Training for Tuesday: The Races on the Road to 70.3

One of the best tips I have for making it through a long training cycle, especially if the ultimate goal is a long-distance race, is to incorporate other races as part of training. I always get nerves on race day and probably always will, but I've found that they diminish slightly if I've gotten in some recent race practice. There's something about going through the motions of picking up my packet, figuring out race morning logistics, and getting myself to the race for a trial run that help me feel a little more prepared when it's time for the big one. 

I also like to run with people, but not with people, so using races as training runs helps me get through what might otherwise be lonely workouts. I don't mind working out solo most of the time, but every now and then it's nice to be around others to remind myself that no, I'm not crazy and if I am, other people are too. 

I really started incorporating races into my training when I trained for my first marathon in 2013-2014. I had a great fall race lineup that year but most of them were shorter than I needed to run (since I was training for a January marathon). I didn't want to miss out on any of them so I decided to use them as partial training runs. One that meant shifting my long run day around so I could run a 5k race, one time that meant running 6 miles at home before going to run a 10k race, and one time it meant running 17 miles to the start of a 5k, which would round out my first 20-miler. Sometimes I had to get creative, but I'm glad I didn't sacrifice races for my training.

This time around, my options are a little more limited (there's really no way to add a couple hours on the bike into a sprint triathlon), but I still wanted to make sure I got in that race practice before I get to race day. I've already 

Breezy Point Sprint Triathlon
I made my 2015 triathlon debut at Breezy Point on the last day of May. Even though I was adequately trained to cover the distance, I was still nervous picking up my packet for my first multisport event in 8+ months. I had a rough go on the swim and learned that I need more training in that discipline than I thought. I had a great bike and learned that maybe I can push a little harder during that part than I had previously thought. I had a decent run and learned that I wasn't yet used to running in the heat!

Tidewater Sprint Triathlon
This attempt at a sprint tri went a lot better than my previous one. I relaxed a little more in the water, which didn't translate into a super swim time but it was decently mediocre. I pushed myself even more on the bike, all the way to my fastest bike ever. My legs surprised me for the run, which is always the most unpredictable part, by leading me to a personal best for a 5k in a multi-sport event.

Patriots International Triathlon
I've done the sprint at this race before, and I've done an international length triathlon on this course, but at a different race, so I've never done this race in particular. An international is just under 2x the distance of a half Ironman, so I really wanted to get at least one in before the big day. I've completed 3 in the past but my last one was last September, so I'm feeling pretty out of practice for an event of this length!

The Hokie Half Marathon was one of my favorite races from last year. Despite pouring rain for the entirety of the race, I kicked my old HM PR's ass (by 15 minutes) and finally got myself that coveted official first sub-2. Of course, last year hills were still a novelty and we were still in our honeymoon phase, so this year may be a different story. I'll have about a month after I get back from my beach summer to get used to the hills again, so hopefully that will be enough time! I'm not looking for a PR this year, I'm just looking for a good trial run for B2B. This will be my first time running this distance since the Shamrock Marathon in March, and my last time before I run it as part of a 70.3, so it's my one chance to practice.

And that leads me to...
Beach2Battleship Half Iron Distance Triathlon
a.k.a. The Big One

I'm 1/3 of the way into training and still not sure that that or any of the races here will actually get me to the finish line. They're good practice, but race day is nothing if not unpredictable and there's just no way to know how or if my performance will stack up. But for all their unpredictability, race days usually end up being the most fun days, so I'll get something out of all of this.

What are you training for? What goal are you working toward? How's it going? 

Link up here!


Sunday Sweats [7/20-7/26]: B2B Training Week 7

Monday: Rest | No training today; Ben and I went to the mall instead for dinner and to shop for an outfit for him for our vow renewal in Big Sur next month.

Tuesday: 35 minutes spin + 60 minutes yoga (studio class) | Spin was easier than usual because we had a substitute teacher - apparently it's the same for fitness class as it is in school. Afterward I went to yoga for the first time in a couple weeks and I came to terms with the fact that I really don't like the class all that much and probably won't go back. I only have enough time left in the summer to go for 2 or 3 more weeks anyway, but I've been digging my hour-long classes at home a lot more. 

Wednesday: 6.62 mile run @ 9:04 + 15.37 mile bike @ 13.1mph | After I bonked hard on my last before-work run, I completely changed my attitude and process this week. My before-work runs this week got up to an hour long, so I decided to treat them more like long runs than the quick jogs I had been trying (and failing) to treat them as. Instead of telling myself I'd be fine with 6 hours of sleep, I went to bed at least an hour early. Instead of getting up 20 minutes before I needed to start running, I got up an hour and a half early. Instead of drinking a little bit of water beforehand and nothing else, I had a little bowl of cereal and some coffee. By the time I made it out the door at 5:30something, I actually felt pretty great. I told myself from the beginning that pace didn't matter and, as it turns out, slowing down even 10 or 20 seconds per mile makes running a lot easier. Who knew?

Later that afternoon I met with my group for a bike ride. Don't let that speed fool you - we did our route over two bridges and I killed them. Spin class is really paying off! Not only has it forced me to work various muscles over the course of my ride, but it has shown me that I will not die doing so. Standing up out of the saddle for a couple minutes to get to the top of the bridge really didn't seem so bad when I put it into the perspective that I regularly stand up for a few minutes for climbs in class. It's never easy, but I always make it through. Once I applied that logic, I got up the bridge a lot faster than I ever have before. 

