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Tri Talk Tuesday- The Taper + a lil’ post race update

Happy Tuesday! I’m back this week with another link up with CourtneyMiranda, and Cynthia for Tri Talk Tuesday.  Today’s topic is: the taper. 

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First, before getting into today’s topic, I wanted to quickly let you know that I had a great race on Saturday at the Patriot Half Ironman! I placed 2nd in my Age Group and I was the 10th Female overall finisher (out of around 250 women). I have lots to talk about in regards to the race, how it went, how I was feeling, etc, but wanted to still be a part of Tri Talk Tuesday. I will have full swim, bike and run recaps (plus photos) real soon! I want to take my time writing the recaps and it’s hard when you have to jump right back to work after a busy (and tiring) race weekend! I wanted to write my recaps yesterday, but did not have the energy (womp womp). I could have used yesterday as an extra day relaxing at home… that’s for sure.

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Now onto… the TAPER

I think of the taper as the time period that gives your body proper rest and recovery, to prepare itself for race day. I have learned the hard way, that you don’t want to go to a race feeling over trained. Taper days (or weeks) allow us to stay healthy for race day! If you burn the candle at both ends of the stick, you are setting yourself up for potential disaster.

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The funny thing is, I used to hate the taper. Until I started Ironman training. I found it to be a mental battle and hated taking it easy. I felt sluggish and lazy. Now with all of the training that I’m doing, I am starting to enjoy my taper weeks (or as I call them, step back weeks). This is a good topic for me this week, since I had to ‘taper’ week leading up to my Half Ironman on Saturday. I am also ‘taking it easy’ this week, the week after the race, which can be just as difficult as the taper! My tapers are not as relaxing, as say a Marathon taper. I am still swimming, biking and running a lot of hours BUT the intensity is lighter. Mixed in with the lower intensity work, are short bursts of intervals, that get me race ready. My heart rate is kept low during most of my taper workouts, think recovery zone. The week after a race, most of my workouts are at recovery pace and Zone 1 heart rate pace. I even trained the day after my half ironman, but did a very short & easy swim and bike ride.

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Here are my five ways to survive the taper (from my own experiences):

  • Find things to keep you busy. I enjoy taking our dog for walks, organizing my household, doing all of the things I never have energy for when I’m training hard. I have trouble slowing down, so when I can’t exercise at full intensity, I try to keep very busy.
  • Eat even healthier than normal. I always eat a very clean diet, but when I’m tapering I try and eat even healthier. My plan it typically to eat very clean until I have to carb load… then I get to eat all of the starchy carbs that I want (think pancakes and bagels!) Also, eating extra healthy while tapering makes you feel less slugglish!
  • Take care of your body. I like to take Epsom Salt baths when I’m tapering, to get some extra Magnesium to my muscles. If I am feeling the slightest bit of muscle soreness in taper week, I will take a salt bath. This typically helps me, big time! I also try not stay on my feet TOO much and wear extra supportive shoes while at work and home that week. Also, getting a light massage can work wonders during taper week!
  • Stay positive and trust the taper. Trust that the taper DOES work and don’t push things over the limit. There was a time I was doing crossfit and racing triathlons. I was ignoring my triathlon coach’s advice and continued lifting heavy weights during race week… this is why my quads seized up during a race. It’s all about balance. If you want to lift weights during your taper week, go light!
  • Don’t try anything new. I suggest not trying anything new during a taper. This goes for food, exercise, etc. For example, one might think taking a yoga class is a great idea during taper week, however, if you don’t routinely practice yoga, this could throw your body out of alignment and you could even pull a muscle. I would also stick to the foods you know and don’t risk any stomach upset.

Well there you have it! How do you cope with a taper? What does a taper look like for you?

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It feels like Christmas.

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I can’t believe I’m racing tomorrow. It feel like Christmas! I honestly don’t know if I’m going to be able to sleep tonight, I’m too excited/nervous. I have spent countless hours on my bike, in the pool and on the pavement, all while wondering when the heck triathlon season would finally be here. It always seemed so far away, until now. The Patriot Half Ironman is tomorrow and Ironman Mont Tremblant is 64 (short) days away.

