swimmers in the Hudson several years ago. I, too, thought they were nuts and never in a million years thought I'd be one of them.

Distance - 1.3 miles
Time - 37:48

May 22, 2009


You learn a lot about your body while training for an Ironman. Within minutes of beginning a workout I can tell if it's going to be good or if it's going to be a struggle. The days I struggle are almost always due to fatigue from previous days' training. I'm not talking about feeling tired, in fact I usually feel perfectly normal until I take that first step. I'm talking about a deeper, heavier sort of feeling.

I got a decent amount of sleep after the century and my legs didn't hurt at all. I was able to do that three-mile race just two days later at a relatively fast pace so I was recovered, right? Wrong. Training got progressively harder throughout the week - starting with awful foot cramps during Wednesday's swim, continuing with skipped training Thursday and culminating with a miserable brick today.

After the unplanned rest day I thought I'd be feeling great, but that was not the case. While the bike was generally ok, it simply felt forced. I had zero desire to be out there even though it was a beautiful day. I usually run well off the bike but for the first time in a long time I was treated to that lead legs feeling everyone complains about with bricks. I felt like I was running with weights strapped to my legs. To add to the fun, my HR was through the roof for minimal effort and I developed a hideous side stitch about a half mile in that never subsided and got so bad on the final mile I felt like I had a knife jabbed in my ribs.

I had considered making up the missed bike time from Thursday but decided against it. This is a rest week after all and clearly I need the rest. I'll finish the week as scheduled and hope my body is ready to go again next week.

Distance - 30.86 miles
Time - 1:54:02

Distance - 4 miles
Time - 34:05

May 21, 2009

I Skipped It. I'm Human.

In 14 weeks of training I think I've missed three workouts, today being one of them. I have no dramatic excuses or justifications, I simply had a choice to make - spend some outside-work time with the girls I work with or go home and spend 1.5 hours on the trainer. I know I should have been on the bike, but since starting this job in March, I haven't had a chance to sit down and really enjoy the incredible people I work with. So I chose to skip the bike.

I still have 115 days to Ironman Wisconsin so I'm hopeful that an extra "rest" day isn't going to kill me. I've been so focused and have not doubt I'll get right back to it. But for now, I'm ok with my decision to take a moment to focus on another part of my life, especially since those opportunities are becoming more and more limited every day.

May 20, 2009


For a rest week, I'm definitely not getting much rest. My training volume is ridiculously low, but I feel like I've been going nonstop. This is partly because I'm determined to have at least two double days during the week now so I still have to get up early and end up getting home late. Between that and work it's all running together. I'm not complaining, it's just interesting to feel so busy on a light week. It makes me wonder what my life will be like in July and August when I'm in the really heavy volume.

I had a short swim on the schedule today with an optional easy bike. I am allowed to do up to 1.5 hours on the low end of my aerobic zone so I really wanted to get up early and fit this in before work. But the thought of getting up at 5:30 for an optional workout just wasn't appealing so I slept until 6:15 and did as much as I could. I met a friend tonight for a swim. He was doing 4,000 and I was only scheduled for 1,800 so he got there before me and I joined in progress. Even though swimming is a totally solo sport it's nice to have someone join you occasionally. It does get rather boring, especially when you're cranking out 4,000. I think 3,000 has been my max in the pool thus far and I nearly went out of my mind. It's times like that I wish I had a SwimP3. My swim was a little sloppy but my pace ended up being decent overall for an easy swim.

I think I'll sleep in tomorrow and do my bike after work. The lack of sleep starts to catch up by the end of the week.

Distance - 13.14 miles
Time - 50:00

Distance - 2,200
Time - 41:11

May 19, 2009

Front of the Pack

After work I ran the annual Wall Street Run. It was a 5K shortened to 3 miles due to construction so I lost my chance to go for a 5K PR. But since it's a fun race I decided to do it anyway. The field was huge, 4,648 runners total on the narrow, winding streets of the financial district. People were literally stepping on each other and I had to dodge potholes and jump up and down curbs to navigate the crowds. I had no idea how my legs would feel after the century and I felt slow as molasses, but then I hit the first mile and noted my split - 6:51, the fastest mile I've ever run!