Thursday: 2550yd swim @ 2:02min/100yd | I almost skipped this one altogether, which is not something I'd usually consider but after my little breakdown on Wednesday I thought I might be at a breaking point. But, I had enough of a little break after work that I got to go to the mall and treat myself to new makeup, so after that I felt decently ready to go out and tackle my swim. I practiced my breathing, since I normally breathe every stroke (not sure that's the correct way to say that...what I mean is left-right-breathe, left-right-breathe) which is extremely inefficient but my lungs just can't handle much more than that. I did some laps alternating between every stroke (as described above) and every other stroke (left-right-left-right-breathe), and there were even a few laps where I could do every other stroke for the whole thing. Every other stroke is definitely a lot faster and made the time pass by quicker! I cut this one a little short since it was nearing 8:30pm and I still needed to go home, eat dinner, pack, and go to bed by 9:30. I finished the prescribed set with about 8 minutes left before my prescribed hour was up, and I just stopped there (usually if I get done with the set before the prescribed time, I'll keep going until time is up and get in a few hundred extra yards).

Friday: 5.64 mile run @ 8:52 | I'm kind of liking getting up at 4:15am...? I don't like it when the alarm goes off but I do like that adequately preparing to run in the morning makes it easier. My splits were wild on this one, but at least they were wildly negative. Started at 9:21, 9:15, bathroom break, 8:56, 8:38, 8:28, and 8:21 for last .64. 

Saturday: 40.96 mile bike @ 15.44mph + 2.34 mile run @ 8:32 | This was the first long ride I've ever had where I actually went somewhere! Not just up and down a straight trail 2-3 times. My parents got a house in the Outer Banks this week so we all drove down on Friday night (Ben and I were just there for the weekend). Saturday morning my dad and I got up to go on a 2.5 hour ride - my longest ride ever! I planned a route that ended up being a lot more than we bargained for, but we got to see so much! We rode over 3 different bridges (over one twice) and through at least 4 different towns. Going out was beautiful; coming back was harder because we had a pretty good headwind. I got pretty cranky by the end, I'll admit, and our speed just wasn't there for, well, a lot of reasons, so we didn't make it quite as far as I thought we would, but it was a successful ride nonetheless! 

Sunday: 9.50 mile run @ 9:31 + 60 minutes yin yoga | I really felt the effects of the last couple days on this one. I ran with my dad and my brother's girlfriend who didn't want to push the pace. Fine by me, but even our 9:20s weren't feeling super easy. They ran with me for an hour total and then when we passed by the house they went in and I continued on for another 30 minutes. There is no shade whatsoever on the beach road and it was after 8am so the sun was definitely out and I got pretty hot. I'm pretty sure time slowed to at least half speed during those last 30 minutes and I didn't think I was going to make it. I took a couple of wall breaks because I just ran slam out of "Yes I can"s on this one, honestly. I made it eventually, but it wasn't pretty. Not the mileage I was hoping for, but it was the first time in 3 months (to the day!) that I ran for that length of time. Even if I had included our bathroom break, selfie-taking, and lollygagging at the memorial (that thing at the top of the hill in the picture - yeah, we ran up there), my pace would have averaged out to 10:32 which, as we learned a couple weeks ago, is more or less within my goal pace and definitely under my worst case scenario pace.

This Week
Swim - 1.45 miles 
Bike - 56.33 miles + 35 minutes spin 
Run - 24.10 miles
Yoga - 120 minutes

B2B To-Date Training
Swim - 14.85 miles 
Bike - 345.56 miles + 257 minutes spin 
Run - 136.70 miles

Week 7 Reflections:
+ Light swimming week. I'm supposed to swim 3x a week but I never do that. I try to hit 2x a week, but this week I was leaving to go out of town after work on Friday so that took away another swim. 
+ My long ride and run weren't quite at the mileage I had hoped they'd be but I still managed to get through a peak week and cover over a combined 52 miles during vacation so, you know.
+ I ran 17.5 miles in a 3-day span. That's some marathon training level shit right there (for me anyway). And I threw in 40+ miles of biking in there too just for good measure. Ask me how well my legs are functioning...
+ I miss running with music. I really, really do. Ben and I listened to a lot of Eminem and Dr. Dre on the way home and I was legitimately sad about not listening to them on my runs anymore. Sometimes music is all that gets me through and while I've been mostly okay without it, there have been some days I really think it would have helped. I think I'll sign myself up for a marathon after B2B is over just to ensure I get in plenty of running-with-music time ;)

Tidewater Triathlon Race Recap

Thanks to my B2B training plan, I've been swimming a lot more than ever before, by far, lately, so I had that going for me. On the other hand, the only time I've been in open water all year was at Breezy Point 6 weeks ago, when I had a freak mini panic attack as soon as I started swimming. I wasn't nervous about getting back in the water - truly, that was a freak occurrence since I've been comfortable in water my entire life - but I did want to take it easy on this swim. I think part of my issue at Breezy was letting some race day adrenaline get to me and going out faster than I was really comfortable with. I also like that this race is a beach start rather than an in-water start, like Breezy, where I had to tread water for 2-3 minutes waiting for the swim to start. 

I was talking to a friend on the beach while the first couple waves took off, so it was a surprise to me when it was my wave's turn to get in the water. I realized pretty quickly after we took off that most people had made a made dash right from the start and that I was near the back of the crowd. The same thing happened at Breezy, something else that contributed to my freakout (OMG I'm going to be last!) but after a couple minutes I started passing people left and right. By the time I got to the first turn buoy I was right on top of about 10 different people, and that's when I was sure that a lot of people had started off too fast and were backing off. 

We swam with the current but against the wind direction, which made the water pretty choppy. There were several times, especially along the back stretch, where I was bobbing up and down a lot from the chop. It interrupted my breathing a few times but for the most part, it didn't bother me. I could see the final turn buoy pretty well during that section on the back stretch, and I was surprised that I was more or less swimming pretty straight toward it. I did end up right underneath it as I approached it - I looked up to sight and the buoy was on top of my head. I threw it off, made sure to go around the appropriate side, and hoped I wasn't going to get a penalty for swimming on the wrong side of the buoy (I mean technically I ran into it so there wasn't a right or wrong side - I didn't get one, btw). 

