Archive for the ‘Racing’ Category

Well, it’s been a sufficiently long time since I raced in the Age Group World Championships for Triathlon in Auckland, NZ.  I thought it might be time for a recap.  Obviously, had I WON THE WHOLE THING, I probably would have posted a bit sooner.  So, just to kill the excitement, you should know… the race wasn’t spectacular.
On some basic level, it’s worth noting that I think the course favors a cyclist who climbs hills a lot.  Needless to say, not me 🙂
The Day
On October 22, 2012, I raced in the Age Group World Championship Olympic Distance triathlon.  It was a mild day after several days of storm which continued to ravage the Auckland bay in which we would be swimming.  The chilly conditions had Team USA nervous at our team meeting the day before, but I decided to stick with my plan and raced in my all too cute 1-piece tri unisuit.  Clearly built for function over form 🙂
My wave started with a 20 minute delay.  The whole day was delayed in fact because the sprint course had gone before us and the swim course had to be remarked.  I knew the swim wouldn’t be easy because I could see the wind picking up the water in the far distance where I knew I’d be swimming.  The result was “ok”– I posted a great time comparatively but not absolutely.  My time was, in fact, 5 minutes slower than my PR for a 1 mile swim owing at least in part to the 4-5 foot swells in the bay off the coast of Auckland where we were swimming. I held on by citing the swimmers in front of me, rather than buoys that I could only see on the off chance I was breathing and not at the depth of a swell simultaneously.  Because I couldn’t see the buoys, I defaulted to quite a bit of vertical… “meerkat swimming.” This should be self explanatory but if not, here you go–
Though, I’m not that cute :-/ Needless to say, I was exhausted getting out of the water.
Then, to my unpleasant surprise, I found that we had to run AROUND transition to get into the gate at the far end of the pier, at the end of all the competitors’ bikes.  The reason for this is totally logical– there was no way OUT on the other side.  To avoid have mass chaos, one side had to be entry and the internal side (the part connected to the land) had to be the exit.  Still. Annoying.  In my case, that added 3.5 minutes to each transition!  Argh. I didn’t even consider the lengthy transition at the time because I was just exhausted and I generally try to avoid the whole self-pity thing in races– it rarely helps.
Woe. Is. Me.  Ok, I say I TRY to avoid self pity, sometimes, it’s inevitable.  The bike course, for me, was a disaster.  So, I got on the course trying to relax, get warm again, and just feel fluid.  It didn’t start too badly– I did get warm and fluid just in time to hit the first of… 8 hills.  I got through the first 4 and felt… hurty. I was sore from clenching in the cold, sore from non stop climbs and even the descents were a little less than awesome because each ended in a sharp turn– so I couldn’t carry any momentum beyond the descent 😦  Beyond the physical strain, which I was simply unprepared for, I hit an unusual mental strain– my clock was reading a pretty disastrous race time.  I hadn’t noticed how long my swim or the transition had taken but I did take not of my bike lap finish with 13 more miles to go– it was ugly.  So, that said, I headed out for loop 2.  The first hill hurt but I got it done, the next one was incredibly painful with my old hip injury flaring up because of the stupid muscle pulls I was feeling in my legs.  But the 3rd hill was…. bad. As soon as I hit the hill, I JUMPED my gear down as far as possible to release my muscles.  Not only did that BARELY help but in addition, my chain fell off.  UGH!  I pedaled into a plateau for a moment so I was actually able to get the chain back into place with some quick pedaling and shifting.  However, when you do that you always run the risk that you set up your gears incorrectly which I had clearly done because ont he 4th, it dropped again… and this time I had to get off the bike to fix it.  From there- you can imagine, I was not the happiest kid on the course. From that point, I did my best to thank volunteers, smile at cameras, and basically just wish and hope that I could be off the bike as soon as humanly (maybe a faster human than I) possible.  I transitioned to the run and basically just jogged out my tired muscles.
Transition 2
At least this time I wasn’t surprised, but it took a really, really long time.  We’re talking over 4 minutes in total. I promise, I wasn’t having glass of wine at my bike, really!  It was just a long way to run… twice.
My body was so sore that my chest and lungs weren’t- a clear sign that I wasn’t able to work hard enough to get into the cardiovascular system, which  is where my system tends to do best.  I’ve mentioned this in the past but my type of fitness is about performing at a good level when most other people have worn out– that means my heart can keep up at a pretty decent pace even when I’ve been going pretty hard for along time.  This had the feel (to me) more like a sprint because my muscles were simply super saturated.  Going harder made me wobble on my sore quads instead of dig into my chest/lungs for more air.  I wasn’t at the point of breathing insanely hard because my silly legs were just incapable of giving more speed.  Lame.
Clearly… this was not my best race. I finished in a whopping 20 minutes from my PR– but considering the choppy swim 5 mins slower than my pr, 5 minute transitions instead of 1 and a dropped chain? I don’t think it was actually as bad as it appeared on paper.  It was however, as bad as it felt.  Blech 🙂
The COOL PARTS?  It was AMAZING to rep the USA.  I loved getting cheered on by the Aussies and Kiwis and others, who clearly weren’t American but it didn’t matter.  They were all cheering “GO USA” as I ran by.  I also had an awesome fan cheering me on the whole time!  James actually saw me about 6 times over the course of the event.  There are LOTS of [super attractive  wet dog, tired cyclist, pathetic runner] pictures!  He was an awesome supporter 🙂
Now the crazy fun highlights? Those were all on the South Island of NZ.  I’ll give you just a taste:

The title makes neither common nor grammatical sense but that’s ok, it’s Tuesday.  I don’t love Tuesdays.

Lobsterman 2012 was a really fun race!  Before I really considered myself a “triathlete” (2010), I borrowed a bike, biked to and swam in Walden Pond a few times over the summer, and completed this race as my first every Olympic distance triathlon.

There are a few reasons it’s a “repeat” for me– 1. It was my first and you know, there’s nothling like your… first.  2. It has a lobster bake– and people who like to sit on the ground in spandex and eat Lobster after kicking some serious butt in a race are my kind of people.  And 3. It looks like this–

This is the only race, therefore, that I feel I can compare apples to apples from one year to the next.  So, without further ado- I present– 3 years of race results!

