Tuesday, December 10, 2013

2014 excitement and The Sports Gene

Planning for 2014 just went from "oh, we'll see..." right to "It's ON" in a short period of time. I got accepted via lottery to the NYC Tri in August a few weeks ago and a few days ago IRONMAN announced a new 70.3 race in Princeton, NJ for next September. The buzz started slowly with a text from a friend in NJ that simply stated "Princeton half ironman in Sept". I thought "oh, maybe" but let it slip into the back of my mind. Then a conversation among tri friends on twitter sprung up with my name attached. I thought briefly about it again, but that was all for a few days. Then the email from Ryan's Quest came yesterday and I read it twice. Were they really offering a charity spot for this race with no minimum fundraising requirement?? I let it settle all day on Monday, it was a busy day and sometime during my hour with my personal trainer in the evening it occurred to me that this is a great opportunity. It's a half ironman within an hour of my mom's house in NJ and probably really flat. I mentioned it to my trainer and she gave me a "sure, you crazy person" look (she's a 200&400m sprinter so 70+ miles... Well, yeah). On the way home I composed a quick email to RQ, a charity dedicated to funding research for Duchennes Muscular Dystrophy, who I've raced and fundraised for in the past in conjunction with the NJ State Tri. They're an incredible group of people who came together to help a family with an adorable son who has DMD. I'll be psyched to have the opportunity to race with them if I can. I will probably know tonight if I responded quickly enough to get a spot, but in the meantime I'm all aflutter at the idea. I love racing, I love triathlons and thinking about next season has me so excited that I can hardly sleep. I have a feeling 2014 is going to be a big year for fast times for me.
Oh, and the good book I mentioned- The Sports Gene by David Epstein. I started this book a few months ago and have gone back to it between book club books, but this time I'm completely hooked. It's so nerdy and packed with stories of incredible athletes and their amazing genetic makeups, I can't stop reading. The idea that certain people are "gifted" is actually so, so, so complex and reading about it has me all pumped to figure out my own potential. If you're at all inclined towards the sciences and athletics, I recommend you give it a read. It's tough in spots, especially if you don't have an understanding of genetics, but I don't think those parts are completely essential to understanding the underlying concepts. It's a long book but there are parts that are so interesting that I'm almost willing to miss my subway stop to keep reading.

Here's a blurb from the Amazon review:

The debate is as old as physical competition. Are stars like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and Serena Williams genetic freaks put on Earth to dominate their respective sports? Or are they simply normal people who overcame their biological limits through sheer force of will and obsessive training?The truth is far messier than a simple dichotomy between nature and nurture. In the decade since the sequencing of the human genome, researchers have slowly begun to uncover how the relationship between biological endowments and a competitor’s training environment affects athleticism. Sports scientists have gradually entered the era of modern genetic research.In this controversial and engaging exploration of athletic success, Sports Illustrated senior writer David Epstein tackles the great nature vs. nurture debate and traces how far science has come in solving this great riddle. He investigates the so-called 10,000-hour rule to uncover whether rigorous and consistent practice from a young age is the only route to athletic excellence.Along the way, Epstein dispels many of our perceptions about why top athletes excel. He shows why some skills that we assume are innate, like the bullet-fast reactions of a baseball or cricket batter, are not, and why other characteristics that we assume are entirely voluntary, like an athlete’s will to train, might in fact have important genetic components.This subject necessarily involves digging deep into sensitive topics like race and gender. Epstein explores controversial questions such as:
  • Are black athletes genetically predetermined to dominate both sprinting and distance running, and are their abilities influenced by Africa’s geography?
  • Are there genetic reasons to separate male and female athletes in competition?
  • Should we test the genes of young children to determine if they are destined for stardom?
  • Can genetic testing determine who is at risk of injury, brain damage, or even death on the field?
How can you resist?!
photo credit: npr.org

posted from Bloggeroid

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Holiday Run Streak and Hot Chocolate 10K

We're going streaking!!!
Okay, not that kind of streaking. I'm doing the 2013 Runner's World  Holiday Running Streak as a way to stay active, fit and sane during the busiest time of the year. I generally have no trouble staying active when I'm home, but we're going away for Christmas this year to Mexico and I tend to get very comfortable with frolicking on the beach and swimming and forget to run when on vacation. I thought this would also be a good way to bump up my mileage, something I've been wanting to do but was having a hard time scheduling. With the streak, I hope to find new chunks of time in each day to fit in a little run and hopefully I'll carry some of them over into the new year. I'm already enjoying getting outside in the evening when I'd otherwise be getting comfy on the couch with some tea because it is dark outside at 5pm here.
For anyone who has never heard of a "running streak" the rules are simple:
Run every day between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day
Run at least 1 mile each day

My streak started out innocent enough, I got up and braved the cold, windy morning in NJ for a progressive 5 miles through the neighborhood. I saw FIVE other runners out there, a record high for the area. I was so excited to see other people layered up out there, working up an appetite for Thanksgiving dinner! Day 1: 5.01 mi, 8:09 avg pace.

Day 2 brought company- my husband joined me for a walk around the neighborhood on a beautiful, sunny morning. He walked along while I ran ahead, clocking a quick 7:54 mile in the middle of our almost 3 mile walk. Dave has agreed to join me for the streak, but his goal isn't running 1 mile, it is walking at least 30 mins or hitting the gym. I'm excited for company and a buddy to help with motivation.

Day 3 brought my first little moment of "wahh, I don't feel like running" which I quickly pushed aside when I realized it was barely 5:00pm and I had no other plans for the evening and would be loafing around for the next 5 hrs. I threw on the same clothes from my Friday run/walk (they barely got sweaty) and threw on a headlamp and vest to fight the cold and wind. It turned out to be a beautiful, sparkly run around my neighborhood. My goal was really to loosen up enough to be able to stretch well when I got home, so I kept going until I hit 2 miles and really felt warmed up. 2.02 miles at 9:04 pace - welcome back home to the hills of Washington Heights. Dave went out for a walk at the same time and was enjoying himself so much that he stayed out for an hour!