After I made the last turn I looked toward the shore to try to align myself with the finish, but I was having a really hard time distinguishing where to go. Usually they have one of those inflatable dancing man things set up at the swim finish but he wasn't there this time. I just swam in the general direction of the shore, as I had a decent idea of where the finish was, but I wasn't positive I was going the right way. Eventually it got shallow enough to where I could stand up, and I was surprised to see that my watch had just hit 9 minutes. This race has the shortest swim of any of my tris at only 500m, but I was expecting it to take around 10 minutes at least, especially with my leisurely swim pace. The swim time includes the time it takes to run up the beach back to transition, so I made sure to hustle a little bit to slide in under 10 minutes. A girl in front of me had a 29 on the back of her calf (meaning she was in my 25-29 age group) so I sped up a teeny bit to get past her and ensure that I beat her on the swim before I crossed the mat! I knew that getting ahead of that girl really wouldn't matter in the long run, but hey...if all I had to do to move up a rank in our age group for the swim was squeeze by her, I was going to do it. (Those 2.5 seconds that cost me 1st in AG a couple months ago will forever haunt me). 

Swim: 9:42 (1:46min/100yd)

Transition 1
If there's one thing I kick ass at in a tri, it's my transitions. I get in, find my stuff, snap my race belt around my waist, throw on my shoes and helmet, and get going. Easy peasy. I'm so good that my T1 time was the fastest of anyone in my age group. Congratulations, everyone, you're friends with someone who has placed first in a portion of a triathlon #winning.

T1: 1:04

The last time I did this race, in 2013, was also the last race I did with my road bike/before I got my tri bike. What a world of difference! I hopped on the bike and immediately felt comfortable, even with the headwind on the way out. The course was 2 out-and-back-loops, and on the first out I was surprised to look down and see myself easily averaging 19-20mph, even with the wind. There's a turn about 2 miles into that loop, and that section takes you out to a bridge where the headwind picked up a lot, but I really concentrated on just getting through it (which was a lot easier to do knowing that the turnaround was only a few minutes away and then all that wind would be at our backs). 

Around the first turnaround I noticed I hadn't really seen anyone in my age group, which either meant they were all way ahead of me (most likely) or they were all behind me. Just then, a girl with a 29 on her calf whizzed by me (upon later review of the results, it was the same girl in front of me coming in from the swim). I was already doing so well on the bike so I thought to myself, "Oh hell to the no" and played cat and mouse with her for the rest of the bike. She'd pass me, I'd pass her, she'd pass me, we'd get caught in a traffic jam so I couldn't pass her....I'd pass her, she'd pass me, I'd pass her, we'd get in a traffic jam where she couldn't pass me...and so on until she ended up being in front when we got into our last traffic jam at the end of the bike so she was able to get in before me. So it goes. My average speed for the bike was nearly 20mph, significantly faster than any bike ride I've ever done before, ever (I mean it was only 10 miles, but still), so all I could do was be thankful that she had kept me on my game the whole ride.

Bike: 32:39 (19.91mph)

Transition 2
Let's not talk about my T2 time, which I completed smack dab in the middle of my age group's times. I know it's all because I haven't gotten Lock Laces for my current shoes. I wasted so much precious time tying my shoes!
T2: 1:07


When I got out on the run I felt really...fine? Not good, not great, but not bad by any means either. Just fine. Just ready to put my head down and put one foot in front of the other until I made it 3.1 miles. My pace has been all over the place lately so I had no idea what to expect from myself, but when I looked down after the first minute and saw 7:45, I knew I needed to rein it in a little. I backed off and settled into the low 8's and kept on cruising. I remember the run being super hot the last time I did this race, but fortunately this year the sun was hidden behind the clouds for nearly the whole race. 

I wasn't sure I had the mental strength to hang on to my pace, so early on I gave myself permission to back off if need be. It's not like I was out there for a 5k PR or anything. My main focus lately has been on the bike and I was already really pleased with how that went, so anything good that happened on the run would have been a bonus. 

The run course is an out-and-back as well, so at about a mile on my way out I passed my friend on his way back, and he told me there was a headwind the whole way back. Lovely! My pace was hovering at a comfortable 8:10 and I was a-okay with that. I was anticipating I'd slow down a lot when I turned around and started running into the wind, but I was so focused on getting to the finish at that point that I barely noticed.

The last turn took longer to show up than I was expecting (isn't that the way it always goes?). There was a water stop so I stopped for a second to get a drink and douse some water on myself before finishing out my last half mile. I hadn't seen anyone in my age group in a while, other than one of my friends who I knew was a minute or two ahead of me, and I was honestly kind of happy to not have to battle it out until the end. My pace slowed a little in the second mile and of course with the water stop, but I was still holding ~8:15 near the end and had no intention of letting up. Somehow the last few minutes of a 5k seem to fly by for me and before I knew it, I was at the mile 3 marker.

I'm being completely honest when I say I had no time goals for this race (I rarely ever do for a tri, tbh), but I had done some mental math beforehand and was thinking that I'd probably finish in the 1:10-1:15 range. I was hoping to be closer to 1:10 but you never know what race day will bring. Near the end of the run I realized I would actually most likely be under 1:10, so I made sure to get to the finish while the clock still read 1:09:XX. I was so focused on getting in under 1:10 that I didn't even realize I had been on target for a multisport 5k PR - like, by a lot. I finished the run 2 minutes faster than I ever have in any other triathlon or duathlon!

Run: 25:06 (8:14min/mi)

Total time: 1:09:36

It turns out that the girl I was neck and neck with on the swim and bike won our age group. So all I have to do is take 5 minutes off my 5k time and I'll have a shot of winning too. No big deal, that's only like a minute and a half per mile off my current 5k time. I'll get right on that.

But in all seriousness, I'm really happy with how I raced this one. I stayed calm and cool on the swim - maybe it cost me a minute or two, but I can live with that. I surprised myself by being powerful but in control on the bike. And I felt tired but strong on the run, and persevered even when it got hard. Not that I'm in it to win it (or I would have quit a long time ago), but I finished 5th in my age group...the same place I finished at this race 2 years ago, but with a 10.5 minute course PR this year. That just goes to show how much tougher the field gets every year! More stats: I finished 23rd out of 152 women (top 15%) and 118/408 overall (top 29%). Despite all that, I didn't go home with a cool plaque or wooden owl statue this time, but I felt like a winner all the same.

