September 29, 2010

Night Rider

With the days getting shorter and weather less favorable, it's getting harder and harder to ride in daylight on weekdays. If I go early in the morning it's as dark as night and by the time I get off work it's well past dusk. But tonight I flew back from a business trip and landed at 5pm so I was home, changed and clipped in by 6:27pm. Even at this early hour I was racing the daylight, but it was nice to get started with some lingering light in the sky.

It felt so great to ride after sitting in meetings and on airplanes, undoing some of the damage done by room service and lack of activity. I rode solo for about 40 minutes and then ran into a friend and rode another 45 minutes with him. By then it was incredibly dark and I could hear crickets chirping, but the park was filled with runners, walkers and cyclists. It's like we're all fighting to hang onto the last shreds of good weather and defy the end of summer. At least that's what I'm doing.

I was in trainerville on Monday due to monsoon-like rain. It was depressing to be forced to ride inside, but since I had an interval workout on the schedule it was actually tolerable. I haven't done trainer intervals in awhile and forgot just how hard they can be. After an extended warm-up I did 3x3' at 160bpm and 80-90rpm with 1' easy pedaling in between. I felt like it was an hour well spent and it made me hopeful that I'll find new and different enjoyment when the weather finally forces me inside for good.

September 25, 2010

Fall Fun Event No. 1

Today kicked off that little schedule of fun fall activities I shared the other day. When you're training for an Ironman, you rarely get to do anything on the weekends just for fun. Even a half Ironman steals away a good training day. So I'm filling my early offseason with the fun events I usually hear about others doing and wish I could do myself.

Today's event technically could have qualified for "training" if I had shunned the muffins, cookies, PB&Js and other goodies served up along the route. I rode the Escape New York metric century with my friend Jonah, but since we live in Brooklyn we rode 87 miles. On dead Ironman legs. In 87-degree heat. But since it was purely for the joy of being on the bike, it was perfect! It wasn't my finest long ride, but given how recent my race was it also wasn't so bad.

The ride started and ended by Grant's Tomb and included a ride over the George Washington Bridge (my usual weekend route), North through New Jersey and back into New York state. We followed another route through New Jersey home. Some were roads I've been on and many were new so I got to explore a little.

So how did it feel to ride 87 miles on not-so-recovered legs? I felt great at the beginning. We had a 16.7 average with a fair amount of climbing and my energy was good. But about 45 miles in I got tired. Then the leg pain started. And the lower back pain. Even my triceps hurt! I was mostly just uncomfortable in the saddle since aside from the race, I've barely put more than 2 hours in during a single ride in the last 3 weeks. But riding just for the joy of riding is something I haven't done for awhile. It didn't matter how many miles we managed to get in, what HR zone we were in, what nutrition we took in (see above) or how long it took. It was a gorgeous, hot, sunny, late September day and I spent 6 hours of it pedaling just for fun. What could be better than that?

September 22, 2010

September 21, 2010

Fall Fun

I have a hard time embracing the offseason at first, but then usually dive in so wholeheartedly I end up terribly out of shape. I'm attempting to change that this year by actually gaining something (besides a few extra pounds) during my offseason. You can't keep your Ironman fitness all year, it simply isn't possible. And you don't need it. But you can stay in great shape, and if you approach it correctly, get into even better shape. I shared my offseason goals fitness goals yesterday, so here's a look at a few fun things I've lined up to keep the mind and body from falling apart:
  • September 25 - Escape New York Metric Century. Sure it's a route I ride all the time by myself for free, but a friend is doing it so we figured it would be fun to catch up and eat all the free pastries we can stuff into ourselves. The only catch is that I'll have to pile on roughly 20 miles to and from so I may be exceeding 80 miles. Holy lactic acid...
  • October 3 - Merrell Down and Dirty Mud Run. This will only happen IF I can convince at least one other living, breathing human being to join me. I thought everyone would be dying to do it. Turns out not everyone is interested in crawling around in mud. Who knew.
  • October 16 - Tussey Mountainback 50-Mile Relay. We have a team of 7 so far and it should be a great time. I'll be running two legs, likely around 10 miles total. Piece of cake. The full day hanging out in the van with fun people is the part I'm really looking forward to.
  • October 24 - Army 10-Miler. I'll be running this with my sister and her husband at whatever pace they choose. It's a little early for me to be doing a race this long with my running hiatus, but it's annual and it's fun. Plus there's a wine tasting the day before and my sister's birthday and wedding anniversary.
  • November 7 - Prospect Park Duathlon. I've never done a du so I figured, why not?
It's a busy little schedule, but filled with the fun events you have to shun for Ironman training so I'm really looking forward to it. It should shake the post-Ironman depression/boredom and remind me of the joy of the sports. The weather couldn't be more amazing either. I just wish I could lace up my shoes and head out for a run, even if just a short one. But I'll be patient.

