Monday, October 25, 2010

Race Report - Firethorne Sprint Triathlon

AKA yet another race that I didn't really train for

AAKA my last local race in Houston

AAAKA the race in which I won a shiny!


This one was close to my house - so I got to sleep in a bit (5:30).  Rolled out to the race, ate my usual 1/2 of a protein bar and a diet coke.  Racking was open by row and for once, I was the closest rack to the bike in/out.  Yay!  I hate hate hate running in cycling shoes.  The racks were a mess, most people put their bikes facing the exit and then put their bags in the space where opposite bikes were supposed to go.  Sloppy racking is a HUGE pet peeve of mine.  Ran into a few friends and debated the merit of wetsuit use for a 500 m race. C (who is amazing and wins overall masters for every race she's entered this year) said that the water felt warmer than officials claimed and was going sans suit.  I went over and got my chip then decided investigate the water temperature situation.  I waded in knee deep and confirmed that yes, the water was warmer than the 73 degrees that officials were claiming - it felt more like 75 or 76.  There was none of that shock you get when you hit cold water.  And since this was only a 500 m swim, a wetsuit really wasn't worth the hassle, even with the wetsuit strippers.

Transition closed at 7:15, so I wandered over to the lake and ran into my swim coach and his relay team.  Hung with them for a while, ran into some other swim team friends.  My wave didn't start until 8:03 and the race started late, so I had time to kill.

I've swam in this lake 2x before, once in a wetsuit and once w/out.  Its a real simple counter clockwise rectangle course.  We wade in and I notice that there weren't all that many people in my wave - maybe 30-40 people.  I wanted to see how hard I could go but not completely redline.  The gun went off and it was a pretty smooth start - no jostling or crowding.  I did have one girl hang with me for the first 3 buoys but I had a feeling she would get tired and drop off, while I just got stronger.  Sure enough, just before the turn buoy, she cratered and I kept cruisng along, focusing on my kick.  For me, a strong kick = fast swim.  Its easy to forget your kick in distance swimming, so my job was to stay focused.  Coming into the finish, there weren't all that many people to swim through or much scrambling.  Getting out of the water, though, was very awkward, as the pond base was slimy clay and they only had a 4x8 ft piece of plywood for the "ramp" out.  I ended up losing my balance trying to stand and had to bend down and grab 2 fist-fulls of nasty clay.  I think I still have clay under my nails a day later.

Pretty basic.  Kept a good job to my bike (heard a go Boise! [my Boise tri kit]) and saw that most of the bikes were on the rack.  I didn't really see anyone in front of me or near me in the swim, so I had a feelilng I was close to the front, if not at the front of the pack.  Pretty clean T1, although I fumbled more than I would have liked with my socks.  I may want to consider ditching the socks in the future.

The bike course took us north up FM14XX past I-10 and then an out and back east/west along Hwy 90, then back south.  We had a pretty good wind from the south, so immediately, I was zipping along easily at 20+ mph.  Which is nice in terms of getting your bike flow and HR down, but sucky because you know its going to hurt coming back.  The course wasn't awesome, mainly because we didn't have a dedicated lane to ride in - it was mostly shoulder.  And all of Hwy 90 was chip seal with some pretty decent pits.  Once I got on Hwy 90, I wanted to stay slightly uncomfortable, in terms of speed and pacing.  I wanted to stay in Zone 3-4 and get some decent speed, staying around 18 mph.  When it came time to pass someone, I'd drop a gear and get up to 19.5 mph, stay there for 1-2 miles, until my legs started to feel fatigued, then drop back a gear to 18 mph.  I repeated this ~5 times over the 16 miles and I think the speed boosts helped to keep me sharp and focused.  No one in my AG passed me on the whole bike and at the turn, I really didn't see anyone close behind me.  This added to my motivation to keep pushing and see just how hard I could go.

It was pretty crowded coming into the bike in, so that was interesting.  Pretty smooth for the rest of the transition, except my sunglasses somehow got tangled up in my helmet.  I stayed on target though, only putting on my shoes, and carrying my garmin, visor, and drink out with me onto the run.

Run is always my weakness and to make it worse, it was hot out.  I hate hate hate running in the heat and have a hard time really pushing.  My goal today was to PR for the run - meaning I needed to be under a 10:00/mile pace for the first 2 miles, not walk at all, and kick it into gear for the final mile.  I decided to race in my Newtons, hoping that they'd give me an edget.  A bit risky, since I've never run "fast" in them, but I've been doing all my short (up to 7 mile) runs and bricks in them, and have been feeling pretty speedy in them.

