How to Conduct a Heart Rate Test

HRTestRunner

Why do a majority of endurance sport coaches want/require you to train with a Heart Rate (HR) monitor?

It’s a great question! I know a lot of athletes who have fancy Garmin watches who don’t wear their straps. Personally, I think they are making a big mistake here. Now, HR isn’t a 100% accurate and there is certainly some day-to-day variability (i.e., heat, stress, time of day, etc.); but, overall, HR training is effectivearv

Why should you wear that annoying little strap that is probably chafing your skin? Here are some good reasons:

  • Wearing a HR strap ensures that your easy days are easy and your hard days are hard. Most athletes (myself included) have a tendency to work too hard on easy days and not hard enough on hard days. By knowing your HR zones you can ensure that you are working at the correct intensity levels to ensure the best physiological adaptations in your body.
  • Wearing a HR strap will aid you in determining what level of intensity you should be working at during exercise. We’ll discuss HR zones later below, but each HR zone specializes and trains different physiological adaptations and metabolic pathways in the body. For example, if you want to improve aerobic or endurance fitness then you should train primarily in Zone 2 (at or below aerobic threshold).
  • Wearing a HR strap can help you lose weight and “teach” your body to utilize fat for fuel. Now, we should emphasize the word “can.” Everyone’s metabolism is slightly different and not everyone will have the same results. While working at a lower intensity, HR between 55-65% of maximal HR, the body will utilize more fat molecules to fuel the body instead of glycogen. This is important for long-course triathletes. Staying in lower intensities will allow the body to use more fat vs glycogen (carbs) since fat is essentially an infinite fuel source vs. glycogen, which is a finite fuel source. Note: If you are not an endurance athlete and looking to lose weight, then you want to utilize a different method. We’ll discuss that another time.

As I mentioned above, there are HR zones. Depending who you ask, there may be slightly different versions of the HR Zones. Below is what I use with my athletes:

  • Zone 1 – Active Recovery (aerobic) or 50-60% of Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)
  • Zone 2 – Aerobic Endurance or 60-70% of MHR
  • Zone 3 – Aerobic Stamina/Tempo Pace or 70-80% of MHR
  • Zone 4 – Economy (anaerobic) or 80-90% of MHR
  • Zone 5 – Speed (anaerobic) or 90-100% of MHR

You might also see zones broken down by lactate threshold. Lactate threshold is the point in training intensity where lactic acid (or commonly called lactate) starts to accumulate in the bloodstream. In a nutshell, lactic acid is a by-product of metabolism at certain exercise intensities.

In order to determine an athlete’s HR zones, an athlete must undergo a Maximal Heart Rate Test. These, of course, can be done in the laboratory setting, but most athletes don’t have the time or money to do so. A field test works for most people.

You’ve probably read in a billion books and magazines that you can calculate your HR using a simple mathematical formula. You can, but, it’s not the most accurate, because the results can vary due to genetic differences between individuals and also between different activities. However, if you’re interested you can calculate your MHR using Karvonen’s Formula:

MHR = 220 – age or

The newer gender specific calculation:

Male = 214 – (0.8xage)

Female = 209 – (0.9xage)

For a more accurate test, I suggest conducting a Maximal Heart Rate Test for each running and cycling. Generally, your MHR will be about 5 beats per minute (bpm) higher during running than cycling.

Disclaimer: Heart rate tests are very stressful on the body. PLEASE get cleared by your medical provider before attempting any HR testing. This is especially important if you have any known heart conditions. Attempt at your own risk.

Here is the below protocol I generally use with my athletes for both cycling and running.

  • 5 minutes – warm up slowly to a pace where at the end you breathe a little hard, but are able to complete a full sentence without grasping for air
  • 5 minutes – maintain pace, but increase a bit during the less 60-90 seconds
  • 5 minutes – increase pace to labored breathing
  • 5 minutes – on a gradual incline, increase your pace from breathing hard to breathing very hard
  • 2 minutes – all out sprint on incline to maximum pace you can hold for 2 minutes
  • 1 minute – push absolute maximum speed (this should feel like hell)
  • 10-15 minutes – cool down at an easy pace to bring HR down and breathing should return to normal

This could be done on a flat surface or a treadmill, but I find that a gradual hill works best because my own personal HR increases higher when running on a hill.

The same protocol above can also be utilized on the bike. I recommend using an indoor trainer, but certainly it can be completed outside as well. It is important to maintain a consistent cadence, usually between 85-95rpm (aiming for 90rpm), throughout the test. As you progress through the test protocol, increase your gearing to a harder gear.

Once you have completed your test, download your data. If you have a coach, give the data file to your coach for analysis. If you use TrainingPeaks then you can easily figure out your HR zones through their software. If not, you can do it the manual way. Take your MHR value and multiple it by each zones’ percentage. For example:

MHR = 190

Zone

Minimum   Zone

Maximum   Zone

Zone 1 (50-60%) 190*0.5 = 95bpm 190*0.6 = 114bpm
Zone 2 (60-70%) 190*0.6 = 114bpm 190*0.7 = 133bpm
Zone 3 (70-80%) 190*0.7 = 133bpm 190*0.8 = 152bpm
Zone 4 (80-90%) 190*0.8 = 152bpm 190*0.9 = 171bpm
Zone 5 (90-100%) 190*0.9 = 171bpm 190*1.0 = 190bpm

Your zones may vary slightly depending on what HR zone calculations are used. Some zone calculations will break Zone 5 into Zone 5a, 5b, and 5c. If you work with a coach, your coach will help you with this. The above is just one method you can use. Once you know your HR zones, you can begin training. Now, if you have a power meter on your bike, then you will probably train using power metrics and thus you must complete a Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test. More on that later this week!

~ Happy Training!

A Year in Review: 2013 – Part I

Since today is the last day of 2013 I should probably start my Year in Review posts. Hmm… I’ll keep this one to more of the highlights and photos. But, 2013 was a good year. It started off a bit rough, but ended with many good things happening. I can’t complain.

