April 25, 2011

Season Opener and Another Week

I did my first real ride of the season this past weekend and it was on the Ironman Lake Placid course. It was a fitting start... 45 miles with nearly 3,000 feet of climbing and a stiff headwind for much of it. But despite the challenges, I loved every moment. There are few places I love riding more so starting my year there was perfect.

After a pretty big week of training where I not only hit every workout but did a little extra, I had a very relaxing weekend. But first...

The Numbers:

  • Swim - 5,600 yards, 1:47:30
  • Bike - 93.95 miles, 6:18:06
  • Run - 16.64 miles, 2:38:12
And now for the weekend. I had the immense pleasure of staying at The Whiteface Lodge for the third time, a place that personifies heaven. I slept in, went for an incredible run around Mirror Lake (which was frozen, by the way!), soaked in a big jacuzzi tub, had a massage and went to a wine tasting dinner in a gorgeous house overlooking Lake Placid. Sunday included the ride, a late and leisurely lunch, a nap by the fire and smores before heading back to reality.

I feel great about the training and how my body is responding. I'm also energized and excited by it, which was something I worried about heading into my third season of long course and another year of two Ironmans. This week is a rest week and it took every bit of restraint to stick to the plan and not ride tonight with friends. We'll see how the rest of the week goes...

April 19, 2011

Week Two - The Juggling Act

Last week was only my second week of Ironman training and it was already a monumental juggling act. The week-long business trip to Colorado involved two long travel days and totally wiped me out. Despite the hectic schedule, I managed to get in all planned workouts. Thankfully it was a lighter week due to the lack of swim and bike opportunities, but a good week nevertheless.

The Numbers:
  • Bike - 90.63 miles, 5:52:23
  • Run - 8.5 miles, 1:15:00
There were no swims on the schedule and as you can imagine, I didn't miss them! As I ease into Week 3 I'm feeling a bit tired and have definitely had a hard time getting back into the groove. I think it will take a few more weeks to get used to the 5:30am wake-ups and absolute lack of free time. It's not like this is my first time around so I'm not sure why it's so challenging. I just have to keep reminding myself that 5:30 will soon turn to 5, then to 4:30 and eventually 4 or earlier. Those mornings are rare, but during my peak last season I had at least one per week. I should enjoy the rest while I can!

I'm heading north to beautiful Lake Placid this weekend and am hoping to get out on the course. It's one of my favorite rides so Mother Nature, please cooperate. Thanks in advance.

April 15, 2011

Olympic Experience

Once again, but on a much smaller scale, the Olympics took over my life and forced a short break in my training. I had one day running and two days rest on the calendar during my trip to the USOC headquarters and that's exactly what I did. During the two down days I did a tremendous amount of work, but also got to meet several former and future Olympians as well as the mothers of some of the most amazing athletes, including Taylor Phinney, David Oliver and Henry Cejudo (also met Henry and he was one of the most personable, sincere, amazing people I have ever met). I also got to participate in some Olympics fun. Here are the highlights:

Fencing, won my match!

Took second place in rifle shooting, I'm a natural.

Just look at the intensity... and the pink nails.

Gymnasts jump into deep piles of square foam blocks, so fun!

Olympic torch relay, only ours ended with a champagne toast rather than world-class sports.

I arrived home at 2am last night and slept half of today. I am definitely off schedule and not at 100%, but 1.5 hours on the bike helped set me right. After a big weekend of training I'll be almost back to normal minus the pool... well actually, that is normal.

April 13, 2011

"It Couldn't Be Done" by Edgar Guest

Sometimes I really love what I do. I'm in Colorado Springs for work at the USOC headquarters, and today former Paralympian and Sydney medalist John Register started a presentation with the following quote. Whenever I'm feeling unmotivated and uninspired, I'm going to read this, put on a grin and tackle the thing that couldn't be done.

It Couldn't Be Done
by Edgar Albert Guest

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,
But, he with a chuckle replied
That "maybe it couldn’t," but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed: "Oh, you’ll never do that;

At least no one has done it";
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,

There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle it in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
That "couldn’t be done," and you’ll do it.