My Garmin malfunctioned on mile two and showed a 6:04 split. I'd like to think I was running fast, but I definitely didn't do a 6:04. The next splits were back on track and all sub-7, with my finish showing 3.41 miles total. Most courses are off a bit and you zigzag and add extra mileage, but that was definitely excessive likely due to building interference. Other GPS wearers showed 3.15-3.2 miles total. But according to official results, I did just 3 miles in 22:32. This isn't as fast as my recent time trial, but it was a race record for me. I finished 23rd out of 492 in my age group, breaking into the top 5%. New York City races are so competitive it's nearly impossible to take the top AG spots so this was close enough for me. For the first time ever I was in the front of the pack and that is an incredible feeling.

I started my day with a little rest week swim. It was a "floater," one I only needed to do if I had the time. I'm starting to embrace my rest weeks since I tend to notice a big difference when I go back to a build week. However, sometimes the logistics of fitting in a workout are more complicated than the workout itself. I woke up at 6:00 for this swim, a catch and pull session consisting of 50 yards x 10. That could be a warm up on other days. I added a little extra but it still took less than 20 minutes. On one hand it hardly seemed worth getting up for, but on the other hand it was valuable. Because I was focused on a specific technique, I ended up logging some of my fastest times. A friend recently said that proper swimming technique equals free speed. She was right.

Distance - 1,000 yards
Time - 17:55

Distance - 3 miles
Time - 22:36

May 17, 2009

Magic in Misery

The current issue of Outside features a quote from ultra marathoner Dean Karnazes saying, "There's magic in misery." I learned the meaning of those words today while riding the Montauk Century, a 100-mile ride from Babylon to Montauk on Long Island. I just decided to do this last Tuesday after encouragement from a couple friends. When my coach said it was ok I was surprised and excited. I haven't ridden a century in a couple years and it's early in my Ironman training to be hitting the 100-mile mark. All indications were that this was a good decision.

That good decision starting feeling rather foolish over the last two days. The weather report deteriorated by the minute and I started wondering just how I'd wake up at 2:45 a.m. to start a very big day. But anything worth doing is challenging, right? So I prepared as best I could and on four hours sleep, got out of bed at 2:45 to make the journey out to Long Island to start the ride.

It was raining pretty hard when we started sometime around 7 a.m. I was soaked by mile 10 and it was hard to see with the water droplets on my glasses. I was wearing a warm winterish cycling jacket with just a sports bra under it, bike shorts, regular socks and booties over my shoes. By the first rest stop at mile 21 I was wishing I had worn gloves and warmer socks. My feet had turned into blocks of ice by mile 15 and I could feel the water squishing around in my shoes. But there was nothing I could do so I had a peanut butter and Nutella sandwich (heaven) and headed back out for more.

The rain had let up and I started to dry, but the wind was brutal. The forecast called for winds out of the northwest so we should have been enjoying a tailwind, but instead we were hit with gusty headwinds that made it hard to ride at times. I hate riding in the wind almost more than the rain so it was miserable. When we reached the 40th mile I was already feeling like I'd had enough. The rain started up again and I was freezing. I starting worrying I'd go hypothermic and have to be carted off in the SAG wagon. We pulled into the 50 mile rest stop and I seriously wondered if I could continue. I went to a porta potty, the only option for shelter, and stood inside for about 5 minutes with my hands tucked against my body to warm up. I could hear the rain beating down and the wind blowing and couldn't fathom riding another 50 miles. But I found the courage to walk back outside and get back on the bike and go.

The rain finally let up and the temperature miraculously rose a degree or two by the 70th mile or so. After a stop at the 75 mile rest area the feeling slowly came back to my feet. There was a Mister Softee truck with free ice cream and it pained me that the last thing on earth I could imagine eating was ice cream. Bummer. So I had two delicious cookies instead. I always eat total junk on centuries, it just comes with the territory.

There is no doubt this was one of my more miserable experiences, but there was definitely magic in it:
  • It's early in my training so I've logged 100 miles way ahead of schedule
  • I did the entire ride with a friend
  • I conquered my fear of biking in the rain
  • I'm more prepared for unfavorable race conditions
  • I met some new people
  • I didn't quit even though I desperately wanted to
So now that I'm home and warm I can look back and say it was fun. At the end of the day, that's all this is - fun. A hobby. A good challenge. It would have been easier to stay in bed, to do another ride on the trainer, to stay within my comfort zone. But easy is never really that fun.

