Pack a Shovel

January 27, 2013 § 11 Comments

“Whoa, that’s early.”

“You know that means a lot of trainer time, right?”

“Sounds more fun for spring break, not a race.”

“That’s my offseason.”


All of the above are a sampling of the responses that I would receive when discussing doing an IM in March. Despite being in Mexico, it seemed that I was in the minority of triathletes who are happy to jump on a new early season option for ironman racing. I knew it was going to be hard. I knew there were going to be many days where I would prefer to be in a build phase where I had flexibility with workouts. But after today, in just 3 words, I can just about sum up the best way to prepare for an early season goal race: Pack a Shovel.

Living in Baltimore, I’m actually very lucky in terms of winter training. With the exception of the winter of 2010, we usually have fairly mild winters (knock on wood). You can assume that 1-2 weeks will be very cold, but otherwise things are bearable and the snow is few and far between. Those 1-2 cold weeks have definitely arrived though. With it we got a sampling of snow, about an inch falling last night. In most places that get a winter, 1 inch wouldn’t phase people. Around here, it’s enough to cause early dismissals from schools, back up traffic for hours, cause people to drive negative miles per hour, and somehow it sticks around for way longer than it needs to. That means that this morning when I woke up hoping to get a long ride in, icy conditions were just dicey enough to make me not willing to go out for a solo ride.

If you know me well you know that I follow my training plans to a T — sometimes that can be my biggest fault because it allows things like unpredictable weather, work, and life stuff stress me out as I try to figure out how to make it all work. But my motto has always been that there is a way to get it done. That is how I knew that I’d be fine preparing for an early season ironman – I always figure out a way. Today was no exception.

Since I wouldn’t be riding, that meant I’d be swapping my run day in today. A double run day, actually – which gives me less leniency on when to start run #1. And run #1 was a track workout. So, I did what (in my mind) anyone would do: packed up my shoes, gloves, and shovel, and headed to the track. Again, I’m very lucky. One inch of powder snow is hardly a burden to shovel. In my head this was going to be a quick 10-15 minute task to run the shovel around the track and then be on my way. This turned out to be slightly optimistic – thirty five minutes later I finished the quarter mile!


So then, with frozen toes and fingers I started my workout.

Do I really enjoy doing absurd things like this? Was it really fun to have to do it? Of course not. But these are the days that will make me stronger. Just because a particular day or workout isn’t fun doesn’t mean that it’s not meaningful. It all goes into the vault and on race day I get to draw on it. Because you know what is fun? When a race goes well. When running the last 10k feels like a 10k and not the end of a 100 miler. And last time I checked, sticking to the plan, finding a way, and getting the work done in the days before the race was the best way to ensure you have fun on race day. So I think for the next 7 weeks I’ll continue to pack a shovel.


In Good Company

January 22, 2013 § 1 Comment

After getting back from Key West this week, I was getting right back into the swing of things…..and in doing so, I noticed that I was still heading to the pool a lot, despite having thought my swim camp block was over. The following is an actual exchange between me and coachie – get excited for a private look into our riveting conversations:

Me: am i not done with swim camp? this amount of swim volume seems awful suspicious.

Coachie: THIS is your last week! Figured we’d need to swim a lot w/half IM recovery so may as well extend it one more wk:)

Me: omggggggggggggg this was like the ultimate false alarm LOL

Coachie: Haaa omg lol

Unfortunately she definitely had the last laugh on that one! But, I did have a light at the end of the tunnel. With a 3 day weekend on the calendar, I had made some plans to swim/bike/ride with Kendra and Leslie (a fellow TeamHPB-er!). Sunday morning I met Leslie at a pool in Arlington — we also ran into Terra Castro getting in her Sunday AM swim. I guess triathletes really aren’t hard to find!

After the swim, Leslie and I headed over to Kendra’s and after some oatmeal and tea, got ready for a few hours on the bike. Lucky for us it was a BEAUTIFUL winter day for riding. I swear we saw 50 other people out on their bikes.

photo 1

And to cap off the day Kendra and I did a nice little run down to Roosevelt Island. With so many people out enjoying the beautiful day there was plenty of people watching going on. I really appreciated having such great company during the day – it made the full day of training fly by. And I was done with plenty of time to spare before the Raven’s game!

After all of this and some more time on the bike today, I certainly wasn’t the only one tuckered out tonight:

photo 2


January 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

“[…] today, with the way things are in all circles, in soccer, in society, in politics, where it seems anything goes, a gesture of honesty goes down well.”

– Fernández Anaya in The Honesty of the Long Distance Runner

Bone Island Triathlon Race Report

January 16, 2013 § 5 Comments

It is hard to believe that only a couple of days ago I was swimming in an outdoor 30 yard pool with the Key West sun on my back! But that’s the life of a triathlete with a full-time job to pay the bills, right? This was a quick trip and I had headed south with a mission – to dust off the cobwebs and let my body know that we will most definitely be gearing up for racing season. After all is said and done, I have to say that for a first year event things went very smoothly and I would definitely recommend this race for anyone looking for an early season tri.

