Monday, August 31, 2009

Back in the Food Chain

Gators, snakes, turtles, oh my!

Has it really been nearly 2 years since I last swam at Lucky's Lake and got my patch?

Well, Coach put an end to that streak last Saturday morning. This time I did 4 round-trip crossings vs. 2 (each one is 1K long), my longest swim this year and my first non-wetsuit open water swim over 2K ever!

The water temp was 85 degs but I did see a couple people wearing sleeveless wetsuits. Some had noodles in tow, others had fins, snorkels, you name it. I wore fins only on my last crossing since my arms were quite tired. That way I knew for sure I could make it. The rule is if you have any doubts, don't do it!

Because there are NO lifeguards or people on kayaks watching over you. And you know there's NO such thing as a guaranteed gator-free lake in FL.

Just to remind you and give you a "fuller" FL lake swimming experience, Lucky, the owner of the house whose backyard we start from, has placed a couple decorative gators right at the water's edge. Nice guy, huh?

Before we got started, I saw something breaking the surface of the water near some reeds by the shore. Just a turtle it turned out. Whew!

And soon we were off. Here's a photo from the Lucky's Lake Swim website to give you an idea of what the lake looked like. There was a much bigger turnout Saturday morning, though, like about hundred swimmers, which was nice. The more links in the food chain, the better!

Most folks did 1 or 2 crossings. I was going for 3-4 so I asked Dave to float along next to me on the last 2 for added safety. It worked out great, I thought, until I found out that the fins he was wearing hurt his foot a lot (he's been having top of the foot pain lately). Next time I'm on my own so I'd better get faster so I can swim while there are still others out there.

One of the last to get out but all limbs still attached. 11,524 yards in 3 swims last week!

My post-swim treat: jalapeno bagels, one of my favorite foods. Dave brought some home for me when he went through the Chicago airport on Thursday. Thanks Dave!!

Saturday afternoon, I put 10 miles in on a gym treadmill at a 7:50 pace. The cool, dry 70-80 deg indoor temps felt soooo nice to run in and, really, I wasn't wussing out. I was actually trying to be smart about not overdoing things in the heat for a change. And, of course, that 4K swim earlier did take some energy out of me already so I didn't want to push things too much.

Because Sunday I was to do a "short" 50 mi bike ride followed by a 13 mi brick run. The ride ended up being 59.3 miles (18.6 mph avg) but the run was right on. Don't want to run any extra in the heat! Ended up with a 9:51 pace in 93-94 degs heat index, which is on the low side of my iron marathon goal pace range so very happy with that. It seems that wearing a Camelbak is really helping me stay much better hydrated. I might even wear it during part of the marathon at the Great Floridian depending on how hot race day will be.

So ends another iron training week for me. Congrats to everyone who completed IM Canada and IM Louisville!

Monday, August 24, 2009

9 Weeks Till GF

And I am NOT freaking out. I am NOT freaking out. I am NOT freaking out.

But maybe I should be?

I mean, a little fear is healthy, right? 140.6 miles is a long ways to go, right? The Great Floridian (GF) is a race that most locals avoid, right? And to do another iron tri two weeks later is just plain nuts, right?


Well, I don't seem to know what's right any more and I blame my coach. I think he's been slipping some delusional drugs into my recovery drink to keep me calm and lacing my workout routes with subliminal messages telling me that I was born to do ironmans and that two are better than one (born to do ironmans, two are better than one ...)

No, just kidding!!

But what he has done with me since February has been pretty remarkable. At the start of this year, I felt old and broken down with frustrating, lingering hamstring issues (from back in July 08) that were hampering my running, right arm/shoulder pains that were bothering my swimming, and haunting memories from a bike crash in Feb 08 that were still making me ride like a little old lady going down hills and around corners. Where's my little basket and cane?

