Friday, April 18, 2014

2014 Goals Check-In

The first quarter of the year is already gone!  Time to check in on those yearly goals:

1) Rank in the top 10 in my age group in a sprint triathlon.  Well, not so much.  I ended up with 16th.  I still improved quite a bit over last year though and who knows what the rest of the year will bring!

2) Redo the header at the top of my blog. Ummmmm........nope, not yet.

3) Finish school by the end of May.  I don't think this is going to be a problem, we've just about caught up on the backlog from our breaks earlier in the year.

4) Take some sort of first-aid and/or CPR training.  Have not worked on this yet, I'm thinking of taking care of it over the summer.

5) Pay at least $1,000 extra on student loans.  On track to accomplish this, paying about an extra $100 each month.

Not all that bad for the first three months of the year, I'm looking forward to the end of school and summer when I can focus on other things a little bit more!


Monday, April 14, 2014

Cold, Rainy Triathlon

The weather has been crazy this year.  Just when it starts to warm up, another cold front comes through and plunges us back into what is normally winter weather for us.  Also, the triathlon I was most looking forward to this year was moved up 3 months.  An April triathlon in Texas has a pretty good chance for decent weather, so I didn't think to worry about that aspect.

Until the week of the tri when I was looking at the forecast and realized that my first triathlon of the year was going to be 55, rainy and windy.  I really hate being cold, but in an effort to be more serious about my training, I had stopped skipping workouts due to weather.  I think knowing what to expect helped, but man, was it cold.

I learned quite a few tricks that I think could be helpful though, so here goes the race report:
Here is what my gear looked like before I left the house.  The bag on the right had dry clothes and a towel that I kept in the car so I had things that would definitely be dry if I needed to change at the end of the race.  I kept my entire transition set-up in a sterilite container.  There wasn't much in there that I wouldn't normally have.  I added a hand towel so I could dry my arms enough to get into a long sleeve compression shirt, an extra pair of socks in case I wanted to change after the bike and a neck warmer.  With the lid on, all of this stuff stayed completely dry.  I still took my pink towel that is normally used for my transition layout and put it under the box with the edge sticking out.  This is my visual cue to find my spot (I am very blind after the swim until I get to my glasses) and even with it wet, it was useful for wiping my feet off.  When I racked my bike, I put my helmet on the seat, then put a plastic grocery bag over helmet and seat so they'd at least start out dry.  My backpack had the regular things in it, but I put a trash bag over the top and tucked the edges under the bottom of it so it (and its contents) would stay dry.  I brought along my regular gatorade and larabars, but also a thermos of hot tea to help warm up after the race.  I also put rain-x on my glasses. 
This race has an indoor pool swim, so eventually it was time to take off the warm clothes I'd worn to the venue and brave the elements to walk inside.  I hate leaving my glasses behind and only having my goggles to see with.  It's doable, but just looks oh so cool, as you can see here.  That's me in the middle, wearing blue and holding my goggles up to my face.  Another athlete told me he always wears glasses, but he has just a few sets of cheap disposable contacts that he only wears while waiting for the race to start, then he throws them away and wears prescription goggles for the swim, then his glasses the rest of the time.  I think I might have to give that a try.
Me in the purple cap in line to start and talking to other competitors.  I somehow managed to cut my foot before the race even started.  I'm not sure where it happened, I just realized it was hurting to walk and looked at my foot to find it was bleeding.  It was a tiny but deep cut that is still hurting a week later.  Thankfully the lifeguards patched it up for me (so I didn't have to go back out in the cold to my own bag!) and it was on my heel, which I don't use all that much in a tri since I'm a toe-runner.
The swim went well (I'm middle of the frame in the black shorts) though I realize from this picture that I'm breathing too late, while I pulling my arm up and over instead of when I'm pulling back.  I was much more middle of the pack on the swim this time around and didn't get passed by many people.  In fact, I had to pass a few and got hung up by the lady in pink that's swimming in the lane next to me.  I didn't need to take any breaks during the swim at all and my total time (including run out to transition) was 11:41/400m, a full 3 minutes faster than 9 months ago when I did this same race.
Running outside to transition pretty much sucked.  Have I mentioned I don't like being cold?  Another lady saw my neck warmer and wished she'd brought one.  I was debating at the last second whether to put it on or not, but I'm glad I did.  I don't breathe as well in cold air, so being able to breathe through it sometimes was helpful.  Also, my nose was running a lot, so by the end it just became a giant kleenex.  Kinda gross, but don't act like your nose doesn't run when you work out in the cold!