Sometimes my training becomes so second nature that I forget what I am actually working towards. I honestly don’t remember when this season’s training started… because frankly it hasn’t really stopped since last season. I finished Timberman 70.3 last August, only to take a little bit of time off before getting my plan for the Chicago Marathon in October. After Chicago it was training for the Boston Marathon (while keeping up with biking and swimming all winter). After Boston, I received my plan for IMMT, which included my Half Ironman race built into the plan. I also have an Olympic race in July, one month before IMMT.  Basically I have been non stop since last August, yikes!

Now that race season is here, I can (hopefully) see how all of my hard work and dedication has paid off. I feel stronger on the bike and in the water than ever before. My running has always been strong, so I’m not worried about that part. I’m also wearing a team uniform for the first time (QT2) and I have my race fueling down to a science. While I have battled some injuries (specifically my left heel pain), I still feel stronger than ever and I am amazed at my level of endurance every single day. I know anything can happen on race day, but I am optimistic for tomorrow and I want to have fun out there!

2014 Triathlon season, I’m ready for you.

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Knee Update & Goals for this Weekend

On Monday I wrote about my clumsy trail running fall…. I am VERY happy to report that my knee is much better and I plan to race on Saturday! Thank you to all of you for your positive thoughts! The swelling has gone way down (thank you ice and acupuncture), the ‘stiff’ feeling is still there, but it’s minimal.. best of all, I’m not in any pain!

Patriot HalfJust to be 100% sure I can race on Saturday, I went to my Orthopedic doctor yesterday. You can never be TOO safe when it comes to sports injuries. My doctor examined the knee and said all he could see was minor swelling and bruising, nothing serious (i.e. a patella injury or meniscus tear). Just to be sure, he took an xray, which showed that things look perfectly fine. PHEW! Going into the appointment, I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I was thrilled to say the least. He said to monitor the swelling and make sure it’s not getting any worse. He told me I could run last and make sure things felt normal. I ended up doing an easy 25 minute run last night and everything did feel normal (minus a little stiffness in the knee). Yay!! Also, no additional swelling post running, which is fantastic. This morning I did my scheduled run (50 minutes) and the knee felt great. The doctor reassured me that the stiff feeling is fine, and that it might take a little while for this to go away. I took an Epsom salt bath last night to help warm the knee and my legs… I think this helped too! One thing I should have known, is that ice can cause things to feel more stiff, since it restricts blood flow… oops!

Now that I know I can race on Saturday, I’m getting into race mode! This is going to by my first race of the season and I am pumped up! It’s my first year racing for the QT2 Age Group Elite Team, and I will be wearing my QT2 Tri Kit with pride. For some reason having this uniform makes me feel extra special, knowing that I earned it with all of my hard work over the years. I feel more prepared than ever before, thanks to my plans designed by my coach, and I am excited to see what Saturday brings.

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I will be racing the Patriot Half Ironman in Freetown Mass. Here is a little blurb about the race from the website:
The Patriot Half will be held Saturday, June 14, 2014 at Cathedral Camp in East Freetown, MA. 2014 marks the 8th year of the Patriot which features a 1.2 mile swim in Long Pond, the largest fresh water body of water in Masssachusetts, a 2-loop bike course offering 56 miles of beautiful, flat roads with a few rolling hills and a 13.1 mile run along country roads, farms and lakes with aid stations at every mile… plus special attention to the details that set our events apart from the rest.

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I’ve heard great things about this race and I look forward to enjoying the course! This year they are doing a staggered swim start, only a few athletes per age group at a time. I am VERY excited about this, since I tend to get into panic mode in a mass start swim. Best news ever.

Goals for Patriot Half Ironman

  • Break 5 hours. I raced 5:08 at Timberman 70.3 last August, on a very hilly course. Given that Patriot is not as hilly, and I feel stronger in all three disciplines this year, I hope to beat my Timberman time. If I PR and break 5:08 I will be happy, if I break 5 hours, I will be VERY happy.
  • Age Group Win.  My goal is always to place in my age group, but if I could actually win my age group (30-34) it would be even sweeter!
  • Stay on top of nutrition.  I had a Race Fueling consult with my sports nutritionist this week, and I feel very comfortable with my nutrition plan.  She told me that I am not drinking enough fluids, and this is something I need to increase. I will be focusing on drinking one 24 oz bottle of sports drink per hour on the bike, and 3-4 Power Bar Blasts every hour.  When I get to the run portion, I will be drinking at every aid station and will have 1 Clif Shot Block every 2 miles plus some Salt Sticks.
  • Pee on the bike.  I’m totally serious, this is a goal.  Having to pee on the bike is a great indication that I am drinking enough.  If I don’t have to pee by the time I get to the run, I am behind on hydration and I need to catch up (not good). The trick will be actually peeing while on the bike… something I know a lot of Ironman athletes do, but I am totally afraid of trying, ha!  In the past I have just gone to the porta potty at transition.
  • Have fun! I am super competitive when I race, but I try to have fun too!  I always make sure I am smiling while on the bike and the run, this helps to relax me (and makes for better photos, ha).
  • Pace myself. This is something I tend to suck at. One thing have learned the hard way, is that it pays to hold back in the beginning of a race.  I am not concerned about this on the swim, but more so for the bike and the run portions of the race.  I want to find a steady, comfortable clip on the bike and stay there. I want to get off the bike with legs that are ready to run!  On the run, my goal is to negative split the second half.