My race began early Saturday morning as I caught the shuttle from my hotel down to the transition. One of only 3 people on the shuttle, it was like having a private taxi service! As we rode down the empty road, I could tell the wind would definitely be a factor as the palm trees were blowing fiercely in the moonlight. In transition I put everything in order, and had plenty of time to catch the next shuttle over to the swim start. This was only a 15 minute walk, but why waste the time on your legs if you don’t have to?! Once again there was no issues with any of the shuttles or transportation, so I have to hand it to the race organizers there!

Over at Smathers beach, the start for the full iron distance was pushed back about 15 minutes until the sun was fully up. That meant I had another hour or so to hang out, which was fine by me. It was really easy to find a quiet section of the beach and watch the sun come up over the ocean. I took in the scenery and was pretty relaxed as I watched the other waves start out:

swim start

(photo taken from @ChuckDennie’s Instagram…..I don’t know you, but thanks!)

With my newfound swim confidence after swim camp, I lined up right on the front and was pretty well able to identify the girls I would want to stick with. Our wave started, a few running steps, some dolphin dives and we were off! At one point the course turned and took you right into the winds – which also means right into the waves! As I was getting tossed all about and struggling to sight the buoys, I was at least glad that the rough conditions were giving me something to take my mind off the chance of Portuguese man-o-wars in the water! Due to the sighting issues with all of the waves, I swung pretty wide on one of the last turns but a kayaker corrected me and I don’t think I lost too much ground. I was able to maintain sight with the other pink caps I had headed out in the front with, so I felt good about that. As I headed in to the pier, we were swimming through shallow water and I must have passed about 15 men who were walking it in! And not a walk which was kind of a jog through the water. They were doing the creature from the blue black lagoon walk, slow and sweeping with their arms dragging along, no sense of urgency whatsoever. I did not understand!

Onto the bike…..and into the wind! That’s right – 28 miles of pure headwind. For once I felt strong despite the heavy wind, and I was able to gain a good bit of ground, passing one girl around mile 15. Just after the pass, I saw some commotion in a parking lot to my right, and flew by a sign that read “aid station”. Uhhh….what?!

So, races apparently have these things called “mandatory pre-race meetings” which I generally tend to avoid. I do thoroughly read the athlete packet — I just tend to stray away from things with high concentrations of other competitors in one spot. Well, this ended up not being the best decision here, as it was told at the meetings that due to the fact we were biking on an open highway, it wasn’t safe to do normal aid stations – they would all be lots to pull off into. By the time I pieced all of this together I was well past the point of no return. I was also just about empty on water. At that point there wasn’t much else to do other than nurse my bottle of calories for the hydration there, and wait for the next stop, shortly after the turnaround. I ended up stopping for 2 bottles here so I could make it all the way in.

Having  a headwind the whole way out did of course mean the best news ever: tailwind on the way home! I am pretty sure I have never had the chance to ride 28 miles uninterrupted on essentially flat ground with a 15-20 mph tailwind at my back. It was just as awesome as it sounds like it would be! Having ridden to the turnaround in 1:26, I ended up back in transition with a total bike of 2:36 – so you can do the math there!

As I headed onto the run I knew it was going to be both a mental game and a task of managing conditions. The heat was of course one thing, but the wind was again a factor – now we’d be running a few miles into that same headwind on each of the 2 loops. I was able to see the girl behind me on one of the out-and-backs and so I knew I had a small cushion to work with, but it wasn’t until further into the run I saw the woman in first place. She looked strong, but I knew I could at least hold my place if I played my cards right.

The wind ended up zapping a lot of my energy, and being a relatively small race there was really no one around me to keep pace with. It was a little obvious that many of us had probably come from climates that were a far cry from 84 degrees and humid! The final 5k of the run takes you out into downtown Key West, down Duval Street, and through the crowds. And a couple times that literally meant through the crowds – many of the tourists had no clue what was going on, and since part of the run course was on sidewalks you were dodging people as you ran. Not ideal, but also not the worst. I will say it was super cool to run by the southern most point on the continental US! Not many race routes will take you that close to such a neat attraction.

The race finished in a park area, where pizza awaited. I had indeed held on to second place and came in just over 5 hours. Not a PR by any means, but it was definitely the best start to a racing season I’ve had which is a great sign. And, to take second place to a professional – well, can’t complain about that either! I was able to meet many of the other local competitors and it was nice to get to know so many new faces. Many of them had come up to tell me about the Rev3 races they had done, and which they were thinking about doing this year. It was really fun to get to connect with so many people and I hope to see them at a Rev3 race this year! Then I was even able to snag a ride in the back of a pickup truck with my new friends back to transition, where I rode my bike the remainder of the way back to the hotel…..and just in time, as the Raven’s game was starting!

