Sunday, March 29, 2009

Half way there, 12 more weeks to go!

Wow! Hard to believe that I am half way there. My training plan is 24 weeks total. As of today, I am done with 12 weeks and I have 12 more weeks to go until the Ironman.

2009 totals to date:

Swim: 96,700 Yd
Bike: 1,346 Mi
Run: 203 Mi

Next 12 weeks planned:

Swim: 120,000 Yd
Bike: 1,600 Mi
Run: 350 Mi

Over the last couple weeks, I started doing more triathlon specific training. I used to do a lot of team rides on my road bike through January and February. It was a great motivation to get outside on my bike in the winter and get a solid base in. Riding with stronger riders challenged me and strengthened my legs. However, on June 21 I will not be riding in a pack. It will be 112 miles of me breaking my own wind on my triathlon bike. Guess what - time to start riding my triathlon bike more often in training. Once you get used to riding in aero position it's actually pretty comfortable (if your bike fits properly). But after riding my road bike the whole winter the first couple rides on my TT bike made my back really sore because different muscles are used to support your upper body on a TT bike compared to a road bike. I started with doing 1-2 commutes to work a week on my TT bike and built up to doing a long ride in aero which I did today.

In addition to longer bike rides in aero, I do more bricks (a double workout with a minimal break in between - e.g., a bike ride immediately followed by a run to simulate the race). For example, yesterday instead of just doing a long run, I started with 1 hour ride and then did my long run. Today, I followed my 60 mile ride with a quick 4 mile trail run at the Arboretum.

As I get closer to the event, my workouts will get more and more Ironman specific. On May 2, I am doing Wild Flower Half Ironman in California. This will be a great test of my fitness 7 weeks before the Ironman. The course is hilly, windy and hot, just like Coeur D'Alene. In a couple weeks after that I plan on going out to Coeur D'Alene and doing a training camp on the course - full 112 mile bike ride followed by a short run on Saturday and a long run on the course preceded by a short bike ride on Sunday.

The first half of my Ironman journey has been challenging but fun at the same time. The second half will have more miles and hours to be logged, but I am going into it with a really good base so I think in some ways it will be a bit easier.

I am training for and racing Ironman Coeur D'Alene in support of Doctors Without Borders. Please help me achieve my goal by donating here. Thanks to everyone who has already donated! :-)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bike racing: Mason Lake #2 and Tour De Dung #2

Tour De Dung #2 Road Race

Wines of Washington Cat 4 Women are lined before the start of Tour De Dung #2 on March 22, 2009 in Sequim, WA.

Bike racing season is here! I've been in 2 road races this season so far.

Last weekend (March 14 2009) I did Mason Lake Road Race #2 in Mason Lake, WA. Weather was miserable! It was freezing rain the whole time. There were 2 x 12 mile loops around Mason Lake. The roads were wet and slippery and it was hard to see due to rain coming down heavily. Everyone was being cautious and just trying to be safe. No one made any big moves to try to break away. It was my first road race ever, so my goal was just to finish with the pack and not crash.

First lap was mostly just cruising; I stayed in the back of the pack. There were a few attacks on the second lap and I even got out in the front a few times, but none of the attempts succeeded. By the end of the second lap I was so cold that I was worried that my fingers were too numb to slam the breaks if had to.

With about 1 mile to go there was a crash right in front of me. It was too fast to understand what happened. I just saw 1 person go down and 2 more pile up on top. I veered to the right and came to a complete stop at the shoulder to avoid the crash. I realized that 2 of the girls that went down were my teammates and I hesitated for a few seconds before I clipped back in and went on. Since I've never been in this situation before I wasn't sure what was the right thing to do. Turns out, you shouldn't stop even if your teammate goes down - that's what the support car is for. I passed some people after I got back out there and ended up 22nd out of 34 who finished the race. After I finished I just got back in the car and sat there with the heat at full blast for about 20 minutes before I could start doing anything.

Yesterday (March 22 2009), I did Tour De Dung #2 in Sequim, WA. We were lucky enough that it didn't rain, but it was still pretty cold and windy. Our team had a bigger turnout this time - 9 or 10 Wines Cat 4 ladies were there. This time there were 3 x 12 mile loops.

According to Cat 1 women who were watching us from the support car, this was one of the faster and better Cat 4 races they've seen. We were definitely going way faster than at Mason Lake the week before. The field was quite a bit bigger and there were plenty of attacks throughout the race.

I tried to stay in the front of the pack for most of the race. I felt strong and pulled lots. Whenever there was an attack I tried to jump on their wheel so that I could be in the breakaway if it happened. A couple times we had a paceline of 4-5 people going, but the pack always ended up catching us.