I'm slightly guilt ridden over skipping the brick run I was supposed to do. I was schedule for 6 miles and had every intention of doing it, but I pulled into the finish at 2:15 and the train left at 3:30. The next train wasn't until 5:30 and I didn't want to get home at 10. So I loaded my bike on the truck, had the best hot shower I've ever had in my life, grabbed a bite to eat and just made the train. I know it was the right decision, but I still felt that awful skipped-training guilt.

As of right now, my day has been 20 hours long. I'm exhausted but happy, most likely boosted by a special delivery of four beautiful homemade cupcakes from my friend Debbie shortly after I got home. What a perfect way to end the day.

Distance - 101.69 miles
Time - 6:16:48

May 15, 2009


Today was one of those days where I noticed every step and every pedal stroke and couldn't wait for it to be over with. I guess you can't feel great all the time and I've been really lucky lately so I can't complain, but it sure made for a long day. I slept in, ate, relaxed and suddenly had no desire to do any level of training. That's never a good sign. I dragged myself onto the bike and got 50 minutes done. It wasn't bad, it wasn't good, it just was. It felt rather slow.

I changed and headed out for my long run, something I usually look forward to but not today. I felt tired before I even started and contemplated waiting and doing it later. Another bad sign. The first few miles were ok although I was definitely checking the Garmin a lot. I'd say it wasn't horrible until after the halfway point. I got so tired I could barely fathom running another six miles. The second half was supposed to be slower, but my plan was to do it about 6-10 seconds per mile slower, not the 30-45 seconds I ended up being. At some points I just wanted to stop and sit down. I had horrible stitches from mile seven through the end. Fun.

I got a 20-ounce Gatorade with three miles to go and ended drinking the entire thing. I think that says a lot about how I was feeling. I may have been underfueled, my legs may have been tired from last night's hammerfest on the bike, or maybe my body just didn't feel like running today. I was thrilled when it was over.

I ate a little and hopped back on the bike, intending to ride 40 more minutes. After 10 I bagged it. I'd simply had enough and of course shortening a workout made me feel guilty. But I figure I'm adding an extra 40 miles on the bike this weekend so that should more than make up for it.

I rode my bike over to R&A Cycles in Park Slope and got a new saddle. I went with the Profile Tri Stryke, not because I really wanted it, but because out of the ones they had, it seemed like the best for me for right now. They were nice enough to put it on and I rode it home. It feels better than my old one for sure, but only time will really tell. Let's hope I'm not in tears at mile 50 of the century. I normally wouldn't make an equipment change right before a big event, but I literally couldn't bear another long ride on the old one. I figure this can't be much worse!

Distance - 12 miles
Time - 1:47:08

Distance - 14.87 miles
Time - 1:00:00

May 14, 2009

Busy But Good

I've been one day behind on my blog all week and decided to stop worrying about catching up. I've had an incredibly busy week but it's also been really good. It hasn't been stressful so it isn't taking as much of a toll.

Yesterday was my first double day on a weekday in quite some time. I got up early for a swim speed workout. I always sort of dread these sessions since they totally wipe me out. Swimming fast (well, fast for me) is really hard and exhausting. I did a slightly longer warm up to help ease into the faster stuff and for the first time in a long time, this swim actually went fairly well. Not surprisingly I had my fastest interval first then progressively slowed down, managed to speed up a bit, then slowed at the end. But I was happy to feel comfortable in the water again.

After work I went to a local bike shop to get the Xlab Sonic Wing for my bike. I got two carbon cages and a nice little seat bag that fits perfectly under it. I did some saddle browsing while there as well. They recommended the Adamo, which a majority of people recommend, but I'm not sure it's for me. I am going to take my bike in tomorrow and will buy one of three they recommended and beg the guy to put it on for me. He offered to put on the Adamo since it can screw up your fit so I'm hoping the generous offer will extend to any saddle I buy. This will be the third one I've had on this bike and I have a feeling not the last. It has been really difficult to find the right one.

