Friday, July 31, 2015

Racing My First Tri - Learnings

You may have noticed I had an interesting sub title for my tri recap on Wednesday.  If you didn't notice, here it is again for your perusal:

Chase the Police Triathlon 2015 (Mistakes & Bonuses)

Yes, yes.  Just as the title hints, I wrote that recap with the intention of rehashing my learnings from my first tri.  Why?  Well, quite honestly, I'm a little irritated with myself that I preformed so poorly and I need to find ways to improve for the future.

But also, I'm doing this because I want to share my learnings with future potential tri racers.  Plus, you can't learn if you don't review mistakes ... even if it means reviewing someone else's!

So, with that note, let's start with a review of the mistakes.


Mistake #1 - Lack of Rest

Mistake #1 is one of those things that can and cannot be prevented all at the same time. 

On the can side, there are the obvious controllable things such as: go to bed early on race eve, avoid caffeine and other stimulants hours before bedtime, eat several hours before your planned bedtime and limit fluids shortly thereafter eating, try to sleep in your own bed, etc. 

On the cannot side, there are uncontrollable factors like: not being able to sleep due to nerves, ending up in a strange bed due to traveling to the race site, not being able to sleep due to nerves ... and did I mention not being able to sleep due to nerves?

For some reason, I still haven't mastered a good night's sleep on race eve.  I think part of it is just my anticipatory nature, and the other part is that - duh, I'm human, and humans get nervous sometimes.  At the end of the day, I'm working on trying to improve my pre-race quality of sleep, and sometimes I have better luck at this than others.  Unfortunately, for this particular tri eve, it was an "other" kind of night.

Mistake #2 - Not Enough Fuel

Fueling is one of those things that I simply should have known better on.  So yes, chide me all you want.  Though, to be fair, if you take into consideration it's been well over a year and a half since I've had to fuel up for a longer, endurance style race, I guess I shouldn't be too surprised that I forgot how to play the game. 

Plus, we arrived into town so late on race night that I didn't really have time to go get breakfast groceries, so it's not like I had a ton of options.  Thankfully, I had somewhat anticipated this and prior to taking off on our drive I had stolen a few apples off my desk at work, packing them into my purse.  And I guess I should be grateful that the folks at the cabin check in offered me a Ziploc bag of free coffee grounds to make myself a pot of coffee Saturday morning.  But, obviously an apple and a cup of black coffee were not enough to last me from 6am until noon while competing at a tri.

Thinking back after the fact, I realized that my typical pre-half marathon fuel routine usually would entail: a banana or apple, a slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter, and a generous cup of coffee with sugar and cream.  Note to self on that for my upcoming 10 mile races ...

Oh, and note to self regarding getting up on race morning: allow plenty of time to eat and digest the above ... if you know what I mean.  *wink*

Mistake #3 - Seeding Incorrectly


Mistake #3, for me at this specific race, applies to seeding at the swim start. 

As I mentioned in my race recap, though I am a nervous swimmer, I discovered on race day that I am much more skilled than I gave myself credit for in regards to speed.  Obviously, I am not fast ... but at the same time, I am definitely not a back of the pack swimmer.  So, self seeding at the very back of the group was a huge mistake for me.  At the time, it seemed like the right decision, due to my anxiety issues and so on.  But like I mentioned in the recap, it actually backfired as it forced me to expend unnecessary energy and focus on getting around a large pack of slow swimmers. 

Knowing what I do now, I think in my next tri I'll still start towards the back but really wide on the outside edge of the group (furthest from the first buoy).  That way I can swim around the slower swimmers who hang at the back of the group and cut in once the pack shakes out and I find a spot that fits my pace.  It may take me a little more energy to cover that additional distance swimming, but it will save me a lot more energy and frustration not being stuck behind a pack of swimmers that are way too slow for my pace.

Mistake #4 - Never Having Practiced a Real Transition Out of Water

During my open water swim training, I forced myself to learn to deal with a lot of things.  Weeds.  Choppy waters.  The loch ness monster.  You know, the usual stuff.

One thing I had only a brief encounter with was the dizzy feeling you get coming out of cold water after a swim.  The one time it happened, I only had a very mild dizzy spell.  Plus, it happened very early in my open water swim training, so I had somewhat forgotten about the reaction.  Not to mention, the reaction I had was pretty mild: I had already allowed my heart rate to settle via a swim cool down, and I used the ladder at the end of a dock to climb out of the lake, so I had something to hang on to and stabilize myself with during the spell.

On race day, I swam as fast as I could to the shore, pulled until my hand hit sand, immediately stood up ... and then, I just about face planted.  I was super dizzy.  And, I was extremely disoriented.

Had I thought a little more about the fact that on race day, I was going to basically run out of the lake and into transition, I guess I would have practiced doing that a few times in my training swims.  Oh well - lesson learned!!

Mistake #5 - Relying on Others for Fuel Mid Race

Ugh.  This one actually kind of irks me a little.  Here's why (per the official race rules):

Plus, I swear I read other places that energy drink would be available at the bike and run turn around points.  But either way - ok, seriously!!  If you are going to mention "other hydration drinks" in your official rule book, people are going to expect energy drinks on course.  Offering water only is NOT cool.

I hate to complain about this too much, since the race was so well done, but I know I was not the only one bummed by this let down.  There were several people at the finish line I heard discussing it, the girls ahead of me on the bike were talking about it, and when I asked the staff at the bike water stop for energy drink they said "why do people keep asking us for that?!"

In the end, though, this is also my fault.  Just as I was feeling bonky on the bike course, I thought about the random flavor assortment of Gu gels I had sitting on my towel in transition.  I had originally planned to eat a gel after the swim before getting on the bike, and in my swim induced haze, I had forgotten to. 

Oh well.  It was a hard lesson to learn, but I managed.


OK - so mistakes aside, what went well on race day?!

Hidden Bonus #1 - Have a Seasoned Racer With You on Race Day

Pretty much any major first race I've done, I've gone at it alone.  While it's true often my husband has been in the vicinity for the start, usually when it's time for the gun to fire he's either back in the car or off in the sidelines spectating.  This lone wolf experience has changed some since I started networking to find race buddies through my local run club, but usually that network isn't around when I race outside the twin cities metro.  So, it was a rare treat to have some company at the start line of a race 200+ miles away from home.