Day 4- I didn't even have to think about the streak today because I had my last race of the season all planned. Today was the Hot Chocolate 10K in Riverside Park by NYCRuns. I couldn't pass up a race in Riverside park in Morningside Heights, so close to home that I got there on the 1 train in 15 mins. NYCRuns puts on a great race and I was excited to get in a 10K this year to see if I could top my 10K PR (45:52) which was set during the NYC Triathlon in 2010- ridiculous, right? Who has a run PR from a 100 degree triathlon? Clearly it was time to run a 10K again. It was chilly today, but about 15 degrees warmer than last weekend in VCP and there were no 40mph wind gusts to contend with- excellent. I wore shorts because the temp was around 40, but I think they were too short and my ass was frozen within minutes of my starting to warm up. Capris next time, got it. Anyway, it was a beautiful morning in Riverside park with leaves on the ground and sun streaming through the buildings up on Riverside Drive. I arrived in time to see the 5K runners rolling over the hills as they headed south. The 10 would be 2 loops of the 5K course, which I'm pretty familiar with from my days coaching Young Runners on 110th and Broadway, just up the hill, so I thought I knew what I was in for. Of course, I stopped coaching like 3 years ago and haven't run there too much since, so I had a rude reminder of how much the west side rolls. Anyway, I made some buddies during the race and we lamented not signing up for the 5K as we battled the hills between miles 2-3. There weren't many other women around (there were only 2 ahead of me) so I worked hard to stay with the boys who were no doubt vying for a age group awards. It was a really fun race, I knew I needed to stay around 7:15-7:20 in order to PR, but I also had the added pressure of being in the top 3 women through the entire race. No way was I letting that slip away and the out and back course is great for eyeing up the competition behind you. I enjoyed this aspect of the race, but I also really enjoyed the cheers from my friends at NYC Runs who were yelling and hollering as I entered my second loop and as I neared the finish- thanks Wallis and David! I also spotted a fellow Inwood Hill Runner, Jennifer, posted as a volunteer at the top of the nastiest hill and I was grateful for her cheering and motivation each time I passed. When I passed her for the last time, I was going into the downhill and flat last half mile or so and I picked up some speed. I was running hard to keep up with the guys around me and enjoyed the back and forth as we made our way toward the finish. I was stoked to cross the finish line in a new PR (45:09 according to the clock!) and in 3rd place for women. My goal had been to get sub 45:00, but I think I should save that for a flat course!
The numbers:
6.2miles, 45:09, 7:17 pace
3rd female overall, 12th overall out of 236 runners
1st in my age group, meaning I was beat by 2 women in their 20's. Bastards. ;)
Damn you, hilly mile 4. 
There was delicious hot chocolate (I used my new mug!), apples and bagels at the finish and people stuck around for the awards and mingled. It was a really nice day and once I got my long pants back on over my shorts, I was able to enjoy myself a bit more.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

An evening with the US Women's Olympic ski jump team

I should start this by saying I recognize how incredibly lucky I've been to have the opportunity to not just meet, but work out alongside, Olympic athletes. You might remember my swim with Nathan Adrian a few years ago before the 2012 Olympics in London. I certainly remember it well. Now, thanks to the Got Chocolate Milk? campaign who sponsors many of the athletes who represent the US on the world's stage, I was able to meet 3 more. Last week I had the absolute honor of spending time with the very talented and hardworking Alissa Johnson, Abby Hughes and Nina Lussi of the ski jump team, all hoping for an opportunity to jump (or FLY) in Sochi in February 2014. This is an incredibly special year for the women of the ski jumping world, not only are they going for gold, but 2014 is the first time that women will be allowed to compete in the Olympics alongside the men who have been jumping since the time of skiing in wool sweaters in Norway.
The fight has been epic, to say the least. The women of the US ski jumping community have been battling the IOC (International Olympic Committee) since their quest began in earnest back in 2002. In Vancouver the team sued the IOC for discrimination against women, but the Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled in favor of the IOC, crushing their dreams yet again. There's a heartbreaking moment in the documentary "Ready to Fly" when Lindsay Van finds out they've lost the case and a reporter asks her what she has to say to the young female ski jumpers of the world and through tears she says "not to do it, there's no future." It's crushing to hear the #1 ski jumper in the world say that about her beloved sport. Luckily for those future jumpers, Lindsay and her teammates never gave up the fight and the women will jump in Sochi.

Lucky for me too because I got the chance to see some of these graceful, strong women in action on a recent visit to NYC. Alissa, Abby and Nina were gracious, fun and energetic last Wednesday evening despite having spent the day doing interviews all over the city. The ladies and their coach, Alan Alborn, were kind enough to humor me and 8 or 9 other bloggers and writers and let us join them for a strength workout lasting about an hour. We met in a sleek, clean, small, boutique studio called Uplift on 23rd St near 6th Ave and had time to meet the jumpers, mingle and change before diving into a warmup routine of running in place, high knees (their knees go much higher than mine!) butt kicks, and half squats all done for 1min each, 2x. We went right into a series of other activities like squat jumps, trunk twists, v-walkups, push-ups, resistance band rotator cuff/shoulder stability work and lots of other butt and hip work, as you might expect. I anticipated lots of glute and quad work, but I wasn't prepared for just how HIGH the women can jump from a simple squat. Wow. 


