Monday, February 14, 2011

Running and running and running

So it's been quite a while since I've updated the blog. The good news is that I haven't slacked off on my fitness goals in the slightest. As you can tell from my the title, I took up running since my last post. It started with a half marathon. Toward the end of my triathlon training, I decided to run a half marathon, and found one in October that gave me plenty of time to train and complete the 13.1 miles. And as I trained and enjoyed the running, I figured why not keep going and train for a full marathon. Because I'm CRAZY, I know.

After one of my countless training runs.

Really, it's more like I enjoy working out, and to keep me from being bored or getting complacent with a routine, I set goals and accomplishments. Planning races or a round of P90X or whatever other fitness phenomenon is the rage at the moment allows me to try new things, work different muscles, and improve my endurance, agility, and physique.

It just so happens, that right now, for me, that means lots of running. I think I've mentioned before that I use the Hal Higdon training plans, and continued the practice for these races.

So I registered for the Galveston Seawall Half in October with plans to PR (personal record) my time and rock it. My last half was the Houston Half in October 2009, and that was also a PR. Unfortunately, I did not PR but I had a great time running it, and still finished really well.

Loved this race! Most of the course was along the ocean.

Then I decided to run the Bay Area Turkey Day 10k five days later, and much to my surprise, I placed 3rd in my age group! I was shocked since my legs had definitely not yet recovered from the half, but my competitive spirit did not let me take it easy.

Showing off my medal!

Since then, I've continued training, and have less than a week to go. I ran my last long training run on two Sundays ago and have been tapering off to let my legs rest for the race.

26.2 here I come!

Monday, October 11, 2010

A New Milestone! ( AKA The elusive century ride)

Well, it was sort of a milestone. One of my cycling friends posted on Facebook a little over a week ago that she was going to ride a century (cyclist-speak for 100 miles). I am always up for something new and adventurous (or crazy according to my husband). So I responded to her post and texted her that I was in as well.

We hammered out the details: meet at our usual ride spot (the Bike Barn on Bay Area Blvd.) on Sunday at 6:30AM. Abut six of us planned to ride the century together. Of course, I bragged to all of our softball friends about my plans and again I got the crazy stares. But I swear cycling is fun! And it's all about pushing the limits (or testing the waters, in my case).

I woke up that morning ready to go. I hadn't ridden my bike in about two weeks but I'd been running so I knew my endurance would be ok. The weather was a bit chilly, so I grabbed my new cycling jacket and got in the car.

Well I had no clue it would be the coldest, windiest day this fall. I showed up and got my gear ready- I had my new Camelbak, plenty of GUs, a Powerbar, etc. to last me for 100 miles. We all commented on the wind and chill, but no one was deterred.

Quick sidenote here- I ran an 8 mile training run the day before the ride as well. That would come back to bite me.

So we headed out on our route and immediately we could feel the wind resistance. It was horrible. At around mile 3, we lost our first rider, who aptly said "no way" and headed back to Bike Barn. Feeling the effects of my run on my quads, I fell back for a while, thinking there was no way I'd make it even halfway.

But I persisted. When my friend Theresa also felt like quitting, I peer-pressured her into going a little more. We were cold, tired, sore, and slow. The wind really, really slows you down. After about 55 miles we stopped for lunch (it was 11AM) at the Whataburger near the dog tracks in Texas City. Theresa and I knew then and there we would not make it 100 miles. We opted to eat our lunch with the group and head out on our own back to the Barn.

Best. Decision. Ever. Well, except the part where we got confused with the route and I pulled over and fell down. While tons of traffic drove by us. Niiiiice one, Monica!

Feeling good even after the ride!
So, bruised (physically and my ego) and bleeding, we rode the rest of the way together back to our cars. It was nice to break away from the group, because we definitely rode a lot slower and talked to each other along the way. That totally made the time pass faster.

I burned more but left my watch paused for about five miles.

I only documented ~67 mi, but I swear it was 73!
All in all, I completed about 73 miles last Sunday, the most I've ever ridden on a bike at once! I was pretty proud of myself, war wounds and all.

My scrape. It was really bruised and hurt a lot the next week!

I got a nick on my ankle too!
And then I proceeded to sleep the rest of the afternoon away, waking up only long enough to pig out on dinner at my parents' house. :)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Swim Gear and Conquering My Weakest Event

I have mentioned before about my aversion to swimming and how it is my weakest event in the triathlon. Sometimes I think I dislike it so much I'd rather just do bike/run duathlons! But if I ever want to make it to Kona for the Ironman World Championships, I will have to become one with the water. :)

The training plan I used for the Olympic distance included training swims with paddles, the kickboard, and buoy. After visiting three local sports stores, I finally found everything I needed at a specialty swim store called A-Gleam, although many outlet stores exist online.

Using this equipment and working on some sprint swimming really improved my time for the triathlon. The paddles help with stroke and made me feel like I was gliding through the water.

Everything I need to improve my swim technique!

I'm sure that swimming can become an expensive sport just like any other, but I feel like I spent a relatively small amount of money on all my equipment, including my swimsuits! I always look for discounted, sale, or outlet workout gear, and I scored the suits at Marshall's for a fraction of the retail cost.