The run first took you on a crushed granite loop around the lake then onto sidewalks and city streets, then more granite, then streets to the finish.  Around a 1/2 mile I got passed by 3 people in my AG.  They were flying, not much I could do.  I needed to stay on target with my pace and just push, no matter how uncomfortable I got.

For the first mile, I was around 9:45/mile (at least when I looked at my watch).  I was running faster than I'd wanted to and was torn.  Do I keep going since it feels ok and hope I don't crash or do I make myself slow down.  I don't know if I made a conscious decision on what to do - I think I pretty much played it by ear.  I do think I slowed down a bit for mile 2, I did see 10:xx/mile a few times.  Once I got to the last mile, I focused on light feet, short strides, and speed.  It was hot, my lungs weren't happy, but I was going to PR on the run.  To add motivation, no one else had passed me, and at the turn around, I didn't see anyone in my AG who were even close.  This put be at best in 4th place (assuming I was first out of the water).  I was not going to allow myself to crash and burn - I was going to hold my position or do my best possible to keep it.  I don't know what my pace was in the last 1/2 mile, but I suspect it was somewhere in the high 8:xx/mile area.  I'm certain my finish line pictures will be funny - I was fighting a side cramp and breathing hard.  But I finished STRONG and held my position.  Mission accomplished.

500 m swim, 16 mi bike, 3 mi run
Swim: 9:34.5; 1:55/100 meter pace (PR for tri suit)
T1: 1:46.1
Bike: 53:27.8; 18.0 mph
T2: 1:18
Run: 28:05.1; 9:22/mile pace (PR!!!)
Overall: 1:34:12

Swim: 2/21, 145/541 (I think my overall rank is a bit low due to the number of wetsuits in the race)
Bike: 4/21, 300/541
Run: 9/21, 347/541
Overall: 5/21, 245/541

Other Analysis
I did some number crunching, and I was 2nd going into the run by more than 1 minute.  It really shows how strong my swim leg is, since I was actually 4th in my AG on the bike.

Nutrition-wise, I think I over did it a bit.  I had 2 scoops of Infinit and 2/3 of a Hammer Gel.  I ended up with side stitches on the run.  Nothing terrible, but still, they're never fun.  I think if I didn't have that last gulp of gel, I could have avoided the side stitches.

I did this race last year and was hoping to compare 2009 to 2010.  They changed the bike course a bit (and added 1 mile) and changed the run (although I don't think they changed it substantially).  In 2009, I used a wetsuit and had a PR on the swim but was 45 seconds slower in T1 than 2010.  This year, I was actually a net 15 seconds faster on the swim, even without the wetsuit.  So, not wearing the wetsuit was actually the right decision.  Also, my 2009 finish time was 1:35:45, vs 1:34:15 in 2010.  The course was 1 mile LONGER and I finished 1:30 FASTER this year.  Go me!

And the best part.... awards were 5 deep.  Meaning I got a SHINY!!

Every emotional for me - this was my last local race in Houston.  Very amazing that I not only PR'd but got HARDWARE.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

milestone : 500 miles running in 2010

I really don't have a mileage goal for anything - I'm too new and figure as long as I'm having fun and meeting my training goals, I have no business setting mileage goals for the year.  And really, I have no idea what I'm actually capable of, in terms of annual mileage - I'm too green.

This week I hit 500 miles running for 2010.  My total mileage for 2009 was 315 miles.  I'm crushing last year's mileage - in fact, I wouldn't be suprised if I came close to doubling it.  Ok, I just did the math, I should do way more than double last year's mileage.  Wow.  For a "non-runner" that's a lot of running.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Mythical Way Home

Finally I can say it.  We are moving to Denver.  The possibility came up late July, became more concrete towards the end of August, and finally yesterday, I got my transfer letter.  I've told a few people well before the letter, but since we had to figure out how to approach Will's job, we couldn't make a grand announcement until yesterday.

I'm 4th or 5th generation Coloradan, but when I graduated high school, I couldn't wait to escape.  Went to college in Montana, met a boy who was getting an oil-industry degree.  We decided who ever got the better job, that's where the other would go.  In 1998, the oil industry was doing well, and it became obvious that our path would be to a place that is oil-centric, namely Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, or Oklahoma City.  Will ended up with offers in Houston and Dallas, and we chose Houston.  The idea was that we would live here for 5 years and move to Denver.  That was in June 1998.... more than 12 years ago.  So much for our "5 year plan".  Over the years, we thought about just up and moving, but the stars weren't aligning.  One of us had too good of a job opportunity in Houston to give up, the market was crappy, house market was too high, too low. 

