Wednesday, December 11, 2013

California International Marathon: Race Analysis

Exactly a year ago this time I wondered if I'd every be able to return to running and what exactly that would look like. I was struggling with a nerve injury that was rooted in my back and sending pain signals down my leg. Just walking around was painful, and the months of inactivity from running were adding up. I lost around 5 months of training. So by the time May rolled around and I had made some progress on the injury I considered it a victory that I was able to run for an hour straight finally without pain. 
So in August, after having a pain free triathlon season, I decided I wanted to run a marathon and signed up for my first ever marathon (California International Marathon) to be raced in December. My coach Justin Trolle biked beside me during some of my first long runs with his signature Fatigue Resistance sets, which would end up being the building blocks of my training. No long run was completed without this speed element implemented, and it worked. The focus of the training wasn't on volume like traditional marathon programs, but on speed work during training. I averaged around 40 miles to 50 miles per week of running on my biggest weeks. I have to admit, I was a bit worried about getting in as long of runs as possible. I had to just trust in my coach that the training we were doing would pay off, and get me to my goal time of a 3 hour marathon.  

 Race day in Sacramento, California was a cold one. The temperature at the start of the race was around 27 degrees and it only warmed up to 34. The cold temperatures would prove to be treacherous at aid stations; adding to the difficulty of getting water. Any water that was spilled from the dixie cups was freezing quickly on the roads...creating a slip and slide. I lined up with the 3:00:00 pace group, as did about 30 of my best friends. The power of a group of runners pacing and running in a pack together can give huge benefits. It helped keep me on target pace, although a bit fast..we averaged a 6:46 pace for the first 13.1 miles, which comes out to a 2:57 marathon. The goal was to positive split the race and anticipate a bit of a fade in the last portion of the marathon. After reaching mile 13 I decided to go to the back of the group. There had been a lot of jostling amongst the group and I'm not a soccer player. Also a pack of 30 people all trying to get a dixie cup of water was probably a good spectator sport, but I needed hydration. I finished the back half of the race with a 1:37:04. Definitely more of a positive split than I had anticipated, but I also had only gotten 2 gu gels down the entire race and that became a contributor to the slow down I experienced. Lessons learned, I'm ready to take on Boston in 2015!

Some stats on my Race:
Longest run completed: 19.5 miles with Fatigue Resistance Sets
Average mileage/week 40-50 miles
Half marathon split: 1:28:42 (avg pace of 6:46) 
Final time: 3:05:46
Close to Mile 13

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Rev 3 Knoxville 2013

    Apparently it wouldn't be a race for me unless it was pouring rain. My season ended last year with a rainy Chicago Triathlon...the race where I got injured. So I know I promised to pull out of a race if it ever did that again, but come on..I'm healed. Plus my physical therapist promised before I left that she could fix ANY damage I did during the course of race day. So I jumped into the 58 degree water and swam my hardest, gutted it out on a wet course with rain pelting me, and ran on icicle legs and frozen feet. I could have sworn up and down the whole run that there were rocks in my shoes but it was just the pain of frozen feet pounding the pavement.  
    I'm very pleased with my run time at Knoxville. I'm definitely capable of running minutes faster over the course of a 10k, but I had only put in one week of speed work before the race. All other miles had just been endurance miles as I fight back after a nerve/back injury to my left side. It was also very difficult to run hard off of the bike when everything is frozen and on the verge of cramping. I find it incredibly interesting that I only ran 30 seconds slower than the time I posted last year at this same race. Comparing facts: last year at this time I had completed about five months of speed work on the run. This year: I started running in February for ten minutes at a time and built my way up to being able to run for 1.5 hours and completed my first speed session by race day. Two very different courses in training, and proof of how ineffective my last training program was. Glad to be racing with Vanguard Triathlon now this season!

 Check out some more photos from the race and this last weekend in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Broken, but not for forever

How many people does it take to fix a "broken" triathlete?