January

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January was a month of ups and downs. I just finished my MPH degree in December and began my job search. Some decisions made by my boss at work made me extremely stressed since I wasn’t sure I was going to have a job. This caused me become sick often, which hindered a lot of my tri training, which began on the 1st of the year. Things at the gym were also unusually slow so professionally and financially I was stressed. However, I got my degree in the mail so it made things more real!

February

Picking the pace up!

Picking the pace up!

I ran the annual Mid-Winter Classic 10-Miler again. It went way better than my disaster of 2012 race where I ran sick and came really close to DNFing. However, I still treated the day more of a training run than anything because I was learning I lost all my running aerobic fitness over my Fall running hiatus due to plantar fasciitis. I also learned important lessons in time management. Working three jobs and training for an Ironman is not fun or easy to do.

March

My mother, my sister and I (1989)

My mother, my sister and I (1989)

Azul and I celebrated our One Year anniversary. I love that bike! I also celebrated the 4 year anniversary of my mother passing, which is never easy to do. I miss her everyday.

April

Done!

Done!

I started April off with a bang! I ran the Race the Runways Half-Marathon again, this time as a training run. It was insanely cold and windy, but I had great company throughout the race. The next day I developed a 102 fever and was out for a couple of days. Go figure! Towards the end of the month I began to develop a bit of a twinge in my right knee. I also went to the USAT Level One Coaching clinic and became a certified coach!

May

Tammy, Myself, Marisa, and Beth - all taking home hardware after a great race!

Tammy, Myself, Marisa, and Beth – all taking home hardware after a great race!

That twinge in my right knee developed into full-fledge IT-Band issues that plagued me for the rest of the summer. I managed to race the PolarBear Tri… barely. Miraculously, I placed 3rd in my age group.

June

Okay, not from my rides this week... but from the Patriot Hald Aquabike

Patriot Half Aquabike

My run training was extremely limited. I saw my chiropractor at least once a week to help heal my IT-Band issues. I dropped down from the Half-Ironman to the Half Aqua Bike at the Patriot Half. I had a good day, pacing myself like I would at Lake Placid. However, I almost ran over both turkeys and geese on the bike.

 July

IMLPfinishline

I became an Ironman! I celebrated yet another epic 4th of July with my favorite family and began my final build to the big day. My Ironman day went as planned. My knee held out to mile 18ish of the run before I was forced to walk the rest of the way, but I finished my goal, and that was to become an Ironman.

August

Enjoying a day at the beach

Enjoying a day at the beach

August was a recovery month. I spent a lot of time with friends and family. Towards the end of the month I began running again slowly just to rebuild my horrible running fitness. I had several promising job interviews. I also left my job at the gym I was working at to go off on my own to start my own business.

September

An example of pubis symphysis seperation - clearly an extreme case (Source)

An example of pubis symphysis separation – clearly an extreme case (Source)

I finally got offered a job! A great deal of stress was lifted off of me. I continued running easily until my pelvis decided to twist itself again. Awesome. I then began another running hiatus and began my yoga addiction.

October

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Hot Yoga Time!

I became addicted to hot yoga and it was fabulous. I saw my chiropractor at least once a week to convince my pelvis not to split into two. I was happy as a clam at my new job and I joined the Junior League of Portland, Maine.

November

One of my favorite quotes of the year!

One of my favorite quotes of the year!

I continued with my yoga binge, loving every minute of it. I was slowly cleared to return to “normal” training. I mostly rode my bike, but ran a few times. It hurt.

December

Skiing at Shawnee Peak

Skiing at Shawnee Peak

I skied for the first time since my mother died almost five years ago with a friend. More to come of this in the next week or so. I’ve slowly been building my aerobic base again, mostly through cycling.

~ Happy Training and Happy 2014!!

How to Find a Triathlon Coach

So, you’re thinking about hiring a coach to help you reach your endurance sport goals. But, where do you start? Finding and hiring a coach can be a difficult or easy process depending on who you know and what you need and want in a coach. I like to think that searching for the right coach for you is like dating. There are a lot of good coaches out there, but you need to find the one that works for you. Below is a guide to help you along your journey to finding the right coach for you.

  1. Determine your goals – Do you want to race an Ironman or a sprint tri? Do you need swim-focused training? Are you trying to qualify for Kona or the USA team? Figuring out your short-term and long-term athletic goals is important in identifying the right coach for you. Plus, every coach will ask you what your goals are so it’s best to be prepared anyway. Some coaches specialize in long-course athletes, while others work with short-course athletes. Some love working with beginner athletes and developing their potential from the start, while others prefer to work with athletes that are a bit more experienced. Some coaches have strong backgrounds in one particular sport and thus maybe you need their expertise in that one sport to turn your weakness into your strength. Determining your goals not only helps you figure out what you need and want in a coach, but will help your future coach determine your training plan.
  2. Determine location and communication needs – Do you need to work with a coach in-person? Or can you work with a “virtual” coach through TrainingPeaks and email? Working with a coach in-person is probably relatively rare in the triathlon world, but it can definitely happen depending where you live and what the availability and what services are offered by the coach. This option is most likely more expensive than a “virtual” coach. A large majority of coaches use training software, such as TrainingPeaks, to deliver training plans to their athletes. It allows athletes to upload their training technology devices and provide feedback on each training session to the coach. At this point it is important to consider what level of communication you need from your coach. Are you the type of person that needs to talk to your coach on a daily basis? Do you want access to your coach via email, phone, text, smoke signal, etc.? Every coach will let you know how much access you will be able to have from them. It is important to remember that each coach has a life too and may not be at your becking call 24/7.
  3. Determine the type of personality you can work with best – This is the part that I equate with dating. You need to find a coach that you get along with well. At this point I would suggest creating a pros and cons list of traits that you want and need in a coach. Are you the type of person that needs to be praised after every workout? Do need extra guidance for certain workouts? Do you prefer a coach that will tell you like it is even if it’s bad? Every coach has a unique personality. You might find that you want the same coach your friend is using because of his or hers reputation, but then you may realize you two don’t get along well. Once you figure out your pros and cons list, go through and star the traits that you need in a coach. The rest are the wants that you can live without if you have to, but still try and find someone that meets at least some of those traits. Reach out and have a conversation with a few coaches and see how well you hit it off with each of them. Remember that most coaches will want to keep your relationship professional. There are a few coaches that do become friends with their clients, so keep this in the back of your head when looking for a coach.
  4. Determine cost and affordability – Cost is probably the biggest factor in people choosing to hire a coach or not. Personally, I believe it’s the best investment I have made in my triathlon career. I first hired a coach in 2012 and it was by far the best decision I made because she truly formed me into the athlete I am today and also inspired me to become a coach myself to give back to other athletes looking to reach the next level in their triathlon careers. Determine what you can afford each month for a coach and then search around for coaches that are within your budget. Most coaches are in the range of $150-250 a month depending on their education and athletic and coaching background. It doesn’t hurt to ask a coach too if perhaps you could work out a deal if they are really out of your price range. However, they may not agree so don’t get your hopes up too much.

