Thanksgiving Day 5k Race Report (11/26/2015)

I was never, never, never going to run a race on Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is for sleep and too much food.  However, when I looked at my training plan to justify not running a race on Thanksgiving, I saw that I had a 3 mile tempo run scheduled for Thanksgiving Day.  Well, that backfired.  So naturally, I felt obligated to sign up for one of the thousands of Thanksgiving 5ks in the area.  I chose the Cottonwood Heights Thanksgiving 5k because it was practically next door to Rob’s parents’ house where we were spending Thanksgiving.

Like my last 5k, I wasn’t sure how to set a goal for the race.  This time I wasn’t arbitrarily choosing a goal from thin air, but I wasn’t sure how to balance all the different considerations.  I did feel like I was in better shape than I was for the 5k I ran a month and a half ago, but this 5k was relatively hilly (I think? 220 feet of climbing), colder, and much more crowded.  And I wasn’t sure how I would do “running tangents.”  Plus, it was going to be Thanksgiving.  I didn’t want to set myself up for disappointment on Thanksgiving.  So I decided to start off on pace for a PR but not beat myself up if things didn’t go that way.

A-goal—22:44 (get a PR)

B-goalHave fun Get in a good, hard tempo run

The day before the race was actually very relaxing.  I took a rest day (my legs were already feeling good) and took a half day at work.  I spent the afternoon baking pies (pumpkin, cherry, and pecan) for Thanksgiving and then just sat around watching television and drinking water.  I went to bed around 9:00pm and woke up feeling rested.   I ate two hardboiled eggs and a glass of chocolate milk for breakfast and checked the weather.  It was going to be about 25° which is colder than I’ve run in this year but significantly warmer than the 18° that was predicted a few days prior. I fell back on my typical race-planning technique and wrote the splits I should be hitting at various points in the race on my hands.  Then I got dressed for my race and noticed a problem.  The jacket I wear has little hand caps that you can flip over your fingers to keep them warm.  This is kind of necessary for me because I can’t wear gloves when I run.  This obviously covered up my well-planned splits.  The mile splits were easy enough to remember, but I knew I’d be messing with the little hand flaps a lot during the race to see the other time checkpoints I had determined.

Rob picked me up, and we drove to the Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center where the race was being held.  We arrived around 8:05am with plenty of time to dink around and warm up before the 9:00am start time.  We saw several great costumes before the race.  There was a pilgrim couple, plenty of turkey hats, and one plucked turkey.  I took a picture with that one.

Me and the turkey. 🙂
The emergency exit alarm was turned off, so I got a kick out of opening the door because it felt illicit.

I warmed up with a short jog (probably about half a mile) and some dynamic stretches.  Ever since running hurdles in high school, leg swings have been a vital part of warming up for me.  After that, I did three striders where I got up to nearly full speed.  I like to do a little fast running during my warm-up, even for longer races, because I imagine that makes my actual race pace feel slower.  Then I lined up where I imagined someone my pace should be.  I started chatting with a couple of folks in line.  One man said he wished the race had signs reading 18 minutes, 19 minutes, etc. so that people would know where to line up.  The three of us ended up having a conversation about cycling versus running.  The decision was unanimous—running was worse, but runners are nicer people.

Before I knew it, I heard a countdown.  Then the race started, and I trudged toward the timing mats.  I did my best to start my watch right as I crossed the mats and then did my best to weave through the folks that started out too close to the line.  The guy I had been talking to was right—the race could definitely benefit from some way to notify runners as to where they should line up.  The race wasn’t too terribly large, so I was mostly in the clear by the first turn.  I’m just used to starting my run after everyone has been spread out by a swim and a bike ride.

That’s me in the purple, right behind the guy in a red hat

I hit my first timing spot at 1:10 when I should have hit it around 1:18. I pulled back just a bit.  The pace didn’t feel hard, but it did feel a bit forced.  It was cold, and my legs were still a little stiff and chilly, despite my warm-up.  As the over-eager folks started to drop back, I settled into my pace.  We hit a steep, short downhill that gave me some good momentum.  That will be fun on the way back.  I crossed the mile mark at 7:14, just a little faster than my prescribed pace of 7:18.  I was pleased that I had held back and not gone out too fast, but I was a little worried because my pace still felt forced.

I stayed ahead of the prescribed paces I had set, though (except for the mile markers) I wasn’t sure how exact they were because of tangents.  Somewhere during the second mile, a boy in front of me (probably elementary aged) started to struggle.  He went out way too fast and was desperately trying to keep up the pace.  I finally passed him, only to have him surge back ahead of me about 15 seconds later before fading for good.  Poor kid.  I felt sorry for him because I knew how he would feel for the rest of the race.  My pace still felt tough, and I was worried I had slowed down until I hit the two mile point in 14:24, significantly ahead of my 14:38 goal.  I hadn’t noticed that I had sped up, and I thought of the quote by cyclist Greg LeMond—“It doesn’t get any easier, you just get faster.”  Or, you know, warm up.  At this point, I was pretty confident I would finish under my goal, but that didn’t comfort me all that much because I also knew I still had over a mile left before I could stop running.

A few minutes into the final mile, I went around a turn and then saw it.  Oh no. The hill.  I had completely forgotten about it.  Now, it wasn’t actually a terrible hill.  It was steep, but fairly short.  But still, it wasn’t what you want to see 2.5 miles into a 5k.  So I put my head down, shortened my stride, and powered up the hill, thankful for all the hills I’ve climbed on my long runs recently.  And then, it was a long, slightly downhill straightaway to the finish.  I picked up the pace and hit the three mile point at 21:22.  My first thought was, “Sweet!  I’m totally going to hit my goal!”  My second was, “Wait a second… if I push it, I think I can break 22.”  So I turned on the gas and entered sprint-mode.  When I lurched across the finish line, the clock read 22:02, but I knew I had taken a few seconds to cross the timing mats at the start, so I was fairly confident I had broken 22 minutes.  (Some kind of sketchy calculations done after the fact said I was running at a 5:18 pace for the last .1 mile.)

This is not me finishing (I took the picture), but it is the finish line.

I got a cute little medal for beating the turkey (I guess some significant person was dressed as a turkey and running the race), and Rob and I headed back to the recreation center for food and results.  I snagged some snacks for later and then waited around for the results.  They had ribbons for up to fifth place in each age group, and I suspected I may have won one of those, so we hung out in the increasingly crowded gym until I saw a very official person (wearing a rec center shirt and a turkey hat) carrying some very official papers.  I surreptitiously followed him around until he handed said papers to the woman manning the ribbon table, at which point I approached her to find out my official time and placing.  My official time was 21:56.9, and (due to it being a slow year) I managed to place first in my age group (one other woman in my age group ran faster, but she placed in the top three and thus wasn’t included).  I was the sixth woman overall.  I grabbed my ribbon, and Rob and I headed to his parents’ for Thanksgiving preparation.

Post-race, not-yet-recovered attempt at a smile

I can’t imagine myself being more pleased with this race.  I feel like it showcases the hard work I’ve done training over the past month.  I handled the hills well, didn’t go out too fast, and still had a kick at the end.  The course wasn’t particularly easy, and I didn’t feel particularly amazing.  I felt good, and the weather conditions were not bad, but this didn’t feel like a fluke.  I think it accurately reflects my fitness right now, and that’s exciting to me.  There’s one area where I think I can improve.   I’m stoked about my negative splits, but a 7:14 first mile and a 6:58 third mile is probably not ideal.  I think part of that discrepancy was that the first mile was slightly uphill most of the way, but the greater part was probably that I wasn’t warmed up enough.  Apparently a half-hearted jog, a few stretches, and three striders is not an adequate warm-up for a 5k at race effort.  I plan to reluctantly warm up more for the next shorter race that I do.  I’m not sure how long this period of obvious and fast improvement will last, but I’m really enjoying it while it does.

Race loot

The stats:

Mile 1—7:14
Mile 2—7:10
Mile 3—6:58
Final .1—0:35 (5:18 pace)

1st of 81 (age group 25-29)
6th woman of 708

Weekly Recap (11/23-11/29)

Monday: Swim—Masters swim team (2700 yds)
I felt so much better swimming this week than I did last week. We did a tough workout where we were supposed to complete sets until we hit failure (i.e. didn’t finish the swim until we were supposed to start the next set), and I almost finished the whole thing.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
4 x 50 (closed fist)
4 x 50 (build speed throughout set)
10 x 100 @ 1:50
100 @ 1:50
100 @ 1:45
100 @ 1:40
100 @ 1:35
100 @ 1:30
100 @ 1:25 (crossed out because I missed this interval by one measly second)
100 easy
2 x 50 (strong finish)
25 fast
25 easy
Geez, longest list of sets ever. The final 50s and 25s were there to fill up the rest of the hour for those folks in the fast lane. I got through one of the additional sets before I had to hop out and leave for work.

