QOTD, and More

June 27, 2011 § 1 Comment

“You think you can win on talent alone? Gentlemen, you don’t have enough talent to win on talent alone.” — Coach Herb Brooks, Miracle
 
So, I have a secret for you. I know that my blog posts are generally upbeat and hopefully somewhat humorous. But sometimes….I get really, really tired. Sometimes….I don’t really want to do my workout. 
 
Last Thursday night was one of those nights. I had a group ride scheduled. Crap. That means 37 miles of legs burning and praying I’m not the slowest this week. Of hoping that I can focus for 2 hours and 15 minutes so completly that I don’t disturb anyone else’s ride. The wheels of my (super smart and very astute brain) started working. Maybe….I can just convince myself that these clouds look ominous and it’s going to storm, and do a shorter workout on the trainer instead. Then I’ll have time to paint my toenails!
 
Or! Maybe I can try to get Ryan and Pat to ride the easier Gunpowder loop which will be much less stressful. And then I’ll have time to paint my toenails!
 
And then it hit me. I didn’t really have a good reason for not wanting to do my designated workout. I actually just wanted to paint my toenails.
 
Sometimes, there are good reasons to miss workouts – if my body truly needs rest/recovery/easy day, that is one thing. But if I’m just being moody and tired and don’t “feel like it” — that’s not really okay with me.
 
While I love the sport of triathlon, that certainly doesn’t mean that everytime I get on my bike I love it. It doesn’t mean that every run feels great and builds my confidence. And it certainly doesn’t mean I am cannon-balling into the pool 4 times a week ready to swim.
 
The majority of the time, I am excited to get out there and push myself. But sometimes, I’m not. So, why do I do it on the days that I don’t love it? Why don’t I just give in to the fact that I’d rather go to Happy Hour sometimes instead of a 2.5 hour swim-to-run workout? Because, like the above quote, I understand and have accepted the fact that I am not going to achieve my goals on talent alone. In fact, if I rely on talent alone, I’m going to fail miserably this year.
 
I learned this about myself a long time ago. When I was about 12 years old I played soccer. I was pretty darn good, too. I consistently made the elite travelling teams and generally was a starting player. At 12, I had reached the age where now it was time to look towards high school. High school brought soccer to a new level. You now had to be on top of every aspect of your game – skills, fitness, showing up to every practice mattered, etc. To prepare us for this our coach started having us do a timed mile every week at Wednesday practice. Initially I was in the middle of the pack. I could have easily gotten away with this; I was never close to being the last one so attention was never on me. But instead, twice a week outside of practice, I would run. My mom would sit on our front porch and count how many times I could run around the half mile loop next to my house. (Looking back, I’m not really sure why I needed help counting as I doubt I ever went more than like 4-5 times around, but still.) After I began doing that, my mile time started dropping. Quickly. Before long, I had the second fastest mile time on the team. I may not have recognized it then, but I didn’t get that because I was the most talented. I got to that point because I was willing to work harder than the other girls on the team.
 
The same principal applies here. Now, I know my breaking points pretty well after competing in endurance events for the past 6 years. I know the difference between tired and overtrained. I know the difference between cranky and burned out. Last thursday I was none of those things. So, I went into autopilot and showed up to the ride (with some much appreciated encouragement from Ryan). I got onto my bike and started pedaling. And you know what? I worked hard, and I had a great ride.
 
Some people are just talented and will be fast. But others can be just as fast with a little bit of talent and a lot of hard work. I know which group I fall in to, and I have to admit, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
 
Oh, and I finally did get time to paint my toenails on Friday 🙂

The Goose is Getting Fat

June 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

I haven’t had much of a chance to breathe lately – between work, training, and a trip up to NYC to see my sister things have been quite busy in the world of Alyssa. As I hunker down for my next training block and continue to grind through the days I am reminded of the important of the little things that keep me going….
 
These things are the bomb. I haven’t had one since my grandmother stopped sending them in my care packages when I was in college, but a quick google search leaves me to believe they do still exist and I may even find them at my local drug store.
 