Plus, after I finished I headed straight back to the beach where the race started and enjoyed this view for the rest of the day. Now that's #winning.

Training on an Island

To my shock, life has not slowed or stopped to accommodate my training for a half Ironman. The days have not gotten any longer; no hours have been tacked on to the end of the day to allow me to make sure my home doesn't go to hell in a hand basket. Work hasn't allowed me to come in any later or leave any earlier. My commute hasn't magically shortened. The people in my life haven't stopped having celebratory dinners or happy hours or going to concerts or movies. They haven't stopped extending invitations for me to join them.

Just when I though I've maxed out, when I've squeezed as much time out of the day that I humanly can, I realize I need more time. Which puts me here, at 5:07am, up for an hour already and heading about soon to go run for an hour, then race to get ready for work, then work all day before racing out the door to get on bike for another hour, before scrambling to make myself look like a presentable human being who has not been awake for 14 hours and spent 1/7 of that time working out, so that I can go out to the dinner that I requested be rescheduled to a time that would be good for me. Because, you know, the definition of "a good time" has been drastically altered to basically be, "the one hour of the day when I don't have anything training-related planned, which could either be used for something useful like laundry or doing dishes or for pretending I actually have some semblance of a life, before I have to go to sleep so I can wake up and do it all over again."

This training island is a lonely place. I know of at least 3 people training for the same race that I am, and I am almost certain none of them are heading out to run right now. I'm not sure what that says about me, or what it says about them. I pride myself on my discipline and my preparedness; it's gotten me over huge hurdles before, to finish lines I didn't think I would or could cross. This time, I'm just not sure. I keep asking myself, "To what end?" On the other hand, I know that this week is my biggest week yet, my last build-up week in my 2nd 4-week training cycle, before a step-back week next week. And I know that just a couple weeks after that, I won't be on the 8-5, M-F grind anymore and will have some flexibility back in my schedule. I may not have any less work to do, and will actually probably have more, but at least I'll be able to work around training when I need to instead of training around work. I also know that by that point, the end of summer will be in sight and so will decreasing temperatures; I won't always have to run at 5:30am to beat the heat.

In my head, I know all of that. But it doesn't stop me from putting my head in my hands when I finally get home at 8pm, with an hour to make dinner and relax before I have to get in bed. It doesn't stop tears from welling up when I decline invitations to go out and do something. It doesn't give me any more time to have a lazy day on the couch with my husband or to take advantage of summer beach living while I still have it. 

Anyway. Gotta run.

Literary Ladies Summer Reading Challenge: Books 1-3


Love and Death: The Murder of Kurt Cobain 

by Max Wallace and Ian Halperin
(Non US-Author)
I chose this one because I had recently watched Montage of Heck and Soaked in Bleach and suddenly wanted to know everything there was to know about Kurt Cobain. Like most people my age (27), I grew up hearing a lot of Nirvana's discography on the radio but was just a little too young when they were popular and when Kurt died to have really had any awareness of them at that time. My first exposure to Nirvana, as far as I know and can remember, was c. 1993 at a friend's house - her older brother had a copy of Nevermind. I don't remember if we listened to it that day or not, I just remember the cover - apparently seeing a photograph of a naked baby boy in a swimming pool made enough of an impact on me at age 6ish that I still remember it to this day. But, I digress. The point was that other than the Nevermind album cover incident, hearing their more popular songs on the radio since the early 1990s, and a very brief phase that included quoting some of their lyrics in away messages when I was 14, I never really had a lot of exposure to Nirvana or Kurt before watching those documentaries and, subsequently, reading this book. 

The book was satisfying and disappointing at the same time. I didn't learn much new information, just a few bits and pieces thrown in here and there, with one bigger piece of the puzzle thrown in at the end - which may not really be a piece of the puzzle at all. One of the authors is features in Soaked in Bleach, and after seeing the doc it's pretty clear that this book was the basis for the film. Both the film and the book tell the story of Tom Grant, the personal investigator Courtney Love hired to find the missing Cobain the week of his death. If you've seen Soaked in Bleach, this book is probably redundant - unless you're a weirdo like me who just wants to read about Kurt, even if the story isn't new. It was well-written and, as someone without a dog in the fight, I thought it was fairly unbiased. Obviously it served to present evidence in favor of murder rather than suicide, but I thought it did a good job of presenting the facts and not the authors' overt opinion.

by Megan McCafferty
(A YA book)
I'm not a big YA fan, but I've heard Alyssa rave about the Jessica Darling series so it seemed like as good as any book to put on my list for this category! The story starts just after Jessica's best friend, Hope, has moved away to another state. The two keep in touch regularly (although we never hear from Hope) as Jessica learns to navigate life as a high school sophomore with a family who doesn't understand her and a group of friends she doesn't even like. Hi, Jessica, welcome to every other teenager girl ever's life. Over the course of her year with an absent best friend, Jessica discovers that the people around her, with whom she's now forced to interact, aren't everything she always thought they were - for better or worse.

Honestly, Jessica irritated the crap out of me for most of the book. I'm not even sure why. Maybe I related to her a little too much. But with that said, at some point I started to find her endearing and by the end I really wondered what would happen next in her story. I was actually a little sad I couldn't pick up the next one since I have other books on my list for this challenge. Well-played, Megan McCafferty.
by Hannah Moskowitz
(A book about Summer, with Summer in the title, or in any way related to Summer)
In case my picks for this challenge didn't give it away, I'm not a summer beach read kind of person, but that's the first thing I thought of when I saw this category. I went to Goodreads for inspiration and after several rounds of pass...pass...pass...I stumbled on this book. The fairly short, somewhat cryptic description intrigued me. Plus, the author commented with her playlist for the book, which included songs from Weezer, Gatsby's American Dream, The Ataris, and Death Cab for Cutie, to name a few. I'm still not sure what a book playlist is but with a list like that, I thought for sure it would be right up my alley.