Tuesday: Run—800m, 3 x 1600, 800m
Rob and I had plans to celebrate his stepmom’s birthday with her on Tuesday evening, so I couldn’t do my speed workout after work like I have been doing. My options were the treadmill in my office’s little gym or a very early morning. Treadmill-hate won out, and I set my alarm for 4:20am. Upon arriving at the track, I saw it was all locked up. So it was the treadmill anyway. The 1600s were slated to be run in 7:05 according to my training plan. I have regularly been running 10-15 seconds per mile faster than my training plan dictates, but I decided to run these closer to the prescribed pace. One reason was that I knew I’d be running a 5k on Thanksgiving and I didn’t want to wreck my legs. The other was that I wasn’t sure I could run much faster anyway. If I could run 1600m repeats at 6:50, I probably would be able to run a little faster than a 22:45 5k. I set the treadmill at 8.6 (mph) for my 1600s and took a 400 rest in between (just hopped off the treadmill). The workout went much more smoothly than my last treadmill workout. I was tired and pushing it by the end, but I wasn’t dead like I normally am after speed work. I’m looking forward to my next 1600 workout on the track to see how I do there.

Wednesday: REST
I took Wednesday off so I could recover a bit before the Thanksgiving Day 5k. I have some time off I need to use before the end of the year, so I took a half day at work as well. I wanted the extra time to make my pies so I wouldn’t be stressed about it on Wednesday evening or during my race on Thanksgiving.

All in a day’s work.

Thursday: Run—Thanksgiving Day 5k (21:56.9)
My first Thanksgiving 5k ever went well. The weather cooperated, and other than the being colder than I was used to (25°), the conditions were great. I’ll post a race report soon, so expect more info there. After that, it was Thanksgiving with Rob’s family which was a ton of fun. My pies went over well, and I ate way too much food. Wonderful!

Friday: Swim—Masters swim team (3000 yds)
I woke up early to go to Masters. It was a Black Friday workout. Basically, we had to do math and swim, but it was a super cute idea. We had sets like “1000 (70% off)” which meant a 300. You get the idea. I’ll chronicle the actual distances, though.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
8 x 50 distance per stroke
4 x 25 (underwater)
300 build
4 x 100 strong
200 kick
2 x 500
I didn’t feel great during swim, but I felt okay. Not many people showed up, so everyone was getting some pretty good feedback from the coach. I got advice to reach a little more with my stroke. Previously, he’s also mentioned my kick and told me to kick more from the hips than the knees. This time, he noted that he could tell I’ve been working on it and that it looks much better. Hearing that I’m doing better at something that needed to be improved is my favorite type of feedback, so I was pretty pleased with that information.

Saturday: Run—10 miles (1:22:55)
I woke up to a thin layer of snow which was both exciting (Snow! Christmas! Winter wonderland!) and depressing (Driving! Cycling! Running!). I spent the morning lounging around and slowly preparing for my run. Beforehand, I had a bottle of water, cherry pie and ice cream, pumpkin pie, a hardboiled egg, and a roll. Yes, I know I’m a weird eater. I took off around 10:45 wearing tights and sweats on bottom and a t-shirt and jacket on top. It was around 28°, but I felt good in what I wore. I was never cold and was sometimes too warm. I had heavy legs again which was frustrating, but maybe not surprising after a hard 5k on Thursday. I’m ready to feel fresh for a long run again. Regardless, I kept up a good pace. The roads were wet but not snowy or slushy expect during my park loop (a little over a mile). I’m sure I slowed down, and I could feel some stabilizing muscles working that were not used to that kind of effort. I did eventually loosen up, and felt pretty good during the middle miles of the run before facing some fatigue during the final miles. I finished with an 8:17/mile pace. Just a few minutes after I got back, it started snowing again, so I pretty much timed my run perfectly (for once!).

Sunday: Bike—30 minutes
With the temperature at 28°, this was my coldest ride ever. I set out for a simple half hour ride with the intention of assessing the warmth of my clothing for potential longer rides in similar temperatures. I wore my Gabba jersey and a base layer on top and shorts, tights, and knee warmers on bottom. I had some five-finger, heavy-duty gloves for my hands, shoe covers for my feet, and a headband to keep my ears warm. My legs and torso felt great, even when I hit 20+ mph. My extremities will need some adjustment. My hands felt okay, but I need to do something so I don’t get brain freezes when I hit faster speeds. Additionally, my feet wouldn’t have lasted much longer out there. I think I just need some insulated socks to work with the wind-breaking capabilities of my shoes covers. Fortunately, it’s supposed to warm up some next week. I’m hoping to get in a little more riding.

I hate running.

The other day, I was cooling down after finishing my speed workout.  For me, a cool down after speed work consists of 800m of what I like to call the “high school PE shuffle jog.”  As I plodded down the homestretch, hunched over and barely lifting my feet off the track, a thought passed through my mind, unbidden but entirely true in that moment.  I hate running.

This might seem surprising for someone who has run her entire life and chose to train for a marathon, even though the culmination of that training would be a 26.2 mile training run and not an actual race.  It might seem like a strange thought for someone who, even when she wasn’t training for anything, ran 1,000 miles in a year and who credits running with keeping her sane.  But it didn’t surprise me at all. I have spent a large portion of my life actively hating running.  And that’s why I’m writing a Thanksgiving post about it. Naturally.

I know there are people who genuinely love running with no reservations.  I know people who struggle with taper and who have a hard time cutting back (even when it would be good for them!) because they simply love getting out there and hitting the pavement so much.  I know these people are being honest about their love of running, but… I just don’t get it.  Running and I have typically had more of a sibling-esque relationship.  Running is the annoying little brother that would poke me in the back seat during car rides and tell me I smelled bad, so I would punch him in the shoulder.  But ultimately, I knew that he would be around whether I liked it or not, so I would always come to terms with that and make up.

All while growing up, I just assumed I would run track once I hit junior high.  My dad had been a good runner in high school, my older sister was an exceptional runner, and I was typically one of the fastest girls in my PE class.  So every year at the elementary school track meet, I’d lace up my little shoes, face my all-consuming nerves, and race those races as hard as I could because I knew that running was my future.  Note that “hard” doesn’t mean “fast.”  My parents have a video of elementary-aged me swerving all the way to the far edge of the lane next to mine before returning to my lane at the end of the race because I was trying so hard I couldn’t even run straight.  I wish that kind of obsessive effort were as cute in 27 year olds as it is in 10 year olds.

By the time I hit junior high and was ready to start running track for real, I knew two things for sure: racing was the most nerve-wracking experience out there (still true) and I really wanted to be good at it.  I had a pretty bad case of second-child inferiority syndrome in regards to running.  It would have been hard not to since my older sister was, at the time, literally the fastest middle distance female runner in the history of the state of Idaho (she set overall state records in the 400 and 800).  Fortunately, my junior high track coach saved me from a lifetime of my inferiority being on display for everyone to see by turning me into a hurdler.  It’s actually a pretty good tactic fast kids who just wouldn’t be fast enough to win open events.  And it worked out well for me.  Crippling nerves and hatred for running aside, I had a successful high school career and consistently earned points for my team during our State meet every year.

Running the 100m hurdles
300m hurdles at State– I took second behind the blue girl

And this was one of the reasons why running has remained in my life, despite my mixed feelings for it.  Scrawny, nerdy, and socially awkward girls with anxiety and self-esteem issues tend to struggle in high school, especially when they have a well-liked, accomplished older sibling that everyone in the whole school knows.  Running track gave me both something to be good at and a group where I belonged, so I built up a loyalty to running, despite the fact that every year I dreaded track season and every day during track season I dreaded practice.

Me and my actual annoying little sibling (kidding, Laura!)

After I graduated high school, I ran track at a NCAA Division III university for two and a half years (DIII, by the way, means no scholarships).  I could say a lot about college track, but I won’t.  For various reasons, it didn’t go well for me.  So many different issues contributed to my failure that it would be impossible to lay them all out.  I struggled because of everything from my own emotional state (I went through probably my worst period of depression in college) to the coaching (there was nothing wrong with my coach’s personality or tactics, but I think my particular body would have responded better to different workouts) to my own lack of talent (I tried to be a heptathlete which involves coordination and learning new skills… not my strong points).  It was a frustrating and sometimes devastating experience, and it’s probably a large part of why I spent five years thinking I had absolutely no talent whatsoever.