I did see a couple of people fall on the bike.  A few tips there: don't ride on the paint lines, they're slippery when wet; don't brake and turn at the same time, slow down first; and avoid any puddles you can't see the bottom of, they can hide deep pot holes.  Just a general biking in a triathlon tip: pay attention to where the dismount line is and respect it.  Heck, even slow down a bit before you get to it.  I keep seeing people race right up to and even over the dismount line, then try to hop off their bikes and they end up totally eating it.  Taking a few seconds to slow down, get off the bike and THEN start running is not going to make or break the race for most people. 

I ended up doing the bike in 46:47, which was 2 seconds slower than last year.  I did catch myself thinking about halfway through, "wait, I'm not racing, why am I not racing?" so I think I could have done better, but I also had about a 10mph headwind and light rain most of the way when last year was sunny and calm, so I figure the same time is really an improvement.

T2 went pretty well.  I turned the lid of my transition box upside down and sat on that to change shoes.  You can see how wet my socks are, I did end up changing them in an effort (a successful one) to avoid blisters.  I didn't realize until I tried to do this that my fingers were numb.  This transition ended up taking me about 30 seconds longer than it normally would.
The benefit of not riding as hard as I could have on the bike is that I was able to start running right out of transition, I didn't need any cool down time for my heart rate to slow down.  I am typically a very slow runner, often clocking 13-14min/mile.  I don't know what happened, but I got to the one mile marker and only 11 minutes had passed by.  I actually started asking who had a GPS on them because I didn't believe the marker was in the right spot.
I ended up finishing the run in 34:39.  Sierra and I ran it again the next day with a friend and GPS to be sure it was mapped right and it was a full 5K, so that means I averaged 11:11/mile.  Training runs since then have gone better than typical too, I think maybe it's just "clicked" in much the same way swimming "clicked" last year.  I'd actually say swimming has probably made running easier.  My lungs have always been the limiting factor, my breathing would go to crap while my legs were still strong.  I think the anaerobic work of swimming, plus being forced to breathe in a certain pattern has helped my endurance on running.  I have been doing my training runs, but I just don't think I was diligent enough or trained hard enough for the running practice alone to account for the sudden jump in ability I'm seeing.   I've also added in strength training this spring and I feel like that's made biking easier, so it probably helped me save energy on the bike and speed up on the run.
Overall, I ended up finishing in 01:39:04, which was 09:13 faster than the same race last year, even with terrible weather.  It was not enough for me to reach my top 10 in age group goal though.  I ended up in 16th place, 06:37 behind number 10.  I still have that number 10 in mind, but I don't know if I'll reach it this year.  I am definitely improving and I'm working towards longer distance goals.  My next race has a 600m open water swim (my first wave start) and I'm doing an olympic distance training plan to prepare for that because I think the stronger base will help me out.  Judging from past years' results, the field will be much more competitive than other races I've done though, so top 10 is a bit of a long shot there.  I still have half-ironman in my sights, trying to decide if I could be ready for that next spring or I need to wait until 2016.  

In the meantime, Sierra (who has been wanting to do a triathlon since last summer) joined a local kids' triathlon team.  She's just getting started, but she's thrilled and can't wait until she's ready for her first race.  We knew she was going to need work on swimming, but the coach let me know the things she does wrong are going to be pretty easy to fix.  On running, she surprised me and kept pace with a 14 year old girl with a lot of tri experience during practice.  She was one of the fastest kids out there.  She hasn't had cycling practice yet, that will come up on Wednesday if the weather cooperates. Triathlon season is in full swing!  Josh and I are also signed up for a half-marathon later in the year.  Time to increase the grocery budget again, I think....

Have you done any cold and/or rainy triathlons?  Any tips and tricks I missed that I need try out next time this happens?

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