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Posts Tagged ‘triathlon’

It happens to everyone at some point: no matter how hard you tie and even double-knot your shoelaces, the laces come undone. It’s bad enough when it happens during a regular run, but it can spell disaster when it happens during a race. Precious seconds tick when a runner must dash to the side of the road to re-tie laces (please tell me you follow running etiquette and make your way to the far right on the race course if you ever need to stop). Worse yet is when the runner either (1) stops in the middle of the course and blocks the people behind him, or (2) continues running with the shoelaces untied, endangering both himself and those who will crash into him when he trips over those laces. You might wonder who would ever be crazy enough to run with laces untied, but I can tell you I saw two racers do it at the Brea 8K this year. It took all I had to bite my tongue and not chastise those runners. In retrospect what I should have yelled at them was, “Buy some Lock Laces!” (This is not a sponsored post. The lovely Lock Laces people have no idea who I am. However, the Amazon product image is an affiliate link).

Lock Laces are elastic laces that replace your regular shoelaces. Instead of tying them you cinch them with an adjustable toggle.

Pros:
– you never have to worry about laces coming untied again
– it’s easy to slip the shoes off and on (which is handy for everyone but especially helpful for shaving time off in transition for triathletes)
– they come in all kinds of cool colors
– they’re relatively inexpensive — I’ve seen them for sale for anywhere from $3 to $8 per pair.

Cons:
– they can take some getting used to and some fiddling to adjust them properly. Cinch them too tightly and the shoes become uncomfortable, too loosely and your feet move around in the shoes.
– Some people might be bothered by the end clasps flopping around but that is easily solved by tucking the ends underneath the rest of the elastic laces just as you might tuck in regular shoelace tips.

Obviously I am a convert and I love my Lock Laces. It’s one less thing to worry about on race day. I wore them for the Santa Barbara International Marathon last November and did not have any problems.

Do you use Lock Laces? What do you think of them?

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During the last two and a half months of “off-season” I’ve been following a loose plan of running three days per week and cross-training at least two other days. During triathlon season, my cross-training would consist of a mix of swimming and cycling. Ever since the Nautica Malibu olympic distance triathlon though, I’ve wanted a break from swimming. Maybe it was all the work I did on open water swimming, but I simply burned out on spending time in the water. What is an off-season for if not to recharge and ready oneself to get back to training as usual?

Me entertaining myself with the old cell-phone-photo-in-the-mirror trick, showing you how my Nautica Malibu tri cap happens to match my favorite TYR reversible swimsuit.

Me entertaining myself with the old cell-phone-photo-in-the-mirror trick, showing you how my Nautica Malibu tri cap happens to match my favorite TYR reversible swimsuit.

Somehow, fate conspired to get me back into the water. Last week I helped my fifth grader get ready for her “Famous American” oral report on Clara Barton (founder of the American Red Cross). My daughter and I shopped at the thrift store for a long skirt in keeping with the Civil War era clothing. She tried on several skirts with a white blouse we also found on the rack. I asked her if we should buy the white shirt too, but she insisted she had a blouse at home already. “Does it still fit you? Do you know where it is?” Yes, yes. In reality? No, no. That’s how, the day before the report was due, I found myself back at the thrift store, plunking down $3 for that darn white blouse.

What does all that have to do with swimming? Well, the outdoor pool is just down the road from the thrift store. If I was going to drive to that part of town, I might as well stop in at the pool. Fate had spoken: Angela, GET IN THE WATER. So I did. And it felt great! Outdoor swimming in the winter in California can be a fun treat (really!) The weather was sunny and in the 70s, but cool enough that the pool water felt warmer than the air so it was easy to jump in the pool. I made up my own swim set for a simple 40-minute workout:

Angela’s Don’t Get Bored in the Pool, Completely Random Swim Set

200 yards freestyle
200 yards breaststroke
200 yards backstroke
200 yards freestyle kick with kickboard
repeat above
plus 1 lap your choice to make it a full swim mile (33 laps).

I swam at a leisurely pace with no rest intervals in between. I suppose I should start throwing some speed work in to my swim workouts sometime soon. I don’t have a triathlon on my calendar right now but I do like to stay in shape in the pool. I plan to start picking from some of these 50 Swim Workouts. That requires printing out the workout and putting the paper in a Ziploc bag so it doesn’t get wet poolside, but I trust that someday I will be organized enough to plan ahead and do just that!

