Training For Tuesday: Is 70.3 > 26.2?

I have completed 19 years of formal schooling in my 28 years on this earth, and in May I'll have an engineering degree. You'd think a simple inequality like 70.3 > 26.2 would be a no-brainer at this point. For those of you who have the math skills of a 3rd grader, then you can figure out on your own that yes, 70.3 IS greater than 26.2.
Can we take a moment of silence to appreciate how AMAZING it is that I have virtually the same photo of myself finishing two of the biggest firsts of my life?! it? I heard and read so many times leading up to my first half Ironman that a triathlon of this distance is actually easier than running a marathon. I even made sure I attempted a marathon before a half Ironman, because I was sure that if I proved to myself that I could handle 26.2, then I could definitely handle 70.3 (it only took me 2 more marathons and another 1.5 years after that first marathon to actually try out a half Ironman, but that's another story for another day). I could kind of see where they were coming from...even though the HIM is longer in terms of total time and distance, it's broken up into 3 different activities, whereas the marathon is literally one step in front of the other until you reach the finish line. But on the other hand...simple math tells me that 70.3 miles is much longer than 26.2 And taking 6-7 hours to finish is a lot longer than 4-5 hours. Still, as I raced my first 70.3 last Saturday, one of the things that kept my mind occupied was trying to figure out this answer for myself.

Currently: October

Waiting (and not so patiently) for my Beach2Battleship finisher's jacket to arrive. For big and/or first-time events I like to have apparel beyond what comes with my registration fee. I perused the official B2B merch booth at the expo, but it was crazy crowded and I wouldn't have bought anything before actually doing the race anyway (because superstitious). They had it set up at the after-party and I headed straight there determined to buy something, but nothing really stood out to me. They had a finisher's jacket but I didn't love (no hood = deal breaker) and it didn't want to waste the money. It was disappointing, but I truly didn't need anything new so I moved on. They had the booth set up again on Sunday when I went to pick up my bike, and my friend spotted a different jacket (with a hood!) that I ended up liking much better than the one I had seen previously. We both ended up ordering the exact same one, which will be customized with this year's date. I can't wait to put my hands on it and wear it for the rest of time.

Avoiding my 10-year high school reunion. It's on Saturday, and you couldn't pay me to go. I'm not bitter, Class of '05, it's just I've passed that point in my life.

Feeling like I got hit by a truck. My mom got sick right before B2B weekend, and I think she got me sick too. Thankfully I had no illnesses or injuries before the race, so really, if I were going to get sick, now is pretty much the best time, but still. I felt fine until Tuesday evening and then it just hit me like a ton of bricks. I'm dragging this week and I can't tell if it's being sick, recovering from the race, trying to pick up after being out of town all weekend, or some combination of the three.

Wanting to buy the new Rock Band that came out this week. Ben and I were OBSESSED with Guitar Hero and Rock Band in college and we used to battle it out all the time.

Planning outfits, outfits, outfits. Capsule outfits, running outfits, all the outfits! My fall capsule is finally complete (only a month late, no big) and, if I can get my act together to finish the photos, will be making its debut right before your very eyes next week.

I have two races coming up over Halloween weekend and I'm super excited about my running outfits. The first one, the Wicked 10k, is my FAVORITE race of the whole year, and this year it's actually ON Halloween. This will be my 5th year running it, making it my longest race streak, but I've never dressed up. Shame, I know! But I'm dressing up this year and I think my costume will more than make up for my lack of costume the last 4 years. It's not going to be a PR in terms of time, but it just might be a PR in terms of fun. We'll see.

After Wicked wraps up I'm jumping in the car and heading down to Raleigh! Yes, 2 races in 2 different states during the same weekend, but both were non-negotiable. In Raleigh I'll be running the City of Oaks 10k so I can pace/calm/entertain/whatever Alyssa for the first 5 miles of her first marathon(!!!!); then I'll send her on her way and finish up my race so that I can go back out on the course and cheer her on to her finish! Normally I'd probably wait until the night before to pick out a shirt, but I've already decided I'm wearing the shirt I got from Beach2Battleship. You would too if you just finished a half Ironman.

Celebrating my favorite human on the planet! Ben's birthday was last Friday but, you know, we were a little busy being out of town for B2B, then a little tired, then a little preoccupied with trying to catch back up to normal life, so we've rolled his birthday celebration around to this weekend. We've got plans with friends tonight and tomorrow I'm taking him to see the Steve Jobs movie (which I've been calling "The Steve Jobs Movie" and being worried I sound like an idiot who doesn't know the actual title...but it turns out it's actually is just "Steve Jobs") like I promised.

Learning new hobbies and skills. Now that I actually have free time, I've jumped on the adult coloring book bandwagon, and I've also been teaching myself to crochet. The latter is really only because I saw a scarf with an outfit, which I linked to in my fall capsule inspiration, and thought, "I want that. I should make that!" I've known how to knit for years so I was just going to pick that back up, but when I was going through my knitting stuff I noticed I actually own 2 crochet hooks? I've never crocheted anything before so I have no idea why, but there they were. And the week before a big race seemed like as good a time as any to attempt to learn a new skill, ya know?

Writing my Training for Tuesday post! Just because my goal race for this year is over doesn't mean I don't have more training to look forward to. I have Big Sur on the horizon and I'm trying to figure out what other goals I'm going to tackle in 2016. October's T4T is next Tuesday the 27th - check the link at the top of my page if you need a refresher, and Alyssa and I hope to see you there!