September 20, 2010

Seven Days Later

Seven days have passed since finishing my third Ironman. It's been a very long week, both literally and figuratively. The days creep by and are seemingly forever, most likely due to the lack of rushing around to fit in the training, errands, laundry and food shopping. But also due to the change in mental focus, I'm definitely bored already and have spent countless hours looking at 2011 races, cycling clubs, running programs, fun runs, winter gear and even cyclocross (like I really need another bike, another sport...). This is what happens when the Ironman rug is pulled out from beneath you. In another week or so I will embrace the offseason. I will love it. You can't go full throttle all year after all.

I thought I'd share a few of the realizations of this past week:
  • Setting a 41-minute PR hurts. A lot. I was in significantly more pain Monday-Wednesday than I was after the previous two Ironmans.

  • Doing two Ironmans in seven weeks also hurts. A lot. I think the general high volume load contributed to the above-mentioned pain.

  • Joint pain is so much more unpleasant than muscle pain. No amount of foam rolling and stretching helps. Thank god for Voltaren.

  • Ironically my feet are the only body parts that were ok after the race. Even my shoulders were killing me (really, really need to start going to the pool).

  • Sleep is magical. The 8-12 hours a night I've been getting have made me feel like a different person.

  • Succeeding in pushing yourself beyond a limit you thought impossible is incredible. I've always been a bit of a quitter, but not anymore. I'll never say I can't do something again.

  • Having family and friends support you is the biggest boost in the world. Some stood out there all day long and others tracked online. Ironman is a selfish endeavor so to have people actually share it with you is really wonderful.

  • You can eat and drink anything you want for one week after the race. After that you have to significantly cut back.

  • Race photos are humbling. Let's just say the "lose 13 pounds in the offseason" plan started immediately after ASI posted. And why do the photographers insist on sitting on the ground and shooting at the most unflattering angle??? Oh the humanity.

I had the chance to meet fellow blogger Ironman By Thirty (Kevin) the morning of the race. We chatted for a bit and he zipped up my wetsuit, then tracked me throughout the day. He posted about it on the blog and captured this great video at the finish (I'm about 20 seconds in). Thanks so much Kevin!

So what are my offseason goals? Aside from the 13 pounds mentioned above, I'm taking an advanced swim class to work on my form. It's time. I'm going to focus a ton on cycling, mostly intervals and speed for now, endurance later in the winter or early spring. After a hiatus, I'll ease back into running and if I can slowly build the volume with no incident, I'll get back into speed work by spring. I'm proud of the run times I achieved at IMLP and IMWI, but I'm nowhere near the runner I used to be and I want to get that back.

Besides that I want to have fun, relax with friends, sleep until the sun comes up, not look at a training schedule for awhile and read some books. On that front, this is a funny video for anyone who's done an Ironman or is thinking about it.

September 14, 2010

Post-Ironman Fog

I keep sitting down at the computer intending to post about the race, but can't seem to find the words. My mind has been in overdrive since Sunday processing the memories, the experience, the entire year. This race was quite the journey, starting back in early 2008 when I watched Kona and thought, "I'd like to do that." I had to learn to swim, get over my fear of the bike and challenge everything I thought was impossible. It continued with an incredible year of training and an incredible injury with a very bittersweet finish to my first Ironman. It culminated with a two-Ironman summer and two unbelievable PRs. I couldn't be more happy.

