July 31, 2011

More Progress and a Nice Break

I had a fairly good week from a consistency standpoint but still couldn't hit 100%. The nagging stomach issue I acquired last week has hung on with a vengeance and caused weakness, dehydration and exhaustion, which continuing heat and steadily increasing training load just added to. But overall it was a very good week with a solid medium run Monday, long run Wednesday and really nice ride on Long Island Thursday. I was feeling pretty beat up from the running and the tiredness lingered, but I had to prepare for Friday, my biggest day of the week.

I had a plan to drive up to Westchester County to ride 100 miles on the Toughman Half Iron course. I packed everything up on Thursday and set the alarm for 4:15, just 5.5 hours after my head hit the pillow. I got up, drank as much coffee as possible and did my final packing. It was raining lightly but the forecast called for it to clear so I wasn't too concerned... that is until I went to load up the car and a monsoon rolled in. I got soaked packing the car and prayed it would stop on the drive. An hour and a half later it had lightened up but showed no signs of stopping so I clipped in and headed out. Light rain and mist continued for about 3 hours but it kept the temperature down and the overcast sky was a dream. I was actually chilly at times. I was still sleepy and pretty exhausted and wondered if I'd make it two loops, but then miraculously felt better after about 4 hours. I ended up doing 106.7 miles and climbing just over 6,000 feet. It was my first long ride on the tri bike (and in tri shorts... ouch) this season and I couldn't have felt better.

I'm riding a lot slower this year and just have to accept that. I was out crushing myself with the peloton two days a week last year and was pushing a lot harder overall. I'm riding a ton and really enjoying it, but it hasn't been the hammerfest that 2010 was and my numbers show it. C'est la vie. I'm happy on my bike and that's all I can ask for.

I took a little break on Saturday and traded spandex for an evening gown to attend a wedding with Mark. It was a classic New York City afternoon: ceremony at St. Patrick's Cathedral, champagne at 21 Club and a Park Avenue reception with dancing, fun and friends. The perfect Saturday night.

Saturday's festivities led to a very leisurely Sunday morning with a 10:15 wake-up. Yes folks, 10:15. Usually by that hour I've logged two workouts and am heading back to bed! It was fairly amazing and so desperately needed. We did a 2-hour ride in the early afternoon and I headed to the pool for the first time in 3 weeks and swam an hour continuous. This, my friends, is the best money I have EVER spent.

This fully waterproof iPod Shuffle made a 3,000 yard continuous swim feel like nothing. I felt like I was in my own little universe and for the first time ever, wasn't bored out of my mind.

I have another big week ahead, but a step-down on the bike so I should feel a little fresher. I also have a major decision in the works and I'll share that in the coming days.

July 22, 2011

Killer Heat

It's hot outside. Scorching, boiling, miserable hot. It got into the upper 90s yesterday but didn't break the milestone 100 mark until today around noon. This meant bad luck for me for two reasons: (1) I had an 11-mile run on the schedule, and (2) I got some sort of food poisoning/stomach virus this week which is oh so fun in the heat. My plan was to be up at 4 and out the door by 5, but the stomach and general cruelness of the week didn't allow for that so instead I was up at 5:30 and didn't make it out the door until 7:30. It was already oppressively hot.

I took it super easy and was still reduced to a pool of sweat. I could feel the heat radiating off me. I drank 20 ounces of Cytomax, 8 ounces of ice water during my fluids refill stop, then 20 more ounces of water. I weighed myself before and after and was down 4 pounds. I did pretty well until about mile 9 where I had to stop and sit in the shade for a minute before powering through the final 2 miles. When I got inside, this was on weather.com.

I stopped at a deli, bought 10 pounds of ice and retreated to the air conditioning. An ice bath has never felt better.

After a 2-hour nap and tons of fluids I feel pretty good, albeit still sleepy. It's so hot out there that my apartment is 80 degrees even with the AC on high and set at 68. I'm really looking forward to the sun going down, but for now this is what New Yorkers are dealing with.

July 17, 2011

Let's Get This Party Started... Again

Three months ago I enthusiastically posted about my return to Ironman training, which was started slightly later than usual due to my spring marathon and late-season second Ironman.

