Cell to Well 12k

My training plan called for a 15k race this past weekend.  Now, 15ks are not a particularly common race distance.  They pop up now and again, but it’s not like a 5k or 10k where there will almost certainly be one within driving distance on any given weekend during the summer.  So when I started looking for a race, I figured I’d find a 10k to do and supplement that 10k with an extra three miles or so on my own.

However, to my surprise, I found an even stranger distance than a 15k.  There was a 12k being put on by the South Davis Recovery Club.  The Cell to Well 12k is a fundraiser that the club puts on every summer to help raise money.  It starts at the Davis County Jail to represent the (literal or figurative) imprisonment of addiction and finishes at the club’s headquarters to symbolize their journey to and through recovery.  It’s always nice when selfish interests (i.e. racing) line up with charitable causes.


12k is just under 7.5 miles.  Looking at my paces in my two most recent timed runs (my half marathon and the 5k in my sprint triathlon), I decided on my goals for the race.  I knew that I wouldn’t be performing at my best because I’m in the middle of a hard training cycle focused on very long distances.  However, I knew I had retained at least some speed based on my performance in my sprint triathlon a couple of weeks ago.

A-goal—57:00 (7:38/mile pace)

B-goal—58:30 (7:50/mile pace)

I didn’t know what to expect for this race.  I guessed that it would be quite small, and with small races, things like course length accuracy, course marking, and aid stations can be quite spotty.  However, since it was only about 7.5 miles and I was racing for a workout, I wasn’t too worried about these aspects of it and decided to just play it by ear.

Rob and I got to the start a little before 7:00am.  They didn’t have any bathrooms there (oops!).  Fortunately, there was a grocery store just a quarter mile or so away, so Rob and I walked over there so I could use their bathroom.  After we got back, I picked up my t-shirt and number and asked a few logistical questions about the course.  The woman told me that there would be mile markers, aid stations every two miles, and that the course was well-marked.  I took a look at a sketched map of the course route, and it was blessedly simple.  I took note of the two roads that I would turn onto (Jennings and 400 West) and then headed out for a jog to warm up.  I actually ran back over to the grocery store to use the bathroom again.  I tried to warm up longer than usual for this race.  It was still probably only a ten minute jog and a few build-ups, but that’s more than I usually do.

Everyone at the start was very friendly and welcoming.  There were probably only 20-30 people doing the 12k option (the 5k option started elsewhere).  Rob and I discussed who the winners would be.  I thought Tattoo Guy looked really strong, but Rob thought America (a guy with flag running shorts) was going to take it easily.  I chatted a bit with a girl who was going into 10th grade and getting ready to run cross-country for the first time.  It was fun to see someone right at the beginning of their running career, excited and still a little unsure of how everything worked.

The race start was very low-key.  We gathered up in a group and one of the volunteers counted down and then said “GO!”  We took off.  I focused on taking it easy at first.  I was running by feel, and I know that I tend to go out to fast when I start a race.  A few guys shot ahead of me, including Tattoo Guy and America.  I was lead woman from the start which I kind of expected.  Most of the folks at the start were casual runners (or, rather, more casual than I am), and while I try not to take someone’s appearance as the end-all assumption for how they will perform, in this case, it turned out to be accurate.  I focused on my body for the first part of the race—staying on my toes, thinking about my breathing, being conscious of my arm position.  The guys ahead of me continued to open the gap, and I was essentially running alone after the first half mile or so (though I could still see the guys in the distance).  Once my watch hit 7:00, I started keeping an eye out for the first mile marker.  I didn’t see it.  Finally, after my watch hit 8:30, I knew I had either missed it or it hadn’t existed.  I suspect the latter, and the fact that I didn’t see a mile marker the entire race lends credence to that suspicion.  So I decided to run by time.  I knew I wanted to finish in 57 minutes.  I knew it wouldn’t take me much longer than an hour, even if I totally blew up.  So I used that as my measure of how much further I had to run and how close I was to the finish. (I did see an aid station at what was probably the two-mile mark.  I hit it right about 15 minutes in so, although I didn’t know exactly how accurate the aid station placement was, I knew I was close to pace and was reassured that I hadn’t started off way too fast.)

Around twenty minutes into the race, I approached what looked like a long, steep hill.  Looking back at the course profile after mapping it out, I suspect that this hill was partly an optical illusion.  It turns out, I had been running downhill, so the sudden uphill that I was approaching appeared that much steeper in contrast.  I didn’t want to burn myself out on the hill, so I took it slow and steady.  I dropped my speed a bit but focused on my arms and on staying on my toes.  The climb was over before I knew it.

The course profile

I was just getting into a groove after climbing the hill when I glanced up and noticed the street name for the street I was crossing: Jennings!  I was supposed to turn here!  I looked over and did see a poster with an arrow pointed to the right.  Not exactly what I would consider “well-marked,” but it was marked.  I veered to the right to make the turn.  Up until that point, I had been able to see one lone male runner in front of me.  I was almost certain he hadn’t made the turn.  I was on the lookout for the next (and last) turn because I knew it happened pretty quickly.  Sure enough, I saw the road easily and turned onto the “homestretch.” (I was only about halfway through the race at this point).

I started struggling to keep my pace up fairly early on, around forty minutes in.  I had been expecting to see an aid station around four miles in, and not having that marker of my progress was a big disappointing.  Also, looking at the course profile after the fact reveals that the final miles of the race were uphill on a false flat.  At this point, I was just focusing on keeping my pace steady and was looking forward to hitting that 57-58 minute mark that would bring about the end of the race.  I knew I had slowed down some, but I felt like I was still keeping a solid pace.  I received some encouragement when I passed the group of runners getting ready to start the 5k option in the park.  It was a pleasant surprise to suddenly hear people cheering for me (and to get confirmation I was going in the right direction!).  My watch said I was closer than three miles to the finish, so I suspected the 5kers looped around the park a bit before heading to the finish line (I’m pretty sure I was right on this).  However, there was a bit of confusing signage, so I had to double back ten yards or so to make sure I was going in the right direction.

Around 45 minutes, I was struck with a great fear.  What if the course was long?!  I balanced that out by reminding myself that it was equally likely the course was short.  I knew that in either case, I couldn’t control it, so I just kept running.  I was running through city streets now, and it was getting warmer.  For the next ten minutes, I just kept running.  I finally saw another aid station and did take a little water from this one.  My body didn’t need it, but I was feeling thirsty and knew I’d be a bit more comfortable after some water.

Since I was on a straight stretch, I knew I’d be able to see the finish at any minute.  I saw some orange up ahead.  I thought it might be finish line stuff, and I was disappointed as it came into focus and I saw it was simply construction.  Then, right past the construction, I thought I saw some red and bright yellow shirts.  There had been a large group of folks wearing red shirts at the start, and the race t-shirts were yellow, so I was hopeful that I was approaching the finish.  I picked it up and I wasn’t disappointed.  I was nearing the finish, and I was pleased to be well under 57 minutes.  I was almost certain I’d finish just under 57, so I kept the pace up and did my best to sprint into the parking lot where the finish was located.

When I ran into the parking lot, though, I didn’t see anything that looked like a finish line.  I yelled out, “Where’s the finish?!” but I didn’t get an answer.  Since I had entered the parking lot and passed the “chute” of caution tape, I assumed I was done, so I stopped my watch and slowed to a stop.  Then someone yelled, “You need to run to the trucks!”  I looked up and saw a couple of trucks set up.  So I ran to them instead… for an “official” finish time of 57:03, just shy of my A-goal.  I lost at least 5 seconds from the false finish and probably 30 when I had to backtrack to make sure I was still on the (not well-marked!) course.  Needless to say, as casual as this race was for me, I was frustrated about missing out on my A-goal because of organizational efforts.  But because it was such a casual race, I was able to put it behind me pretty quickly.

I was the first woman (and the third person) to finish the 12k.  Tattoo Guy won, and America did indeed miss the turn.  He came in quite a while later going quite slowly.  I’m not sure if he blew up or just ended up running a lot of extra distance.  I think the second place guy also missed the turn, but he came back on course by taking a later turn without running (much?) extra.  For what it’s worth, when I mapped out the course at home later, it came up a little long at 7.52 miles.  That doesn’t take into account tangents, of course, but considering this race was mostly a straight-shot, I wouldn’t be surprised if the course was a bit long, even if I ran the tangents perfectly.  So, for a (possibly) slightly long course, a few time penalties because of organizational issues, and a net elevation gain, I think I did alright.

