training posts

Training Lately

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Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve done a training post. I’m still actually training. Trust me. Well, minus the virus and respiratory infection I just got over, ugh! Luckily, it was good timing after a big training camp in Arizona and my muscles were probably grateful for the recovery time. Now, it’s full speed ahead to triathlon race season 2016! I also BEYOND pumped to be racing with Team Coeur for the second year in a row.

I have a few races on the horizon- cannot believe race season is almost here! Race #1 is just over one month away, crazy!

  • First race coming up is Ironman 70.3 Raleigh on June 5 (hoping to get a spot for Worlds in Australia!)
  • For fun I’ll be riding in the B2VT ride, A 140 Mile killer ride from Bedford, MA to Okemo Mountain, Vermont
  • If I don’t qualify for Worlds, I plan to race 70.3 Syracuse in late June. Sidenote: Brian is racing at IM 70.3 Worlds in Australia and I hope to race too! Even if I don’t race, I’ll still get a cool vacation out of it.
  • My “A” race is Ironman Vineman on July 30th, in Sonoma, CA.  This is the first year it’s an M Dot race, and I’m really looking forward to racing around beautiful wine country! This will be my 4th Ironman!2015-vineman-vineyards

So, how is training going?

swimming.

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This winter I made some big gains in the pool.  For the first time in five years, I have not been part of a Masters swim team. While I do really miss the social aspect of Masters, I have found that swimming alone allows me to focus more on my weaknesses and work on drills. I have spent hours in the pool with paddles, ankle lock, snorkel, etc. I feel like I have gotten faster and my times are looking quicker than last year.  A big breakthrough for me was timing my 200 yards all-out and finishing in 2:39.  I do not have a swimming background (i.e. did not grow up on swim teams) and I have had to work hard on getting fast in the water. Hopefully this all translates well into open water, which is always interesting to see!

biking. 

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Now this is where I’ve seen the biggest amount of change, cycling.  The decision not to run Boston this year was an easy one, especially after Kona. For the past three seasons, I’ve ran Boston , and for the last two, I’ve ran Boston and raced IMMT (and this year + Kona…oyy). Last year,  after doing Boston, IMMT and Kona, I was craving a break. I knew that if I focused on my bike fitness (my “weak spot”) this winter, it would potentially mean HUGE gains come race season. The focus of winter training became: build my POWER “atttic” on the bike, which meant working on lots of TOUGH (make you want to throw up) intervals on the trainer this winter.

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Instead of doing long training runs and breaking down my body like years past, all winter long, I did trainer rides and shorter runs.  And after all of this hard work, I feel stronger, leaner and more powerful than ever before on the bike.  According to my coach, I am three months ahead of my fitness from this time last year, when looking at data files, this is huge . With every pedal stroke I can tell I am stronger and things are just ‘clicking’ (no pun intended) .  I have also had the pleasure of traveling via plane for some training rides, including Florida and Arizona!  I will talk about my AZ trip in a separate post, but I did get down to Florida for a few weekends in a row in March and rode outside with Brian, which was a blast!

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running.

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The way I describe my running lately…. smart, in control and fast. I run frequently (4-5 days a week), mostly at endurance/steady pace i.e. not pushing it.  Once a week I do hill repeats and on weekends I add in a transition run on Saturday post bike ride and a long run on Sunday, typically no longer than 12 miles. I have kept injuries at bay with a focus on foam rolling , stretching, and dry needling. I feel like I am in a VERY good place with running and I look forward to ramping up my mileage and speed-work in the coming weeks. Running has felt super easy and pain free, often I feel like I’m flying.  This is a very good sign going into race season.  As mentioned before, i am so grateful I did not race Boston this year and I can go into the 2016 season with FRESH legs!

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I’m excited to see where my dreams take me this year… :)

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Kona

ONIPA’A: Finishing what I started in Kona

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In Hawaiian Onipa’a means “be steadfast, resilient and resolute.”

Each year they pick a theme word for the Ironman World Championships.  The theme word of Kona this year was: ONIPA’A. Given the day I had on the big island, this could not have been more fitting for my race.

And now I’m going to finish my story.  

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After the swim, I had a long day ahead of me.

The sun got hot, really, really hot.  I expected a tough day out on the Queen K , like everyone tells you about, but holy shit that was hard. The good news is, it’s hard for everyone. Everyone is struggling, everyone is hot, everyone is battling the wind… you aren’t alone.

I navigated the Queen K as best I could, while staying in Aero for the majority of the race. My biggest fear was the crazy ass crosswinds, rightfully so… I’d heard stories of athletes literally getting blown off their bikes, so needless to say, I was a little nervous.

