Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Race Report: Black Diamond Half-Iron

Okay, I'm finally ready to write this up. Since doing the race, life has been just crazy. Unfortunately the day after we got back, I had to put my 17 year old cat Noggin to sleep, the last of our two "first babies" to go (our 14 year old dog died 2 years ago). Then it was a whirlwind getting ready to have my two step-sons and their wives here for the weekend, a very exciting visit for everyone in the family - the first time we've all been together under one roof. Wow! We all went to the Ducks-Cougars game together, which was great fun. Then just after they all headed back for Washington it was time for the robotics team practice and then boom! it was right into Asa's 10th birthday yesterday. On top of that, we unexpectedly fell in love with and adopted a 9 week old Australian Cattle Dog - Australian Shepherd puppy that we've named Sophie. Of course, life never settles down around here like I think it's going to. Just when one thing smooths out, we seem to add something else to add to the craziness.

So anyways, on to the race report.

If you've been reading the saga of my summer's experimental triathlon training, you'll know that I went into this race with a big question mark hanging over my head about how it would turn out. Half-Iron is just not a distance you can bluff your way through. Undertrain and it hurts. Bad. Overtrain and it hurts. Bad. Nail it just right and you can have a great day.

Very short recap: Did my normal base training through winter and early spring. In late spring, decided to take a detour and try and experimental triathlon training protocol called Crossfit Endurance that focuses solely on intensity with no slower-paced long endurance efforts in the swim, bike, or run. After several months of this training, I raced an Olympic distance event at the Portland Triathlon. It did not go so well from an endurance standpoint. At that point I decided to jettison the Crossfit Endurance protocol as I was sincerely worried about using it to train for the half-Ironman and having enough endurance to compete at that distance. Then embarked on a totally experimental and crazy self-devised and self-inflicted program to bring myself back up to HIM endurance levels in 5 weeks or less. At the beginning of this time period, just a simple 45 mile bike ride felt overwhelming. But toward the end of the training, I could start to feel my old endurance flowing back, giving me some hope that the race would be doable.

So it was that with 4 weeks of training and a way-too-short 6-day taper, I stood on the lakeshore at Black Diamond and contemplated the day ahead of me. Complicating matters was a nagging left hamstring injury I picked up when I tripped while trail running with my sister. What would the day hold??

Swim: 30:06

For starters, the swim in this lake is always beautiful. The race directors kindly start us off at 9:00 am, a lovely time of day to be standing on a lake shore in the autumn sunlight (as opposed to the cold and almost dark of a 7:00 am start). The weather would be as near perfect a day as God hands out in the Fall in Washington: 70 and sunny. The race is extremely well-organized and the volunteers are plentiful. All is well. The men go first, women and relay swimmers 5 minutes later. I take off at a comfortable pace, the HIM swim is always so nice. You don't have to kill yourself with speed like in a sprint, yet you don't have to swim for an hour like in an Ironman. I felt like I hit my groove like I had done in Portland and swam strong and smooth. Out of the water in 30.06, about a 1:25 pace per 100y, which is reasonable.

T1: 2:55

T1 went well, although I don't care for the long u-turn chute you have to run through with your bike (on grass and mud). A couple of years ago my cleats jammed up with mud in this transition area, but this year's dry weather made for much easier going. Out onto the course in 2:55, which sounds slow for T1 but was one of the faster T1 times (it's a long T1 area to traverse). All is smooth. Practice has made good work when it comes to transitions today. Still, I see in the race results that a couple of folks manage to have sub-2:00 transitions, so there's room still for improvement there.

Bike 2:53:14

I love this bike course. They've changed it up from a couple of years ago, but it's still a very nice course. Course description says its 57 miles instead of the standard 56, don't know what's up with that. Lots of long rolling hills (which I like!), very smooth pavement, very good course marshalling (no drafting going on that I could see due to plentiful marshalls doing their job), wide shoulders for a lot of the course. There are a couple of strange out-n-backs with turnarounds that you hit twice, and this slows you down when you're in the groove. Early on in the bike, I go by the campground where we were staying and Wayne and the kids (and dog) are all out cheering. That was a big boost to start the bike with.