I stuck around, and they actually had some good food at the finish.  They had a large selection of fruit and some sandwiches.  I wasn’t feeling up to eating the sandwiches, but I really enjoyed the fruit.  They waited a long time to hand out awards, but hanging out wasn’t too bad, even for someone anti-social like myself.  Since it was a fundraiser for a recovery club, I knew that there were a lot of changed lives in that parking lot, and it was uplifting to see that group celebrating their own recoveries and raising funds to help others recover as well.

Since I finished third overall, I won a pretty sweet gift basket.  The basket had quite a few gift certificates amounting up to approximately $60-$75 dollars.  Most of those were to stores or restaurants up in Bountiful which is 20-30 minutes away from Salt Lake City, but I will take the time to go up and redeem those within the next couple of months or so.

I won a thing!!!

Overall, this was a fun race and well worth running.  Based on this report, it’s probably obvious that it did fall prey to some of the typical issues with small races, such as a poorly marked course and some questionable organization (no bathrooms at the start and no clearly marked finish line).  That’s the risk you take with small races, though, and I think as long as you know to expect that, it’s not a problem.  I went into this race looking for an opportunity to push myself hard at a specific distance, and that’s exactly what I got, so my experience with it was definitely positive. Had I wanted to PR at a distance or achieve some other important mark, I would have signed up for a larger race that I knew would have mile markers, an easy-to-follow course, etc.


The stats
Time: 57:03
Pace: 7:39/mile
Place: 1st woman, 3rd overall

Weekly Recap (6/20-6/26)

Monday: Bike—1:00:26 (15.05 miles); Run—45:00 (5.29 miles)
I started my morning with a bike ride.  Strangely, I think my legs felt more fatigued than they did the day after my five hour ride.  I struggled to get going.  My legs were tired, and my whole saddle area was still sore.  Even with my tired legs, though, it was a nice way to start the morning.  I got to see the sun coming up over the mountains and enjoy the cool summer morning.

In the afternoon, I had a run planned.  I knew it would be hot, and I had actually specifically planned to run because it would be hot.  Heat acclimation.  I checked the temperate before I headed out, and it was 99°.  Ugh.  Because it was a shorter run, I headed west and did a few laps around the park instead of climbing the pretty major hill to the east.  Being in the park did help with the heat because I was running on a bark path instead of asphalt.  The trees also offered some shade during the run.  I also made sure to take it easy.  Still, it was a pretty miserable run (which is to be expected!).  I was impressed with how well I held up during the run, though.  I didn’t feel like I was running in nearly 100° weather, and I didn’t feel like I was completely melting down in the heat either.  I was slower than I would have been, but I still felt relatively strong.

Tuesday: Bike—2:01:07 (33 miles); Run—30:00 (3.4 miles); 8-minute abs
I got up early so I could complete my brick workout before work.  I was on my bike by 4:45am and rode to work.  It was already a pleasant 70°, so I was comfortable my whole ride.  And, much to my surprise, when I hit the Point of the Mountain (in other words, the windiest place in the world), I found out I had a tailwind for perhaps the first time ever.  It was a good day!  After I finished on my bike, I quickly changed into some running shoes and did a thirty minute transition run.  I felt better on the run than I did the last time I did a brick workout in the morning, and I actually ran too fast (8:49/mile).  I’ve been trying to hit slower paces on my transition runs so that I don’t go out too fast in my Ironman marathon.  I was at my desk in my office by 7:40am, feeling hungry but otherwise good.  I fueled this whole workout on a bowl of Cap’n Crunch.  Probably not ideal, but I do like to do some shorter endurance work underfueled because I can pretty much guarantee I’ll be underfueled during the latter half of my Ironman marathon, and I don’t want that feeling to be completely foreign to me.  I did eat a Honey Stinger waffle and have some coffee once I got in to my office which helped revive me a bit.  In the evening, I did some core work.

Wednesday: Swim—2600 yards; Strength—30 minutes
I went to the pool for a pretty tough workout.  I had a 1000 yard time trial scheduled for the first time since December when I swam it in 16:12.  I have been continuing to swim hard since that time, so I was hoping to improve on that time.  Specifically, I was hoping to break 16 minutes, which would be a 1:36/100yd pace.  I had some slow swimming to do after my time trial as well:
300 easy
1000 time trial (15:24)
1000 easy
3 x 100 easy
As you can see, I beat my previous time handedly.  Even better, I actually paced myself well!  My times for the first and second 500s were fairly close, and I was able to swim strong through the entire 1000.  My pace came out to 1:32/100yd.  I knew a little over halfway through my swim that I was probably going to break 16 minutes based on my splits, but I was excited to be so far below my goal time.  I was gassed at the end of the time trial, and I took the rest of the workout very, very easy.  I think so much easy swimming helped me cool down and recover.  During lunch, I did thirty minutes of strength work.

Thursday: “Open water” swim practice; Strength—15 minutes; 8-minute abs
I went to Masters swim practice where it was an open water day.  We practiced open water starts and drafting.  I don’t often get the chance to practice drafting, so I’m glad to have some of this “open water” to work on the skill.  The workout was fairly low key and included a lot of continuous easy swimming.  My arms were still tired from the day before, so I was grateful for the easier day.  During lunch, I did some strength work, and I did some core work in the evening.  In the evening, Rob and I went to the Utah Arts Festival with his parents which meant I was out much later than usual, so I was really glad that I had a rest day coming up.

Friday: REST; 8-minute abs
I was able to sleep in a bit and spend most of the day relaxing in preparation for my race the next day.  I did some core work in the evening, and I went to bed before 9:00pm.  It was wonderful to get to bed that early!

Saturday: Cell to Well 12k—57:03; Bike—1:30:05 (23.83 miles)
I’ll publish a race report about this 12k later this week, but it’s what I did first thing in the morning.  The race started at 7:30 and was about thirty minutes away, so after finishing and hanging around a bit, Rob and I headed back to Salt Lake.  I was surprised at how good I felt after the race, so I decided to do my bike ride on Saturday instead of waiting until Sunday.  I considered doing Emigration Canyon, but I decided against doing that much climbing after racing.  It was a good decision.  My legs felt great on the flats when I was spinning at a high cadence, but when I hit some hills, I felt the fatigue in my legs.  It was a beautiful day, and it was actually relatively cool.  Even at 10:30am when I left for my ride, it was only in the 70s which was a wonderful change from the heat wave we’ve had here lately.  I felt great for a few hours after the ride, but the fatigue from racing and riding did hit me later on in the day, and I was pretty tired by the time I went to bed.

Sunday: Swim—60(ish) minutes; Strength—15 minutes
I had been thinking of trying to get out to practice some open water swimming, but I probably wouldn’t have gotten around to it on my own.  Fortunately, a couple of women from my tri club were going up to a nice reservoir on Sunday morning, so I tagged along with them.  It was a beautiful morning, sunny but still cool.  I was expecting the water to be freezing, but it was actually really pleasant.  It took some time to get used to, but with a wetsuit, it was the perfect temperature.  We swam out along a line of buoys.  The sighting was difficult when going in one direction because of the sun, but I supposed it was good practice.  We got out far enough to be able to feel the rocking of the waves a bit (which I love!) and we just swam continuously at a moderate pace.  It was absolutely wonderful and my absolute favorite kind of swimming.  I couldn’t believe how fast it went, and I kind of wanted to just keep swimming forever.  We probably ended up swimming just under an hour.  It’s a huge pain to get out to open water, but every time I do, I realize just how much I love it and how worth it the drive and extra time is.  In the afternoon, I did some light strength work because my legs were a little too stiff and sore to manage the balancing required for my regular strength work.

Blue skies and beautiful mountains in the background

Heat acclimation

It’s summer, and that means dealing with the heat.  When it comes to avoiding the heat, runners have it easy compared to triathletes.  Races can be started early in the morning, and longer races (like marathons) tend to be held in the spring or fall and not in the hottest months of the year.

Because of a little thing called “the swim,” however, triathlons, are typically held in those hot months to ensure that the bodies of open water are not too cold to swim in.  Additionally, triathlons are typically longer than running events with the sprints lasting from 1-1.5 hours (compared to a 5k which will typically last between 20-30 minutes).  Because the run is at the end of the triathlon, triathletes typically run later in the day than runners.  The end result is that when triathletes are competing in the run, it tends to be quite a bit warmer than when runners are competing in running races of similar distances.

One of the first things I did when it started heating up in Salt Lake City was look up the historical average high temperature in Coeur d’Alene on August 21st.  The average was 83° which was better than I was expecting, but, of course, that’s only the average.  It could be much higher.  Last year, it was well over 100° in June.