I'm off to enjoy my first workout-less weekend don't want to know. Have a great weekend, friends!

Beach2Battleship Half Iron Distance Triathlon Recap

Greetings from the other side! I am beyond thrilled to be able to say that I've now been a half Ironman for a whole 3 days! I want to jump into the recap - the weekend was long (6.5 hours of prep on Friday + 6 hours of racing on Saturday) and so is the recap, but I read so many thorough, detailed race recaps leading up to this race that I wanted to do my own experience the same justice. I just don't want to forget any minutiae about this weekend and I'm afraid that if I don't write them down I'll lose them, so here they are in all their glory. This is likely to be the longest post I've ever written - I figured I could either break this up into multiple posts or just get it all over with in one novel of a post, and I went with the latter so we can all move on with all our lives. I really don't expect anyone to read the whole thing so if you're just here for the highlights, feel free to quickly scroll through for photos and important things in bold. But, if you're a dork like me who happily devours detailed recaps and you're interested in knowing my every thought leading up to and throughout the race, and/or if you're looking for a Beach2Battleship or 70.3 recap, you're welcome to keep reading at your own risk!

Day Before (Packet Pickup, Expo, Bike Check-In)
I opted to drive halfway and spend the night with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law in Raleigh on Thursday night before heading the rest of the way to Wilmington early Friday morning. After a quick 6:30am shakeout run, Ben and I hit the road. We arrived in Carolina Beach, where we had rented a beach house, and met up with my parents and tri friends who had all gotten there the night before. Shortly after I got there we packed up all of our gear and headed to Wilmington Convention Center to pick up our packets and get race weekend rolling!

I had been feeling pretty calm up to this point; all week I had been anxious to get through the week and get down to North Carolina, but I wasn't feeling nervous or overwhelmed about the race itself. And then...I got to the convention center. It was clear from the moment we arrived that the field of athletes competing were of a higher level than we were used to being around (B2B only has a half and full, no shorter distance races). Packet pickup was easy, but when I looked inside the bag I was given and noticed the amount of stuff inside it, I started to wonder what I had gotten myself into. 

Beach2Battleship Half Ironman Training Reflections

This post comes to you live, en route to Wilmington, NC - finally! I feel like I've been waiting for this day forever, and this week felt especially long and torturous. But now that it's finally here, I'm so afraid it is going to slip by too quickly for me to take it all in. I just finished a short 10-minute shakeout run before getting on the road, and before I get to the race site, I wanted to take some time to jot down some thoughts during this brief time when I'm in between training and racing.

68587 yds = 38.97 miles = 23 hours 28 minutes
78% of workouts completed as scheduled
When I started training for this half Ironman, I figured the swim would be the least of my worries. I've never been a great swimmer but I've always been a naturally decent swimmer, if that makes sense. Plus, I'd swam the half Iron distance (1.2 miles) a few times before, albeit a couple years ago, just to see if I could do it, so I knew I could manage the swim just fine.
I spent the few months before I started officially training swimming a mile once or twice a week. So, besides those couple of times I had swam the full 1.2 miles, the longest I had really ever been in the pool was ~35 minutes. The first swim of my training plan had me doing 45 minutes (although not continuously; I had a handful of sets of different lengths with ~15 seconds of rest in between). So that first swim I recorded a distance PR of 2300yds and it just went up from there. The majority of my swims were an hour long (~3000yds), and most were comprised of sets, but I did once swim a full hour without stopping simply because I didn't want to count laps that day. My longest swim distance PR is now 3100 yds and I swam a total of 1276 laps in the pool over the last four you understand why I got tired of counting laps. I did 5 open water swims: 3 in races (500m, 750m, and 1500m) and 2 with friends.

And I feel...fine about the swim. My training plan originally had me scheduled for 3 swims a week but I knew that wasn't going to happen; it was a struggle to even make it twice a week. I feel like I swam a lot, for me, but my speed didn't really improve that much. I will say I noticed a big change in my endurance and that swimming for an hour now is a lot easier than it was the first time I did it in July. My open water swims weren't that great, but I swam in some tough conditions, which I am confident won't be the case on Saturday. Beach2Battleship is a wetsuit-mandatory (extra buoyancy!) point-to-point swim WITH the current. It boasts that a Doritos bag can traverse the swim course before the cutoff time. I'm glad I trained well over the distance I need to swim for the race, but I don't think I necessarily needed to for this particular race and swim course.

895.2 miles = 67 hours 49 minutes
90% of workouts completed as scheduled
This bike is the discipline that scared me the most when I was thinking about signing up for this race. It seems ridiculous - any fool can ride a bike, right? But for some reason cycling has never come easy to me. I've improved over the last two seasons, this season especially, but now I'm just on the high end of mediocre rather than the low end. I didn't really care for cycling because I had a hard time getting into a grove and, honestly, I found it to be pretty boring. And the other thing scaring me about it was that, unlike the swim and run, I had never done the HIM bike distance (56 miles) before - not even close (34 miles was my longest ride before I started training).