For the most part, the bike is uneventful but not optimal. I can tell starting out that I haven't tapered for anywhere near long enough and my muscles are still feeling flat and a little tired. Nothing to be done about that as it was a limitation of my shortened training timeframe. Still, I manage to hold a 19.7 pace, which is reasonable for the day. My one regret is that as I pulled a gel out of my Bento box on my bike, another one went flying out. Being the nice little competitor that I am, I slowed to a stop, waited for cars to go past, circled back to get it, and carried on. Cost me about 2 minutes on the bike course though. I spend a ridiculous amount of time beating myself up mentally for taking the time out of my game plan to get it, alternating with being aghast that I would even consider leaving litter on the course in order to gain a minute or two. What can I say, you have lots of time to argue with yourself about such trivialities out on the HIM bike course. Eventually, I come around a bend and see the sun hitting the hills and turning the fields to gold and all is forgotten as I enjoy the sheer beauty around me and the fact that I'm still out here able to do this awesome thing. My head is back straightened on again for loop two of the bike.

In loop 2, the old hip starts giving me hell with the hamstring injury. I make a big promise to my hamstring that if it will hold together for the next couple of hours, I will give it a couple months off from all biking and running and let it truly heal up. All of the looping and out-n-back on the course lets me see where the other women are at. There's a bunch in front of me, but many of them are relay riders that I start reeling in. I can see a few really smokin' fast ladies out in front and I imagine there are a few behind me that either will or won't catch me until the run. It all makes for fun headgames on the course. I pass two women in the last mile of the bike course that passed me earlier, just for fun.

T2: 1:50

My cheering section was there again, giving me some great energy. I could've been faster in T2. I changed socks. Then forgot my hat and went back for it. Oh well.

Run: 2:12:19

Well, what can you say with a sucky run time like that? I just didn't have the endurance to run at the kind of pace I would've liked to. Only one run over 10 miles in the last 5 months is probably what I'd lay that at the feet of. But on the bright side, the weather was gorgeous, the course is very very pretty, and I had the extremely pleasant company of a relay runner (and Ironman) from Canby, Washington who kept my mind off it all with some nice chatter about various HIM and IM races.

Unlike my HIM of a couple of years ago, I executed my nutrition plan flawlessly and had no bonk to contend with. In the last mile or so, I left whatever I had left in my legs on the course, and broke into a sprint when I saw Wayne and the kiddos at the finish line.

Finish: 5:40:37. Very very close to my last HIM time - 55 seconds off. 3rd in my AG, 3rd overall Master's Female, 15th woman overall.

With what I had going into the race and all of those question marks, it felt like a respectable time to turn in. Doing this time now with so little preparation jammed into a few weeks makes me feel like I need to come hit this course again in full form and see what I can do with it. I continue to feel like my Crossfit training has been a real asset to my triathlon training this season, and I can't wait to see what I can do with another year of that under my belt as well. As always, I'm grateful to be out here, to feel strong and have this body that can do such an amazing thing, that's the real gift of the day.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Hubby Tri's!!

This was Wayne's first Olympic distance triathlon, and serendipitously the Black Diamond race weekend fell on his birthday as well, so it was a fun way to celebrate turning a year older for him. A few months ago he had me write up a training plan, but the real training started when we began working with his swimming stroke last winter. He had not previously been a fan of swimming, for the same reason many athletes aren't - too boring going up and down the lanes, too frustrating when it feels like you're battling the water. Fortunately, it didn't take too long for him to turn the technique around and start moving up to faster lanes in the Master's swim group and then with the addition of a wetsuit this summer and some lake swims, he really took off. That all paid off this Sunday with a rocking 24:27 swim time, putting him as the 32nd fastest swimmer of the day. Yeah!
We had camped out at a campground along the race course, so the kids and I walked out to watch him come by on the bike, and he was right up there with all of the super-aero'd out tri-studs. He looked great on the bike, keeping up a good pace of 18.5 mph despite being on his heavy steel frame touring Bianchi with no aero bars. He finished up the bike strong with a 1:20.