Do you cross-train with swimming or train for triathlons? What’s your favorite workout in the pool?

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I am proud of my race times. A lot of training (and a little luck) went into achieving those times, and I’m still constantly working to improve on them. They don’t define me though. I don’t hang my self-worth on whether or not I sub-4 in the marathon (I haven’t, but that is a goal of mine), or get a PR in a race. I strive for goal times, and I hope to achieve them, but I do not lose a piece of myself if I don’t hit that time. Why? Because a race time is just a number. It doesn’t come with a little asterisk that says*

*41-year-old female, 5’6.5″ and 133 pounds, running since March 2011, Graves’ Disease, three children, recovering from injury, raced some serious hills and fought the wind (does that sound like some Fit Fun Mom you know?), or

flooding at CIM

Typhoon running not highly recommended, CIM 2012

*dealt with typhoon-like rain in Sacramento for CIM 2012 (“365 days of awesome” blog), or

*was the victim of an unavoidable bike crash at IMAZ (“Cook Train Eat Race” blog), or

*got up with the baby three times during the night before the race (any new-ish mother, anywhere).

Those aren’t excuses. I’m saying that it’s useless to tie your self-worth to a race time because there’s never going to be another person out there just like you, racing under conditions just like yours.

marathon finishers

Finishers at the Chicago Marathon in 2005. Photo by rbackowski.

Think about it another way. Who is more “worthy” of admiration after completing a marathon?

1. The 23-year-old female who’s been running for 5 years and comes in at around 3 hours.
2. The 41-year-old female who’s been running for 1.5 years and comes in at around 4 hours (*cough cough*).
3. The 35-year-old with type 2 diabetes who’s lost 30 pounds in training and comes in around 5 hours.

I’d argue they are equally worthy of admiration. They each ran 26.2 miles. They each put in a tremendous amount of effort to achieve those times. They each faced different challenges on race day.

I race against me, myself and I, and sometimes it’s still not a fair race. When you sign up in November for a race in June, who knows what will happen in between now and then? Injury? Family crisis? Weather? Perfect conditions? Crash? Take your satisfaction from checking off each workout in the training plan. Consider any race finish the icing on the cake. And if you do happen to PR? We know it was hard-fought and well-earned and should be celebrated.

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I cornered my husband for an interview about his experience at HITS Palm Springs 2012 on Sunday. He did his first sprint triathlon and came in 6th of 12 in his 40-44 age group and 91st of 238 overall!

A newbie crosses the line to become a triathlete!

A newbie crosses the line to become a triathlete!

Swim: 00:19:12.982 (130th of 238)
T1: 00:03:18.792
Bike: 00:41:51.931 (105th of 238; 17.77 miles per hour)
T2: 00:02:07.115
Run: 00:26:03.499 (81 of 238 — best segment! 8:24 pace, 7.14 mph)
Finish: 01:32:34.319

1. Congratulations on your first triathlon! How do you feel 36 hours later?

Sore! Accomplished. Proud of wife because of her triathlon adventures and her super fast times!

2. What was the farthest race you had run before doing a triathlon? What was your experience with cycling and swimming? What did you work on most as you prepared for the tri?

I had done a few 5K races. The longest run for fun I’d ever done was 9 miles. I’d never competed before on the bike or swimming. At first I had to see if I could even do the swim — swim that half-mile distance. I did a couple of weeks of swim tryouts and I realized I could do it. Then I got out Your First Triathlon and started following one of the training plans from that.

3. What surprised you about the training?

Nothing really surprised me. I knew what to expect from watching you train. It turned out about like I expected — you have to commit to it, you have to prioritize the training over other things. It put a dent in some of my other activities like music, and I quit yoga and Pilates in order to spend the time on training.

4. What surprised you about the triathlon itself?

The swim. The swim start was unmanageable. I was on the verge of having to float for a while to catch my breath. In the pool it was no big deal. I could get my groove, I could push myself to the limit and back off when it got to be too much, and never break my stroke. But when you’ve got hundreds of bodies interfering with your kicking, and splashing you, and going out of the gate so fast, it interferes with your stroke and your breathing and it’s hard to get back to your pace. After about 100 or 200 yards I had a moment of worry that it might be the end of my race and I could not keep on going. So I flipped over on my back and did backstroke for a while, then I floated on my back while I kicked my legs to catch my breath. After a while I was able to flip back over and complete the swim at my normal pace.