Now 7 months after working with him, though, I'm feeling good and very positive about my racing again. I'm nearly as fast (or maybe faster?) as I used to be when I was in my best running shape, late 2005-early 2006, and now I'm running only 2-3 days per week (20-30 MPW). I'm swimming better than I ever have and pain-free most of the time. And my cycling, well, 98 miles yesterday never felt so easy. I averaged 17.8 mph for the first 70 miles with Dave and another guy, then rode harder on my own for the rest (per Coach that was OK) and ended up with an 18.1 mph avg and plenty left over in the tank to do more -- YES! That's the best I've ever felt after riding ~100 miles.

This post is basically to answer some questions that Meg Runs had asked me about coaching, which I think has been key for me this year.

Do you have a tri coach?
Yes. I've worked with a running coach and a tri coach in a group training setting before but this is the first time I've worked one-on-one with a coach who's designing a training program just for me, a HUGE difference.

How has that helped you with your training overall?
As I mentioned above, Coach has fixed me up and gotten me strong again. He did this by getting me back to strength training & stretching regularly and also by having me cut back on volume (Gasp!) and do more speed work (Yikes!), all things I was reluctant to do on my own. What I also love about having a coach is having more time and less worry. I spend ZERO time figuring out my training (that's his job) and just do what he tells me. And he doesn't usually give me my workouts more than a week in advance so I can't fret about what I don't know and can only focus on the current week at hand (which is good because am the Master of Putting Extra Unnecessary Stress on Myself!). I completely trust* that he will get me to race day in shape to meet my goals so I actually don't worry much about the race any more either. But, to make this work, I have to do and track my workouts diligently (miles, paces, conditions, how I felt, etc.), and my nutrition too as they go hand in hand for me. All the logging is sort of a pain but I have to say that this coaching has worked out much better than I could have ever imagined and it's nice to be able to see progress outside of race results (particularly when training more than racing for a change).

*This trust is something that has evolved over time. I'm actually a control freak by nature and had a hard time initially letting go of control over my workouts. But I made substantially more progress in 2-3 months working with Coach than I had in 6 months to a year on my own so I learned to let go.

Do you recommend specific running coaches or is this someone that lives near you?
Coach Bill does live in my area but our communication is largely via an online interactive training log and email. IMHO, choosing the right coach is much like choosing the right haircut. It's highly individual and very much dependent on your personality and needs. I talked to 5 different coaches last year. Three of them were referred to me from others and they coached everyday athletes as well as pro and elite level triathletes. One coach I worked with for a while via the local tri club and Coach Bill actually found me, I think, through a local bike e-newsletter in which I was mentioned. Whatever the case, it turned out Coach Bill and I got along the best, by far. He's a strong runner and has also done some crazy ultra events himself so my desire to do two irons in two weeks didn't faze him. He's very responsive by email (my preferred communication) and didn't put any limits on how many times I could contact him like some did. He also wasn't going to charge me an arm and a leg or make me buy a bunch of training gadgets to get started. I'm old-school at heart and often forget to bring/wear gadgets or look at them if I do!

For anyone interested in or on the fence about looking for a coach, I'd suggest also reading DC Rainmaker's Thoughts on Triathlon Coaching. Many of the points he makes I agree with and I think they'd apply to any coach, really, not just a triathlon coach.

Hope everyone's training is going well!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I Just Had To Post This Too!

This is one of the most inspiring videos I've seen in a while and it's not an ad for Nike, Ironman or some company, which makes it even better in my book. Check it out.

For anyone who doesn't already know, I DNF'd my first Ironman race in 2006. Thanks to SpokaneAl and Michelle Sidles for posting it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

OMG, I'm One of Them!

Three years ago when training for Ironman Florida 2006, I used to see amazing people swimming laps back and forth effortlessly in the pool. Occasionally Dave and I would see a brave woman riding solo out on the roads in the middle of nowhere. I saw a few crazies running in the worst heat of the day.

How the hell do these people do it?

I was quite new to tris back then.

Good swim technique? Eh, I just want to survive the 2.4 mi swim and go on to my better sports.