I was okay at long jump.  I mean, not good, but not terrible.
Yeah… this is not the angle the javelin is supposed to have.
College track cronies

I stopped running competitively, even competitively with myself, because I hated running and now I wasn’t even good at it.  But I kept running because, like that annoying sibling, I also needed it and would have missed it desperately if I cut it out of my life entirely.  Running was the best treatment for my anxiety and depression that I had found, and after spending one semester not working out at all and seeing all my motivation and willpower dissipate, I begrudgingly went back to running regularly because I needed to graduate, and it seemed like running somehow helped me balance the rest of my life.  When I ran, I went to bed early, got up early and got stuff done.  When I didn’t run, I didn’t do any of the other things either.

In order to remain a functional adult, I continued to run, sometimes enjoying it, sometimes hating it, but mostly just accepting it as a part of my life.  It wasn’t until I got into triathlons that my interest in running was rejuvenated.  And, especially since I started marathon training this year, I’ve started to realize that maybe I’m not actually horrible at it after all.  I’ve been enjoying the number-crunching and the goal-setting, even when I’m not enjoying the running itself.  I’m realizing what I knew in high school—that there’s more to running than running itself.  There’s goals and achievements and friendship and beautiful views.

So this Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for running—my annoying little brother.  I’m thankful that running gave me a place to belong in high school when I wouldn’t have had one otherwise.  I’m thankful that running is now giving me something to share with my dad.  I’m thankful that running gave me a way to balance myself for years before I discovered the joys of cycling.  I’m thankful that growing up running taught me to appreciate what my body can do for me more than what it looks like.  I’m thankful that I started running in junior high, and I’m thankful that for some reason I kept going and that running is still a part of my life fifteen years later.

Even if it is a twerp.


Weekly Recap (11/16-11/22)

Monday: Swim—Masters swim class (3050 yds)
I woke up on Monday feeling flat.  I think considering my hard effort on Saturday and my overall busy weekend, that’s perfectly normal.  However, it did make the swim workout on Monday even harder than it would have been normally.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
4 x 50 (distance per stroke)
4 x 50 (closed fist)
500 (build)
10 x 50 (whitewater kick)
5 x 100 (breathe: 3, 5, 3, 7, 3)
500 (negative split)
50 (easy)
I had a hard time with this workout.  Like I said, I felt flat, and my performance reflected it.  The five 100s were a breathing drill.  We were supposed to breathe every 3, 5, or 7 strokes depending on the number assigned to that particular 100.  I straight-up couldn’t do a 100 breathing every seven strokes.  I guess breath control is something I need to work on, even though I don’t want to and I hate it and I don’t see why I can’t just breathe every other stroke when I get tired.  I guess that’s why coaches know more than I do about this stuff.  I swam the final 500 hard and I think I managed a negative split, but I didn’t swim it nearly as fast as I swam a 500 last week.  I was a little disappointed, but I’ve been reminding myself that not every workout goes amazingly well and that pushing through when it’s tough brings about improvement.

Tuesday: Run—800m, 6 x 800, 800m
This workout was one of the speed workouts I did as a trial-run before marathon training started, so after such a fast run on Saturday and such a hard swim on Monday, the familiarity was comforting.  My training schedule called for my 800s to run in 3:27, but because I’ve been hitting the prescribed paces without much trouble, I’ve been aiming to run a little faster.  So I was aiming to hit 3:20 consistently.  I actually managed to hold back and not blast out the first 800 way too fast, and I think it did help me later on in my workout.  My times were really consistent and exactly where I wanted them to be:
3:17.2, 3:18.4. 3:18.6, 3:18.5, 3:18.3, 3:17.5
It was a hard workout, especially since I only took one minute rest between each rep, but my times were significantly better than the last time I did this workout a few weeks ago.  I was better rested for this go-around, but I was also in Salt Lake instead of Nampa, and the elevation makes a big difference in my performance.  I also felt like I recovered faster than I have from speed workouts.  I was wiped out by the end of the workout, but I wasn’t completely exhausted the rest of the night.

Wednesday: Bike—30 minutes
I went on a short spin during lunch.  I rode pretty hard for the time I was out, but I accidentally reset my computer in the middle of the ride, so I don’t know my exact time or distance.  I am really starting to enjoy lunchtime rides.  It gets me out of the office and rejuvenates me in the middle of the day.  I find I need that, especially during the winter.  It doesn’t hurt that I really love the path I ride on during lunch.  It’s got a kind of barren, desolate beauty, especially when it’s cold outside.

It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love views like this.

Thursday: Run—7 miles (54:32)
These tempo runs keep getting longer and longer.  I mean, I know that’s kind of expected, but still.  The training plan I’m using has three different tempo length ranges (short, medium, long) with three different paces attached.  So my seven mile tempo this week was slated to be the same pace as my five mile run last week.  My plan called for an 8:00/mile pace, but I wanted to aim a little faster than that and try to hit closer to a 7:45/mile pace.  It was a rough day out there.  There was a moderate, chilly wind and my legs were pretty heavy.  I started out fast (too fast… it’s something I need to work on), but I had a hard time keeping my tempo up throughout the bulk of my run.  There were very few times where my pace felt easy.  It didn’t feel hard for the most part, just forced and not all that smooth.  I started to feel a little nauseated towards the end of the run as well.  I ate an early lunch before going for a run, and I don’t think I gave it enough time to digest.  Despite the run being a little rough, it ended up being a solid performance, and my final pace was 7:47/mile.

Friday: REST
This was a glorious rest day that involved sleeping in until 6:00am and incorporating almost zero movement into my life.   I did, however, stop by the retail store and choose some running shoes as a birthday present from my parents.  I’m very excited to order them as soon as I receive my new debit card (because I lost mine, which is the most annoying thing in the world).

Saturday: Run—13 miles (1:48:36)
I have mixed feelings about my long run this week.  Of course, a part of me always hopes to go faster, faster, faster, and my pace this week was 8:21/mile, which is almost 30 seconds slower than my pace last week.  But I still feel positive about the way I ran.  I have been feeling tired and heavy-legged all week, and that continued into this run.  Add to that the elevation, the hills, and the fact that I forgot winter means water fountains are turned off, and I feel like I put a strong effort in.  I didn’t kill myself during this run, but I didn’t want to.  As I said, I’ve been feeling a bit overworked physically, so I started this run aiming for an  8:30/mile pace, even though I know on a good day I could probably hit 8:15/mile.  I did slow down during the middle miles, and I’d like to improve on that front.  I struggle with keeping an even pace during my longer runs, which ultimately comes down to a lack of focus.  Before the run, I fueled with a bottle of water, scrambled eggs and toast, leftover baguette, and a handful of pretzels.  During the run, I ate a chocolate Hammer Gel around mile five.  It settled in my stomach pretty easily and didn’t taste terrible.  I didn’t have any water because of the aforementioned water fountain fiasco.  After the run, I had some chocolate milk.  That’s usually the first thing I can stomach after a hard effort, and I needed to eat something quickly because Rob and I left soon after I got back to help his aunt clean out her gutters.

Elevation profile for my run… that first hill is a killer.

Sunday: Bike—25.72 miles (1:41:05)
One good thing about winter is that it’s never too hot to work out in the afternoon.  This means that on Sundays, I can sleep in because I don’t need to get my workout in before heading to church.  Score.  So I slept in (until 6:30am…) and had a lazy morning before going to church and then going on my bike ride. It was a perfect fall day.  It was in the mid-40s, and the sun was bright.  I wore a base layer and regular jersey, long tights, gloves, and double socks.  I would have worn toe covers, but those were being borrowed.  My toes got a little chilly, but otherwise, I dressed perfectly for the weather. I set out planning on riding for about an hour, but once I got out there, I wanted to make the ride a little more substantial.  Days as beautiful as this one will become increasingly rare as the season progresses, so I wanted to take advantage of it.  I ended up riding to the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon and back.  The whole ride was beautiful and sunny and crisp, and except for one pesky hill, I enjoyed the whole thing.

Nine Month Checkup

And, in the blink of an eye, Ironman Coeur d’Alene is only nine months away.  It’s been an interesting month.  I’ve transitioned from spending most of my time cycling to spending most of my time running.  I’m not sure how I feel about that change.  I’ve seen definite improvement in my running, and I’m faster than I have been for years.  But I really miss long, early morning bike rides on the weekend, and I know I’ll only miss cycling more and more as winter progresses.  Hopefully, missing it during the winter will leave me extra motivated to start cycling again in full-force come spring.