2.  Not taking myself anything too seriously. This morning I cooled off after mile repeats using a grimey baltimore fountain (granted it is in the apartment complex where Tom Clancey resides on occasion). It was gross. But it was necessary, and it was funny.  I also like to hear nerdy jokes to keep me laughing….A photon checks into a hotel and the bellhop asks if he needs help with his luggage, to which the photon replies….No its ok im traveling light. In addition to nerd jokes I also enjoy what I call “dad” jokes…these are generally found on the back of laffy taffy wrappers.
 
3.  Friends. My friends are a huge chunk of the pie that keeps me motivated day after day. But instead of blowing up their spot all over the interwebs I will display my fake friends instead. 
Yes, that’s right, I said it. And I know you know what I’m talking about. Who has never been like “oh yeah, after work I’m just gonna hang out with Taylor for a bit and rock out in my car.” Or maybe, “I’m just gonna stay home tonight and watch a track meet. My <cough>fake<cough> friend Erin Donohue is running.” No? How about, “oh yeah Chelsea made me laugh so much last night that my wine came out my nose!”
 
Note:  Fake friends in order left-to-right in the above photo (crazy how all 8 of us were together on one magical day!): Jimmy Fallon, Erin Donohue, Taylor Swift, Guy Fieri (who wouldn’t want a friend that will think of fun games to play that only take a minute), Chelsea Handler, Ashton Kutcher (Enough said. And I like cameras.), Myself, Evelyn from the MTV Challenge show (she’d be a fun friend to play Guys’ challenges against!).
 
4. Sponsors. Yes, this is a shameless little plug for those companies who do their part in helping keep me going. Regardless, I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t mean it. The Oiselle Iris Sport Top is one of my favorite peices this summer. It’s SO soft and comfortable, and doesn’t get insanely heavy and gross when you sweat like a man.  And after my run this morning I found out that the Marseille shorts are also great for high humidity runs. Despite looking like I got out of a pool (well, I was in a fountain), the shorts didn’t chafe or give me any issue once they were drenched. The inside lining is also really soft I swear it’s made of clouds…….and they’re on sale right now!
 
When I got home I replenished the buckets of fluid I lost with some NUUN Strawberry Lemonade. If you haven’t already tried this new flavor, you are missing out. It’s like a cotton-candy-lemonade-strawberry-shortcake-snowball-goodness drink. In fact, they e-mailed me and said that was what they were going to call it, but only Strawberry Lemonade fits on the tube.
 
And finally, a huge shoutout to Eric with SmartBikeParts.com who recently made my experience purchasing a Speedsuit (watch out world I’m gonna rock the L-Ville swim) super awesome.

Eagleman & Birthday Fun

June 15, 2011 § 4 Comments

Two years ago I raced Eagleman 70. 3, won my AG (sort of – the first place girl got bumped up to 3rd Overall Amateur),  and earned myself a spot to 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater. Knowing that I would be aging up the next year I had glanced at the 25-29 age group. It was glaringly obvious that if I ever wanted to have the same fate at this race I had some serious work to do.

A question mark remained over my head this past weekend as I prepared for the race. I’m no fool and my googling skills are quite good these days so I was well aware of the girls in my age group and the fact that this was going to be far from an easy day. Not only was the competition Tyra Banks-style fierce, but the Eagleman Gods were shining down on us in full force and the weather forecast was high humidity and upper 80s/low 90s. Due to the high temperatures as of late, the water in the Choptank were well above 80 degrees and there was no question that wet suits would not be an option. I knew that meant then that speedsuits came into play, but in my little naive mind I truly thought that a zipped up tri top and tri shorts would be pretty much the same as a speed suit. I mean, they both cover about the same surface area and are tight and stretchy. Alas, Hillary informed me that is not exactly the case and I swear she took a little joy in letting me know that since I had yet to acquire a speedsuit, she would prefer I race in a bathing suit. Luckily I actually have no shame so while this was a daunting prospect it was a little exciting for me. I feel like racing in a swimsuit (or speedo for dudes) is kind of a rite of passage in the triathlon world. Who needs all the fancy schmancy gear when at the end of the day a swimsuit does the trick? I appropriately warned all those coming to spectate that they would be getting a little more than they bargained for in terms of the view though.