2010: 2:35 Overall Time
193rd Place Overall
24th Female
1st of 9 in my Age Group
Swim: 22:54
Bike: 1:23 (11.4mph)
Run: 46:50 (7:30)

2011: 2:27 Overall Time
48th Place Overall
5th Female
1st in Age Group
Swim: 24:57
Bike: 1:16 (19.5mph)
Run: 43:33 (7:02min/mi)

2012: 2:23 Overall Time
57th Overall (Fast field!)
5th Overall Female (yet again!)
1st in Age Group
Swim: 21:18 (1:18/100m– if this isn’t an advertisement for my swim club, I don’t know what is…)
Bike: 1:13 (20.5 mph)
Run: 45:30 (7:19 min/mi)

The final delta is 12 minutes faster than 3 years ago, 4 minutes faster than last year… AND… I’ve been injured!  Not altogether terrible 🙂  (Let’s get that RUN in shape now, eh?!?!)

This is my take-home message: while I’ve been injured a lot of the season, running very little, I’ve managed to make up for that.  I’ve ALWAYS said, don’t waste time on your strength in Triathlon; rather, focus on your weakness. this is in stark contrast to what I’ve done this season.  Without being able to run and with my hip bothering me a bit on the bike, too– my most consistent training has been in the pool.  And wow… it works.  Granted, I don’t putz in the pool.  My workouts aren’t long either though.  I stick to a hard pace, very little rest and really pushing it.  I don’t swim a lot- during the broken ankle incident I was up to 4 times a week?  Now I’m dialed back to just 2.  However, those workouts are really solid.  This morning’s was a 1000 meter warm up and drill, followed by this:
2 x (400HARD, moderate 8 x 50)
2 x (200 HARD, moderate 4 x 50)
2 x (100 HARD, moderate 2 x 50)

The whole set was 3800 meters and the majority of the pace was 1:25/100meters (not yards).  I was DEAD by the last 100. And if you’re not? You’d better be going for longer than I was 🙂 I think the key is to understand how to maximize your time and sustain the RIGHT effort for that time.  If I were training for Iron distances, I would need LONGER swims.  If I needed more distance I would slow down my pace.  I wouldn’t have swum so much this year but not only did I have to… stupid injury… but I also LOVE my team!  I swim with a talented group of mixed-age masters swimmers.  They absolutely ROCK the pool at 5:30am most mornings.  I’m there as much as I can be and no matter what I’m doing next season, I’m signing on for another year of the team because I can’t fudge these numbers– clearly swimming is keeping me in awesome (or well, good enough) shape.

I’ve fared MUCH better this season than I would have anticipated in May.  In May, I thought I’d re-break my ankle during a transition in a race, not kidding.  I was afraid I’d actually try to unclip from my pedal and crack the ankle all over again because the whole joint felt so weak and fragile.  But nope!  With a little faith and a LOT of slow work, I’ve manged to recover about as well as anyone might have imagined I think.  I’m pretty psyched. I’d like to be a lot faster in NZ for World Championships, but I have a good training plan,I’m working toward a well executed race, and I have a fan coming to watch :)– so I’m pretty sure,  I’ll have a great time.  Proud of 2012 thus far!

Larry, the Lobster, and me 🙂

My pseudo National Championships recap briefly mentioned a struggle in the bike portion.  It’s not that struggling in a race is uncommon; in fact? it’s generally the case, physically, anyway. I race because I love to race, I love to feel fast and I really, really like to compete.  Therefore, I recognize that no matter what I do, racing will also, on some level, hurt.  That’s how it works!  The indicator of a good racer is not the lack of physical struggle he or she confronts but rather, how well they can sustain the hurt.  Yes yes, it sounds masochistic.  Well, it is! Training for triathlon is not intended to make it so that races don’t hurt; it’s to enable you to sustain physical depletion better than the next guy (or girl).  Maybe you’d disagree- I’m open to other opinions but I’m pretty sure athletes generally agree on this point.

But that isn’t the point of this post.  Clearly, races tire you out, make your quads scream, make your hamstrings lose their spring left– let alone your lungs’ lacking air and your chest’s tightness in the last 1 mile “sprint” at the end of an olympic-distance triathlon.  My struggle at Nationals on the bike was two-fold– my injured hip/glute felt broken– I had shooting pains from my  lower back through to my shin.  Yep, it wrapped around my right side.  No one likes racing injured… I especially dislike it.  The real, technical, holding-me-back struggle however was mental.  The combination of the injury and a few key passes by girls I didn’t think would pass me… well, that began to deplete the one part of me that I’ve always thought as a forte– my mental game.

My mental game often requires dancing to my ipod… pre race. I’m not embarrassed… perhaps I should be…

The mental game can make or break races for me.  When I raced in both swimming and kayaking, the mental game was crucial.  I was known for racing in practice (teammates LOVED that… no wait… they didn’t).  But the reason I did was because I wanted to know I could pull ahead, I wanted to know I had a kick left, all I needed was the knowledge. I had to practice to build that confidence but eventually I could train myself to start as the slowest in the group knowing that my kick would, in the end, beat everyone else’s.  That was predominantly mental– it wasn’t really about fitness.  It was about confidence and… well.. surprising the hell out of my teammates with 150 meters left in a 500 at Nationals for kayaking.  If you’re wondering what connects my various athletic endeavors– from gymnastics, to diving, to swimming to kayaking and eventually triathlon– it’s the mental edge.  I’ve worked my whole life to build the confidence I need to kick hard at the end.  To not get beat and to, as my 1BandID says, “Dig Deeper, Finish Faster.”

Nothing like a come-from-behind “win” (well, the heat anyway) in a 1600 swim race.

