Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Chicago Triathlon Training: Interim Week (Marathon Week 5)

Someone please explain to me how it is already Wednesday? Actually, I'm grateful for it. I already miss my best friend and I'm run down this week from screwing around with my sleep schedule so much last week. Just gotta make it to early-release-Friday and I'm home free for a three day weekend. Score.

Oh yeah...and running. I've decided to stop ellipticalling until Dr Gent gives me the all clear. My left shin has really been bothering me and I think I added to the problem with all of the walking we did at the zoo and the parade this past weekend. I'm talking throbbing pain while I'm sitting kind of stuff. *sigh* Injuries. *eye roll*

So now I'm focusing on stretching, foam rolling, and self massage for my legs. We'll see how it goes.

With that all recaps.

Since Hannah was here this past week I built in a rest/interim week from triathlon training so I could spend more time with her. You read that right, this "break" week was planned! For that reason, you'll notice that my workouts were much lighter this week...

Monday 6/20 - 3 miles, tech swim 1.2
I stayed at work slightly longer than necessary on Monday specifically to find and print out a swim plan...and then I totally forgot to take it into the gym with me (and then later I realized I had taken it in with me and just couldn't find it...hrmph). Since I was supposed to do a tech swim, I decided to mix things up between pulls and kicks, and I made the following up on the fly:

  • 400 warm up (crawl and breast stroke)
  • 50 crawl, 50 pull, 50 kick (150)
  • 75 crawl, 75 pull, 50 kick (200)
  • 100 crawl, 100 pull, 100 kick (with fins) (300)
  • 150 crawl, 150 pull, 150 kick (with fins) (450)
  • 200 crawl, 200 pull, 200 kick (with fins) (600)
Tada - 2100 yards. And funny story: I was swimming at the gym near Cam's house and he was there with me. I will say...probably a little over half of the people who use the pool just get in to flop around and relax after working out. So there's this kid kind of goofing off in the pool, and Cam was being Cam and challenging him to races and showing him how to breathe properly while swimming and he told me that he noticed the kid kept stopping in the middle...but it turns out he was stopping to stare at me every time I went by. And that towards the end he's staring at me and Cam's like "Uh...dude?" and the kid goes, "She just doesn't stop!"

Cam got a kick out of it...and so did I! These last couple of swims I've felt like a waterproof Energizer Bunny...let's hope that keeps up!

Tuesday 6/21 - 5 miles, weights
I woke up late on Tuesday and seriously considered just sleeping in and skipping any morning activity since I knew I would be up late with Hannah.

Then I realized that was silly - I should fit in a few miles and I could do the rest after work. So I got myself on my elliptical to pump out three miles, then went to work.

After work I snuck in another two miles before lifting. It was so weird lifting in the afternoon now that I'm used to lifting in the mornings! I managed to fit in everything, but I switched my lifts around and ended up doing incline bench last (instead of flat bench) so my body was a bit shot by then.

I also switched it up this week so I was doing lower reps with higher weights (as my log says), because it can help you bump up your lifts to the next level, which I sorely needed. I'll repeat it again in a few weeks:

Then I stopped at GNC to buy a ton of protein powder:

And then?? Then I picked up my BFF from the airport for a week of fun and excitement!!

Wednesday 6/22 - test swim 1.3
I wasn't really sure what a "test swim" was, and I forgot to look it up before I got to the gym, so I made something up on the fly using advice from the tri coach who was at the Open Water Swim - swim easy-hard intervals! I decided to do intervals with ascending distance like Monday (you can probably tell I'm a huge fan of doing so) using and easy-hard-recover pattern. So my pattern looked like this:

  • 400 yard warm up
  • 25 easy, 25 hard, 15 sec recover, 50 breast stroke (100 yards)
  • 50 easy, 50 hard, 20 sec recover, 50 breast (150 yards)
  • 75 easy, 75 hard, 25 sec recover, 50 breast (200 yards)
  • 100 easy, 100 hard, 30 sec recover, 50 breast (250 yards)
  • 200 easy, 200 hard, 35 sec recover, 100 breast (500 yards)
To get to 2300 yards, I ended with a 400 yard steady pull and a 300 yard cool down.

Fun facts?! I hit 1:52 on my 100, and 3:55 on my 200, so I snagged a couple of PRs during this workout! I'm super excited because that's my best 100 by about 10 seconds, and nearly 20 seconds off my best 200 a few weeks ago. Wooooot!

Just like with running, it's fun to see my times drop when I get to doing speed work, and to see my overall average times dropping as well.

Thursday 6/23 - 10 miles
I put in 10 miles on the elliptical. I watched two episodes of EastEnders. 110 minutes on an elliptical is hella boring. That is all.

Friday 6/24 - weights
I hit up the gym for some weights on Friday. When we got to Kara's that evening I was super happy I did too...she's a power lifter (and can put me to shame) and seeing her home gym (which is awesome) made me glad I pumped it out in the morning.

BTW - those plank leg raises are the shiz, and I just randomly thought of doing them. Hold yourself in push-up plank stance, squeeze your glute to lift one leg off the ground (slowly) lower back down and then switch sides. It's an amazing core workout. I love them.

Saturday 6/25 - rest (LPZ)
I was supposed to run a 10k for Proud to Run on Saturday, but it didn't happen because leg. I met up with everyone beforehand and I felt a little bad about bouncing as soon as the race started, but I had a friend to entertain.

It was so weird not to run the race. I'd been looking forward to this 10k since I signed up and I didn't even get to do it :(

I did, however, have tons of fun walking around the zoo with my girls later, even if it was boiling hot. As far as rest days go, it was a good one!

Sunday 6/26 - rest (parade)
Sunday was a second rest day (ahh, easy training weeks), but we spent about three hours outside for the parade. It was SO much fun, and I totally lost my voice. Aside from walk around the city, I did nothing active for the day, and I have no regrets.

And there you have it! Since I do have a three day weekend I'm going to try my best to post about everything we did when Hannah was here! It was a fantastic week and I'm still tired from it :P

Until next time!