My running and swimming have both been going well.  I’ve seen consistent improvement in my paces for my runs, and if I continue to perform the way I have been performing, I will feel very good about running come spring.  This month, I ran 13 miles at a 7:52/mile pace.  A few months ago when I signed up for the Salt Lake City Half-Marathon, I estimated that I would run the race at an 8:20/mile pace.  Needless to say, even I’m surprised at how fast I’ve, well, gotten fast.  Swimming has been a pleasant surprise.  I didn’t really plan to focus on improving my swimming over the winter, but since I’ve been attending Masters swim team, I feel like I’ve already made some small improvements and may continue to improve throughout the winter if I keep pushing myself.

General health:
I’m tired.  I don’t know if it’s the bump-up in my training or the onset of winter or a combination of the two, but I’ve been feeling it start to wear on me.  I have been getting more sleep and going to bed earlier.  In fact, I’ve been in bed before 9:00pm on several occasions recently.  My training plan calls for 2-3 days of cross-training in addition to my three key runs.  I’ve been doing three days of cross-training, so I may lower that number to two if I don’t start feeling more rested soon.  I’ve struggled some with my appetite this month (see below), but winter is coming, so I’ve put on a little weight anyway.


Some of my tiredness may be a result of not sleeping all that well, too.  Over the past month, I’ve experienced an uptick in my anxiety which always messes with my sleep.  I fall asleep fine, but I toss and turn.  (In a cruel twist of fate, when I tried out an anti-anxiety medication last year, the main side effect I had was waking up at 2am, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.)  Additionally, it messed with my appetite some for a couple of weeks.  I was feeling pretty poorly fueled for a while, but it’s been much better this past week.  In regards to how I’m feeling mentally about the Ironman… I’m still feeling pretty good about my progress.  I’ve noticed myself become increasingly worried about losing bike fitness.  I know that taking time off intense training is important (and that I may be pushing myself close to the line with conquering a marathon on my off-season), so I’m pretty sure my fears about losing bike fitness are unfounded.  One of the skills you need to learn to deal with anxiety is a decent ability to tell a real fear from an unfounded one.  I think the fear of losing bike fitness with plague me throughout the winter, but because I’m pretty sure it’s unfounded, I won’t let myself “give in” to it and start riding five hours a week.


Longest swim workout: 2750 yards

Longest ride: 30 miles

Longest run: 13 miles

Most encouraging workout: My thirteen mile run in Boise with my dad.  I honestly didn’t know I was capable of running as fast as I did (7:52/mile) over such a long distance.  I ran almost thirty seconds per mile faster than the pace I predicted for the Salt Lake City Half Marathon I’ll be doing in April.

Most discouraging workout: Probably my climb up Little Cottonwood.  It wasn’t horribly discouraging, but I either underestimated the difficulty of the climb or overestimated by own fitness.  That made the climb itself quite discouraging (I almost turned around and gave up!).  But it also made making it to the top a little discouraging.  I wanted to conquer it, but I just survived it.

Average time per sport per week

Swimming: 82.5 minutes

Cycling: 110 minutes

Running: 138.75 minutes


Looking to the future

My marathon training is going well, and my running is improving faster than I thought it would.  I spent quite a few years forgetting that I had any talent for running whatsoever, and it’s been fun rediscovering that talent (as moderate as it may be).  I’m looking forward to seeing further improvement throughout the winter.  I’m hoping to continue seeing improvement in my swimming as well.  As I’ve mentioned, I wasn’t expecting to improve my swimming much between now and the Ironman.  However, attending the local Masters swim class has already made a better swimmer.  I think I may improve enough to take a few minutes off my expected time.  Granted, a few minutes doesn’t mean all that much over the course of a 12-14 hour race, but it’s something.  Oh, and the core workouts I was going to do?  I think I did core after a run once this month, which is an improvement, but still really shoddy.  I’m adding that to the “try again next month” list.


An Idaho Weekend

Two weeks of marathon training is all I’ve needed to decide that if I ever do train to race a marathon, it will be a flat course that is lower in elevation than Salt Lake City.  Going from running in Salt Lake City to running in Nampa, Idaho, feels like going from swimming without a wetsuit to swimming with the most buoyant, non-triathlon-approved wetsuit there is.  I realize that’s not a helpful comparison at all for non-triathletes.  So for those non-triathletes who read this blog… basically, it’s magic.

That and the prospect of seeing my ridiculous flock of nieces and nephews makes visiting Idaho a priority for me.  So, as I do fairly often, I took Friday off, packed up my car, and drove up to Idaho.  My niece was having her fifth birthday party, and that’s not something an aunt can miss.  Because I hate when traveling consumes an entire day, I left early Friday morning, around 6:00am.  Leaving that early means that I still have most of the day to decompress, spend time with my parents, and play house/school/go-to-gymnastics about a hundred times with the birthday girl.

The drive was wonderfully uneventful, and when I got to my parents’ house around 11:00am, they were both gone.  My mom was working and my dad, who works part-time after retiring a few years ago, was at the grocery store.  So I got ready to decompress after my drive.  In other words, I sat down with my computer.  Moments later, I realized I had left my power cord at home.  I was annoyed at myself for the oversight, but it ended up being a good thing.  I was mostly unplugged for the weekend, and while I still had my phone, I spent hardly any time online (at least, compared to a normal weekend).  Being removed from my blog, my Facebook, my forums, etc. forced me to be more present and less distracted while I was spending time with my family, and it’s hard to complain about that.

So this is where I grew up, making me the luckiest kid ever.

I spent a lot of time playing with my nieces and nephews on Friday.  I went over and spent some time with Jordyn (birthday girl) while her siblings were napping.  We colored which is always fun to do with kids, and we played house which is only fun when the kid you’re playing with is a relative.  We were outside when her brothers woke up and came out to join us.  Rustin (affectionately dubbed “Monster Baby”) woke up very cranky.  He was toddling around outside with us when he fell down and started crying.  He just tripped in the grass, so he was only upset, not hurt.  Jordyn looked at him for a second and then grabbed my arm, pulling me away while she said, “…I guess Rustin doesn’t want to play.”  My younger sister stopped by after she was done with work, and she, my older sister, and I all raked leaves for the kids to play in.  Once Rustin realized he could annoy his brother and sister by walking through the leaves and ruining the pile, he was in a much better mood.

Posing for the camera…
And just goofing off.

Friday was kid day, but Saturday was for my run.  When I made plans to come up this weekend, I told my dad that I had 12 miles on my schedule.  He replied, “Okay, we’ll just go thirteen.  That’ll be fine, right?”  Um, sure.  Thirteen miles it is!  I was unsure how the run would go.  My longest run so far had been 10 miles, and I had experienced some knee pain during the final mile or so.  I didn’t have any doubt that I could run the 13 miles, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able keep up with my dad.  I woke up early, drank some water and juice, and ate some dessert pizza and a bowl of cereal.  I have a pretty fickle appetite in the mornings, so generally, fueling for morning runs involves me wandering around the house looking for anything that sounds remotely appetizing.

We started off at what felt like a very manageable place and finished the first mile in about 8:15.  Typically, my dad and I start out at this pace and then speed up a bit as we warm up.  Today was no different, and the next few miles were close to an 8:00 pace.  The way out is just very slightly uphill, but today the wind was at our backs, so I didn’t even notice the slight grade.  I’ve just started practicing my fueling on long runs, and I brought some Skittles to try out.  They settled okay in my stomach on the way out.  We reached the golf course outside of town, turned around, and were greeted by a nasty headwind.  Once we got back into town, there were enough buildings and fences around to break the wind that we felt okay, but the first mile or so on the way back was demoralizing.  We were still moving a pretty good clip (probably still around 8:00/mile), but as we hit miles 7 and 8, I started to feel some fatigue and was worried I wouldn’t be able to keep the pace up.  Around mile 8, I ate some more Skittles and drank some more water.  This time, it didn’t sit well at all, and I started to feel nauseated.   The sugar from the Skittles had perked my legs up, though.  They didn’t feel amazing, of course, but I felt I could continue the pace for another four miles.  My stomach was the limiter as it started to feel worse and worse.  I could ignore it as long as I was thinking about something else, but it was not a good feeling.  When we hit two miles left, I mentioned the nausea to my dad.

“Do you want to pull back a bit?” he asked.