If you would like to track me on Saturday, you can sign up for text or email alerts:

  1. Visit the “SportsFlash” page from MyLaps
  2. Choose the channel you’d like to use to share your results; you will need to click the “Sign Up” button for the channel you want to use for sharing and then log in to that channel
  3. Select “Patriot Half” from the Select Event drop down
  4. Type in my last name: Lawhorn (Kristin) and then select my name from the “Select athlete” drop down.
  5. Click “Follow”!

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How do you prepare for your first race of the season?  What lessons have you learned from racing?

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Balancing my {Iron} Life- Tri Talk Tuesday

Happy Tuesday! I’m back this week with another link up with CourtneyMiranda, and Cynthia for Tri Talk Tuesday.  Today’s topic is: the training life balance. This topic is all about juggling this crazy thing we called life, with the even crazier, triathlon training.

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Finding balance is a difficult task these days. I am currently training for my first Ironman, as most of you know, which is in August. Before training for the Ironman, I completed plenty of sprint, Olympic and Half Ironman Triathlons, all while working a full time office job. Training for the ‘shorter’ races and working full time, was never super stressful. I also was kind of ‘winging’ my training for these races and was not professionally coached. I went to crossfit, did yoga, swam, biked and ran, all while working…. And feeling somewhat balanced. My training was not really taking over ALL of my free time and I even had time for hikes and camping on the weekends with my husband and our dog. I was not sticking to a concrete training plan, but was still managing to succeed at races. I thought my plan was working and I was happy with the balance.

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It’s funny how things can change…

Enter my current life, Ironman training. To be honest, I think if someone were to look at my current life, they would probably say I don’t have much balance. I have a feeling if I saw a therapist about work-ironman-life-balance, they would say I’m failing. Maybe it’s because this is my first rodeo with full IM training, but I honestly don’t have time for much in my personal life, nor do I have the energy for it either. Every day I train, I think about how easier it would be if I didn’t have a full time job, if I was very wealthy (like a lot of IM athletes #truefact) and could afford lots of personal treatment (i.e. massages) whenever I wanted. Sure, I would love to work my work schedule around Ironman training, but I can’t. It’s the other way around. Of course this is stressful at times, but then I think about how PROUD I am of myself for doing all of this training, while working a full time job! It’s HARD stuff! It’s by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Sure it would be ‘easier’ to juggle my crazy training schedule with a part time job, but honestly, I LOVE the challenge. I love proving to myself (and others) that I can do this and I WILL do this.

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Here is what helps me balance my life with Ironman training:

  • My amazing, supportive and self-less husband. I would be lost without this man and I am so grateful. We both had no idea what I was getting into when I signed up for IMMT last year, but he has been behind me every step of the way. He is my rock and has been a huge help throughout the process. He helps clean the house, does laundry, helps with bike maintenance and food prep.. the list goes on he’s amazing!
  • Being an early bird. I have always been an early riser and I don’t require much sleep. I tend to do my workouts EARLY in the morning, and then again after work. The early morning workouts are the ones I enjoy the most. Although, I am working on getting MORE sleep because I’m realizing how vital it is.
  • Loving to cook. I love to cook and prepare healthy meals. I consider this to be my ‘break’ from training. It can definitely be exhausting with all of the training and working, but I truly enjoy it! I don’t’ know how I do it, but I make my own meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner at least 6 days a week, for all three meals. A lot of it has to do with meal planning and preparation. I think it’s my motivation to always eat the best possible way for my body and my training that motivates me.
  • Being type A. I am very type A, intense and schedule oriented. I thrive on a plan and a schedule! Having my training mapped out by my coach, day by day, really helps me stay balanced. I love knowing what to expect for training each week and this helps me balance work and life.
  • Finding out how to wear my hair the ‘natural’ way. Yes this is a BIG deal for me. I have naturally wavy hair, but for years I have always blow dried and straightened. I took great pride in having perfect hair every day, but it always took TIME. All of this training does not leave much time for perfect hair. Let’s just say dry shampoo and beach wave spray has saved me hours!
  • Making it a point to still do other things that make me happy.  My husband Todd and I love to hike and camp.  Despite all of the training, we are still planning to hike and camp this summer whenever we can! Being in the mountains makes me so happy, I can’t avoid it all summer.. no way!