Monday, June 27, 2016

PIQNIQ and Pop Tabs

I said last week that I would post about Piqniq, so here goes!

Piqniq was, indeed, a blast. It's a one day music festival that one of the Chicago radio stations (101.1...WKQX) does at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheater in Tinley Park. Cam and I were going with our friend Dan, and we checked out the lineups and decided to get there around 2:30. We missed the first two bands on the auxiliary stage (Beware of Darkness and Broods, no big deal) and listened to the third (Strumbellas) as we walked for forever to get to the entrance. After having our tickets scanned, getting patted down and having our water jug caps unceremoniously stolen and discarded we filled up our Camelbaks and walked over for the fourth band (Bear Hands).

Dan and I also took a 'Sun's out, guns out' picture since we were both wearing tanks...and decided that both of our faces look really weird in this picture:

Bear Hands did pretty good...the set was decent, but the lead singer needs to work on his between-song entertainment. It seemed like he was just saying random weird stuff and it was a little lame. But the music itself was great, and they pulled off a good live performance. was SO hot. The auxiliary stage was set up in part of the parking lot and we were all baking out there. I was sweating bullets the whole time, and I was really hoping the main stage would be a bit cooler.

So after Bear Hands we decided to skip the last opener (Jr. Jr.) to go grab some space by the main stage and were happy to find out that as the sun went down, all the lawn seats were in the shade. After claiming a space we only had to wait about 10 minutes for the sun to go down behind the stage:
The space we claimed. People sat down before the show started.
Terrible picture of me because the sun was in my eyes, but at least the boys look good!
I definitely took that picture ^ before all the fun started.

The headliners went as follows:

  • Lucius
  • Robert Delong
  • Young the Giant
  • The Lumineers
  • Garbage
We were in for a treat!

None of us had ever heard Lucius before, but they were phenomenal live. The two lead singers did some of the best harmonizing. It's hard to describe but if I hadn't know it was two people singing I would have thought it was one person singing live with their own voice recorded as back track for harmony. They were great.

The drinking started between sets :P Though I really haven't had any alcohol during training, I decided these two weekends (Piqniq and Girls' Weekend) would be exceptions, and I'm glad I did!

Next up was Robert Delong, and he was probably who I was most looking forward to seeing. He's basically a one man show - he had three percussion setups on stage and does everything himself. I was blown away by his set. I love his music to begin with and he has amazing stage presence. I took a video during on of my favorite songs, just for you guys! Sorry it's a bit blurry...we were way back there. You'll get the jist though...he runs around stage doing tons of stuff!
After Robert Delong things start to get a bit blurry, probably because I was consuming large amounts of Bud Light Straw-ber-ita. Those things are delicious and dangerous. Cam and I went to get more drinks and while we stood in line I was doing yoga (not joking). Sitting on the lawn before had made me feel like stretching, and by the time we were in line for drinks there was so much open space that I couldn't help it (I was also slightly inebriated...). So yeah. I am the person who does yoga in parking lots!

The song is "Don't Wait Up"...sorry for Dan talking through part of it :P

I also took this really good picture of the two of us:

It was also around this time that I realized just how many pop tabs were floating around the place. So I started collecting them. I'm not kidding either...I went up to literally every single person I saw holding a beer can and said, "Could I please have your pop tab for Ronald McDonald House Charities?" I did it between sets, during sets (only to people walking around), I asked the people sitting around us between songs, and I wandered around with the sole purpose of collecting tabs.

I was obsessed.

I managed to collect a ton of tabs throughout the night. Almost an entire water bottle full! Not a single person said no, and I got to hear a lot of people's personal stories about RMHC. It made me really happy to know I'm running the Chicago Marathon for such a great cause!

(More of this story to come!)

We saw two more bands - Young the Giant and the Lumineers. Young the Giant sings one of my favorite songs ever, My Body. It's totally my rally song!
I danced and jumped around like crazy. Both they and the Lumineers had amazing sets. It was so much fun seeing these bands live since I jam out to them every day anyways. The Lumineers especially have tons of crowd-friendly music (stuff that's easily sung along to) and just being out there jamming along was great.

Right before the last band Cam had the brilliant idea to sneak up to the more expensive seats and claim a few for the last set (a band called Garbage).

So up we snuck! We got decent enough seats, but I realized after about 20 minutes that we'd lost my water bottle full of pop tabs :(

I was heartbroken. Cam, afraid that I was too drunk and would get stolen or lost, decided to go look for the tabs and didn't find them. I wasn't about to let all of my hard work go to waste though. I got up, retraced our steps, and found them in about three minutes!

I also found Cam's sunglasses - both things had fallen out of his Camelbak when he stooped to get under a guard rail into the closed seating area. After I picked everything up I texted him, "I found the tabs. I found your sunglasses. And now...I'm gonna go find Dan!"

...because Dan had wandered off about half an hour earlier and we had no idea where he was. I actually found him pretty quickly, dragged him back to our seats, and we saw the rest of Garbage without incident :P

After all of that, though, it was time for the evening to end. When the final set was over we packed ourselves up and made the trek back to the car, and made the 2-ish hour drive home.

It was a great day. I had a ton of fun, collected a good number of pop tabs (woot!) and would definitely consider going again next year if the line up looks good again.

Now...if only Cam had believed me when I said I wanted to go to Lolla! Looks like that will have to happen next year too...


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Chicago Triathlon Training: Week Three (marathon week 4)

My Schedule got all sorts of messed up this week. I had an MRI on Tuesday, I took a client Wednesday, had a doctor's appointment Friday, went to a music festival on was pretty crazy.

I'll add in here that the reason I crossed off some runs last week, and have now converted all of my runs to the elliptical is because I've been having some pain in my left shin and went to get it checked out. The good news is that there's no stress fracture. The bad news is that I'm lucky there's no stress fracture because Dr Gent says I was on my way to one. I have to take the next three weeks off running. I'm still allowed to do non-impact activities (swim-bike-elliptical) but no running for a bit.

Dr Gent...always telling me not to run! You know what he did say though? Verbatim: 'Swimming. Swimming is great! You're going to get very good at swimming!'