Not only can these ladies jump, but they do so in with their toes pointed skyward, whereas most of us jump by pointing our toes. It was harder than I thought when I tried it myself! Abby pointed out to me that her favorite muscle is her tibialis anterior (the muscle in front of your shinbone) and it was then that I noticed they all had bulging anterior lower leg muscles. It turns out that you need strong shins if you're going to FLY, and that's exactly why they do these workouts. Every aspect of their sport requires strength- the position they hold while flying downhill at 60mph, the push off that propels them for what can be a football field or greater length and the landing from that flight. Can you imagine landing that? I can't! Alissa mentioned that sometimes they work out in a pool to lessen the impact on their joints while still getting in the strengthening necessary to be so explosive. It was so exciting to have a glimpse into this very elite world of what seems like a very extreme sport. 

After the workout ended and we were all stretching out, someone walked in with a rolling cooler overflowing with various types of chocolate milk which everyone happily grabbed and drank to jump start recovery and refuel after a long day and a hard workout. The Got Chocolate Milk? campain has started the Built with Chocolate Milk campaign which consists of the women's ski jump team and an Olympic men's hockey player. My evening came complete with a bag of goodies from the Built with Chocolate Milk sponsors including tons of scientific evidence toting chocolate (or regular) milk as a superior recovery beverage to other recovery drinks. Chocolate milk has calcium, vitamin D, potassium, phosphorus and the perfect balance of post-workout carbs and protein that I read about in every running, triathlon and fitness magazine or website out there. It makes sense to me- refuel with carbs and protein for repair of muscle fibers damaged during strenuous activity and what young woman doesn't need more calcium and vitamin D to strenthen her bones? For the record, no one is making me say these things- I really believe in the science behind chocolate milk as a perfect recovery and refueling drink. If you don't believe me, check out their website for yourself: Gotchocolatemilk.com 

Check out some of the goodies I got from the evening, including the Ready to Fly DVD I talked about earlier. 

How did they know I'm a triathlete and love 2XU? 

The official 2014 Sochi ski jumping Olympic pin!! Rad. 
The perfect mug for morning coffee or post-run hot chocolate! 
2XU headband just in time for frigid temps in NYC! 

posted from Bloggeroid

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Recovering faster, getting stronger, staying healthy.

These are all things that I always strive for after a big race, though it seems to have come easier this time around. I took it easy last week for a few days after the 70.3, but by Wednesday I was itching to run again. I held off until Thursday to give myself time to recover not just from the race, but also to adapt to returning to work after nearly a month off. I think a month is long enough to forget exactly how physically demanding my job is. I might as well count it as working out for the whole day. I actually lost weight the first week back, despite not doing much more than walking until Thursday night. Once Thursday afternoon rolled around, I was beyond excited to run again and felt like I could run forever (if it hadn't been for that insane thunderstorm, I might have!). I attribute this to my solid recovery plan. I stepped up my fruit, veggie, vitamin and probiotic intake on Monday and got myself a full 8 or more hours of sleep almost every night since the race. One difficult thing about working with so many children is that my exposure to germs is very, very high. Many of my kids have difficulty swallowing and therefore have trouble controlling their saliva and, well, I tend to get drooled on. It happens, I just have to be hyper-vigilant about keeping myself clean in order to stay healthy (same for the kids!) especially after a big race where my immunity is already compromised. The research is there, we're more susceptible to getting sick right after a big endurance event. Pair that with the first weeks of school and you've got trouble!
Sleep, eat your veggies, wash your hands, repeat.
In addition to resting up and trying to stay healthy, I'm hoping to maintain my fitness and build on it for a strong fall/winter. Since my training load dipped way down I have more time to focus on the things that get tossed out the Window when I'm busy- mainly strength training. I went to the gym on Monday and did some strength work, puttering around the weight room trying to remember what I'm supposed to do, when I finally decided to ask for help. I'd been considering a personal trainer for a while, but was reluctant to pull the trigger. I thought I could just do it myself, I am a PT, after all... But no. I'm pathetic and need some new ideas and someone to give me feedback on what I'm doing. Sure, I could do it myself if I really hunkered down and brought some sheets of exercises to the gym, but the odds of following through with that are slim. So slim. Anyway, I met a trainer who is also a runner and got a mischievous look in her eye when I mentioned wanting some plyos, core work and targeted strengthening for running and swimming. I think I'm in for an ass kicking tomorrow, but I'm actually looking forward to it, which is more than I can say usually. She was excited that I could do squats, push ups, step ups, bridges on a ball because apparently most people can't do those things. Bring it on! I'll let you know if I can walk on Saturday morning.