But when I fail at the mental game, I fail. Hard. And, I need help. I came up to the 10 mile mark at Nationals feeling ok, with just 15 miles to go.  The pain was tolerable, the hills weren’t atrocious, the wind was high (which is usually in my favor) so my mental state was steady.  Then I got passed.  Not by just anyone, but 2 girls, in my age group, neither of whom had worn wetsuits in the swim.  That, was bad news bears.  In that moment, I honestly felt that I wasn’t worthy of being at Nationals.  My mind wandered… my heart sank. I thought to myself, “what would happen if I just DNF’d (did not finish)?”  That was an unsuccessful line of thinking; if you’re ever considering it,  don’t.  I slowed down, I thought about how hard this race was, how much I had tried to train but couldn’t do enough because of my stupid injury.  I yelled at myself for being injured.  I thought about how no one would really care if I just coasted through the end and made this just basically a training ride.

Cycling’s never been my forte– those are the parts of the race when the mental game matters most! Physical weakness needs the most mental strength!

But somewhere, deep, down … was a much stronger voice.  It was most definitely my friends, my family, my teammates… it’s everyone I surround myself with daily.  They were all saying, “Who is this and what have you done with Julia?”  They know I could do better– they all know, I’m not a quitter.  Left to my own devices I was feeling incredibly depressed, sunk in my injury.  But no single person in my life would let me get away with “just coasting.”  So I leaned on their strength.  I thought about all my incredible friends who work their tails off– and not to win some arbitrary race, but because working hard feels incredible.  Because there’s reward in the simple knowledge that you made your own strides in a day.  My teammates kick butt in their workouts– partly to win some awesome races, of course– but partly because they just love working really hard.  There is nothing akin to the feeling of utter depletion.  Pushing yourself to a limit you didn’t know you had is the reward in and of itself.  Why would I squander this opportunity to work it, hard, all the way to the end?  I just couldn’t.  They wouldn’t let me. Right then, I told myself, “Buck up champ.  Racing isn’t about winning. Racing is about making it hurt… sustaining the hurt… and telling the tale after.”

At that moment, with the strength of all my friends, family and teammates, I turned it around.  I picked up my cadence, I refocused, and I took off after those two ladies in my age group.  And, with a mile to go in the bike, I passed them.  (In full disclosure, they caught me again on the run… but not for another 3 miles!)  And, everything about the race got INSTANTLY better when I decided to take it on, not give up, follow through to the end.  When I took my whiny self OUT of the equation and thought about how my awesome friends and family would all work their hardest in a similar situation, that they’d never give up and they’d never let me give up, I felt like I had the strength of 10 people.  It was incredible.

I submit that the next time you think you need to give up, you need to “just cruise” instead of working to your best ability in a race, a workout, a project– take yourself out of the equation.  Ask yourself what your friends would say to you– what your family might say (as long as it’s positive, people…) and then hit the RESET button.  Or at least, try.  Sometimes you don’t have it one day– that’s ok too.  But when you’re wondering whether you’ve got something more… ask your (imaginary? in-your-head) friends what they want you to do… and believe me, they want you to keep working to YOUR best. And if you ever need it, you can imagine that that is what I would tell you.  I’d say– “you got this… dig deeper, finish faster.”

I owe my friends and family and teammates SO much for their consistent encouragement, their own hard work and determination because it’s completely, awesomely contagious.  Keep it up guys, I need it 🙂

To be totally honest– this was a funny, fun, my-size Tri. An excellent production overall by FIRM racing. Although because the results page is down a few of my friends are hanging trying to figure out if they made their National qualification! In any event, I had a lot of fun today racing my first tri of the 2012 season.

Let’s get all the basic facts of the day out there:

1. I had no expectations. I couldn’t. I haven’t run for 2.5 months except in the pool and well, that wasn’t “running”– more like wiggling with a rhythm.

2. It was a pool swim? Sure, that’s great for a swimmer, yep. But, my flip turns turn to the left and we were snaking the pool to the right so, physically and mentally, it was strange. In addition, who swims under lane ropes? (well, ok, I do sometimes but that’s because I am the worst backstroker you’ve ever seen, it’s.. hilarious… to everyone else).

3. WEIRD distances. For any non-tri’ers reading this (unlikely…) but a sprint distance tri is variable– there isn’t a set distance. And this was a MINI tri. We all know short distances aren’t really my thing. I feel as though I “do well by attrition”– as if everyone else’s energy reserves just give out and mine just tend to stick around longer. Not SPEEDY energy reserves, just like an energizer bunny– or energizer turtle– steady. This tri was a 400 yard swim, 7 + mile bike, and a 2.3 mile run. Yep, how strange, I know.

4. I misplaced my helmet and found out around 12am when I got home from a Cinco de Mayo party. This whole sentence falls under “do as I say, not as I do.” #oops #badtriathlete

5. I never started my watch. #DoAsISayNotAsIDo. DUR. That was dumb.

6. This is the first race I’ve done on a triathlon bike. First ever trying to stay in aero. Only the 3rd time I’ve even been on the bike outside. That’s just worth thinking about as I consider how the race went.

The race itself went something like this:

5:30am: wake up 6am: determine I really didn’t have my helmet… receive text back from carpool buddy that he has one I can borrow. #Phew.

7am: Arrive at race, check in, say hi to teammates, drink water. (Had a banana pre-race, personally, can’t eat within 1.5 hrs of a race)

8:10: Swim! I seeded myself at a 4:40 for a 400 yd. I didn’t really consider the whole turning under lane ropes thing… I also decided to chat up the nice lady in front of me (partly because I knew she wasn’t in my age group thanks to age-labeled calves). She had seeded herself at 4:30! MUCH faster than me, which got me a little nervous. I really didn’t want to hold anyone up! But Jamie and I had talked about this whole conundrum. It takes a LOT to pass someone who starts 15s in front of you– possibly not possible within 400 yards. I realized that someone could potentially overtake me in a 400 but only if they were quite a bit faster and if that were the case, they would be intelligent enough not to seed themselves slower than me. Ergo, get over the fright, and swim your best. That, I did. Or tried to. The swim felt good. It’s weird to feel like you’re swimming through an obstacle course, but hey open water swimming can feel like that too. I made sure to have the energy reserves for the final 100— that was where I really picked it up. Until that point, I just held steady, thought about breathing every 3rd stroke and keeping an even kick. I pulled myself out of the pool and ran through the transition to my bike.