As an added benefit, the person keeping me company at the start line was an experienced tri racer.  That meant any time I didn't know what the heck to do, I could look at her and be like ... uh, derp?!  I'm sure she thought I was an extreme idiot by the end of race day.  But oh well.  I'm willing to accept my crown.  The loss of face was worth having someone who knew how to have a successful race start.  And, being able to know I was doing the right things helped keep the anxiety down pre-gun.

Hidden Bonus #2 - Experience in Less than Ideal Conditions

As I mentioned in mistake #4 above, I made a huge effort to get into the water and train several times before race day.  I did NOT want to be one of those people you hear about that tries something new on race day and fails spectacularly as a result.  That meant I swam several times, in my wet suit, in variable conditions ... prior to showing up in Walker.

In fact, my last "training" swim before race day was in 10-15mph winds, with chop that rolled over my head when I tried to breathe.  The experience that day was actually quite demoralizing, because in addition to not being able to breathe through the waves, the weeds were grabbing me all over and I had a mild panic attack.  I came out of the water after about 10 minutes of swimming seriously questioning if I would make it through on race day.

Though I didn't particularly enjoy my training swims, the hidden bonus in all those weed entangled laps was that I learned how to deal with the least desirable swims possible.  This meant that I was elated when I discovered in Walker we were swimming just off the public beach, which was entirely weed free and extremely clear water.  And as luck would have it, the water was almost glassy on race day due to extremely calm winds.  I actually felt like I was pool swimming, the waters were so ideal.

All these factors helped my confidence on race day - a ton.  So despite not enjoying my training swims, they were totally worth it.

Oh, and as an interesting aside ... prior to race day, I had never swam barefoot in open water.  You may recall, I mentioned swim socks in my open water gear review.  Due to the constant weed battle during training, I never had the confidence to swim barefoot despite hating those stupid socks.  Not wanting to look like a nerd on race day, I intentionally left my swim socks at the cabin on my last training swim.  Thankfully, with the clear waters in Walker, I never even missed the socks.  (And in fact, I could have probably dumped my wetsuit too.  But I wanted to go through the entire experience of changing in transition, so I stuck with it for the day.)

Hidden Bonus # 3 - Experience Swimming in a Group

Ah, this makes me recall my early days of attending swim class, back when I was afraid to even share a lane with a single swimmer ... let alone multiple.  I think I even told the instructor that I didn't think I'd want to come to class if I couldn't have my own lane.  LOL!  Good times.

To be honest, usually the pool where I swim is pretty empty and it's typical for me to get my own lane.  However, twice per year the pool fills up to 3+ per lane due to the Lazyman Ironman

Ah, Lazyman.  My swim nemesis.  Prior to race day, I hated the entire Lazyman phenomenon - I hated knowing that our usually relaxing and enjoyable weekly swim sessions would devolve into a mass attended event where I'd have to share a lane with a bunch of other swimmers.  Who might touch me.  Or who might get mad at me because I touched them.

But just as I was stewing in the misery that was my last pool swim prior to race day (which I mentioned in my race recap), I read an article about avoiding tri swim panic.  In the article, it compared a mass tri start to that of a really busy day of shared the lanes at the pool.  With maybe a hair more punching and kicking.  That comparison for some reason resonated with me, and I finally began to be able to cope with the panic I was feeling regarding a large group swim.  I guess that makes the Lazyman pool rush acceptable to me now ... ?

And yes, a mass tri start is still more scary than sharing a lane.  But at least I expierenced a few times what it was like to be crowded 4+ in a swim lane, so I had some sort of baseline to help me cope.


So, after reading the above, I hope I've given you some perspective in potentially completing a tri yourself. 

And, as for me ... long story short, after we put all the above aside - what is my plan for preforming better in a future tri?

(1) Train better overall, but specifically: be sure to practice transitions.
(2) Pre race, try to get more sleep.
(3) Fuel better on race day, and don't expect fuel from others on course.
(4) Pick a better start point on the swim.

Yeah, that should about do it.  I think. 


So you tell me - what are some of your best race day learnings, tri or otherwise?  Share in the comments below!!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Chase the Police Triathlon 2015 (Mistakes & Bonuses)

Chase the Police Triathlon (0.25 swim, 17 bike, 2.8 run)
Swim 11:37, Bike 1:18:34, Run 35:45

Well, if you're looking for an intro to this race recap, I got news for you: you missed it on Monday.  Head on over here if you want to read the hows and whys of this race.  Or, if you already read that post, then stay put, because it's about to get real ... real florescent, that is.  And I mean this literally - check out the race shirt photo race organizers posted to Facebook just a few days before the event:

Sigh.  Another wicking T? Well, I guess so. 

Though to be fair, when I picked this up in person on Friday night after a 4+ hour drive through rush hour traffic, it wasn't as bad as I was expecting.  But, then again, maybe the ugliness of it wore off when reality sunk in: this was about to be my first ever tri shirt.  #perspective

Speaking of packet pickup, not that there's much to say about it really ... but, yes, packet pickup went well.  Essentially, it was in a hidden corner of town, in a building that almost looked deserted with only 3 cars in the lot.  There was no big sign marking the building as the Walker Community Center, so I was a little concerned at first that I was in the wrong place, but I just walked in anyway.  Luckily a friendly woman was at the front desk and asked me why I was there, and when I said I was there for packet pickup, she simply asked me my name.  That was it. 

With very little pomp and circumstance, I was handed a bib & timing chip, and a bag of "swag".  Honestly, I was a little surprised that no ID was required.  But OK! 

After a word of thanks, I walked out to the car and inspected my loot, which included mostly flyers for various products and races, a brochure of local attractions for tourists, a trial pack of bounce dryer sheets (I was a little confused on that one), a sample of triathlete focused body wash and lotion (which proved immediately helpful as I forgot to pack shampoo/soap of any kind in my suitcase for the weekend), a chocolate gu (nice try, but nothing new on race day for me as I prefer NOT to poop my pants, thank you very much), and ... I didn't realize until after I got settled into our rental cabin for the night, but I was also actually supposed to have a swim cap. 