Ironic, given my terrible first open water swim. I actually laughed when he said this because I desperately hoped he'd be right!

Also good news: I should still be able to do my sprint tri on July 9th! Regardless of whether or not I can run the run, I'm going to participate so I can test out my transition skills (or, you know, bomb it and learn a lot instead).

I won't be including elliptical stats in here because they're boring. I'm basically doing 10 minutes for every 1 mile I'm supposed to run, keeping it the same intensity that I would for an easy run (no point working hard when I'm technically practicing injury prevention and recovery this week).

Here's a snapshot of what the schedule looked like for the week:
Wherever you see two runs in a day, like Monday, I only do the run in red.
Monday 6/13: 3 miles, easy swim 1.9 (3,350 yds)
I woke up to three miles on the elliptical. The only good thing about this is that I get to catch up on EastEnders...

After work, I decided to move my swim up a day because I had the MRI on Tuesday. So I hit the pool for a 1.9 mile swim - my furthest to date!
I liked this routine since it really kept things mixed up, but my calves and feet started to cramp pretty badly during the kicks, and by the end I kind of reformed the workout so I could do it without kicking too much. And then I spent every night during the week foam rolling!

Tuesday 6/14: weights
I stuck to the weights on Tuesday morning:

Because of the MRI there wasn't really time (or energy) for anything in the evening. Good thing too...I was so tired that I fell asleep during the MRI!

Wednesday 6/15: 3 miles
I was up early again for three miles.

After work I took a client at 7pm which meant there was no way I would make the OWS. No big deal though, there was another one I could go to on Thursday, and since Thursday was an optional workout I decided to make the switch.

Thursday 6/16: 4 miles, .5 mile OWS
I totally slacked on Thursday and Friday. I don't know what got into me, but I did not get up and run on Thursday morning. I did not do my 4 miles, I did not pass go :(

But I DID get my ass to Three Oaks lake for an OWS. I almost didn't go. I was still tired, I was grouchy, I actually fell asleep on the couch beforehand, and I was feeling like 'why bother, it went so poorly last time...'

And then I snapped out of it and realized I had to go. No excuses. I had squeeze into that wetsuit and face my fears. It was cloudy and chilly out (mid 60's) and there were way fewer people than at the previous OWS, but the water wasn't too bad.

I pulled on my wetsuit (which looks awesome), and off I went!
Me and Flounder, my wetsuit. I named him Flounder because my bike is an Ariel...and because I totally floundered during that first OWS.
If you look at the bottom right picture, the first bouy started just beyond that raft in the top left of the picture. I breast stroked out there, had to stop to spit in my goggles, and then started my watch as I crossed the 'No Swim' line:


For the first 100 yards I felt like I didn't know how to swim, and I was sure it would be a repeat of the first OWS. I felt clumsy, my goggles fogged a lot, and I totally went off course. So I stopped to wipe my goggles and...I just bobbed up and down in the water. The wetsuit kept me upright and I didn't even do anything! Then when I started swimming again I started with my stoke (no kick) and was gliding through the water. Before I knew it I'd reached the second bouy, and then the third, and BAM I was done!

This is a man-made lake so the water is much cleaner than other lakes, without all the reeds and foliage you get in other lakes (and I only saw one fish the entire time). The second and third legs were a bit choppy so I really got to test out my sighting skills, but overall it was much easier to navigate than my first swim because I could actually see bouys and landmarks.

I actually WANTED to do another lap. I couldn't because we were meeting friends, but at that moment I fell in love with Open Water Swimming. Flounder made all the difference! I can now say I'm excited for future open water swims!

The other awesome part of this swim was all the women I met in the locker room after! I had so much fun talking to them (and they all said they couldn't believe I swam LitH without a wetsuit and that it's a difficult lake because of how gross it is), and overall they were very friendly and encouraging about everything. They even helped me celebrate my success with this swim. I can't wait to see them all again next Thursday when I do my next swim there!

Friday 6/17: easy bike 60, easy run 30 6 miles
Remember what I said about being lazy? Yeah, that happened again on Friday. I got up and did six miles on my elliptical, but did not make it out on my bike in the evening. I had my follow-up with Dr Gent about my leg (no running for 3 more weeks, I can do activities that don't aggravate it until then), and then just wasn't feeling it. So I skipped it. Not the end of the world...but let's just say I won't keep skipping things like that, especially not the bike.

Saturday 6/18: 9 miles, weights
I stayed up way too late on Friday and had a music festival on Saturday (which meant I'd be staying up late again), so I strongly considered skipping my run in the morning.

And then I didn't. Because I skipped the bike on Friday, and I knew I couldn't keep up that trend. So I hopped on my elliptical for 90 minutes and did my time.

When I hopped off, I got in the car and drove straight to the gym to lift. I didn't realize I only had one day of weights worked in this week, and I'd rather stick to two a week if I can!

And after that, it was Piqniq time! (Stay tuned for a short post about that too!!)

Sunday 6/19: rest
After Saturday's training and then staying up late for Piqniq, my body needed some rest. It was also Father's Day, which always puts me in a bit of a bum mood, so I did my best to stay off social media and chill and watch TV and do laundry. It was a successful rest day, and got me primed for week four!

And that's it for now...I'll be back with another short post soon. Hannah's here this week so I'm taking a week off from tri-training (except for some swims) but I'll still post a training update next week. It will probably be super weak though...but I'll save all that for later!


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Chicago Triathlon Training: Week Two

Welcome to Week 2 of my training plan! Let's get to it...

Monday 6/6: weights, steady 1.3 swim
Monday morning I hit the gym to lift, and since I'm down to two days a week for lifting I combined chest and shoulders:

After work it was back into the pool, this time for 2,000 yards at a steady pace. I decided to do climbing intervals alternating between breast stroke and crawl. So I started with a warm up and then 25 breast/25 crawl, 50 breast/50 crawl, 75/75, 100/100, 200/200, ending with a cool down. Nothing exciting, but it got the job done:
Tuesday 6/7: 4 miles
Tuesday ended up being a really crazy day for me. I woke up at 4am to bag and wrap a bunch of baked goods for PrideZ's bake sale, and it took me until almost 5:30. I did not see that coming...I thought it would take me 20 minutes and I'd be able to get out for my run.

