Saturday, June 29, 2013

More Tales From Tri Training

My first triathlon is just around the corner now.  I had an unfortunate run in with some sort of GI illness that left me with 3 rest days in a row.  That wasn't much fun to come back from.  I've learned more things since getting back into my training routine though:

Don't be afraid to swim with other people.  I have some social anxiety and basically really dread talking to new people.  Especially in unfamiliar territory where I'm already trying to figure out what I should be doing.  You aren't the only person in a triathlon though, so whether it's open water or in a pool, you can be sure you will be in close quarters with other people.  I had put off sharing a lane with anyone at the pool because if I asked, they might beat me over the head with a kick board.  Or, you know, just say no (the horror!).  Luckily, fate intervened.  I found myself halfway through my workout and the pool filling up and before I knew it, someone was asking me if they could share my lane.  Well, actually, the first time, someone just jumped in.  Bad etiquette, don't do that.  Since then, people have asked, and I've said yes.  I've found it's really good practice and not nearly as nerve wracking as I'd imagined.   There are a few basic "rules" to follow if you want to share a lane: pick one with a swimmer that seems to be a good match for what you plan to do (about the same speed, preferably doing the same swim stroke), sit on the side and wait to ask them if you can share their lane, ask them if they want to split the lane (you each get one side) or circle swim (always stay to the right).  Once you know that bit, just be honest that you're new and any person worth your time will politely let you know if you're doing anything wrong. 

Practice transitions. I'm not going to be fast enough for transition to make all that much of a difference on my overall time, but some basic practice just to feel more confident and comfortable is helpful.   I found this video useful in explaining the whole bike shoes on or off part, in particular.  I thought I had the basic idea down until I tried to do it, the video filled in the details I needed.  I've figured out I need to go ahead and put my bike shoes on during transition, but I can get out of them just fine at the end of the bike portion so I can walk through transition two without my shoes.   While it wasn't on my training schedule, I did a mini tri on my own one day.  I did the full 400m swim, then a 4 mile bike and 1.5 mile run.  This was a great way to get a better feel for how race day will be and helped me zero in on my preferences for how to handle transition. 

Hydration. I know, I learned this lesson already, but it's like working out on the surface of the sun out there.  Maybe not quite that bad, but it's 105 today......and I need to go run for an hour.  That kind of heat drains you really fast.  While it's obvious on the run, it's important to remember you're still sweating a lot even when it's disappearing into the pool or evaporating off of you on a bike.  I've also figured out that I can put a water bottle in the freezer until it's completely solid and it will still thaw and warm up before I finish a 15 mile bike ride.  I wish I had a solution to prevent that so I still had something cold on the run, but I haven't figured anything out yet.

This is way better than running. I've never been known for my patience and long attention span.  I get bored quickly with running and because I'm not fast, it often seems like a slog to get through a workout.  I have some running goals but they don't involve significant improvement, winning or repeating long distances.  Mostly, I want to do it just to have done it and then I'm ready to move on to the next thing.  Training for a triathlon has been much more entertaining and easier to stick with.  I really enjoy doing something different every day.

I think I've pretty much dialed in what I need to know for this first go at a sprint tri.  I definitely have room to improve on my technique and speed with everything, but I'm feeling ready for the race and looking forward to it (and more in the future)!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Berry Disappointing

Each year, we make a trip out to a great pick-your-own blueberry farm.  While plenty of berries were produced this year, it seems everyone and their brother has decided to visit, so the place has been packed early in the morning and picked clean every Saturday.   Sometimes there are berries left Sunday morning, so we were hopeful that if we went on a Saturday evening, we could beat the crowds and find some berries.