My bike training for this race was...interesting. I don't know how else to put it. My speed did start to improve, as did my endurance, and I did get to a point where I didn't want to die just thinking about being on the bike for 2 hours. I had hoped to get into 50-mile territory sooner than I actually did, and to get in more rides at that distance than I did, mainly for my own confidence. I ended up doing my first 50-miler 6 weeks before race day. I also did a 53-miler (the mountain ride from hell) 3 weeks out and a 56-miler the week after that. Surprisingly the 56-miler felt the best; it was on the trainer and I had lots of entertainment, so that helped, but so did having to rely on my stamina more than power after riding up the mountain the week before. And not that it counts as training, per se, but I bike commuted an additional ~175 miles over the last 8 weeks.

I moved back to the mountains about halfway through training, and the bike is where that had the most impact. Before I moved, I was riding with groups on flat, open roads, easily averaging 18mph+. After I moved, I had limited places to cycle, and the places I did have where hilly and fairly pedestrian-heavy, meaning constantly switching gears, slowing down, etc. I rarely got an opportunity to just...go, like I'm used to. My average speed dropped to 15mph on a good day, which is discouraging but I know the conditions are so different than it's not fair to compare that to what I'm used to. I also know that the race course will be flat and open like I'm used to, so I feel fairly confident that I will be able to maintain a decent speed. It's just the fact that I haven't done so in a while (other than on the trainer, if that counts), that's making me unsure.

My biggest bike nemesis is wind, and the forecast shows a probably 10mph headwind for a good portion of the bike course. That should mean there will be a tailwind during the last 15 miles or so, but I don't usberstabd how wind works because it always seems to be in my face no matter which direction I turn. If it is windy, I need to accept that early on and adjust my bike expectations accordingly. There is no point in fighting in and destroying my legs before the run, this ruining my run time as well. I hate the feeling of biking into the wind but I will really need to hunker down and grin and bear it the best I can.

379.20 miles = 58 hours
102% of workouts completed as scheduled

Although I feel like a decently experienced runner at 4.5 years in, the run is the most variable discipline for me in triathlon. I've given up on the run in a tri more times than I'd like, but by the same token, some of my best runs have been off the bike. It really just depends on what my mind gives me that day. My body isn't the problem; I've practiced so many bricks that my legs usually felt great at best and okay at worst. It's my brain that doesn't always want to cooperate. I'm extremely nervous about how I'm going to feel when I'm 4+ hours into this event and realize I still have to run a half marathon, a substantial event on its own.

As for my training, I went a little overboard on the run training but what can I say? I just like running. I hadn't run distance much in the few months following the Shamrock Marathon and it felt good to eventually get back to some semblance of long distance running. I logged 8 runs of 10 miles or more (including one half marathon) and 2 9-milers. I feel a lot more ready to run distance than I did at the beginning of training.

And even though I have the most experience with the run, that's actually where I feel like I learned and grew the most this training cycle. My training started in June and it was HOT in Virginia Beach this summer. No matter how early I got out I couldn't beat the heat and humidity and there were more runs than not that made me question why I was even out there. A lot of them tested me and some almost broke me, but I always got back on my feet. Even if it meant sitting on the beach for 30 minutes while I regrouped...I always finished my miles (except the one time I ran after work and just wanted to get to happy hour earlier ;)). Those runs sucked at the time, but looking back, they showed me what I'm made of. I now know that there is no reason I won't finish the race on Saturday. I can't guarantee that it will be pretty, but as long as nothing is medically wrong with me, I know I at least have the strength to put one foot in front of the other to get to the finish.

I've also adjusted my time expectations. This time last year I ran a 1:49 half marathon and I'm still not sure how, but I am sure that that's not where I am this year. My training focus has shifted a lot and so has my speed and I can live with that. I've never ran more than ~6.5 miles off the bike so I have no idea how my body is going to respond to that. I just want to listen to my body and hope it tells me I can speed up ;)

147 hours 42 minutes
165 Workouts Planned - 10 Missed - 8 Cut short = 89% Completed

Training for this race is the hardest thing I've ever done, and I didn't even realize it until this week. I've always heard people say that a half Ironman is easier than a marathon (fingers crossed that they're right!), but I think they must mean the race itself, not the training. Most weeks I put in 8-9 hours of training and maxed out at 13 hours. And the hardest part was that every workout counted. Unlike my previous training cycles, there were no primary (running) and secondary (strength and cross training) focuses. I had 3 primary focuses this time, swim-bike-run-repeat, and no time for anything extra. It makes sense; training for basically the equivalent of 3 half marathons should take up a lot of time. I just didn't fully comprehend the time commitment until I started doing it. I almost lost it; I thought about quitting so many times, something I've never truly done. I wondered why I signed up and honestly couldn't remember. I squeezed in workouts whenever I could; I wore my bathing suit under my normal clothes to get in a swim at lunchtime or I set up the trainer when I finally finished work for the day and should have been going to bed. I have to believe that for as hard as it was to get through this training, the race itself will be easier. It has to be easier.

I also didn't realize until this week just how long of a journey this has been. I remember taking my bike to get checked the day before my 2nd triathlon in June 2013 and parking behind a car with 26.2 and 70.3 stickers on the back. I didn't have either of those at the time, but I knew that's what I wanted on the back of my car too. At that time I was just about to start preliminary marathon training before my first full in January 2014, but the half Ironman has taken a bit longer. I thought my first one was going to be in June 2014, but on the heels of two marathons in two months, spending another 3 months in tough training to get to that start line quickly lost its appeal. Then around this time last year I started mentally planning for my first 70.3 to be in Princeton, NJ in September 2015. I even traveled to New Jersey early this year to see the course and made plans to sign up as soon as registration opened...but it never did. Beach2Battleship has never been my first choice for this milestone but, as I have found so many times in endurance sports, the Universe does not always care about my choices and often has different plans for me. 

