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Archive for August, 2012

I confess I have the dread disease that requires me to log every mile of every swim, bike and run, and every minute of exercise. If I don’t document it in at least three places, it didn’t happen, much like if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it. I track my runs and bike rides with a Garmin and/or with MapMyRUN, then record them on MapMyRUN, on my computer spreadsheet, and on my paper marathon training schedule. That’s normal, right? 😉 Just nod and back away slowly, and maybe you won’t catch this dread disease.

The fact is I find the data fascinating and it all helps me keep on track for my triathlon and marathon training. I’ve got an Olympic distance triathlon coming up in two weeks (!!) and the marathon in 10 weeks (!!!) I’ve been following the Run Less, Run Faster beginner’s marathon training plan. It calls for three runs per week (speed work, tempo, and long run) plus at least two cross-training workouts. For cross-training of course I do swimming and biking, a natural fit for the triathlon training. I also throw in some strength training. All that means that I exercise an average of six days per week for an average of six to six-and-a-half hours total. (Now I know that sounds like a lot to someone training for her first 5K, and like nothing to someone training for an Ironman. I don’t compare myself to anyone else (although if you want to leave a comment to tell me how much you’re training for your 70.3 or 140.6, I’d be curious to know the answer!))

For me the week generally looks like this:

Sunday: 60-minute bike ride or 30-minute ocean swim
Monday: rest day, possible 30-minute strength training
Tuesday: 60-minute speed workout, generally 6 miles including warm-up and cool-down
Wednesday: 30-minute swim or 40-minute bike ride, plus 20-30 minutes strength training
Thursday: 60-minute tempo run, generally 6-7 miles (this will be going up as the plan proceeds)
Friday: 30-minute bike ride plus 30 minutes of strength training; optional rest day or only strength training
Saturday: 120-minute long run (soon to be more as I head into new territory with 14+ mile runs!)

It ends up being three runs, two bike rides, one or two swims, and an average of two strength training sessions. By the numbers for August:

Swim miles (a swim mile being 1500 km): 5.25
Bike miles: 101.3 (full disclosure: I count 30 minutes on the spin bike as 10 miles)
Run miles: 100.59 (woo hoo, broke my first 100!)
Number of strength training workouts: 8, for a total of 3 hours 25 minutes

My handy computer spreadsheet shows me a pie chart that compares the ratio of swim to bike to run to weights, all based on minutes. It consistently stays at about 58 percent running, 18 percent biking, 14 percent swimming and 10 percent strength training.

Do you log all of your workouts? In more than one place?! Please confess that I’m not the only one.

What are you training for if anything and what does your mileage and workout time look like recently?

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I had such fun at the open water swim clinic last weekend. Not only did I learn a ton of open water swimming tips from the experts, I definitively answered the question of how to tell a dolphin fin from a shark fin:

dolphin fin versus shark fin

I also learned that these clear critters are not jellyfish that sting, but harmless salps:

Salp

A salp stranded on Zuma Beach in Malibu

A salp pumps water through its body to filter out the phytoplankton. The population of salps (or salpa) ebbs and flows with the bloom of phytoplankton. As the plankton blooms, the salp population grows and feeds on the plentiful food. Salps play an important part in the ocean ecosystem by building up the carbon layer as their poop — and eventually their slimy dead bodies — sink to the ocean floor. A Los Angeles County lifeguard informed us that it’s been 50 years since salp were seen at Zuma Beach.

Thank goodness I was safe from the ravages of diving dolphins and slimy salp! What fun sightings have you made on a recent training swim, bike or run?

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Why I Tri

Most of the reasons I run and participate in triathlons are selfish reasons: fitness, good physical and mental health, weight maintenance. I wanted to be “fit at forty” and I celebrated with my first sprint triathlon less than a month after turning 40 last year. Today I turn 41 — happy birthday to me!! — and I am more excited about fitness than ever.

The other day I got reminded of the main reason I keep up all this exercise. My four-year-old saw me getting dressed in my tri kit and she said

I want to do triaflon with you when I’m your size.

Yes! How cool is it to set a good example for your child and inspire her to want to become an athlete too? And how cute is she with her “triaflon”? (When she was three, she called it “falafelon.” That sounds like fun too but I think that involves consuming calories rather than burning them!)