I got home a little late after my shopping excursion and was starving so I quickly ate dinner. Normally this would derail my evening training plans but I somehow found the motivation and managed to get in a one-hour trainer ride. It was an optional workout so it was an easier one, but it felt nice to have a double day.

Today's training was bike intervals and I saved it for after work. I had an early meeting and really wanted the extra sleep. It felt so good to get in 7.5 hours. The intervals were really hard, six at five minutes each. By the end it was hard to get my heart rate into anaerobic because I was so beat. I rode easy for a bit after to loosen my legs a bit.

I'm contemplating a training weekend in Lake Placid right before Horribly Hilly. I wish it were a week earlier and realize my coach may advise against it due to timing. But if it works out, I am going to have a pretty unbelievable two months of training in June and July.

Swimming (Wednesday)
Distance - 2,000 yards
Time - 39:03

Biking (Wednesday)
Distance - 16.07
Time - 1:00:00

Biking (Thursday)
Distance - 14.77 miles
Time - 55:00

May 12, 2009

Fast as You Can

Today was speed work and I did two things very uncharacteristic for me: (1) I did it outside vs. the treadmill, and (2) I did it with another triathlete. I almost always train alone aside from the occasional ride or casual run. Speed work isn't particularly social but it turned out nice to have the company.

We met in Central Park bright and early and decided to stay on the lower loop to avoid the more challenging hills. Running speed intervals uphill just didn't seem like fun. The workout consisted of six 4-minute anaerobic intervals with an easy 1-minute rest interval, plus additional easy running to round it out.

I am no good at pacing myself outside and unfortunately the Garmin isn't always accurate in showing the pace I'm currently moving so I had to go somewhat on perceived effort. The first interval felt absolutely brutal. Just one minute in I wondered how I'd survive another three and then turn around and do it five more times. At one point the Garmin showed a pace below a 6-minute mile, but I couldn't be sure of how fast it really was.

The intervals got a little easier in the middle and then harder again at the end. The rest intervals felt like two seconds. While it was a tough run for me, it was actually pretty fun. We checked the splits when we finished and the first one was a 6:15 pace - no wonder it felt brutal! The others were between 7:08 and 7:38 pace, right in my anaerobic range of 7:11-7:45. Not a bad way to start the day.

Distance - 6.85 miles
Time - 1:00:00

May 11, 2009

Windy City

Yesterday morning I woke up a little after 6, had breakfast, got my bike ready and was out the door a bit before 7:30. I was planning a 50 mile ride followed by a 5 mile run. I was surprised by the chill in the air and was glad I'd worn my arm warmers. The news said it was relatively nice outside but warned of the strong wind gusts, up to 30 miles per hour. I figured gusts meant they might be infrequent and hoped for the best. Within one block, I knew I had figured wrong. I managed to stay upright on the Manhattan Bridge and fought my way across lower Manhattan, but after nearly being blown off my bike on the West Side Highway I stopped and began to rethink my plan. I remembered reading about how Kona was so windy one year that Sister Madonna Buder was actually blown off her bike. For the thrill and accomplishment of finishing Kona I can see it being worthwhile, but somehow the thrill of another low quality NYC ride didn't measure up. I decided to ride back to Brooklyn and finish on the wind-free trainer.

To kill the monotony of another long trainer ride, I stopped after 25 miles, did the first 3 miles of my run, did the remaining 25 miles on the bike and then the final 2 miles of the run. I watched Spirit of the Marathon during the ride and it made the time go by rather quickly. I wish I didn't have to keep riding indoors, but I didn't feel safe and I still lack the confidence needed to take risks. I'm also terrified of getting injured before Wisconsin. I'm honestly not sure I could deal with that.

Today was a rest day and I'm really starting to love my rest days. I wasn't particularly tired, it was just so nice knowing I didn't need to be up at 5 and it didn't matter what time I got home from work. I spent some time reconsidering the Montauk Century this Sunday thanks to my friend Jonah and some others who encouraged me to do it. I'm only scheduled for a 60-mile ride so I'll likely only do the 65-mile route, but it will be a chance to have some company and support on a long ride. After some of my less-than-great attempts recently, that's incentive enough. I'd love to do the 100-mile route but I'm almost 100% sure my coach will say no. But I had to ask, you never know.