So, moral of this story? Embrace your fitness weaknesses, find a good training plan and equipment, and get into attack mode. If I can swim, anything is possible! :) 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Next on the Agenda... Kickboxing!

Ok, so I can check off complete an Olympic triathlon from my fitness bucket list. So far, it was the hardest training for me to complete but definitely rewarding to cross the finish line. But it also made me feel like I was missing out on my other hobbies and priorities.

I contemplated signing up for a sprint triathlon in October, but decided against it. I want a rest from swimming and biking. I'll still ride on the weekends with my cycling club, but I want it to be more for recreation than training. Instead, I plan to attack a few more things on my bucket list before the new year.

First up was to get certified to teach fitness classes. I had expressed interest with the gym at the university where I work and found out that they needed a kickboxing instructor. As luck would have it, AFAA was offering a certification class, so I signed up for it and went to the training.

The certification can run anywhere from $100-150 for kickboxing, and does not include the training manual, which was another $40. So it's definitely an investment, but if you keep up with the certification requirements (called CEUs) that recycle yearly, then the certification lasts forever.

I start teaching on Monday, and I'm pretty nervous. I need music and to create a routine. But I've taken a ridiculous amount of kickboxing classes at various gyms and worked out to Tae Bo with Billy Blanks in the 1990s. So while it might start out a little shaky, hopefully things will fall into place and I'll get the hang of it. 

I'm going to channel a little Billy Blanks tonight to get me prepared...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Finally... Race Day!

[Sorry for the delay on this post....] 

The night before a race, I rarely get to sleep on time and the night before the triathlon was no exception. I decided to watch a movie for some inspiration, and DVR'd Running the Sahara. It's produced by Matt Damon and is about three runners who ran 111 days straight and logged over 4800 miles running from one end of the desert to the other. Talk about motivation!

I set my alarm for 5am and woke up full of anxiety. Since I had packed my gear the night before, I just threw on my race clothes, ate a banana, and headed out to Clear Lake. I decided to freeze my Camelbak bottles for my bike with ice and G2, which worked out really well by the time I needed them.

Spectators waiting near the transition area.
When we got to the park where the race was held, Andy and I parted ways since non-racers were not allowed in the transition area. I got marked up with my race number and age and set up my gear. Then I got my race chip and strapped it to my ankle. Armed with my swim cap and goggles, I went to the swim start and waited with the other racers. My in-laws showed up, and my parents made it right on time.

Talking to my parents, who forgot to set the alarm.
Triathlons begin in swim "waves," separated by age, sex, and race length. My wave had about 15-20 ladies. When it was our turn to get in the water, we carefully walked over the rocky entrance to the water (which was totally gross and slimy) and then we had to tread for what seemed like forever before our start. We finally heard the gun start and took off! We had to follow huge orange buoys to guide us and the Nassau Bay Hilton for sighting.

Nervous, anxious, excited! Definitely on an adrenaline rush here.
I felt great on the swim. All those hours at the gym pool really paid off for me and I even managed to stick right by all the buoys, keeping me from swimming off course. The only bummer about the swim is that they started the men's waves after ours, so as we were swimming along, all these big guys would pass us up and just get in our way. I was so annoyed because I got several elbows, kicks, etc., all from guys. I shook it off and could finally see the shore in the distance! And THEN I got a swift elbow to the lip from a guy. Ouch! Immediately, I felt blood and spit it out. I stopped for a brief second but regained my composure and finished the swim. I wasn't going to let it stop me!

My lip was all bruised and purple inside and out thanks to that guy on the swim.
That swim seemed forever, but I actually made better time than I anticipated. I ran into the transition area, and got my bike gear, then hopped onto the bike and took off. I thought I got ready quickly, but my transition times were horrible. Definitely something for me to work on for the next race.

The bike ride was pretty uneventful. We rode up the Kemah bridge, which I do pretty much every week with my cycling group so that wasn't a big deal. I just tried to make sure that I didn't wear out my legs too much before the run and kept my gears low and easy. Racers have to stay three bike lengths behind each other and pass within 15 seconds, so the bike portion ended up being pretty lonely. The only spectators were the cops holding traffic and the peeved drivers stuck in traffic because of the race. So really there was no love on the bike ride. I tried to stay on pace but it was windy! And some of the roads were really bumpy. Those obstacles slowed me down a bit, but overall I was happy with time.

Here I am violating the 3 bike length rule.
Finally it was time for the run, my favorite part of the race. I transitioned well (albeit slow again) and started my run at a pretty decent pace. My family was screaming for me so much that a racer turned back to me and said, "if you are Monica, then you sure have a lot of fans!" That put a huge smile on my face.

Starting the run- my brother is trying to tempt me with cookies.
And then I felt it. Fatigue, heat, and soreness hit me like a brick wall. About a mile into my six miles, I absolutely had to walk, and I never walk in a race! Part of my quads just plain hurt. I completed the next five miles with a run/walk and making sure to stop at every mile for a cup of water to pour on my head and a cup of gatorade to drink.