I knew we were running a 7:58/mile average pace at that point. “No, we’re this close.  Let’s make sure we break 8 minutes per mile.”

And then I picked it up a bit.  Sometimes the biggest motivation to push the last few miles is knowing that the harder you push, the sooner you’re done.  That was the case here.  The last two miles of all my dad’s routes are the same, so once we hit mile 11, we both knew exactly what to expect for the rest of the run.  And we kept ratcheting up the pace a bit as I did my best to ignore whatever was going on in my stomach.  Finally, after an overzealous sprint to the driveway, we were done.  We did our last mile in about 7:30 and finished the whole run in 1:42:22, or at a 7:52/mile pace.  Oh, and I didn’t even throw up afterwards, much to my relief.

No photos from the run, so you get my watch instead.

We sat on the porch a bit recovering.  My mom came out and told us we both needed to take showers before Jordyn’s party that night because we stank.  I made a show of sighing and declaring that I was totally planning on showering already (I totally wasn’t).  And then, somehow my dad went off to do a million chores like mowing up leaves and feeding the cows while I sat around and moaned and groaned for a while longer before getting a text from my younger sister that the Kona Ironman broadcast was on.  So of course I turned it on for inspiration.  This was the first time I’d watched a Kona broadcast since I started (somewhat) seriously pursuing triathlon, and watching it was a very different experience than it has been in the past.  I’ve always known it’s sentimentalized, but I really felt how overly sentimental it was this time.  And I understood better than I had in the past that no broadcast can actually capture the mundane hours and boring, non-inspirational dedication put into training for an Ironman.

Lots of chores to do around here.
But my dad thinks it’s worth it.

And then, birthday party!  The kids’ cousins came over, and the present-opening and cake-eating was as hectic as I’ve ever seen.  I waited patiently and didn’t descend onto the cake like a hawk, and I barely got a piece!  Fortunately, there was enough cake for everyone to some, so a cakeless crisis was averted.  Jordyn could not open her presents fast enough.  She tore through them like a wild hurricane and then was off, sprinting down the stairs with her cousin Maddie to (try to) hide from the boys so they could play Littlest Pet Shop in peace.  They were discovered a few minutes later.


One benefit of having five kids running around the house, all playing with each other, was that they forgot all about me and I had plenty of time to hold my littlest niece Brooklyn.  She’s apparently a very sweet baby who typically only cries when she’s hungry, tired, or needs a diaper change which was a welcome change from her older brother (Monster Baby, remember?)  I held her whenever I got a chance this weekend.  Holding a (quiet and sleeping) infant is so comforting.  Every once in a while, she’d open her eyes a bit and give a big yawn before cuddling back in and going back to sleep.  Adorable.  After I handed her off, I played with Jordyn and Maddie for a bit before chatting with my parents and going to bed.  Not a bad way to end an evening.

The sweetest little baby ever.

I wanted to get on the road pretty early on Sunday, so I went to my sister’s house around 8:30am to say goodbye to the kiddos.  Then it was off on my bike for the short spin I had planned.  It was warmer than I had expected, but I dressed with most of the cold-weather gear I brought because it was cloudy and windy.  I wore my Gabba jersey which is basically the greatest invention known to cyclists who are faced with cold winters (and no, Castelli isn’t compensating me in any way for saying that because they have better things to do with their time/money L ).  But it’s awesome and absurdly versatile.  It’s wind-proof and water-resistant.  I’ve worn just my Gabba with no base layer in weather as cold as the mid-30s and have been perfectly comfortable.  The only time I reached it’s limitations was during a rainy, 40° descent at 25-30 mph.  Even then, I probably would have been fine if I had been wearing a base layer.

I look like a huge dork in this photo, but it shows off my jersey well.

Despite the weather being warmer than I expected, I was glad I had it on Sunday because it was really windy, making the “out” of my out-and-back pretty miserable.  The “back” part was really fun, though, until I got some impromptu flat-changing training.  Ugh.  Flats happen, and it was good practice.  I was pretty much packed already, so once I got back to my parents’ house, all I had to do was put my bike in the trunk and change my clothes before I took off and headed back home to Salt Lake City.

It’s coming up on a year since I moved to Utah, and I still really miss certain aspect of Idaho.  I miss being close to my family, I miss running on the Boise Greenbelt, and I miss nearby places for open-water swimming.  And while Utah continues to feel more and more like home, I think a part of me will always miss certain elements of Idaho, not the least of which is my family.  I’m grateful that I live close enough to justify these short, whirlwind roadtrips.  I’m glad I get to build a relationship with my nieces and nephews.  I love that I am able to run with my dad.  I’m thankful I get to spend some time with my sisters and my mom.  But I was also glad to get back to Rob, Mr. Pip, the mountains, and my own bed.

Weekly Recap (11/09-11/15)

Monday: Swim—Masters swim class
Today, our workout had timed sets instead of distance sets.  So basically, we’d do the exercise for the time listed and then do an easy 100 to recover.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
4 x 50 @ 1:00 (distance per stroke)
4 x 50 @ 1:05 (closed fist)
3:00 whistle kicks
100 easy
2:00 whistle kicks
100 easy
1:00 whistle kicks
100 easy
8:00 even paced
100 easy
8:00 build
For the whistle kicks, we kicked up and down the pool, alternating between 75% and 95% effort based on the coach’s whistle.  All I could think about during these drills while my legs were burning were the 1200 repeats I would be doing on the track the next day.  After whistle kicks, we did two 8:00 swim sets.  I really pushed in for the first one.  I swam hard, stayed mentally strong, and focused on keeping my pace steady (though I actually had a small negative split!).  I got exactly 500yds in the allotted 8:00, and I felt really good about it.  I lost it a bit during the second 8:00 set.  I knew I was supposed to build my pace, so I started off a bit slower—and then didn’t get much faster.  I was tired and ready to be done, but I physically could have given more.  I just wasn’t very strong mentally.  I was frustrated with myself as I drove to work, but there’s nothing I can do about it except remember to tough it out better next time.

Tuesday: Run—800m, 4 x 1200, 800m
Both of the closest high schools won their football playoff games again, so I headed to Brighton High after work for my speed workout. It had been raining/snowing all day, so I was hoping to just bust out my four 1200s and then get home to a warm blanket.  I pulled out the greatest motivation there is for a runner on days they don’t want to be running—the faster you run, the faster you get to leave.  I got to the track and, sure enough, it was covered with an inch or two of snow.  Wonderful.  So I got started on my 1200s.  Here are my times (my plan called for them to be run in 5:15):
I took 90 seconds rest in between each 1200, and I was struggling by the end of the third one.  It was snowing pretty hard, with those big, wet flakes that get in your eyes and that make you cough when you inhale them.  My hands were freezing, and my legs were getting heavier and heavier.  But I remembered feeling like I had let myself down the day before while swimming, and I told myself I was not going to let myself get complacent again.  The last 1200 was hard from the get-go, and it was only guts and mental tricks that got me through.  But they were enough.  I finished off the workout strong and headed home for a warm shower.


Wednesday: Bike—14.92 miles (55:33)
Fortunately, the weather cleared up beautifully on Wednesday for my bike ride.  Cycling in wet, soppy weather is the absolute worst.  However, cycling in cold, sunny weather is wonderful with the right gear.  All morning, I was almost giddily excited about getting back on my bike again.  I’m beginning to think that marathon training will reveal that cycling is my one true love after all.  I rode the same path I rode last week.  It was about 40° and sunny out—perfect for everything feeling crisp and cold but not overwhelmingly so.  I rode a little farther than I did last week.  I crossed a fun wooden bridge and, after a couple of turns, was greeted with a wall.  This hill was short, but it must have been 10-12% grade at least, no exaggeration.  About a quarter mile after the top of the hill, I ran into some construction on the path, so I turned around and headed back to work.  It was a great ride, and I miss cycling.

Thursday: Run—5 miles (38:16)
I need to do something about my nerves.  I spend the whole day prior to my Tuesday and Thursday workouts (speed and tempo) vaguely nervous and unsettled.  Hopefully I get used to these “key” workouts and stop dreading them so much.  It’s not even that I mind doing the workouts.  I’m pretty sure the nerves are just flashback nerves because of running track for all those years.  Anyway, I knew this out-and-back course was (mostly) slightly downhill on the way out and (mostly) slightly uphill on the way back.  Because I don’t have a Garmin, I have to map all my routes out beforehand which means I always know the elevation for each training run I do.  Knowledge is power, I suppose!  With this in mind, I started out a little faster than my planned pace of 8:00/mile.  I kept up the pace for almost the entire first half, just dropping it for a short time before I turned around.  But on the way back, I was able to pick it up again.  When I reached the long, slightly uphill stretch, I focused on keeping up my turnover.  It was hard, but just comfortably hard.  I never felt like I was straining.  With about half a mile left, I turned up the pace and finished hard.  I was very pleased with my 7:39/mile pace.  It wasn’t that long ago that I felt proud about a 7:45/mile pace run with company at a lower elevation on a much flatter route.  Turns out, focusing on running has caused some great improvements in my running.  Who knew.