T1: Not bad! I got my cycling shoes on pretty quickly. Ran my bike out of T1… the wrong way. This was unfortunate; I just had no idea which way to go and all these spectators just stood and looked at me as I ran the wrong way… eventually a volunteer told me to turn (I only wasted a few seconds, it just always feels longer :).

Bike: Felt ummmmm HARD. I booked it. I made a decision that the course was SO short I would be in the big ring the whole time. That proved to be the right decision. Obviously had the course had more climbs or variable topography I would have changed my gameplan. No need to stick to some arbitrary race plan if it isn’t right, no matter the cause (maybe your quads are tight, maybe the sun is draining your energy– whatever it is, you should always take note of how you feel and adjust your race strategy if necessary). I didn’t pass anyone but I also knew there were only 22 people in front of me because I started 23rd in the pool. I then got passed by a wee one– I think a college kid who was wicked quick on the bike. That is no surprise to me– I get passed on the bike– a lot. You deal with it. It isn’t my strength and I know it. So I was pretty psyched that he was the only one to pass me!

T2: Hilariously bad. I just could NOT get my run shoes on. My feet had been wet in the cycling shoes coming straight from the pool so they were just too sticky to get into my shoes smoothly. With enough shoving (lurvely, I know), I got my shoes on, stepped into my race belt (no clipping and unclipping this time (stupid mistake at Nationals) and grabbed my hat to run out of T2.

Run: Welllll, here was the fun part. How was this going to feel? Dr. told me to jog. Coach told me to run/walk. I thought about doing both. I didn’t blast it by any means. I took it steadily and never raced my heart out. After all? My heart rate was AMPED through the whole race. I didn’t actually feel amazing, certainly NOT recovered at any point during the race. Nor should I have– you don’t get recover in this kind of race, it’s just not the point. You go hard, the whole time because it isn’t a half iron– it isn’t a cruise to maintain– it’s go hard or go home. So, I took it 1 stride at a time, careful to note how my ankle felt and making sure to avoid any tight turns. I passed 2 people during transition and the run. Neato.

Final? Not bad. Swim (with transition): 5:02 (with transition, that’s maybe a 1:12/100 pace?).

Bike: 20:59 (with long transition). 21 mph pace (ish, this is a guess- because of transition times)

Run: 15:19 (not sure about any transition time here, I don’t think so. I think both T’s were included in bike time). 6:39/mi pace.

Overall: 41:22. 1st Age Group, 4th Overall woman. Felt: Burnt! My chest was actually burning after I finished but that was a great feeling. I definitely worked it but didn’t do anything dumb (racing wise). Plenty to work on with the prep mistakes.

Yay podium!

(Classic “fitting” shot on my new-to-me Quintana Roo Seduza! Although the two main components (the bike and the jules) in this picture appear to be normal sized, it’s just an allusion; we’re just both mini. 🙂  More fun (funny?) pictures follow…)

As many cyclists and triathletes will admit, a professional bike fitting can ostensibly seem to be a big, unnecessary cost. We will also admit, that’s just not the case. Professional bike fitting is a bit of a nebulous term– the costs range dramatically between bike shops (and friends who know bikes “real well”) and the actual service itself ranges as well. There isn’t one, best way to ensure a great fit for a new or even old bike. That isn’t only because each person’s shape and flexibility is different but when you add the complex geometry of the bike, the differences between cyclists is exponential (or factorial, actually). I think women might best understand this by thinking about the ways that clothing fits… or doesn’t… even if technically a size 6 should just be a size 6, right? Yeah, I know, never that simple. Guys- your clothing is ridiculously simple so the analogy stops there.

Why get fit? A proper fit bike will make your time on the road and trail (or the race course) more enjoyable and maximize efficiency. Whether it’s a new or old bike, you could probably benefit from finding optimal riding position (even if it’s just YOU who’s changed and the equipment is the same). If that weren’t enough reason, a “fitting” is the type of initial cost that has a long term benefit in injury prevention– and let me tell ya– nothing is worse than being a sidelined athlete. Often things such as: saddle sores, sore knees, tweaked hips, lower back aches, shoulder strains and neck soreness are directly related to your bike fit. I don’t want to overpromise here (note: I’m not even a good cyclist let alone an actual bike fitter!), but I have also read and heard that a good, tight fit on the bike can lead to an overall increase in output by 10% (I presume this is talking about wattage). So, to recap you might consider a bike fitting if you’re a) new to the bike, b) dislike being injured, c) want to increase cycling efficiency or d) want to be faster. If you want none of these? well, you’re probably not reading this blog.

What is involved in a bike fitting? That depends.

1. The basic fitting: although it might vary a little from shop to shop, for the most part the basic fit will analyze the following:

  • Pedal-shoe interface (yep, this is actually variable      and can be optimized based on your quad/hamstring flexibility)
  • Seat height (fore/aft)
  • Cockpit sizing (handlebars, brakes, gear components)
  • Bar/stem height, length, rotation
  • Handlebar placement
  • Aerodynamic position
  • Proper Pedaling Mechanics–how to effectively pedal, so      the power will be transferred to the pedals.

Cost? Usually around $80-100. OFTEN this will be included in a bike purchase! So make sure to ask. It might be discounted if you spend some money on gear and equipment too. I’d say this is basically mandatory for anyone getting a new bike, but possibly insufficient for a seasoned cyclist looking to ameliorate aches/pains or improve pedal-to-power stroke.