Because I know I’m likely going to be running a marathon in over 80°, I know I need to get used to running in the heat.  So I’ve been doing my best to embrace afternoon workouts.  Specifically, I’ve been trying to do runs in the afternoon instead of carefully crafting my schedule to avoid all evening runs (which I’ve definitely done in the past).  We’ve been going through a hot spell in Salt Lake City, so I’ve had some runs in the upper 80s and one in the upper 90s so far.  In addition to my runs, I’ve been cycling in some warm weather as well.  That just doesn’t stand out as much because cycling in the heat is much more pleasant than running in the heat.

It’s been hot here…

Really, all I knew about heat acclimation was “Run in heat.  Get used to heat.”  So I wanted to do a little research and learn more about it (in other words, make sure I’m doing it right).  It turns out that “Run in heat.  Get used to heat” covers the basics pretty well.  However, I found some interesting more scientific explanations and advice in this article: Consensus recommendations on training and competing in the heat

Essentially, when you exercise in the heat, your body adapts, and its cooling mechanisms become more efficient.  Your body becomes more efficient at sweating (in other words, you learn to sweat more).   The blood flow to your skin increases which allows your body to release more heat (basically, your hot blood gets pumped to your skin where it can lose some of its heat).  You begin to maintain a more efficient fluid-to-electrolyte balance.  All these things help you perform better in the heat.  Of course, when I’ve been acclimating to the heat, I haven’t noticed any of these adaptations particularly (except maybe the sweat one…), but I have noticed that I feel more comfortable in the heat than I did three weeks ago, and it doesn’t sap my energy to step outside like it did when the temperature first spiked.

I was surprised when I read just how quickly heat acclimation happens.  Athletes can gain benefits of heat acclimation within six days, and it usually only takes a few weeks of daily exposure to reap the full benefits.  While this theoretically means I could avoid afternoon runs for another few weeks, I’d rather play it on the safe side.  I’m not exercising in the heat every single day, and adaptation doesn’t occur as quickly when you are not out in the heat each day.

Really, heat acclimation is pretty simple.  Is it hot outside?  Then go for a run/bike ride/whatever!  While the article I read specifically lists certain durations, frequencies, and intensities of the workouts in certain studies on heat acclimation, it also stated clearly that continuing your regular exercise regimen (but in the heat) is an effective way to acclimate to hot weather.  Ultimately, the effectiveness of heat acclimation depends on how often you exercise in the heat, how long your sessions are, and how intense the workouts are.  Personally, I’ve been electing to limit my hot runs to short-to-medium length runs of moderate intensity.  I do longer and more intense bike rides in the heat.  It’s a little more complicated if you are training for a competition in a climate that is much hotter than the climate in which you are training.  However, if you find yourself in this position, creating hot conditions indoors can serve as a reasonable substitute for exercising in the heat outdoors.

One important point to keep in mind as you begin acclimating to the heat is hydration.  You will be sweating more.  You will need more water.  Strangely, there isn’t a consensus as to when dehydration while exercising starts to affect your performance.  The studies don’t agree.  Some say that losing as little as 2% of your body weight in water is enough to limit your performance.  Others have found that losing up to 4% of your body weight in water still doesn’t negatively affect performance.  However, regardless of exactly how much water you consume while exercising (whether that be “some” or “a lot”), it’s important to start your exercise fully hydrated.  So drink during the day.  Drink water with your meals.  Make sure that you are hydrated going into your hot workouts because that’s probably more effective than trying to reach a fully hydrated state during your hot workouts.

I’m not an expert on heat acclimation, of course.  I’ve been working on acclimating myself and I’ve done some reading on the topic.  If you’d like to read more, I’d suggest starting with the article I posted earlier.  It’s peer-reviewed and discusses a lot of the current research on the topic and covers some of the controversy and disagreement among researchers as well.  Although many of the studies it references are not free online, some are and others have a free abstract online.

(Also, just an extra pro-tip: If you really want to get used to suffering in hot weather, just get a really old car without a working AC and drive home for thirty minutes every day in 90° weather.  Suddenly, 80° will feel refreshing!)



Two month check up

I feel surprisingly calm considering it’s only two months until my Ironman.  For the first time during this training cycle, I’ve thought that if I had to do the Ironman next week, I might be able to complete it.  I wouldn’t be as fast as I could be, but I may be able to complete the distance under the time limit.  And then I swing back to the “No, I’ll never be able to do this!” mentality.  But the fact that I’m not spending all of my time convinced that finishing an Ironman is impossible for me is an improvement.


I’m currently getting ready to head into my final set of hard weeks before I taper.  I know I’m in the best (long-distance) shape of my life.  Sometimes I’m kind of amazed that I can just go out and run 15 miles or ride 50 miles or swim 2.5 miles.  The really crazy thing is that, even with my current fitness, I don’t know if I’m ready for an Ironman.  It’s just that intense of an event.  But instead of thinking about where I wish I were I’m trying to think about how far I’ve come.  The truth is, it doesn’t matter how fit I am—I could always dream about being faster.  Now, I’m trying to appreciate my hard work over the past year.

General health:
So far, I’ve been hanging in there.  I’ve been sleeping a little less (falling asleep before the sun sets is hard), but I haven’t felt overtired very often.  I’ve noticed a scratch in my throat the past couple of days, so I guess time will tell if it’s a fluke (I did choke on a waffle during my ride…) or if I’m coming down with a cold.


Now that I have a car and therefore more free time, I’ve been feeling much less stressed and overwhelmed.  Plus, Rob has really stepped up the last couple of weeks to help me out when I’m busy and exhausted.  I think I only made myself dinner once last week.  I need to up my mental game in regards to my actual training at this point.  I need to start making an active attempt to build my confidence, even if that just means telling myself I can do it.  I think that confidence in my ability to finish the race will help out a lot on mile 70 of the bike and mile 16 of the run.


Longest swim: 4500 yards

Longest ride: 77.27 miles

Longest run: 17.7 miles

Most encouraging workout: My 17.7 mile run.  This winter while I was training for my marathon, a run this long would have completely wiped me out for the rest of the day.  However, after I finished this run, I went for a long swim that afternoon and then later went for a pretty long walk with Rob because I was bored and wanted to do something somewhat active.

Most discouraging workout: My 3.5 hour (53 miles) bike ride.  I felt slow and tired during this ride, and I felt like I was behind where I should be in cycling fitness.  My recent 5 hour (77 miles) ride helped me regain some of that confidence, but I worry about the cycling leg in general.  I know I’m training on hills and at elevation, but I can’t expect the conditions at Coeur d’Alene to be perfect.  It will be hilly there too, and it will probably be windy.  I’m worried about hitting my goal (or even getting close to it!) for the cycling leg, and since that’s the longest leg of the race, it’s a little disheartening.

Average time per sport per week

Swimming: 148.4 (2.3 hours)

Cycling: 405 minutes (6.75 hours)

Running: 201.4 minutes (3.3 hours)

Other: 82.4 minutes (1.3 hours)


Looking to the future

I’ve got some really tough weeks coming up.  But—and this is both comforting and terrifying—I’m actually in the home stretch.  In just a couple months, I’ll be toeing the line in Coeur d’Alene.  I’ve started working on my race nutrition, and I need to continue to refine that plan.  I also need to get a few more open water swims in.  There honestly aren’t that many good places to swim in Salt Lake.  There’s nothing (expect the Great Salt Lake… ewww…) as big as Lake Coeur d’Alene here, so I’d like to take a day trip and get a swim in somewhere that I can really experience some chop.  And, of course, I want to stay healthy and really take advantage of the next few weeks to gain fitness.


Weekly Recap (6/13-6/19)

Monday: Swim—2800 yards; Bike—2:00:03 (33.25 miles)
I had a rough time falling asleep on Sunday night, but once I did, my exhaustion took over and I slept quite well and woke up fairly refreshed.  I went to the pool for Masters swim practice:
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
4 x 50 (count stroke)
4 x 50 (closed fist)
4 x 50 @ 1:00 (-2 stroke count)
100 build (R :30)
4 x 100 @ 1:40
4 x 50 @ 1:00 (-3 stroke count)
100 build
4 x 100 @ 1:40
4 x 50 @ 1:00 (-4 stroke count)
2 x 100 @ 1:40
This workout alternated between form work to decrease stroke count (well, increase efficiency) and hard 100 yard intervals.  I was alone in my lane, so when the coach described the workout to me, he said to leave on 1:50 or, if that was too slow, 1:45.  I asked if I could aim for 1:40, and he reminded me that the last time he suggested I swim 100s on 1:40 I informed him there was no way I would be able to hit that interval.  But I was bolstered by my success the day before and decided to aim for the stars.  It was a hard workout, of course, but I wasn’t ever in danger of missing the 1:40 interval.  And while I wasn’t quite as successful in minimizing my stroke count, during the last set of stroke count drills, I was able to hit that -4 number a few times (though not every time).