Friday: Rest
I spent my rest day driving up to Idaho and playing with my little nieces and nephews.  I needed this rest day to recover for my long run.

Saturday: Run—13 miles (1:42:22)
Again, lower elevation does wonders.  I know “raced” this long run more than I should have. It was a hard run, and I felt completely spent afterwards. But it was a great opportunity for a confidence-boosting run.  I’m going to write up a recap of the weekend during which I’ll discuss the run a little bit more.  Here, I’ll note that while the lower elevation unquestionably helps me run faster, it does not make my leg muscles any more used to running 13 miles at a 7:52/mile pace.  So I was stiff and sore that entire day and the next day. However, I was expecting some knee pain because I had some at the end of my 10 mile run last week, and I didn’t have any pain at all. I’m guessing that’s because this route didn’t have any really jarring downhill sections like my route in Salt Lake City does.

Sunday: Bike—30 minutes
This was a recovery ride before I drove back to Utah.  It helped me get my legs moving and start working through some of that soreness and stiffness.  It was a windy ride, so going out was no fun, but coming back was a lot of fun.  Plus, I got some bonus flat-changing training when I got a flat in my rear tire.  It was annoying, but I always try to think of flat tires as a chance to practice a skill I’m not very good at instead of a frustrating, bad experience.  And generally, when I remind myself to take that mindset, I don’t mind changing flats very much.

Triathlete on a Budget

I don’t know if you know this, but triathlon is expensive.  Like, stupid expensive.  And I’m kind of stingy frugal.  Not only that, but while I am forever thankful that I make enough money to live, save, and have a little fun, I’m hardly raking in the dough with my two literature degrees.  In fact, I’ve yet to break into the middle-class according to Business Insider.  These factors merge to create a situation where I am unable (or, rather, unwilling) to pay for some of the finer aspects of being a triathlete.  In other words, I’m a triathlete on a budget.

Currently, I fund my triathlon hobby on $100 a month (and then some).  The “and then some” refers to extra income that I often split between fun expenses and practical expenses.  For instance, I put some of the money in my tax return this year into my fun savings account and some of it into my emergency savings account.  Or if I have some extra money at the end of the month because gas prices were low or I didn’t burn through my spending money and if my other accounts are looking well-stocked, I can put that extra money into my fun savings account.

While you don't need to know the details of my budget, I thought a visual representation of the amount of money I spend on triathlon vs. my total income might be useful.
While you don’t need to know the details of my budget, I thought a visual representation of the amount of money I spend on triathlon vs. my total income might be useful.

Essentially, I’ve had to set my priorities.  First, I try to remember that triathlons are not the most important thing.  Seriously.  As big of a role as they play in my life, I need to remember that they are just a hobby.  It would be great to get a TT bike, but my 401k needs to be more important right now (much to my chagrin!). And I’m not in the financial position right now to choose both of those.  However, I also recognize that I do need to prioritize the hobbies that are important to me, and triathlons are important to me.  I looked through the withdrawals from my fun savings account, and with a few exceptions (birthday and Christmas presents, mostly), every single transaction for the past year is for triathlon stuff.  This isn’t to say that triathlon is the only fun thing I will ever spend money on, but it sure has been recently.  And that’s okay.  If I tried to spend money on travel, triathlon, gourmet food, and the trendiest clothes, I would be the kind of person that rode to an artisan coffee shop once a week (in a cute little hipster outfit) and spend the weekend in St. George once a month.  In other words, I might be more interesting, but I wouldn’t be able to devote much to any of my hobbies.

Setting my priorities gives me my baseline budget, but it doesn’t help me get all the stuff I need want on that budget.  So for anyone who might be reading this blog who is also an underfunded triathlete (or even just an underfunded participant in another hobby), here are some techniques that I’ve either used or considered using to help keep the spending under control.  (I feel obligated to mention that Rob works for an online outdoor recreation retailer.  I get pretty good deals through him for larger-ticket items, so certain tips below like buying used aren’t really all that applicable to me anymore because I can get things cheaper there than used.)

1. Think about buying used. Now, this isn’t always possible. You won’t ever get me into used bike shorts, for instance.  But for some of the bigger purchases (your bike and wetsuit, for instance), it’s pretty practical.  A lot of this is common sense, and you’ve read it about a million topics in a million places.  Buying used is fairly simply if you know what you are looking for.  If you know bikes, you can pick out a good deal when you see it on Craigslist or eBay.  It’s a little more difficult when you don’t really know the gear (like me).  You don’t want to get screwed and end up wasting money by spending it on something that turns out to be crappy.  So try to find a reliable source for the equipment.  Most shops that rent out wetsuits will periodically sell off their stock and buy new ones so that they have really high quality wetsuits that are in excellent shape.  These sales are a great opportunity to pick up a good used wetsuit for a good price.  When it comes to bikes, see if there is a local bike shop that sells used bikes.  I know that the Boise Bicycle Project is in that business in Boise and the Flynn’s Cyclery does it here in Salt Lake.  I suspect that there are shops like this in most cities.  If you tell them what you are looking for, they may even keep an eye out for you and let you know if something comes in.  If those options aren’t applicable for you, try to enlist the help of someone you know who is knowledgeable about the gear in question.  They can help you differentiate between the wheat and the chaff and find a great bike/wetsuit/whatever you’re looking for.

2. Race smart (financially). Racing can be expensive, and races can eat away at a limited budget.  See what you can do to minimize the cost of your races in a season.  Sign up for a 10k and a local sprint tri instead of two Olympic tris during your training cycle.  Or do whatever you can to lower your racing budget—local races, discount codes, etc.  If the sole purpose of a race is to practice racing or transitions, see if you can mimic that with a race-effort workout or transition practice in your garage.  I know, I know.  Nothing completely simulates race day.  But nothing can completely simulate money in your bank account when you have a leaky radiator, either.

3. Enlist family and friends. Not through GoFundMe, but through Christmas presents and birthday presents. I’m pretty difficult to buy for, so my family is always asking me what I want for my birthday or for Christmas.  So I give them ideas for triathlon stuff.  For instance, this year, my parents offered to get me new running shoes for my birthday (and I’m counting down the days because my current shoes are in bad shape).  I may ask for some cycling socks or elastic laces this year for Christmas.  Or a few more water bottles.  There are plenty of relatively inexpensive things that add up when you are purchasing them all yourself, and Christmas and birthdays can put a dent into those.  (And yeah, yeah, yeah.  Asking for water bottles and shoe laces for Christmas may be the most boring thing in the world, but I’ve never pretended to be interesting.)

These shoes have, like, 1,000 miles on them. I have no idea how I'm not injured. This is not recommended.
These shoes have  over 1,000 miles on them. I have no idea how I’m not injured. This is not recommended.  Sometimes, I am irresponsibly stingy.

4. Shop at discount store. This is only if comfort allows it. Cheap shoes are not worth shin splints and a cheap swimsuit is not worth chafing.  But if you don’t need to worry about chafing or foot injuries from decent-but-not-great shoes, check out Ross, Marshall’s and TJ Maxx.  For instance, I’ve never struggled with chafing while running.  So I get cheap running clothes as much as possible.  However, I do splurge for a high-quality swimsuit because they are more comfortable and last so much longer.  Of course, this bit of advice can apply to life and not just triathlons.  I love buying stuff at Ross and feeling like I’m getting an amazing deal.

I got these shorts at Ross for cheap, and they've become some of my favorite running shorts.
I got these shorts at Ross for cheap, and they’ve become some of my favorite running shorts.

5. Cut non-triathlon expenses. I find it far too easy to waste money due to laziness. Researching and deciding on a new cell phone plan can be an arduous process.  Meal-planning is really easy to put off until it’s too late for that week (I’m terrible at meal-planning, by the way).  But I know that giving myself permission to put any extra money from budget categories towards triathlon often motivates me to make the financially responsible decision because the thought of being that much closer to aero bars is way more fun than the prospect of putting $50 in my savings account.