As it turned out...not so much. The book tells the story of two families' annual tradition of spending the summer on the beach in Delaware. It's told from the point of view of one of sons in the main family, who have four children, two dysfunctional parents, and one more baby on the way. The other family has three children: a set of boy/girl twins and an older sister. I assume they also have parents but theirs must be normal because they never show up in the book. If you're already having trouble keeping track of all the characters, that's not just because of my poor writing skills. I think at least four or 5 characters were introduced in fewer pages and then more characters just kept on appearing. Part of the reason I didn't enjoy this book was simply because it took forever for me to be able to keep track of which kid belonged to which family and which of their siblings they got along with and didn't get along with and which kid in the other family they had romantic ties with and so on and so on. 

Another thing I didn't care for is that, while the writing was good, it was completely unrealistic. It had what I like to think of as the Dawson's Creek Effect, where teenagers not only have and talk about experiences that are way beyond any realm of reality but also use language that a PhD student writing her philosophy dissertation wouldn't even use. These kids not only regularly read Camus but were ready to quote perfectly-memorized lines for any life event (a fight with a  sibling, a breakup, etc.), for crying out loud.

But even without those two issues, which I actually got over quickly, I still don't think this book was for me. It took me forever to give a crap about this family at all, and even when I did, I didn't care that much. I liked the style of writing - it kept my attention and I was never bored - but I just didn't care for the story. It was obvious that, at the very least, the beach tie was a strong presence in the author's life and that at least that part was based on her own experience. As for the rest, I don't know if that was based on real life or not (I hope not, for her sake), but I just couldn't relate and couldn't make myself feel for this crazy family. 

Currently Reading

by Harper Lee
(A book with a kickass female character)

So it's been one month and I've read a 3 books and started a 4th. In terms of time elapsed, I'm 33% of the way through the challenge, and in terms of pages read, I'm 31% down (you know this engineer runs calculations to make sure she's staying on track). I'm a little bit behind but umm...I'm a little busy these days. Sadly, 3 books in a month is more than I've read at one time maybe ever. I do what I can.

Sunday Sweats [7/13-7/19]: B2B Training Week 6

I'm going back to my old daily breakdown, if that's cool with y'all. Feel free to leave feedback on which format you (all 5 of you who read these) prefer.

Monday: Rest | On this most sacred of sacred days, I enjoyed getting home and not having to immediately jet off to a workout.

Tuesday: 5.66 mile run @ 8:50 + 30 minutes yoga for swimmersI got up early to run and did NOT want to get out of bed, but it ended up being the best run I've had in a while. That's not to say it was good, not by a long shot, but it never felt truly horrible. It was so hard to get up that early but obviously a 75* heat index at 5:30am beats a 100* heat index at 5:30pm so I really had no choice. And that feeling of getting home at 6:30am, having run nearly 6 miles before most people are even awake, that sweet relief of knowing you don't have to spend the rest of the day worrying about getting in that run? AMAZING. My morning runs might be sub-par but at least they have an upside.

I got a bit lazy that evening - skipped yoga class to eat dinner and hang out with my little fam. I told myself I'd do an hour-long class at home but I only had the attention span for a 30-minute one. I tried out Sage's Yoga for Swimmers, which was just meh compared to her other classes. Probably won't do this one again.

Wednesday: 2950yd (1.68 mile) swim @ 2:02min/100yd | I just wasn't feeling it today. It's been a busy week at work (and I had to go back to work for a bit after my swim, at 9:30pm!) and I felt like a bag of bricks slogging through the water. I was shocked that I actually covered that distance in an hour, because it felt (and looked, from the lap times on my watch) like I was going really slow; it was actually one of my faster swims. I had to count my laps a few different times just to make sure I actually covered that distance in an hour, because I really thought it was going to be less than that.

Thursday: 4.56 mile run @ 9:52 + 60 minutes spin | Can I have a do-over for this? It just wasn't my day. I felt tired from the get go and never perked up. My standard sub-9 pace expectation went out the window pretty quickly. I wasn't in the mood to fight myself so I took a few long walk breaks when I felt like it and just tried to get through all 45 minutes. It's depressing knowing I've run a full marathon at that pace and couldn't have run another step today, but you win some, you lose some I guess.

In the evening I went to spin class, back to the intermediate-advanced level class I went to last week, only there was a different teacher this week. Consequently, there was less (as in, no) mid-cycle weight exercises but there was a lot (as in, a lot) more pushing on the bike. It seems every time I go to spin class I have a new experience; tonight's was legitimate fear that I might puke in the middle of the workout. It was that hard.

Friday: 30 minutes yoga for cyclists | I had planned to get back on my yin yoga grind that I've neglected the last couple of weeks, but I got home from work later than I planned and had to go to bed early for my 4am wakeup call, so an hour-long class just wasn't in the cards. Instead I did another video (a shorter version of a class of hers I did last week) from my new BFF Sage. Every minute of it was great and people who sit all day at work or drive a lot would appreciate it as well. I didn't know my hips were so tight until I started, but they felt nice and open by the time I was done.

Saturday: Tidewater Sprint Triathlon - 500m swim @ 1:46min/100yd + 10.83 mile bike @19.91mph + 3.05 mile run @ 8:14 + 60 minutes yin yoga | Race day is the best day! On Saturday I finished my 10th ever/7th sprint triathlon at one of my favorite races, the Tidewater Sprint Triathlon. I first completed this race 2 years ago, and wanted to come back last year but it sold out before I could sign up. I made sure to get a spot this year and I'm so glad I did! It was a great day with mild weather and I'm really happy with my performance. I finished 5th in my AG, which is the same place I finished in 2 years ago, BUT I was 10.5 minutes faster this year. That improvement included my fastest average speed ever on the bike and a 2-minute PR on the 5k (not overall but in a multisport event). Full recap coming this week!