Riding confidence? Who are we kidding? I could ride long but barely in a straight line let alone fix a flat tire.

Heat tolerance? I think I wore out the belt on my treadmill that year.

What I was missing was love for the sport. Truthfully, I was really just a runner who was dabbling in tris then. I had the time and desire to train for an ironman but not really the heart or passion. (As some of you may recall, my main reason for signing up was to learn how to swim, as in freestyle, that cool stroke that real swimmers did. Seriously, I hated swimming so much that nothing less than an ironman would have gotten me to do it!)

But without a doubt, heart and passion are driving me now. And what a difference. When things don't go right, like two weekends ago, there are some tough times, oh yes, but there are no "Why the f*ck am I doing this?" moments. Trust me, there were a LOT of those in 2006. This time, the answer is clear: Because You Know You Love Tris.

Yep, I'm a sick puppy. Good or bad, I am happy and thankful to complete every workout. Each one, even a bad one, is much better than what I could do back in 2006. Even when plodding along painfully and slowly, I know I am getting stronger mentally and learning some new lessons that will help me later. At a minimum, I'm getting more heat training and respect for the iron distance, for Mother Nature and for myself. Each one is a deposit in my training bank, as many like to say, and a step closer to who I want to be and where I want to be in a few years.

The only part that is not really fun for me, however, is the nutrition side. Before this year, I've never really had to make major changes to my diet and routine. For 50+ marathons, I just drank water (or sports drink in a race) when I felt like I needed to and consumed gels every few miles, maybe an salt cap or two if it was a warm race and I remembered to bring them. So simple! But now things are serious, perhaps even a matter of life or death when training for much longer in severe heat and often alone (Dave can't ride with me for more than 50 miles in such heat and no one I know wants to run long in it. Can't blame them!). I've got to put aside fun and do what's necessary.

So every day I'm studying food labels closely, logging food, weighing myself before and after each workout, estimating sweat rates, salt losses and calorie expenditures. I need to make sure I don't overdo things earlier in the week (Coach said every workout does not need to be in the heat!) and that I get enough fuel & fluids into me before the long weekend workouts.

That said and done, I'm happy to say last weekend went great!

Fri - Swim 3100 yds w/ 15x100 yds. Not effortless per se, but swam four 1:45s (Fast for me!)
        and broke 100 miles in swimming this year (I'm Tropical :-) - w00t.
Sat - Run 17 mi, 90-97 deg HI, 9:56 avg pace, neg split, AHR 158 (Z2).
Sun - Bike 85.22 mi, 76-96 deg HI, flat, winds 4-14 mph, 17.5 mph, neg split, AHR 133 (Z1).
        Brick run 5.22 mi, 97 deg HI, 8:55 pace, neg split, AHR 157 (Z2)

So I feel ready to share what I'm doing nutrition-wise in case it may help anyone else. Note I'm usually 122-123# but can fluctuate +/- 2 to 3# day to day depending on my hydration level.

Daily calorie intake M-W 2000-2500 cals.
Daily calorie intake Th-Su 2500-3000 cals, plus extra fuel & fluids during long Sat-Sun workouts as follows:

Long runs (per hr) - 30-40 oz fluids*,
     100-200 cals (1-2 gels),
     550-750 mg sodium** (gels, Nuun, salt caps)
Long rides (per hr) - 30-40 oz fluids,
     300-400 cals (CarboPro, Gatorade, Clif Bars, Perpeteum***),
     650-750 mg sodium** (Gatorade, Clif Bars, Perpeteum, salt caps)