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As a side note…Ironman training is throwing my personal life slightly off balance. While I honestly don’t mind missing a party here or there, it is making me a bit of a social introvert. I have always been a borderline introvert/extrovert, and this IM training is definitely transforming me into more of an Introvert. I don’t mind spending time alone, but it is A LOT of alone time. Not only do I mostly train alone, but my personal time is spent alone or just with my husband. I am too tired to want to hang out with anyone else, honestly. Even putting on make-up is a chore… and wearing normal clothes like jeans on the weekends, feels painful! I am also guilty of not calling friends, forgetting to RSVP to parties and showing up to work late… I blame this on Ironman training. It’s not a good excuse, but it is pretty much throwing my life into a tailspin. However, I signed up for this crazy ride and I’m absolutely loving it. If I did not enjoy all of the training, there would be no reason to sign up for IMMT in the first place. I signed up knowing it would be hard to balance my life, and I have no regrets. Nothing worth having comes easy.

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How do you balance your training and your life? Tell me your balancing secrets!

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IMMT Training Recap {Week 11}

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I am writing this post today, feeling a little sad. I got all of my cries out on Saturday, so hopefully I don’t start tearing up while writing this post.

I had a fantastic training week last week and was looking forward to the weekend’s worth of training sessions. I was excited to be building up for the last week before my Half Ironman this Saturday! I knew if I could get through last week, I would be raring to go! Saturday was a beautiful, hot day here in Massachusetts with temperatures in the low 80’s. It was sunny with a slight breeze, and I was super excited to head outside for a long ride! I picked a route that goes through the town I grew up in, Sudbury, and it was like riding down memory lane (literally). I even stopped to take a photo of my bike with the historic Gristmill:

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Let’s start with the happy stuff..

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I felt strong during the entire ride, keeping a steady pace, without going at a high heart rate. I needed to ride at a Zone 1 HR (130-140 bpm) for most of my ride, which does mean a slower pace (unless I am on a flat or going downhill). This would also leave some energy for my brick run afterwards. Did creep into Zone 2 quite a bit though, thanks to the hills.. .it’s so hard to stay in Zone 1 with a change in terrain, nearly impossible. The amazing thing is, seeing how far I have come with my riding, even since last year. I pretty much gave up riding all last winter, 2012- 2013, to focus on Boston Marathon Training. At the time I did not have a coach and was just ‘winging’ it. This year, I rode my bike on my training ALL winter long, following specific training metrics. I must say, it’s made a WORLD of difference. I am noticing strength and speed improvements on the bike and it feels awesome. The fact that 67 miles can feel ‘like nothing’ is pretty darn awesome.

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And the bad…

After my bike ride, I needed to start my brick run within 10 minutes of finishing. I threw on my sneakers and realized I left my garmin watch at home (damn it), so instead I grabbed my phone and turned on ‘map my run.’ I NEVER run with my phone, unless it’s a long run and I want to have it with me for safety. I probably should run with it all the time to be safe, but I don’t like having it on me. I figured I was only running for 25 minutes and I wouldn’t mind holding the phone in my hand. It was really hot out at this point in the day (around 2:00 PM) and I wanted shade. I found some trails near the parking lot and decided to run there instead of on the hot pavement. I have been running on trails lately, so I figured I wouldn’t have a problem with it. As I started to run, I could tell my legs were a little ‘wobbly’ and tired. I lost my footing a few times, but kept running at a recovery pace. About one mile in, I turned down a trail that looked less travelled on, since I love to explore. A few seconds later, I tripped over what I think was a root and I landed (i.e. slammed down) on my hands and knees. It was a hard fall and my iphone (which was in my right hand) made a huge thump on the ground…. and so did my right knee. I think having the phone in my hand messed up being able to control my fall and that’s why I landed so hard on my right side. My knee was cut up, but nothing crazy , and I figured it was just a bruise. It didn’t hurt too much when it happened and I continued to run for another 2 miles or so. I ran those last couple of miles with no real pain the in knee, thinking perhaps I dodged a big bullet with that fall. Once I stopped and got to my car, things felt a little stiff and I put an ice pack on my knee for the 20 minute car ride home (thank goodness I had one in my cooler). After returning home, the pain in my right knee got worse as the night went on. Not only did my right knee hurt, but it was swollen, stiff, and I couldn’t bend it without any pain.