Now that you have determined what you need and want in a coach, where do you find a coach? A great way is through word-of-mouth. Ask your tri buddies who they use and what they like and dislike about their coach. And, as a reminder, just because your bestie loves their coach, doesn’t mean their coach is the best fit for you. Also you can use the coach finder tool through TrainingPeaks or google triathlon coaches to find other coaches.

Here are some other thoughts that you should consider:

  • Does education matter to you? Most coaches are USAT certified coaches. There are varying levels ranging from Level I (entry level) to Level III. A coach that is USAT certified must pass a test to be certified after attending a two-day seminar and complete CEU courses to remain certified. They also have coaching insurance. Some coaches may have additional certifications in cycling, swimming, personal training, etc. Few coaches also may have degrees in exercise science. Chances are the more educated the coach, the more expensive they will be.
  • Is your coach a top competitive athlete? Many people seem to pick their coach based on the coach’s athletic achievements. Oh, they qualified for Kona? They must be a rockstar coach! Just because your coach is a rockstar athlete does not mean they are a rockstar coach. Chances are they have their own coach that has helped them reach their achievements. Is it important that your coach be active in racing? Are they racing at a high level? If they are, they may not have a lot of time to devote to you and your training needs. Of course, you probably do want a coach that has or is currently competing in the sport (I know I would). There are numerous awesome coaches out there that may not be competing at the upper levels of the sport that are amazing coaches. Look at Chrissie Wellington’s old coach, Brett Sutton. Sutton was not a strong swimmer, but was an amazing coach (he coached the 2000 Australian Olympic swim team with a great deal of controversy though) and has coached many world champion triathletes. (Side note: Sutton is a controversial coach, but he does know how to produce champions)
  • What is their roster size? Some coaches run their businesses as their full-time gig, others do it part-time. What is their athlete roster size? Do they coach 5 athletes or do they coach 25 athletes? How much time will they devote to you? Is this important to you? This question ties in with some of the other factors mentioned above, such as communication needs.
  • Do you want extra benefits like a tri kit and/or clothing? Some coaches have “race teams” and thus have tri kits for their athletes. Do you want to wear a tri kit from your coach? Some people want to feel like they are part of a team and want to represent their coach’s brand. There is nothing wrong with this because I have seen some pretty sweet team kits out there, but is this important to you? Do you want extra benefits?

Don’t be afraid to approach perspective coaches to pick their brains to determine if they are right for you. Most athletes tend to work with a coach for about two years and then will switch to a different coach to try something new. Coaching may be an expensive investment, but I find it has the best return on investment in helping you reach your goals!

Now, for a shameless plug for myself, since I can, I am still accepting athletes for 2014 so contact me above through the “contact me” tab and we can see if we are a good fit for each other.

~ Happy Training!

2013 Triathlete Gift Giving Guide

triathletegift

Perhaps you’re a last minute shopper like me? Yes, I generally wait until December 24th to do my holiday shopping. Nothing like a little procrastination, right? I think grad school taught me that…

Triathletes are usually pretty easy to shop for since we typically like the latest and greatest technology that will make us fitter, stronger, and faster. Many triathletes have no problem shelling out $10,000 for the top of the line tri bike. I wish I had that problem…

However, sometimes it may be hard to shop for a triathlete because we tend to buy the newest technology as it comes out. If a triathlete has been in the sport for several years they may also have just about all the core equipment and some of the bells and whistles already, so what do you buy them?

Here is a list of items of various price tags to meet anyone’s budget and the needs of the triathlete in your life:

  1. Coaching – Perhaps your triathlete already has a coach or is thinking about hiring a coach in the New Year to help them meet their triathlon goals. Hint, hint – I’m still accepting athletes for 2014! Coaching is a great investment that any triathlete will see huge rewards from. Consider paying their coaching fees for a month or two or even the whole year!
  2. Race Entry Fee – Race entries can be expensive for any triathlete, especially if they are racing multiple events in a season. Ironman races can cost up to $700, while even the smaller local races can still cost about $100. Paying a race entry fee for your athlete will sure make them happier and more driven to do well in that race, just for you of course!
  3. Gift Certificate for a Bike Tune-up – Regular bike cleaning and tune ups are part of every bike owner’s yearly maintenance. Unfortunately, many of us tend to skip these very important things in favor of buying gear. A bike tune up several weeks before a big race can ensure that the triathlete’s bike is in working order and can make them faster! Who doesn’t love free speed!?
  4. New Tires – Bike tires are like car tires – they need to be changed when they become too worn out. If you live in an area where in snows a lot then chances are the triathlete in your life has to spend countless hours on the trainer riding to nowhere. Some triathletes buy special trainer tires (which are a great holiday gift idea too!) or just use their regular tire, which will be completely worn by the beginning of spring. They would love a new set of tires for race season! Make sure you check their current tires on their bike to ensure you buy the correct ones.
  5. Swim Pass or Swim Lessons – Little known fact… swimming is expensive! Living in Maine, I personally don’t have a lot of options for indoor swimming pools. I would estimate that we have about 15 pools across the entire state. For those of you living in Boston or New York, you probably have 15 pools in one block! Lap swimming adds up quickly! Most pools in the Greater Portland area average $3-$5 a pop and if you swim 3 times a week that’s about $60 a month! Consider buying your triathlete a swim pass at their local swimming hole and/or swimming lessons. Even the most advanced swimmers can gain something from a swim coach.
  6. Gift Certificate to a Running Store – Support your local running store by getting your triathlete a gift certificate! That way your athlete can pick out their favorite running shoes, winter running clothes, or even stock up on sports nutrition. Win, win for everyone!
  7. Race Wheels – Every triathlete dreams of having fancy race wheels, myself included! Race wheels are expensive, hence why I don’t have any. If you don’t have $2000 to purchase your favorite triathlete some new wheels then consider paying their race wheel rental fee at their big race this season. TriBike Transport, Rev3, and many bike shops offer race wheel rentals on the big day for a fraction of the cost of purchasing a set.
  8. Body Glide – Every triathlete needs some Body Glide! It’s a tough job squeezing into your wetsuit on race day. Body Glide makes the perfect stocking stuffer!
  9. IronWar – Matt Fitzgerald’s book on the 1989 Ironman World Championships tells the grueling story of the battle between the world’s two best athletes – Mark Allen and Dave Scott. This book is an epic page-turner and your favorite triathlete won’t want to put it down until it’s done!
  10. Massage – Triathletes often spend too much money on buying the best gear and technology and not enough on the stuff that matters the most – proper recovery! Massage is a great and proven effective recovery tool. Consider buying your triathlete a gift certificate to their favorite sports massage therapist. Your triathlete will thank you later!

~ Happy Training & Happy Holidays!  

Year in Triathlon – 2013

I always enjoy writing yearly recaps. It think it’s fun to look back and see what I have or have not accomplished over the year. I plan to do a longer and more involved post next week about my year, since some pretty big life events occurred. In the meantime, here is a fun running/triathlon related year review questionnaire from Miss Zippy.

Best race experience?

IMLPfinishline

Hands down, it was Ironman Lake Placid. Even though my race day expectations weren’t quite as I imagined at the beginning of 2013 (thank you IT Band/knee!), I went into the day with the goal of just finishing and enjoying the day. You can catch up on my race reports and reflections here:

IMLP Race Report I

IMLP Race Report II

Ironman Lake Placid: The Why, The Data, and The Photo I Carried

Lesson from Yoga: Just Breathe…

Best run?

This one is hard to pick since I wasn’t able to run a lot due to my IT Band problems all year. The one I remember the most was the 3 mile run of the PolarBear Tri in May. My IT Band/knee went right before the race so I honestly went into the race expecting to DNF. I hobbled out on T2 with intense pain in my right knee, but somehow managed to ignore the pain and run through it to finish 3rd in my age group. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have run and just taken the DNF, but my ego got the best of me.

Race Report: PolarBear Tri

My best runs probably occurred the end of August into September where I was finally able to resume running relatively pain-free. I just focused on slow, steady HR-based runs to regain my aerobic fitness, then my hip decided to revolt and I was laid up with hip issues again. Overall, not the year for running for me!

Best Bike?

Okay, not from my rides this week... but from the Patriot Hald Aquabike

Patriot Half Aquabike

Hmmm… once again, none really stand out to me this year. I did log a lot of miles on my bike this year. There was one 3+ hour ride the first weekend of June, where it was 90+ degrees, and I succeed to get a nasty sunburn on my back. Ouch! The bike leg of the Patriot Half AquaBike was a fun course and I really nailed my race plan for IMLP. I also got attacked by turkeys and geese in the middle of the road!

Race Report: Patriot Half AquaBike

I rode to New Hampshire one day for an 90+ mile ride. It’s always fun to say that I rode to another state. My first 100+ mile training ride was another decent ride. I rode from my house in Gorham up the coast to Bath and back. I think I went through at least 7-8 water bottles that day.

Oh yea, I rode my bike 109 miles on Sunday...

Oh yea, I rode my bike 109 miles on Sunday…

Best swim?

I think my IMLP swim was my best swim of the year. I swam conservatively and outside the cable line in attempt to not get punched and/or swam over. It caused me to swim a little extra distance, but I met my goals and was comfortable the entire time. Plus, I got to swim with my closet 3000 friends! 🙂

Excited to swim in Sebago Lake

Excited to swim in Sebago Lake

Best new piece of gear?

My Garmin 910XT! I still suck at using it during races. Hello 112 mile T1! Ha! But, in all seriousness, I really love it, especially the swim function.

Happy birthday to me!

Happy birthday to me!

Best piece of running advice you received?

The best piece of advice I received this year was just prior to IMLP when a friend told me to enjoy the moment. You only get one first Ironman and it worth it to step back and suck the moment in. I wrote about that experience HERE.

Most inspirational runner?

I read Kilian Jornet’s book this year and he is a remarkable runner and adventurer. You can read my book review here on Run or Die. I am also a big fan of Lauren Fleshmen. Not only is she a superfast runner, a new mom, wife to pro triathlete Jesse Thomas, but she wrote this awesome piece on bodyweight perception and the media in her piece called Keeping it Real.

If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be?

Accomplishing, challenging, and thought-provoking

How was your 2013? Did you meet all your goals? What was the most memorable moment for you?

~ Happy Training!

My 2014 Race Schedule

 

I'm a member of Team Water.org (plus I thought this was funny) :-)

I’m a member of Team Water.org (plus I thought this was funny) 🙂

As much as I have been enjoying my extended off-season, I’m getting physically and mentally restless. Luckily I have been able to stay active through yoga and my bike on the trainer. And thankfully I just got cleared to run and also to return to strength training so my activity levels can soon “normal” swim, bike, run.