A new head coach, one massage therapist, two physical therapists (one from Boulder sports med, and one local), a sports med doctor, two different chiropractors, two different ART therapists, and a nutrition coach. THAT was the team that brought me back to life after a long and mentally difficult five to six months of being injured. Some asked if I would just retire. Retire?! I just started, so no I'm going to finish this the proper way even if it takes the whole next season to get back in shape and rehab my injury. Some thought I would never run again, well I've been told that before and I've battled back before. This time is no just took longer.

Things escalated at the Chicago triathlon last year in August. I had already been battling a baffling problem on the bike all year. Every time I would race my left adductor would seize up and cramp (or so I thought it was a cramp) and I couldn't push as hard on the bike as I would like to. This resulted in disappointing bike times all season. Chicago turned cold (50s) with rain the entire race, and to complicate things I woke up with a stinger in my neck. Meaning; I could not turn my head to the right at all without stinging pain down my neck and shoulder. This only happens about twice a year and was was one of my worst nightmares. It had a very negative effect on my swim since I couldn't move my head to the side to breathe and the run was painful with zinging pain every stride. I battled on, and that was my first mistake. The next morning I woke up and couldn't even sit up in bed because of the pain that radiated from my hip joint and nerve pain down the back of my leg to my knee. I thought it was just a pain that would pass with rest from activity...

I ended up canceling on the LA triathlon and the rest of the season. It was a difficult pill to swallow, and not a decision I made over night. Every day I woke up and kept trying to work on my leg, and kept trying to "test"out my leg to see if the physical therapy had worked yet. Most days it just left me with my head in my hands sitting on the curb. I had injured a nerve in my back and it was going to take months for it to calm down and the right hands to work on it. In the meantime I needed to take it easy and let it heal, which was easier said than done. Everything was painful, even walking. The end tally was over six months off from running.

I missed a lot of planned races last year and into this year, but I feel it made necessary changes to my approach to training.  Strength training is important!!! My glutes, hamstrings, and core were not strong enough in relation to the strength I had gained from cycling and everything was off balance. I have devoted much more time to important exercices to keep my body running. Without these changes I would have no hope of reaching my potential as an athlete. I will be releasing an article on the crucial strength training exercises that all triathletes should be doing to keep themselves from a six month hiatus.

Happy training!!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

So you think you're a Big Shot? Meet Dandy...

Welcome to the fleet "Big Shot." I think I'll call you Dandy, a term a coworker and I coined for a "demanding customer." I first saw the brand at Teva Mountain Games in Vail last June and it was love. Well, any bike I meet gets my heart rate jumping, but these were some pretty sweet steel single speeds. The best part is they are built here in Fort Collins, Colorado. I'm about to learn what all the fuss is about with single speeds and I think it will add some strength to my triathlon plan. I've been looking for the perfect commuter bike for awhile now, and having sold my Schwinn hybrid to a friend this summer, I was looking to fill its place quickly. That bike had been functioning as my commuter bike since I moved to Colorado (6.5 years ago!) and had lost its lust. I can't wait to take my first coffee run on it! 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Even Triathletes Need a Labor Day

Lets start this off by saying I love hiking 14'ers. I've done a total of ten different peaks before this mountain and have summited 14 times (some of them multiple times). But with triathlon training I don't get much time or lead way to partake in these adventures. That's because they can be very strenuous and leave me pretty sore afterwards, mostly from the downhill hiking and the toll it takes on the legs. So I was ecstatic to be able to do Mt. Huron this year on Labor day. I've been having some running injuries and couldn't even run on Sunday, but I could hike! I headed up the night before and slept in the back of my new Toyota. Getting to the trailhead was interesting and nerve racking. I have a new vehicle and this was the first time I took it on a 4-wheel drive road and over creek crossings. Here's some pictures from my excursion. 