I brought my bike to work so I could ride it home.  I was supposed to do a long tempo effort, but that attempt ended pretty quickly.  It was rainy as I rode home, and for much of the ride, the path I follow was wet.  I came to a fairly sharp turn.  I didn’t take the turn exceptionally fast, but it was a very smooth area of the path (newly sealed, not much traction) and both my tires and the path were pretty wet.  My back wheel lost traction and I skidded into a pretty legit crash.  After that, I decided to just go at a regular, comfortable pace instead of doing the originally planned tempo.

Tuesday: Bike—2:02:27 (31.16 miles); Run—30:00 (3.29 miles); Strength—30 minutes
I had a two hour ride scheduled for Tuesday, and because I left my car at work, I had to suck it up and ride as planned.  I ended up leaving around 4:45am.  However, I decided against using my usual route along the Jordan River Parkway Trail.  On my way home, I had either had to ride through or portage around 3-4 different areas of (deep!) standing water.  It was quite cool in the morning (55°), and I didn’t want to get wet or deal with the cooler temperatures along the river.  Instead, I took the real roads.  I was pleasantly surprised by how few stops there were and by the quality of the bike lane for most of the ride.  The scenery wasn’t nearly as pretty, but the ride was warmer and there weren’t any giant pools of water to navigate, so overall, it was a rousing success.  The extreme pain every time I hit a little pothole and jostled my bruised hip/thigh was a bit of a buzzkill, though.  After my ride, I had a thirty minute run scheduled.  As I started the run, I braced myself for some pain from the jostling of my leg.  Sure enough, running was quite painful.  I saw once in a movie that competing on deep bruises won’t make them worse, so I went ahead and completed the run anyway.  I met my “go slow!” goal and averaged a 9:07/mile pace during this transition run.  I felt like I was lacking any energy for this run, and then I realized… I was!  I ate a banana in the morning and a Honey Stinger waffle on the road which means I had ridden thirty miles and run two miles on about 250 calories.  All things considered, I felt good about the workout, even if the bike was a little slow and I was missing some energy during the latter part of the workout.  After work, I forced myself to do some half-hearted strength work.

Wednesday: Swim—2100 yards; Run—1:00:14 (7.14 miles); 8-minute abs
I went to the pool in the morning and did a fairly short workout:
3 x 600 (10:23, 9:09, 10:21)
My right arm was sorer than I expected when I got into the pool.  I think I strained it slightly in my bike crash.  I was supposed to swim the middle 600 quite hard, but I wasn’t sure if that was a good idea with a sore arm.  I decided to see how it felt after the first (easy) 600.  When my arm warmed up and felt better as I swam, I did the second 600 fast as planned.  I was really pleased with how well I swam during that hard interval.  I averaged a 1:32/100yd pace which boosted my confidence.

I was planning on riding my bike after work, but there was a wreck on the freeway, so my commute home took an hour and a half (which is a full hour more than it usually does).  When I got home, I had no patience for the time it would take to get my bike ready and the longer ride I would have to go on before eating dinner and sitting on the couch doing nothing.  So because the run scheduled for the next day was shorter in duration, I decided to run instead.  As an added “benefit,” I knew I’d be getting some solid heat acclimation because it was over 10° warmer than the forecasted high for the next day.  So I went for my run.  I took my usual route, hill and all, and I was pretty miserable.  My legs felt pretty heavy, the strong wind took its toll on me (though it did help keep me cool!), and I had to focus pretty hard to maintain solid form.  A couple minutes after I finally got back inside a cool house when there wasn’t heat or wind to evaporate the sweat but before my body realized I was in a different environment and stopped sweating, I looked down and realized that every inch of my body was wet.  Forehead and stomach, sure, but also arms, legs, ankles, and hands.  I realize that’s kind of gross, but it really put into perspective just how much you sweat when you are out in the heat.  It’s easy for me to underestimate how much I sweat because when I’m running, it evaporates from my skins almost immediately and so I don’t notice it.

Thursday: Bike—1:30:16 (23.72 miles); Strength—15 minutes
After work, I headed out for a bike ride.  I decided to get some climbing in and headed up Emigration Canyon.  Fortunately, it was a relatively cool day.  I felt relatively strong on the bike and enjoyed a pleasant ride up the canyon.  There’s not much to say about this ride.  It was a beautiful day, and I fully enjoyed the scenic nature of the ride.  I didn’t push myself too hard, but I was definitely working during the climb.

Friday: REST; 8-minute abs
I was in desperate need for this rest day, as I usually am during the last week before a recovery week.  I took it easy on Friday and didn’t do much either athletically or socially.  I did, however, do some core work in the evening.

Saturday: Bike—5:00:36 (77.27 miles); 8-minute abs
I was a little nervous about the prospect of spending five hours on my bike.  I have been riding a little further than my plan dictates for my long rides, but this week, I decided to ride an hour longer than the plan stated instead of half an hour longer as I have been.  That meant that this ride was going to be quite a bit longer than my longest ride so far—actually, it was going to be a full hour and a half longer.  I started off early in the morning, and Rob came with me for a bit.  We climbed Emigration Canyon and then he headed off to brunch with his dad and I kept riding.  I headed mostly south which was a little against the wind and had some hilly parts.  I was struggling a bit at the thought of continuing to five hours during this section.  I brought a bunch of Honey Stinger waffles with me and ate one every 30-45 minutes.  They were good, but they did start to stick in my throat after a while.  The tailwind when I turned back north helped, though, and there was a long descent that helped me recover a bit.  During a particularly steep portion of the descent, I hit 46mph on my bike!  I also stopped at a gas station to refill my water bottles around mile 50 and bought some trail mix while I was there.  It tasted absolutely divine.  I may have to remember that for my race.  The rest of the ride actually felt better.  I had a little more energy from the trail mix, though I could tell I hadn’t had enough water on the ride.  I started to get a headache, and I had only gone to the bathroom once.  I held up for the ride, but I need to be mindful next time.  My legs actually felt surprisingly strong during the last miles of my ride.  It was everything else that was screaming to get off my bike—my butt, my back, my neck.  Once I got back, I spent most the day sitting on the couch groaning.  I did do some core work in the evening, though.

Sometimes I can’t help but marvel at the fact that this is where I live. (Well, the area in which I live, anyway.)

Sunday: Bike—1:30:50 (22.83 miles); Strength (15 minutes)
My legs were ready for the easy shake-out ride on Sunday, but the parts of me that had taken abuse from my saddle for five hours the day before were not.  The ride was a bit painful for that reason, but Rob and I went out with a couple of friends, and it ended up being a nice ride.  We stopped for coffee on the way back, but I took off early so I could get ready for church.  I rode reasonably hard on the way back and felt like I had effectively loosened my legs up after my long ride the day before.  In the afternoon after church, I did some strength work and then spent the afternoon rejoicing in my upcoming recovery week.


The weather was ominous from the start.

The forecast had predicted some rain on Monday afternoon for a while, but a little bit of rain when cycling in warm weather is hardly the worst thing in the world, so I planned to ride home from work on Monday anyway.  As I left, I was greeted with a stiff wind and overcast, threatening skies.  The rain started not long after I reached the Jordan River Parkway Trail.  It wasn’t raining hard, but it did rain steadily for about twenty minutes or so, and the path was wet.

I came up to a turn in the trail.  It wasn’t a particularly sharp turn, but it was going downhill and the asphalt had been sealed recently which made it quite smooth.  As I made the turn, I felt my back wheel lose traction and skid out from under me.

I knew I was going down, and time suddenly slowed down.  As I fell, I remember thinking, “Wow, it’s a good thing I’m wearing a helmet… I could have gotten a serious head injury otherwise!”  I literally always wear my helmet on my bike, so I’m not sure why this was what came to my mind.

And then I hit the ground.  I went flying across the path.  My bike went flying in a pile of mud.  Just as I skidded to a standstill, I heard my Garmin beep as it paused automatically because the bike was no longer moving.  Oh good.  I would have forgotten to do that on my own. The moment that thought crossed my mind, I thought it was absolutely hilarious.  Of course that was the first thing I thought of.