Today was filled with inspiration. It started with a 5.5 mile run at 6,035 feet... to say winded would be an understatement. I took second place in rifle shooting and won my fencing match. Maybe I should explore some additional sports beyond triathlon!

April 10, 2011

Week in Review

Ah, Sunday. For many it means sleeping in, brunch, the two-inch thick New York Times. For others it means chlorine, sweat and sport food. I actually like both versions, which is why I'm incredibly thankful for the offseason. But for now my Sunday is mostly the latter, though it is a recovery day so it has a relaxing feel to it. If I'm really beat I can do nothing and rest, but if I'm up for it I can do a recovery swim. I also have an optional bike each week to do on a single workout day or Sunday if I wish.

Today I did both even though I did the optional bike on Wednesday already (shhhh, don't tell my coach). I'm all for rest, but I'll have a couple days off next week due to a business trip to Colorado Springs (to the USOC training facility, be jealous of me!!!). After eating The King last night a rest day didn't seem needed. Plus I ate this post-swim/pre-ride.

Muffin stuffed with pork shoulder bacon, cheddar and soft-boiled egg

The Numbers:
  • Swim - 5,600 yards, 1:51:26
  • Bike - 98.11 miles, 6:22:46
  • Run - 10.50 miles, 1:36:24
I'm still babystepping back into running after the Hell-A Marathon, but at least all went well. My love affair with the bike has been rekindled and the swim... I'm tolerating it. One week down, 32 more to go!

In closing I wanted to share one of the best things I've made in a long time, mushroom bolognese from The Italian Dish blog.

I had it over quinoa pasta two nights in a row and froze the rest. I can't wait to finish a long day of training and have it waiting for me again!

April 9, 2011

The Great Outdoors

Finally. After all this time it finally felt like spring! I woke up and did my usual lounge on the couch with a coffee while surfing the iPad routine (I'm really going to miss that when the real training starts) and waited for it to warm up a bit before heading out on the bike. It was only about 50 but it was sunny and felt amazing. I actually ran back inside to shed a layer.

I've only been on my bike outside once this year so it felt incredible. I don't mind the trainer, but there are only so many episodes of Lost one can watch while pedaling in place. I did just over 30 miles and felt pretty good. I violated my own rules and took my iPod, wearing just one ear bud. I have to admit, it helped tremendously. I was riding in Prospect Park so I felt safe doing so, but admittedly would never do it on the open road.

My ride ended with a 3 mile run at half Ironman pace. I haven't done a brick since Ironman Wisconsin so it felt pretty horrendous. My legs were totally dead. I usually run really well off the bike, but not so much today. I'll chalk it up to being so new and hope it improves in the coming weeks. Horrendous or not, it felt great to be back in the swing of things.

How did I reward myself? With this.

It's a candy bar called The King, from Liddabit Sweets in Brooklyn. Everything is locally sourced and handmade, elevating candy to a new level. I couldn't resist when I read the description:

"A Liddabit signature item. Soft peanut butter nougat is sandwiched between a brown sugar-brown butter cookie and a layer of fresh banana ganache, and dipped in milk chocolate. Long live the King!"

A swim and bike tomorrow will wrap up week 1 of Ironman training. It's good to be back.

April 6, 2011

Los Angeles Marathon: The Full Report

I knew the LA Marathon wasn't going to be my most outstanding race performance due to a recent injury and less-than-tip-top health week, but I had no idea it would be my most challenging race yet. The forecast leading up to race day was grim - first a chance of showers, then rain, then heavy rain plus wind. The percent chance inched up from 30% to 100% and the temp wasn't predicted to break 54. Yet Michelle - the friend I was staying with and racing with - and I remained optimistic. They're always wrong about the weather, right?