But I didn't. Since I was taking my car in for some TLC, I knew right away that my run would not happen on Tuesday, and that I'd have to make it up on Wednesday. Joy...but I guess adaptation is still a think in training season.

I did get the inner tube on my bike tire changed though!

Wednesday 6/8: 4 miles, steady bike 50
I really don't look forward to getting up and running first thing in the morning. Rolling out of bed at 4:30 to put on running clothes and get my butt out the door before the sun is even up is just not my favorite. But I had to make up Tuesday's run, so I did it:
After work on Wednesday I hit up the trail I normally do my long rides on since it's on my way home. 50 minutes took me about 6 miles out and back, for a total of just over 12 miles:
This ride was okay. My calves started cramping just a few miles into the ride and I stopped to stretch them as soon as I got to a parking lot to pull over. I had passed someone else just a little while before, but I knew he was still right behind me. When I pulled over he said, "Don't tell me you're turning around here too!" and I started laughing and said, "I knew you were right behind me!" We ended up chatting for a bit while I stretched. It was great to have that friendly little exchange with someone randomly. So even though I know Bob from Hoffman Estates will never read this...Hi, Bob!

Thursday 6/9: weights, easy swim 1.4 1
Weights in the morning before work went well. I didn't want to work legs (like I normally do on Thursday) because my hamstrings and quads were still very tight, so I stuck to upper body and abs, adding a few more lifts than usual, and then did some foam rolling to end:

After work I headed back to the gym for 1.4 miles (or 2400 yards). I only made it to 1700 though: Turns out there's a Tuesday/Thursday aqua fit class at the location I went to. I'll have to either start doing OWSs those days, or switching up which gym I go to based on the class schedule. I was bummed I had to cut this one short because I built up some good momentum...and then just had to stop. Darn classes.

Friday 6/10: 3 miles, steady swim 1100
There's a reason this run and Saturday's are crossed off. I'll let you take an educated guess as to why.

Until I tell you the actual reason, I'll let you know that I replaced my run with a swim, wanting to make up the yards I missed on Thursday. I was running a bit last and decided to just keep it simple: I hopped in the pool, swim 1100 yards without stopping, and got out. I felt great the whole time (even though my shoulders were a bit sore for the first couple hundred), so I'll call that a success:
I made it to work on time and everything, so I'm happy with that.

Saturday 6/11: long bike 90-easy run 10 brick, 5 miles (marathon), Hooverball
I headed back to my favorite trail again on Saturday for my long ride. I logged 90 uneventful minutes in the saddle. They were hot and sweaty, but they passed quickly.
After my ride I went over to Jennie's to play Hooverball. While fun, it was way too hot, and after about 20 minutes I laid in the shade to do a whole lot of nothing.

Sunday 6/12: rest
Nothing exciting on Sunday. I had an options cross train/rest day, and after all the sun I got on Saturday (and knowing I wouldn't have another rest day until next Sunday) I decided to take the day off.

The whole Wack Pack went to the race track to waste our money, and I got a nice sunburn instead of doing anything physical. I ate lots of popcorn as well :P

And there it is.
I'll have another recap for you next week...and probably a training update/life thing to post as well...

Until then...!


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Volition America 5k Race Recap!

Finally, the post you've been waiting for all week! My recap of the Volition America 5k...the race I've been talking about PRing for the last three months!

Sit back, kids, it's gonna be a long one!
*But there are pictures!!

I will be 100% completely honest with all of you about this race - I was terrified. I put it out there months ago that I wanted to PR my 5k distance at this race because it was right at the beginning of my training, but as the day approached and I realized I hadn't done any real speed training, I was pretty sure it wasn't going to happen...

...but we'll get to that. First, the other stuff:

Race Details and Organization
The Volition America race series benefits Folds of Honor, a non-for profit that provides assistance and scholarships to the spouses and children of those servicemen and women killed or disabled in the American armed forces.

It's a smaller local race, and I'm glad they had both 5k and half options. The whole race was very well organized, and race day packet pick up is available.

My company picked this race as the finale for our Couch to 5k program since we weren't originally going to fund the Corporate Challenge. And now that I've done both races I can tell you I'm glad we did this one instead. I'm really bummed out that I won't be able to do the half downtown on September 11th, and I fully intend to sign up for the series again next year. 

I highly, highly recommend this race...for the cause, the crowd, organization, and the awesome medals ;) A+ all around!

And finally, here's a quick round up of the course - the half marathon went all around the blue loop, with a few out-and-backs worked in (the blue loop is about 7.7 miles). The 5k (in red) started at the green arrow heading south, at about .1 miles we made a U-turn and looped back past the start to go north for an out-and-back of our own. My Garmin clocked the course slightly long, at 3.25 miles (I counted the full race distance as my 5k time).

Before I go any further...
I never had a chance to post this picture of my C25k ladies. They were so amazing to run and talk with each morning, and I really do miss them on my morning runs. Mary Beth (in green) was the only other one who could make it to the race...Susan (our only new runner when we started) was hosting her daughter's wedding that day! She had a great excuse to miss it :P
NaDonya, Susan, Mary Beth, and myself after our last run!
Now back to the race!

Preparing (or not...)
On top of the lack of speed training, here are the other reasons I didn't think I stood a chance of PRing:
  • The last time I tested my speed was April 21st, at which point I was running with an average pace of 10:15/mile. I had not done any kind of speed training since. To PR, I needed to maintain a 10:00/mile or better.
  • I struggled through an open water swim on Wednesday that really worked my legs (if you missed that post). I was still feeling that swim.
  • I still lifted on Thursday - I dropped the weight for my squats and deadlifts by 20lbs for my first set (dropped it more after that), and my legs were still super sore and fatigued afterwards
  • I had my first brick workout on Friday, 40 minutes of biking followed by 40 minutes of running. By some miracle I actually ran the whole run, but my pace was 11:56/mile.
The only thing I felt good about was that I've been consistently Heart Rate training since February. But part of HR Training is speedwork 1x (or so) a week, and I hadn't been doing that. For real - I had no idea how I would make it through the three (point one) miles on Saturday because of how sore my legs had been for days. I actually woke up at two am worrying about the race.