The missing cap ended up not being a major deal, as I simply got a replacement at check in on race day.  The rental cabin, however, proved to be more of a major deal as the resort managers accidentally double booked the cabin we reserved for the weekend.  That wound me up a little as I almost didn't have a place to stay for the night.  Fortunately, things got worked out, and we ended up in the cabin we expected.  But, between that snafu and my pre-race jitters, I had a hard time settling into a peaceful night's sleep.  Though, I suppose the worn out mattress I was sleeping on didn't help matters.  Or the lumpy pillows.  Or the fact that our cabin didn't have curtains, and we were right next to the street light that illuminated the resort's walkway and marina.  *sigh* 

As you can tell, I had a very restful night's sleep once I finally managed to pass out well after midnight - insert sarcastic eye roll here.  (We'll call this mistake #1 - lack of rest).


Fast forward.  Race morning.

Since I had quite a bit of nerves processed by end of day Friday, when I got out of bed at 5:45 on Saturday morning I had an eerie sense of calm.  Despite not having my usual big day jitters, I was still nervous enough to have zero appetite, however.  Not wanting to go to the race on an empty stomach, I forced myself to eat an apple and drink almost a full cup of straight black coffee.  (We'll call this mistake #2 - not enough fuel).

By 7:00 my husband had loaded up our dog, since the resort we were staying at requested we not leave him in the cabin alone while I raced, and we were driving to transition.  Transition opened at 6:30, but I planned on arriving at around 7:15 as I figured that would be plenty early to allow for set up and body marking.  This proved to be true; I had no problem getting in, set up and marked by 7:45.  And, I was even actually early by comparison, since I was one of the first maybe 30 bikes in transition.

During transition set up, I received a text from a friend off site offering last second encouragement, so I snapped a shot mid set up and sent it in my response to her.  (This was before I threw my towel down and sorted out my gear bag):

As I was roaming transition, I ended up finding a fellow run club member who happened to be vacationing for the week near Walker.  Since she is public servant, she decided earlier in the week she couldn't miss this race, and was officially registered as a "chase-ee" - but, let's be real, I knew I had little chance catching her on course since she is a seasoned triathlete and a much faster racer than myself.  Regardless, it was nice to have an experienced racer like her with me pre-gun, since the nerves that were in my system somewhat made my brain shut off and I was doing a lot of stupid things ... like missing major announcements and debating putting my wet suit on over an hour before gun time.  Whoops.  (We'll call this hidden bonus #1 - having a seasoned racer with you on race day).

Eventually, transition began to fill and time was nearing for the pre-race talk.  With less than 20 minutes to spare, I snuck off to the edge of the park to find my husband.  He was hiding on the far shores of the lake with our dog Toby; it seemed Toby was not in the mood to be a considerate spectator and kept barking whenever he saw a dog he wanted to go play with, which was drowning out the announcer, hence their isolated position.  After I found my husband, I shed my pre-race sweatshirt and stripped down to my tri shorts and sports bra - something I have never done in public before, eep.  I then stepped into my wet suit and asked my husband to help get me zipped up and inch the suit into place just a bit more.  Then, with a final goodbye to my husband, I wandered over to the starting area of the swim and gave the water a try. 

Pushing down some initial panic, I got in and started paddling around, staying as close as I could to the safety rope that lined the course - it was covered in swim noodles and provided a little safety net for me in case I needed an emergency time out. Once in, I was pleasantly surprised to find the water calm, comfortably cool, weed free and extremely clear.  Before I knew it, on my warm up, I had already gotten half way to the first buoy. 

Hm.  I suddenly realized this was going to be easier than I anticipated.  I guess all the open water training I did in a very weedy and often choppy lake paid off (we'll call this hidden bonus #2 - experience in less than ideal conditions).

Finally, it was time for the pre-race talk, so I waded out of the water and headed back towards transition.  The talk was less official than I expected, and basically included a few directions on the flow of transition (where to bike in/out, where to run in/out) and some general rule discussions.  The talk concluded with a very nice performance of the national anthem, sung acapella.

And then, it was time. 

The race was set up to release in 5 waves, with the "police" wave first, two separate waves of men following (39 and below, 40 and above), and two additional waves of women after that (same age split as the men).  With just minutes before official gun time, the announcer asked wave one to line up along the shore.  Then, since things were going well and ahead of schedule, the race officials decided to just get started.  So, the announcer asked the crowd to count down from 10 ... and at 1, the first wave was off in the water.

Without a donut lead, I might add.  What the heck?!  I was a little disappointed by that. 

Anyway, donut aside, I anxiously watched how the mob sorted out in the water to see if my swim plan needed adjustment.  But, things went pretty much as I had expected.  Two or three minutes later, I again carefully watched wave two just to make sure I didn't want to change my plan.  Again, I decided my idea was fine.

As wave three was being released, I took several slow, calming breaths and reminded myself of all the reading I did regarding triathlon swim panic avoidance.  Breathe slow.  Relax.  Sing a song to distract yourself and calm down.  Think of the swim like you're sharing a lane with some of the worst swimmers ever, who keep getting all up in your business. 

Ha!  I thought about the lady I shared a lane with at the pool the week prior, who bounced around like a pinball, and knew it couldn't get much worse than that.  (We'll call this hidden bonus #3 - experience swimming in a group).

Then, I started repeating my mantra, which I developed just the day prior.  The mantra was inspired by a regular Wednesday night swim buddy of mine who likes to race me in kickboard warm-ups (since I'm relatively speedy in that drill, though I wouldn't call it fast).  In wishing me luck for the race, she had told me: "If all else fails just kick, you are really good at that." 

So I told myself  over and over - swim, breathe slow ... and if all else fails, just kick.

10 ... 9 ... 8 ...


The Swim
0.25 miles


In order to avoid the mass chaos at the swim start, I had decided to slowly wade into the water behind the entire group that was my wave.  I hung at the very back of the pack, figuring this would allow the group to tear ahead of me, sorting out their paces as I let my ankles and knees get wet.