I'm getting really excited about the Ironman. I was watching another Kona replay and they said, "How many of us can truly treasure the experience of a single day, that didn't include a birth or a marriage, for the rest of your life?" I can't wait.

Biking (Sunday)
Distance - 50 miles
Time - 2:55:26

Running (Sunday)
Distance - 5.09 miles
Time - 43:42

May 10, 2009


Yesterday was a major milestone for me and it came and went unnoticed because I got so busy. Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of my first-ever swim lesson, a day that really changed my life. After all the frustration in the pool this past week, it's good to remember where I've come from. During the year I completed two sprints, one Olympic, learned to swim with one arm when my shoulder was broken, recovered from that injury and learned to swim all over again, and completed a half Ironman. A 1.2 mile open water swim with no current assist and thousands of other swimmers would have been the description of hell for me a year ago. Now it's something I've done and can be proud of, and something I'm no longer afraid of.

I came home from my lesson that day and decided to start this blog. I wanted to capture my journey and share it with my family and friends. When I look at that first post, I couldn't be happier with what I've accomplished this year. It is a very happy anniversary for sure.

May 9, 2009

Lost Count

Having just a swim scheduled on a Saturday almost feels like rest. Almost. That is until I get in the pool and am swiftly reminded what a bad swimmer I am. I slept a bit late and spent the morning cleaning so I didn't get in the pool until the afternoon. I had a longer swim on the schedule, 6x400, but the pace was aerobic so it should have been nice and easy.

It started off ok, I was actually feeling pretty strong and my warm up was quick. But the more I swam, the slower and sloppier I felt. Once again I felt inches below the water and no matter how much I tried to focus on my form, it just didn't feel right. And to add insult to injury, I got progressively slower on each set, wrapping it up with the slowest pace I've done this year. I did a short cool down and called it a day. While logging this workout later in the day I got another disappointment. I had lost count of the sets and stopped at 5 instead of 6. So instead of swimming the 2700 yards I thought I had, I swam 2300. Not the end of the world, but on a day where I was barely active, I would have liked to have at least done the full workout.

I stopped at Cadence to pick up my bike and not only was it not done, it hadn't been started. The mechanic was super busy and apparently had overpromised the pick up time. I was either going to have to wait a long time, come back later or drop it off tomorrow and then try to figure out when I could pick it up again. Then upon realizing I lived in Brooklyn, the guy who works there offered to drop it off at my apartment after they closed. They also didn't charge me for anything. So in my final visit to the store, I ended up getting the best service yet. It was just another reminder of how much I was going to miss that place.

Distance - 2,300 yards
Time - 46:11

May 8, 2009

Over the Slump

I was determined to break out of the rut I've been in and figured today's training would be a good start. I had 1.5 hours on the bike and a 10-mile run on the schedule, plus I had some work obligations and a bike fitting. I started almost immediately after waking up. I even drank my coffee while doing my warm up and first few minutes of the ride since I was on the trainer. My coach recommended breaking the bike workout up to make it less mentally draining so I did the first 45 minutes and then took a breakfast break.

As soon as I sufficiently digested I headed out for my 10-miler in some of the most beautiful weather we've had in over a week. Every moment of this run was pure joy. I ran along the river on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, back through my neighborhood and then off to Prospect Park. The first half was in my aerobic range and the second half at marathon pace, which is slightly slower. However, I felt incredible in the second half and ended up much faster than planned. It felt comfortable so I went with it.

I had a quick work meeting and hopped back on the bike for the final 45 minutes. My legs were a little tired, but it felt good to keep them moving after the long run. I ended up being much less stiff as a result. I finished just in time to get into the city for my bike re-fit.

I'd been advised that I looked a bit stretched out in the front so I took it in for a quick look. The fitter didn't seem to agree 100% but she noted that my aero bars were too long for my forearms and might be keeping me from resting on the elbow pads properly. She recommended cutting them down a bit so my hands would be closer to the shifters. She also put on a shorter stem. I had a hard time telling the difference, I'll have to wait until I take it out for a long ride. This will be the last maintenance visit to my bike shop since it's closing next week for good. It was a really high-end, specialized store that fell victim to the economy. I could have bought my bike anywhere but chose to buy it from them because they had the best service in the city. I will really miss it.