My friend Chris pointed out something really amazing today. I passed approximately 600 people on the bike, and then around 600 more on the run. They say you get the race you trained for and I believe I did. I did not put the time and effort into the swim and I paid dearly. I trained very hard for the bike and had an incredible ride. And I fought the good fight to be able to run at all this year and pushed my body to the safest limits I could, but in the end it took more heart than fitness to run the marathon I did. I was so proud of what I accomplished on the run.

I've been sleeping a lot, wearing compression 24/7 and enjoying down time with my family. We had a beautiful celebratory dinner last night at my favorite Madison restaurant, took a long walk by the lake today and did a nice little recovery swim. My sister and her husband headed back to DC so I had a final dinner with my mom and dad tonight. I'm feeling a little sad that it's over, it meant so much to share this experience with my entire family so I'm already looking forward to 2011. Once I clear my head and collect my thoughts I'll get my race report posted and share some of the hundreds and hundreds of pictures from the week. It's pretty nice having a professional photographer in your support crew!

September 12, 2010

Third Time's The Charm

What a day. Since I'm too exhausted to write, I'll leave it with this: I set a 41-minute PR today at my second Ironman in 7 weeks. It didn't come easy. The day was hard every step of the way and at times I didn't think I had it in me. But I had great support and a deep personal drive to make it happen. When I started being coached 21 months ago, I wrote goals for this sport, and my pie in the sky goal was to do my first Ironman in under 13 hours. It wasn't my first and the road here felt long at times, but I did it. Third time Ironman in 12:48:28.

September 11, 2010

Go Time

The bike is checked, the bags are packed, the carbs are loaded and the compression tights are on. Today was a good pre-race day:

Signing up for Ironman Wisconsin 2011

A nice brunch with the family

Dropping off the bike and gear

Early bird special dinner

I feel calm and at peace with the choices I made this season. I'll be competing in my third Ironman in 12 months tomorrow, which is more than I ever dreamed possible. I'm looking forward to the challenges, the triumphs, the smiles, the tears and the joy. It should be a great experience.

September 10, 2010

Things You Shouldn't Do At An Ironman

There are great benefits of not being nervous and worked up over a race, but there are also some drawbacks. I went straight from the airport to registration yesterday in an effort to save time and avoid the stress of Friday check-in. I did it all in record time. I even pre-paid for my race photos to shave more precious minutes from my obligations on Monday. I was feeling rather clever, rather proud of myself. That is until right before dinner I realized I didn't have my race packet. Yep, I'd lost it. I must have put it down while pre-paying for the photos or perhaps while buying yet another cow-spotted jersey. Who knows. But it begs the question - who loses an Ironman race packet??? It didn't even phase me. I went to dinner and figured I'd deal with it in the morning. I found it immediately this morning on the Solutions table with this note on it.

After a short swim and lunch with a friend, I spent the day relaxing. I felt a little under the weather and hope it's just from having a busy week and my body letting go of the stress. I took my parents to the Athlete's Dinner tonight, and while it's the same old same old as every other race, I really enjoyed it and was glad to have the chance to share it with them. My sister and her husband - who also happens to be a professional photographer, which is lucky for me!! - arrive tonight and then Team Lazy Marathoner will be complete!

September 9, 2010

Helllllooooo Wisconsin

I'm here, I've arrived. And for the next several days I will be Ironman Wisconsin athlete 2537. My flight landed at 2 and by 4 I had retrieved my bike and gear bag from Tribike Transport, checked in and bought an updated cow-spotted bike jersey for my collection. I spent the rest of the afternoon playing with my nephew and visiting family.

I'm a little tired because instead of resting up on this final morning in Brooklyn, I was up at 5am and clipped in at 5:25 for my farewell ride in Prospect Park. It was chilly and dark, the perfect fall morning. I met up with Mark and John and intended to take it easy, but after a loop or so, the familiar whir of the Prospect Peloton approached and I once again couldn't resist. I thought I'd ride for a loop, maybe two, but as it turns out, I have no self control. I was up at the front and rode for over an hour with them. As usual it was ridiculously fun and a great way to enjoy the sunrise. I can sleep when I'm dead.