My dead legs on the run surprised me too. I got a decent time for the run — 26:03 — but I would have estimated it was 30 minutes based on the way I felt.

5. Do you feel like just from doing this triathlon, you’ll be better prepared for the swim start next time?

Yes, for sure. There’s some nervousness at the start of the race that freaks you out a bit. Having all those people around you makes you freak out.

I think that there are a few other things that could help. Practicing a shore start at a lake. Also practicing swimming through surf waves would be a good way to try that out because you have to put out a lot of exertion right through the start and then come back and get your groove.

6. What did you learn from doing your first tri? What do you wish you had known before going into the race?

I wish I had had some more coping skills for the swim start. I also need a tri kit for the bike because I was the only shirtless bike rider out there, to the point that I worried that it was against the rules. [It wasn’t].

7. What did you think of the HITS Palm Springs organization? Would you do the race again?

I think they did a great job. They did a better job than last year [the first year of the series, when I did the Olympic distance race]. It’s a really great venue and the organizers are really nice people. They’re cool and they care a lot about the racers and the sport and it comes through in their attitude. I would definitely do the race again.

8. What’s your advice for someone considering signing up for a triathlon?

Try out each of the pieces to see how it feels. Try out running, try out swimming, try out biking and see how it goes. The likelihood is that will give you the confidence to do it. Then pick a training plan and stick to it. Be honest with yourself about the time commitment and the discipline it takes to stick to that plan. The success of the triathlon is in the training for the race; the race is just an indication that you trained well. [I totally agree!]

9. What are your goals now that you’ve successfully completed a sprint?

Don’t overeat. Keep up the training. Sign up for another one at some point!

Thanks Mike! I am very proud of you for challenging yourself with the training and race and I’m glad it went so well!

Any other triathletes out there? What was your first triathlon like? What advice would you give someone who is considering signing up for his or her first tri?

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Huge congratulations go out today to my husband Mike upon completion of his first sprint triathlon at HITS Palm Springs 2012!

Smiling at the finish and looking strong!

Smiling at the finish and looking strong!

Not only did he finish (goal #1), he came in the top half of his age group and the top 38% overall! Best of all, he wants to do another sprint triathlon.

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Spoiler alert: I highly recommend the SheROX San Diego sprint and super sprint triathlons and I suspect the rest of the SheROX triathlon series is fabulous as well. I’ve done this race twice and I enjoyed it both years.

Registration: I registered early in March for the race in October, and paid $83.25 for the sprint.

Expo: You need to make three stops when you enter the outdoor expo — packet pickup, body marking, and t-shirt and goody bag pickup. I love the v-neck style technical shirts I’ve gotten both years, although the super bright pink this year is a little bold for me.

SheROX technical shirt

I fear my camera does not do justice to the bright pink.

It’ll make a good safety shirt when I ride the bike because people will have no trouble seeing me in that thing! There were several booths selling technical shirts, triathlon tees, wetsuits and swimsuits. Luna Bars gave away samples of their flavors, free crispy bars for the kids, and posters for the kids to make race signs. Last year the San Diego sheriffs department was out recruiting at the expo! Love that!

Parking: Parking at South Shores Park is convenient, close, and plentiful for both the expo and the race. On race day it closes at 6:30 before the 7 a.m. start of the race.

Location: You can’t beat the location in San Diego, right next to Seaworld, at South Shores Park on Mission Bay. This makes a great destination race with plenty of nearby restaurants and attractions.

Hotels: The Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa is less than five minutes from the race start. It’s a lovely hotel, not super-deluxe but nice for the $152 per night group rate. Tip: request a first floor “villa gardenview” room rather than a room in the tower. If you don’t mind being on the ground floor, it’s amazing to open your door to the patio and gardens and have a view to Mission Bay.

Transition: Transition gets an A+. Well set up and well marked, with bright yellow signs on the racks for the wave numbers, and clearly marked BIKE IN and BIKE OUT etc. banners.

Swim course: I love the in-water start on the swim course. Once you’re allowed to enter the water, be sure to swim out to the start line or you might not make it in time before the starting horn! The water in Mission Bay has been calm both years. It’s saltwater and a little murky, but it’s not exceptionally cold and it makes for a great swim course. It can be challenging to follow the buoys for the sprint vs. the super-sprint, but the race organizers do something very helpful — they send a boat out to demonstrate the course right before the race. Even with that though, I watched one of the elite triathletes one year turn left at the super-sprint buoy rather than continue on to the sprint buoy. (It’s comforting to know even the pros make mistakes sometimes!)