Distance - 14.43
Time - 50:00

Distance - 10 miles
Time - 1:24:50

Distance - 15.38 miles
Time - 55:00

May 7, 2009


When I woke up this morning, I was sure I was getting sick. I had slept 7 solid hours and still didn't feel ready to get up. I was stuffy and had a headache so I decided to get some extra sleep and do my bike test tonight after work. Even with the extra 1.5 hours sleep I was tired, which didn't help at all with the slump I've been in. I realized today that I may not have been eating enough this week, and that might be contributing to the sluggishness. I've been struggling to get a grip on nutrition but have yet to find the right balance.

Today was my repeat bike test. It's pretty simple. After a warm up you ride as hard as you can safely maintain for 30 minutes. This is not about speed, it's about maintaining a hard effort so I rode fast in an easy gear for the warm up to get my legs ready and then gradually switch into harder gears for the test. I was able to push pretty hard and stay at a higher heart rate than my previous test, which made me feel good considering my low energy levels recently. My bike fitness has been slow to develop but I think I've made progress.

I was supposed to do a 10-15 minute easy cool down but I shortened it to 5 so I could quickly get ready and meet a friend for dinner. She called just as I was getting started with the ride and was cool with waiting for me to finish. I can't tell you how great it is to have a friend like that. Most people would have just skipped it. I got ready is just under 20 minutes, a record for me, and met her in the neighborhood for a late dinner. After feeling pretty low all week, it was a really nice boost. Hopefully the slump is coming to an end.

Distance - 16.21 miles
Time - 52:00

May 6, 2009

Good Days and Bad Days

While I'm never joyously leaping out of bed at 5 a.m., this morning was particularly tough. I briefly considered going back to sleep and swimming after work. Then I thought maybe I'd sleep another hour, bike and then swim after work. But I knew I needed to get up. I had a 500 yard time trial to do and after work is too risky. So I dragged myself out of bed and headed into the city.

Swimming is really perplexing. Some days it's great and other days I feel like a rock. As I walked down the stairs to the pool I just knew today was a rock day. I felt ok on the first few hundred of the warm up, but it went downhill from there. The last two minutes were at my projected time trial intensity and I struggled to speed up at all. After a one-minute rest I started the 500 and gave it my best. My heart was pounding and my arms were tired after just 100. I could tell I was much slower than recent anaerobic swims but I literally couldn't go any faster. At one point my arms and legs got tingly and I felt dizzy. I had no energy.

I'm less disappointed by the swim overall than I am by the comparison to my previous time trial in February. I somehow managed my fastest swim ever at 1:41/100 for the 500 yards. I've struggled to reach that pace again, but have managed on recent anaerobic intervals, granted they were only 100 yards. Today's average was 1:49/100, not even in my current anaerobic zone. Even after the TT I never really got into a groove and ended up slower than normal.

I have no idea why this happened. I definitely felt a little off today and it never really improved. I planned an hour or so on the bike after work and started feeling awful on the train ride home so I skipped it. I decided to relax and go to bed early, hoping to feel better tomorrow.

Distance - 500 yard time trial
Time - 9:03

Distance - 1,500 yards
Time - 29:53

May 5, 2009

Need For Speed

I, like most other triathletes, want to be faster. Speed is an elusive thing I desperately want to achieve, but don't quite know how to get there. I've never been particularly great at pushing myself beyond the comfort level so I've been slow to advance. The first time I really pushed and tested my limits was back in February when I first started with my coach. I did a series of time trials to establish my training zones. Now that I've been at it for a few months, it is time to test all over again.

I started today with a three-mile run time trial, a repeat of the same course I tested on three months ago. I did the previous test in 22:49, by far my fastest run at that distance at the time. I was hoping to have improved, but didn't feel great this morning. Even though I went to bed relatively early, I slept poorly and my stomach was upset. I took my time getting out on the course and was thankful for the 15-minute warm up. I was feeling slow and couldn't imagine getting my body to move quickly so I was filled with doubt and concern. I started and did the best I could, pushing but remaining relatively comfortable. I glanced at my Garmin and I was at a 5:55 pace. I managed to maintain this for about 15-20 seconds and dropped to a 6:30-6:45 for a couple minutes. I was overjoyed. I've never run this fast in my life so it was a major milestone for me. I knew it wouldn't last so I enjoyed it while I could.