At the end of the second lap I watched a very scary crash. We were going downhill pretty really fast and I saw a woman at the other side of the pack totally loose control of her bike. She swirled from one side to the other a few times and then went down, taking down another racer who turned out to be from our team. It was hard to tell what was going on because of how fast we were going, but I am pretty sure I saw a bike flip in the air and then hit the ground a few times and create sparkles as it hit the pavement. It was really scary. I found out later that she ended up getting pretty hurt. My teammate is better of - she is really sore, but didn't break anything and is getting better. The scene of the crash stayed in my mind throughout the race.

I made a mistake in the last couple miles and didn't hold on to my front of the pack position after the last turn. The last mile or so, the road became really narrow with no shoulder and it wasn't possible to move back up to the front. I ended up finishing in the last 3rd of the pack. It was pretty annoying given that I definitely worked harder than the average person in the pack given the percentage of time that I spent in the front.

I am still not 100% down with this whole bike racing thing. Seems like luck is too much of a factor in the end result. You can make all the right decisions throughout the whole race, then make one mistake and you end up at the back of the pack with those who barely hung on to the pack in the first place. Triathlon is more fair this way. You place depending on your ability.

Nonetheless, it was a lot of fun to be going so fast in the pack and be part of attacks and counter attacks in a real race. I think in the future, a key to success for me would be getting into a successful breakaway. I am strong enough to maintain a pace harder than that of the pack, but I am not too strong at sprinting really hard at the end. I am looking forward to next weekend's race. It's supposed to be pretty hilly, which will play to my climbing strength. I will need to try to break away on one of the uphills.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lessons learned in my first 2 months of Ironman training

Ice Breaker Time Trial

^^ That’s me racing in the Ice Breaker Time Trial on March 1, 2009.

It's been over 2 months since I started my official Ironman training program on January 5th. So far this year:
  • 77,000 yards in the pool
  • 954 miles on the bike
  • 125 miles running
That is more swimming and cycling than I did in the first 6 months of 2008. I was doing better on my running last year, but that's because I was training for a marathon last year and wasn't recovering from a foot surgery like I am now. I have been executing on the plan that I set out for myself back in January very consistently. There's been a few times when I had to modify my workouts for the week due to work load or being sick but I only missed a couple workouts and not any important ones.

I've learned a few tricks that have helped me stay motivated and avoid injury.

Log your training. I've been logging my training for a few years now, but Ironman training has made me appreciate it even more. Nothing motivates me more than comparing my totals for this year with last year or seeing that I am only 10 miles away from meeting my weekly or monthly goal. I use to log my training. Here's the link to my personal log:

Have a plan but remain flexible. Having a plan is instrumental to training for something as big as the Ironman. Simply doing what you are up to on a given day is Ok when training for sprint and olympic distances, but it does not cut it for the Ironman. Having a plan makes you more disciplined and accountable. There isn’t a one size fits all plan that works for everyone. Some people choose to work with a coach, but it is certainly possible to build your own plan without hiring a coach. I went a bit OC on my plan and planned my workouts on a daily basis all the way through June 21. I uploaded a copy of my plan here: However, sometimes life gets in the way, a foot of snow falls on the ground or you simply feel a bit under the weather. It’s important to be able to adjust and cut your workouts short, move them around when possible or even skip them entirely, especially if you feel too tired or on the verge of getting sick. Skipping one workout won’t hurt your training. Getting sick or injured and having to skip an entire week will.

Commit yourself by joining a team or taking a class. When you have to put in 15+ hours of training a week on a regular basis, it can get a bit old if you do most of it on your own. Working out with other people makes it more of a social experience. You get to chat with other folks, you push each other to go harder, the workout goes by faster. This year, I do some form of group training a couple times a week in all three disciplines. I go to a triathlon swimming class twice a week. Coach Eric taught me a lot of really neat drills that improved my balance and efficiency. I also go to a Masters Swim workout twice a week where coach Justin makes us do hard interval workouts. I join a local runners group for a track workout every week. I am also on a Wines of Washington cycling team. I go on team rides on the weekends and race in road races and time trials which makes me a stronger rider.

Lots of folks including some local athletes training for the same Ironman have asked how I manage to train outside through the winter months. I am always surprised to hear this question. It’s Seattle! It’s rarely below freezing around here. This winter has been particularly nice – there haven’t really been any rainy days either. I only had to ride in the rain a couple times through January and February. All you have to do is bundle up and that’s not a problem. REI has plenty of cool winter gear handy :-)