2. The mid-level Option: The mid-level bike fitting is also completed by professional bike fitter. This fitting not only measures everything from a basic fit, but in addition adds in aspects of motion, flexibility, and angular momentum. Specifically, a professional fitter will look at your overall movement on the bike to see where you might have muscle imbalances (or flexibility differences), mobility, stability and strength (specifically core!) that will contribute to a great fit versus just an “ok” fit. These fittings span the gamut for price- you want to make sure this is going to be at least an hour’s session and just ask the bike shop what the fitting includes to make sure it’s really getting into the nit and grit of your cycling. The average costs I’ve seen? $150-$300. Communicate what you need and what you’re looking for and you’ll find that either a higher cost is justified (is the fitter recording the stroke and analyzing dynamically? might be worth a little more because then YOU get to see what he/she does!) or it’s a lower cost with less frills (just some extra expertise and dynamic analysis).  Either way, I’d actually say this is worth it if you’re going to be cycling more than once a week– no matter the distance. If you’re getting on your bike that consistently, a bad fit will be contributing to overall pain in other parts of your life. And why invite that? No need for discomfort (well, no more than what happens in daily, grinding workout sessions of course).

3. The High-Tech Option: There are really high tech fittings; these include clipping into your bike in a way that not only measures your power around the pedal stroke (watching for inconsistencies, or where the “waste space” of your pedal stroke is) but in addition this allows a sophistacated software system to understand where your flexibility is insufficient and should be “supplemented” by your position. The software/hardware combination does this by measuring the weight the foot is carrying around the stroke. Then in addition, they include the bike mechanics measurements included in the basic and pro fittings as well. These are completed by a professional bike fitter (certification is pretty stringent) and can run over $300 per hour. Yep, I know… that’s kind of pricey. Honestly, this isn’t money I (personally!!) would spend. This is because I know I could get a great (albeit slightly less fancy) fit for less, but also because I’m not talented enough to benefit from the delta in price (meaning, I might as well use the extra $$ to race some TT events and improve my handling). If you are a good to great cyclist– this might be a fun opportunity to explore your inefficiencies and improve your cycling in a way you are less likely to by cycling through the same motions that you have for multiple seasons. Fewer places offer something like this though, so it’s usually worth a quick google search (Aw, I know, you just wanted an easy link right? try this:

I have been incredibly fortunate to be introduced to a fantastic cycling couple– Don and Elaine Vescio who run the triathlon center VMPS, which I’ve mentioned before. Don and Elaine led computraining sessions I took part in all winter; they analyzed my pedal stroke, they told me to stop pedaling a bike that was too big for me, they let me borrow a bike when mine was stolen!, and have been incredible mentors in all things triathlon. In addition, Don helped me not only pick the bike I so badly needed in order to train and compete (to replace my sad stolen TREK) AND helped fit me to the bike. In fact, we are still working on optimizing the fit and the components to suit my exact needs! It was a laborious effort on Don’s part– it’s definitely a pro-fitting (and beyond, really), which he offers anyone for a very very reasonable rate and the time and care and expertise that he has are worth much more. And because we were having fun– we took some pictures! Good fit, right?? Pretty aggressive and tight and I’m lucky to have the flexibility for it (or so we hope!). I’ve only clocked ~100 miles on her, but I’m happy so far!

Tell me– what’s your experience? Is the bike fitting worth it? Are there tell-tale signs of a successful fitting? Any requests you’d make specifically to improve a fit?

Firstly– to my many friends and teammates who offered support and advice on my “awesome” aqua yogging experience, thank you!!  Check it out.  It’s what cool injured athletes do!

So this is just a quick post to recap the fun times had at the Boston Multisport Expo held a few weeks ago.  I attended the fun (and free!) expo on behalf of both teams I’m lucky to be part of– my local multisport team is Wheelworks Multisport and my national team is Rev3 Triathlon.  For the most part, I was there to help spread the word about the AWESOME northeast races sponsored by Rev3 this year– one is the June 2-3 festival in Quassy, CT (which I’m doing, hooray!) and the other is in my old college (ish) stomping grounds of Maine!!  Old Orchard Beach is a really fun, scenic area and I’d encourage anyone to try this out– there’s even an all-women’s portion of the Olympic-distance race!  I’ll definitely be at the race, still determining if I’ll be racing or volunteering.

When I wasn’t repping for my teams, I was cavorting with my awesome Rev3 and Wheelworks Teammates!  Jordan, Jen and Jamie are all really talented, motivating triathletes. Triathlete or not, you should check them out!  Their blogs are witty, honest and inspiring.  Look how professional they are:

Next year– you should go! I had several friends attend– some have never done a triathlon and it’s fun for everyone.  Great swag: Powerbar, NRGbar, Sports-type detergent, race entries, bike tuneups, and… really fun team events!  There were talks and clinics too! I missed most of those– sadly– but Mark Allen spoke about Half Ironman training necessities and taught a swimming clinic, which I heard was really well done for coaches and athletes alike.

So the other neat part of the day was the team “tri” competition. Wheelworks Multisport put together 3 teams of 4 people each to compete in the three events, which were: a 5k run, a 10k bike time trial and a 300 yard swim.  Our 5k-ers were amazingly quick, with one team member coming in 2nd overall woman with a 17m 5k.  Yeah, that’s right, SHE is really fast 🙂  I’m not totally positive about all our bike times, but they were good!  It’s really competitive especially for the run and bike.  I, with my sad broken ankle, decided on competing in the swim with Brendan, Rachel and Emma! Here is my wonky, broken ankle start:

Our team ended up 3rd overall in the swim, 8th overall with all sports combined.  But I was super psyched to learn that I posted the fastest female time! Wooo, fancy! I won a TYR transition bag! Thank you Boston Multisport!  The swim itself didn’t feel great— my breathing was off, I was nervous around the walls (I wasn’t pushing off my left ankle, so there was NO reason to be nervous) and overall I think I had just gone in and out of a good warm up zone. Not to mention– they were “counting” for us (and failing I might add, yes, that means the counters MIS counted), but even they were told to keep the counters OUT of the water.  When I asked “WHY” on early they would do that, my timer sniped back, “You’re triathletes, just sight!”  She meant– just lift your head up, 5 feet from a CONCRETE wall to read a number. For the record, this is NOT what happens in triathlons.  In a tri, your sighting is done 100 yards away (give or take, and you’re simply looking for a COLOR– a SPOT on the horizon (also known as a “beacon of f*%#ing hope” depending what kind of swimmer (or lack thereof) you ask).    Nonetheless, I was psyched to be part of the team– I love relays and we really had a good, relaxed time competing.  My time was a 3:24 which should mean nothing really– it’s a 300 yard swim– what is that distance?!  Next time I’m hoping we could do a full “normal”  500 yards, but apparently triathletes dislike this concept.