Fast forward to the race day. My wave was going off at 8:22. We got there just before 6am – this meant there was quite a bit of waiting. I hung around with Ryan, OJ, Pat and Tommy for a good portion of that time. I also had a slum-dog millionaire-esque experience in one of the porta pottys. And then it was time to get in the water which was cool because the sun was out and it was already getting quite toasty. The race started and I swam what I perceived tobe a pretty hard effort, but was disappointed with my 36 and change time exiting the water. However, the sight of champion spectators Carly and Jen cheered me up and I got ready to go on the bike.

Ah, the bike. Eagleman is known for being a very flat course, which means constant pedaling. My main concerns in the first half of the race was keeping it “comfortably uncomfortable” and maintaining my calorie intake. After I hit the 28 mile mark I reved it up a bit and went all out. This was good as we did have a headwind for a decent portion of the loop returning home, so it actually kept my split fairly evenly paced. Because I started the race as the 2nd to last wave, I spent the majority of the bike passing people. This is a big help on that course as there isn’t much else to look at. In the last 10 miles of the ride 2 girls caught me and we spent the remaining miles leap frogging and using each other to pace in.  I came in to T2 seconds behind them and we all headed out for the run.

My hope for the run was to be able to find a pace in the realm of 7:45 that felt comfortable for the first 8 miles, then use what was left to get home. This was a shortlived dream on Sunday though, as my legs right off the bat felt very heavy. I knew the temps were high and I could feel the sun beating down on my practically-naked backside, so I didn’t stress it.  After all, at least I was still running. Then around the 5k mark things changed, and I felt the life come back into my legs. Maybe I had finally shook out the 2:33 bike split, but I felt like a new person. The heat was still present – so I was walking through the aid stations and taking the water/ice to cool off – but I was keeping a good pace between them. At mile 8 I turned it up a little and really I only felt stronger. I knew my sub-5 hour race was out the window at this point, but I had that 5:05 in sight. With 2 miles to go I caught my old Navy Marathon coach. When he let me go I knew he was hurting, so I high fived him and set off to catch the next person. This was a girl from NJ in the age group above me and we were able to chat as we came through the last aid station. We helped each other push in to the finish line and I came through in 5:05:25, a 14 minute PR on the course, and 6ish minutes faster than I even did at Clearwater in 09.

I was really happy with my result but was a little bummed to see that only put me 8th in the AG. However, the rolldown gods were granting me a birthday present this year and somehow the Vegas spots got rolled down to 7/8th place. I took the spot without question – Hillary and I had already discussed that it would be a fun opportunity to just have a fun no expectations race, and after all – who turns down a chance to go to the World Championships? SOMEONE has to take it 🙂 NOTE: As I have continued to make plans for this race, the logistics have become increasingly challenging so if you are going to the race or know someone who is and may be interested in splitting a room/car/etc at the race site please get in touch with me!

All in all, it was a good day. I had what I feel was an incredible bike, and a strong run where I actually negative split – I’ve never, ever done that in any running event! I believe that this race was another big stepping stone in my progress towards my “real” goal later this year.

Post race included some good food and bevs at Abbey Burger and Andrew was in town for the night before his flight out which was a good time. Monday was birthday, and true to my worst fears this included a “birthday swim” granted to me by Hillary. 26×200. Also known as 5200 meters. Also known as 3.3 miles. Also known as really, really far to swim. Luckily I was able to dupe Ryan into swimming it with me and while my pace was painfully slow I did in fact get in done well in time for a great birthday lunch in Fells Point!

Eagleman Equation

June 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Hot Temperatures

 

No Wetsuit Swim
 
= Booty Booty Booty Rockin’ Everywhere  
(will make much more sense after Sunday)

Pink Flamingos In the Pool

June 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

I haven’t posted much about training lately so I’ll attempt to do a summary here. In one word, I can say this: ready. What I am ready for is actually two things – taper and a race! I was so tired last week that I fell asleep while baking brownies – totally not my style! Luckily they were still edible 🙂 But seriously, the past couple weeks since Columbia have been a solid block of training. My fatigue level has gone up, but I feel stronger within each workout.  This means that I have done a decent job of getting to bed early and eating well which I am pretty proud of. It always feels good to come out of a training block feeling stronger.