For the past couple of weeks I have been putting together my “Yearly Training Plan” or YTP (also known as an annual training plan or ATP). For the past couple of years I have been guided by an excellent coach who transformed me into the athlete I am today (well, not quite the broken down athlete at the moment, but the one that set PR after PR over the past couple of seasons). This year I have decided to coach myself, which could end up being the best decision or the worst decision on the planet. Only time will tell…

Speadsheets galore!

Speadsheets galore!

In order to construct my YTP I needed to decide what races I planned on racing in 2014. It was a tough decision to make. A lot of races have been opening up for registration and I see on Facebook and Twitter what races people are signing up for in 2014. I’m an impulse race register. If I see a friend doing a race then I automatically want to do the race too. It’s kind of a problem, especially since I pledged to myself to only race the small, local races this season in order to focus on healing my body, getting faster and stronger, and growing my own coaching business.

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I was debating on signing up for a Half-Ironman this coming summer. It’s my favorite distance and when Ironman was advertising the price of $199 for Timberman 70.3 in New Hampshire I got suckered in. I opened up my wallet and took out my darn credit card. So much for self-control…

So without further ado, here is my tentative 2014 race season:

4/5/14 – Race the Runways Half-Marathon

5/3/14 – PolarBear Sprint Tri

6/8/14 – Pirate Sprint Tri

7/??/14 – Norway Sprint Tri

8/17/14 – Timberman 70.3

10/19/14 – BayState Marathon (maybe)

Those are the major races that I plan on racing in 2014 with Timberman being my big “A” race. I would absolutely love to qualify for Worlds (most likely a roll-down slot), but my chances are extremely slim. I checked last year’s results and there was over 100 women in the 25-29AG with the winner going close to 5:00. Speedy, speedy women!

I will probably register for Beach to Beacon again this year and sprinkle in some 5ks here and there. I may or may not run BayState in October. It will depend how my run fitness is going (and if it comes back)! I want to focus on quality versus quantity in 2014. Of course, everything is always subject to change.

What races are you signing up or have signed up for in 2014?

~ Happy Training!

Cleared for Take-Off: My Return to Running (or some semblance of it)

 

One of my favorite movies! (source)

One of my favorite movies! (source)

Last week I finally got cleared by my chiropractor to run again after a long 10+ week hiatus. Back in September I signed up for the Thanksgiving Day 4-Miler in Portland, but I made a wise decision not to run it even though I probably “could” have.

Casey, my chiropractor, said that I could run on a flat surface and no more than 3 miles. Well, obviously the 4 mile, very hilly course on Thanksgiving was out. Fine by me! I secretly hate that race anyway; however, I’m the idiot that continues to sign up for it because all my friends run it…

Between the holiday craziness, the icky cold weather, and work I wasn’t able to run until Saturday morning. I put just about every winter layer of running clothes I had on, since the last time I ran was back in September in shorts and a t-shirt. Apparently, I have become a cold weather wuss… I normally have no problem running in rain, snowstorms, hurricanes, and on ice, but now that the temperatures have dropped below freezing my body has decided that it prefers warm weather. I blame hot yoga…

I’m a veteran of returning to running after an injury. You’d think I would be used to the pain and mental mind-f*** of sheer lack of any aerobic fitness that a person has due to running. I brought my dog, Reagan, with me on the run for motivation (okay, maybe I was hoping that she’d just drag me around the trail…). That dog loves to run (and chase birds and chipmunks).

Source

Source

I felt good the first mile. I was running again! Yippee! I wore my Garmin but didn’t really pay attention to pace or time. I knew I would be slow. I just ran by feel. Around the Mile One mark I looked at my watch to check my pace and heart rate. I was going just a hair-below a 10-minute mile. Not bad for a slow, long run pace! Then I looked at my heart rate… 178bpm. No wonder I was sucking wind and felt like dying. I was running damn near my zone 5 heart rate!

Time to slow down a bit before I succeed to keel over from a running-induced heart attack… the “return to running” pain started to set in a bit during mile two. Argh, this process is going to suck. I was starting to get a small twitch in my right knee again. Please no! I was hoping with my running hiatus that my knee/IT-band issues would start to resolve! It was getting better post Ironman as I was focusing on rebuilding my lack of running fitness in August and September. Grr…

The knee was really starting to bother me after my Garmin beeped at the Mile Two mark. I held out until 2.25 miles and then surrendered and finished with a walk home. Why make the problem worst now?

Over all, it felt good to run again. I miss running. It’s going to take a long while to regain my running fitness, since I never really had any all of 2013 due to the knee/IT-band issues that began fairly early in my season. I’m okay with that. My big “A” race in 2014 isn’t until August, so that gives me some time to really ensure my body is healed enough to begin picking up the intensity and volume of training.

I will continue to run a couple times of week now, but my main focus right now thorough the early winter will be rebuilding my bike power. I’m hoping that we’ll get a lot of snow this year in the Greater Portland area so I can do a lot of cross-country skiing in place of running. And stay tuned for more pathetic stories of my return to running. J

~ Happy Training!

Book Review: Run or Die

I have major “reader ADD.” I have a huge stack of books sitting on my bed stand waiting to be cracked open for the first time or partially read and just waiting to be loved again. I will start a book and then hear about a better book and read that all while my “to read” books pile up. I’ve made a good dent in my pile this summer (ok, maybe only in the past couple of weeks) and then I go to the book store or Amazon and buy more books. I think I seriously have a problem!

Source: Amazon

Source: Amazon

Anyway, while browsing some of my favorite blogs I found a book review on Kilian Jornet’s Run or Die book that caught my attention. I quickly added the book to my ever-growing “to read” list I keep in my purse, even though I had no idea who the heck Kilian Jornet was. I just knew he was an ultra-runner from Spain who is only 25 years old. Interesting. Last week I had some time to kill before meeting up with a friend so I went to Books-A-Million. I like Books-A-Million, but can I say that I totally miss Borders?! My first stop in any bookstore is always the sports and fitness section to see what the store has on triathlon and exercise physiology books. And then I head over to the science section. Yes, I’m a proud science nerd! Surprisingly, BAM had Jornet’s Book so I picked it up.