My "camping" spot

Views from the camping spot

More views 
The trail up, right before tree line

Almost to the top, about 30 more minutes of hiking

Views from the top of Mt. Huron

Looking to the East from Mt. Huron

My 11th summit

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The craziness of Chicago

   For once I'd really like a triathlon to be boring. No surprises, just race hard and go home with a tan. Oh well, this is triathlon after all and things will probably never go on 100 percent the way you expected. This is my first race back after having a foot injury that took five weeks to heal. I've also switched coaches mid season and am now working with Justin Trolle (Vanguard Endurance) and its been going well. We have changed my biking position and I have a good feeling it will help with my bike split and having less pain on the bike. I've had this annoying adductor cramp/pain every time I race and haven't been able to push it as hard as I feel I can on the bike all year. So I have high hopes for this race. The pro start time was 11:30, so a little later in the day and after all of the age groupers. 
   Race day morning I wake up and have a horrible crink in my neck, a stinger. This is basically one of my worst nightmares come true. I have problems with this off and on, but usually only get it once or twice a year. It's an impingement of a nerve between the clavicle and you can't move your head at all to one side (my left this time) or to look up. Interestingly this is a common football injury, they get it from the impact of a linebacker charging into their shoulder/neck. Usually when I get this injury I don't go near the water because it's far too painful. Not an option today, I'm racing whether its painful or not. I accepted the fact that the swim is most likely going to be slower than I want, but no reason to be distressed. There are two other elements to triathlon and I can race those as hard as I can and compare my times to the rest of the athletes. 
   I head down to the race start and set up and start doing my warmups. My neck was even incredibly painful  just on my warmup run, this was a bit stressful to me but surely it will loosen up a little bit...It's time to start heading down to the swim start and getting a good 10 min warmup swim in today is incredibly important. The race organizers have warned us that its going to rain but will only last about 30 minutes and pass through. During my warmup swim I had a really hard time trying to turn my head to breathe which prompted a lot of panic. It's not a calming effect to have your head face down in water and no good way to get air. So again I accepted the fact that this is going to hurt like hell and you just gotta do it. No excuses. Gun goes off and I swim as hard as I can, but am already behind a bit before the first buoy. I'm trying hard to not let them get too far ahead of me, thankfully there are two other girls still behind me. 

Coming out of the water, it is raining. I had a pretty good bike even though it was down pouring the entire time. I didn't have ANY adductor pain and was very excited about that. I guess alot of people were crashing on the corners because they were very adament about slowing down and being safe. No crashes for me today. Don't need to add that to my list of injuries.

Onto the run, I caught one girl but suffered through the rest of the run. I'm not feeling the strongest on this element since I haven't gotten much run training due to my foot injury but still had a competitive time in relation the the rest of the pros and was right in the mix. I finished 14th today, but I'm confident that one of these days all elements will come together on race day.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Boulder Peak, Pro Town Showdown

     This race was such a good race for me last year that I had a lot of positive feelings coming into it. Last year I won the Elite Amateur division with a strong run to pass a competitor that I have a lot of respect for. As usual, I was nervous about the swim and not excited that the water temp was too warm for my Blueseventy Helix wetsuit, which means I'd be in my skinsuit. There was only nine of us at the start so I knew I'd have to attack the swim extra hard to stay in contact with all of these super fast pros. I started off very aggressive, usually I'm the one that is getting shoved and punched, but this time I think I was the person to avoid. I wasn't going to give up those feet for anything. I stayed in contact with the main group for the first 500 meters than found my self swimming with two others that caught up to me. I excited the water with the two other women, one ended up being Amanda Lovato, and was feeling pretty good about being in contact with others to start the bike.  
     I biked as hard as I could and pushed it, keeping close watch on my cadence to make sure that I didn't slack off. Unfortunately, this wasn't good enough. My bike time was actually slower than last years time by one minute and 45 seconds. This may not sound like a lot, but when you expected to be at least two or three minutes faster than last years time it hurts. I started the year off with higher power numbers on the bike than last years numbers. This was a very disappointing fact that I would examine later after the race, but I never fixate on this during a race. I consider each component to be separate on race day and once I have switched from one discipline to the next it is history and time to focus on the present.  
   I could definitely feel the fatigue on the run from the hard biking. I was at present nursing an injured foot from an aquaman race I had done during the week which caused a bone in my foot to shift and become painful. I honestly didn't even think I'd be able to run in time for the race so you could say this was a good little workout. I ended up 8th Pro for the day and overall was content knowing that I had given it my all and wasn't "complacent" on the swim or bike portion.