posted from Bloggeroid

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Toughman Half, Part 2


I left off in Part 1 after what felt like a spectacular 56mi bike ride, despite the return of the right knee pain devil and some other completely weird aches and pains. Luckily for me these pains tend to disappear once I'm off the bike, so I was really glad when that happened right on cue on Sunday. 
I'm going to be honest right from the start: I didn't pay enough attention to the elevation profile of the run portion of this race. I'm sure I looked at it long ago, saw the hills, shrugged them off and never looked again. It turns out there's a reason for the name "Toughman" and I suspect that has everything to do with the fact that you run around the base of the new Croton dam and then make your way several hundred feet up to the top. I'm getting ahead of myself though.
The run started out great! My friends Erin and Mookie (is that the right spelling? No idea) were cheering like crazy for me in the first half mile and Erin trotted with me for a bit, checking in. That was really nice, and then I was on my own for a bit. I trotted along, really feeling good for a mile or 3, running into my bike buddy, Carolyn, but losing her somewhere in the Van Cortlandt Manor as I trotted on ahead on the shaded, soft, mulch trail.  My legs loosened quickly and I was ready to crush it....until the nausea hit. I felt sluggish and sloshy and worst of all, I needed to burp but couldn't. I tried to make myself burp, but that was too close to making me nearly hurl. I went through a LOT of long, uphill miles on dirt and road with a horrendous mental battle against the nausea, a pain in my left upper ribs and the hills. The worst part was that my legs felt GREAT, they wanted to tear up those hills, but I was hurting and doubting from the waist up. The pain in my chest/ribs/stomach on the left side was alarming. Sometimes I hate knowing anatomy so well because I was going through a checklist of what could be wrong. Several miles went along like this in my head:
"You're probably having a heart attack, you have pain in your left shoulder. You might want to stop." 
"No, it's gas, just keep going." 
"I'm definitely dying."
"I should stop and find help."
"Okay, I'm just going to walk to that tree....oh, the pain is gone. Hmm, not dying." 
It went on and on like this for quite some time, with me dying to burp or hurl or some combination of the two until I hit an aid station and a very small child gave me a salt tab and flat Pepsi at the top of the dam. I was walking here and there, just absolutely miserable, but in good company because so was everyone else. I have never seen so many people walking and we were not slow runners. The hills were grueling and once my stomach settled, I reminded myself that this was MY race. I had a piece of duct tape on my bike that said just that, it was a reminder not to follow anyone else's lead in this race but my own. I refused to stop and walk just because others were walking up the most ridiculous hill around mile 9 because I knew I had the legs for it. I walked the section between two cones on that hill, about 8 ft, and never stopped running again. The last few miles were great because the course tucked back into the trails and was quiet, and suddenly I was all alone. The applesauce packet I'd been holding the ENTIRE TIME became the most delicious thing I'd ever tasted, though I still sipped gingerly, worried it might fight back (it didn't). I hadn't taken in a single calorie the entire run until that point. I'd passed a number of my old walking mates as I regained my mojo and was running through neighborhoods and Van Cortlandt Manor on my own. There were a ton of aid stations on the run and it was fun to pass them again and hear "wow, you're looking strong!!" Once I got back to the road section with a little over a mile to go, I could really feel the heat, despite dumping tons of water over my head and back along the way. Bless those lovely people with the sprinkler who held it up so I could wash some of the salt from my face as I ran by. The final 2 miles included a nasty uphill, a road crossing at a big intersection (thank you Croton Police Dept!) and the sunny and hot train overpass and park drive. I ran toward the murmurs I knew to be a finish line announcer, but I have to say it was difficult. I was going through an assortment of reactions to what I'd just done. There was the initial "well, I'm never doing that again" followed by a little disappointment in my time (I had no idea what I was getting into and hoped for sub 5:50) but luckily that was followed quickly by the realization of how challenging the course was. We'll call that the moment of acceptance. I had Erin and Mookie cheering again with about 0.2 to go and I was searching for Dave and his camera, but didn't see him. I was briefly worried that he'd miss my finish, but he was waiting on the other side of the finish line to get great pics. I bolted down the grassy finish chute, so, so happy to be finished and stop moving forward. 70.3 miles and 6+ hours is a long time to be moving your body forward. I have so much more respect for Ironmen and Ironwomen now that I have an appreciation for what it feels like to do HALF that distance. Whew.
So the run was hideous, I think I'd really enjoy running that course with a settled stomach and without stabbing pain in my shoulder because it was truly beautiful. For the record, I knew it wasn't a heart attack or anything serious (just gas! Ha!) or I really would have stopped and sought help, I'm not an idiot. 
As a sub 1:38 half marathoner, it pains me to share these stats, but here they are anyway: 
I still managed 7th in my age group on the run, which goes to show you what terrible runners triathletes are. Ha! 

2:04, ugh. 
Elevation gain was no joke at 1223 ft, also the same amount lost ( ouch, downhill makes me nauseous on a good day)

My first and last miles were exactly the same at 8:15! Things were real ugly around mile 6. 

While I've moved on and am pretty proud of my accomplishment, I'm still annoyed that my stomach nearly did me in. I have lots to work on in terms of fueling and over-hydrating. I am most happy with the fact that I definitely had the legs for this race, they weren't the least bit cranky the entire time. I'm curious now how much I can improve on a flatter course with a better fueling plan. 
I recovered so quickly that I was a completely normal person by Wednesday and have forgotten most of the terrible bits and am secretly hoping to find one more late season race in the area... 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Toughman Half : Part 1