I felt a little sad as I pedaled away from the park knowing I'll be out of commission for a little while. But the sadness shifted to excitement and anticipation when I boarded the plane to Madison. Race weekend has officially started!

September 7, 2010

Taper Time - Finally

We all know I've been resistant to taper. It has nothing to do with logging more training volume or feeling anxious. In fact it's essentially the opposite. My training numbers have been lower than last season and the only anxiety I'm feeling is related to having to pause on the pleasurable cycling that has become such an important part of my life. I had an easy, slightly boring and fairly reflective taper ride tonight. While I always enjoy being on the bike, it made me a little lonely since I couldn't join any of my usual ride buddies due to the need to go slow and easy. The other hard pill to swallow is that you go into an Ironman in peak fitness and come out destroyed. It takes a couple weeks to feel any energy and a couple more to get back to normal. It will be the end of September before I can attempt to ride with the Peloton or my faster cycling buddies again. It gives me a new goal.

I feel completely stress-free with regard to the race. I'm not obsessing over the weather and spending hours upon hours packing and prepping. I didn't even do that for my first Ironman due to my injury and I'm thankful to have escaped that. You can burn a lot of energy on nerves alone and it doesn't help to stress 24/7 about things you can't control like the weather. I have a good packing list that usually ensures I have everything I need. I'm looking forward to seeing my family and spending some quality time with them. I'm taking my mom and dad to the athlete's dinner this year, I thought it would be fun to show them another side of the race experience. My sister and her husband are also coming, so we'll all be there. It will be a very special weekend.

September 6, 2010

Hammer Time

I don't follow directions very well. As it is, I do a shorter taper than a lot of Ironman triathletes. Two weeks at the maximum is all I need, some prefer three. But for Lake Placid I "tapered" in Italy with a few hundred miles of cycling and several thousand feet of climbing, and for Wisconsin I've been tapering by biking daily and throwing in a few hammerfests along the way. There was a little voice in the back of my mind telling me to take it easy, but the thrill of the ride won and I ignored the voice of reason.

If you've followed me for awhile, you know I've made a drastic turnaround on the cycling front. After a season-ending crash in 2008 I was terrified to get back onto the bike. It took the better part of 2009 to feel comfortable and stop seeing my rides as an obligation. As the season drew to to a close I was sad to be relegated to the trainer and was looking forward to every chance to get outside. The purchase of my road bike in April changed it all. This has been a year of transformation, from a triathlete who bikes to a cyclist who does triathlons. All I really want to do is ride my bike. A lot of this is likely due to my running injury, but regardless of where it stems from I like where I'm at.

I went out for an easy ride on Friday and intended to take it slow but a few loops into the ride I was bored to tears and heard the happy hum of the Prospect Peloton approaching behind me. I had no idea they rode mid-morning and was thrilled to latch on. I was riding my tri bike so I kept a small distance, but stayed with the group for five loops. I was pleasantly toasted and headed home. I was feeling slightly guilty about the beating my legs took so I compensated with some carbs, foam rolling and rest. I figured I'd take it easier over the weekend.

That is until the email about the Peloton ride upstate came through. I had been trying to figure out where to ride Saturday and wanted to stay local and under 50 miles. I was terrified to ride with the Peloton outside of the city, but part of me felt I had to do it. I woke up two hours before the ride to battle the nerves and met the group at the Brooklyn Bridge. This is not your average cycling group. It's a lot of ex-racers and super fast guys who ride like it's the last ride they'll ever do. I emailed the head of the group to be sure I was suitable and he assured me I'd be fine. He said a 16.8 average could be expected and I figured why not. But as we hammered through the streets of Manhattan on the way to the GW Bridge I questioned my abilities. I was pushing a max HR and was barely hanging on by a thread. Yet they continued to look back for me - the only female in the crew, and according to one guy, the only female he'd ever seen on the weekend ride - and I managed to keep up. Once over the bridge I settled into a groove and was having the time of my life. I've ridden these roads over and over again, yet it felt like new territory. Even though I was working as hard as I possibly could, the miles flew by and before I knew it I had to drop from the group and head home. They were doing a long ride and I was making a small attempt to taper. I had a muffin, regrouped and rode back with one of the guys. I ended at 47 confidence-building, fear-defeating, adrenaline-boosting miles. This is why I love to ride a bike.