I heard Andy Potts (Male Pro, Coach & 4th place at Kona) say after the race, the hardest thing about the bike course is that it’s mind numbing.  You literally look at the same scenery the ENTIRE time.  It’s lava fields, grass, and pavement.. that’s it.  Everyone thinks: “ohhh Hawaii , that must be a beautiful bike ride.”  Well, yes, I guess it is beautiful, but it’s like the freaking desert.  I saw the ocean in the distance, but could not look at it because of the strong winds. I had to keep my head down as much as possible.  To pass the time, the focus was on my watts and fueling. I stuck to my watts, but it was hard to get up to speed at times because of the wind. It was a constant fight out there.

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The course is an out and back and the turn around is at the top of the climb to Hawi, where it actually rained on me that day! For the majority of the ride, I had a GRUELING headwind. However, one positive to it being an out and back is, you get to see the pro men and women zipping by on the other side of the highway, helicopters watching up above, very cool!

The bike ride went by fast, despite how difficult it was.  I think I was so excited to be racing that course, I just tried to enjoy it.  I could tell I was getting a sunburn when I was a few hours in, and I knew it could be a bad situation later on. My quads were starting to get red, and I feared I did not  reapply enough sunscreen in transition.  Towards the end of the ride I was also getting very nauseous and I no longer wanted to eat or drink (bad news).  So, not only did I have a raging quad sunburn (that was now swollen), but I had a stomach ache… oh and 26.2 miles ahead of me..  The bad thing about the heat in Kona is, you actually can’t really tell you are sweating (well, at least for me personally).  I was really happy when the bike ride was over, but I knew that I had a long run ahead of me, and I wasn’t feeling well from the start. 
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Bike time: 6:32:14

( I had hoped to break 6… but I was ok with it)

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race reports

Kona part I: race morning + the swim

Not every race can be a good race. With the good races, there must be bad races every once in a while. The bad ones are what really tell us what we are made of.  These are the races that make us an athlete.  That test us, push us to the brink of exhaustion. These are the races where the term ‘blood, sweat and tears.’ comes from. The races where you want to quit with all of your might, but somehow you are able to dig from way deep inside you and somehow finish a race you never thought you would be capable of finishing… where every single muscle in your body just wanted to give up, but your mind did not. 

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that race was Kona

Kona caused a lot of joy…. but also a TON of hurt. It just hurt in so many ways.  It hurt emotionally, physically, mentally, it just f*cking hurt.

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I went into Kona with different expectations than IMMT.  I had to be honest with myself, knowing that I had just raced an Ironman in August and that my body may not respond in the way it normally would on race day.  Two Ironmans in seven weeks – NOT easy. Given my numbers leading up to Kona, Coach was confident that I could still race a competitive time at Kona, however, the training weeks leading up to Kona post IMMT were the toughest weeks of my life.  It was really, really hard to get my head in the game and focus.  I was going through some really hard personal things (divorce, selling the house, interviewing for new jobs…) all while training for Kona.  I worked as hard as I possibly could during this short period of time, like the little worker bee that I am, but my heart was losing the desire.  So, at a time when I should have been very happy and excited about getting ready for Kona, I was just kind of numb. But like time always does, it moves on, and with time things got better…

Before I knew it… race morning was upon me!

RACE MORNING KONA

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It was pitch black outside when I got to the transition that morning, but we were soon treated with a beautiful sunrise.  I made my way to the bag drop areas and the body marketing stations.  I ended up walking right behind Rinny that morning…“are kidding me?!” so freaking cool. I wished her good luck:)   The body marking stations are just like what they look like on TV. I keep having all of these ‘pinch me ‘ moments. Unlike most races, they use the body marking tattoos and they really make everyone feel special.  After getting marked/tattooed I made my way to my bike to make sure everything was good to go.   I had a moment to myself where I walked over to the water and just took a few deep breaths. I was about to race in the Ironman World Championships, wow, just wow.

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After the porta-potty madness, putting on sunscreen and braiding my hair, it was time to make my way to the swim start. I said goodbye to Brian and Coach Jorge and headed to the swim start.

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me and brian before I embarked on my journey:)

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race reports

aloha kona: the calm before the storm

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On Monday October 5, 2015 after a 16 hour travel day from BOS to LAX to KOA, I arrived in Kona.. and boy was it hot and humid!

I have never seen my ankles so swollen from a plane ride, but I was happy to be in Hawaii for the first time ever and smelling the salty air.  I used this awesome bike back from BIKND and it was fantastic… highly recommend it.  My bike counted as  luggage for American Airlines, not bad at all.  I just paid the additional bag fee and sent my bike on it’s merry way.  Best of all, it arrived in Hawaii all in one piece, safe and sound.

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Arriving in Kona there was so much so much buzz; triathletes all about, nervous excitement all around. Even the airport that night was flooded with triathletes from all over the world. Soon I realized that I was there with the BEST of the BEST.  This was not just your average triathlon setting… this was the Superbowl of triathlon and I was part of it.

I spent the days leading up to the race doing practice swims in Kailua Kona Bay, short recovery runs on Ali’i Drive and bike rides on the Queen K.  I also spent time (and money) at the expo (probably too much) and some QT with my Coeur ladies. Oh and how can I forget the infamous underpants run! I’m pretty sure I walked around with a perma grin on my face the entire time leading up to the big day.  Since I was there to mostly have fun, and not race for a PR, the pressure was off.  I wanted to do well, but more than anything, I was there for the experience.