When I took my present job in 2006, our corporate HQ is in Denver.  The idea was that I'd prove myself in Houston for 2 years and then try to get a transfer.  Fast forward 2 years, and I had great opportunities in Houston with the company, I had a sweet professional network that aligned me on a fast-track career path, and as much as I hated Houston, I couldn't imagine giving up my network, which at the time didn't translate to Denver.  In 2010, our company moved from a regional organization to a national organization, which in the back of my head a little voice was saying "hmmm, maybe this will open up new opportunties to the west".  Still, everyone WANTS to go to Denver and its very competitive.  I just kind of gave up actively persuing Denver.  We hate Houston, but we like our friends and our life here.  We decided that was enough for us (with kick ass vacations thrown in).

My workload in the past few months have dwindled, some of it was client related, but really, I was beginning to see that my office was not getting the types of projects that I wanted to do.  I'm one of those people who like big robust projects that are long term and high profile.  I hate scrapping work together week after week, just to stay busy (which has been what I've been doing for most of 2010).  In July, we got a new account manager for a project I've been managing for a while.  Its listed as one of our top clients to grow and I regularly get calls from BD people, asking how to grow the project.  Really, the project has a mind of its own and there's little we can do to expand it.  So, when this new account manager (R) called me, I was not very excited, thinking it was another BD person with the same MO as all the others.  R was different, she was very understanding of the complexities of the project and wasn't pushy.  R is also a staffing manager in the Denver office and said she noticed my name was on the weekly national "light on work call".  I confirmed that it was, and she asked me a few questions about my experience.  She had a project that needed a PM - but the requirement would be a transfer to Denver.  Strangely enough, I have the exact qualifications for the project (client and technology), and when she said Denver, I replied back with "I'm a Native and I have my CO PE."  We both agreed that there were too many coincidences for this to all mean nothing.  R did some checking on me, to make sure I was a good candidate.  She came to Houston in August for BD work and we discussed the opportunity in more detail - left me with a choice of positions: the Denver PM job or stay in Houston and lead our BD effort for a client sector.  Incredibly flattering, and I was not expecting 2 offers.  After a few sleepless nights, I decided that while the BD offer was VERY flattering, it was still not a sure thing.  Moving to Denver for a new project was a sure thing - and it meant moving both to our corporate HQ and moving HOME.  Something I wanted to escape from so badly when I was 18, but have trying to figure out how to return there for the past 10 years.

At the end of August, it was determined that I was THE candidate for the job.  How does that happen?  Everyone wants to move to Denver - why and how did it end up that little old me is the best one for the job?  This has been more flattering than words can describe - basically being hand picked for a complicated high profile project.  Wow.

And then once I made my committment, it took 1.5 months to get the offer put together.  Ugh.  That's ok, I've been here 12 years, what's waiting a few more months. 

Will's job has been an interesting complication - he started a new job on Sept 1.  Fortunately, its with people he's worked with off and on for the past 6 years.  Our hope was that they would be ok with Will telecommuting.  Will told his boss yesterday, and it went great.  His boss basically said that Will could work for them, no matter where he was living.  I can't even express how great it is to see our hard work being paid off with such loyalty. 

So, we've got out work cut out for us.  We're in the process of clearing out our house and making a few small repairs.  House will go on the market Oct 29th.  We're pricing it aggressively so it will hopefully sell fast.

My official transfer date is Nov 13th, but really, that's an administrative date.  Denver said that as long as I get up there in 1-2 months after Nov 13th, then I'm ok.  They understand that I have a house and husband to figure out.  And if our house doesn't sell by Christmas, I'll go live with my mom (its nice to have that option, but yikes) and Will would hang out here until the house sells.  Lets just hope it sells fast.

And then there's also marathon and IMTX training at altitude and in the winter with snow.  We'll just see how that goes.  Too easy to get overwhelmed right now.

We're very excited but at the same time scared and sad.  Houston, as much as I knock it, has been really good to us.  We've made great friends and we really like our life here (except for the heat, humidity, and ugliness).  However, I really have to belive that Denver is where we belong.  Hopefully I'm right.  There's only one way to find out.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Race Report - Houston Triathlon

Meant to get this done sooner, but this race was my one day off, smack in the middle of 1.5 weeks of field work and then a quickie weekend trip to MN for a wedding. 

This race had three options: full Oly distance tri, 300 m swim then oly distance bike/run, and a duathlon.  Lots of choices. I did the fully Oly distance.