Sunday: 9 mile run @ 9:01 + 19 minutes run recovery yoga + 40.51 mile bike @ 18.0mph | I needed a good long run so badly. Mine have sucked so bad for the last few weeks and I couldn't take another one. Since I had a strong run at my race on Saturday, I didn't want to think about my pace and instead I just ran. I ran to the beach like always, but I changed my route a little bit. I also turned music on after the first 15 minutes, which undoubtedly helped keep me engaged, but I liked that it helped to keep my pace steady. I know I can't continue to use music as a crutch but I just needed to do something different for this one. I also got salt tablets this week so I took those for the first time today. I can't say for sure if they helped, but I feel like they did and they definitely didn't hurt. 

I took a nap after my run and then went out to the trail for a long ride. I wouldn't normally do them on the same day but with the race taking up one of my weekend days, I had to do what I had to do. This was the first ride I've done solo in the last few weeks. It was SO hot out, 100*+ heat index and not a lot of shade, and I wanted to quit so many times. But, more than that, I wanted to hit the distance PR I was aiming for!

Swim - 1.99 miles 
Bike - 51.34 miles + 60 minutes spin 
Run - 22.27 miles
Yoga - 139 minutes

B2B To-Date Training
Swim - 13.44 miles 
Bike - 289.23 miles + 222 minutes spin 
Run - 112.60 miles

+ Week 6?! You have to be kidding me. I feel like I just blinked and here I am, 1/3 of the way through my training plan. I've got a built-in vacation week coming up so I'm still 13 weeks out from race day, but wow. It feels like I've already done so much but I still feel so far from where I need to be. I can't decide if that's good or bad. October is still a really long time from now.
+ This week I hit a half marathon's worth of swimming and 100 miles of running so far during this training cycle. Not that those numbers really mean anything, but you know. They mean something to people who find meaning in arbitrary numbers. Not that I know any of those people.

Running Gear: Save or Splurge?

Compared to other sports, running has a pretty low investment cost. Really, all you have to worry about is getting yourself dressed. There's not a lot of extraneous equipment to buy. Still, there's a pretty wide price range when it comes to gear, and it can get pretty expensive pretty quickly if you let it. Lucky for you, I've bought a lot of running crap over the you don't have to!

From head to toe, these are my suggestions to spend your running pennies wisely:

Headbands: Save. Okay, maybe not a necessity for everyone, but they are for me. I have a lot of little wispies (technical term) around my hair line and hate having even one stray piece of hair sweat-glued to my face, so I always wear a headband. I used to really like the Sweaty Bands brand, until I realized I could make them for like 1/4 of the cost. If you have a sewing machine and some basic (and I do mean very, very basic) sewing skills, it's really not that hard, pinky promise.

Sports Bra: Save. Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately?), I wasn't blessed in the chest so I don't need any fancy contraption to support me up top. I find my sports bras at Target or TJ Maxx for 10-20 bucks. The cheaper, the more money I have to put toward race fees.

Running Top: Save. I get my tops from anywhere and everywhere. I've bought more expensive, running-specific tanks that are supposed to help ventilate and all that jazz, but I haven't noticed a huge difference in performance (especially since, in the summer, I end up taking them off about halfway through my run anyway). The cheaper tops work just fine for me, thanks. I got this tank on clearance from Target for $6!

Shorts: Splurge. You knew your luck was going to run out eventually, right? Sorry to tell you, but things get expensive from here on out. I used to run in whatever shorts I found at Target or on the sale rack at Dick's, but about a year ago I discovered (and fell in love with) Moving Comfort. I always preferred swishy shorts to booty shorts that ride up (maybe that's just me), but it took me a while to find a pair I love. Now I have 3 of them. Sadly, I just recently learned that Moving Comfort is no more so these have been discontinued, but you may be able to snag a pair if you're a medium or XL! I believe that Moving Comfort was bought by Brooks, which I've never tried, but hopefully I'll be able to find a comparable pair when I need to restock in the future.

Socks: Splurge. If I had evaluated this 6 months ago, I would have told you to spend as little as possible on socks and that a 6-pack of Under Armor socks for $20 would do the job just fine. But now, I've seen the light. A few months ago I went bowling with friends and realized I had forgotten socks, but as luck would have it, I had a small gift card to the running store a few doors down so I popped in to kill two birds with one stone. I picked out a pair of Balega Hidden Comfort (two of them actually - what would I have done with a $9 balance remaining on a running store gift card?) and while they worked well for bowling, they worked even better for running. I've never been especially prone to blisters but I do tend to get them with higher mileage, and I've noticed that they're much less prevalent now that I've changed socks.

Shoes: SPLURGE. Please, PLEASE, if you splurge on nothing else, let it be your shoes. All you really need for running are shoes, but not just any shoes. You need a pair of shoes that are made for running, are appropriate for your running style, and that help you run as efficiently as possible and avoid injury. In order to find them, you really need to get fitted for them at a running store. Seriously, take it from me, who had to take 8 weeks off of running for a stress reaction caused by shoes I bought online because they were cute, and not necessarily because they were the right running shoes for me. Go. get. fitted.  The employees won't bite, or look at you funny for not looking like an Olympian, or brush you off because you just started running. They want to help you, so please let them. They'll watch you run a couple laps across the store to get an idea of how and where your feet land, and let you spend the next hour putting shoes on, running up and down the store, taking them off, and repeating until you feel like you stepped on a cloud. I'm personally partial to Newtons - I alternate between Gravity III and Distance III (both on deep deep discount, like 50% off, because the new model just came out!) - and would be happy to try to convert you too, but the most important thing is that you find the brand and model that's right for you.
A good pair of shoes will run you 80 bucks easy, and can go up to double that. You don't have to buy the most expensive pair on the wall, but you should be prepared to drop some substantial dough (but don't be too scared of making the wrong decision - any running store that values its customers and its reputation wants you to be happy and will gladly exchange shoes that just aren't working for you). Your body will thank you for it!