I finished the book in a couple of days. It’s short (less than 200 pages) and is a quick and fast read. The book was originally written in Spanish and then translated into English, which at times makes the writing a like awkward at times. Now, who is Kilian Jornet you may ask. Good question! He is a 25-year-old world champion ultrarunner and ski mountaineer who grew up in the Catalan Pyrenees. He began his skiing, running, and mountaineering career at a very young age. By age 5 he had completed the ascent of Aneto, the Pyrenees’ highest peak with his family. Now, that is pretty awesome if you ask me!

He has won the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, a 168K trail race around Mont-Blanc with over 9600 meters of climbing that must be completed under 46 hours. He has won this three times. He also won the 2011 Western States 100 in California. He has also set the speed record on Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak and my number one bucket list item! I’m a bit jealous!

As you can see the kid is pretty spectacular and an amazing athlete. With that part set aside, what I really enjoyed about his book is his maturity and worldly view of his life and what he does. His descriptions of the scenery he sees on his runs and his feelings are very real and keeps you turning the page for more. Through his story you can tell that some of his biggest life lessons have come from running. Clearly this kid is very well-disciplined. Heck, he goes out a runs for 5+ hours for fun!

One section in the book was about Alba, a girl he met on a bus back to his hometown who he fell in love with. From his writing and her mention in the book you can tell that she profound effect on his life. One of my favorite quotes of the book comes from his questioning himself as a person after he and Alba break-up: “It motivated me to find strength and inspiration from those around me, because the winner isn’t the strongest, but rather the one who truly enjoys what he is doing” (page 124).

Chapter 9 entitled “what I think about when I think about running” is the chapter that really hit home for me. As a long-course triathlete it is often hard for my friends and family to understand why I think swimming, biking, and running hours on end each day is fun. Kilian hits home exactly my stance on the issue:

“When thoughts sail through my head and can find no way out, I always go for a run to free up my mind. I find that then I can see everything more clearly, and that my problems are put into perspective. Running is the best way for me to disconnect from routine and to find the solutions to my problems, which I struggle to see even though they are often staring me right in the face” (page 173).

I tend to solve all my problems while I’m either running or biking. I often train alone because I need that time to sort out life’s problems. I have solved many of the world’s problems in my head while running, now just to make them tangible… 

In a nutshell, I recommend this book. It’s a quick and fun read. Kilian is very wise and mature for his young age. He has done some truly remarkable things thus far and I’m sure he is on the path for more greatest in the sports of running and skiing. And perhaps he’ll let me crew for him when he makes a speed attempt on Mount Aconcagua!

~ Happy Training!

Post Ironman Honeymoon

After two weeks the honeymoon is over. I certainly made the most of it. From ice cream to beer to spending the day at the beach. It was weird to do completely nothing for a while. I must admit that I did enjoy it, but I’m ready to get back to work with a few goals in mind.

Enjoying a day at the beach

Enjoying a day at the beach

After IMLP, people either asked me if 1) I was happy with my time and/or 2) will I do another Ironman. The short answer to both is yes.

I am happy with my time. I’m not jumping for joy over the time, but I’m content. When I started to train for Ironman back in January I was hoping to go much closer to 13 hours or even sub-13, but then I was hit with a lot of stress from work, which led to me being sick a lot. Plus, the whole hip/knee/IT-band issue that plagued me for much of my training didn’t help my case. Back in April when the IT-band/knee pain first appeared I wasn’t even sure that I would toe the line in July. Luckily I have an amazing chiropractor who helped me get my pelvis back into alignment and work her magic hands on my IT-band and overactive quads. Going into the race I didn’t have a real time goal. I just wanted to finish. Secretly, I did hope to go sub-14, but I knew going into the race that my limiter was my knee. When my knee gave out then I knew it would be time to walk, crawl, or roll myself across that finish line. I lucked out that my knee finally gave out at mile 18 of the run. I was impressed that it lasted that long. I also knew my bike fitness was lacking from the previous year, which was a total bummer, but it is what it is.

IMLP 2013

IMLP 2013

I will absolutely do another Ironman. The soonest, however, that I will do an Ironman will be 2015. I need to take a year off from Ironman to heal and fix my hip that has been causing all my IT-band, knee, and plantar fasciitis issues for the past couple of years. Someday I would love to qualify for Kona. I know that my chance of actually doing that is about the same chance I have of winning Powerball (in other words, a snowball’s chance in hell since it would require me to actually buy a lottery ticket!). However, I really enjoy the Ironman distance. I had a feeling that I would, but I want to be smart. I intend to be in this sport for the long haul so I need to step back and focus on healing my body to reduce chances of future injuries and also prevent mental burn-out.

I also need to step back and focus on my career. My professional life has been nothing shy of stressful this year and I really need to put myself in a positive and challenging new career path. Now that I have some more free time I have been taking opportunities that will help me reach my ultimate goal. I’m also looking forward to taking on new clients and athletes for personal training and coaching. (HINT HINT!) 🙂

This past week I have begun to add more structured workouts into my week. However, for the month of August I just plan on doing what I feel like each day, whether it’s running, cycling, swimming, yoga, or even just walking my dog. I rode my bike yesterday for the first time. Only 25 miles, but holy cow were my quads on fire throughout the ride! Last Wednesday my chiropractor put my pelvis back into alignment, which took away a considerable amount of pain away from my hips and right knee. She has “prescribed” me several hip opening yoga poses each day for the next two weeks to help loosen up my hips. My hamstrings are super tight and are one of the root causes of my hip issues so hopefully with some yoga they will loosen up and help relieve some pain.

Reunited and quads still burn from IMLP!

Reunited and quads still burn from IMLP!

So what’s next? I haven’t completely decided. Much of my Fall plan is contingent upon my knee and hip. I’m hoping to run a couple of half-marathons and then begin marathon training for the Maine Coast Marathon in May. I also want to focus on building up my power again on the bike, since it dropped rather drastically from last year to this year. Note to self: don’t take a 4+ month break from your bicycle before beginning Ironman training. Opps! Lesson learned.