Wrong. Not only were they right, but they were actually fairly generous with the forecast. The really bad stuff was initially predicted to start around 10 and get incredibly bad around noon. We hoped we'd be well into the course by the time it got ugly, but instead the rain started at .60 miles on my watch and sprinkled until mile 7, where it quickly transformed into a torrential downpour. My first thought was that while it sucked, it would likely be a blip and go back to light showers. It was only 9am after all. But instead it continued to pour and the more soaked I became, the colder it seemed. Rivers were forming in the streets and forced us to run through ankle deep currents at times. But we pressed on.

Michelle and I pre-race, we had such high hopes!

All was going according to plan pace-wise for most of the first half. I started with the 3:50 pace team, but hung back a bit knowing it was a bit aggressive for me. After the first big hill they pulled away and were a distant memory. The 4:00 pace team showed up shortly after so I joined them for a few miles. I was running comfortably and hitting sub-9s consistently. I was forced to take a pee break around mile 7 due to the cold temps and lack of sweating. I ran ahead of the group thinking I could stop quickly and catch up, but unfortunately lost them. It was ok though, I was still clipping along nicely.

But things took a turn for the worse around the half point. My stomach had been cramping and my shoes felt like soaked bricks. Even the steep downhills were rough. I was on a very meticulous nutrition schedule and had done everything right - how could this be? It was the kind of thing I've heard endless stories about, runners suffering full GI meltdowns and surviving a race dashing from porta potty to porta potty. That became my fate somewhere around 14 miles. The weather had worsened and just about the time the big, puffy 14-mile blow up fell down on us, my entire system shut down. Every sip of anything I took, or even a minuscule drop of gel, sent me racing for a bathroom. I felt weak, feverish. My legs got heavier. I wanted to cry. This all went down in Beverly Hills, a part of the course I should have been loving every downhill moment of.

The look on my face says it all

I hoped it would pass, but instead it continued to worsen so I stopped all hydration and nutrition and kept moving forward. The frequent stopping made my body temperature plummet so I grabbed a heat sheet from Medical around Mile 17 or 18. I continued to run. Thoughts of a voluntary DNF were on my mind, but I was staying with friends and the cell phone number of my post-race ride was saved on my phone, which was checked in baggage at the finish. I had no one to call and feared being stuck shivering roadside while waiting forever for an official ride to the finish. So I kept going.

I hit rock bottom around Mile 20 and was forced to walk. I felt lifeless and started to worry about things like kidney damage or dangerously low electrolytes and honestly didn't know what to do. Should I keep running and try to get this over with as quickly as possible? Or should I go slow and easy and risk hypothermia? After slogging through a couple areas of shin-deep water and walking up a hill, I decided to try running on the downhill. My stomach ached and my legs were dead. I cried.

How do you like that fake smile?

While walking at a glacial pace, another runner joined me and tried to cheer me up. She was having a rough day, too, but hers was due to typical late-marathon leg pain. She couldn't seem to get going again. I had a hard time finding energy for small talk and couldn't lift my eyes from the soaking wet pavement. I saw Mile 24 ahead and thought: If I can get there, I'll run the rest. It's almost over. Then the 4:30 pace team went jogging by and I had this awful sinking feeling about just how long I would be on this course. So I started running.

My pace was slow, but improving, and I ended up passing the 4:30 group and just running on my own. As I approached Santa Monica the wind became unbearable, heavy gusts blowing head on that made it difficult to move forward at times. This was supposed to be the magical part of the course, the Pacific Ocean off to your right as you run down Ocean Boulevard. There were tons of cheering spectators and I could see the finish ahead, even though it was still a mile away. It was all downhill and should have been spectacular. I finish many races in tears because I'm overwhelmed by the experience, the support, the accomplishment. I finished this race in tears because I was hurting so much and was so thankful it was over. I crossed the line in 4:33:35, far short of my sub-4 goal but a huge accomplishment given the conditions.