* Even drinking 140 oz fluids during and after Saturday's 17-miler, I was down 2# when I got home, meaning I lost like 11# during the run!! My sweat rate when running in 90+ degs and high humidity is actually 50-60 oz/hr(!) but my body can't absorb more than 30-40 oz/hr. So I've been working on gaining a couple extra pounds of water weight (i.e., carbo loading) before every long workout. Thus, even if I lose a few pounds, I'll be back to or close to where I usually am.
** Haven't had any low salt issues but plan to up my sodium intake to the recommended 1 gm/ hour. For the run, I'll add a sports drink, which will also add more calories (can probably handle up to 300). On the bike, either more salty foods or more salt caps. I already do eat extra salt in my diet before my long workouts.
*** Though I ran well after the long bike, I had some noticeable gas issues after consuming Perpeteum late in the ride when CarboPro and solid food were no longer appealing. Googling tells me I'm not the only one (I don't handle soy or whey protein well). I'll be trying some things next time to try to minimize that. Sorry Dave and anyone near me!

Final note, I've decided against using a one-product-does-it-all nutrition like Infinit. Mainly, I don't have the time to dial down a formula (or two) that will work in 80-90+ degs (Great Floridian Iron Tri) as well as 50-70 degs (Beach To Battleship Iron Tri) two weeks later so I'm starting with what I know works for me in the heat and will adjust accordingly for the cooler race. To do that, I need maximum flexibility that a pre-mixed formula won't allow.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Family Reunion

Well, I'm not sure how much rest I actually got last week with 2 days spent traveling to attend a family reunion for 3 days but, technically/training-wise, it was a rest week:

Swim - 1 (3500 yds)
Bike - 2 (81.6 mi)
Run - 3 (27 mi)
Strength Training - 1
Total Hours: 11:43 - Yikes, still seems a lot.

But, I got to be with hubby Dave for 5 days in a row (which doesn't happen often unless we're on vacation) and escape the heat and humidity for a bit -- Woohoo!

The purpose of the reunion was to celebrate Dave's parents' 50th wedding anniversary. It'd been many years since all the kids and grandkids had been together and we all stayed at the Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, WA, which is ~40 mi east of Portland, OR, on the north side of the Columbia River. Dave and I got there Wednesday night and were departing Sunday morning while others were there for a whole week. LIFO (Last In First Out) is better than NDOS (No Dave Or Shirley). We crammed in a lot while we were there, though. See for yourself :-)

Thursday, our first full day there, Dave and I got up early to hit the gym for a quick workout and then went on an all day tour of Mt. St. Helens, WA, with everyone else. We donned blue hats (really visors but we kept calling them hats) that said "Pratt's 50th." Hey, at least we didn't have to all wear the same camp t-shirt.

As I shivered in the 60 deg temps looking at where Mt. St. Helens was supposed to be (see previous post below), Dave did his usual thing in a short sleeved polo shirt.

My step-daughter and son-in-law horsing around while two other Blue Hat Group members tested a park ranger's knowledge of the big boom that occured back in 1980.

Son-in-law killing time on the bus ride back.

Friday morning, Dave and I went for a chilly 30 mile bike ride (60 degs felt like 50 degs with 20-30+ mph winds - Oh my!) and then I ran laps around Stevenson for 8-miles to warm back up (it's a very small town). In the afternoon, the Blue Hat Group all went on a paddle boat tour of the Columbia River. Oh joy, more cold and wind.

Saw many of the usual sights you might expect along the river (bridges, fishing platforms, islands, etc.), but did not expect to see kayakers coming up behind the boat to surf in its wake. Is there anything people don't surf these days?

Got a closer view of one of the daredevils enjoying the winds along the Gorge that make it one of the top places in the world to windsurf and kiteboard (shown here). Cycling, perhaps not so much but what do dumb tourists like us know?

Friday evening, we attended a concert featuring Aaron Meyer, a rock violinist. Thank goodness, it had been moved indoors. Dave's parents seemed to have fun. (No, that's not me in the red)

Saturday morning, Dave and I set out for a 50 mile ride along the Gorge. This time I made sure to wear my windbreaker in addition to two layers while riding against the wind. Here I am climbing a 3-mile long hill generating enough heat to operate a small camera.