Well ... that idea works in theory.  In practice, not so much.  (We'll call this mistake #3 - seeding incorrectly).

Unfortunately, though I am a nervous swimmer, I discovered I am much more skilled than I give myself credit for in regards to speed.  I say this because although the group was a good 25 yards ahead of me before I started my swim, as soon as I put my face in the water and started to pull, I was touching the toes of the woman in front of me.  Which, I unfortunately discovered when I popped up to site, was actually a log jam of 4 women wide.  D'oh!

My choice at that point was to either swim wide around them and risk panic without being near to the "noodle rope", or stay stuck behind the pack.  Crap.

For a short time, I decided to stay behind the log jam.  Doing so quickly started to drain me of energy, as I found it really difficult to doggy paddle and keep my head above water to watch for them.  In an effort to pause and recouped some energy, I went to the "noodle rope" and grabbed on.  But just as I did, the pack separated just ever so slightly.  Seeing my chance, I plowed through along one side (as carefully as I could without kicking someone in the face) and broke free. 

Yes!  In addition to finally passing them, shortly after I had rounded the first buoy.  The second buoy came much more quickly, as I was finally free of the slow pack.  I was ecstatic to be rounding it and coming in to home. 

Or at least what I thought was home ...  notice on the map above how I added a yellow circle around the word "route"?  And a yellow star next to it?  The circle symbolizes where the sheriffs had their emergency "go no further" boat. 

The star is me. 

*sad clown whistle*

Yeah, I realized when I finally decided to site on that side of the swim that I was way off course.  I technically could have given the sheriff a high five I was so far off.  And let's just say they gave me a look that was ... not impressed ... when I popped my head up to site.

Note to self: site every 4 strokes, please and thanks.

As I neared shore, I knew I was close, but I didn't want to stand too early.  So, I continued to pull until my hands hit sand, and them immediately I stood.  WOAH!  I was so dizzy I almost fell down.  (We'll call this mistake #4 - never having practiced a real transition out of water). 

Disoriented, I stood on shore for a minute to get my bearings.  My brain needed more time than I would have expected to sort out where the water/sand line ended and which way I needed to move towards to get into transition.  Though it didn't really take me that long, I did get a few odd looks from spectators.

Finally I got my bearings and walked towards transition ... just in case my dizzy spell wasn't quite over.  There, I took my time changing and ensured I drank plenty of water before heading out.

T1 - 3:32


The Bike
17 miles


In my head, the bike was sure to be where I'd kill it.  While I'm not a terribly fast swimmer and not in the greatest of run shape right now, I am still a fairly decent biker.  In fact, you can almost see my positive energy as I biked out of transition:

Well, that didn't last too long.  I kind of forgot about one thing.

Yeah, hm.  Hills are hard.

As you can see in the map above, I began questioning why I was doing this race right around mile ... oh, 3.  If I recall correctly, hill climbing for that started at about 2.5 and didn't quit until 3.5.  And just when you thought maybe you were done, at about 6.5 it started again and didn't end until about 7.5.  All while in full sun on a humid and almost 80 degree day.  Barf!

I distinctly remember thinking at mile 6.5 ... FML, I have basically a 5K to run after this?!

Trying to stay positive, I told myself to just make it to the halfway point, as that is where they were supposed to have water and energy drink.  I didn't particularly need water, since I had a full bottle on my bike (that I made a specific effort to ensure I was sipping every couple of miles); what I really was looking forward to was some calorie & salt replenishment via Gatorade or something similar.  Imagine my hate spiral when I got to the halfway point, and their only offer was water or ... water.  (We'll call this mistake #5 - relying on others for fuel mid race).

Man, that made for a long bike back, I'll tell you what.  At least I was alone at that point, so I could mutter under my breath and no one would be the wiser.  Except for maybe the bears hiding in the woods, which I imagined would take great joy in eating me since there was no one else nearby to stop them. 

At least that thought helped my pace a little.

Finally, after what ended up being a very disappointing performance on the bike, I rolled into transition.  As I was coasting downhill, preparing to dismount, I cried a little.  I was thirsty and hungry and I really did NOT want to do a run.

At least I faked a smile for the photo, right?

T2 - 1:23


The Run
2.8 miles

By now, my lack of training for this event was sorely apparent.  It was around this time that I decided to label my pre-race day status as "prepared" rather than "trained".  Basically, I could do all three disciplines and survive the day, yes... I just wasn't trained endurance wise to preform well

After I bumbled through transition to rack my bike, I yanked my GPS watch, headphones and iPhone out of my bike bag and literally started walking.  Since the first portion of the run was up and around a switch back leaving the park, I didn't much see the point of running it and wearing myself out.  Plus, I wanted to get some tunes in to help motivate me to finish.

In the first 1/2 mile, my GPS watch struggled to find a satellite, so I have no idea what my true pace was in that stretch.  I think I started running once the switchback leveled out, so maybe before the 0.5 mile mark.  But from there on out, it was a mental game of "how far ya' got in ya'?"

Just trying to survive, I took the run in 0.10-0.25 mile intervals, totally at random.  I would pick a point in the distance - a tree, a sign, a mailbox, whatever ... and I would try to run to it without stopping.  My reward if I could, was a short walk break.  If I couldn't, I took a walk break anyway.


Using this approach made the time pass fairly quickly, and before I knew it I was at the turn around point ... which again had only water.  Boo.  On the plus side, the volunteers there were fantastic and cheered me simply for still having a smile on my face.  I didn't have the heart to tell them I was actually smiling because they had their AED laying out on the side of the trail, and I was just grateful I didn't need to use it on myself.  LOL!

Having passed the turn around point, my mental outlook improved and the rest of the run went remarkably better.  When I finally had the finisher's arch in my sites, despite being exhausted, I committed to running the final  half mile out.  And I did.

After a long and somewhat disappointing fight - boom.  I stepped on the mat.  That was it.  I was finally a triathlete.


As soon as I cleared the mat and turned in my chip, all I could think about was water.  So, I guess it's no surprise that at the finisher's "party", I almost had a melt down because I thought they were out. 