And finally...the biggest feeling I have heading into race day is gratitude. Gratitude for my body for playing nice and allowing me to even attempt such a physical challenge. Gratitude to my husband who has put up with my crankiness and crying fits, who feeds me and takes care of our family when I need to work out, who is spending his birthday today helping me with final race preparations. Gratitude to my triathlon family, both blood-related and not, without whom I never would have entertained the thought of a race of this magnitude. Gratitude to my non-triathlete family and friends, whose support I have both at the race site and from afar. Gratitude to those of you who have virtually joined me and supported me throughout this journey. Gratitude wasn't always the first thought that came to mind while I was training, but now that I'm on the other side, it's all I can think of. How lucky I am to have the means and ability to take this on.

If you would like to track my progress on Saturday, you can do so here. I'm bib #1746 and my wave goes off at 8:50am!

Bigger Than Me

On Saturday, a week out from Beach2Battleship, I headed out for my last long bike. I only had 2 hours scheduled, a break from the 3+ hour rides I've been doing the last month. The weather was rainy and a little chilly, which has been the case for the majority of my long rides lately. I wore a new waterproof rain jacket that I was sure would keep me warm, and figured the 2 hours would go by quickly compared to what I've gotten used to.

A few miles in and I was soaked (so much for that rain jacket-ordering spree last week) and freezing. All I wanted to do was get home and take a warm bath and put on dry clothes. The time was going by unbelievably slowly - probably because, in the face of wind and rain, and with leaves and puddles and debris covering a lot of the trail, I was going unbelievably slow. It wasn't at all what I wanted for my last big ride before the biggest race I've ever tackled, and not even half an hour in, I still had so far to go.

Shortly after that I came around a turn and noticed an orange cone in the middle of the path with a sign taped to it: "5k turnaround." It was at that time that I also noticed people wearing race bibs running toward the sign. I was already in a bad mood, and now I was going to have to deal with yelling,"On your left!" every five seconds and trying to maneuver through this race I had just inadvertently joined for the next 3 miles. It was a small, local race so there weren't that many participants, but there were several groups walking and with every one I passed on the not-particularly-wide trail, I got more and more annoyed. And I was especially annoyed when I got to the end of the trail and thought I could continue on to its extension, but the finish line and spectators blocked both parts of the forked trail so I just had to stop and awkwardly turn around.
In my head I had all kinds of snarky responses for anyone who might have commented about my biking on the trail during the race (the trail was still open to the public as far as I know). I might have rolled my eyes when I realized the crowd at the end literally stopped me and forced me to turn around. How annoying were these people blocking up my trail? Who starts a 5k at 11:30 in the morning anyway?! I had planned to do 2 loops, what if they still weren't done when I came back the second time and I had to deal with this nonsense again? Don't they know I have a half Ironman in less than a week?

I'm not proud of my attitude. I knew I was being an asshole but I couldn't stop. I tried to push the negative thoughts out. I reminded myself that it wasn't about me. The majority of the participants were casually jogging or walking, and I knew in my heart they weren't necessarily out on that rainy morning because of a love for running. I noticed from the bibs that the race was named after someone; I didn't know who he was that morning, but I figured there must be some reason to hold a 5k in his name, and I felt like even more of an asshole because I knew that reason probably wasn't a good one. I later found out that he was a graduate of a local high school and passed away from a heart disease shortly after he graduated from college 3 years ago. He ran track and loved running so his family now holds a run/walk in celebration of his life and to fundraise for a scholarship in his name. 

My heart was so heavy when I confirmed that I had, indeed, been a complete jerk (at least it was mostly in my head and not acted on) this young man's supporters, whether they were there to raise money or just to celebrate their own love for running, and to his memory. That trail served a bigger purpose on Saturday than facilitating my training, and I was selfish to ever think otherwise. 

Later in the day, on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from the 5k I had witnessed in the morning, I watched the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. Kona is the Boston Marathon, the Wilmbledon, the Daytona 500 of triathlon. Athletes from all over the world, both elites vying for the title of World Champion and age-groupers who have achieved qualifying times, come every October to the island where Ironman was born. It's incredible to watch, from the men's elite swim start at 6am, to the final crossing of the finish line near midnight. So many dreams are realized over a 17-hour span. It's truly remarkable.

As I watched, I naturally thought back on my own triathlon journey. I thought a lot about my Beach2Battleship training cycle - the good, the bad, and the ugly. I thought about the overwhelming feeling in my gut of wanting to someday be an Ironman myself, and the tears that well up in my eyes every time I hear Mike Reilly announce those 4 words to finishers. I thought back to that morning, how I had been so callous in my training and hadn't considered the needs or intentions of others. And there I was, watching elite athletes being interviewed, speaking about their goals to win an international championship. These people had done nothing but train for months, for years, for their whole lives, even, to get to this point, and they were able to speak about it with more poise and calmness than I had been able to muster about my dumb bike ride that morning.

It's impossible not to get swept up in the magic of Kona, and as I watched the coverage throughout the day, I continually tried to put myself in the shoes of these top-notch athletes. They battled a strong headwind on the way out on the bike, but you never would have known it by the looks on their faces. The temperature was in the 90s and up to 120 on the asphalt, with absolutely no shade on the course, but you couldn't tell that from watching them run their marathons. I watched the age-groupers heading out for the marathons, cheering on the leaders as they passed by and ran toward the finish line. 