~ Happy Training!

Race Report – Ironman Lake Placid – Part II

If you missed part I of my race report then click HERE so you can read about my pre-race and swim!

The Bike

During the final lap of the swim it had started to rain a bit. Not crazy downpour rain, but enough to wet the roads. As I ran through transition a volunteer had my bike ready to go for me. I grabbed Azul from the volunteer and ran to the bike out. The mount line was a bit scary. It’s very narrow and there were a lot of people. I was nervous that I was going to run into someone or someone was going to run into me, but luckily everything was fine. The first half mile of the course is narrow with multiple sharp turns and steep hills to navigate before embarking on the actual 112 mile journey. Soon enough I found myself riding by the horse show grounds about a mile from town. It is around here that you begin climbing out of Lake Placid.

My goal for the first loop was to take it stupid-easy. The climb out of the town of Lake Placid is no joke. Once you think you get to the top and begin the descend down to Keene, you hit rollers and climb some more. The bike route was quite congested because everyone and their mother was on the bike by now! Everyone was in everyone else’s drafting zone, but how could you not be! I was getting passed on the right by impatient men. I took my time spinning up the hills. I absolutely did not want to be stupid and go out too hard and blow up later on the second lap like a lot of people tend to do.

Finally I made it to the top of the hills and began the crazy 10k descend into Keene. The roads were wet from the shower and the road conditions themself were not that great on this section of the road. I stayed to the right, sat up, and rode my damn brakes down the hills! Large men barreled by me going about mach 10 in aero. Go for it dude! But, I prefer my skin on my body if you ask me. I coasted down the hills hitting in the 30 mph and when I could I would pedal to push myself over the little rollers in the middle of the descend.

Next thing I know, I’m in Keene and making the sharp left turn towards Jay. This is the flat-ish section with nice wide shoulders. I made sure to push it here to make up for time because I knew the slow part was yet to come on the backside of the course. I stayed aero and did a lot of eating and drinking during this section. I hit the out-and-back to Ausable Forks. The road was super crowded. I passed a lot of people and was passed by a lot of people. I swear for every women in the race there had to be at least 15 men! I saw a couple of TriMoxie athletes zoom by in the other direction looking strong!

After the out-and-back section to Ausable Forks you take a sharp right up Route 86 to begin the climb into Wilmington. This is the real meat and bones of the course. As soon as you make the turn you begin a long climb. I believe it’s a cat 4 climb, but I could be wrong. This is actually my favorite climb of the whole course. I know, I’m weird. A lot of the local people who live on the route were out and cheering us on. One guy was sitting on his ATV with a cooler and sign that said “free beer.” It made me giggle.

After we climb into Wilmington and could see Whiteface Mountain in the distance we make a right-hand turn onto Hazelton Road for a 2 mile out-and-back. I made a pit-stop at this aid station to pee. As soon as I dismounted my bike and handed it to a volunteer they asked me what I needed. Just the bathroom I said. In and out and back on my bike. I looked down at one point to take a sip from my aero bottle and a volunteer had stuck a purple smiley face sticker on my bottle. It made me smile! 🙂

I reached the 4-way intersection and made the left-hand turn to begin the long climb back into town. This is the slow section of the course. Everyone’s split for the second half of the course is much, much slower than the first since you have to climb a couple thousand feet (okay, maybe not that much…) back into Lake Placid. I took my time. The wind had picked up, but I made sure to keep spinning and stay patient. That’s all you really can do. I passed our hotel on the way. Looked at it and kept going. As hard as this section of the course is, it is absolutely stunning in scenery. Lots of river and waterfall views with Whiteface mountain looming in the background.

After a long while of climbing I passed Riverside Road and knew the famous Bears were coming shortly! Almost done with the first loop! I climbed Mama Papa and Baby Papa and approached Papa Bear. People were lined up cheering you on! It was seriously like it was right out of the Tour de France. There was a guy in a bright pink speedo jumping around and with another guy holding a sign saying “smile if you wet yourself.” As I crested the hill I heard people yelling my name! I saw Pattie and Pam, friends from camp last year and TriMoxie coach Ange! I was pumped! As I made the turn by the golf course a guy rode by me saying I had quite the fan-base. Why yes sir, I do enjoy travelling with my entourage! Ha! 🙂

Top of Papa Bear (Photo Credit: Jodi Turner)

Top of Papa Bear (crooked helmet and all) (Photo Credit: Jodi Turner)

I made my way through town and stopped quickly at special needs to grab new bottles and nutrition. I forgot to put on chamois butter, which I paid for at about mile 100. The energy in town was unreal. People were screaming and cheering like we were all rock stars. I couldn’t help but smile! Just like that I was out-of-town and climbing out of Placid again. I could begin to feel the fatigue build in my legs knowing I had another 56 miles to go. Half way at least. The wind had picked up a bit. To stay focused and keep both my power and heart rate from spiking I began counting to 10 over and over again on the climbs. It helped. My power and heart rate stayed low and I felt good and strong. I began the crazy descend into Keene again this time more confident. The roads were dry and less crowded. I definitely let Azul fly more this time topping out in the low 40s before riding my brakes. The flat sections of Jay were uneventful. The second time around on the out-and-back to Ausable Forks was boring. At least it has pretty views again. I ate and drank a lot. Pissed again at an aid station.

I was playing cat and mouse with quite a few men at this point and occasionally we would chat. At one point a guy told me to go and he wasn’t afraid to be “chicked.” I noticed a lot of people on the side of the roads with flats. One guy had a broken derauiller. That sucks! Finally I hit mile 100. My crotch was killing me at this point. I couldn’t wait to get off my bike! I ran into another TriMoxie athlete Leigh around this time and we chatted a bit. She actually lives next door to my cousin. I passed and was soon climbing the bears again. Fewer people this time cheering and Papa Bear seemed to have gotten a bit bigger this time around.