Bike course: The bike course takes you out on Fiesta Island. It can be intimidating due to the some of the turns on the course and I highly recommend going out on the island either on bike or in car to preview the course. Just make sure if you’re doing the sprint that you make the turn to the right to go out toward the campground. The course map has not shown that little turn each year. The course is flat with only the slightest of hills here and there. I do not like that the course requires two loops on the island (it can be intimidating to beginners to have to remember that) but the signage and volunteer direction is good.

Run course: Again, two loops on the run for the sprint. Nice course along the bay though and not hilly. You pass the one aid station twice over the run.

Vibe: Because it’s an all-women event, it gives off a great all-for-one and one-for-all vibe that’s welcoming to beginners. Indeed, the race site says that about half the participants are new to the sport. I have always found triathletes male or female to be a helpful, generous bunch and that’s certainly in evidence at SheROX events. There is a mentor program where experienced athletes pair with beginners to offer advice and support via email and additional training opportunities. My sponsor Megan helped me tremendously by answering my questions, giving me tips, and meeting up with me on race day to get me settled in transition.

I also love that SheROX partners with the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund as its official charitable partner. Team Hope participants can raise funds in support of OCRF. The race even offers a special wave for cancer survivors. Makes me cry every time when we cheer those ladies at the start.

Finally, SheROX San Diego is a great spectator course — it’s relatively easy for family members and friends to catch sight of you on each portion of the course.

Post-race: One of the best things SheROX offered was a warm hand towel to dry off after the race. I’d never seen that before (not even at the race in 2011) and I hope they keep that feature! The food offered after the race is plentiful and good: bananas, oranges, two kinds of muffins, juice boxes and electrolyte water. I love that you can go straight to the race booth to get a computer printout with unofficial times.

Ways to improve the race: While I love this race and highly recommend it, there’s always room for improvement. I have four suggestions for the race organizers. (1) Invite food trucks to race day so family and friends can snag breakfast or a snack while they spectate. (2) Correct the bike course map to show the slight turn to the right out toward the campground on Fiesta Island. Without that marked, people previewing the course go straight instead of turning right at the Y in the road. I heard women during the race saying, “We didn’t practice this before!” (3) At the swim start, you’ve got to enforce the starting line. Make the women stay in line with the white buoy under threat of disqualification if they “drift” out past the start. It’s ridiculous to see athletes cheat by going up to 10 feet ahead and blocking the athletes at the starting line. (4) In 2012 with the rain, the bike course was wet. As I stopped at the dismount line I saw two women fall as they were physically stopped by race volunteers. Volunteers grabbed the bikes to stop them at the line, and the bikes slipped right from under the women. As an athlete, I’d rather be disqualified or penalized for crossing the dismount line than physically injured on a fall from the bike.

Conclusion: Love the race, highly recommend it, would do it again. Thanks SheROX!

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When my alarm went off at 4:15 a.m. on race day, I woke to the sound of rain dripping down the hotel gutters. Darn it, my Twitter chant of “Rain rain go away, I have a tri in Mission Bay” did not work! I made oatmeal with hot water from the hotel coffee maker, then made actual coffee with the coffee maker. I had about half an hour to eat, get in my tri kit, and get out the door. Transition opened at 5 a.m. and I wanted to be there on time. I managed to be about 20th in line as we waited in the drizzle for transition to open, which it finally did around 15 or 20 minutes late.

I hustled to find the two long bike racks designated for wave 9, and snagged one of the prime spots at the end of the rack. I hooked the nose of my bike seat on the rack as directed, then set up my bright pink towel to the left, carefully laying out my bike shoes, sunglasses, and running shoes under the plastic SheROX expo bag so they wouldn’t get wet. Then I set about walking the routes I would take through T1 and T2. Wave 9 did not have a prime location but I had no trouble navigating transition and again this year I was impressed with how well the organizers set it up. Satisfied that I had the drill down, I drove back to the hotel to pick up my cheering section. My three girls were none too happy to be up at 6 a.m., but they were troopers as always, ready and waiting in their bright pink SWIM, BIKE, and RUN t-shirts. Unfortunately, the hotel cafe was not open at that hour like it was last year, so the troops had to get by on leftover California rolls and the Luna bars we’d snagged at the expo. Oops. Plea to race organizers: invite some food trucks to come to the race — my family loved the food truck at Nautica Malibu!