That night (Saturday) I literally had a breakdown. I know there are far worse things in life, and it could have been must worse what happened to me, but at this very moment, in my eyes, my world was ending. I sat on the couch, ice pack on my knee, crying my eyes out to my husband, Todd. I trained all winter for THIS to happen. I was so angry. I alternated between crying and screaming, crying and screaming. I was so angry at myself for going down that trail, for holing my STUPID iphone when I should have just gone without it. Ugh I should not have gone down that trail… Todd tried as hard as he could to reassure me that it would be OK and that it’s going to hurt for a few days, but it’s probably fine… I didn’t want to believe him. I have my half ironman this weekend, this CAN’T be happening to me, I thought.

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After crying my eyes out, I took an Epsom salt bath (I hear it’s good to alternate between heat and ice… I know there are different theories out there). I like to think the healing properties of the bath, coupled with the icing beforehand, helped to make things better. I woke up on Sunday fearing the worst, but actually I DID feel better. I could bend and straighten my knee without pain and the swelling was down. I applied Traumeel (homeopathic pain relief, like Arnica) on the knee several times, which helped ease the bruising. As the hours passed on Sunday, I continued to feel better. The crazy part of me even contemplated running, until Todd told me I was crazy. I was scheduled to run 30 minutes, bike 45 with sprints and run a 50 minute brick run… that wasn’t happening. As hard as it was to rest, I knew it would be the best thing for me if I wanted to race this Saturday. Missing one day of workouts will not affect my race, I kept telling myself. We took Oliver for a walk at the local pond and I actually felt great. The walk two miles at a slow pace (thanks to Oliver’s keen sense of smell) but I had no pain at all. Finally I was started to feel better about the situation.

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Last night consisted of more ice and rest and by this morning, it is still continuing to improve. I swam at practice for 3,000 yds, no pain pushing off the wall. I went to acupuncture this morning to help with the swelling and blood pooling in the knee. Apparently ‘hard swelling’ on my knee cap is a sign of blood pooling, I forgot this little fact. After the acupuncture the swelling went down a bit, hooray! My knee still feels stiff, thanks to the swelling, but I like to think I have a handle on it. I am going to take it easy these next couple of days and just stick to swimming, in hopes that I can race pain free on Saturday! I have five days to get this under control and I am REALLY trying hard to be optimistic! If my only complaint is stiffness and bruising (but no pain) I like to think I’m OK. I will keep you posted as the week goes on! Please cross your fingers for me that I am ready on Saturday!

Here is a recap of last week’s workouts:

completed every workout, as planned, except for Sunday. 

Weeks until IMMT: 11
Days until Patriot Half Ironman: 5!

I cannot believe my first race is THIS weekend. All winter long, it seemed like race season would NEVER get here.

Hours Planned 14
Hours Actual ~12

Monday
Swim 3,000 yds at Masters (focus on distance)
TRX upper and lower body routine

Tuesday
Bike Tempo ride 1:35 (Z2 HR)
Run 35 min (Z1 HR)

Wednesday
Swim 2,900 yds (intervals) at Master’s practice
Bike 30 min recovery pace

Thursday
Bike Tempo Ride (2 x 20 min low cadence @Z2 HR)
Run 50 minutes with 4 x hill repeats

Friday
Swim 3,000 yds (intervals) at Master’s practice
Run 20 min easy

Saturday
Bike 3:40 (outside!) Zone 1 and Zone 2 HR
Run 25 min

Sunday
OFF (thanks to my fall on Saturday)
I was supposed to run and bike
Walked Oliver for 2 miles

A little reminder for myself this week…

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How was your training last week?

Have you ever been injured close to a race?  If yes, how did you cope?