Swim: In the past 6 weeks or so I have stopped noticing the speed gains in the pool – No longer am I dropping 2-3 seconds off my 100’s time from week to week. I knew that was bound to happen sometime though. What I am seeing is that I consistently feel stronger during the main sets.  I’m not leaving comments after every workout anymore asking if Hillary is trying to drown me or saying that I think my arms fell off to the bottom of the pool. Sure, every now and then a workout gets me, but for the most part I am seeing the gains with consistency of speed over distance. This is mostly exciting for me because I am feeling like in 8 more weeks I’ll be confident going into an IM swim – not something I ever thought possible.

Bike: Cycling has truly become my favorite part of being a triathlete. I made my return to Thursday Night Ride out of Owings Mills a couple weeks in a row and it was great to be back. This is a ride that Ryan introduced me to last year by saying not much more than “it will make you better.” And, he was right. First, the course that is ridden is anywhere from 35-40 miles and it is hard, simply put. On any given night it could be a group of 8 – 30 people, generally split into 2 groups. The first group – some people call it the slow group, I call it the pretty group – leaves at 5:15. The faster guys leave at 5:30 and we all meet up about 10 miles into the ride. From there there are some sections of work with designated meet up spots to regroup, get water, etc. For someone like me, this is the perfect environment to get faster. First, the group is comprised of mostly all middle aged men. That’s like my biggest fan base!! These dudes get pumped to rides bikes, but they get even more pumped to help twenty something girls in spandex ride bikes.

This ride is so fast that even hanging on to the paceline is too much for me at times. When I drop off though someone is always there to pull me back up to to the line. And when even THAT is too hard, I’ll get a hand on my back as they, quite literally, push me there. Some times the same guys helping me here are guys I can actually outclimb. After they pull me 5 miles, we’ll get to a hill and they give me a smile and a wink and tell me to go catch the guys up ahead, as they make their way a little slower up behind me. They never demand anything other than I have fun and ride by the rules. I do my best to not ride like an asshole and always thank them for doing work. I ride the crap out of my legs on that ride and it shows; in turn they respect that and are willing to help me get better. For other girls out there who are looking to get faster, get your bike handling skills in tact and then come out for rides like this. They are very intimidating and suck at first because you will be dropped and will be forced to ride 15 miles home on your own into a headwind. But keep going, earn the respect of the group, and get some work done. It’s fun. Really.

Aside from TNR though, I have been doing the majority of my riding with Ryan. This has enabled me to get out the door much more than ever before, learn some new routes, and get stronger. I actually had my first crash the other weekend – my tire got caught in a track in the road and boom! Before I even knew what happened I was on the pavement. Luckily I ended up with just some bumps and bruises. The scrapes were actually in the exact same spot as the ones from my fall on the trails so no more harm there. Definitely scary and reminds me to keep my alertness in check as my training volume increases and I am going into more rides tired.

Run: In the past 3 weeks I have noticed an increase in volume here but also a new approach to my speed work in the week. Previously I was doing my speed sessions on the treadmill. I know there are a lot of people out there who would never touch a treadmill, especially for speed work. I actually enjoy this and think its great because it does take alot of the variables out, allows me to let go of control, and just run fast. Some of these workouts are what gave me the confidence that I DO  have speed in my legs after all.  The past few weeks though I have been off the treadmill and doing sets of mile repeats at my goal half marathon pace. This has been really beneficial for me. The first week my pace was all over the place. I also barely made it home after 5 of them. My jaw dropped when I saw that the next week I’d be doing 6. So, I focused more on pacing that week and (with Carly’s help!) kept them all around 6:45 pace. It was like night and day. I can now understand that a 6:45 – 7 minute pace is comfortably uncomfortable for me, but I can keep that up for extended intervals. If I go below 6:45 pace I now know what that hurt feels like, and I also know that any time spent in that zone will cause me a lot of time later in the workout. This was also proven in the half marathon I raced in early May.

According to the website there are 3 days, 7 hours and 40 minutes until Eagleman! Let’s go already!!!