I did, however, have my standard thin crust pizza with sausage and onion (and a side salad) for dinner the night before. So maybe that helped?

Anyways...I foam rolled Friday morning and evening to get my legs ready, and then again when I woke up at 5am on Saturday. My legs were still tight, my quads, hamstrings, and hip flexors were still sore, and I was still very nervous.
All my rolly tools got some great use on Friday!
Race Morning
I woke up at 5:00, did my thing, and then at 5:45 I left Cam's house to head over to Busse Woods, where the race would be. It was only a 15 minute drive and I'd been there they day before for my brick workout, so I knew exactly which Grove I had to go to because I saw them setting up. I ended up parking about half a mile from the start, and I was glad I had my bike on the back of my car because it meant I was able to ride from my car to the packet pickup, grab my stuff, and then ride back to my car. I ran into a few Zurich people on the way (remember, this was a company sponsored race), so I knew who to look for when I got back.

After I re-mounted my bike on the car, changed my shoes (almost forgot to do that) and got my FlipBelt ready, I grabbed my breakfast - standard pre-race Clif Bar with natural peanut butter - and started eating as I walked. I still had 45 minutes until the 5k started, so a group of us chatted and Mary Beth (from my running group) and I took some selfies. I was so glad she was there because it was a nice little culmination of the program we coached:

How adorable are all of her freckles!?!
While we were standing there, Beth asked what kind of pace I was going to keep for the race. She said something about an easy pace and I laughed (very nervously) and said, "Well...I'm trying to PR. How does a 9:55 min/mile sound?"

She looked at me like I was crazy and then said, "I will keep that pace with you as long as I can!" (Because she's crazy awesome like that!).

We said the pledge and sang the national anthem (actually, we listened to a really cool recording of it), and then watched the half marathoners go off before we lined up for the 5k.

Beth and I made our way to the very front of the pack (because we could, not because we're super was selfish of me, but because I was trying to PR I didn't want to have to dodge around people at the start of the race, I decided they could dodge me! The front worked out for that :P We hung out for the three and a half minutes before they let us go, and then we were off!

The Race
I can tell you one thing with absolute certainty - because I didn't know what a 9:55 pace felt like (ya know, since I've never run one consistently), I started WAY too fast. It takes my Garmin a few seconds to catch up, but after almost two minutes I will still seeing my pace in the 8:xx's, and I knew I had to pull back.

I kept pulling back slightly until I saw a pace I knew I could keep for a while, and I settled into a 9:05 for the first mile. I planned to bank some time because I knew there would be hills during miles two and three. The first and last miles of the course proved to be the 'easiest' (I still felt like dying on the last mile). I won't lie, my legs were sore and ached, and were burning in no time. I've already told you - they'd been overworked for days at this point, and they were tired.

So you know what I thought of? I thought of the Hustle Up the Hancock. I thought to myself, 'This is like the Hustle. It will be hard. You know how hard this is. This is your 120 floors instead of 94. Just keep your legs moving for thirty minutes and when you're done and you stop you'll feel like you're on top of the world again.'

I was right. It was just like the Hustle. I knew from the start that my heart rate would soar the entire time, that my body would hurt and burn for at least half a mile, but that it was not indefinite. The race was 3.1 miles, and I could finish it.

I ticked the first mile off at 9:04. Good. Plenty of time banked. I had a good 55 second buffer for those hills.

The next mile was much harder. There's a bridge that goes over Higgins Road, and I realized I'd be running over it before 1.5 miles, and then back over it before the last mile. That was going to be tough. It's a gradual but steep ascent from ground level on the left, and then a quicker and steeper ascent on the right, and not friendly on a bike or by foot:
The course ran from left to right over this bridge, turned around about half a mile later, then took us back over from right to left.
I came down from the bridge right before I hit 1.5 miles, and my lungs felt like they were spasming. I had a stitch growing in my side, and the impact from coming down the hill made it so bad that I was forced to stop and walk to catch my breath.

I gave myself fifteen seconds to calm my lungs and heart rate a little, and then I picked the pace up again. I had a feeling I would need to repeat this after I passed back over the bridge, so I pushed myself to the turn around, and then back to the bridge, knocking the second mile out in 9:35 as I went.

Just after hitting mile two I was back climbing the bridge and I pushed up, passing a number of people as I went. I feel like I never pass anyone when I run, so this gave me a little mental boost.

However, right as I crested the bridge I felt winded by the stitch again, so I slowed to a walk. This time I only gave myself ten seconds before I picked up again - I didn't want to lose the momentum of the downhill, I wanted to keep banking time, and I knew I was on the last mile.

At this point, I was also pretty sure the course would run long. Right at the end of the bridge there was a sign indicating the last "Mission Mile", and my Garmin said I was already at 2.25 miles. Great. I just hoped my legs had the extra .15 in them:

That's obviously not me :P
I also knew at this point that this one mile was going to be a push and a struggle. I knew the last mile was going to tell me what I was made of, and that I would want to quit and walk the entire thing.

I have a couple "official" photos to share from this race, and two of them were taken at the same point on the out and back. I can't believe I'm going to post such an awful photo of myself...but I am. The photo on the left is from about a half mile into the race, and I'm running pretty strong at my 9:05 pace. The second picture would have been taken about half a mile from the finish...and I was feeling it. All I wanted to do was stop and walk. Enjoy:
I mean...I'm pretty sure it looks like I'm dying in that photo on the right. Right?

I decided to take one more walk break around 2.75. I knew I was nearing the end, but I was so fatigued and knew I had enough time to recuperate slightly with a short walk. I gave myself another 10 seconds, that kicked my pace up for the last half mile (because the course ran long).

As I went, my Garmin ticked off my third mile at 9:30, giving me a negative split from mile 2 (and those hills).

