Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Come on in, the Water is Really Cold

For some reason I cannot put my finger on, I have decided to do a 5k charity swim for Veterans -- around Veteran's Day -- in New York -- at Brighton Beach. Anticipated water temp?? ~52 degrees. Actually, I know exactly why I decided to do it - my grandpa, my dad, my father-in-law, and a whole bunch of other friends and family are veterans. Besides them are many other friends and family, and family of friends, and friends of family who are currently serving in the military. No one is untouched by the sacrifice these men and women have made or are making. The least I can do is raise a little money and awareness by jumping in the cold water and swimming 3.2 miles. The sacrifice to my comfort is so small in comparison.

To me, the funniest part about this swim is that there are two divisions - the wetsuit division and the non-wetsuit division. Seriously, you ask? Yes, seriously. Clearly, I am opting for the wetsuit division. No question about it. The last time I swam in water that was that cold I wanted to vomit for the first 300 yards and the total length of the swim was only about a mile, but it felt like 5 miles! I was woefully unprepared and uninitiated in the ways of cold water swim preparation. On top of that, I had just returned from a 10 day trip to South America where the temperatures hovered around 110 degrees and my blood thinned out quite nicely, thank you very much. When I got out of the water my exposed skin was red as a lobster - apropos considering the race was the "Lobsterman Triathlon".

So I have been reading a bit about cold water swim preparation and I have a lot more to read to really prepare. However, to start with I have committed to taking only cool or cold showers and baths between now and the swim in November. A warm shower is a luxury I cannot afford. On the plus side, I am burning a whole lot less oil and helping to green the environment in the process. In addition, I will need to purchase some additional neoprene coverage for my head, hands, and feet. Continue to watch this blog as I learn more and more about the preparations for long distance cold water swim events and to see if I can actually raise enough money to register for the swim before the event closes. The countdown begins!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Goals and the Preparation Thereof

What a training week this has been! After a teaching riding with Chuck on Monday, I did a swim/run brick on Tuesday, a 17 mile ride on Wednesday, rested on Thursday, a bike/run brick on Friday, a 10K run on Saturday, and a challenging 23.5 mile ride today. Then tomorrow starts a whole new tri training week all over again.

After Monday's ride I felt exhilarated and couldn't wait to ride again. Tuesday was a lazy swim, followed by two 1.5 mile runs -- both of which felt quite good. Then on Wednesday I was back on the bike for a 17 mile loop where I was able to try out many of the things that Chuck had taught me. One of the biggest struggles that I had was my breathing - also true in my running. Having asthma as a triathlete adds a little bit of an extra challenge, but I have pushed through that with the help of my doctor and I rarely, if ever, struggle with an attack. However I still wanted to maintain my breathing without sounding like an obscene phone caller. What I have learned was that I was expending too much energy using the strength in my lengths which was making me oxygen deprived. When I lightened up on the gears that I was using I spun a lot faster, but didn't expend the same amount of energy and I was able to take the big hills with more energy and less heavy breathing.

By the time Thursday rolled around I had planned to run a 10K, but there were thunderstorms -- always a great excuse for a rest day!
Then on Friday I was back at it with a 9.5 hilly ride followed by a 2.5 mile jog. The bike was good, but oddly enough I felt better on the run. I didn't use the MotionTraxx training podcasts that day, but I have used them enough now to help me establish a good pace for myself where I am not breathing too heavy or starting out too fast in a speed that I cannot maintain. I don't know that I will ever be a fast runner, but I am feeling pretty solid at an 11-12 minute/mile pace. I would love to get below a 10 minute pace someday and I will continue to target that as a goal. I know that I can sustain it for one mile, but after that I'm punked.

Saturday morning was supposed to be a rest day, but I needed to make up for my missed 10K from Thursday so I headed out with my MotionTraxx and finished in 1:12 which was about as perfect of a pace as I could get. My legs are now starting to give out *before* my breathing which I believe is a sign of progress for this girl! I rested in a cool bath (more on that in another blog post) for about an hour and then pushed to rehydrate as much as I could in preparation for today's ride.

Today was supposed to be a 26 mile ride, not too overly challenging, with a break in the middle for snack/lunch. Obi-wan had other plans for me - and the 5 other people on the ride besides us. He knows that I am training for this tri coming up in three weeks and wanted to help me to prepare better. This guy has been at this for years -- who am I to argue? So off we went on a shorter (23.5 mile) ride, which was far more challenging with a lot of hills and gradual inclines that seemed to go on forever. At first I thought he was trying to kill me, but as the ride went on I saw the wisdom and genius of his plan (thus the nickname Obi-wan). He worked with me a bit on pacing up the hills and maintaining a certain heart rate so that, in the race, I would have something left over for the run. After the ride I felt great and he talked with me a lot about strategy for THE HILL that is at mile six in my race.

The race is exactly three weeks from today. I am actually feeling pretty good about my chances to make it across the finish line. I am even resigned to the fact that I might be the last person across the finish line - after all, the last place finisher always gets the loudest cheers, do they not? :-) I am confident that I can complete each of the events individually. The question is, how will my body react when I string them all together? For the record - it's a .93 mile swim, 24.8 bike, and 6.2 mile run. Thus the crazy preparations over the last week, which will continue for the next two weeks at which time I will taper the training to give this poor old body a rest before race day.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Importance of Being Earnest

Tonight I went for a ride with one of my training partners - Chuck. Chuck has been letting me teach him a thing or two about swimming. It was a rewarding experience for me and he is now a good swimmer, with good technique. (I assume that means it was a rewarding experience for him too.) With swimming, technique comes first then strength comes later. But I digress...tonight he repaid the favor and taught me a thing or two about biking.

I am an "okay" biker and have come a long way from last year. But I have plateaued and was in need of some TLC and some real technique. My strength cannot get me any further. I want to improve and I am unable to do it on my own. So tonight I became a biking sponge -- an earnest learner. And Chuck complied as a willing trainer and filled my brain with tip after tip. Cadence, shifting, gear strategy, butt-on-the-seat position, body position, hand placement, hill climbing techniques, when to spin, when not to spin, planning for the hills, when to push on the pedals and when to pull and how to combine that with butt-on-the-seat-position, and so much more that I may not even remember.

We worked on standing while pedaling -- which I finally got through by using Chuck's tip of applying my core muscles and pulling up on the handlebars. Then we worked on standing high and standing low and powering up a hill and the timing of when to stand. For the record, standing while pedaling makes me really, really nervous - especially combined with the forward leaning position. I kind of felt like I should be wearing a mouth guard. I tried hard not to envision myself with no front teeth. I swallowed my fear and squashed the negative self talk -- both of which have nooo place in tri training and, in fact, have no place in life.

I have a lot to practice before my next race and I left Chuck and Patty's with a great feeling about my future as a biker and looking forward to my next ride -- in earnest. Ultimately what I learned is that, as with swimming, bike technique is extremely important and should come before strength. Thanks Chuck for a great training session. I am looking forward to the next one to reinforce all the stuff swimming around in my brain!