But then, I started checking myself for any serious injuries.  I stood up and seemed to be in one piece.  My head felt fine, but my elbow and hip hurt.  I checked my elbow and saw a few bloody abrasions, but they were small and not all that serious.  My hip hurt more than my elbow did. I know that sometimes the shock of a crash can dull the pain of an injury so I had no idea what to expect.  I could see that my cycling shorts were scuffed up, and I was worried about what I’d see underneath the shorts.  I braced myself and pulled up my shorts.

Relief.  There was no road rash.  I hadn’t even broken the skin.


I knew I was in pretty good shape, but the crash had shaken me up.  I felt sick to my stomach, and my mind was still racing.  So I walked my bike a few dozen yards until I was under a bridge and out of the rain and then sat down and called Rob.  I wasn’t sure if I should get him to come pick me up or not, but I wanted to talk to someone.  That usually helps me calm down*.  He didn’t pick up, so I sent him a text telling him I was fine but had crashed and I’d call him again if I needed him and dialed my dad.  We chatted for a couple minutes and I realized that it made more sense for me to ride home.  I had no major injuries, and since it was about rush hour time, it would have taken Rob a long time to reach me and a long time to get back.

So I (rather cautiously) got back on my bike and continued my ride.  I was much more careful to slow down for any turns, and I didn’t ride aggressively.  Because of the abrasions on my elbow, I didn’t even risk trying aero position until I was almost back.  My elbow hurt a bit when it started raining, but it was otherwise fine.  My hip ached when I pedaled, and it hurt whenever I hit a bump in the path, but it was manageable.

About an hour and twenty minutes later, I got to Rob’s house.  I took some Advil, washed out my elbow wounds, and then spent the evening on the couch while he made me dinner and brought me ice cream.

Maybe I’ll have to try this “crashing” thing more often…

My jersey was a little worse for the wear, though.
My bike was like me… mostly okay, but a few scratches and bruises.

*I was acting calm, but I could tell that I was in a bit of shock and still not quite thinking clearly, and I didn’t want to make any decisions until I was a little more in control.

My IT band success story

I chronicled my IT band injury in real time while I was recovering, but I know when I was dealing with the injury, all I wanted to read online were success stories.  So I decided to write up an overview post about my IT band injury and recovery.

My IT band injury originally sneaked up on me while I was training for my marathon.  I had felt some knee pain here and there during my long runs, but it wasn’t anything overwhelming.  And it’s normal for me to have some niggling pains at the end of longer runs.  The first time it was anything more than that was during a 15 mile long run a couple months out from my marathon.  During the last several miles of my run, when I stopped for a stoplight, it stiffened up.  The first 5-7 steps after were quite painful, but once it warmed up again, it was fine.  It was sore the day after the run, too, but I had treated it with ice and ibuprofen and it was fine two days after the run.  Over the next few weeks, my knee would occasionally hurt during or after runs, but never badly enough that it worried me.  And the pain was always gone within a day, so I figured it was regular long run soreness.

Finally, I had the fateful run that pushed my knee over the edge.  It was a 15 miler during the first week of my taper.  My knee hurt starting out (which wasn’t unusual), but it never loosened up.  I tried to keep running, but after 8 miles, I knew it wasn’t going to start feeling any better and that I might injure it more, so I called it quits and hitched a ride home.

After doing some Googling, I determined it was my IT band.  The big giveaway was that my knee hurt less the faster I ran.  I tried to run a bit during the next week, but unlike in the past when my knee would rebound, it continued hurting.  Because I wanted to run my marathon in a couple of weeks, I decided to go the “rest” route until then and try to treat the injury with strengthening exercises after.  I stayed off the roads and did pool running and the elliptical for the rest of my taper.  Additionally, I changed the way I sat at work and stopped wearing shoes with any heel at all.  The marathon didn’t go well (I think I was compensating for my knee which messed up my go-to stride), but my knee did hold up pretty well.  It hurt a bit during, and it was stiff and sore afterwards, but it didn’t hit the level of pain I’d had a couple of weeks before.

After my marathon, recovery was the name of the game.  I had read a lot about IT band issues sticking around and causing problems for months.  I didn’t have time for that because I was scheduled to start my Ironman training plan in just over a month.  So, once I started working out again, I started strength training.  I did this part on my own.  I looked up exercises for hip and glute strength since that seemed to be the most common cause for IT band pain and started doing an hour and a half of strength training a week.  I also scheduled a free running analysis with a local PT clinic.  The physical therapist gave me some solid advice on my stride (increase my cadence and focus on a mid-foot/toe strike instead of heel strike) and suggested that I come back in a couple of weeks if I didn’t have any improvement.

I was very careful with me knee for those two weeks.  I stopped running the minute my pain felt even a little bit sharp (as opposed to achy).  Still, even with the continuing strength work and the changes in my form, I didn’t see much, if any, improvement over the next couple of weeks, so I called up the physical therapist and made a real appointment.

The physical therapist did a litany of strength, flexibility, and stability tests on me.  It turns out, my hips and glutes were actually pretty strong.  However, when I tried to actually use them, my stability was lacking.  Even worse was my flexibility.  So those two things—stability and flexibility—were what we worked on during my relatively few sessions of physical therapy.  Just a few weeks later, I was able to run an hour and a half with no pain at all.

Looking back on my experience with IT band pain, there are a few things that stand out as important to my recovery.  Here are my suggestions if you are having IT band pain:

1. Strengthen. Weak hips and glutes are the most common cause of IT band pain.  Since “graduating” from physical therapy, I’ve been faithfully doing my strength work three times a week.  I do two shorter 15 minute sessions and one longer 30 minute session.  My physical therapist suggested that I focus on a few different exercises. My physical therapist specifically had me focus on exercises that used lateral movement.  Because swimming, cycling, and running are all forward-motion sports, the muscles responsible for lateral movement can get weak or ineffective.  Specifically, he recommended I do the following three exercises:

Lateral side steps using a resistance band. 
Single leg dead lifts.  I use a five pound weight when they are available.  Ideally, my planted leg would not be so bent, but my flexibility is pretty poor. 
Side plank hip lift to leg lift.  Start on your side with your hip on the group.  Lift yourself up onto your foot and elbow.  Then lift your leg up.  My upper body is a little crooked.  I suspect I should do a better job of keeping it in line with my lower body.

2. Improve flexibility. I didn’t see much about this particular issue online.  Sure, I saw suggestions to stretch the IT band (or rather, the TFL which is the muscle that attaches to the IT band), but I never saw anything about how a lack of flexibility in other muscles could contribute to IT band pain.  My physical therapist had me stretch my hamstrings, my calves, my glutes, and my TFL several times a day.  While I have slacked off on the stretching, I still faithfully stretch (and do leg swings) before every run.

3. Take care of your knee in your everyday life. This made a big difference once I started doing it. I am chronically wiggly, so I cross and recross my legs every few minutes.  I sit cross-legged or on my knees.  My legs are always sticking out at weird angles.  But I noticed that this was putting completely unnecessary stress on my IT band.  So I forced myself to sit with my legs out in front of me.  I stopped wearing any heel at all.  Anything that made my knee hurt even a little was discontinued or modified.  For instance, I noticed that for some reason, kneeling on the kneeler/hassock at church put some undue pressure on my IT band.  So I modified the way I kneeled so that I put all my weight on my good knee and let my bad knee just relax off to the side.

4. See a physical therapist. You’ve probably noticed that I talk about my physical therapist a lot.  I think I had 4-6 sessions in all over the course of a month.  I know not everyone has the financial opportunity to see a physical therapist, but if you do, I would suggest it.  I am so glad I didn’t spend three months doing almost the right thing while trying to completely self-treat.  I did the best research I could and put together a pretty solid strengthening plan, but I didn’t pick out the perfect exercises for my particular situation, and I missed the flexibility part.  Additionally, my physical therapist used a massage-type technique on me called ASTYM™ that I would not have been able to do myself.  I’m not convinced this was the integral factor to my healing, but it was likely helped.

5. Improve your running form. Everyone has some form weaknesses, and those can contribute to injuries.  So do what you can to improve your form and take some of the impact off your joints.  For me, it was as simple as increasing my cadence.  Once I increased my cadence, I automatically switched to a mid-foot/toe strike instead of a poorly executed heel strike that was creating more impact for my knee than I should have been.

Above all, I would advise anyone with any sort of significant IT band pain to act quickly.  If a little bit of rest doesn’t clear the problem right up, then be proactive.  Don’t just foam roll.  Do strength exercises.  Read up on running form and consider where improvements might help reduce the impact of your footfall.  Continue to take it easy on your knee as you build strength.  If the improvement doesn’t come, then consider seeing a physical therapist (if you can afford it).  It’s a pain in the neck, and it’s not all that cheap, but a physical therapist will be able to give you advice that is specific to your particular body and your particular injury.