We high-tailed it back to the race start, just in time before the parking closed at 6:30. I had plenty of time to get to the race start and chat with a few nice women who had questions about the swim course or needed help zipping up a wetsuit. I think triathletes in general are a friendly, helpful bunch of people, and yet the vibe is even more welcoming at an all-women event like SheROX. Really perfect for beginners. That’s not to say that the ladies aren’t competitive. Just like last year, several of the women in my wave “drifted” several feet out past the starting line. Last year I didn’t say anything because those ladies were only harming themselves. This year it took everything I had to restrain myself from yelling at the women who “drifted” right out in front of me. So not cool.

Starting line at SheROX swim

That’s me, third to the left of the white buoy, trying desperately not to yell at the cheater cheater pumpkin eaters.

Still, I love an in-water start, and the start went well for me. The rain had stopped and the saltwater in Mission Bay looked as smooth as glass. If anything, I went out too strong and paid for it later. By the end of the swim, my lips looked blue from hyperventilating. When I practice swimming in the pool, I breathe every three strokes. Out in open water, I need to breathe every two. Obviously what I need to do is practice breathing every two strokes in the pool, as well as get in more open water swims in training. Still, I was pleased with the results:

2011 1500m swim: 14:44
2012 1500m swim: 14:24 (-20 seconds)

T1 went smoothly. I skipped putting on socks to save time and I didn’t miss them on the bike or run. No sunscreen, no drink of electrolytes. Just in, out, boom.

2011 T1: 3:22
2012 T1: 2:18 (-1:04) (my best T1 out of 4 races to date!)

As I’ve said, the bike is my favorite part of any triathlon and SheROX was no exception.

SheROX bike course

As always, smiling on the bike (in spite of whatever weird thing was going on with my bike helmet strap)

The bike course seemed more crowded than the year before and I later learned there were 684 competitors, nearly 90 more athletes this year than last. Not particularly large for a race, but noticeable for me when I’m passing people on the bike (and they are passing me on the run!) It started to drizzle again as I made my second loop on the bike course. The road had never dried up from the morning anyway, and the rain did not bother me, but I am not willing to risk life or limb, so I took it a little slower in the turns on the course.

2011 20K bike: 37:55 (19.67 mph)
2012 20K bike: 38:26 (+ 31 seconds)

Transition two was fine. Part of the reason T1 was faster this year was that I saved putting on my race belt until T2. That doesn’t account for all the difference though.

2011 T2: 1:21
2012 T2: 2:18 (+ 57 seconds)

The run was tough for me. I had hoped to improve on my run time by a lot, given all the half marathon and marathon training I’d done in the past year. But of course, running 20 miles three days before for my current training, and not tapering for this race, meant my legs just didn’t have it in them.

SheROX run course

Still happy to be on the run

2011 5K run: 26:38
2012 5K run: 29:04 (+2:26)

I was happy to finish, and happy to see my family at the finish line. They, starving at this point, were happy to see my race finish line treats — muffins and juice box and banana and orange.

SheROX finish

Not sure I even accomplished the goal of getting a better finish line photo. I tried to finish strong and not do anything goofy, but I pretty much look like I want to punch someone.

2011 sprint tri final results: 1:23:57
2012 sprint tri final results: 1:25:53 (+1:56)

So, faster on the swim and T1, slower on the bike, T2 and the run. It’s the run that bums me out. You know, before I started training for the marathon, I had already signed up for Nautica Malibu and SheROX. I asked a more experienced runner if I should bow out of the triathlons, and she said yes. She said I should just write off those triathlons and focus on the goal race. Now I have to grudgingly admit, she was right. It’s possible that overtraining for the triathlons and the marathon led to the plantar fasciitis and groin injury I’ve been battling. And it’s clear that running 20 miles and not tapering before the triathlon results in less than optimal performance. It helps me to go through the race and analyze what happened (not making excuses, but learning from the experience). After getting over the initial disappointment of not getting a PR, I am pleased overall and more than ready to focus all my attention now on these last three weeks of marathon training. Santa Barbara International Marathon, here I come!

Did you race SheROX or elsewhere this weekend? How did it go?

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