The multisport community is pretty amazing. Whether you’re new, or just an occasional visitor to triathlon, or simply just like to cross train– it’s a really inviting warm community.  I say this because my AWESOME friend Joe of 1BandID (GET ONE, they are AWESOME!) invited a big group of us amateur triathletes out with him AND Jessi Stensland— yep, that one.  She’s a rockstar PRO Triathlete currently owning the XTerra Circuit of triathlons.  She spends her days traveling the world, spreading good will and competing in triathlons. Totally inspiring. She was in town to give a dynamic body work seminar- which I’ve heard GREAT things about.  To take your body and your ability to the next level– I’d highly suggest checking out her company– MovementU.

Take home lessons: Come to the Multisport expo in 2013! And, Multisporters are incredible people. I love this community and feel so good being part of it.

Anyone else agree? Thoughts on crazy triathletes? Do you like these kind of expos? Or.. not? Find anything cool or unusual if you did attend Boston’s?

OK, maybe ‘math’ is a bit strong.  Maybe I should call this a “mental breakdown” but sounds really bad, right?  Right.

In my mind, when races, events, or training sessions get long, I need to start breaking them down.  In fact, if I don’t, I find that I just inevitably start to slow down and lose steam.  And well, that’s no good, right?  As it turns out, most of that slowing down is really mental, much more than physical.  Seriously, ask my spin class.  They’ll tell you that with a little gentle… “coaching” they maintain much more effort than they might otherwise.  So, in a race, I turn that coaching in on myself.  That way, I’m busy not only NOT thinking about how “hard” the event is (because what is the use of THAT mindset? OF COURSE it’s hard, why else do it?), but I am also able to concentrate on a pattern, or a way to keep my speed up beyond trying to envision how to make my muscles ‘just go faster.’  While I was home, I swam an annual Pittsburgh Meet where EVERYONE swims a 1650.  It’s kind of neat actually.  (ok, some of you are bored just THINKING about it, but let me explain.)  The Masters swimmers in Pittsburgh are a really active, engaged bunch who love things like this– it’s a reason to get together, test your fitness annually, and see some really fast swimmers, and a whole host of not-so-fast- but still incredibly motivating people swim the same event.  This year there were possibly 10 or 11 heats?  It was incredible.  In fact, because the network is so friendly, I knew a swimmer in just about every heat! That’s just from my parents swimming on Masters teams!  (and with me occasionally joining them when I’m home!).

There are, of course, a variety of ways to approach a long race or long training session for that matter.  This isn’t to say I’ve got some ‘right’ idea, by any means. In fact, when I posted on the twitter about this, I got several responses- from doing a 2 mile race “as fast as possible” from a seasoned triathlete – practicing speed and tempo, to “slow and easy with a fast sprint for the last 100” for a swimmer in a 1650.  My mom swam this with me and WON her age group!  Her mental breakdown was: 1 x 150 warm up, then 3 x 500, each one a little faster than the one before.  That PLUS a Powerbar Gel 45 minutes before her race gave her a 30 second PR!!

GO MOM!!!  (Yes, we are wearing MATCHING Steelers Swim caps)!! (And that is my sweet new Rev3 Triathlon training suit! I like it; it shimmers…)

My 1650 mental breakdown:

For full disclosure: I had NEVER swum this before- not in a pool or race anyway- so ANY time would have been a PR.   I didn’t have any time increments in mind, this was all completed by “feel.”

400 Setup: I wanted a cruising pace that felt a little ‘too’ slow in the beginning, like I was holding back just a bit.  No big kicks, just strong through the water and really focusing on form, breathing and good streamlines off the wall.  My breathing was every 5 for 100, then every 3 for 100.

2 x 200: These were done as pickups– so I thought of them as “builds” but no major speed work, just constant increasing in effort and yes, I did allow myself to take the edge off when I started the “second” 200 here.  I was feeling quite fast and possibly unsustainable by the end of the first 200 so I needed to make sure I kept it all under control.  The form, breathing and streamlines were still maintained (yep, every 5, every 3 by 100)- each of these was intended to be executed well/effectively– but the speed was a bit more variable here than in the first 400.

4 x 100: Here comes a little speed.  I am not talking about something anywhere near a ‘sprint,’ but this is where I began to add speed, on each 100.  I descended these not only by 100 but within each 100 as well, getting a little added ‘boost’ on each.  I did this by thinking about a faster kick on each flip turn, keeping the turn tight and feeling like I could really kick HARD in the last 25 of each 100.  But I did allow a little slow-down at the beginning of each 100 or I wouldn’t have kept up the speed throughout the whole 4 x 100 “set.”

Lastly- 9 x 50: These are interesting at the end of a race.  I took these breathing basically every 5/every 3 by 50, but I really cranked these out.  I started in my head with “8 to go” by the time I was halfway back on the first 50 (getting a wee bit ahead of myself, eh??).  There’s NOTHING like having fewer than 10 x 50s though– 10 x 50s is a short set- and to be in only single digits really makes it fly by.

Even with the funnny, strange, complicated? or “fun” if you ask me… breakdown, my splits tell a very interesting story. NO change.  Once I hit my stride in the 4th 50, my delta was about  8 tenths of a second! Check it out!

 Ledewitz, Julia 25 JCC-AM Seed: 23.00 Actual: 20:18.00 33.93 36.81 37.72 38.19 38.34 38.27 38.37 38.69   38.63 38.54 38.62 38.82 38.11 38.54 38.52 38.32 37.82 38.36 38.04 38.07 38.20 38.06 37.84 38.39 37.97 38.08 38.08 38.41 38.00 38.32 38.01 37.69

The last 4 x 50s should HURT.  Just expect that it will and it won’t be so bad.  If it doesn’t hurt a little… what’s the point, right?  Why would we race?  Give yourself a little credit- you can do MUCH more than you think you can. I would argue that your brain may be your biggest ‘physical’ limiter.  It’s mine anyway… hence the overly complicated mental game for an otherwise pretty simple activity 🙂

Here’s a fun pic from it!  Shouldn’t be looking “up” as much as I am here, and should probably consider… kicking… at some point, but I think I was coming into the wall (excuses, excuses:).