The remainder of the course was flat as a pancake, and I knew it. Busse Woods is my stomping ground...I knew that last half mile, and I knew it was the part of the trail I like most. I just had to keep chugging along and I'd be done in no time. There were two people in front of me and I kept pace with them, trying not to think about how much I wanted to stop and lay down.

Just before the finish there were three volunteers (I'm not sure what branch, active or veteran, etc) in their fatigues waving us over the road to the finish. I barely managed to thank them as I went past - all of my energy was propelling my legs forward towards the timing mat.

And finally I crossed:
Another glamour shot for you :P
I know...I look so relieved to be done.

I stopped my Garmin and looked down:

Not only did I beat my previous PR (31:42)...I completely CRUSHED IT.

Even though I immediately grabbed water and went to sit in the grass, I was so ecstatic. I had signed up for the PR challenge months ago with the intention of using heart rate training to get there, but never "had the time" for speed work. And yet somehow all of the slow running and cross training and lifting got me there.

Even with sore legs and having "failed" at that open water swim days before, I had enough confidence to still attempt this PR, and not give in and let it be an easy run instead.

Running is also a mental game you play with yourself, and I was able to push myself to accept thirty minutes of struggle to accomplish something I really wanted.
How cool is that medal too??
I earned this medal. All 30 minutes and 16 seconds made it so worth it to me to be able to text my friends and family (and post to my various Facebook groups) saying, "I did what I didn't think I could."

I need to start doing more "Official" photos at these things!!
I was in for another surprise as well: It didn't even occur to me until hours later that, because the course ran long, my actual 5k split was lower than 30:16. So I finally looked at the records on my Garmin and it showed that my split was actually...


I ran a sub-30 5k. Like...actually finished 3.1 miles in less than thirty minutes. I mean, I blew past 30 minutes and was barely over 29 minutes! That totally shocks me, because not only was it not on my radar, but I didn't think it was possible (without targeted training) before I did it.

So my next goal?

An official sub-29 5k time.

But that can definitely wait until after the marathon.


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

OWS - Open Water Swimming: "What if I can't?"

Warning...wall of text, coming your way! Sorry...kinda hard to take pictures under water when you don't own anything waterproof to take them with!

**Oh...before I start. Almost a month ago (I can't believe it's been that long) I wrote this post and mentioned another blogger. I want to say that she reached out to me about things and apologized that her advice sounded unsupportive.

I appreciated the gesture, and I wanted to mention it here because it meant a lot to me not only that she apologized, but to know that she never meant for her advice to sound negative. So, triathlete to triathlete, things are good there.** open water swim (OWS) last Wednesday.

To refresh you with what I said in my training recap:

I'm going to show you the log so you can see a few how my Garmin stopped mid way through and I literally just noticed as I pulled the picture in to post this. Wtf...
Okay, whatever. But seriously, like the bike on Monday, nothing went right with this swim except that I finished. I ended up working way too hard, and I'll get into all of that in a later post.

And this is that later post!

I suppose one good thing is that my Garmin did stop at 558 yards, which meant I didn't feel like dying over 558 yards, but actually over what was likely a half mile (880 yard) distance. Whoopee. The course is the same one used for the sprint distance Lake in the Hills triathlon, which I considered signing up for, but decided not to.

I want to preface all of this by saying I've swum in open water before, but the last time was a fair four years ago on a tiny lake in northern Wisconsin. The distance was about the same - half a mile, and I managed it in something like 30 minutes:
I swam from the pier at the bottom of the picture to that little patch of sand directly across from it.

Though I don't think there's a need for me to say it, I'm going to: I am in way better shape now and before this swim I would have said I was way more prepared for something like this.

And I totally ate shit during it. Like, if you can do that during a swim. I debated whether or not to post about how badly this went for me, but it was bad, and the point of this here blog is to chronicle the good and the bad.

Prep Time

I'll start by saying I got there any every.single.person had a wetsuit. So I immediately felt like the odd girl out with just my tri suit. I wanted to test a run in the shorts after the swim, which is why I wore them.

I spent a few minutes talking to a woman wearing a Chicago Triathlon swim cap - she was really nice and said the Chicago Tri is pretty well organized and the crowd is good and said it will be a fun first tri. She was super chill about everything and really made me happy that I chose Chicago for my "first" tri. She also mentioned that I'm interested in getting a wetsuit there are tons of options out there and I could probably get one on discount. Talking to her put me at ease, and I wish I'd seen her at the end to thank her for all the great advice.

(One thing's for sure...after this swim, the last fear I have now is transitions...)

There was also a tri coach there who was gave a brief safety course about OWS and gave some great pointers - like how to sight bouys without losing momentum and how you won't drown if you're in a wetsuit. She talked about knowing what kind of gear you need for your race - like reflective/tinted goggles if you're swimming into the sun and that if you can wear a wet suit, you should. Honestly, until this OWS, getting a wetsuit wasn't even on my radar.


Getting Wet

After the talk I wandered down to the lake and got ready to head in. I could barely see the bouy that marked the turn about 200 yards out because they had put out tiny safety bouys, not the big ones used for races, which look like the giant orange triangle in this picture:

Plenty of other people were swimming towards it though, so I just followed the pack. I did pretty well for that first 200. Looking back at the data, I actually swam a fairly consistent 2:30-2:40/100yd for the entire thing, and clearly my Garmin was confused. The problem was that I barely swam any front crawl. More on that as we go.

My plan going into this was to conserve energy by pulling myself with my arms and not really kicking. It's a strategy that works great in a pool, but I learned quickly that there's a lot more going on in open water that will induce your body to sink. So that plan failed right away, and I was kicking along, just like I didn't want to.

Anyways, that first 150 yards were fine. I kept a consistent crawl, breathing every third stroke, but somewhere between 150 and 200 I started breathing every other stroke to my right - which is significant. You see, the sun was to the left and I did not have reflective goggles, so it was really difficult for me to see and I kept getting blinded when I tried to breathe facing left. So I was breathing to the right, when my left arm was down in the water - and my left side is far weaker and more awkward to breathe on that my right (thanks, labral tear).