What running items are worth the price tag for you? Which can you skimp on?

Sunday Sweats [7/6-7/12]: B2B Training Week 5

I had one simple goal for this week: kick its ass. After last week left me feeling always one step behind, I wanted to get it together this week and feel like I was running my training instead of it running me.

Swim: 5100yds (2.90 miles)
My swim on Wednesday had longer sets but fewer of them, which means let stopping time, so I was pretty sure I could get a distance PR over that hour. Previous best was 2900yds, now it's 3000! 
I had another swim on tap on Thursday night and after a particularly tough spin class that left all of my limbs feeling dead, I almost nixed it and went home. Then I stepped on the scale and saw the highest number I've seen since before I became a runner/triathlete/non-couch potato soooo I figured I better get my booty in the pool. I have to assume that I have more muscle and less fat than I had back then, because I eat and drink the same but work out like 10 hours more a week than I used to (which was 0 hours a week). But anyway, I was pretty sure my arms were going to break off right there in the pool for a little while. This was supposed to be a time trial but it was all I could do just get through the laps without drowning.

Bike: 53.96 miles + 60 minutes spin
On Tuesday I drove to Portsmouth to meet my people for a bridge ride. We got stopped by a train about 2 miles in, just before the ginormous bridge we love to hate, and after waiting for a few minutes to see if it would pass we decided to abandon that route and try a different one. We still made it over one bridge so all was not lost.

Since I missed my Tuesday night spin+yoga routine, I went to spin on Thursday instead. For some reason, earlier that day I thought to check the schedule again just to see what level the class was. When I read that it was intermediate-advanced, I almost chicken out and didn't go. Then I remembered the worst thing that could happen in spin class was that I'd just sit and pedal steadily the whole time (and maybe cry quietly to myself) so I figured it was worth a shot. Difficulty-wise it was about the same as the class I normally go to (but that class is crazy because it's supposed to be a super beginner class and it is SO not), but it was longer. We even did some sets of arm exercises with light weights while on the bike which was...interesting. I did a good job of keeping up with the instructor, even when it was tough, so ultimately I was happy I went. Until I felt like death at the end and still had to go do that aforementioned swim...

Long ride on Saturday was pretty much par for the course. At first I was like ughhh whyyy am I doing this, then I was like oh this isn't so bad, then I was like wow it's already been an hour, I've gotten so much better on my bike, then I was like oh I can't wait until this is over because then I get to run, and then I was like OMG I can't believe I have to run after this.

Run: 19.49 miles
My Wednesday run happened shortly after my alarm went off at 5:15am, which is way too early. I don't really enjoy morning runs, but knowing that if the heat index would be up to 100* if I waited until after work, I didn't have much choice. It was slow-going at first (combination of muggy weather and not having moved my legs yet today) but I picked it up little by little as I went along. I couldn't manage the pickups I was supposed to do per my training plan, but instead I did everything I could to get in a full 5 miles before the 45 minutes was up. 

I had another morning run on Friday that went pretty much step-for-step the same way that Wednesday went, except it was 5 minutes shorter. I listened to music, not because I wanted the distraction but because I actually wanted to listen to it, but it turns out that I actually didn't care that much and it didn't make the time go by any faster or slower. 

I had my first brick workout of this training cycle on Saturday after my long ride. It was only 20 minutes and actually felt surprisingly okay. First mile was 9:30 because I hung back for my dad a little, but then I pulled away and somehow ran the second mile in 8:35. Mentally it felt too fast but physically it felt okay.

My long run on Subday was the run that would not end. An hour and 10 minutes worth of running actually took me an hour and 25 minutes from start to finish. I had a late night and too much beer at Dave Matthews the night before, so I was already anticipating it not going well. And it didn't. The first couple miles felt hard and at 20 minutes I had to stop and pee before I peed my pants, even though I peed like 4 times right before I left. It started raining as soon as I got out of the bathroom, which was actually pretty fun. That only lasted for 10 minutes but around when it ended, a guy on the boardwalk called out to me to tell me I'm pretty and for some reason I decided this was the day I finally tell one of these creepers off (since I never do and afterward I always wish I had). Then I started running again and thinking about all the different/better things I could have said, but I think I was so surprised that I actually stopped that I didn't know what to say. And I'm really non-confrontational so that whole exchange got my heart racing so much that I had to stop to walk for a bit to get it back down. By that point I was about halfway through and thought I was home free...until 10 minutes later when I got sudden stomach cramps, the stop-you-in-your-tracks kind. So I spent the last 20 minutes getting a really bad pang in my stomach every 5 minutes or so. Another bathroom break at 13 minutes to go and after that I miraculously managed to get through those minutes to finally finish. 

Yoga: 116 minutes
Since my crew wanted to ride on Tuesday this week, I didn't get to go to yoga class. Instead, I did one of Sage's online class (Yoga for Runners) and I freakin' LOVED it. I highly recommend it for runners, athletes of any kind, and all humans really. I'm already excited to do it again but also torn because I want to try some of her other videos (she has several for athletes plus some specifically for swimmers and cyclists will I ever choose?!).

I usually end my week with yin yoga but I just couldn't wait to try out Sage's Yoga for Cyclists.