How about you? any mental games or breakdowns for training, swimming, running… life’s errands?

ROI- Return on Investment.  Today I’m asking… are you getting all that you could out of your training? Before you start with the typical athlete’s response here “NO! I need to do MORE!!”– take a moment to think.  A coach’s blog today asked this question with important follow-up questions, which I’m going to list here.  Read these and then consider this question again, before you start adding more STUFF to your training regimen, are you really getting everything out of the regimen you have?

According to this particular coach (and hey, just ask mine… and he’d say the same), popular requests include:
• Tips for better nutrition
• Faster/shorter/less recovery
• More strength & conditioning

Most athlete do not ask for …
• More recovery time
• More stretching
• Less training

Now, when an athlete pleads for more stuff to ADD to the schedule, he asks,

“Are you doing what it takes to get the most from your current training?”

For example
If you currently complete 10 hours of training per week and are thinking of gradually increasing the volume to 15 hours these are some questions you might want to ask yourself. (By the way if you are thinking of doing this you ought to have a better reason than just “because that’s what everyone else does” OR “I’m doing an Ironman so I need to do lots of volume”!)

1. Could you increase the amount of quality sleep you get each night
a) Do you get at least 7 hours sleep per night?
b) Is your sleep good quality restful sleep? Again, nope. Woke up at 1am, completely awake, and was up for an hour at least. And that was before my 4:45am alarm…

2. Could you get better quality recovery after each session –
a) Could you introduce power naps to get more rest? Ok, I actually do this. Not after a session, but I LOVE them before. 20 minutes and I’m GOLDEN.
b) Are you able to relax when you aren’t training or do you always find household tasks to do? I’m not bad at this actually. I can sit on a couch for a little longer than I’d like to admit.
c) Do you stretch regularly for at least 15 minutes per time? Working on this! Doing it more and more, it IS helping, it is not a waste of time!

3. Is your nutrition program 100% perfect and suitable for an athlete –
a) do you refuel within 30 minutes of each training session? Not usually. Need to work on this.
b) do you eat a minimum of 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day? YES, easily.
c) Do you get enough carbs in during your long training sessions? During? Probably not, but I don’t do a lot of LONG workouts right now.
d) If you need to lose weight are you really doing what it takes to alter your nutrition? Not really aiming to lose weight per se, but shift my muscle/fat ratio (as usual).  And no, I’m definitely not doing as much as I could.

4. Are your warm ups effective in each session
a) do you get the full warm up? Almost never! I need to be more patient because a good warm up gives me a MUCH better workout!
b) Do you arrive at training sessions in good time? Usually I set my own schedule, I rarely feel rushed. To be totally honest, I’m more on time for training than I am for anything else 😕 oooops. Sorry friends, professors and collegues!

5. Are your cool downs effective?
a) do you do a cool down?  Cool down? What?  (could use some work :))
b) do you cool down for long enough or do you have to rush of to another commitment? Usually rushing off after…

6. Is your lifestyle conducive to your triathlon goals
a) do you have a lot of stress in your life? Not a lot per se, but I do keep pretty busy…
b) could you reduce your stress at all? Yes, I’m not sure exactly HOW but I know I could…
c) Does your time management allow you to do all of the elements listed above? It would appear not, but I’m not sure how flexible or realistic this whole stress-reduction idea is 🙂

 7. Do you invest much time in developing your mental skills
a) do you include visualisation into your training sessions? No, but I plan to start. I used to do this in swimming and I really liked it. HARD though, takes patience.
b) Are you able to be mentally present (this means being focussed on the task at hand rather than daydreaming) for 100% of the time in each training session? Not daydreaming, necessarily, but I’m usually thinking about the next workout, assignment, work deadline… planning, scheming… much too much. Need to take things 1 at a time.

There are probably many more questions that are pertinent.  How about you?? Any thoughts on these questions and/or answers? Are you doing what it takes to maximise the return on your current training investment??

Attention all Triathletes and Non-Triathletes!  Rev3 is doing something VERY cool for its Triathlons this year.  If you sign up for any of them, you can ALSO sign up for COACHING for the event!  That means, for MONTHS you get workouts, forums, access to EXPERTS (this is not an exaggeration, I can tell you from experience, you really get to tap experienced coaches whenever you have a question), help with race-day logistics, nutrition and lots more!  So if you’re even considering a triathlon this year… it’s a great deal.  One of the most popular already is our own local race– Quassy Olympic or Half in Quassy Connecticut on June 2, 2012.  Read the description below and if you have ANY questions at all, please let me know!  This is really a great way to *try a tri* for the first time? Or even if you just need a little accountability to get through a summer goal!

Check it out–

Rev3 Group Coaching Philosophy: At Rev3Tri, every athlete matters!  We’d like to build upon this concept to bring our “family feeling and support” to help get each athlete to the finish line.

What each program will include: * Monthly training program to include race specific guidance, equipment tips and nutrition suggestions. * Password protected forum available to each athlete in the program.  Rev3Tri Team, Rev3 Race Director and Rev3 Staff will all be available on the forum for continued support. * Advanced information given before the general public is told to include: course updates, course maps, race director tips, coach tips, race weekend schedules * On-course training days * Race weekend meet ups, racing tips, motivation & strategy, meeting Team Rev3 * Webinars and online chats on specific training topics

Cost of program: Initial $200 start-up fee which includes a Rev3Tri training kit (an $85 value!), $25 off Rev3 entry coupon, sponsor goodies, and your username & password for your schedule and forum access.  After the initial start-up fee, each additional month is $50. There is a 10% discount for paying for the full plan in advance. If you sign up later than the start date, the cost will be pro-rated to exclude the weeks you missed.

When will programs start?