Happy to be finished! Check out the water on the camera lens

I ran nearly 11 miles without any fluids or nutrition and my race splits painted a picture of my gradual decline. After the finish my body temp rapidly dropped and I was shaking violently. My plan was to hit the medical tent for an IV and have them retrieve my bag so I could call for my ride, but the walk was so long I couldn't make it. I was directed into a warming room set up at a local hotel and sat there for over an hour shivering by myself. I felt so lost. When I finally mustered up the courage to go back outside, I fought the wind and rain to retrieve my bag and call Michelle's husband to pick me up. It was then I learned she had DNFd at the halfway point. I was so relieved. Michelle has lupus and the cold could have caused serious issues.

Five hours after my last sip of fluid on the course I had my first sip of Gatorade and it didn't sit well. I waited another hour and had a hot chocolate (not just any hot chocolate, but a venti salted caramel hot chocolate from Starbucks!) on the ride home, it felt so good to have something warm. That didn't sit well either. By 6pm I was starving and decided to ignore my stomach and finally eat: In-N-Out Double Double and Neapolitan shake, with champagne, of course!

Somehow that did sit well and at 10pm we went out for Mexican food. We didn't just snack either, we had a full on meal with tableside guacamole, handmade corn tortillas and a giant platter of enchiladas. After not eating or drinking all day I was a bottomless pit.

My coach believes I suffered digestion issues due to the cold and extreme conditions. It's never happened to me before and I hope it never does again, but at least I know I can deal with it if it does. We ask our bodies to do so much, it's not surprising they sometimes say "no."

I may never reflect on this as a "good" race by any definition, but I'm proud of what I accomplished. I dealt with a difficult situation, made decisions and found a way to get to the finish line safely. I also had a great weekend with a good friend and that made it more worthwhile than any medal or PR ever could.

April 5, 2011

Stuff I Love: Luna Bars That Taste Like Girl Scout Cookies

During the season I consume mass quantities of sport food. Some of it is merely tolerable while others make me look forward to a workout. My favorite examples of the latter are two Luna Bars that taste remarkably like my two favorite Girl Scout cookies. What could be better than that?

Luna Love #1 - Chocolate Peppermint Stick

I discovered this bar last year and consumed it in bulk. During heavy training I largely abstain from sugar except during workouts. This delicious treat not only keeps me going, but it tastes like crushed up Thin Mints. If you like chocolate and you like peppermint you'll love this. I buy a box at a time.

Luna Love #2 - Chocolate Dipped Coconut

This is a recent discovery that I anticipate will become a training pantry staple. It didn't seem exciting at first glance but one bite had me hooked and singing its praises. This Luna reminds me of the best Girl Scout cookie of all time - the Samoa. Sport food really shouldn't be this good.

Lunas may not be the top choice for healthy nutrition but when you spend hours upon hours shunning real food and drink you have to somewhat like what you're putting into your body. And I love these. The only downside is the chocolate coating - it melts in your jersey pocket or in transition and can be quite messy. I froze them for my Ironmans last year and it helped tremendously, but you still risk coating yourself in chocolate. Because of this, my second favorite bar becomes my go-to choice for race day - Hammer Cashew Coconut Chocolate Chip. It's seriously delicious and as an added bonus is gluten-free.

My other favorite training foods:
  • Raspberry Hammer Gel
  • Chocolate Chip Cliff Bar
  • PowerBar Gel Blasts
  • Gatorade Endurance

What's your favorite?

Despite a 4am wake-up for a day trip to Cincinnati I nailed today's workout - a whole 30 minutes of running, my first since the ill-fated LA Marathon. So far, so great!

April 4, 2011

Let's Get This Party Started!

Today marked the beginning of a few things:

Ironman Training!
I was up at 5:30 and in the pool by 6:15 for a workout that kicked my out-of-shape, offseason butt. It involved speedwork, which I don't think I've done since last summer, and had me surprisingly hot for being in cool water. It felt good to do a swim that counted as an actual workout.

A Return to Clean Eating
Remember that 80/20 approach I so passionately shared recently? Let's just say I've been more on the 20/80 plan lately, particularly since the LA Marathon. Part of that was my eat-whatever-my-heart-desires phase, and part was my insane sugar addiction being fueled by massive quantities of sugar. I blame delicious treats such as this.