While I have no doubt that Saturday in Kona was a hard day for nearly everyone competing, the majority of the people I saw seemed to take it with more grace than I usually have for just a run-of-the-mill training workout. I've spent a lot of time throughout this training cycle feeling down on myself. My swimming is mediocre and really hasn't improved despite hours and hours in the pool. I've been frustrated that the area I live in isn't conducive to cycling and that I haven't had an open road to ride and therefore haven't been able to hit the distances and paces I know I'm capable of. My running speed has taken a huge hit since I've shifted my focus from solely running to 3 different sports, and I haven't felt like I runner I was in the past. Throw in some GI issues and my turning into a puddle if it's too hot out, and that's been the majority of my training.

But watching Kona...seeing the elites finish and thinking about all the athletes still out on the course, some of whom would be there until nearly midnight...thinking about the courage and determination of every last one of them, from first place to last place, I finally realized: this sport is bigger than the training I've done over the last four months. It's so, so much bigger than that. I don't love this sport because of a time I hope to see on the clock when I cross the finish line on Saturday. I love it because it has taught me strength and discipline and determination and to be able to say, "Yes I can" when my body and mind are teaming up and screaming, "No, you can't!" And it's not just me, it's thousands of other people all around the world who also get up at 4am to train to chase finish lines that, a lot of times, feel like they'll never get closer. They were at Kona last Saturday and they'll be in Wilmington this Saturday and I count myself lucky to be one them. 

So I didn't get the last big workout that I wanted this week. Maybe that's not what I needed. At this point, perfect training weather and extra mileage really isn't going to do much for me on race day. A shift in perspective, the revelation that it's not about me, that this race, this sport, this life, they're all bigger than me...that's worth more than any amount of time I could have spent on my bike. 

To My Daughter, Maybe

Dear Future Daughter,

I admit, it's a little bit strange of me to write a letter to you, not only because you don't exist yet, but because I'm not sure you'll ever exist. You see, future daughter, this letter comes from your 28-year-old not-a-mom who really isn't sure she ever wants to be a mom.

It's 2015 right now, future daughter, and the world today is a lot different than the world I grew up in. Sure, I'm part of the millennial generation; I admittedly wouldn't know how to function as an adult without the convenience of a tiny computer at my fingertips at all times. But I did function as a child without technology. My memories of my childhood consist of playing outside, climbing trees, roller blading through my neighborhood, shooting hoops in my driveway, throwing a baseball in the yard. And, as I'm sure every generation feels about the next one, I'm genuinely sad that you won't know the simplistic ideals I knew as a kid. Even if I limit your screen time, if I don't hand you an iPad every time you're bored in the car, if I sign you up for softball or take you out with me to run, I know it's inevitable that you'll come home from elementary school begging me for the iPhone your classmates have.

I was talking to your maybe-one-day grandparents recently, and they told me something that surprised me: my mom didn't want children before she had me. Don't take that the wrong way; my mom was the quintessential mom when I was growing up. She prioritized her kids over a career and did everything we could ever want a mom to do (maybe a little too much sometimes, actually). She fit into the mom role so well that I had no idea that, before she became a mom, she would pass on the opportunity to hold another person's baby, that she never dreamed of being a mom herself.

So why did she become a mom?

Because that's what people did.

And, future daughter, in that moment I realized how lucky I am to be in the same boat 30 years later. And how lucky you are that this is the world into which you'll come into existence.

Despite the things about this day and age that give me serious pause, like that parents post the play-by-play of their children's every move to Facebook or Instagram, or that girls in middle school are taking naked pictures of themselves and sending them to boys in their classes, there is one remarkable thing about the world today: you can truly do anything you want to do. No one knows that better than I do. As a fresh high school graduate, I started my college career in a male-dominated field, only to change my mind and go a different direction for the next 7 years, then change my mind again to move back into a world where men outnumber women (although that's changing all the time). And you want to know something, Future Daughter? I kind of rule at it. And by the time you make it into college and the workforce, the future will look even brighter for you than it does for me.

As unrecognizable as your world would be to my 7-year-old eyes, I have to tell you that there are so many ways in which I'm envious that you get to grow up in the 2020s and not the 1990s. Compared to my mother's generation, I've had so many more opportunities and doors opened for me, but you'll have even more than I did. No one will bat an eye when you want to get your black belt in karate or play football for you high school. They won't care that you want to learn to program like your talented father, or that you're the one explaining calculus to the boys in your class, or that you're the CEO of your own startup. They won't have a problem if you decide to become a mom yourself, and if so, whether you feel that your calling is at home with your children or out in the working world supporting them.

I don't know what your future will look like, Future Daughter. At this point I'm still not sure you'll ever exist. If you do, know that it's because I want you to be here. And if you don't, I have my reasons and I'm lucky enough to live in a world, a county, a generation, where it's my right - and no one else's - to make that choice for myself. I only want the same for you.

Your Mom

Taper Thoughts

Most big race training cycles end with a period know as "taper time," lovingly regarded and profusely welcomed by athletes everywhere. Depending on the race distance, taper time constitutes the last 2-3 weeks before race day, when the peak of training has come to an end and the focus of the remaining weeks is rest for the body. This rest comes in the form of decreased mileage, intensity, and time for all remaining workouts. It's during this time that we endurance athletes use the word "only" to describe workouts that should not be qualified with "only", e.g. "Only a 12-miler this weekend!"