April was relatively consistent aside from a couple business trips and conflicts - two days without training while in Colorado for an Olympics meeting, a rest day after riding the IMLP loop and a day trip to Cincinnati that turned into two days due to a weather cancellation. Otherwise I hit just about everything on the calendar. I was feeling good.

May wasn't as consistent, but had some high points. I had seven training-free days: a few 14+ hour work days, another business trip and some planned rest days. But the high points included riding the Gran Fondo New York, riding the IMWI course after a wedding in Madison (albeit with a teeny tiny hangover) and a day of rock climbing in the Shawangunks. All in all a good month with solid effort.

Then the wheels came off in June. I knew going in it would be a difficult month, but I'm not sure I fully realized just how difficult it would be. It started with my first race of the season (swear to god, the report is coming!), followed by some decent training volume and my Horribly Hilly Hundreds ride, then fizzled away after traveling to Greece and getting sick. The two-week lapse had me feeling pretty discouraged and made me question my ability to race.

So where does this leave me? Three months into training I'm definitely not where I want to be or need to be. Lack of consistency is my biggest issue - it doesn't allow proper recovery, it leads to tightness and stiffness in just about every part of your body, it screws up your sleep patterns and leads to weight gain or inability to lose weight. Stress is my other issue. We put our bodies through an immense amount of physical stress, then I have life stress layered on top of that essentially turning me into a cortisol factory. It's not healthy and very difficult to manage.

Despite all that I've been talked off the "I can't do IMWI ledge" and feel back on track. I used vacation to ease in and stuck to my schedule pretty religiously this week aside from swimming. I had a mole removed Tuesday during my bi-annual skin cancer screening and that means 10 pool-free days. You know I don't mind that! I've been tired and struggling to roll out of bed at 4:45 or 5 every day, but it's getting easier and will keep getting easier.

I had a great weekend of training including a 9-mile run Friday that finally felt good and was close to my former long run pace range. Then yesterday I drove up to Harriman State Park and did a 60-mile ride with more than 5,415 feet of climbing, including two times to the top of Bear Mountain. This ended with a 30-minute run and my legs officially hate me. Today will either be rest or a short recovery ride, then back at it next week.

July 10, 2011

My Crazy June

I'm having a hard time believing it's not only July, but nearly halfway through it. A lot of bloggers posted a half-year summary and I thought about doing the same, but at the pace I'm moving these days I'd be lucky to get it up before November. So instead I'm reflecting on June, the month that passed by in a flash and left me utterly exhausted, but included some really incredible experiences:
  • Traveled more in one month than ever before
  • Did my first tri of the year
  • Celebrated my birthday three times
  • Joined friends in Wisconsin for a ride
  • Left the country
  • Got tear gassed
  • Departed for vacation (well technically I departed in July...)

June 3-6 - San Francisco/Escape From Alcatraz

Race finish... I promise someday the report will be posted

June 10 and 11 - My first two birthday celebrations!

Beer garden before birthday dinner June 10

Birthday dinner June 11

June 17-20 - Wisconsin/Horribly Hilly Hundreds/third birthday celebration

With Laura at HHH, first rest stop before the real misery

With my nephew for birthday celebration #3

June 23-29 - Athens, Greece (and the tear gassing)

With colleagues and bloggers at the Parthenon

My volume suffered terribly and I was essentially a shell of myself by the time I left for vacation, but I used the week off to get re-energized and prepared for the big volume July will bring. I'm a little concerned about how undertrained I'll be for Ironman Wisconsin, but I've done it under far worse circumstances so I'm sure I'll be ok. I'm not aiming for a PR and will be racing with my friends from IMWI 2009 so it will be great regardless. For now I'm just hoping July remains as tranquil as it began... a girl can dream, right?

July 8, 2011

Cape Coddin' It

Just two days after returning from Greece I left on another trip, but this one was for pleasure. I've spent the past week in Provincetown at the very tip of Cape Cod, by far one of my favorite places on Earth. All of the Cape is lovely, but there is something really special about the outer Cape that I've loved since the first time I came here in the Summer of 1998. I was joined by my family and we have a little condo at the end of a pier where the water is beneath us during high tide. To swim, I simply walk down a set of stairs and voila - open water heaven.