So around 200 yards I began to panic a little. I was kicking too hard to make up for the stability I was losing when I breathed, and as a result I needed to breathe more often - which uses up energy.


Just before the first turn I switched to breast stroke to help catch my breath, but I was definitely panicking. My heart rate skyrocketed and it became even harder for me to breathe - which FYI, when you're in the water is like the scariest shit that can happen. I turned the bouy and was now looking directly into the sun. I was still breast stroking which was bad because it meant I was looking straight into the sun frequently, and I couldn't sight the next bouy at all.

So I did the only thing that was logical - I started to crawl again. And I instantly felt like I was sinking, and fast. Annnnd I panicked some more.

There was only one thing left to do: Get out of the water!

I'm kidding.

What I really did was flip onto my back and backstroke. And I'll note for anyone who doesn't swim that this is actually what you're supposed to do if you can't keep up a stroke face down. It is an actual safety measure you're suppose to take.

But after only 200 yards. I felt like I had majorly failed.

The thought seriously crossed my mind to get out of the water. It went a bit like this in my head:

20 yards to shore? Maybe I should just swim over to that person's back yard, get out, and then walk around the lake. Eff this swimming crap.

I'm tired.

I'm fatigued.

I can't breathe.

I don't want to do this.

What if I can't do this?

What if one of those life guards has to come rescue me because I'm an idiot and thought I was capable of this? Why did I sign up for this race? Why the...fuck...the distance for Chicago is twice as far as this course. What was I thinking? I can't do this. Why am I doing this? Why am I putting myself through this. I should have just stuck with running. A marathon will be easy compared to a summer of this swimming crap.

I will never complain about running or biking ever again. When you run and bike and it's hard and you feel like dying you can just stop. When weights are too heavy during lifting you can just drop them. But out here...fuck. I can't stop. I'll die.

What if I can't? Seriously.

What if I can't...?

Clearly I had a lot of time to think about how much I hated my life during the swim. It was the first time I truly questioned signing up for the triathlon.

But I kept swimming until the next turn (about where my Garmin cut out) at which point swimming 20 yards to shore and walking around the lake was no longer an option.

I had to swim back to my start point.

At this turn I was also able to switch from my back to my front. I breast stroked for a little while, and then attempted a sad crawl for a bit too. It was not pretty.

But I made it back to shore. I was tired, my heart was still racing, and I was hungry (dumb swimming always makes you hungrier than anything else).

I thought there was supposed to be a three mile run after the swim (Splash 'n' Dash) but there wasn't, so I just grabbed my stuff and headed for my car. I needed to process what I had just "failed" at.

When I got home I attempted to run with Nigel, but my legs weren't having it. They had worked way harder than I intended during the swim, and I only made it a mile before I gave in and decided to go shower the lake water off of my body.

The Next Day

I let myself feel bad about it for the night. I complained to my mom. I called Papa Bender and told him I didn't think I could do it. I called Cam and told him I'd been beat by that stupid lake. I texted a friend from work and told him I barely survived.

And then Thursday morning, at 4:30, I still got out of bed to go to the gym and lift. I was going to pick myself up with those weights.

Thursday night I knew I had to make a decision about myself.

I pulled out my journal (something I do only when things are bad or I need a boost to work through my thoughts) and I started writing. I had to decide. Would I be the person to give up because I was scared? Because I had those moments when I thought 'I can't, I can't, I can't'? Or did I actually mean 'I don't want to put in the work I now know I need to'?

Bingo to the latter. So I decided:

I will be the person who works hard to own this.

I thought swimming would be the easy part of this triathlon thing. I was so obviously wrong. Now, I get the Opportunity to work to correct that mistake.

On Friday morning I bought a wetsuit. I didn't care what I had to pay. I got online, found a 'beginner' suit with good reviews, and plugged in my AmEx number. I bought some reflective/tinted goggles while I was at it. No more killer glare for this girl.

Though I am in no hurry to wade into that lake again, next Wednesday at 6pm, I will put on that wetsuit and do it because that is what my training schedule says I am going to do. And it says it on a couple other days now too. On those days, I will swim in that open water until my arms fall out of my shoulder sockets if I have to.

And when I think I 'need' to stop during these open water swims, I am going to turn my brain into The Little Engine That Could and I am going to keep chugging along.

I have said from the beginning that the first step is believing I can do these things.

Well, damnit, I believe I can do this. I believe I can own this. I am going to show myself that I can be great.


Monday, June 6, 2016

Chicago Triathlon Training: Week One

Welcome to Week One of my training recaps! I hope, at some point, to post my training schedule and how I came up with it (since it combines both marathon and tri training), but I wasn't able to do that before I actually started!

Each week I'll trade in my workout recap for a training recap. I missed my last few weeks of recaps anyways, so we'll call it a wash and get started here, and I'll do my best to update each Monday.

Monday - bike (ride from hell), lift, swim
Ahh Memorial Day. Though I got out there and did it all before my Grandpa's birthday party, it was incredibly frustrating to start! Stick with me through this, because the rest of the days' recaps are quick.

I actually began to think the world was trying to stop me from getting out on my bike. First I couldn't get the bike rack on my car, then I couldn't find a bike lock anywhere. It took me over half an hour just to leave my house. When I finally got to my start point and checked my tire pressure, I realized I really need a new innertube because my front tire went totally flat as I was trying to inflate it. I succeeded in getting it all squared away though...and then forgot to cap my tire. Lovely.

I did a few loops around the parking lot, cringing at my squeaky brakes (got those fixed later!) and it was time to hit the trail.

Although it took me over an hour, I was finally on my bike riding. And less than three miles in (but after I'd gone over the first hill that I was glad I wouldn't have to see until the end...) I realized:

I forgot my water bottle.

Shortly thereafter, a bug tried to feed itself to me...which made me want the water more. I thought about turning around, but I really didn't want to go back up that hill, it wasn't ungodly hot, and it was a short ride at only 50 minutes. I knew there were water fountains along the way so I decided to just forge on.

And then I had to stop because my shoe lace got stuck in my gears. Yeah. I'm just glad I didn't die.