It's also during this time that, if we haven't done so already, we start to lose our damn minds.

So let me tell you how Beach2Battleship tapering is going for me.

You may have noticed and/or heard, but the east coast has been in a giant shit storm of rain and generally yucky weather for the last week and a half. The sun came out for 10 minutes (and only 10 minutes) yesterday, for the first time in at least 10 days (at least that's when I stopped counting), and I was legitimately perplexed why there was light coming from the sky. It's been bad. Not only has it been raining, cloudy, and windy 24/7, but it's been cold. Not frigid, mind you - it's still early October after all - but colder than what we've been used to the last few months.

Now, this whole time, I've been assuming that October 17 in Wilmington, NC will be quite pleasant, if not warm (I would actually prefer gross weather to this possibility). But after a week of this nonstop cold and rain, I started to panic. I have plans for what to do if it's chilly on race day, but not if the weather is the way it's been lately. I learned my lesson the hard way last week, after I got completely soaked to the bone from spending 4 hours out in the rain in the jacket I *thought* was waterproof, that I have no suitable jacket for those conditions and that I should probably get one. So I spent part of my birthday evening at a local bike shop and at Dicks Sporting Goods searching for any waterproof jacket I could find, with no luck. And that's how I ended up coming home, frantically searching the Internet for waterproof running jackets, and ordering 4 different ones...just in case.

And also because of this nasty weather, I let my taper brain convince me to reach a new level of insanity of Saturday by completing by 3-hour bike ride on my indoor trainer. If there's one thing you should know about me, it's that the trainer and I are not friends. I hate that thing. I hate it so much that I was supposed to ride on it for an hour last Tuesday, and I made it 5 whole minutes before I just had to jump off from general feelings of I checked Saturday's forecast all week, and I knew, even I I didn't want to admit it....I knew my choices for my long ride would either be to do it on the trainer, or not at all. I think I've only ever spent an hour and a half at most (maybe? That might be generous) on it, but amazingly, I made it through 3 entire hours on that freaking thing on Saturday. I would like to thank How to Get Away With Murder, Real Hiuseiwves of Orange County, Hulu, Hokie football (not going to lie, being able to hear Enter Sandman coming from the stadium even over the noise of the trainer was pretty awesome), and Gmail for making this possible. Shout out if you got an email from me between 10am-1pm on Saturday.

Don't try this at home.
And finally, as if that wasn't enough, the phantom injuries have set in. I have *knockonwood* had no issues with injuries or pains at all during this training cycle. But of course when I was on the bike on Saturday, the bottoms of my feet inexplicably starting hurting when I was only 5 miles in. And then of course my Achilles starting twinging during my run afterward. And it makes total sense that the opposite Achilles was twinging on my run the next day right? And let's not even talk about all the catastrophes I'm sure will happen to me at any moment. Like getting doored by a parked car while I'm riding my bike to the gym. Or slipping on wet asphalt. Or that guy coming up behind me on his bike, obviously slowing down because he wants to murder me (turns out he just wanted to ask about my Newtons...sure he did). 

Fourteen more days of this craziness. I just looked at my remaining workouts and freaked out when I realized I have less running to do over the next TWO weeks than I did THIS week. Now I'm positive I wasted a ton of money paying for this training plan and that I'm not going to finish the race. Pray for me.

Training for Tuesday: Beach2Battleship Race Plan

Before I get into today's actual post, I need to address a couple of things. First, thank you for sticking with me the past couple of days and for the consolation messages some of you sent me. I'm sure there were some of you who rolled your eyes - seriously, a ferret? - but in this house, size doesn't correlate to the amount of joy our animals can bring or the amount of space they can take up in our hearts. Even after 5 pet losses, it never gets easier. Our Lila was hands down the sweetest of the 8 animals we've had together over the last near-decade and she is already so missed!

Second, yes I turned Training for Tuesday into Training for Thursday this week. It's my link-up, I do what I want! Actually, it's not just my link-up; I lovingly share it with Alyssa, who reminded us all that it was a year ago this month that we decided to take our excessive fitness talk out in public and hope that others would share theirs. Thanks to all who have shared in our vision of cultivating a supportive and encouraging community for kickass ladies of all fitness levels and disciplines. Whether you've joined us once or every month over the last year, we're so grateful for your participation!

And finally, on to the good stuff. Last week I mentioned that I started reading Racing Wisely, written by Sage Rountree, a yoga teacher I was fortunate enough to take a class with at Wanderlust and who, as I found out afterward, is a triathlete and triathlon coach as well. The book is short and to the point (and free if you have Amazon Prime and/or Kindle Unlimited) and delves into several aspects of racing, from choosing the right race to what to do after you cross the finish line. I've enjoyed reading it so far, and one of the things I've liked the most is the worksheets she goes over (also available for free in PFD format on her website). I definitely plan to use the Race Week Worksheet to navigate my final week before Beach2Battleship, but I've already gotten started on my Race Plan. In the past my race plans have been pretty simple: run a PR, don't die, that sort of thing. This worksheet breaks down all of the key components of race day, mental and physical, to hopefully ensure preparedness for any situation that might arise. The best thing about making a plan like this is that it's completely customizable and adaptable to any race at any distance. This post is a long one and I don't expect you to hang on every word, but if you have a race coming up, or even if you just have a race in mind for the future, I encourage you to stick this in your back pocket and give it some thought as you prepare for the big day. 