As you can imagine, a beach vacation at the outermost tip of the Cape involves eating a lot of seafood.

Going to the beach.

Relaxing on the deck.

And lucky for me, it also involves beautiful biking along dunes, salt marshes and the ocean. I've done two rides so far - a 42-mile out-and-back from Provincetown to Wellfleet and a 72-mile ride to Wellfleet and then to Dennis and back on the Cape Cod Rail Trail, a 22-mile paved path for cyclists, walkers and runners.

That ride ended with the perfect recovery meal.

I had a ride planned this morning but woke up to rain. It doesn't look like it will clear so my biking may be done here, but at least I got in the miles I did. After a two-week bike hiatus it felt good to be back in the saddle (well, actually the saddle part didn't feel so good but you get my point...) and should make it easier to dive back into the training when I get home.

July 3, 2011

My Big Fat Greek Trip

While you may have suspected I quit the sport of triathlon, moved to the North Pole or gave up my computer, I've actually been traveling like a maniac this entire month and my latest adventure was in Athens, Greece. I was there on business for the Special Olympics World Games and had some time to get out and explore as well. It was a tumultuous time to be in Athens given the civil unrest and protests, but also a very historical one. I had the opportunity to experience everything from this:

To this:

Riots Near Syntagma Square

My favorite part of Athens was the old neighborhood called The Plaka, just on the other side of the protests in Syntagma Square and creeping up the hill to the Acropolis. I wandered for hours, had lunch that lasted for hours and saw some incredible ancient ruins. The Acropolis is clearly the crown jewel of Athens sightseeing, with the Parthenon as the star. How often can you stroll past monuments built 2,500 years ago? And the views from Acropolis hill are breathtaking.

But just below it there is another area of ruins called the Ancient Agora, the former Roman center of the city containing the remains of temples and commercial structures. Everywhere you go there are dogs wandering around. They don't belong to anyone but aren't wild per se. They pretty much ignore you and go about their business. This was my favorite part of the Agora:

Temple of Hephaestus

And now for the best part... the food. You know that Mediterranean diet they talk about that's so healthy? Yeah, not in Athens. My favorite things were of course the heaviest, fattiest of all - garlicky tzatziki (a sheep's milk yogurt dip) with pita, saganaki (fried cheese... yes, fried), moussaka (a sort of eggplant lasagna-type dish) and Greek salad, which never had any greens but was loaded with cucumber and tomato in olive oil and a huge block of feta thrown on top. On the lighter side I ate tons of grilled octopus and the occasional squid. But I generally topped it off with baklava, or some other flaky, honey-drenched pastry. The wine was delicious and I gravitated toward minerally whites that tasted like the sea.


Grilled Octopus

Best Lunch Ever

My final two days were in the midst of the national transportation strike due to the austerity vote taking place in Parliament. I unfortunately got caught up in a riot while walking back to my hotel and the police shot tear gas into the crowd. I can honestly say it was one of the most unpleasant experiences I've had. It was jarring, uncomfortable and most of all, made me feel incredibly empathetic for the people living through this disruptive time. I don't think protests and riots are the answer, but I also don't know what it's like to feel helpless and concerned about a stable future. It was a reminder that our lives are pretty good here and our complaints seem petty in the face of the challenges of others.

I had a 16-hour trip home due to the strike, but I made it. Even without the delays the flight is so long (10.5 hours) I watched three movies, ate two meals and still had time to kill. I was happy to be back and am still trying to shake the jet lag.

On the training front things have come to a screeching halt. I had planned to run daily in Athens and managed to make it out the first day, but the head cold I left with swiftly turned into a chest cold and I spent the week with a deep, nasty cough that would not allow any running to happen. I'm still recovering and am planning to ease back in and pick up where I left off. I could let it bother me, but I won't. At this point in my tri life I know I can bounce back and I'm positive I will.


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