I signed up for this race on somewhat of a whim, but also had a few reasons. 
  1. I'm still really cranky I didn't get to do the Gateway to the Bay Oly in April, because I had the world's worst stomach virus the night (and morning) before the race.  I had an Oly distance as an unoffical goal for 2010, and even though it was supposed to be BEFORE a 70.3, I still wanted to race this distance.
  2. Several of my friends were doing this race - racing with friends is fun!
  3. Wasn't sure if this would be my last chance to race in Houston in before IMTX, so I wanted to enter for nostalgia.
Since I entered on a whim, I really hadn't trained for this race either.  Now, I've been swimming 7,000 yards a week and doing my marathon training.  Haven't touched the bike much, but I did do a 43 mile ride the weekend before the Oly.  When I told Will that I haven't trained for the race he asks me "what have you been doing in the mornings if its not training???"  Silly boy.  I had to explain the difference between training for the sake of just having something to do versus actually training for a specific event.

So, I signed up and THEN read the course layout.  After I signed up.  2 loop swim with a 300 ft run in the middle, 1/4 mile "run" between the swim exit and transition, 2 loop bike course (with up ato 1,000 athletes on it), and a run which included a lap through the football stadium and UP the stadium ramps.  Uh, yeah.  Why did I sign up again?  All this race needed to complete "the crazy" was a mud pit and fire at the finish line.

This race was relatively close to my house, which was nice.  Parking was a bit of a bear (one entrance) but once I got parked, transition was nice.  I love it when they pre-assign numbers.  Also, the two people on either side of me never showed up, so I had tons of space.  I got my gear set up and then checked in on some friends (two of which had never done a duathlon before).  Then transition closed and it was off for a long trek to the swim start...

The swim was in a residential lake and consisted of a 2 loop (700 m loop) swim with a 300 m run btwn loops.  The idea was to have this swim be like ITU races.  To complicate things, the start was a wave start, so eventually, you'd have waves of people starting and other swimmers starting their second loop - sort of like a crazy merge onto a highway.  Or roller derby.  I was in the last wave (boo).  Made for a crowded first loop but the second loop was a bit better. 

This was probably one of the craziest swims I've done in a while, mainly due to the congestion.  I seemed to have some girl in my wave magnetically attracted to me.  She's be all up in my business, whacking me, and then I'd see her veer off sharply off course.  Then a few minutes later, she's whacking me again.  I've never been whacked on the back of the head so many times.  I really think this chick swim an extra 1/4 of the course with her navigation issues.  My pace and effort felt ok, navigation was good.  The 300 m run sucked - mainly because you go from being at a horizontal redline to a vertical redline and back to horizontal.  Lots of blood flow and stomach shifting.  Basically the run sequence made me nauseous, which is never fun.  I didn't hit my watch a loop split, so I have no idea which loop was faster.  Its a toss up, because I spent most of the second loop navigating around the older men of the previous waves.  I had a really good hand-up out of the water (there was a big step to exit) and then it was off, running along the carpeted 1/4 mile road into T1.  My achilles had been acting up, so best I could manage was a pathetic jog, which sucked since people I beat out of the water were now beating me to T1.  Boo.

Nothing notable.  Put bike shoes on, number on, helmet on, grab bike and go.  It did seem like the bike mount line was pretty far away from the transition gate, but I was hobbling along, so chances are, it was just me.

Bike was a pretty straightfoward 2 loop course with long straight stretches of road.  Immediately out from T1 I saw 22 mph on my Garmin and thought "sweet - I'm hauling and not dying!"  Then I turned the corner and realized that my speed was aided by a tailwind.  Nothing like reality to bring you back down.  The wind was maybe 15-20 mph (2nd loop stronger than the 1st) and it was pretty much head/tail wind.  I much prefer that to crosswind, because with head/tail wind at least you get SOME reward during the tailwind part.  Crosswinds are just annoying and wear you down, with little reward.  The bike wasn't as crowded as I feared.  I caught up with my duathlon friend, he seemed like he was doing ok.  When I asked him what loop he was on, he said "2" and I had a few select words, mostly related to being the last wave on the swim.  I was destined to be on the course forever.  The second loop was a bit windier, but the course was flat so it wasn't awful.  My speed in the headwind was ~12-14 mph, while I easily maintained 20-24 on the tailwind.  Around mile 15 I could tell that I haven't spent much time in the saddle - especially in my Boise kit.  Things were starting to get a bit uncomfortable - nothing awful, just a good reminder of why actually training for a race is a good idea.

Nothing remarkable here.  I did actually manage to wait until I was running away from my transition spot before putting my hat on.