All direct quotes from Racing Wisely are in italics.

Intention is internal and private. Intentions are philosophical. Your intention is the attitude you are bringing to the race. 
Intention feels like a bit of a buzz word lately, but I think it's so important for a big race (or any race!). Running and triathlon are not my job; they do nothing but nothing but drain my bank account, not the other way around, so there is no point in suffering through if I'm not having fun. Sure, sometimes I get a bit obsessive or a little competitive with myself but that's because deep down, I truly love these sports and always want to perform at my best. My intention for Beach2Battleship is to finish the race knowing that I did my best. I want to walk out of that finisher's chute knowing that regardless of what the day gave me, I handled it with grace and I performed to the best of my ability. Sage encourages boiling your intention down to a short phrase that can be repeated on race day; mine comes from a fortune cookie I got last month: "When one must, one can."

Goals are quantifiable, measurable, external, and public. Goals are useful in helping us control all the things we can control as we prepare to race: out training, our nutrition, our equipment, our pacing. Goals are practical.
Conservative goal: Finish (in under 7 hours)
The rule for any new distance is: don't worry about time, just get to the finish line. And that is my #1 goal for B2B. But even if everything goes wrong on race day and all my training flies out the window, I still hope to sneak in under 7 hours.

Public goal (what you'll tell friends and coworkers): 6 hours 45 minutes. 
This is (hopefully) erring on the conservative side and, in my mind, translates to a 45-minute swim + 3 hour 25 minute bike (16.5mph) + 2 hour 25 minute run (11:04 min/mi) + 10 minutes for transition.

Private goal: We're all friends here, so I'll let you in on this one. Realistically, if I can race the way I've trained, I think (and hope and have all my fingers and toes crossed) I'll finish in 6 hours 15 minutes or less. That puts me at roughly a 40 minute swim + 3 hours 15 minute bike + 2 hour 10 minute run (9:55 min/mi) + 10 minutes for transition.

Super-secret radical goal: The last time I made one of these (and it really was a radical goal), I missed it by almost 20 minutes. Not a big deal; that's why it's called the "super-secret radical goal." But let's just say that if I miss this one by the same margin, I'll still be in range of my private goal. And that's all I'm going to say about that for now.

Non-time goals: Remember to pack all of my gear. Put my timing chip on right away so I don't lose it. Bring toilet paper for the porta-potties. Remember to follow my nutrition plan and stay hydrated. Clip in and out of my bike without falling. Don't fall apart on the run. Smile at race photographers. Thank volunteers. Finish with a smile on my face.

Using: All of my gear (goggles, socks, race belt, that sort of thing) is covered on the handy Triathlon Race Day Checklist I made myself before the Patriots International Tri earlier this month. I recently bought myself a tri bag that's as big as my carry-on suitcase so that I can finally put ALL of my tri stuff in one place. All I have to do is worry about getting that bag packed and I'll be set.
(click to download)

Wearing: For the wetsuit-mandatory swim, I'll need my Blueseventy Helix wetsuit. Underneath it, and for the rest of the race, I'll be in my Smashfestqueen IROCK Tri top and shorts. I've practiced in the top a couple times now and, although I loved it for swimming, it gave me a riding up issue when I ran in it that took some getting used to. I think I've figured out the correct tucking-in strategy, though, so I should be good to go! And on my feet I'll be wearing the newest addition to my Newton collection (with bright pink Lock Laces that still need to be ordered...).

If it’s really cold: I think it will be cold enough in mid-October, at least in the morning, that at the very least I'm planning on putting on arm warmers after I come in from the swim. Still debating on whether or not I want to go all out and order the Smashfestqueen knee warmers and/or cycling jersey that match my kit, just in case it's really cold out there. I don't have a great cycling jacket but I do have a couple I'll pack just in case I really need them. Oh and socks! I usually go sockless but learned my lesson a few weeks ago on a chilly ride when my toes went completely numb. 

If it’s really hot: I think this is really only a possibility for the run, but in that case, I'll just be in my top and shorts and not bother with any of the extra layers. 

If it's raining: Two words: trash bags. I plan to stick a ridiculous number of plastic and/or trash bags in my tri bag just in case it's raining and I need them to protect my stuff while it sits in transition, and/or my body.

Pre-Race Nutrition 
Dinner the night before: My mom is an excellent cook and has already been designated team chef for our pre-race dinner. I don't know exactly what she'll make, but it will be some kind of pasta and there will be veggies and lots of bread and I will be in carb-loading heaven.

Breakfast on race day: Egg over easy on a whole wheat English muffin with a little bit of cheese, and yogurt. Maybe a banana closer to race time. I've really come to love this aspect of long distance triathlon, since breakfast is my favorite meal. I can eat a fairly large breakfast and I have plenty of time to digest it before I get on the run!

Race Nutrition
Food(starting when I get out of the water because obviously I won't be eating and swimming at the same time): Salt tablets every 30 minutes (on the bike and run), banana at 1 hour and 2 hours into the bike, raisins at hour 3 on the bike if I'm still hungry, raisins on the run if I'm absolutely starving

Water: As needed on the bike (I'll have 2 1-Liter bottles with me) and at every aid station on the run.