The food table started with bananas, cups of fresh strawberries, granola bars and donuts ... with no water to be seen.  But, it turned out at the end of the table, behind some chatty racers who were blocking my line of sight, there were tubs of ice with ample bottles of water available.  Thank goodness, because I was on the edge of a 2 year old style epic temper-tantrum from being so hot, and just really wanted water numero uno.  Though, I have to say, the strawberries were an amazingly delicious second to the water.

And as a side, note - putting into consideration the fact that I finished 5th to last and there was still ample food available, I have to say: kudos to the race planners!!

After grabbing food and water, I managed to meet up with my friend and her family and we settled in on the grass to watch post race prize presentations ... and to hang out for the raffle, of course.  I mean, with these prizes, plus a kayak and a standup paddle board up for grabs, how could you not stay?!

Lucky me, I won the bike pump you see above photo, front and center, while my husband hung out in the air conditioned car (our dog Toby is an old man and can't handle long days in the heat very well anymore).

Eventually, the last of the prizes were divvied out ... and that was that!  After a final thank you speech from the race organizers, the park cleared out.  I packed up my transition mess, rolled out with my bike, and headed towards the car to enjoy the AC as well.


So in the end - what did I think? 

Well, despite my lack of training for this race, and my disappointing finish time, overall I thought this was a great race.  Why?  Well, unlike many of the larger chain races you see in the big cities, you could tell this race was put on by the heart of Walker's community - there was a real sense of pride in their offering of the race, and they were truly enthusiastic that we were there ... no matter how fast our pace. 

Plus, I found the field of participants amazingly friendly.  Everyone was genuinely encouraging to each other.  Even when someone passed me on the bike course, they didn't go by without at least a short, friendly hello or comment about the nice day or the beautiful X-Y-Z we were biking by at that specific point in the course.

In addition to that, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I could not only survive the swim, but in fact manage it quite well.  This was a huge hurdle for me and my water anxieties, so I'm feeling more confident in my swimming future, whatever that may be.

As for doing another tri - you know I will!  I mean, I can't own a wet suit and just let it rot in my closet now, right?!  Though, to be honest, I don't think I'll be back at it until next year.  With the TC 10 mile just a couple months out, my focus HAS to switch to ramping back up on running, which means taking a break from tri stuff for now - I think.

And the big question ... ? 

Nope, sorry to disappoint.  I did NOT pee in my wet suit.


And that's the story of how race bib #61 joined my collection.  Surprise!  I did end up with a bib, even if I only ended up wearing it on the run.

Here's to another race soon!

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Hopefully ... I Have Tri'd

Well, it's Monday.  And if all went well over the weekend, once you read this post I will have completed my first ever outdoor triathlon.

Hopefully, anyway. 

I say hopefully because I'm writing this post on Thursday afternoon and scheduling it to publish Monday morning.  So I'm trying not to jinx myself. 

And also, I'm trying not to have a pre-swim panic attack.

As you know, I've been working up to doing a "real" triathlon for quite some time.  In addition to attending indoor swim classes now for ... what, close to two years maybe, I dunno ... back in February I raced and indoor tri called the Tri-U-Mah and pretty much nailed it.  No, I don't mean I was fast-fast, but I did well considering it was my first ever tri ... and I kept a 30mph pace on the bike, so there's that. 

Anyway, as soon as I completed Tri-U-Mah, I knew I was ready to transition into outdoor tri racing.  In preparation for what was to come, I did some wetsuit shopping, bought some open water swim gear and I started contemplating races.  And in fact, I had a race all picked out and was waiting to get in some open water swim practice before I registered ... but then, dang.  I realized it was the same weekend as a trip I had agreed to take with my husband, and we had already paid for a hotel, etc.  Shoot.

Back to square one and looking for a new race, a few months ago I started researching tris all around the area.  In my searching, initially I came across the "Chase the Police" tri and thought it looked interesting.  But, I wanted to weigh my other options.  So, I himmed and hawed through all sorts of races, with Chase the Police always sitting in the back of my head. 

OK fine.  Let's be real.  You know as soon as I read the course description, I was sold on Chase the Police.  I really had no intention of doing anything else:

"The course starts in the charming Walker City Park, where police, EMS, and military personnel will start the race by chasing the ceremonial doughnut into Leech Lake. Once the police and EMS personnel are on their way with their “head start,” the racers will then start the race and “chase” the police, attempting to catch up to them and finish the race before them."

Before I had truly admitted to myself that I was doing Chase the Police, though, I still continued to review my options.  Factoring in a multitude of other personal commitments (meaning I had a limited amount of open weekends when I could actually race a tri), and the reality that I wouldn't be in shape for anything more than a sprint distance in 2015 simply due to lack of training time, I had essentially filtered down my race requirements to a sprint distance race the weekend of July 25-26. 

So, up until about 2-3 weeks ago, I was seriously considering both the Chase the Police and the Shell Lake tri (Shell Lake, Wisconsin), which were both scheduled to happen the same day.

But Shell Lake, dog!  What were you thinking?! 

Shell Lake - 0.33 mile swim, 15 mile bike and 3.5 mile run. 
Chase the Police - 0.25 mile swim, 17 mile bike, 2.8 mile run.

Knowing my swim is my weakest sport and biking is my strongest (for now anyway, which isn't saying much), comparing Shell Lake to Chase the Police was a no brainer.  Not only did Shell Lake make me swim and run further, it cut the bike down by 2 miles - where I was likely to do the best, it was shorter.  Boo! 

That meant, not too long ago, I was posting this:

So ... that's where I stand.  A premise to my first ever tri and a suggestion to pee in my wet suit.  Heh.

That's all I got for now.  You'll just have to sit tight for the official recap, which like all my race recaps, will be published Wednesday.

Friday, July 24, 2015

I'm Just Sort of OK

So, it's been a bit over a year since I wrote this post about my miscarriage.  While I don't want to spend any significant time on this blog talking about it, since that's not really why I write here, it seems like the time is right to make some sort of comment about where I'm at.