Here’s me in the outfit that inspired my daughter to want to be like me:

Trying out my new tri kit at Zuma Beach in Malibu

The tri kit came as an early birthday present from my parents. Thanks Mom and Dad for the support and the awesome new gear!

Why do you tri or run or swim or bike or do what you do?

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Three weeks before the big race, Nautica Malibu triathletes had the opportunity to participate in a free open water swimming clinic run by Ian Murray and the staff of Triathlon Training Series at Zuma Beach. For just the $12 cost of a USAT one-day membership, I jumped at the chance to learn expert tips on: (1) warming up for an open water triathlon swim, (2) shore start strategy, (3) entering the ocean, (4) swimming after you’ve passed the break, (5) swimming back to shore, and (6) open water swimming drills for the ocean. I happily signed my life away on the safety waiver and donned my wetsuit along with about 50 other athletes.

Swim Clinic

50 hearty souls ready to brave the waves of the Pacific Ocean at Malibu

Here’s what I took away from the clinic (my apologies to the experts if I’ve misrepresented any of their helpful advice!)

Open Water Swimming Triathlon Warm-Up

After a brief pep talk, we started our warm-up with a short jog down the beach before lining up on shore to enter the water. The jog was followed by a swim out to a Los Angeles County lifeguard putting all of his hard training to use by acting as a buoy (huge thank you to him and all the lifeguards out there!) Out and back, the swim loop added up to about 300 meters. I learned to keep in mind the following for the warm-up:

  • Start off first thing by walking in and scoping out the ocean floor with your feet. Watch for drop-offs, rocks, ridges and reefs that could pose hazards. The sand shifts even from hour to hour and by entering the water to check things out, you prevent injury.
  • Plan to do a warm-up shortly before your race start. Do it too long beforehand and you’ll burn extra energy shivering on the shore, but wait too long and you might miss the start of your wave.
  • A warm-up can take the edge off the race-day nerves by burning off some of the adrenaline you may feel before the start.
  • Do an easy effort for the warm-up. If you can, swim out to the first buoy and sight down the line of buoys. Check to see if there’s a building or other feature on land that you can use to sight for the race. For Nautica Malibu, there are two houses on the hill — a white one and a light blue one — that are right in sight in a line about 100 yards out from shore. If you’re out there for a practice drill and not a race, plan to do the first loop of your swim at about a 50% effort.

Open Water Swimming Beach Start Strategy

For a shore start, keep in mind the following:

  • Watch the swimmers whose “waves” start before you. See where people position themselves and gauge where you might fit in the pack. For USAT-sanctioned events, each wave can have up to 150 swimmers. For Nautica Malibu, the waves are organized by gender and age and may contain anywhere from 70-150 swimmers.
  • If you are a confident and fast swimmer, position yourself toward the front to make an early breakaway. If you are not a confident swimmer or you know you will go at a slower pace than most, position yourself on the far edge of the pack and/or at the back of the pack. Prepare to follow the tips below for entering the ocean.

Entering the Ocean

One of the toughest parts of an open water swim in the ocean is the start. It can be intimidating and sap your energy — two things that make it all the more important for triathletes to practice this portion of the swim over and over again. For the clinic workout, we entered the water five times.

  • There are four ways to enter the ocean and get past the break: (1) walk, (2) run, (3) dolphin dive, (4) swim. You will likely use a combination of those techniques that depends on the conditions on race day.
  • When a large wave approaches you, dive under it to avoid being tumbled by it. Hold your hands out together in front of you as if you’re trying to slice through the water. You want to make your dive about five seconds before the wave reaches you.

Swimming after You’ve Passed the Break

After you’ve passed the line where the waves break, you round the buoy and settle into a steady swim.