The plan:
  • Swim: settle into a groove as soon as possible; maintain a quick but steady and calm rhythm to the first buoy; back down a little if necessary until the second buoy; pick up speed at the 3rd buoy; give it all I've got after the 4th buoy.
  • Bike: this where all bets are off for me; it really could go really well or really horribly so I really have no pacing strategy. Since it's largely dependent on wind speed and direction, I'll likely have to wait until closer to race day to check the forecast for a more accurate idea of how I'll be able to pace 
  • Run: depending on how I feel, run the first mile no faster than 9:00 and no slower than 10:00; run the next 9 miles at whatever pace feels good (walking every aid station); if I can, push for faster miles in the last 5k
How I'll hold myself accountable to this plan: I'll have to hope one of those mantras comes to me in my time of need. I really don't have a specific plan for this; I know how important this is to me and that is enough to hold myself accountable. When things get tough, I'll keep the clock at the finish line in mind and remind myself that it's not forever, it's only a few more hours.

If my equipment doesn’t work: I'll probably sit on the side of the road and cry. Kidding! I think. If my Garmin decides that October 17 is a great day to screw up, I'll have to accept that early on and move on. Hopefully I'll still have some idea of the time and can do some mental math between that and mile markers on the course.

How and when I will warm up to best execute this plan: I've never done any type of pre-race warmup, but recently I found that I did really well in a time-trial swim when I did a few hundred yards of warmup first, so I plan to do a short swim the day before and get in the water for a few minutes before starting the race. 

Mental Strategies

Three workouts from this training cycle in which I learned something about my mental and physical abilities:

1. Hokie Half Marathon - I learned that I am physically capable of running a 2ish-hour half marathon without really trying (the ~ish comes from the 3 minutes I spent waiting for the porta-potty which probably pushed me over the 2-hour mark but whatever), and that I am mentally capable of running a half marathon without headphones! Seriously 2 things I never thought I'd be able to say.

2. Tour de Wolf Creek, or, That Time I Rode Up a Mountain - I don't know how many times I repeated to myself, "If you can get through this, you can get through race day," but it was enough times that I now believe it to be true. The weather and the terrain made this one of the hardest things I have ever done, physically or mentally, EVER in my life. There were tears, many of them, and not the slowly well up in the corners of your eyes kind, but the ugly cry kind. The thing that got me through it was thinking back to a brutally cold and windy 15-miler I did in training for Shamrock earlier this year, and how that ended up being a crucial point in that training cycle that led to my the best marathon I could have hoped for. From the beginning of this ride I could tell that it was going to be the definitive workout of this training cycle, the one that would suck to get through but the one I needed for a successful race day.

3. City of Oaks course/Reedy Creek Greenway run - I learned that I do not get scared anymore. I thought running after traveling all day, at a weird time of day (long run at 4:30PM?), without eating well beforehand, on a hilly course, after biking 53 miles up a mountain the day before (did I mention that yet?!) was probably my worst idea ever...and then I knocked it out of the park. Granted, I didn't exactly go out like a speed demon, but as soon as I started running I realized all my fears had been for nothing. I was making up things to be afraid about. Around mile 5 I realized that I could pretty much do anything, and by the time I finished at a total of 12.6 miles, I knew I could do anything.

Fears about the race, and how I plan to cope should they materialize (“in my control” or “out of my control”):

In my control:
Falling apart on the run - repeat aforementioned mantras to myself. All of them. As long as it takes to find one that works. Remind myself that 
Going out too fast - back it down if I see a pace that I know good and well I can't sustain
Not going out fast enough - don't let my mind convince me to do any less than I'm capable of doing (more mantras)

Out of my control:
Horrible headwind (especially on the bike) - tuck down in aero the best I can and pray for the next turn to come
Lots of sun and/or hot temperatures on the run - slow my pace and drink copious amounts of water
Stomach issues - slow my pace and find the nearest porta potty 

I love that Sage (do you like how I talk about her like we're besties?) included this because it honestly isn't something I would have given a second thought. I'm terrible at recovery unless I force myself to eat, drink, and rest, so having a plan (and people who won't have just spent 6-7 hours racing there to hold me accountable) should really help. 

What I'll wear in the minutes after the race: Provided I can hold myself upright and still have enough range of motion left to move my limbs (might need help from my mom and Alyssa tbh), I would love to change into a loose fitting tank (or maybe my race shirt since I will have earned that shit?!?!?), my most comfortable hoodie, yoga pants (with compression sleeves underneath), and my Oofos flip flops. I'm sure I'll spend a while after the race too afraid to leave the finishers area, lest I miss my dad or friends finishing...maybe I'll have my mom and Alyssa shield me with a towel and blanket or something so I can change without missing any of the action? Luckily there's really no such thing as modesty in triathlon.

What I'll eat and drink in the minutes and hours after the race: That Sage, she just thought of everything. I am horrible at making sure I eat and drink after a race, but I can guarantee I will at least immediately down the bottle of water I'll get at the finish line. And maybe I'll make sure my posse is ready with some post-workout drink and a banana. And after all my people racing finish....definitely beer. 

What I'll do in the minutes and hours after the race for your recovery: We already went over slipping into something more comfortable. And the fact that I need to eat something...anything...everything...And please for the love of god someone make me take a nap. I'm sure that at some point in the day my B2B peeps will all feel like passing out, and I need to do the same. I also need to make sure I do some yoga, but luckily I will have my own private soon-to-be yoga teacher present to make sure I get in all the asanas I need.

And....that's it! My plan to get from 0 to 70.3 and beyond in one piece. Anything I haven't thought of? Any crucial aspects of a race plan that I left out?