I battled a headwind for awhile and got some relief at the turnaround. I hit a bit of a wall and my pace suffered, but I saved enough to push the final mile just a little and finish 42 seconds faster than my previous TT. That was enough for me. My splits were (1) 7:12 (2) 7:32 (3) 7:21. Someday I hope to stay more consistently in the 7:12 range. All in good time.

Distance - 3 miles
Time - 22:05

May 3, 2009

Nowhere I'd Rather Be

Sometimes when I'm out training on the weekends I think about what everyone else is doing. They are at cafes and bars with friends enjoying brunch or drinks, they are shopping, sitting in parks or relaxing at home. And while I definitely have moments where I don't feel like training, most of the time, there really is nowhere else I'd rather be.

I had a hard time getting motivated to do my short brick today. It was pouring rain so I was in for 25 miles on the trainer. This would normally take me up to two hours based on my slower than normal averages on the trainer. But today something just clicked. After a slow warmup I decided to try a little harder than usual and pushed the pace as much as I could while keeping my heart rate relatively low. I ended up having my fastest ride yet and couldn't have felt better. I realized I could be trying a lot harder on the bike and have been letting so much hold me back. I doubt I'm ready to go outside and ride as fast, but I'm getting there.

By the time I started running, the rain was at its hardest. Sometimes I despise running in the rain and other times I like it. Today I really liked it. I've been avoiding the Brooklyn Heights Promenade due to the crowds of people usually there but today I had it all to myself. It was perfect.

Distance - 25 miles
Time - 1:13:01

Distance - 3.01 miles
Time - 24:29

May 2, 2009

Derby Day

Nothing beats a rest day on a Saturday, except perhaps a rest day on Kentucky Derby Saturday. I slept a record-breaking 10 hours and it felt amazing. I did some long overdue cleaning and organizing in my apartment, leisurely ran some errands and rewarded myself with a fun afternoon of Derby viewing at a nearby bar in Brooklyn. The Derby party was in full effect - $3 Makers Mark mint juleps, $3 Rolling Rock ponies (3 little beers), $5 sets of hot dogs and all sorts of other things an Ironman-in-training shouldn't go anywhere near. Several people were in their finest Derby attire including fancy hats and dresses, cowboy hats and stuffed horses on sticks. It was festive all around.

I arrived at 5:15 or so and enjoyed a mint julep and half a pony. And yes, I had the hot dogs. On a weekend when I'm logging everything I eat and drink for my coach no less. But hey, you have to live, right? The race was shown on a big projection screen in the back. It was hard to hear the commentary, but it was fun to see on a huge screen. As always it was exciting to watch, all two minutes of it, as the winner came out of nowhere with 50-1 odds. I stayed a bit longer to finish my second mint julep, grabbed another quick drink in the neighborhood and called it a night.

I'm back to training tomorrow, but it's relatively short as it marks the end of my rest week. I'm jumping back into full volume next week and will be re-testing my zones so it should make it a good challenge for me.

May 1, 2009

Happy Friday

I normally have Fridays off so it's a day where I can get a little extra sleep and do my training at normal hours. However today I had a lunch event for work so I had to get up early to get the training done first. I was scheduled for a short brick but it wasn't short enough for a weekday morning so I decided to do Sunday's bike and run instead. I woke up still feeling exhausted and had a hard time getting out of bed. I had an even harder time getting on the bike. But once I got started it was ok. I had another easy hour aerobic at 85-95 rpm. This is a boring one but I honestly didn't feel like much more today.

After the bike I had an easy five mile run. It was rainy but relatively warm so it was actually kind of nice. I can't explain it, but sometimes I just love running in the rain. I actually felt happy while I was running.

The event ended earlier than expected so I made a pedicure appointment and ran into a friend at our local bar and had a drink with her. I then spent the evening with friends and for just a little while, forgot about how busy work is and how busy training will be soon. It more than made up for getting up a little earlier than usual.

This is the end of my rest week. I have tomorrow off and my short brick on Sunday. I'm going to enjoy every moment of it.

Time - 1:00:00

Distance - 5 miles
Time - 41:58


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