Finally I rode through town again and made my way to the transition area. YES! I could get off my bike. I gave Azul to a volunteer and began running to the changing tent. A volunteer asked me if I wanted to take me shoes off. No. I’ll run with them on. A woman yelled at me to take my helmet off. Okay, but I’m pretty sure I’m not going to run a marathon with my space helmet on!

Bike: 7:11:48 (15.56 mph)

The Run

I surprisingly felt awesome coming off the bike. I was really worried prior to the race how I would feel off the bike. I knew my major limiter for the race was going to be my knee. It wasn’t going to be a question of “if“, but “when” my knee was going to give out. My knee was a bit sore during the bike portion of the race and would sometimes shoot a sharp pain up to my hip, but I generally ignored it on the bike. I changed in the women’s changing tent and made sure to grab my salt sticks this time. I forgot them on the bike and felt a bit foggy at the end. Perhaps it was from being in the same or similar position for 7+ hours!

I put my shoes on and headed out for a short 26.2 miles! My legs felt great! I kept the pace easy because I knew it was going to be a long day. I chewed on a salt stick for a bit. I don’t advise that to anyone, but I felt I needed one that badly. I ran through the mile one aid station and saw my coach and her daughter! She said I looked good. I felt good! I ran through the second water station at the horse show grounds and soon began my descend and turn onto Riverside Road. I hit the 3 mile mark quite fast. My pace was good. I kept focusing on moving forward. Mentally I was in great shape. I just kept counting the miles. 4 miles down. 5 miles down. Holy cow, this thing is going by quicker than I thought! I would run to each aid station and then walked through each one getting hydration and nutrition in at each one. I would stop and piss at a couple of the aid stations.

Around mile 5 or 6 my glutes were on fire! I guess I used them to during the bike leg to climb! My pace was slowing a bit, but I still was moving way faster than I had predicted. I walked the giant hill back up towards the horse show grounds and headed back into town. The crowds were picking up and the energy was insane. I could hit Mark Reilly announcing people as they crossed the finish line. I walked the big steep hill into town. There was a guy holding a sign saying “how does your taint feel?” I looked at him and said not good. We both laughed. I jogged through town to the out-and-back by Mirror Lake. I crossed the half-way mark and began my second loop. I still felt good.

Around mile 14 my knee started hurting. It also marked the furthest that I have EVER run in my life. This was all new territory for me. I began a run/walk method. I was hoping to run the flats and downhills and then walk the uphills. Unfortunately, I couldn’t run the big downhill over the bridge to Riverside Road. My quad was on fire and my knee did not like it. So I walked and then began jogging at the bottom. The walk/jog method worked until mile 18. At mile 18 my knee was done. I have a high pain tolerance and generally can and have run through the pain. However, at mile 18 it was a different pain. It was sharp and almost a weakness feeling, like my knee was going to give-out feeling and I was going to crumble to the floor. I began walking. I was content with this. I knew it was going to happen, but I didn’t know when. I was impressed that my knee lasted until mile 18. I was hoping for mile 20, but I’ll take 18! I could have probably have pushed through it if I really, really wanted to, but I wanted to be smart. I wasn’t going for a specific time for this race. I know that I want to be in this sport for the long-haul and I didn’t want to do permanent damage to my body.

The walk wasn’t bad. A lot of people at this point were walking. What did suck for me, was that every fiber of my body, except my knee of course, wanted to run. I probably averaged between a 14-15 minute mile moving pace. I eventually made it into town where the crowds were even larger. It was starting to get dark and I vowed that I would not finish with a glow stick in hand. I tried running a bit through town but every time I tried I would wince in pain from my knee. Finally I made it to the last turn-around and headed for my last mile through town. People were screaming my name and encouraging me to run. With about three-quarters of a mile left, I decided to suck it up and run. The pain in my knee made me wince and cry at times, but I sucked it up and ran.

The Finish

Honestly, it’s challenging to come up with words to describe my emotions as I approached the finish line. Let me start by setting up the scene for you. Lake Placid has one of the best finish lines out of all the Ironman races. You finish on the Olympic oval where they did the speed skating races during the winter olympics. The crowds of spectators and volunteers are amazing. They are lined up several people deep, all screaming your name and cheering you on. The music is blaring and you can hear Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman, yelling “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN” as people cross the finish line. Mary and another TriMoxie athlete and soon-to-be husband of another TriMoxie athlete both told me to step back and remember the finish of your first Ironman. It’s tough to do.

IMLPfinishline

 As soon as I made the turn onto the Olympic oval I knew I was almost there. A volunteer told me I was there. I was an Ironman. It hit me like a ton of bricks. People were yelling my name and cheering me on. They told me I was an Ironman. I started to choke up. I smiled. I told myself not to cry. I was in excruciating pain from my knee but I kept moving forward. I rounded the last bend and could see people crossing the line. One man in front of me did the Blazeman roll and the crowd went wild. I looked behind me to see if anyone was coming. I wanted to cross that line alone. I wanted that moment to myself. Ten feet from the line I threw my arms in the arm. I was crying. I was smiling. I honestly didn’t know what was happening. I was in a daze. I couldn’t believe that I just swam, biked, and ran 140.6 miles through the breathtaking Adirondack Mountains. Mike Reilly said those magic little words that I have been waiting to hear for the past 7 months… YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!

Two volunteers quickly grabbed me. They offered to take my timing chip, asked me how I was and what I wanted. They gave me my medal. I wanted food. I was hungry. They sat me down and got me pizza and fruit. They asked me if I wanted chocolate milk. I said “no” and secretly giggled thinking about what Vinnie Tortorich would have said about that. I sat around for a bit and then got my finisher picture taken and the wandered around a bit to find Mary and Jordan. Everyone around me kept saying “congratulations.” It.was.awesome.

finisherpicIMLP

Run: 5:31:54 (12:40/mile)

Total: 14:13:33 (43/68 AG; 1674/2536 OA)

 ~ Happy Training!