It's hard to believe that half Ironman training is over, just like that. Poof, one exhausting morning/afternoon and my months of training are over. Well, that's not true but it feels that way. Just like after every marathon cycle, I have that "what do I do now?" feeling. You didn't come here to read about my post-race slump, however, you came to hear about those 6 uphill hours that were the icing on the cake of 4 months of training.
The swim:
As usual I had no plans to wear a wetsuit and despite 15 mins of getting stares (I kid you not, someone pointed at me and whispered to a friend) because I stuck out like an albino dolphin in a pod of Orcas, I have no regrets about my decision. I stood there among the wetsuited, fielding stupid questions and comments from idiots who said "I could never swim without one, it's my security blanket" (do they wear them in the pool? I don't get it) and "why don't you wear a wetsuit?" My response to that is always simple: I don't need one. The proof is in the numbers, I placed 4th in my age group for the swim. The swim was warm (72-74 degrees) and a little murky. We had to walk/run out probably 150 yds before being able to dive in and swim. The field was spread way out and I didn't experience that washing machine feeling at all. Whew, it was nice not to get smacked by a flailing orca. I suspect that this was due to a combination of smallish waves and the fact that the buoys appeared to be drifting hard to the left. The course is a "V" with the point of the V being the turn buoy, which I made a beeline for while many others hugged the drifting buoys. Everyone commented on how close it looked and I'm not sure if it was an optical illusion, but my watch clocked the swim at 0.86mi vs 1.2 mi, but it's not always that accurate. Oh well, I swam it in around 25mins and only whacked one guy on the side of the head. He popped up to look around and I accidentally gave him a slap on the side of the head, it made me laugh underwater and still makes me giggle. I ran out of the water (another long walk through the muck from 150yds out!) and charged into transition. I noticed with a little bit of glee that there were no wetsuit strippers. They're part of the wetsuit cheating scheme, no one's ever helped me change my outfit in transition...
T1: As usual my transitions were too slow, I try to hurry, but I worry about forgetting something so I just use the time to catch my breath and make sure I have everything I need.
The Bike:
I dropped off my bike in transition the day before the race and was glad to not have to worry about it early Sunday morning, but riding home on Saturday gave me a chance to preview the southern section of the bike course, so I had an idea of what I was getting into. The first uphill, which we did twice, was a steady, long 8% grade. On Saturday I saw an oil truck struggling up it with his flashers on, so I knew to get into an easy gear pretty quickly and hang on. I felt great as I headed up the hill and south for the several miles to the turnaround. The course consisted of two 28 mi loops on RT9A from Briarcliff to the south up to Peekskill at the northern turnaround. The section heading north was great, there was the downhill on the 8% grade (Weeee!) and then a somewhat flat section for several miles with views of the river to the west and some cliffs in Peekskill (I think) to the north. Much of the road heading north was smooth and the hills felt like speed bumps in comparison to the big hill. I made a friend at the first southern turnaround and we chatted for a few minutes while we recovered from the first big ass hill and we met again in the exact same spot on the second loop and stayed together for quite a while. We were working hard, but it was really nice to talk to someone other than myself! I mentioned that my knee was bothering me and she offered to pray for me and my knee. The Atheist in me stepped aside and I thanked her for her really sweet gesture. I really enjoyed talking to her and was glad to bump into her again later on the run. Thanks for the company, Carolyn!
It's kind of funny, going into the training I was most concerned about the bike. Was I really going to be able to do those LONG training rides and not be a complete poke? I mean, I'm pretty fucking slow on the bike because I'm either daydreaming, sightseeing or just worried that I'm doing something wrong or I'm going to fall over. After months of training and actually enjoying the long rides for their solitude and scenery, I went into this race without a thinking twice about the bike ride. I was ready, I knew I could do it and I really enjoyed it. Now, it wasn't all rainbows and unicorns, I actually had to take my inhaler around mile 48 because I had tightness at the top of my inhalations and felt weird, but it eased up a bit after two puffs (the first one landed on my upper lip, eww). I also had a lot of knee pain from the nagging hip and ITB tightness I've been working on and holy crap were my neck and shoulders painful!
I'm really proud of my ride though, I placed 12th in my age group (out of 24) in 3:30 or so and I rode on my aerobars nearly all of the flat and downhill sections of the race. They're so much fun!
While I think my fueling was really good while I was riding, I think it contributed to the rough run I had, but we'll get to that.
56.3 mi, elevation gained (and lost) 3,218.5 ft
Avg speed 16.0 (the range is crazy) with Max speed of 37.7mph! Wow, that's fast!! 

Next time: the run and the elusive burp.

posted from Bloggeroid

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Surround yourself with the very best.

I was swimming at the pool after work a few weeks ago, getting in a short workout on my own in a mostly empty pool, when I overheard the pool's director giving a lesson to a young woman in her ~early-mid 20's. Now, I presume she was paying for these lessons and had willingly subjected herself to this in order to improve her swimming skills so keep that in mind. I think she was nearing the end of what is usually a 30 minute session and she stopped at the end of the far lane as I was getting ready to hop into my lane. She was not what I'd call a great swimmer, but she had the general rhythm down and was moving along well. When she stopped and looked over at her coach, he suggested that she do two more repeats of whatever it was that she was doing (I think it was 50's aka 1 lap down & 1 lap back) and she said the strangest thing- She said, in a whiny sort of voice, "I can't." She just stood there, fussing with her saggy lycra cap, but she did not swim. Her coach, a friend of mine, looked at her and simply said "yes you can, just do 2 more", but she still remained there, not moving and no longer out of breath from whatever previous set she'd done. Again with the whiny "I can't do 2 more!" I was inexplicably flabbergasted. I couldn't figure out why this was striking me in such an odd way, but it was almost as if she was speaking another language. Finally her coach looks over at me and yells across the pool, "Amy! Please tell her she can do 2 more!" I don't know this woman from Adam, but she looks over at me and in my state of bewilderment I nod at her as if to say "of course you can do 2 more, why can't you? You don't appear to be injured or struggling in any way..." but I don't think my message gets across because she's still just standing there, now minutes later. Eventually she slides her goggles back onto her eyes and says, "I can do one more, but not 2" and her coach just waves her on, clearly used to this business of not completing workouts. I slipped quietly into the cool water and pushed off, delving into my first 500yd set, but still thinking about what just happened and wondering why it seemed so odd. Was it because this woman was paying good money for lessons, but not doing the workout? Was it the saggy lycra cap? 
It hit me a few hundred yards in- that woman said "I can't". I don't hear that on a regular basis these days. I haven't heard a whiny "I can't" since I stopped coaching elementary school children a few years ago. She was a grown woman, presumably trying to better herself with lessons, but here she was wasting this opportunity to get better, stronger, more efficient. I probably had a big smile on my face when I finished that first 500yds as I thought to myself, "I surround myself with the very best people. There is no I CAN'T in our vocabulary, we just do it." What a wonderful thought. 

Last month was my biggest training month for Toughman 70.3 (it's tomorrow) and not once did I wake up, look at my schedule and say "I can't". Not once did I sit on my bike at the bottom of a giant hill and think "I can't". I just did. So for anyone out there who has ever asked me how I do the training for big races or told me that they don't think they could do it for XYZ reasons, the answer is simple: I never say I can't and I never accept that from the training partners around me and hope they'd never accept it from me. 
This is the elevation profile from my longest training ride this cycle (and ever!). It looked crazy, but I got up that morning and just did it. I got lost at the end and ended up with 64 miles, but it was such mental practice for my race. 

If all goes according to plan, tomorrow I'll also be able to say I did this: 
                                                  There is no "I can't". 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Adirondack Bike Training

Heading out for this ride today:

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Van Cortlandt Track Club 5K series, 2013 Ed.