  • Many people breathe to the left for an ocean swim. For a race like Nautica Malibu, that means you’re looking out to the ocean and can easily drift off course. Practice breathing to the right so you can sight the shore occasionally. Work toward bilateral breathing.
  • Sometimes athletes try to swim freestyle with their heads up to aid in sighting. That can unnecessarily burn extra energy. Try swimming 10 strokes with your head down, then lifting your head briefly to sight before you turn your head to the side to breathe.
  • Make sure to sight off the buoys or a landmark. Don’t blindly follow the person in front of you. He might be drifting off course.
  • Be careful not to confuse the buoys with the brightly-colored swim caps of your competitors. Swim waves often are given different colored swim caps on race day and the red caps just might match those red buoys!
Practicing the open water swim

With those colorful swim caps we look like Skittles candy bobbing in the water.

  • If you need to catch your breath, roll onto your back and float or do a slower-paced backstroke. Triathlon rules permit you to hold onto a lifeguard’s board or a boat, but you cannot ask to be pulled forward. You need to move forward under your own power!

Swimming Back to Shore and Running to the T1 Transition

If you practice in the ocean, the swim back to shore is where you can gain a lead on a lot of your competitors.

  • Swim toward shore while sneaking an occasional look behind you to keep an eye on the waves. You don’t want to be swamped, and you do want to take advantage of a chance to body-surf in. Catch a wave with your body and you can pass many of those around you.
  • You can even flip on your back for some backstroke to keep an eye on the waves, then flip forward again to body surf.
  • If you’re going to get swamped by a wave, turn and face it in time to duck under to the relative calm.
  • Swim and dolphin dive toward shore until you can stand up and lift your knees high out of the water. Kick your feet out to the side to break the water’s surface and gain as much speed as you can.
  • While you’re still in the water, start unzipping your wetsuit. Peel your arms out as you run on shore. Strip down to your waist as you approach T1. The faster you get out of your suit, the easier it is. As your suit drains out the water and starts drying, it sticks to you and makes it that much harder to peel it off. Rip off your goggles and swim cap. Mentally pat yourself on the back and focus on the bike. You conquered the swim!

Open Water Swimming Drills in the Ocean

For the swim clinic, we did the warm-up jog followed by one warm-up loop of 300 meters. We ran around a trash can on shore back to the swim start, rested one minute, and then headed out for another 3 loops. Swim 300 meters, rest one minute, repeat, for a total of 1,200 meters (just 300 meters shy of the 1,500-meter international race distance).

running during open water swimming drills

That’s me in the green cap

For one last drill, we entered the water until we were neck deep. We turned around and practiced exiting the water, stripping down our wetsuits to our waists, running across the sand to the parking lot and completely removing our wetsuits any which way we could!

The clinic boosted my confidence tremendously. What a great opportunity to practice entering and exiting the water, gaining both a mental and physical advantage on race day. I truly appreciated the advice from the experts as well as the chance to meet some fellow triathletes (hi Alma and Alison!)

The experts advised that at this point, three weeks before the key race, we should be swimming two to three times per week, and at least one of those swims each week should be in the ocean.

Alright, I’ve shared all my hard-earned secrets, what’s your best advice for open water swimming? Wish us all luck on race day!

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Call me crazy, but I love getting up early on a Saturday morning to knock out two hours of running before my family wakes up. I like to call my husband minutes after he and the girls have rolled out of bed so I can gloat, I mean, so I can amaze him with the fact that I’ve just run 13 miles while he slept. He’s an excellent sport and he strokes my ego with the appropriate murmurings of how I’m insane (in a good way).

It did seem a little insane even to me when I left the house at 5:45 a.m. and the skyline looked like this:

palms outlined in the dark

Silhouettes of the palm trees at crazy-early-o’clock

I drove out to the Santa Ana River Trail and by the time I got out there, the sky had lightened considerably:

The Santa Ana River Trail, looking east at only slightly-crazy-early-o’clock

Saturday’s scheduled long run called for 12 miles at a 9:51 pace. The last time I ran 12 miles on the Santa Ana River Trail, our half marathon training group celebrated that group milestone with a post-run potluck breakfast. There would be no such feast after this run, but I was lucky enough to have something just as fun to look forward to. My former half marathon coach and now friend Stephanie generously offered to meet me at mile six to refuel me with a sports drink and some wonderful company for the last six miles of the run. Right on time, she met me on the trail and I didn’t even have to break stride as she helped me refill my sports bottle. What’s more, she offered a choice of homemade organic juice sports drink, or Gatorade! Give me organic homemade any day!