Mostly, because I think it is quite obvious some days that I'm just still ... only sort of OK.

I guess I should start by saying ... you know, having a miscarriage is a funny thing.  So many people have no idea how miserable it really is, and how long afterwards you are messed up from the experience.  For example, in the last year, I've had people expect me to be back to normal and wanting to party as early as 2-3 weeks, or even 2-3 months, after.

Let me tell you something.  For most people who have miscarried, their body isn't even back to normal in the first 2 months.  Not that I want to get into the gory details of what all is going on down there, but for me ... yeah.  Let's just keep it simple by saying my doctor didn't even want me swimming in a public pool for 6 weeks.  So you can guess just about how "normal" I was feeling until month 2 ... at least.

Even in the first 6-8 months, things were really hard.  Especially when I started seeing friends and acquaintances who were due about the same time as me start to have their children.  It was so hard to want what they had so badly ... and not be able to have it.  Knowing it had been lost to me.

In the process of trying to recover from my miscarriage in the first 6 months, things got exponentially worse.  I started having issues with my feet that forced me to give up running and limit my exercise.  Even with giving up a good 50% of my weekly physical activities, most mornings the pain was so severe in my feet that I thought I wouldn't be able to get out of bed.  While I've debated for some time if those plantars fasciitis signs were somewhat triggered by my miscarriage induced mini-depression, I do think it was legitimate ... as I've never been one to let things get me down to that extent.  But it was interesting timing.

Of course, this reduction in activity coupled with my desire to offset my depression via caloric intake was a terrific combo.  So, not only did I put on about 10 pounds during the initial stages of my pregnancy, I put on another 5-10 after that.  Yes, for awhile I was making an honest effort to try to fight that gain.  But then things got worse.

Unfortunately, just when I thought I might finally clear through the frustrations of my miscarriage and plantars, I ended up finding out about 4-5 months ago that my father has/had kidney cancer.  During the first rounds of diagnosis, doctors feared that it had metastasized into his lungs, and things were looking very grim.  The latest news is that though the swollen kidney they removed was in fact cancerous, thankfully it appears that the issue in his lungs is perhaps just a minor infection.  So for now, the doctors keep an eye on it, and we just continue to wait to make sure that proves true.  But to be honest, by the time this event rolled around, I was so dull to the emotions that I just kind of ... stared wide eyed through most of it.

Meanwhile, during all this, obviously I'm still hoping each month that I'll become pregnant again.  And it's just ... not ... happening.  Which is maddening, considering how quickly I got pregnant before.  And that means every month I'm living through this constant process of counting days, counting cycles,  and restraining myself from the things I love on the days when I might be pregnant, only to find out it was all for naught.  Not to mention the running stroller my husband gave me for my birthday back when I was still pregnant, which sits in our workout room gathering dust.  Some days I can barely mange to look at it, and close the workout room door in disgust when I see it.  I keep thinking I should pack it up and put it into storage, but for some reason I just can't stomach that finality.

So, I guess it kind of goes without saying that things for me have been extremely stressful in the last year or so.  Which is why ... yes, I'm up 15-20 pounds.  But there is just too much going on right now, so I'm not going to pressure myself over it.

And although I've typed all the above, the reality is ... I'm getting better.  I finally made it through an entire month without stressing monumentally about any of the above. 

Plus, I'm finally able to do workouts again without major foot pain.  And, I just found out I got into the TC 10 mile this week.

So, things are starting to look up again.  With my first tri on the schedule for this weekend, and some major races on the docket for this fall ... I think I'm finally starting to get back into a normal rhythm again.

Let's hope this time, it sticks.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Gandy Dancer Fly In Trail Run 5K 2015 (Finding a New Fan)

Gandy Dancer Fly In Trail Run 5K (3.15 miles)
Average Pace 10:56mile

Last Friday, I took the day off of work and found myself doing this.

Why, you ask?  Well ... because the Gandy Dancer Fly-In weekend had arrived, of course!! 

You may remember that I mentioned this event two years ago on this blog.  And yes, unfortunately last year I had a wedding to attend on the same weekend as the fly-in, so I missed it in 2014.  But this year, I was free to attend!  So, needless to say, bright and early Friday morning my husband and I packed up Bubba and took off from Flying Cloud headed towards Siren Airport. 

Oh, with wonder dog in tow.

It's true, my 15 year old beagle likes flying better than I do.  Most the time, once the motor revs up, he just curls up into a ball and sleeps in the back seat.  Which just so happens to be the exact opposite of what I do.  And ... lets just say, since this was only my second "through the clouds" flight ... well, at least I didn't pee or cry.  #WINNING!!

Anyway, after waiting around at Flying Cloud for the early morning fog to burn off in Siren, we finally popped through the clouds and made our arrival.  Though, upon landing, we had a little issue with trying to work out parking since the airport was already proving quite full (the day prior to the actual fly-in!!).  After about 45 minutes of working to figure out temporary over flow parking and trying to locate loaner stakes to tie down the plane, we were finally settled and headed to the cabin.


Fast forward: race morning.

Much like when I ran this race in 2013, I found myself again quite pleased on race morning to complete check in at the local government center.  (*ahem* indoor flushing toilets and running water in the sinks *ahem*) 

Check in was also quite smooth, likely due to the fact that most of the 70+/- participants appeared to already be checked in by the time we arrived.  This was a good thing because, despite our early registration, we did find a minor error with my sister's information and she ended up re-reporting her age on race day.  A little frustrating, as I remember having a lot of issues with this in 2013 as well.  But, no deal breaker.

Once we settled my sister's registration information, we were provided our bibs and race shirts - which I thought were much improved over 2013.  Though personally, I'm not a fan of wicking shirts, since I prefer to wear my race t's as everyday wear and performance t's aren't really suited for that.  But again, no deal breaker.  Besides, since this shirt was a nice light color, and I decided it would be perfect to leave at the cabin as a "boating shirt" (IE a nice wicking cover up for when I'm out on the pontoon and likely to get wet).

After check-in in, since my husband was still at the government center, my sister and I went back out to him to drop our "swag" and then queued up for the race shuttle.  Just like in 2013, the race coordinators were again using what I assume is their local sports team's bus to shuttle participants to the start. 