It's a summer tradition, get outside every other Thursday between late May and August, often in the pouring rain, and run your heart out on the trails of Van Cortland Park for 3.1 miles. The goal: walk away with a fat, warm carrot cake muffin from Lloyd's bakery as your prize for nearly suffocating from the heat and hills.   I'm happy and proud to say that I walk away with a muffin for my efforts more often than not. I try to race hard in VCP, I love the challenge and I enjoy the friendly competition that fuels the  runners across the bridge, up and down the back hills and back to the flats. Oh the flats...the bloody 800m stretch from the moment you exit the woods until you cross the finish line. When the race is over, perhaps because the pain is fresh, we all grumble that the flats are the hardest part of the race, not the series of 5 back hills, but that dash to the finish where you can see the little red finish clock mocking you the entire time. It might take you a few times before you figure out not to loosen the reins entirely when you turn onto the flats, if you're like most of us. No, you'll try it once and perhaps make it to the northern curve before wanting to die (or walk) and realize just how much is left. You might even skip a few weeks and do it all over again the second time. Eventually though, you'll let that guy next to you take off with a smirk because you know what he doesn't. Well, you hope. I have a similar method for taking off at the start where you also run a long section of the flats before entering the trail. Yesterday was my first 5k of this season and I forgot my own advice and took off like a rookie on some  already sore legs. In the first 1/4mile The burning sensation in my quads, hamstrings and calves was so intense that I wasn't sure if. I'd be able to even run the whole thing. I'd definitely taken off quickly, but I typically run the first mile in the low 7:1x range, but a million thoughts were going through my head as a trampled over the grass towards the cow path. The thought that stuck was definitely "I didn't warm up nearly enough." Live and learn..and relearn. Oops. I was passed by a few women during my struggle with the first 1/2 mile and while I wasn't able to respond right there, I was banking on the idea that not a lot of runners are strong on hills and I often assume the runners I don't recognize are not familiar with the course and will die off after the first hill. I'm usually right for a lot of them. Yes, it's cocky, I know, but the competitive thoughts fuel me along. Some people have their music or mantras, I have my thoughts of crushing the women ahead of me. To each her own. 
While the first mile last night was one of the most painful I can remember, my legs (very) gradually loosened on the hills and I was able to pass a few women and really open up on the downhills and power uphill, though it still felt pretty gruesome. The beauty of the VCP course is that once you rest the biggest hill, you get a beautiful, rewarding downhill that lasts for ages. It can be really fun to let yourself scramble down those twists and turns like a crazy mountain goat. There was a guy huffing along behind me on the downhills last night who finally caught and passed me on the last little hill, but I couldn't care less about racing men in this race. 
I felt pretty terrible about the race when I finished, annoyed that it felt so hard and uncomfortable, but I was happy to see that my 23:42 was right on par with my average times on that course. Not bad, after all. I know it's just a small race and you're thinking "who is that hard on themselves at a tiny 5k?" But I like to use these as a fitness gauge from year to year and I get cranky if I feel like I'm slowing down. Luckily, I ran well enough for 4th female overall and 1st in my new age group! Yay. The woman I couldn't catch on the hills turned out to be 23, which gave me a little comfort. She's probably fresh out of college track, right? Anyway, there was a time when top 5 female would have sent me over the moon, but right now I feel like I've trained enough for top 3. Greedy, I know. The pain during and after that race has reminded me to get my ass in gear and get back to strengthening my lower body in ways other than running. 
On Sunday I ran another 5K in Ocean County, NJ and pulled off a very similar race. It had a ton of turns through a small neighborhood and I ran 22:07 or so, also good enough for 1st in my AG and $50 prize! I don't think I've ever actually won money before. I'm practically a pro now, right? Haha...no. I got beat by the lead woman by almost 5 minutes. Daaamn. It was a small race (~250 runners) and it was my Aunt's very first race. She's been training for a few months and I'm so proud of her- she ran the entire time and enjoyed herself! I love watching people discover the joy of running! Maybe someday I'll take down my mileage and actually train specifically for the 5K to see if I can break 20:00. I do feel like I'm on a 5K splurge right now- my next 2 goal races end with 5K's. the Aquathlon is in 2 weeks and consists of a 1500m open water swim followed by a 5K and the NJ Sprint Tri also ends with 5K. I guess I will keep up the 800 repeats for another couple of weeks, as painful as they can be. 
This week is all about recovery and strength, I have a twinge in my left hamstring that I babied yesterday and I'm still battling thoracic spine, lower rib and hip pain with weekly PT. I did some yoga this morning on Yogaglo.com (awesome site) and my body feels energized, though my arms feel noodly. Tomorrow I ride my bike to and from work with a stop on the way home to work with one of my young patients in a playground that's on the way home. I love the idea of getting around the city entirely on my own two legs instead of via bus/train at least once a week this summer. 
Stay tuned for more racing in the weeks to come. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Fuel for the long road ahead.

I've been scouring Pinterest and trying various granola bar recipes for months now and each time I try one I pin it and write myself notes, but I finally decided to put my own recipe together. These are currently in the fridge so I'll have to update later after I cut them. I hope they're not too crumbly.

As I start my 16 week 70.3 (Half Ironman distance triathlon) training plan, I know I'll need lots of quick snacks on hand for the long road ahead. These bars are packed with good, whole ingredients and really keep me full after a morning in the water when I need to be on my feet at work. They have a fair amount of fiber between the oats and chia seeds, so be careful if you're not used to that or if you have a sensitive stomach. You can always cut down or out the Chia seeds and just use regular oats instead of the multigrain mix. 