BOne Island

Thanks for the photo Maria!

Overall I am really pleased with how things went. I definitely hit the ground running and it added the fuel to my fire for IM Los Cabos in 8 weeks! Maybe this early season IM stuff really isn’t so bad after all 🙂 Unfortunately I have yet to discover any other race pictures from the event, but I’m pretty sure that I looked like this the entire time anyway, so I’ll leave you with this to fill the void:


Welcome to the Conch Republic

January 11, 2013 § 2 Comments

Seeing that this was the first thing I saw when I walked off the plane at the Key West airport:


I think it’s fitting I give a little history lesson first. For all I know this may be well-known American trivia for people, but I’m not ashamed to admit that this was never covered in any of my math classes.  According to Wikipedia (is there another source out there for fact-checking??):

The Conch Republic is a micronation declared as a tongue-in-cheek secession of the city of Key West, Florida from the United States on April 23, 1982. It has been maintained as a tourism booster for the city since. Since then, the term “Conch Republic” has been expanded to refer to “all of the Florida Keys, or, that geographic apportionment of land that falls within the legally defined boundaries of Monroe County, Florida, northward to ‘Skeeter’s Last Chance Saloon’ in Florida City, Dade County, Florida, with Key West as the nation’s capital and all territories north of Key West being referred to as ‘The Northern Territories’.

So, there you go. Learn something new everyday.

When I walked into this “airport”….also could be described as one conveyer belt and a bar….I have to say I had my concerns that I would be seeing my bag or my bike today.  That’s the ultimate problem with only being able to travel the day before a race – if your bike never arrives….no race for you! Lucky for me both my bike and my bag arrived. The process getting to the hotel was also pretty seamless. I’m pretty sure that this is the first time in all of my racing that I have opted to stay at the ‘host hotel’ for a race. Usually I prefer to try to steer clear of athlete-central as much as I can and just do my own thing. But, since it was a quick trip and staying there would help with logistics, it was a no-brainer.

I managed to build my bike pretty quickly and spent some time riding out on the bike course. Very Clearwater and Eagleman-esque, this is going to be the quintessential flat-and-potentially-really-fast-depending-on-the-winds bike course. It was really gusty out there today, and tomorrow looks like more of the same. I have to say though – there’s nothing quite like having the wind at your back on a flat Florida highway with this off your shoulder:

KY2(Yes, I’ve been doing some instagramming in my spare time today!)

After the ride I rode down to transition area, where I left my bike and grabbed lunch at the nearby restaurant. I am definitely looking forward to some post-race beach time here tomorrow!

KY1 KY3The last thing on my list was an easy shakeout jog (about 3 miles back to the hotel), and I got a taste of what tomorrow will be like on the run. I didn’t head down to downtown Key West yet, I am hoping to save that excitement for the run tomorrow in case I need a boost in that last 5k 🙂

My final excitement of the day turned out to be the hotel fire drill. You know how you always wonder what you’d grab if there was a fire? Well, apparently I’d grab my room key, my wallet, and my phone. Not bad.

There is supposed to be race day tracking at this link, so feel free to follow along tomorrow!  I am bib #401.


January 9, 2013 § Leave a comment

To be the best these days means you need to have the best support system around you, you need to be selfish, you need to make sacrifices, you need to be mentally strong, you need to want to win, you need to believe in yourself and your capabilities.

Jacqui Gordon

January is for….racing?

January 8, 2013 § 4 Comments

I have to say that my mind is a little confused about why I’m getting out the old bike box again. A lack of daylight and gloves for every run usually does not add up to “time to race” mentality. But this year is much different, and while social media indicates that many of my friends are (finally) getting back on  training bandwagon, I’m happy to report I am feeling fit and ready to test out my racing legs! In fact, a lot of my workouts lately have taken me back to about 2 years ago, when I was in a similar situation in preparation for the HURT 100 mile. Despite being in Hawaii, not many people are jumping to race an ultra in January. And much to my dismay, there aren’t many people looking to race an Ironman in March either – even if it is in Mexico!

But I have always found that it’s these training blocks – when the sunlight is minimal, the hours are cold, and the company is lacking, that are the most meaningful. Because to be honest, these are the times when you have to remember how much you simply love the sport. Because if you didn’t, you wouldn’t get out there and ride when it’s 30 degrees, windy and drizzling. And you wouldn’t get up for a 6k swim at 5am. And you wouldn’t get up to run on a cold windy track. But you do it because you love it, and you love the dream that you’re chasing. Because you love the hard. And, as I was reminded the other day as I watched A League of Their Own on the trainer – it’s the hard that makes it great.

I will be thinking about all those who are in their final preparation for HURT as I race this weekend! Let the 2013 fun begin!



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