Knoxville                      January 16 (16 week program for both Oly and Half)

Quassy                         January 16 (20 weeks)    February 13 (16 weeks)

Portland                      February 20 (20 weeks)   March 19  (16 weeks)

Wisconsin Dells        March 26 (20 weeks)        April 23 (16 weeks)

Maine                          April 9  (20 weeks)             May 7 (16 weeks)

Cedar Pt                      March 26  (24 weeks)      April 23 (20 weeks)

Anderson                    May 28 (20 weeks)           June 25 (16 weeks)

Florida                           June 11 (20 weeks)          July 9 (16 weeks)

Questions?  EMAIL me (jledewitz [at] gmail)! Or Comment below!

Training your Strength vs. Weakness

One of the most fundamental issues in triathlon training is time.   This post is NOT a breakdown of hours per each tri-sport exactly (because that’s boring); the hours themselves are not as formulaic as the ratio of hours training strong suit vs. weak suit vs. everything in between.  What does that mean? Well, I was a collegiate swimmer and I never competed in the other two until well after graduating, so swimming tends to be my stronger suit.  Granted, I was a 2-year, small college, BREASTROKER and IMer.  Not exactly super helpful as a triathlete.  If you want to choose a water sport in college for triathlon training?  Choose water polo No joke.  It’s the most similar type of swimming as you could get!

Determining your strength

So, figuring out one’s strong suit is a question of how you have performed or trained– or– what comes easiest and at what energy cost?  I’m pretty comfortable in the water.  I can go for months without a ton of training and not feel awful getting in a 3000 yard practice.  It won’t be fast or pretty, but it’ll get done.  Because I cannot do that in the other 2 sports, I call swimming my ‘stronger suit.’  NOTE! This HAS to be a relative value.  You are most likely NOT going to be a rock star in all three events- in fact? you might not be a ‘rock star’ in any one either!  That’s SOOOO fine!  People overestimate the value of the single-sport awesomeness.  The sport is a mesh of swimming, cycling, running, taking off clothing (well, it is part of the race), racing and sustaining yourself.  There are a lot of moving pieces.  In terms of training, you simply need to understand how to allocate the time you have to train.  Deciding how to divvy up your time-crunched schedule is a matter of triage because you’ll never be able to train as much as you might ultimately like to.  In my opinion, there’s no reason to focus training (time wise) on your strength if you can avoid it.  (Perhaps a little different for runners because running is a way to sustain overall triathlon fitness, but it is not the end game.)  I argue that you ought to train your weakness because it will likely create the BIGGEST bang (performance increase) for your valuable triathlete-hour (triathlete’s ‘buck’).  Because of the relative ease of swimming for me (only compared with the other 2 sports!), I tend to train only once hard and fast per week and as a recovery a second time per week.  I also make sure that my strength training (which is applicable to all 3 sports) targets my lats, pecs, and deltoids- attempting to compensate for swimming less than most triathletes might.

What’s your Weakness

Check out that gear-- biggest one, and I'm about to go straight up hill. Brilliant, I know.

Well, let’s be honest, this one is probably more obvious.  While you might not be stand-out, incredible in all three sports, you’ve likely got the one sport that just makes you sweat: literally and figuratively.  That’s the jam right there.  That’s where you’ve got room for change, impact and improvement, which is great.  You know what isn’t great? Training that part.  I know– it’s the thing you always choose the snooze button over if it’s an AM workout, or choose drinks with friends over at night, or well, just a bad Sunday afternoon movie 🙂   It’s SO easy to forgo that workout.  Because? You’re not good at it. And honestly, we’re not in college any more, why spend time doing something that you’re good at and genuinely enjoy?  I will tell you- it doesn’t take much.  It takes just 30 minutes twice a week more than you’ve spent in the past to probably make an appreciable change.  Those 60 minutes could be– drilling with a stretch cord for swimming, single leg drills in cycling or cadence play on a hill for running.  I really think it takes just a bit of added effort and you could see some pretty good results at very little cost to your other sports.  I could easily say both running and cycling are weak spots for me. But the truth is that my cycling is kind of ridiculously sad.  I’d say there’s good reason, but there isn’t really. I probably didn’t bike enough as a kid so I tend to be way too timid on the bike- my gear shifting is hilarious and I’ve been known to ride in “the hardest gear possible” until I can “no longer push the pedal around” and then change gears.  For the record? Don’t do that.  That, shockingly, is not how one ‘rides a bike’ or … so I’ve been told, through bouts of laughter on group rides.  To train my cycling weakness, I’ve been increasing the amount I’ve been cycling and specifically, I’ve been targeting what I’m worst at (if you’re going to train the sport you’re general ‘worst at’- train the weakest spots, right?).  So, for me, that means cadence increases and better connectivity to the bike- lots of single-leg drills teaching me about floating the foot that isn’t working, increasing hip flexor power, et cetera.  So far so good! My power numbers have been getting better (I have pretty low power compared to where it should be based on muscular weight ratio)– but obviously, I don’t know anything until I’ve raced.  Also, I have to thank VMPS triathlon center for letting me use a Cervelo P3- this is my first time on a tri bike! It’s incredible! It is different– I’m pitched forward throughout a whole ride, there’s little ‘rest’ space but I don’t mind.  The harder the better for now 🙂 At least cycling is getting to be more fun than it ever was last season!  That’s simply from become a little more comfortable on the bike, or.. in my case… on that crazy tri saddle.

So, that’s how I break tri training down: where is your triathlete comparative advantage and disadvantage?  If you look at the ‘law of comparative advantage,’ but inflect the definition inwards– it means your relative “costs” of producing three “goods” (sports) are different.  So your comparative advantage is the sport whose production value comes at the least opportunity cost.  Turned around- the sport that’s your weakness, has the least output pre hour input.  To continue the nerdy reference, your job as a triathlete is to reduce the delta between those 🙂

So that’s what I’m trying to do.  What do you do? Do you train your weakness? Your strength?  How does that differ for singular sports?  There’s always something to train- even just a piece of a stride or cadence, or climb skill– so what’s yours? Do you ignore it? Overcome it with strength instead of finesse? Is this all overrated?