I reached the first turn for water and started pedaling up, up, up, up, up (and then got off my bike and walked the rest of the way) a hill. At the top I went to the water fountain, pumped it a little and then...nothing.

Because it was Memorial Day weekend and the city hadn't turned on the water fountains yet. I hoped for better with my next stop (I was disappointed).

Aside from stupidly squeaky brakes, the rest of the ride was okay. I had another water let down on my return (I stopped at a park and it was the same deal - outside water hadn't been turned on yet). It made me very glad it was a short and relatively cool ride - I was able to get away without any water, but I certainly don't plan on doing that any time every again.

When I did get back to my car I glugged some water and Nuun and then got myself ready to go to the gym.

But anyways...the ride got done...somehow. At this point, I'm just glad I didn't flip over my handlebars or get a flat or anything!

The last sad thing to happen to me was when I got back in my car and realized my favorite sunglasses had broken. I literally picked them up and went to put them on and...crack. :(

After my bike ride, I jumped in the car and drove to the gym to both lift and swim. My lifting went well but I definitely noticed some struggle after propping myself up on the bike for 50 minutes (and you'll notice the my bench sucks):

Swimming wasn't on my training plan, but I wanted to fit it in just to make sure I was comfortable with front crawl for the entire distance (1/2 mile) since I had an open water swim coming on Wednesday. I hadn't done 900 yards front crawl without any rest breaks for a while,  so I clocked them in, easy peasy (my Garmin was nice enough to comp me 25, lol):
All I have to say is...lololololol. You'll understand when I post about the swim later.

Tuesday - early morning run
The logistics of this run were simple. I got up, got dressed, and went outside for an out and back. But it was hard to get out there, and I have to say that after C25k I can honestly say I prefer that 35 minutes of driving to my run rather than getting out of bed and going for it right away. It's nice to have that extra time in the car to wake up! I need to get over it though, because wake-up-and-run will be my anthem this summer! are the details:
I pushed it a bit at the end to see what a fasted pace would feel like for my race on Saturday, and it felt good, which gave me some confidence about PRing my 5k distance.

All of that confidence went away after Wednesday.

Wednesday - open water swim, 3 1 mile run
The bulk of this will be its own post.

I'm going to show you the log so you can see a few how my Garmin stopped mid way through and I literally just noticed as I pulled the picture in to post this. Wtf...
Okay, whatever. But seriously, like the bike on Monday, nothing went right with this swim except that I finished. I ended up working way too hard, and I'll get into all of that in a later post.

And the run? Nevermind that. My legs were killing me from the swim, and I tried for the run but only made it about a mile before giving up from how badly they ached, and not being able to get my heart rate under control (still). I also started my Garmin late. Bah. Can't win 'em all though:
It was not a good training day, and certainly not something I needed in the first week of training! Okay, maybe it was (in the long run) but it wasn't how I needed to feel about the first week of training.

Thusday - lifting 
Thursday I was able to get to the gym and boost my defeated mood just a little after the open water swim. I lifted legs, back, and abs, although I backed off on the weight for deads and squats just a bit because I had a race I wanted to PR on Saturday.

I shouldn't have bothered taking those 20 lbs off though, my legs were sore as hell right through the weekend!

Friday - brick 40/40
It was the first week of summer hours on Friday, so I left the office at 1:30 and headed over to a forest preserve near work for my bike-run brick (the first of the season!). I was slated for a 40 minute bike followed by a 40 minute run. Here's the summary:
The bike wasn't too bad (no problems getting started!), but my legs were definitely very sore from Thursday's lifting. At this point, I started to worry about my race on Saturday, and did my best to pace myself with what felt good for my legs. I biked just over 11 miles, averaging 15.8 mph, which was decent.

The run was way tougher mentally. I transitioned at my car, locking my bike back up and changing my shoes, and I grabbed a water bottle with Nuun since it was hotter than hell out (~85 Farenheit). I walked a few paces from my car and then started my run, a simple out and back that took me 3.36 miles. Somehow I managed to actually run the whole thing, only walking briefly after each mile to slurp on my water bottle because of the heat. I really don't know how I ran all of it...just determination, I guess! And honestly, for the heat and the ride and the soreness, my splits weren't awful!
This brick actually made me feel pretty good about myself, given the bike and OWS earlier in the week. But I was still really nervous about trying to PR my 5k the next day...

Saturday - Volition America 5k, 4 miles...and an ice bath
I'll post a race recap later (because what a race!), but just know I did my 5k, and then jogged/walked 4 miles as a "cool down". Haha. I only did it because I had 7 miles on the schedule for Saturday, and I wanted to make sure I got them all in. My legs were completely shot after the race though and my hamstrings felt crampy and sore, so I took it easy. Here's the recap of those four long miles:
After four tough days, I decided to treat my legs and hips to an ice bath:
I added a little more water after I took this picture.
It was effing cold. Although, note to everyone, if you're going to do this you'll need about 44 lbs of ice. I used one 22 lb bag and it melted really quickly. Don't get me wrong, the water was still cold, but it could have been colder the whole way through.

Sunday - tech swim .8
I originally thought Sunday was supposed to be a cross train day and I was going to go to yoga, until I saw that I had a swim to get done. There was a tri coach at the open water swim on Wednesday and I decided to take her advice and do a build workout. I did the following:

  • 300 yard warm up (mix of crawl and breast stroke)
  • 25 hard, 25 easy (15 sec rest between)
  • 50 hard, 50 easy (20 sec rest between)
  • 75 hard, 75 easy (25 sec rest between)
  • 100 hard, 100 easy (30 sec rest between)
  • 200 hard, 200 easy (40 second rest between)
  • 200 cool down
Garmin jipped me on 100 yards during my 100 easy!
I also had my first 100 under 2 minutes!
It'll be nice to see some consistency and get my 200 under 4 minutes as well :)

Afterwards, I made lots of baked goods and got a massage...because I effing earned it!

And there you have it!
Week one of training, in the books. I'm happy to say I'm already used to this level of activity, and it's kind of nice not trying to decide what to do every day. I like that I have a plan that tells me what to do.

Anyways...only 11 weeks left ;)