6. Make difficult (but wise) decisions. This is the part that isn’t fun. Sometimes, you just have to say no, even to things you’d like to do.  I had to make a tough call this year.  When I did the Emmett’s Most Excellent Olympic Triathlon last year, there was a lackluster field and I ended up winning my age group.  I was taken aback when, a few months later, I received an invitation to the Age Group National Championships for the Olympic distance.  Competing in that race honestly sounded like a lot of fun, and for someone of my caliber, it really might have been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  I liked the idea of traveling there and having an experience that I would be able to look back on forever.  But… I wanted to do an Ironman in 2016 and knew that meant signing up in 2015.  I knew that Ironman races are expensive.  I knew that flying halfway across the country with my bike and staying in a hotel would also be expensive.  So I had to choose, and I wanted to do an Ironman more.  Signing up for my Ironman recently took my triathlon fund down to under $100, so I definitely wouldn’t have had enough money to do both.

I know (from experience) that skipping out on races, asking for socks for Christmas, and saying “no” to that really great thermal jersey you’ve seen on sale three times can be tough.  It’s frustrating to see people whizz by you on TT bikes and wonder just how much free speed you’re missing out on because you don’t have one (and probably never will).  However, it’s really easy to fall into the trap of either spending way too much money on triathlons or feeling like you are missing out because you don’t have unlimited funds.  And that’s not entirely true.  Money helps in triathlon, just like it helps in life.  And being a triathlete involves some measure of financial privilege.  But it’s not as much as people make it out to be.  Despite my modest job and modest earnings, when it comes down to it, I’ve been able to get everything I need for triathlon.  I’ve got a solid bike that will last for years, a wetsuit, a spot in Ironman Couer d’Alene, and I’ll have a brand new pair of shoes once my birthday rolls around.

Weekly Recap (11/02-11/08)

Monday: Masters swim (2750yd)
It was another hard workout today.  The group in my lane was a little different than usual, and I think they were a little faster.  That meant I was really pushing myself.  The last few 50s, I was desperately pulling and kicking as hard as I could and was barely keeping up with the pace.  I was just exhausted.  And that’s good—I did (barely) hit all the intervals, but I feel like I pushed myself to the point of failure during this workout:
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
8 x 50 (closed fist)
6 x 100 @ 1:45
100 easy
6 x 75 @ 1:15
100 easy
6 x 50 @ :50
100 easy
50 (sprint!)
50 (cool down)
I also got some good advice on my stroke.  Kick more from the hips (and increase my hip rotation to help with that) and put my hands in the water more to the side to keep them from crossing over when I rotate my shoulders.  Plus, the coach said my stroke looked really good overall which was both surprising and encouraging.  I honestly think I’ve become a better swimmer even after just a couple months of masters once a week.  It’s magic.

Tuesday: Run—800m, 8 x 400, 800m
I wasn’t sure how I would feel for my first official workout in my marathon training.  Long gone are the days where a swim workout is a recovery day for my legs, so I wasn’t fully rested up.  I also needed somewhere to do this workout.  It’s the very tail end of high school football season here in Utah, and I needed to find a high school that was out of the playoffs so I could run there after work and not be interrupting.  My first two choices won their playoff game last weekend (boo!), but Brighton High School (which is both somewhat nearby and is Rob’s old high school) lost, so I headed there after work.  I had some trouble with my pace the first couple and ran them way too fast.  It was a bit windy which threw me off.  However, I got that under control and was very consistent with the rest of my reps, even if they were about five seconds faster than they should have been.  I’m not sure if I should welcome running faster than I need to or hold back and stick to my training plan.  Here are my times for each 400:
1:27.77, 1:30.73, 1:34.88, 1:36.42, 1:35.77, 1:35.36, 1:35.72, 1:33.04
This workout was harder for me than my paces show.  I felt like I was really pushing it the last 150 of most of my reps (probably in large part because I turned into a headwind on the homestretch).  Each rep was tough, and I was barely catching my breath before starting out again.  However, I kept nailing my paces, even when I subconsciously adjusted my pace down to match my performance on the first several 400s.  Basically, I didn’t feel like I felt good, but I was running like I felt good.  Weird.

Running after work means I get to see the sunset.
Running after work means I get to see the sunset.

Wednesday: Rest
Usually, I take my rest day a little closer to the weekend, but it worked out to put my rest day in the middle of the week.  I was glad to have a rest day after my speed workout the day before, and I was feeling pretty tired after a hard few days.  I was pleasantly surprised, though, that I had very little soreness.  My previous two track workouts resulted in massively sore quads and calves, so this was an improvement.  And it made me very glad I took the time to add some speed work into my routine before my plan officially required it.

Thursday: Run—3 miles (22:35)
First tempo run in the books!  Actually, tempo runs are the workouts that I’ve been most worried about.  I’ve been doing 7-9 mile long runs most weekends for the past couple of months and haven’t had any trouble hitting the marathon training paces.  And I had a few good speed workouts over the past few weeks.  But I haven’t been doing much middle distance fast-ish running.  So around lunch time, I changed into my running clothes and headed outside.  (Side note—today was the first day I wore my long sleeve top and capri pants, and I almost didn’t think to pack them… I saw a few snowflakes dancing around right as I was starting my run, so I’m glad I brought them!)  After a little warmup, I headed off on my run.  I started off too fast, but I checked my pace pretty quickly and slowed down.  My pace varied some, but it was mostly in relation to the grade and wind direction.  It was a pretty tough run.  My legs felt a little heavy, and I started getting a side cramp about a mile in.  I managed the cramp well enough that it didn’t ever get to the “hot, dull knife stabbing into my ribcage repeatedly” stage.  And I just focused on my turnover and breathing.  It was a short run, so I didn’t have to feel great.  I was able to tough it out.  Again, I was faster than my goal pace, and again, I’m not sure if this is a good thing or if I should be holding back.  I finished the three mile run in a 7:31/mile pace when my plan called for a 7:45/mile pace.  I finished up with a short cooldown jog and five flights of stairs to make it back to my office.  The stairs were a mistake.

Friday: Swim—Masters swim team (2100yds)
I convinced a friend of mine (OMG I MADE A FRIEND!) to go to Masters with me.  Like me, she’s a triathlete without much prior swim experience.  We had the option of doing a workout or practicing starts.  Starts would have been fun, but since I don’t plan on racing anytime soon, I did the workout instead.  It was essentially a ladder set that we did twice with a hard, negative-split 200 in the middle of each set.  It was tough, but not as hard as other workouts have been.  I think that’s because this workout included more rest time than usual.  I have a pretty quick recovery rate, especially for harder, shorter distances, so having 20-40 seconds to catch my breath after a hard 200 leaves me in a better place than nearly constant 50s.  Oh, and I focused on some of the form tips I got on Monday.  I’m feeling very positive about swimming right now, and it’s exciting.

Saturday: Run—10 miles (1:22:38)
I woke up pretty early and headed to Rob’s house.  I fueled before my run with one bottle of water, a breakfast burrito (courtesy of Rob), a small bowl of Rice Krispies, and some sort of dessert bar at the coffee shop across the street where I mapped out my route (Rob’s Internet wasn’t working). It was cold when I started on my run (about 36°), but it was sunny, so I just wore a cotton t-shirt and some running capris.  I got a little warm partway through the run, but if I had worn less I would have been too cold at the beginning.  My route is not flat.  There were very few points throughout my run where there wasn’t a noticeable incline, either up or down.  Up until a few months ago, I spent most of my time avoiding hilly runs whenever possible, so I’m still acclimating to running hills.  I felt strong until I hit the circle around the park which has a couple of short, but steep, pairs of inclines and declines.  That little loop always gets me.  After that, I started to drag.  I was still able to hold my pace pretty well, but I wasn’t enjoying the scenery anymore.  I was counting down the streets until it was over.  Mile 8 was the roughest.  I was still going uphill but was tired, being near the end of my run.  Once I hit the final decline, I knew I was almost there and didn’t have trouble pushing through because, well, it’s hard not to push through on a moderately steep downhill.  I finished with an 8:15/mile pace overall, which actually probably is too fast.  But I know my dad will be running at least that fast when I visit my parents next weekend, and I wanted to be prepared.

Elevation profile-- notice the conspicuous lack of level ground.
Elevation profile– notice the conspicuous lack of level ground.