I finished strong, thanks to some encouragement from my cousin on the last quarter mile, and was so happy to be done. My family greeted me with hugs and congrats at the end, while I chugged water and ate some orange slices.

Post-race with my dad and cousin, and so sore. I think I made everyone tired just looking at me!
My legs were super sore and my toes cramped up a lot for the next hour or so. Thankfully Koala Fitness had a massage booth and I signed up for a post-race leg massage.

And there you have my Olympic triathlon adventure. I learned a lot in the 13 weeks I spent training, and still have a lot to learn and work on before I tackle my next Olypmic or longer race. I'm a little discouraged with the amount of training needed to finish a race this size, but I love to challenge myself and set goals, so I'm not deterred. 

So, what's next on my plate? I'm thinking another half marathon, and then possibly the Austin marathon in February. I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Week 13 and Triathlon Prep

I was so much more nervous about this race than I have been about any other previous race. This was much different than even my marathon, because at least then it was all about running. But with a triathlon, so many other factors come into play.

The last week of any training program includes a "taper," where you work less on endurance and more on just maintaining your fitness level. It's like the calm before the storm of your race- winding down the mileage, and keeping everything at a relaxed, comfortable pace.

With triathlons, I also take this last week to finish up any odd and ends related to the race. For example, I took my bike in to Bay Area Schwinn for a tune up and tire liners. I'm not super saavy with road bikes yet, and tire liners help prevent some of the smaller flats that normally occur with tires/tubes. I knew if I had a flat during the tri, I'd be DONE.

My road bike post tune-up and with my race number
(Notice my dog Buckley in his spot on the couch)  :)
I ordered some new tri clothes online as well- triathlon clothes can be pretty pricey, so I hunted some good deals online through REI and Zoot. And since my Garmin functions first as a running GPS, it needs a special sensor that mounts to the bike to track speed and cadence, so I put that on the bike and made sure it worked. I also ordered a quick release kit so that I could transition the watch from the bike to my wrist quickly.

My tri outfit
 A few days before any race, I try to hydrate as much as possible- that means water only, and at least 64 oz per day. And I always make sure to eat healthy those few days- a lot of people like to load up on carbs with pasta, but I prefer a good sandwich that doesn't make me feel totally full like pasta can. It's become a tradition/superstition for me to eat a Lenny's deli sandwich the day before a race for lunch or dinner. It turned into a fiasco when I attempted to find a location while I was running errands that Friday, but I got my sandwich!

The night before the race, I packed my transition bag, which carries all my necessities for the race. Everything in the picture below ended up in my backpack for the race. I think it's a good idea to go through this process no matter how many triathlons I do, since some races require different items. And at this most recent triathlon, the announcer noted that four people forgot helmets, and one person even forgot their bike wheel!

The night before run through transition set up.
My bag included my towel (which happened to match my bike and outfit), race number with race belt, running shoes, socks, hat, sunglasses, bike shoes, helmet, towel to wipe feet, goggles, Garmin, bandanna, cell phone, driver's license, insurance card, swim cap, GU energy gel, eye drops, and hand sanitizer.

My race day transition set up.
Any time I compete in a race, I try to stick to a routine, making sure that I have everything needed prior to race day. All the training that occurs weeks and months in advance means nothing if I'm not properly prepared for race day. I'd hate to be one of the racers who forgot a helmet that morning!

So that's what it takes for me to get to race day. I was a bundle of nerves and totally stressed about the swim, but I was ready to go for my first Olympic tri!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Week 12 and Some Insight

The final two weeks of training- I have never been more ready for a race, just so I can stop training! This is the longest race I'll have completed since my marathon (which was a lot less intense, and in 2003 when I was still in college).

I feel like I had to put the rest of my life on hold to achieve this one goal. Not that I have a stellar social life, but I made sure to be home by midnight on weekends (and only once much later), just so I could make my Space City Cycling Club ride by 7am in the morning.

Bike Barn Monthly ride to San Leon- one of those 7am rides
When I have trained for and raced sprint triathlons (which are the shortest distance), I still had plenty of time to do other things that I enjoy, or just things that I had to do (like shopping, socializing, blogging, reading, and housework to name a few). For me, triathlon was the priority, and even Andy had to sideline some R&R so he could spend time with me while I trained.

But not all my feedback on training for an Olympic triathlon is negative. I have made new friends on my cycling rides, and gotten some useful training tips. I look forward to riding weekends this fall when the weather cools down and the start time moves back to 7:30am. I think cycling will be a good way to cross train while I prepare for the running season. (More about that later!)

With my new cycling friend Theresa

So here's what was on schedule for week 12 (or week 7 of my plan). I cut my training short on Saturday, but no regrets! We had a blast in Austin celebrating with some good friends, and at this point, I don't think it will make or break my performance in the triathlon. 

Week 12

Monday: 1hr swim
Tuesday: spin class, 1hr; 20 minutes on the road bike, 25 minute run
Wednesday: 1hr swim
Thursday: 10 mile run, 1hr 45 mins
Friday: rest
Saturday: unscheduled rest! (skipped the track workout for an exhausting but fun day trip to Austin) :)
Sunday: 43 mile bike, 2.5 hrs