Here’s what I was up to before the Big Dance:

Tuesday before the race was all about registering, checking out the expo and then just relaxing.  IRONMAN gave us these totally awesome Kona backpacks/dry bags.  Also buying everything “KONA” at the expo #sorrynotsorry

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I  enjoyed my first practice swim that afternoon from Dig Me Beach.  It was everything it looks like on TV and more. There were so many people swimming along the course that it looked like a freeway for swimmers.  I made time to have some fun in the water with the go-pro, after all, it was an easy swim.  This also included a visit to the infamous coffee boat (I don’t drink coffee but it was fun to look at). My first reaction to the water in Kona was the water is “SO SALTY.”  Seriously, the saltiest of ocean water I’ve ever tasted. While swimming in the bay I couldn’t help but notice all of the tropical fish, coral and beautiful water that surrounded me.  I was nervous of colliding with someone because I was in awe of where I was actually swimming.

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race reports, races

some reflecting: IMMT and punching my ticket to Kona

Finally… I’m feeling the desire to write again. 

I wanted to write about all of this sooner.. but I had a lot of ‘life stuff’ going on right after Ironman Mont-Tremblant. I also wanted to write lot more about the race day and everything that followed… but other things had to take priority, and that’s ok :)

To make a long story short… THIS moment was the proudest moment of my life:

Achieving the DREAM of Kona Qualification at my 2nd ever Ironman at IMMT!

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There were only two slots this year in the 30-34 AG.  I finished 2nd place, missing 1st place by under two minutes.  Of course that had me thinking: “I wish I didn’t have to use that porta potty at mile 40 on the bike”… I could have taken 1st! I went into the race thinking I could do it, believing I could do it. I DID IT!

Overall time: 10:53:39

2nd 30-34 AG

11th Amateur Female

26th Overall female (including Pros)

35 minute PR from IMMT the prior year (25 minutes taken off my bike alone!)

All of this was achieved on a very hot day (rare for late August in Quebec).  It was in the mid-80’s and almost Kona-like conditions during the second half of the race. And while I would love to recap this race from start to finish, I am going to go with an abbreviated version instead.

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Swim: 1:07:25 

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Bike: 5:47:49

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Run: 3:50:02

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Punching my slot to the Big Island had me feeling like I was on top of the world!!!

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When I qualified at IMMT with a 2nd place age group finish, I had no idea what would be in store at Kona.  I had just raced my heart out and had the race of my life (including a battle during the 2nd half of the marathon for 1st/2nd place).  I executed my plan (mostly to perfection). I had confidence going into that race, knowing I could get my Kona spot and I wanted it badly.  When I earned my Kona slot, I was given a lei that I was so proud of… I practically wanted to sleep with it on.

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Then, a week after a race reality hit that I would have to continue with training and my season was far from over.  Two Ironmans in a seven week time span.. could it be done? How would my body respond? There were emotional highs and lows during this time, there were doubts… doubting myself and asking if I could really do back to back Ironmans like I was about to do.  At one point it all became too much and I even said: “I wish I never qualified for Kona.” I know that sounds insane, but it was very, very overwhelming.  My body was confused.  After Tremblant my legs were craving a break that I couldn’t really give them (sorry legs).

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On top of the fatigue from IMMT, I was dealing with some tough “life stuff” i.e. divorce that was affecting me from an emotional standpoint, this made training even more difficult and at times it was hard to get my head in the game. There were lots of tears during the Kona training block, not because I didn’t think I could do it, but it was just very emotional for a lot of reasons. After my last long brick workout, I stood on the treadmill and the tears were flowing (it also didn’t help that Bon Iver was playing on Pandora). I had exceeded my own expectations and I got through the toughest mental and physical training block of my life.

Racing two IM’s in two months would be a challenge for sure, but I was up for it.  Once IMMT was over, I took a few weeks to rest and then I picked things up for about five weeks prior to taper week before Kona. Before I knew it, it was taper week. Those weeks between my two IM’s were some of the fastest moving weeks of my life. I feel like I blinked and I was putting my bike in it’s bike box for the airport and making my packing list for Kona.

In the few weeks leading up to Kona, I started to feel like I was actually ready to race again. My speed and power were coming back and my doubts were disappearing. The fears were not really the race itself i.e. the distance.  I knew I was capable of 140.6 miles.. but it was the heat, wind and crazy conditions that Kona is known for that scared the heck out of me. And let me tell you, Kona is everything it’s cracked up to be… but you have NO idea what to expect, NO matter what anyone tells you, until you actually experience it for yourself.  I watched all of the Ironman videos of the world championship from years prior… I read articles… listened to input from pros. but nothing, I’m telling you nothing prepares you for this race other than the race itself….

stay tuned….

 

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