Onto the run, he got to experience that lovely lead-legs feeling that triathletes love to hate, but shook it off eventually. Unfortunately, an injury left him not able to really train for the run this summer and so he missed enjoying some of his usual distance running speed, but he still clocked a respectable 53:59 on the run for an 8:41 average pace (not bad with almost no run training in the last 2 months!) and brought it all home in 2:46:17. Asa asked the race officials if she could run down the chute with him, and so he finished in style with a smile on his face. I'm just so happy to see how excited he was by this race and looking forward to doing some more race weekends together in the future. I think with the addition of a more aero bike position and an ability to utilize his running ability he will be able to kick this time down in the future.

Go Wayne!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

They're Baaacckkkkkk

Just a quick update before I hit the hay... we got back from our weekend of tri-ing. Hubby did great in his 1st Oly distance triathlon (with a time of 2:46, awesome!), and also celebrated his 46th birthday over the weekend. I had much more fun than expected in my half-Iron distance race, placing 2nd in my age group and 15th overall female. Race Reports to follow....

Thursday, September 24, 2009

And We're Off...

I've trained as much as I could, given the circumstances. I've tapered for the last week (not enough I know, but it will have to do). I'm packed and ready to go. So cross those fingers for me that the half-Iron feels doable on this amount of training and that all goes as smoothly as possible on race day.

Also keep 'em crossed for hubby on Sunday who is doing his first Olympic distance triathlon. I think I'm more excited for him than I am for myself!

Sunday, September 20, 2009


I've come around on my slingshot ride of orbit and am now entering the taper. Sheesh, no wonder I feel so tired. I finished updating my workout log for last week. 21.5 hours. Insanity. I never trained that many hours for the Ironman! Five of those hours were karate (no slacking for us brown belts) and one was Crossfit (meant to do two this week but there was just no way to slot it in). The other 14.5 were all tri training.

And now that it's over, I've spent a few minutes wondering if it was the right way to go about this. It's a bass-ackward way to train for a HIM - do all of your sprint and high intensity work for 4 months, then go back and try to add in a base. Still, I can't help but feel a little bit hopeful that it actually worked. My last long bike ride on Friday was 65 miles and it felt pretty decent for the first 55. That's a long cry from the horrible 35-miler I put in just a month ago. So the endurance has definitely snapped back, if not all of the way at least part of it. And I did a 6-mile tempo run this week that actually felt semi-decent.

So, I'm hoping that this all adds up to a half-Iron that's not half-bad. If anything, I'll be happy if I nail my nutrition and don't end up with a bonk midway through the run like last time. I would be really ecstatic not to repeat that nightmare, at the very least. Repeat to self: Must not forget gels on run. Must not forget gels on the run.

For now, it's taper, rest, let those muscles absorb all of those hours of training and snap back strong and sure. And I tell myself also to enjoy the fact that at 43 I can throw a 21+ hour week of training at my body and still take it. That in and of itself is a victory of sorts, just as standing at the starting line healthy and whole always is, to me.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

On the Dark Side of the Moon

Every time you train for something serious, there comes a time when the amount of effort needed feels like its going to bury you, when the world goes dark and other concerns have to fade away. This week, I'm just going to have to keep on throwing on everything I can training-wise and after next week's taper we'll see what sticks and what doesn't. Until then, well, I'll be exhausted!

On the bike today, random bit of song going through my head, I guess this is where my brain feels like my body is at:

And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear
You shout and no one seems to hear.
And if the band you're in starts playing different tunes
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon.