The main ingredients you'll need:
3 cups old fashioned oats (I use half rolled oats and half multigrain mix from Trader Joes)
1 cup natural peanut butter (melted slightly if it's cold)
1/2 cup honey
1-2 tbsp coconut oil

Pick and choose from these add ons or add your own!
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips 
1/3 cup walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds
Small handfuls of dried fruits, I used golden berry mix from TJ's and dried cherries (my favorite)
1tbsp Chia seeds
1tbsp ground flax seeds (I forgot to add them, so I sprinkled on top)
1/4 cup Wheat germ (I didn't use it this time)

Step 1. Add oats, chia, nuts, coconut, died fruit, seeds, etc. Leave the chocolate chips out for now. 


Step 2. Add 2 tbsp Coconut oil (mine was already melted because it is summer, but you should warm it up if it isn't already). 

Step 3. Measure 1 cup PB and 1/2 cup honey. Silicone bowls are the best invention ever. 

Melt the peanut butter if it is hard from the fridge. I wouldn't try to use anything other than natural PB, but mostly because I think Jiffy is gross. I used a new jar from the cabinet,so the PB was already melty enough. 

Step 4. Mix dry ingredients gently and then add PB and honey. I mix it with a spoon once before turning on the mixer. 

 Mix everything for about 30 secs, or watch while your magical Kitchen Aid does it for you. 

Step 5. Add chocolate chips and mix some more. If you heat your PB and coconut oil too much it'll melt the chips so let the mix cool before adding them. 
Step 6. Line a baking dish with wax paper, use a smaller dish for thick bars or a larger one for thinner bars. Pour in the mix and press it down onto the wax paper with a spatula. Press hard until you have it smooshed as much as you'd like. Mine is always an odd shape, but who cares?

Step 7. Refrigerate for several hours. Sometimes I leave it overnight and cut them in the morning. Lift the wax paper out onto a cutting board and slice them up into little bars. If it seems crumbly, let it chill longer. Store in an airtight container with layers of wax paper between sections. In the summer I keep the, in the fridge because they get soft. 
Enjoy! Let me know if you try these and if you add anything else. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

2013 Run As One

I haven't run a New York Road Runners race in Central Park since December 2011! I've run other races in Central Park and NYRR races elsewhere in the city (Coogan's in 2012), but it has been a while since my last 4 mile run around that park. I signed up for the Run as One for Lung cancer research and awareness the day before the race because I really enjoy running for this cause and because I needed a kick in the pants. My running has felt sluggish and my legs have been aching, so I needed to shake off some serious cobwebs.
I had a goofy morning, probably because I haven't raced in months, where everything seemed to be going wrong. My beloved A express train isn't running in my neighborhood on the weekends this month, so I had to leave extra time for the replacement shuttle bus (which contained a number of runners) and I decided to take the 1 train to 72nd because it always runs local, vs the A which doesn't stop at 72nd. Anyway, my route probably means nothing to my readers outside of NYC, but let's just say it wasn't the way I normally get to Central Park. I noticed when I got on the 1 train that my Garmin said it was 6:58 am. I thought "Oh good, plenty of time.... Waaaait a minute, I left the house at 7:05" and I realized my watch was frozen. I didn't carry my phone or a bag because I didn't want to check a bag, so I didn't know what time it really was, but the bigger problem was MY GARMIN WAS FROZEN. I didn't have PR plans for this race, but I didn't really want to run without my watch. It had been too long since my last race and I needed to pace myself. Damn. I tried resetting it to no avail. Oh well. My stomach felt unsettled, probably from gulping down my coffee and breakfast and my legs were sore from my 11+ mile hilly run on Saturday. This felt like a bad idea...
Once I got to the park, used the bathroom at the Le Pain Quotidien (they were searching runners using the port-o-potties), and ran into Elizabeth for the second time this week, things got much better. She fixed my Garmin and we chatted and joked around until it was time to get in the corrals. I lost her when she checked her bag (I came empty handed because the security was tight and I didn't want to have to stand in line) and I stretched out by myself in the corral. Systems check: right calf and foot uber sore, quads sore from Sat run, couldn't find my inhaler, allergies in full force. Okay, I was ready to run.
The race went very quickly, I was creaking and feeling all sorts of self doubt for the first mile. People were passing me and my right foot was aching (this isn't new) and I pictured myself just running to the train and going home once I hit the 102nd St transverse. Luckily, things started to get easier and I was feeling more confident as I ticked off mile 2 in about 7:12. I thought, "oh, right, this feels hard because I'm running fast. That's okay." Mile 3 was the stretch along the west side with the 3 rolling hills,which I cursed a bit because my calf was still aching and my foot hurt, but I still survived and kept it under 7:30. Once we passed the top of the 3rd hill and mile 4 was underway, I felt like I was finally running with ease. I brought the pace back down to the 7:12 range and finished up at a 6:30 pace on the final stretch, yet I still got beat by an 11 year old boy who out kicked me in the final minute. Good for him.
This was my first race in the 30-34 age group and I placed 20th in my AG and 111th for women overall. Not bad for missing my PR by nearly 2 mins. It took me a while to get into a groove on Sunday and I wasn't feeling very competitive, but by the final mile I had my mojo back and stayed strong. I'm in no way disappointed, in fact I'm still just proud that I didn't run to the subway instead of towards the finish at 102nd St.
I obviously have a long way to go before the race I signed up for on Thursday night- I'm all registered for the Toughman Half Ironman on Sept 8th. Look out, I'll be back out on my bike soon!

posted from Bloggeroid

Friday, April 12, 2013

Swimming for strength.