Sunday was more fun on two wheels. I invited Jessica from my tri club and John from Mark's building and Prospect Park to join me for a shorter, easier ride over the bridge. I mapped us through NJ on flat terrain with some hills heading back through NY. I caught a massive bee in my helmet, we saw a giant wild turkey and tried a new muffin at Bunberry's. The weather was a dream and I found myself sad to be "tapering." I wanted to do more, wanted to go further. But I knew I couldn't.

Years ago a sag wagon driver told me I'd eventually find myself to be a cyclist, not a runner who occasionally biked. I believe I'm there.

September 3, 2010

One Year Ago Today

I had a completely different post in mind and then realized yesterday and today marked some very significant anniversaries. One year ago yesterday I had the fateful MRI that revealed a torn plantar fascia and one year ago today I accepted I would not race Ironman Wisconsin. It was so hard to give up, but at the time I thought I didn't have a choice. The twists and turns and ups and downs of the following 9 days were an unbelievable test of my character, my strength and my will. In the end the nightmare turned into a dream and I finished my first Ironman after a 15 hour, 48 minute, 17 second fight. It would take me off my feet for nearly 6 months but as most of you know, there was a Cinderella story ending in Lake Placid just 6 weeks ago.

My foot hasn't been cooperating 100% as of late, but I'm nowhere near where I was at this time last year. And for that, I'm thankful. If you didn't know me then, here is the post from one year ago. The day before was perhaps the saddest post I've ever written.

I did an incredible ride today. I was planning an easy taper pace and took my P2C for once to be sure the recent tune-up did the trick. After 3 loops of the park I was bored out of my mind and wondering how I'd survive another 3 or more when I heard the delightful sound of the Prospect Peloton approaching. My first thought was, "I'm tapering, I can't ride with them." My second thought was, "Dammit, I'm on my tri bike." My third thought was, "Who cares." I latched on and went for a wild ride for 5 loops and headed home happy. I always ride stronger when I ride with this group. I do things I thought I couldn't do like ride up hills at 18mph. I decided to do the out-of-the-city Saturday ride with them tomorrow. It scares the hell out of me, which is exactly why I need to do it. I'll let you know how it goes. So much for taper!

September 1, 2010

Deja Vu

What is it about Ironman Wisconsin that finds me sitting in a podiatrist's office just days before the race? I had a moment of deja vu today as I did just that.

I had a huge volume weekend as I wrapped up my final build. I biked 100 miles Friday, 62 miles Saturday and ran 15 miles Sunday. The bike miles left me sore and fatigued so the run was a challenge. I had also enjoyed a bit of champagne and a late night Saturday so I didn't get started until early evening. It was 94 degrees and I wasn't feeling tip top, but surprisingly my body responded and the miles started clicking by. Everything was fine for about 10 miles. I stopped for a bathroom break at my boyfriend's place and while standing in his apartment I felt a twinge of pain. I stretched, started running again and the pain subsided, but then kicked back in around mile 11. It was hot, humid and dark, and I was a few miles from home so I decided to keep running and just ease up the pace. By 14 I was limping and I finally bagged it at 15. I hobbled home for ice and ibuprofen and prayed for the best.

The pain was enough to give me pause and the visit to the doc was for peace of mind. Luckily things seem ok, but I'll be paying very close attention to how I feel. As much as these races mean to me, I'm not willing to risk another beautiful fall season spent in a walker boot. I asked a lot of my body this year - a half Ironman and two Ironmans - and it has delivered quite nicely. But I think it's ready for a break.

I'm enjoying my taper by catching up on sleep and resting the foot. I've had three consecutive days off so I'm planning to get back on the bike tomorrow and hopefully ride through the weekend. In just one week I'll be in Wisconsin for my final race of the season. My team of supporters will be wearing these shirts, so incredibly appropriate for the situation.


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