QOTD

June 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

“We do what we do, what we love, for the greater good. Even if doing what we love is seemingly solitary, there is an underlying mission to affect others, hopefully inspire others and possibly bring people together.”

Tina Steinberg via Kara Goucher’s Blogpost

Hot Like Summer

June 1, 2011 § 3 Comments

Somehow the days got away from me and I never posted a race report of Columbia. So I’ll start with that.

Pre-race:  I was pretty excited going into this race. Columbia is nice because you rack your bike the day before, and while it’s not necessarily the most convenient to go out there 2 days in a row, it is nice not to have to worry about all of that on race day. This was the first time I’ve ever done more than a 20-30 minute run before a race. Coach Hillary had me doing a little bit of everything (S/B/R) the day before, with my rest day on Friday instead. I think this ended up being a good change for me. It was also going to be my first time racing in the Open/Elite wave instead of age group.

Race morning came and a sweet thing about being in the Open wave was that we’d be the second wave to start – no waiting until 9am like in 2009! The bad thing about the open wave? When the gun went off, everyone took off, and I was left in the dust really quickly. I was comforted by the fact I could still see a couple of people behind me though, and just put my head in and started swimming. I was never able to catch back up to any sort of group, but I still swam my fastest swim ever for an Olympic Distance! I was excited to see a 23:anything on the clock as I came out. Tore the wetsuit off and grabbed my bike.

Bike: I was excited for this part of the race. I headed out and felt all alone for the first 8 miles or so. Then 2 girls came zooming by me. Whoops – not so alone after all! I had to work to reel them back in, and a few others who were faster swimmers as well. By about halfway I was feeling good and there was one other female leap-frogging with me. She’d pull way ahead on the downhills and flats, and I would climb by her on the hills. It helped me to keep her in sight and use it as a way to push myself. I went pretty hard on the final stretch of road and gave myself a 1ish minute advantage over her and the next girl going out on the…

Run: That was very short-lived though as I was caught at the first mile marker. Crap. My legs felt decent – not great, but I would certainly make it through. The Columbia run course keeps you humble. Mike Zero had made it out to watch and was at some crucial parts of the run course which was pretty sweet. Had he not been there with a camera I’m not sure I would have run up all those hills! I hit the home stretch and tried to stretch out the legs and just get home. Unfortunately, 2 more girls were hot on my heels and came by me in the last quarter-mile. I ended up with a 2:29:34, 25th place overall (pro women included!). This was a 10 minute PR for me on the course, so clearly improvements were made.

Initially I was pretty excited, then I was frustrated, but I am back to being pleased with my result. My frustration came mostly from my run time – most of the other girls in the open wave were at least running 45’s, if not 42’s. I don’t like to be passed ever, but especially not in the last quarter-mile. And there just was nothing I could do – they were moving much faster than I could.  Hillary reminded me though that this was my first time jumping into an elite wave. It’s a bit of a mind game to go from racing in the age groups where I would consistently be in the top 3, to suddenly being at the back of the pack and hoping to not be dead last. The good part is that I liked racing with the big girls. I liked feeling like I was racing, like I couldn’t relax. And I don’t like feeling like I’m at the back of the pack – which is good motivation to keep getting after it in my workouts. Overall, it was a good race for me to do mentally and physically. Also, big shoutout to the crew that came out to support!! It’s always much appreciated when you take the time to be out there, especially at that hour!!

Looking ahead, Eagleman is coming up pretty quickly. The Columbia/Eagleman double is really well-timed and always fun because a lot of the same people will be out for each one. I didn’t get much of a break before I sensed an increase in training intensity and volume to continue pushing until Eagleman. I’m really looking forward to this one as I think my bike and run will be something to look out for, and I am hoping to make some considerable gains on my previous 5:19 time here.

I am going to have to institute the 2 week rule though – no trail running within 2 weeks of a big race! I finally got out to the trails for my long run last week with Carly, and I bit it pretty hard. Hoping these scrapes don’t mess up my aero position!

It’s also getting HOT here in Baltimore.  Listen to Sean Kingston’s jam Hot Like Summer here…..

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