Wait a minute, let me interrupt, the training plan called for 12 miles at 9:51, but the title of this post says “13 Miles of Running Fun.” Yes, I had such fun chatting away with Stephanie that I forgot to keep track of the mileage. Good thing Stephanie spoke up or we could have ended up at the beach! (Not quite, but I felt so good I’d like to think I could have run all the way to Huntington). I also felt so great that I pushed the pace and finished the 13 miles at an average pace of 9:23 in just over 2 hours. Stephanie is a good sport to run an extra mile and faster than advertised. Plus she let me pick her running coach brain on the latest thoughts about dynamic warmups and ways to maintain good posture and form on the run. Who knew that the ladies can remind themselves to tighten their core by doing a few secretive Kegel exercises on the run?! I need all the posture and form reminders I can get. By the end of a race I am quite the hunchback. I might think my core is tight, my head is up, my shoulders are back and down, and my chin is in line with my chest, but the finish line photos prove otherwise!

The hunchback gives the thumbs-up at the finish of the OC Half Marathon

The most valuable thing I got out of this run, though, was the encouragement from someone I respect. If Stephanie thinks I look good at this point in my marathon training, I believe her and that makes me all the more excited about increasing the mileage over the coming weeks. So, Stephanie, about that 18-miler coming up…. I promise I won’t make it 19 if you’ll meet me for another 6! 😉

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Runners often lament that they get black toenails. I’m not sure anyone’s pinpointed the exact cause of black toenails, the painful blood blisters under the nails. Ill-fitting shoes, downhill running, anatomy, swelling in the heat, lack of nail trimming, plain bad luck, some combination thereof? I do follow the advice to prevent black toenails: getting fitted for a proper size running shoe with enough room in the toe box, wearing wicking running socks, and trimming my toenails to the point they don’t look fantastic in this Southern California flip-flop wearing culture.

Still, I think the main reason I haven’t fallen victim to the dreaded black toe is that I simply haven’t reached a high enough running mileage. I don’t think I’m immune to it, and I like to tempt fate with my own little inside joke for runners:

Black toenail polish

Tempting fate by painting my toenails black

I used my 10-year-old’s non-toxic Piggy Paint to paint my nails black. It makes me smile every time I slip on my running shoes!

Do you get black toenails? What have you done to treat and/or prevent them?

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Earlier this week we skipped the kids’ tennis lessons so we could all go as a family to the last of our town’s music in park events. The kids start school again next week and we are making the most of the remaining bit of summer break!

Usually my husband takes the kids to music in the park while I get some precious time to myself to work out, read, or clean house (even that feels like a much-needed break!) I didn’t want to miss this special time with the kids and several of our family friends, so I made sure to spend the morning tidying up and getting in a workout. For cross-training on my marathon training plan, I did 30 minutes on the spin bike plus 15 minutes of the strength training exercises laid out in Run Less, Run Faster. Thank goodness I burned all those calories to make room for the evening’s treats!

We started off the night with a toast to the Beatles vs. Stones tribute bands Abbey Road and Jumping Jack Flash.

A toast to the bands

Here’s to music, family and fun!

Why yes that is “grape juice” and thank you local police for turning a blind eye to the drinking of grape juice in public at these events! We ate this corn salad for our picnic dinner along with some cucumbers, bell peppers and carrots that my 7-year-old cut up as a surprise for me! I call her my little sous chef.

For dessert, chocolate ice cream! Who can resist ice cream when it is FREE, compliments of the local realtors who helped sponsor the event.

Now that’s a generous single scoop of yum!

I burned off a few more calories as we danced the twist and rocked out to several more Beatles and Stones songs. I got a bonus weight workout as my 37-pound preschooler only wanted to dance in my arms! I also got to test my lungs as I belted out “Satisfaction” along with the band in an encore performance to my Rolling Stones karaoke night.

As it started to get dark, a little boy handed out glow bracelets to all the other kids on the dance floor.

Glow bracelet

My four-year-old couldn’t believe her good fortune!

A sense of community washed over me and I reveled in the glow of that feeling.

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