For further reference, here are the posts that detail my IT band injury and recovery:

Hello, IT band!
IT Band Rehab
Gait Analysis
Physical Therapy: IT Band Update

Weekly Recap (6/06-6/12)

Monday: Swim—2400 yards + whistle kicks; Bike—2:00:06 (33.68 miles); Strength—15 minutes
Masters swim was a tough (but really good!) workout on Monday morning. The main set was pace 200s which, as usual, I ended up doing faster than I planned on.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
7 x 50 (distance per stroke)
4 x 50 (closed fist)
5:00 whistle kicks
3 x 200 pace (around 3:00)
100 easy
100 kick
2 x 200 pace (with strong kick)
50 easy
I wanted to swim the 200s in around 3:10, but then I accidentally swam way too fast on the first one and felt like I needed to keep that pace through the rest.  Surprisingly, I actually did manage to keep that pace through the rest of them (including the two at the end).  I felt fast in the water, despite my long-ish pool workout the day before.  And a couple of guys that I have been sharing a lane with for the past few months mentioned that I’m looking really fast/keep getting faster.  So that affirmation was a nice way to start the week.

I took my bike to work so that I could ride it home.  It was a hot day, so I told myself it would be a good day to work on my heat acclimation.  I’m doing my best not to avoid hot days and to embrace them as part of my training.  I had intervals on the bike, so my workout was as follows:
15 minutes warmup
6 x (12t, 3r)
15 minutes cooldown
The tempo effort (t) was supposed to be 5-7 RPE and the recovery effort (r) was supposed to be 2 RPE.  The first hour or so of this ride was great.  There is a slight loss of elevation from my work to my home, and with hardly any stops, I was flying.  I spent a lot of time in my aero bars and got some good practice steering around some sweeping curves while down in the aero position.  Then, as I got further north, the wind really picked up.  The last half hour or so of my ride was pure misery.  I almost got blown over at a stoplight.  Finally, I got home.  I was surprised to see I had broken my Garmin 40k record with a 1:23:37 (probably at the beginning of the ride).  After I got home, I did some strength work.

Tuesday: Bike—2:00:40 (32.94 miles); Run—1:00:00 (7.2 miles)
Tuesday morning I woke up way too early and headed off to work on my bike.  It was dark when I left, but the weather was wonderful.  It was still quite warm (well, warm for 5:00am, anyway), and it was blessedly still which was a great change from my ride the night before.  I actually got out the door a little early which ended up being a waste of time because I got stuck at a railroad crossing for fifteen minutes waiting for the longest (and slowest!) train in the entire history of the world.  As the sun came up, I was greeted by a beautiful morning.  I spent a little less time in the aero position on Tuesday than I did on Monday.  My aero position muscles were a little fatigued, I think, because I’m still getting used to it.  And I’m also still getting used to the new saddle position, so being upright felt a little more comfortable.  I ended up having a strong ride, making (almost) zero wrong turns, and getting to work a little before I planned to.  Not a bad way to start the day!

In the evening I had an hour long run.  I was dreading this run.  It was going to be hot and miserable.  Sure enough, it was 88° when I headed out after work.  I just kept reminding myself that heat acclimation is a part of training.  I tried to take the run nice and slow.  I’ve had some trouble with my stomach on warmer runs, but despite giving in to my base instincts and eating some less-than-ideal food before heading out, it held up just fine for this run, maybe because I was never pushing myself all that hard.  The run was uncomfortable, if only because of the heat, but I ran fairly well, and my pace remained strong throughout the duration of the run.  After I got back, I basically showered, ate dinner, and went to bed.  I was in bed before 9:00pm.

Wednesday: Run—1:30:00 (10.48 miles); Strength—15 minutes; 8-minute abs
I had a run with tempo efforts scheduled on Wednesday.  I wanted to really be able to work hard during this run, so I didn’t want to do it in the evening when it was bound to be really hot.  I also didn’t want to do it right when I woke up because my legs are rubbish when I run first thing in the morning.  So instead, I got to work at 5:30am and worked for a little over an hour before changing and heading out for my run at 7:00am.  The workout was very similar to my bike ride earlier in the week:
10 minute warmup
7 x (7t, 3r)
10 minute cooldown
The tempo effort (t) was supposed to be at 7 RPE and the recovery effort (r) was supposed to be at 2 RPE.  I worked hard on this run.  I took the recovery portions very slow, but I pushed hard during my tempo efforts.  I don’t have a Garmin, so I don’t know what my paces were during this workouts, but I would guess that my tempo paces were pretty easily under 8:00/mile.  Fortunately, it was a beautiful day and I got out before the heat struck which helped make this hard workout feel good instead of terrible.  I felt quite strong during my first five tempo efforts, but I struggled quite a bit with the last two.  I was definitely running out of gas.  Although much of that was fatigue from simply working hard, some nutrition partway through the run may have helped me feel better towards the end of the workout.  I didn’t actually fuel at all—either food or water—during this run.  Ideally, I would have had at least one water break and would have eaten at least a couple gummies, but I was too lazy to make those preparations and I knew that in cooler temperatures, I can handle 90 minutes without fuel.  I felt good about this workout, but this hard run after the past two long days left me pretty wrecked.  In the evening, I did some core work and some strength work.

Thursday: Run—30:00 (3.01 miles); Strength—30 minutes; 8-minute abs
When I woke up, I was stiff, sore, and worn down.  So I took my thirty minute run very easy and used it as a way to work through my stiffness.  I felt better once I got done, and I continued to feel less stiff and sore as the day went on.  In the evening, I did some strength work and some core work.  After the physically tough start to my week (and the long run coming up over the weekend), I needed this easy day.

Friday: REST; 8-minute abs
Thank goodness for rest days!  I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll never understand when people talk about hating rest days.  I positively cherish my rest days.  I love exercising, but when I’m training for something big, I work hard enough six days a week that I love sitting around and doing nothing on that one rest day.  I did my best to fuel up and rest for my upcoming big day.

Saturday: Run—2:30:00 (17.7 miles); Swim—2 x 1500 yards
Because it had been such a hot week, I was planning on waking up very early in order to start my run by 6:00am.  However, fortunately, it was overcast on Friday, and the forecast called for cloudy skies and temperatures around 70° on Saturday, so I was able to sleep in a little bit.  I woke up around 5:30am, drank a bottle of water, and ate a banana, a peach, an egg, a hamburger bun (weird, I know), and a Honey Stinger waffle.  Because this run was my longest run since marathon training by a pretty decent amount, I wanted to take it a little slower at the beginning so I could finish strong.  For once, I actually did start off slowly.  My first (uphill) mile clocked in around 9:40.  I tried to run the next several miles at a very easy, comfortable pace.  When I hit the eight mile mark, I was averaging around an 8:50/mile pace.  I still felt strong and figured I’d was almost halfway through my run.  So I picked up the pace a little bit.  I was still (mostly) heading south and was battling a noticeable, but not crippling, headwind.  I didn’t really push it, but I did try to be aware of my pace and not let it slip from comfortable into really easy.  Eventually, I turned back north which meant I had a tail wind helping me out.  I think I may have picked up the pace a bit without increasing my effort much because of said tail wind.  I still felt strong and comfortable when I hit the steep downhill portion near the end of my run.  I cruised downhill and was surprised by how much time I had left when I passed by Rob’s place.  I added a few more loops and turns before finishing up my run.  When I mapped it out, I had run 17.7 miles, which comes out to an 8:28/mile pace—even after my heavy run week!  I would have slowed down a bit had I realized I was going this quickly, but I felt so strong the entire run that I thought my pace was :10/mile or so slower than it actually was.

After recovering a bit from my run, I headed to the pool for my swim. I had two 1500s on the schedule.  I consoled myself with the promise that I could take them at an easy, steady pace.  Because I hadn’t been swimming since Monday and my arms were plenty rested, these actually felt pretty good.  I started to feel a bit weak towards the end of my first 1500.  I wasn’t really tired, but I lost some strength and felt like I would have been shaky had I been running or riding instead of swimming.  I think this was just the calorie deficit getting to me.  I had eaten after my run, but I hadn’t fully refueled.  I felt better during the second 1500.  My times for these were 25:45 and 24:59.  Considering I was swimming at a completely sustainable pace, I was pleased with these times.  I was more pleased to be done, though.