I've been regularly running 5 miles for my "short" runs and 11 miles for my long runs.  A 10k straight should not be a problem.  The first 3 miles were great - it was cloudy and the run course was nice.  It was in a residential neighborhood and we went along crushed gravel paths adjacent to houses and lakes - some of the residents were even on their back patios cheering us along.  Right around mile 3 the sun came out and *bam* I got hot.  And anyone (all 2 of you!) who reads my blog knows that I fall apart when the heat starts.  And so I started walking bits and pieces.  Not awful, but definitely not great.  I went from "hey, I bet I can negative split the run" when it was cloudy to "hmmm, heart rate is up there, lets slow down and have fun".  I fully admit to walking the ENTIRE football stadium section.  It was just silly.  Around the football field, up the spectator ramps, around the seating area, and back down the ramp.  Given my shin split / achilles issues lately, I thought running up/down the ramps was a dumb idea and was perfectly happy walking.  I did run the final 1.2 miles, so at least I have that.  Once I got within a 1/2 mile of the finish, you could see the transition area and you just KNEW you were close.  I tried to go faster (sub-9:30 pace) but there just wasn't any gas left.  At least I know I finished hard and couldn't have finished any faster than I did.

Results - 1500 m swim, 24.85 mi bike, 6.2 mi run
Swim: 31:04.8; 2:07/100 meter pace (slow for me, not sure what the deal was)
T1: 5:24.8 (gotta love the 1/4 mile run to T1!)
Bike: 1:25.1; 17.5 mph
T2: 1:23
Run: 1:14:59, 12:05/mile pace
Overall: 3:17:59

Swim: 8/34, 37/643
Bike: 24/34, 507/643
Run: 29/34, 544/643
Overall: 27/34, 477/643

Closing Thoughts
Overall, the race was actually pretty fun.  The swim and the football stadium were annoying, but I understand why the RD set up the race like that.  He was trying to do something different and fun.  Its just that my version of different and fun are not quite in line with his version.  My stretch goal time was 3:15, so I came pretty close to hitting it.  I told myself that anything under 3:30 would be fine, and I cam in way faster than that.

I had a good time, and I think with the improvements they'll make next year (this year was the inaugural race), it will be even better.

Monday, October 04, 2010

September Totals

Still in "not really training" mode.  I did try to focus more on running this month.  When I did last month's post, I realized that while I'm supposed to be running 3 times a week (2 x 5 miles, 1 x long run) I was consistently only doing 2 of the 3 runs, for various reasons (usually related to work or a race).  So, in my brilliance, I decided to make sure I did all 3 runs the first week of Sept, effectively a 22% mileage increase.  And I used my Newtons for both 5 mile runs.  In my warped head, I figured that I'd built up to 5 miles in the Newtons, so 2 x 5 miles (Tues/Thurs) was no big deal.  Also, I somehow think that if its on my plan, even when I don't run according to plan, I'm still operating at that mileage.  So I didn't think that adding another 5 miles to my week would do anything.  Wrong.  Hellllooo shin splints, where have you been?  And also I developed some new achilles tenderness.  Which made me skip some runs in September, and now I'm in some sort of loop.  But I think I learned my lesson.  Hopefully.

Bike: 5h 53m 08s - 95.09 Mi (including 40k bike from a race)
Run: 12h 24m 17s - 63.32 Mi (not too shabby - up from 44 miles last month).
Swim: 9h 56m 04s - 25240.42 Yd
Yoga: 3h 00m

Interesting tidbit - Sept ties for my 2nd highest monthly run mileage.  The highest was 86 miles in May (peak IM Boise 70.3 training) then I had 63 miles in April (build month for IM TX 70.3).  Pretty cool that I'm maintaining a mileage that was once really hard to maintain.

Review of September Goals

Enjoy the calm before the storm. I think September was a pretty chill month.  I did a nice ride on the IronStar course, put down a decent time on the Houston Olympic Triathlon, even though I haven't been training specifically for it.  Tried to be more consistent with the running, but only managed to run my 3 runs/week once, which resulted in injury.  Awesome.  But I did get in every long run in Sept, except for one.  I had to work that Saturday and had the Oly the next day, so chances are even if I wasn't working, I would have skipped that run anyways. 

October Goals
  • Work on consistent weekly running.  Would like to be able to report back next month that I was running 3x a week, just like my schedule says.
  • Work on tempo and speeds for running.  Now that the cool weather is back, I need to incorporate more tempo running into my weekday runs.
  • Enjoy this month - its the last month before Ironman training begins.