B2B To-Date Training
Swim - 11.45 miles 
Bike - 237.89 miles + 162 minutes spin 
Run - 90.33 miles

Week 5 Reflections:
+ Obviously my long run sucked and if I counted all the breaks into my total time my pace would have been 11:00 min/mi, nowhere close to where I expect to be (my goal for the B2B run is 2:00-2:15). On the bright side, if this had been race day it would have translated into a 2:25 run which is still under my absolute worst case scenario goal of 2:30. And I don't think I'll have any guys to chew out mid-run during the race so that should save me at least a couple minutes! And I won't have gone to DMB the night before so there's that too.
+ This week was a big lesson in trusting my training. I continue to be so glad I purchased this plan because there is no way I'd be doing as much as I am without someone telling me to. I can guarantee I wouldn't have swam 3000 yards at any point ever during training because that is way longer than the B2B swim. I probably wouldn't be biking 3 times a week either (maybe 2), and I'd probably still be trying to run 25+ miles a week even though I don't need to. And I definitely would have noped right out of that swim after spin class on Thursday if I didn't have a little voice in the back of my head to tell me that it was obviously possible to bike then swim or it wouldn't be on my plan. I really didn't think I could do it, but I pushed on anyway and lived to tell the tale. 
+ I'm struggling with my runs, even more thank usual in the summer...and I kind of don't care? Obviously I want to be the best runner I can be on race day, but I think that having two other sports to focus on kind of takes the pressure off the running part. I'm not my best running self right now, for a lot of reasons - higher training volume than I'm used to, summertime, busy work schedule, trying to have a life - and I'm probably not going to get back to that place anytime soon. I'm just trusting that whatever is going on right now is going to work itself out by October.

i carry your heart with me. i am never without it.

A white dress. A slow walk. A first look.

And I thought I loved you then.

Exchanging of gifts. And kisses. Not-yet official.

And I thought I loved you then.

A long wait in the vestibule. Butterflies. An organ playing.

And I thought I loved you then.

A procession. Solemn vows. A first kiss.

And I thought I loved you then.

Hands clasped. Ocean breeze. Guests waving. 

And I thought I loved you then.

A slow dance. A song for just the two of us. Nervous whispers.

And I thought I loved you then.

Five years. A lifetime. The blink of an eye. 

Happy anniversary, my love. You're mine for all of time.

Sunday Sweats [6/29-7/5]: B2B Training Week 4

Ride with my B2B training crew / Friday night pool life / Lots of spots marked on the boardwalk for various races, but I found my favorite: mile 26 of the Shamrock course
Swim: 5150 yds (2.93 miles)
I was so happy to only have to swim for 50-55 minutes this week. I'm not sure when that became "only", because it wasn't long ago that my longest swim was like 40 minutes, but anyway. I had planned to put swimming on the back burner during B2B training because I can swim, but I looked at some of my previous swim rankings and wasn't happy with what I saw. I have more work to do than I thought. 

Bike: 50.21 miles + 30 minutes spin
My ride on Thursday was a little slower than normal, partially due to riding in a new area and having to stop for some traffic, and partially due to riding with a slower friend. It was a nice break to not really worry about pedaling hard or fast, and to just be out enjoying the ride before the sky opened up on us right as we finished.
Long ride on Saturday was about the same as always...our speed (17.55mph) was a little skewed since we spent the first 3 miles exploring a road on the other side of the trail before getting to the trail itself, so it was a longer, slower warmup than usual. But once we got on the trail proper, we were mostly between 17 and 18.5mph, and I surprised myself by averaging 19.5mph and 21.3mph (my fastest mile ever, I think?) for the last 2 miles. 

Run: 16.49 miles
I knew even before I started that my run was not going to be good. I was in a bad mood, frustrated, late because of work, VERY hangry, and I thought I would take all of that out on my I did, for a couple of speedy miles, and then I turned around and was running into the wind instead of with it and I just kind of gave up. I stopped for water a couple times and took a couple minutes of walk breaks. I screwed myself in the beginning because I run for time now, not distance, so no matter how fast I got through the miles it didn't make the 40 minutes end any sooner!
Friday I was all like "FUCK YOU SUN!!! I'm going running at noon!" I made it through but it was not fun. The weather wasn't *that* bad, I mean, for July, but the sun and I are not really friends. It sucked all my energy and I don't think I could have made it another step.
My long run on Sunday was only an hour - thank goodness, because it rained the night before so the humidity was near 90%. I was dripping sweat and decided to just take my shirt off and run in my sports bra about 1/3 of the way in. All the looks and stares I got were totally worth it to allow all that sweat to be able to actually do its job and cool me down. I started out exerting myself just a bit too much, so a couple miles in I tried to reign it in and focus on keeping it steady - whatever that meant for my pace. I ended up mostly consistent: 

Yoga: 135 minutes
Yoga on Tuesday was meh, like usual. And there are only like 7 or 8 people in the class but all the other ladies there are old enough to be my mom, and I don't think they like me. I'm not sure why I think that, they just aren't that friendly (i.e. none of them has ever spoken a word to me). And I don't really love the teaching style either but I don't hate it and it's the only class that fits into my schedule so I'm just going to keep going...

B2B To-Date Training
Swim - 8.55 miles 
Bike - 183.93 miles + 102 minutes spin 
Run - 70.84 miles

Week 4 Reflections:
+ This week was a step-back week in distance and duration, but it was my hardest week yet.
+ I seriously need to start drinking water and/or some type of sports drink before and/or during my runs. My long runs aren't too bad because I get out early enough, but anywhere from 20 to 35 minutes into my afternoon runs I start feely loopy and a little dehydrated and like I just can't go on. I know it's the heat and the sun and I just need to bring something with me. Those water fountains at every block on the boardwalk make it way too enticing to stop for a drink (and throw myself a pity party).
+ I'm still riding that no headphone train and I'm pretttty proud of that, honestly. It took me 2 years of running, until I started doing triathlons, to even try running without listening to anything, and it's only been within the last 6 months or so that I've started trying to wean myself off of music. I think there have only been 2 runs in this whole training cycle so far that I've listened to music, and I actually don't even miss it. I know it would help me pick up the pace a little bit but my speed has already started to improve over the last several weeks even without a beat to run to.
+ This is easily the hardest, most intense training plan I've ever followed (already!). I feel like I'm constantly trying to get from one workout to the next, not to mention juggling everything else I have going on.
+ My individual workouts may have been scaled back a bit, but this was my longest week of training yet because it's the first one that I actually completed all of my scheduled workouts. All the green on my Training Peaks account was so pretty! 9 hours and 42 minutes. I'm not sure I've ever done that much in a week, and it's only up from here. Send help.