Later that evening, Rob and I took a walk through some older neighborhoods near where he lives.  It had rained during the day but started clearing up by the time we went, so it was cool outside and everything was wonderfully damp.  We saw a crazy amount of snails (which I absolutely adore for some reason).  But the best one was a minuscule baby snail whose shell hadn’t even properly formed yet.

That’s a key for scale.

Sunday: Run—1:15:00 (8.06 miles); Swim—1500 yards
I felt surprisingly good when I woke up on Sunday.  I was a stiff and a little sore, but I felt better than I did the morning after my tempo run this week.  I gave myself a little time to wake up and then headed out for my run.  I took it nice and easy, and I opted to run loops around a nearby park on a bark path instead of running on the road like I normally would.  My legs took a pounding on Saturday, and I felt my IT band for the first time in a long time, so I wanted to have the benefit of a softer surface and an easy exit if it started acting up.  I chugged along at a slow pace and ended up going just over eight miles before hitting my allotted time.

After church, I headed to the pool again.  It was (thankfully) a short workout:
4 x 100 (swim, kick, pull, swim)
8 x 100 @ 1:40 (easy, build, easy, hard)
3 x 100 easy
I worked hard during the main set. I originally planned on swimming my 100s on 1:45, but at the last minute decided to aim for 1:40 instead. It was tough, but the workout was short enough that I was able to push myself and get some solid speed work.  When I was done, I’ll admit that I had a mini celebration for completing the run-focused week in my training plan.  I ended up running 46 miles, in addition to cycling 66 miles and swimming 7000 yards.

Tri the Heights Sprint Triathlon (6/04/2016)

My first triathlon of the season sneaked up on me.  I knew it was coming, but it wasn’t until it was a week out that it hit me.  I had a race coming up… soon!

I spent some time trying to come up with a time goal (both overall and for each sport), but nothing felt quite right.  Everything felt arbitrary.  I didn’t have much of a standard on which to base any time goals.  The swim was in a 50 meter pool instead of a 25 yard pool. The ride was short (10.9 miles), but tough.  I had ridden it in the middle of a long ride a couple of weeks earlier, and I knew that there were some steep sections that I didn’t know how to account for when predicting a time.  The run depended on how cooked my legs were after the bike.  Because of this uncertainty and the length of the race, I only had one strategy and one goal going into this race.

Hammer it.

It was a sprint triathlon, after all.

Well, because brevity isn’t my strong suit, the plan was a bit more detailed than that.  I wanted to swim hard enough that my arms felt like jelly at the end of the swim.  Then, I wanted to get up those hills as fast as I could and take advantage of the downhill second half of the bike course to help my legs recover a bit.  Finally, I wanted to run a fairly aggressive 5k.  Not stupid-aggressive, but confident-aggressive.

The race start was just a few miles from Rob’s parents’ house, so I stayed there the night before.  It was easier, less stressful, and allowed me to get an extra fifteen minutes or so of sleep.  Plus, it meant a completely stress-free evening.  I watched some TV and got to bed super early.  And since 4:00am wakeup calls are not that unusual since I’ve been training, I didn’t even mind getting that early to get ready for the race (which started at 6:30am).

I had some water in the morning and managed to eat a pretty solid pre-race breakfast of a banana, a hardboiled egg, and a bagel.  Since I had packed the evening before, all I had to do was fill up my water bottle, grab my bag, and head out the door.  I was nervous about the race, but I kept feeling like I should be more stressed about actually getting there with everything I needed.  But I had planned well, so it went really smoothly.  I got to the pool around 5:30am and set up my transition area.  That took me about five minutes, and then I kind of thought to myself, “Well… what now?”  I was at this race on my own, so I just kind of wandered around.  I snacked on some trail mix.  I went to the bathroom.  I went to the bathroom again.  I looked at the pool and tried to mentally prepare myself for the long course.  And before I knew it, it was time to line up for the swim.

The long course pool


The swim was 400m in a 50m pool.  You swam down one lane, then popped under the lane line and swam back in the next lane.  People lined up by their projected swim time.  I guessed I would swim somewhere around 7:00 or 7:15, so that’s where I lined up.  I was wearing my tri shorts, but instead of my tri top, I had on a bikini top.  I was hoping the smaller, tighter top would cut down on drag.  There were a few other swimmers doing the same thing, and it was a good decision, even if I did feel a little awkward standing there exposed for the world to see (I’m not used to bikinis… I’ve never even done a sports-bra only run!).  They started us off every ten seconds.  When it was my turn, I hopped in and took off.  I swam the first 50m really quickly and caught up to the woman in front of me by the time I had reached the first turn.

After that, though, I settled into a bit of a rhythm.  I felt strong swimming and continued to pass people who had clearly over-estimated their swimming ability.  I was only passed once on the swim, by a teenage boy who was a little fish.  The only problem I had were the turns.  I knew that I would have to do a flip turn and navigate under the lane line while doing so.  I thought it would be a pretty natural adjustment, so I didn’t bother to practice that particular skill.  It was not natural.  Almost every single turn, I’d flip and then be sure I was completely past the lane line only to come up and hit it with my back or my head or my butt.  And every single time, I’d tell myself I’d pay more attention and get it right the next time.  I never did.  All my flip turns sucked, though my turns were faster than they would have been if I had done open turns, so I just stuck with the tragic flip turns.  I climbed out the pool and glanced at my watch because I wanted an idea of what I swam (without the run to the transition incluced).  6:56!  Off to a great start!


My first transition was comically long.  I had my tri top all laid out with the number already attached so I could just pull it on quickly.  But I was wet and the material kept sticking to me which caused the entire top to get all twisted.  I was struggling to pull it on and just could not get it.  It probably took me an extra 20-30 seconds just to get it all figured out.  It was a little funny, and while I was slightly annoyed at the time, I was more amused and it didn’t affect my attitude going into the bike leg at all.


I finally got out of transition and started the bike.  There was a short portion right at the beginning of the course that was downhill, and then the uphill grind began.  I’m glad I rode the course a couple of weeks ago because I knew what to expect.  Additionally, since I was starting the course fresh instead of an hour into a long ride, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I remembered.  I passed a couple of women and men early on in the course and was passed by a few men early in the course as well.  However, for most of the bike, I was racing alone.  The first climb was tough, but there were still a few people ahead of me that I could catch, so it went quickly.  The second climb is longer, but I was able to put my bike in a pretty low gear and spin without mashing the pedals too hard.  Because this course was hilly, my particular bike was an advantage.  When I got my bike, I opted for a compact crankset, which basically means you have a few more easy gears and a few fewer hard gears.  That allowed me to keep my cadence pretty high, even on the steeper climbs.

Elevation chart for the bike course

Of course, what goes up must come down.  The second half of the course was awesome.  The descents were fast, but not so fast that I had to give up free speed and use my brakes to stay safe.  I was able to pedal easily but without spinning out in my hardest gears for a large part of the descent.  Before I knew it, I was almost done.  As I mentioned, I had seen a few women, but (much to my surprise) I hadn’t been passed by any.  I knew I had been near the front of the swim line and had passed one or two women both in the swim and on the bike.  I started to wonder if I was the first woman.  I knew I was up there with the leaders, and that kept me working hard during the end of the bike leg where it would have been easy to hold back and conserve energy.


I made my way into T2 and chatted with a woman waiting for her relay team member while I changed my shoes.  She mentioned that I was the second woman to come into the transition.  I was pleased to hear that, but I’ll admit I was a tad bit disappointed that I wasn’t the lead woman like I thought I might possibly have been.  I ran out of transition, ready for that 5k.


My legs protested as I started the run.   I usually run really easily off the bike, so I was somewhat surprised.  It’s supposed to be easy right now!  I’m not supposed to start hurting yet!  I reminded myself that the first part of the race was a false flat and that I was running uphill, even if it didn’t look like it, and tried to stay positive.  Sure enough, as I kept running, I felt better.  Based on my times when I crossed the various mile markers, I’m not 100% sure they were accurate.  I wasn’t too concerned because I really was running on effort.  A mile or so into the run, I saw someone up ahead with long hair.  She didn’t look all that strong at the time, and I thought there was a good chance I could catch her.  She was pretty far up there, though, so I wasn’t sure.  Before I gain any significant ground, I heard someone breathing behind me.  Based on the tone of the breaths, I guessed it was a woman, and, sure enough, a couple seconds later, a woman blew by me.  I remembered that one woman mentioned having previous run a sub-19 open 5k on this very course as we were standing in line before the swim.  Because of that previous conversation, I wasn’t exactly surprised to see her, and since I could guess how fast she was going, I didn’t try to go with her.  There was no reason to burn myself out halfway through the 5k.