Bit of trivia to go with that snippet, did you know that Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon remained on the charts for 741 weeks (over fourteen years!), the longest duration of any album in history??

11.5 hours of training in the last 3 days, I'm going to bed now...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Swim Workout: 9-11

This workout is not an easy one. The 11-length segments are all 275's, which can seem pretty long especially if you're trying to push the pace. Tough. If it starts to feel too hard, you can think back to this day 8 years ago and that ought to take your mind off of your own troubles for awhile.

Warm Up

9 Lengths Swim, 11 Lengths Pull
9 Lengths Kick, 11 Lengths Swim

1000 y

Main Set

2 x (
9 Lengths: 3 x 75 Hard @:10
11 Lengths: Distance Pace

9 Lengths: 3 x 75 Descend @ :15
11 Lengths: Distance Race Pace
3000 y

9 Lengths: 3 x 75 IM No Free
11 Lengths: Pull

Cool Down:

9 Lengths: Drill 1, 4, 7
11 Lengths: Progressively slower, cooling down

4000 y

Monday, September 07, 2009

Train Like Hell, Taper, Pray

Maybe I should've titled this post "How to train for a half-Ironman in 3 weeks or less", since that's about what I'm facing right now. I took about a week of relatively easy training to recover from my Oly triathlon in August, then last week was eaten up by our usual pre-Labor Day camping extravaganza at Waldo Lake, and now here I am staring at going 70.3 in three weeks.

You might recall that my Oly triathlon didn't do much to reassure me that I am just brimming over with endurance, and in fact I haven't trained in any traditional endurance fashion in several months. No long runs or rides to build up that ol' base that I usually depend upon. So I had to formulate at least some kind of plan of attack and here it is:

Basically, I can sum it up in a nutshell - throw the book at my body for 3.5 weeks with everything I think I can take training-wise, then taper for 10 days and pray. So far, so good.

Week 1: 3 days easy recovery, 1 tempo bike, 1 interval run, 1 "long bike" of 35 miles (ye gawds my butt hurt after 2 hours in the saddle, must rebuild my bike butt!) and 1 "long run" of 7 miles. Summary: Depressing. My 7-mile run was 4.5 minutes slower than the same run done 4 months ago before abandoning my regular endurance regime. I could cry. Okay, no time for that.

Week 2: Whilst camping I had plenty of time for open water swimming and did at least 2 miles a day. That felt great. No, better than great, totally awesome. Went for a trail run, which always restores my joy in running (maybe I should enter a trail marathon or something someday, I love it so much). After getting back home this weekend did a long bike of 45 miles (almost 3 hours, lots and lots of hills), butt didn't hurt as bad but my neck was real stiff at the end. And a long run of 9 miles, which felt actually pretty reasonably good. Used the mile markers on the trail to make sure I held a slow enough pace, close to 10:00, trying to go for endurance not speed at this point.

Now I'm in Week 3, plan is for intervals and tempos in mid-week, and the weekends should look like this:

Week 3: 55 mile bike, 11 mile run
Week 4: 65 mile bike, 13 mile run
Week 5: Taper like heck, pray that my body can absorb all of this quick base building and snap back with a reasonable 70.3 that doesn't feel like I'm dying out there a couple hours into the race. Not sure if I'm nuts or not, but this is the best plan I could come up with.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Slowest Runner

Read this great piece written by a friend of mine about finishing her first 5k in last place. She's one of the best writers around, and always manages to find a way to bring out the essential truth in any experience:

The Slowest Runner.

FIVE Real Pullups

Yep, I can do five now!!! I could only do two last week, but that was before the crazy 105 pullup workout (with the help of a band - the rubbery kind, not a marching band, though come to think of it that would've been really helpful too, especially if they were playing the 1812 Overture or something equally compelling). In any case, that must've upped my muscles a ton. Ten is not looking so far away now.