Sunday: Bike—15.76 miles (1:05:26)
It was cold when I left for my ride.  It was only 36° and the sun wasn’t up in full force yet.  So I decked myself out in cold-weather cycling gear—long tights, knee warmers, toe caps, headband, big gloves, and my Gabba jersey.  I was surprised how much my legs were feeling my run from the day before, but it was a nice ride regardless.  The fall scenery is beautiful here in Utah right now.  It had been over a week since I had been on my bike, and I was happy to be reunited with it.  My toes were a little cold, but other than that, I was dressed perfectly for the weather.  We’ll see how things are when it gets even colder…

I don’t usually include any sort of overall reflections for a week of training, but because this was my first week of marathon training, I think it’s appropriate.  My runs this week were all faster than the paces I laid out in my plan.  I’m not quite sure what to make of that.  I’ve read enough about training for marathons that I know faster isn’t always better.  I know that “racing” every run can lead to injuries, and I know that recovery is important.  However, I also know that with this particular training plan, almost all of my runs should be hard.  The cross-training is where rest comes in.  I didn’t give 100% in my runs this week.  I was tired at the end of each of them and was glad to be done, but I didn’t feel the need to collapse on the ground after any of them.  It’s been a long time since I’ve run based on pace and not just based on effort, so I’m a little unfamiliar with how to do it.  And it doesn’t help that I really don’t have any solid times to base my “marathon” goal on.  I really don’t know where my current abilities are, and I don’t know how fast they’ll improve.  I think I could improve quickly because I have a lot of experience as a runner and I’m just now taking it seriously again for the first time in years.  However, I could also not improve all that quickly because my running base may mean I have less room to improve before reaching my peak.  This makes me glad that this first marathon will be literally a training run.  I’ll have a much better idea as to what I can accomplish if I decide to race an open marathon sometime in the future.

I enjoyed some glorious fall colors on my long run.
I enjoyed some glorious fall colors on my long run.

Marathon Training: The How and the Why

I’ve been mentioning my marathon training in passing, without going much into the “how” or the “why” behind it.  Because I’m a bit of a lone wolf in regards to my triathlon hobby (although less than I was six months ago!), this was a decision that I made entirely on my own.  I started considering doing a marathon training cycle about a year ago.  I knew I planned to do an Ironman in 2016, and I liked the idea of having some more confidence in my running endurance.  I’ve ridden a few centuries and done a few swim workouts that hit two miles, but the longest run I’ve done is around 14 miles.  Fourteen miles does not translate to confidence in my ability to run 26 after the swim and bike leg.

I had sort of, tentatively, very loosely planned on doing some sort of marathon training plan last winter, but I moved to Salt Lake City at the end of November, and I lost motivation.  I got busy with a new job, a new city, and the anxiety that comes along with those, so I barely managed maintenance over the winter.  Besides, the nebulous “they” (read, the Internet) said you didn’t need to run a marathon before doing an Ironman anyway.  But still, as this past summer progressed, the idea of doing a fifteen, eighteen, and twenty mile run for the first time during Ironman training… well, it scared me.  So when I heard that Coeur d’Alene was being moved to the end of August instead of the end of June, I started looking into a marathon training plan.

Long story short, I decided to go for it.  A 16-week training cycle fit into the winter months really well, and I figured focusing on running would alleviate my guilt for not spending hours on a trainer riding my bike.  I’ve laid out some of my reasoning, in FAQ style.  Now, these aren’t questions I get asked frequently, but they are questions that I frequently have for other people who are training for marathons.  So… I decided that was close enough!

Why did you decide to train for a marathon?
The number one reason I decided to train for a marathon is confidence.  As I mentioned above, I have never gone on a run significantly longer than a half marathon.  My Ironman training includes some long runs, of course, but the thought of doing my first and only 20 miler in my life just a couple months out from an Ironman does not appeal to me.  The other reason is to keep me active during the winter.  I want to do some significant endurance training during the winter.  Cycling is out of the question unless I want to spend all winter staring at a wall on a trainer, and swimming offers limited gains because of the relatively short length of the swim leg.  I actually don’t think it’s necessary to run a marathon before doing an Ironman.  An open marathon and the marathon leg of an Ironman are different beasts, and you should approach them differently.  Additionally, “they” say one of the best ways to improve your triathlon run is actually to focus on the bike leg so that you start the run with fresher legs.  Training for a marathon isn’t necessary, but because of the confidence factor, it’s the right choice for me, at least this time around.

I remember in vivid detail how horrible I felt when this picture was taken at mile 11 during my Ironman 70.3... I do not want to feel that way at mile 11 of my Ironman marathon.
I remember in vivid detail how horrible I felt when this picture was taken at mile 11 during my Ironman 70.3… I do not want to feel that way at mile 11 of my Ironman marathon.

Why aren’t you actually culminating your training cycle with a race?
Yep, that’s right.  My “race” will be a 26.2 mile training run.  There are two reasons for this.  First, even if I wanted to, there isn’t a local race that works within the time frame of my training schedule.  I guess not a lot of people have the desire to run a marathon at the end of February.  Second, racing a marathon takes a lot out of a person.  It’s a big ordeal.  I’ll be starting my Ironman training plan just about a month after running my “marathon,” and I don’t think that would be quite enough time to recover after a hard, all-out marathon effort.  So, I’ll cut out the anxiety and recovery of a full marathon and just enjoy a long training run with my dad some time in February.  We plan on running the course of the Lake Lowell marathon that usually takes place in the spring.  The bonus is that the course is pretty much flat as a pancake.

I need iPhone photography lessons
The scenery on the course isn’t bad either.

What training plan are you using?
I’m using a plan I found online known as Run Less, Run Faster that was created by the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training.  There’s a whole book about it, but I just used the version of the plan I found on Runner’s World because cheap.  And lazy.  Essentially, it’s a training plan that has three runs a week—a track workout, a tempo run, and a long run.  I’ve taken the template I found and added in my specific paces.  If you’re interested, the whole thing is here.

Why did you pick this particular plan?
You mean beyond the click-bait promise of completing a marathon on three runs a week?  Actually, the limited running was the main reason I chose this plan.  It calls for 2-3 days of cross-training per week in addition to the weekly runs.  These 2-3 days will allow me to keep up with my swimming and cycling which is kind of important with my Ironman looming.  Additionally, I like the idea of doing some speed work.  I think speed work will help me become a better runner overall and not just a better runner in triathlons.  Plus, it breaks up the monotony.  Oh, and finally, it’s a super simple training plan.  I like simple.  It was very easy for me to fill in the given plan with my personal paces, and it will be quite easy for me to track where I need to be each week.  If I were training to race a marathon, I may look into a more complicated plan, but this felt perfect for my first “marathon.”

What is your goal?
Even though I wanted to avoid setting a goal for what will be a glorified training run, I kind of set one anyways because of course I did.  (What can I say?  I really like goals!)  I’ll be running my long runs at an 8:45/mile pace, so I’d be pretty disappointed if I failed to break four hours (9:09/mile).  I’m going to try to run my marathon at the same pace as my long runs which would put the final time at 3:49:25.  Because I’ll be running a flat course that is about 2000 feet lower in elevation than Salt Lake City, I may end up running it faster.  But my dad and I will play it by ear.  Even though I do have a couple goals, both are goals that are well within our abilities (I say “our” because we’ll be sticking together), so bar something unexpected like an injury or really bad cramping or something, we shouldn’t have to kill ourselves to perform at the level we want.

What are your biggest concerns going into marathon training?
My number one concern is loss of bike fitness.  I know that running and cycling are great cross-training for each other, and I know it’s hard to fit cycling in during the winter anyway.  But I’m still worried about losing my cycling base over the winter.  I only plan on cycling a couple hours a week at most during much of the winter, and I’m worried the lack of cycling on the off-season will hurt my bike leg.  The bike leg is significantly longer than the swim and the run, so a sub-par performance on the bike is a huge detriment to your overall triathlon performance.

And those are the basics.  If I’m being honest with myself, I’m shockingly excited to see how this training cycle goes.  I’m glad I get the chance to do a marathon training cycle (and a marathon-distance run) without the emotional pressure and anxiety of actually racing a marathon at the end of it. If you had asked me five years ago, I would have told you I would never, ever run a marathon.  And here I am, just getting started on a marathon training plan… and actually kind-of-sort-of looking forward to it.  I’m pretty sure my dad told me this would happen, and I dismissed him as being ridiculous.  It always sucks when someone can say, “I told you so!” but I’m thankful that in this case, at least, someone can say “I told you that you’d run a marathon!” and not “I told you that you were making a terrible mistake!”

So, here’s to a winter full of long, cold runs and getting re-acquainted with the track!