Instead, I just focused on running my race.  I passed several people (and was also passed once or twice myself!) and continued to gain on the woman that I had seen ahead of me earlier.  I still wasn’t sure if I’d be able to catch her by the end of the race, though.  Then I remembered that I already had a head start.  Because I hadn’t been passed by any women in the swim or on the bike and since I had passed the woman right in front of me in the swim, I knew that this woman started at least twenty seconds before me.  So I didn’t need to actually catch her—just get close!  For some reason, this mental boost is all I needed.  I picked up my pace a bit and started gaining faster.  I saw the last big hill on the run course and decided to push it up the hill to close the gap.  I ended up passing her right after the top of the hill and just kept going.  I was about half a mile from the finish when I passed her, so I tried to keep that pace through to the finish.

Elevation chart for the run course

After recovering for a few minutes, I went and checked the results.  Sure enough, I finished second place overall!  It was a small triathlon, but I was still thrilled with the results.  Better yet, I actually placed second in each of the different legs (I was beaten by a different person each time) which gives me hope that I’m a fairly well-rounded triathlete without an obvious weak point.  I waited around for the awards and got to go up and get my medal for placing first in my age group (only the overall winners got awards for their overall place).  This race was a great start to my season and was exactly the confidence booster I needed.

I found some other members of the Salt Lake Tri Club!
The top of the podium!

The stats:
Overall place—12/113
Gender place—2/53
Age group place—1/10


Weekly Recap (5/30-6/05)

Monday: Swim—4500 yards; Strength—30 minutes; 8-minute abs
Since Rob and I were driving back to Salt Lake City on Monday, I went to the pool early to fit in my longest swim workout of the week.
3 x 100
4 x 1000 (17:30, 17:31, 17:19, 16:57)
4 x 50
2.4 miles is 4224 yards, so this whole workout was longer than my Ironman swim will be.  This swim felt great.  I thought that it was going to be mind-numbing and mentally difficult, but the 1000s went by pretty quickly.  I swam at a pace that felt like a “forever” pace for the first three and sped up a bit for the last one.  I swam my first two at a 1:55/100yd pace.  If I could hold that pace during the Ironman, I would swim a 1:14, which is faster than my wildest dreams.  I don’t think I will swim that fast because open water swimming is typically slower than indoor swimming, but I’m in a good place right now with my swimming fitness to reach my goal time in the swim (1:20-1:25).  If only I felt that positive about the bike and the run!  After Rob and I got back to Salt Lake, I reluctantly forced myself to do strength work and core work.

Tuesday: Swim—2500 yards; Bike—1:30:13 (25.55 miles)
Another early morning in the pool.  This week is a swim-focused week, hence the extra swimming.  It’s nice, but since I feel relatively confident about the swim, I was a little leery of spending a whole week focused on it.  I may switch out one or two of the workouts for bike rides.  Today was a speed day:
4 x 200 (swim, kick, pull, swim)
4 x (4 x 100 descend)
2 x 50
Basically, I did four sets of four 100s.  Within each set, the 100s got faster as I went on.  I wasn’t really feeling the whole “exercise” thing that morning, but I still got some good, fast 100s in later on in each set.  I think my arms were a little more fatigued after my long day on Monday than I realized at the time.  Because swimming tends to be the sport I do to recover from the other two, I sometimes forget that a long, hard swim will at the very least leave my arms tired the next day.  Swimming while fatigued is good practice for the last thirty minutes or so of the Ironman, so I guess this workout was a success!

After work, I set out on my bike ride.  Because I have a car again, I got home at 4:30pm instead of 5:15pm, so I was able to get out on the bike earlier than I have been lately.  It was warm, but the ride went well.  I’ve gone discouragingly slow in some of my recent rides, so it was nice to have a ride where I felt fast and strong.  I went in and out of aero position during this ride, and it felt comfortable and fairly natural.  I also was much more in control of my bike than I was even just a couple of days ago.  I hit a nasty pothole in aero position and didn’t take a tumble.  I didn’t even wobble dangerously!  So I’m feeling good about my progress so far.

Wednesday: Bike—1:00:xx (15.xx miles); Run—1:00:00 (7.3 miles); 8-minute abs
In the end, I decided to switch out a swim workout for a bike workout.  So on Wednesday, instead of putting in endless laps in the pool, I headed out for an early, pre-dawn bike ride.  I am thrilled that it’s now warm enough to get out on the bike early without it becoming a giant ordeal with a thousand different pieces of clothing.  On Wednesday morning, I went out in shorts and a jersey, with just arm warmers and knit gloves to keep me warm.  I was a little chilly at the start, but after warming up a bit, I felt just fine.  It was a pleasant ride, and I enjoyed it a lot more than I would have enjoyed yet another swim.  Plus, I think I need a little more time on the bike.

After work, I had an hour long run scheduled.  I spent the whole day dreading it.  By the time I got back to Rob’s place, it was hot outside—over 80°.  As much as I hate running in the heat and would prefer to run in the mornings (or at least midday!), I know I will be running my Ironman marathon in the heat of the day, so I need to acclimate myself to running in the heat.  There is one water fountain about halfway through this particular route.  I stopped and drank a bit of water there, but I didn’t bring or set out any water.  It was hot, and I got thirsty, but I never felt dehydrated.  I didn’t check the temperature until I got back, and I was actually surprised at how high the temperature was.  I would have thought I would have felt much worse at 80°.  I’m just going to keep sprinkling in warm runs as I train and hope that those prepare me for the heat of my Ironman marathon.

Thursday: Swim—“Open water” practice; Strength—15 minutes
I was planning on doing a specific workout in the pool on Thursday morning.  But as I was sitting in my car in the pool parking lot waiting for it to open up, I saw the Masters swim team coach.  What’s he doing here?  It’s not Monday, Wednesday, or Friday!  Then I remembered that, throughout the summer, there is an additional Masters swim practice on Thursday.  When I got into the pool, I saw that it was a day for practicing open water skills.  This all seemed rather fortuitous, so I joined in with them.  After warming up, we practiced open water starts, buoy turns, and then beach starts.  It was fun, and it was nice to do something a little outside the routine to keep things interesting.  During lunch, I did some strength work, but after that, I just took it easy the rest of the day in preparation for my sprint triathlon that was coming up over the weekend.

Friday: REST; 8-minute abs
This rest day was wonderful.  I was staying at Rob’s parents’ house since my triathlon the next day was only five minutes away from where they are.  But they are actually out of town.  So it was a super low-key evening.  Low-key as in I came over, ate some food, watched some TV, did core work, and then went to bed well before 9:00pm.  I didn’t even talk to anyone all evening.  Now, that isn’t something that would be desirable every day, but for this particular evening it was a dream come true.

Saturday: Tri the Heights Sprint Triathlon (1:10:20); Bike—33:xx (9.xx miles)
I’ll write up a more detailed race report about the triathlon, but it went well, and I was very pleased with how I did!  The weather was perfect, and I had a ton of fun.  However, apparently when you are training for an Ironman, a sprint triathlon is not enough of a workout for a single (weekend) day.  So later on that day I hopped on my bike for an easy 30 minute spin.  I ended up riding a flat course instead of doing the initial climb that I normally do, so my easy ride actually ended up being faster than normal, even after doing a race earlier that day.

Sunday: Strength—15 minutes; Bike—1:03:58 (15.8 miles); Swim—3200 yards
I woke up on Sunday morning and did some strength work right off the bat.  Rob and I did the coffee shop loop on Saturday morning.  Fifteen miles and a pastry is a great way to start the day.  We did the ride with Ryan, a friend of his that he used to work with.  We had a fun time riding and chatting, (although, true to form, I did more eavesdropping listening than talking myself.  I ended up leaving the shop a bit earlier than they did so I could  get to church on time.

Photographic proof that Rob and I occasionally hang out with people besides each other.


After church, I headed to the pool for another swim workout:
4 x 250 (swim, kick, pull, swim)
1950 ladder (300 descending by 25)
250 easy
The ladder started with a 300 and each interval after that was 25 yards shorter (300, 275, 250, etc.).  It was hot in Salt Lake on Sunday, and the water felt wonderful.  My warm-up was completely pleasant.  And then I started the main set.  I started out swimming each interval at what I would describe as a tempo pace.  I took a 15 second break after each one.  And after a few intervals, it was tough.  It wasn’t extraordinarily difficult, but I was definitely swimming hard up through the last intervals.  It felt good to work hard, especially since I wasn’t sure I’d be up for a hard workout after my race the day before.