At the turnaround, I strip down to two layers. We climb back up the big hill and took a break near the top at Cape Horn (not Pe Ho). Dave's helmet has given him a Squiggy hairdo.

The kids enjoyed the break and view as well.

Dave in orange approaching Beacon Rock, a popular rock climbing spot. He was in heaven riding in the cool weather and hard to keep up with, especially on the downhills!

Me near Bonneville Dam about 5 miles from the hotel. Now with the wind behind us, temps near 70 and over 3000 feet of climbing done, my legs are finally feeling good. What is it with me and 50 mile warmups?

We beat a slow moving barge going upriver.

A post-ride treat to get the legs ready for high heels in the evening. Eek!

Dave with his mom in the hotel corridor. We all had rooms nearby each other so no escaping seeing each other for long.

Me along with two of Dave's more colorful siblings.

At the formal dinner Saturday evening, a toast to 50 years of marriage.

On a 6am Sunday flight back to Orlando. How in the world did this week go by so fast?

Thanks to my brother-in-law Tim for providing several of the pictures above so I could have more to share from our trip.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Welcome to Iron Training

It's not supposed to be easy right, right?

Two weekends ago, I sailed through my long workouts thinking I'd conquered the heat. Last weekend, however, we were back at war and taking no prisoners:

Fri - 3500 yd swim (7x500, 1:17, no wall push-offs, 85 deg pool temp), plus a weight workout
Sat - 14 mi run (9:53 pace in 96-99 deg HI). Last mile a major struggle, though.
Sun - 85 mi bike (15.8! mph ave in 79-98 deg HI) + 4 mi run (9:44 pace in 96-98 deg HI)

What was the difference?

Perhaps the even hotter conditions and further distances but, more likely, I just didn't get to the weekend fully rested, replenished and ready to do battle. Besides not drinking enough after my super hot weight workout and also doing a couple hours of yard work, I also noticed that a lot of foods just didn't seem appealing to me. Hot foods made me feel hotter, dry foods made me feel thirstier and just chewing sometimes seemed to require too much effort. Ah, I'll just take a nap instead!

So by the weekend, I'm sure my fluid and glycogen tanks were not full as they should have been. And, of course, I realized this around mile 8 of my 14 mile run on Saturday when there was nothing much I could do about it except try to not make it worse. Yeah, right ... not likely while running in 90 bazillion degs! I felt my heart rate rising, legs starting to feel heavy, a bit of lightheadedness and queasiness -- Not good!

I managed to get the run done but dreaded the long brick (85 mi bike/4 mi run) the next day. I knew it was going to be even uglier (18 hours is not enough time to replenish fluid and glycogen levels) and, to make matters worse, Dave was gone over the weekend so he wasn't around to cheer me up or pick me up if I fell over from heat exhaustion.

But Sunday turned out to be where I've probably made the most gains I have ever in my iron training. I learned how to keep riding for an additional 55 miles when my legs were ready to quit after just 30 and how to summon a 7:36 mile out of myself after a grueling bike ride (Coach said the first mile was supposed to be hard and it was). Also, another remarkable discovery: there is nothing wrong with biking only 13-14 mph and running a 10-11+ min pace -- I'm still still going forward!

So three big lessons learned for me:

- Make sure to hydrate and fuel up well before the long weekend workouts as well as during and after. Heat is unforgiving.
- Bring a variety of foods/drinks. My stomach is very finicky in the heat and gets tired of the same thing after a few hours.
- Even if my body is near empty, I can keep going (albeit slower) if I stick with my nutrition plan (to come).

Oh, and another thing ...

60 degrees is frickin' freezing when you've been used to living and training in 85+ degrees!!

Dave and I (with 2 jackets on) at Johnson's Ridge, an observatory point for Mt. St. Helens (WA), which was hiding from us behind the cover of clouds.

Multnomah Falls (OR) from our tour bus going along the Columbia Gorge.

I'll be catching up with everyone next week when I get back from my family reunion. Hope everyone has a good weekend!