While I appreciated the shuttle service, I do think they need to make an amendment as to how they manage moving runners to the start in 2016, since the process of getting all 70+/- runners to the off site start ended up taking much longer than it ought to.  And unfortunately, this translated into a significantly late start.  (As you know, a personal pet peeve of mine).  If I recall correctly, I vaguely remember this being an issue in 2013 as well.  My recommendation in 2016 would be to either (1) make note on the registration that a shuttle is required to get to the start, with shuttle service starting at 6:45 am and last pickup at 7:15 (just making up numbers here - but that timeline seems reasonable, as it allows for one last shuttle sweep to get later comers to the start before 7:30), or (2) redesign the course into some sort of out and back so that a shuttle is not required.  Honestly, if this race grows any larger, I think option 2 will end up being forced on the organizers, as I can't see how they would continue to be able to shuttle so many people to an off site start.

Anyway!  I'm digressing.

Despite the 7:30 listed gun time of the race, at 7:40 we were still milling around the start awaiting the gun.  This became a bit of a problem as the biting flies and gnats were out in droves, and many people were swatting at the flies as they stood in wait.  As we batted around our heads with the best of them, several people approached my sister and I inquiring about our nifty outfits, which were InkNBurn of course.

Finally, the last of the folks arrived on the shuttle, and the race director made his opening speech - which included an explanation of the course and listing off a bunch of sponsors.  Then, a second speaker took over to announce how this race was the final event in a series of races called the "Siren Super Cell", and he spent some time talking about how those races were all scored cumulatively with this race as their final opportunity to score points.

Being that we were already 10-15 minutes behind, and the bugs were biting, I was excessively impatient during these speeches.  I know they are a necessary evil, since the sponsors make the race possible, but ... what can I say?  I just wanted to run away from the bugs! 

After what seemed like forever due to the incessant bugs, both speakers wrapped up.  Then - BANG!  They fired a gun, and we were off!!

As I recalled from 2013, a good portion of this race was run on the Gandy Dancer trail, which is a relatively flat crushed gravel recreational trail that wraps around the airport.  Back before I was knocked out of running a little over a year ago due to plantars issues in my feet, I used to occasionally train on this trail.  (Here's to hoping that happens again in the near future)  Despite my reduction in running in the last year, I still bike on this trail quite frequently.

Within the first quarter of a mile, my sister and I agreed that she was in better running shape and likely to beat me, so we parted ways.  Of course, I was frustrated with myself to be in such a deconditioned running slump and carrying extra weight as a result, but I couldn't have been happier for my sister and her monumental running gains in the last year. 

As I watched her dart off into the distance, I heard a "hey, are you the one who writes the blog?!"  LOL!  I happened to interact briefly with a new blog fan and local runner in Siren, which helped with my funk a little.  At least until the humidity started to catch up with me.

Unfortunately, the humidity started to bog down my sister as well, so I ended up catching up to her before we hit the water station at the 2 mile mark.  There, since the heat was wearing us out, we both decided to take a walk break and fully enjoy a cup of water.  You can see where we slowed down in orange on the map below.

On the plus side, that was also when we exited the gravel trail, so running from that point on was much more enjoyable.

And although the final stretch was a run on an open grassy field, that was a tad slick due to the rains the night before, it seems like we never slowed down after our walk break.  If you review the chart below, it appears we kept a nice even pace to the end.  However, this year, there were no planes flying over as we completed this portion.  Aw.  :-(

Finally, sweating profusely due to the heat and humidity, my sister and I tromped into the finish.  Though it wasn't a PR for either one of us, given the heat and the gravel trail, our finish time was good enough. 

Once we cleared the chute, we promptly met up with the rest of our party who had been waiting on us for over 15 minutes (due to the late start), and scurried off to the pancake breakfast that they were eager to eat.

Let's not lie.  I was hungry, too.  Besides, who can say no to a breakfast with ice cream, AMIRITE?!

After we were all filled to the brim with pancakes, my sister gladly accepted a 2nd place medal in the 20-29 category (hooray to her, but boo - no medal for me), and then we wandered around the air show taking in the sites.

Eventually, despite the fact that Kinetico was there with free water bottles and a tap truck, we just became simply too hot and headed back to the cabin to cool off in the lake.

Oh, and by the way ... somehow, the evening ended like this.  Don't know why ...


And that's the story of how race bib #60 joined my collection.  All in all, late start aside, this was a great repeat race for both of us.  With an improved shirt, a 2nd place medal for my sister, and an always delicious pancake breakfast ... how could we not be happy?

Here's to another race soon ... my first tri next weekend, yikes! 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Racing Recap for 2015 Thus Far

Back in May I laid out my 2015 racing plan.  In that post, I talked about my 15 bib per year goal, and what my tentative schedule was for the year.

So ... how am I doing?


Completed Races
Total races - 9
Total bibs - 8

Feb - Tri-U-Mah, AKA my first ever triathlon (although no bib was received)
April - Hot Chocolate
May - Lake Minnetonka Half RelayCinco de Miler
June - Run the Inferno, Carlyle Sherstad, Rainbow Run
July - Freedom Five, Gandy Fly-In (recap pending - stay tuned!)

Not too shabby of a start to the racing season, eh?!  Of my 15 goal bibs, I'm over half way there with 8 on my wall.  But ... maybe that's not enough given we are over half way through summer, and thus over half way through the ideal racing season in Minnesota.  Hopefully being just ahead of the curve in all three will prove sufficient.

Races ScheduledTotal races - 15
Total bibs - 13
July - Chase the Cops Tri (not likely to include a bib)
August - Webster Education
September - Suds Run, Women Run the Cities
October - TC 10 Mile (pending lotto), Mankato
November & Beyond - TBD based on weather

OK, so this is where I start to falter.  I'm for sure 2 bibs short of my goal, despite the fact that I'm on par for total races completed (damn triathlons and their body marking).  I guess I need to get on it and find a few more races to run yet this summer.  Suggestions?