Last week it felt like I'd been sick and run down for a really long time ... That is until today. I bounced back quickly this week, feeling well rested and strong, so I went back to yoga and swimming this morning after a few scattered weeks. I felt beat up after yoga because I took a few weeks off to heal my abdominal strain, but I hopped in the pool happily afterwards. My friend Sally and I swim most Friday mornings and today we were joined by another friend of ours from the masters team, E. Now, she's not quite in her usual English channel swimming training shape right now because she is fighting Pancreatic cancer, but she hopped in with us with a smile on her face. I realized I haven't seen her in months, and not just because I haven't been swimming with the team at 6am for a while, but because she has been sick for months. Months! Now I know lots of people who have dealt with various illnesses for years, my cousin Ted fought colon cancer for 5 years, but somehow seeing E and swimming with her again really helped me put my wimpy illness into perspective. I had to rest and not swim/run/bike for what, 10 days? I am happy to have jumped back into the swing of things quickly, and I am fine now. I took antibiotics for 10 days and it's gone... I don't know exactly how long E has been or will be fighting this cancer, but she's still faster than I am in the pool and I know she'll come back as strong as ever and tackle the Channel next year or whenever it happens for her.
We've been doing 1650yd warm up swims for her since we found out she was sick, somehow hoping the energy we put into the pool will somehow bring her the strength she needs to get through this, but swimming with her had the opposite effect on me- her energy and strength gave me a renewed sense of hope and determination. Funny how that works.

posted from Bloggeroid

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The cake that slipped through my fingers.

Okay, I realize that it's completely presumptuous to suggest that I would have won a cake if I'd raced, but this is my blog and I'll presume if I want to. The story is long and whiny and cranky, so let's just say that I got a nasty 9 day cold that became a sinus infection and knocked me on my ass for the entire week leading up to the Urban Environmental Challenge 10K. I knew by Friday that I wasn't going to be able to race, but I held out hope until the last minute, waiting for a miraculous recovery. It didn't come. I'm still not fully recovered, but today was a great day back at work, especially with the stellar weather.
I went to Van Cortlandt Park on Sunday morning to cheer on my fellow Inwood Hill Runners and to get in my first run since the end of March. The racers took off into the hills while I trotted 2+ loops of the flats, getting in an easy and sunny 3 miles. It was windy and chilly, but I wore capris and boy, did I feel GOOD. I ran nice and slow, stopping to watch the cricket games and soccer games going on around the park. I saw the racers come out of the woods after their first lap (of 2) and cheered on my friends before continuing my own loops. I was jealous, but I got over it as I turned back into the sunshine (and wind). I took it easy, knowing I was still recovering, but still ran a steady 9min mile or so and just felt free. Boy did it feel nice to be off of the couch!
I saw the lead guys coming out of the woods and made my way toward the finish so I could snap a few quick photos of the Inwood crew and cheer them along the final, evil stretch to the finish. Here they are:

Tamara walked away with a carrot cake muffin for her 2nd place AG victory and a big smile.
We wandered over to the Riverdale Diner for brunch and replenished our weary bodies. Cheering is tough too, you know...

I'm back to normal today and had a great speed session last night with some lunges that are still with me in spirit this evening. I am happy to say that I feel like I didn't miss a beat and didn't lose any fitness. Whew.

If you missed the UEC and are looking for a technical and challenging 4mi trail race, I suggest you check out this race: Amildsprain.org I ran it last year and it was a killer, but I loved it. All proceeds go to the JDRF. It's May 19th, I'll look for you on the trails!

posted from Bloggeroid

Friday, March 22, 2013

Back at it.

For a while after the Brooklyn Marathon there was nothing to blog about, then there were some smaller races and things to write about but I chose to use my time in other ways, but I've missed it and I'm ready to get back to it!
So far 2013 has been treating me well and I've been rewarded for my training with a 1st place female win in a small indoor Triathlon at the Vanderbilt YMCA in NYC, a 3rd place overall female at a very flat and fun 15mi trail race in the Everglades during a trip to Florida and then a 2nd place female victory at the Indoor Triathlon Championships at Asphalt Green shortly after turning the Big 3-0. Oh yeah, I'm in a new age group now and I'm not sure whether I should be excited or nervous about the upcoming racing season. I spent last summer obsessing a little bit over the race times of the winning women in the 30+ AG to see if I would still have won my carrot muffin in VCP, and I think I've still got a shot. I'm trying not to spend hours on Athlinks stalking the competition, but I am curious about the upcoming swim and triathlon season.
-Triathlons? Yeah, I remember those...
My bike has been gathering dust in my apartment for the last year or so and I've felt bad for it the whole time. I didn't do a single tri last year because I was focused on the big swims and the marathon, but I missed them. I love racing in tris and the indoor tri series in Jan-Mar really reminded me how much fun they are and how much more exciting the varied training can be. I signed up for the NJ State Tri on July 20th and I'm eyeing up a half Ironman in Sept in NJ as well. If you know of any good 70.3 races in Aug or Sept within a 5hr drive of NY/NJ please let me know. It does look like there might be a NJ State half Ironman this year, but inaugural events worry me. I'd signed up for the Pocono Mt 70.3 and they ended up cancelling the swim because the river was too high/dangerous and the weather was cold.
I'd like to sneak in an early season Olympic distance tri to get my feet wet too. I can't remember why, (probably price?) but I didn't sign up for the NYC Tri lottery this year and I'm secretly really bummed that I'm not doing it. I've been thinking about looking for a way in for 2013, but charity might be my only option. I wonder if my old deferment from 2011 was forfeited when I didn't do it last year? Hmm. Ideas.
In reality, my race plans for the year are still a little scattered, but I have some local spring trail races (Urban Environmental Challenge, A Mild Sprains if they're doing it again) and some road 10K's (Riverdale Ramble, Mini 10K,etc) in mind. I want to swim Governor's Island again, but it's the same day as the NJ tri. I'll be signing up for Little Red Lighthouse 10K swim again in Sept and maybe some others if I can fit them in. I'm pretty excited to fill up my race schedule again this spring and summer after not racing too much last year.
If I get a chance, I'll write about the two indoor triathlons I did already this year because they're fun to hear about because they're so unique.
I hope your running, swimming, whatevering is also going well.

posted from Bloggeroid