If you see these, run. Run as fast as you can...

April Dry Spell
No, I'm not talking about the weather, I'm talking about a mini-break from my good friend wine and pretty much everything else in the alcohol family. I'm not giving it up entirely, but have earmarked two special occasions to enjoy freely and will limit consumption to just a couple more glasses during the month. The return to training and upcoming business travel will leave me tired. I figured I owed my body a break.

I feel ready for the changes and look forward to feeling stronger in no time. I have a bike on the schedule tonight, my first double in a very long time. I'll be sure to toast my success with a nice sparkling water post-ride!

April 2, 2011

"Recovery" Weekend

Following a big race I usually allow one week of eating and drinking whatever my heart desires. But this time around, I had an unstructured rest period of two weeks to get mentally and physically ready to start Ironman training on April 4. Since I have no training to speak of, I wanted to share my finest recovery meal yet. After all, the only thing I enjoy more than triathlon is food. And wine, of course.

Last night we had dinner at Obelisk in Dupont Circle. Obelisk is a refined Italian restaurant with just 30 seats. There is no sign out front, no website, no Facebook page and no music. Just simplicity. We arrived sufficiently hungry for the seasonally-driven, five-course tasting menu and brought two bottles of wine - a Produttori del Barbaresco 2005 Barbaresco and a 2004 Fratelli Revello Barolo Vigna Conca. But the experience started with a cocktail of vodka, Campari, moscato rosa and lime.

The first course consisted of various antipasti, including the creamy burrata and clams above. There were also marinated peppers and a perfect arrosticini - a skewer of small, beautifully grilled lamb cubes. Just when I thought I had died and gone to heaven the fritto misto arrived - a thin slice of onion and an incredibly delicious sardine.

I was kind of full (let's not talk about the raid I staged on the bread basket...).

But the wine was poured and the meal continued. Next up was the primi, I chose a ravioli stuffed with dandelion greens and watercress with walnuts and a light, brothy sauce. For the secondi I decided on the wagyu beef and did not regret it. Aside from my marathon weekend In-N-Out Burger, I haven't had beef since the holidays and don't plan to eat any for at least a few months. What better way to say farewell than with wagyu? It was truly unreal.

The fourth course was cheese served with a grainy fig jam. Unfortunately there are no photos because (1) I ate it very quickly, and (2) The restaurant was too dark to continue my iPhone photos. Trust me, it was lovely. Dessert was even lovelier, a dried pear and ginger strudel with moscato ice cream.

Of all the restaurants I've been to in DC, this was by far my favorite. I can't recommend it enough if you're in the area and I look forward to making my way back.

While my day was free of any real training, I did spend an hour walking amongst the cherry blossoms. It was windy and chilly, but stunning nevertheless. As much as I enjoy rest and indulgence, I'm looking forward to ending this recovery and kicking off my next phase of training on Monday. Until then, I'm off to find my next meal!

April 1, 2011


Since I signed up for Alcatraz, a race with a notoriously difficult swim, I decided it was time to go back to the pool. I reluctantly dragged myself there earlier this week for 30 easy minutes and while I was a bit bored, it wasn't entirely terrible considering I haven't been in the water for over two months, and really not much in the three months before that. Then last night I got to swim here, in a beautiful 50-meter pool that cuts the boredom in half.

I'll be spending the weekend in DC to celebrate my brother-in-law's birthday and see some cherry blossoms. There is sure to be a lot of eating and drinking, which means many more trips to the pool since I'm still not cleared to run!

In other news, I had a big health scare with my cat Otis this week. He was sick when I got back from the LA Marathon and it spiraled into extensive tests including X-rays, ultrasound and multiple rounds of blood work. I spent about three days accepting the thought I might lose him, but in the end everything turned out ok. I have never been more relieved and thankful.

Wednesday - Bike, 14.79 miles
Thursday - Swim, 1,500 meters


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