Oh ... and let's not talk about my training for the Women Run the Cities and TC 10 milers.  Because ... well, there hasn't been any.  I suppose I should hop on that.


Motivate me with your race suggestions below!!

Friday, July 17, 2015

How to Remove the Stank

I've now mentioned in two blog posts that I've discovered a way to get more stank out of your workout clothes.  I suppose since I've said it twice, today is as good a day as any to get out with it and tell you what I do.

First, a little background.

I am very particular on how I wash my workout clothes.  I buy mostly higher end pieces that cost a fair amount of money.  As such, I'm not going to wash them in a way that shortens their life span.  That means I use cooler water, gentle spin, and NEVER put them in the dryer.

The dryer, by the way, is the key point there.  If you don't want your elastics and spandex items to die a premature death, you have to keep your stuff away from the heat.  I got one of these guys at Target to help aid in the air drying process (and honestly, it's not any more work than putting something in the dryer anyway).


So now you know.  I'm an OCD workout wear washer.  Heh.

Anyway, for several years I really struggled with washing my workout clothes so that they came out really smelling clean.  It seemed like no matter how quickly I washed them, how much detergent I used, or how many times I washed an item, they would still come out smelling faintly ... stanky.

Before I started teaching, I had even asked some of my peers at the gym how they washed their clothes.  That is how I discovered that I'm not the only one who struggled with this issue.  And that was enough to put me on the prowl.

So of course, the first thing I did was hit up Google.  After reading several articles, I decided: (1) I am not washing my clothes in vinegar no matter how much they stink, (2) I am not going to stop using soap all together which some sites actually suggested, and (3) I didn't particularly want to start using a sports specific laundry detergent that was only available at a sporting goods store and was super expensive.

That left me with little other options, which meant a lot of trial and error on potential solutions I dreamt up on my own.  Not having any really good results from anything I tried, I started to get frustrated.  The only thing that I had limited luck with was pairing Tide Sport with Febreeze powered fabric softener ... which not long after I started doing that, I found out fabric softener isn't good for your workout clothing.  Boo.

So, I settled for just using the Tide Sport, bleached any sports bras I had that were white and could take it, and learned to live with the stink. 

However, not long after making that concession, Downy released these:

Queue singing angels.

Figuring I had nothing to lose, and also having a promotional first time by coupon, a few years ago I bought my first bottle of Downy Unstoppables ... and what do you know?!  I discovered that by pairing Tide Sport with Downy Unstoppables in the wash cycle ... ta-da!  My fitness clothing came out of every wash finally smelling fresh.  I was thrilled.

And of course, I was even more excited a year or so ago when they launched a new scent.  Since your nose can adjust over time to smells, it's always good to rotate through what you use to help you appreciate a smell more.


And ... well, that's pretty much it!  I hope you found this information helpful, and if you decide to give it a shot, let me know how it goes!

Or ... if you have your own unique trick on how you keep your workout clothing smelling fresh, share what you do in the comments below!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Work to Workout: The Value to Investing in Good Workout Gear

A few days ago, I baited you on the topic of "Work to Workout" by showing you this image:


I did so because I wanted to spur a conversation centered around the value of investing in good workout gear.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I'm not about to start preaching the "active wear as day wear" trend, and suggest you all run out to Lulu or some other horrendously over priced fitness store to start scooping up black spandex capris and oversized, plain scoop neck tanks.  I am NOT trying to get you all to start looking like this:


I mean, let's face it.  I don't care how good you look in your black workout spandex.  That sh!t isn't meant to be worn around in public.  You just look dumb doing it.

However!!  What I want to demonstrate today is that with some smart shopping and an investment in a handful of quality fitness pieces, you can easily expand your current everyday wardrobe and save yourself some time and effort when it comes to packing for the gym (and doing laundry after).

Here are a few examples of what I mean, based on actual outfits I've worn in the last month:



And a variation on the striped capri, from a workout perspective anyway:

As you can see, with the investment in a few key high end workout items, I've been able to mix and match three entire work outfits that transition seamlessly into a workout later in the day.  And even within these sets, there's lots of options - for example, I've paired the amigo shirt with the lace capris and it looks fantastic.  And I bet you could do the teal skull shirt with the striped leggings as well!

So ... where am I going with all this?

Well, a few places.

First, I've seen a handful of people comment on InkNBurn and how it's a little on the pricey side.  And I definitely understand how some might have a little sticker shock when first looking into any brand of quality workout gear, especially if you're new to the workout world or have been using old t-shirts and shorts at the gym (but I certainly don't understand that comment when it comes from the mouth of experienced workout folks who shop at Lulu or similar ... who are paying even higher prices for something with no design to it that's not even made in the USA).  By demonstrating the above, my hope is that folks who are hesitant to purchase something based on price alone can see ... a well designed fitness piece is worth the investment when you consider it can work into your everyday wardrobe as well.

Second & Third - I'm trying to share my gains with you.  Not only have I been able to cut down my laundry significantly by multi-purposing my outfits (like I show above), I have been saving a ton of time and hassle in regards to packing for the gym and changing once at the gym.  Which in the end, these two factors all boil down into convenience ... and let's face it, the more a workout is inconvenient, the more likely you'll not want to do it, right?!  So, I'm trying to make it easier for you to be motivated to work out!

Fourth - for me, having fun and fashionable workout gear like this has made a huge difference in my mind set when it comes to actually working out.  I've learned that, for me, having things that I enjoy wearing and that I feel good in, makes me (1) look forward to working out and (2) helps me enjoy my time during said workout.  By having a handful of pieces like the above, I've come to enjoy being active much, much more.  Depending on your own fashion sense, this may not be as big of a motivating factor in your life.  But you can apply this to fit & function as well, since higher end pieces typically feel better on and allow you to be more comfortable as you work.  So if you want to throw the fashion piece out, at least there's that factor working for you.

So, when you combine all the above factors, and remember that in making the right selection when it comes to purchasing workout gear you may also end up adding some fun new items to your wardrobe ... in the end a more expensive piece of workout gear really isn't so bad.  As long as you can launder it right to get the gym stink out for future non-gym wear (more on this in a future post).

And just in case you think I'm blowing smoke ...