It was not meant to be.  We only ended up with 5 pounds, which was about a third of what we wanted and not worth the drive.  The kids had a lot of fun this year though and I wish we'd weighed Secora on arrival and departure because I'm pretty sure she ate a pound or two while we were in the field (they encourage that). I don't think a single berry she picked made it into the bucket.  I really hope next year is better picking or they open up on a weekday, we just can't make it early enough to beat the crowds that come out on the weekend.
 Everyone looking for a good spot to start picking
 Secora picking a snack (I know her shorts are droopy, they're 2T, but apparently vanity sizing has made it to the toddler section)
Must. Reach. Blueberry.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Our Mini Garden

The mini garden we put in this year isn't doing great.  It was a last minute decision, so we didn't do a lot of prep beyond pulling weeds, breaking the ground and throwing some compost down.  This area will need  a lot more TLC if it's going to become a permanent veggie area. 

As you can see, the grass has grown right back in and tried to take over:
We do have some things growing though.  There are tomatoes on the vine:
And peppers are producing, even though the plants aren't growing like they should:
Near by, these flowers that were already here when we moved in have been blooming.  They're gorgeous.  I'm not entirely sure what they are, I think maybe cannas?

On the other side of the yard, the fig tree we planted is very happy with its lot in life:
It's even decided to put out some fruit, which surprised me
I think the veggie area needs to be thoroughly cleared out, solarized over the winter, then treated to a heaping helping of new soil/compost before planting next year.  The previous owners had thick ground cover  all in that area and that needs to be completely removed before we can really do vegetables there. 

We have some plans for the front yard too, there is room for several fruit trees and there is a steep slope we'd like to redo completely with something that doesn't require any mowing.  I'd love something really low maintenance and/or edible.  Mint and rosemary surrounded by a ground cover of sweet potato vines or something.  By the time we actually closed on the house, made it through the job switch and settled into our new budget, it was just too late in the year to do a whole lot there.  We've started some redecorating projects on the inside (where it's air conditioned) instead.  Heavy yard work will probably wait until fall.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

More Tri Lessons

Training for the triathlon is going well and I have less than a month to go before the race!  I've learned a few more lessons along the way. 

Some things are minor observances.  Like, according to my tan lines, I always always wear my watch while working out, but rarely my wedding ring:
Also, I always gripped the ground with my middle toes when I was a kid.  The wear patterns (and lack of tread) on my running shoes shows I have not outgrown this habit:
I have figured out (finally) when the lanes at the local pool are not overrun with the swim team.

I've also learned that I need one of these, no matter how dorky it looks:
Yes, a nose clip.  I am just not capable (not yet, anyway) of keeping water out of my nose without it.  Only tiny amounts get it, but it's a sensation I strongly detest and it messes up my technique and makes swimming a struggle.  I can maintain an even breathing pattern much easier with a clip. 

I also practice without it though, because I've learned it sometimes slips off (wiping my nose off with a swimmer's towel before putting it on helps).  The last thing I need is to get half way through my swim on race day, lose the clip and lose my cool.  Better to be prepared to not have it, just in case.

I've learned yoga is even more important when I'm working out than when I'm not.  The breathing practice helps me control my breathing better when I'm biking and running.  Breathing during a swim is a whole different ball game that I'm working on, but need a lot more practice at.  A friend introduced me to the you tube videos from Do Yoga With Me.  My favorite instructor on there is David, especially his shoulders classes and hips, hamstrings and lower back classes.  Fiji is good too, but more difficult and her classes feel more like a workout in their own right rather than restoration after a workout.

Perhaps most importantly, I've learned not to underestimate hydration.  I've never been known to hydrate well, but with temps in the high 90's and work outs six days a week (this is a temporary thing, I'm at the hardest part of the training schedule right now), hydration is a must.  Through some trial and error, I've found I need to be sure to drink about 1 liter of gatorade (we use the powder, the ready to drink tastes too strong to me, I dilute it if that's what I have) the few hours before a run or bike.  I always work out in the evening, so this works for me.  I feel like I rehydrate after the workout pretty well on my own by following my thirst. 

Last, I've also found I can't ignore carbs.  I often crave a lot of protein after a workout and while that's needed, if I don't get carbs with it, I feel drained the next day.  This prompted me to do a little research on what you should eat after exercising and while there is some debate (as with most things nutrition related), it seems a fairly consistent recommendation is 0.5-1.0g of carbohydrate per pound of body weight and a 4:1 ratio of carbs:protein eaten within 30-60 minutes of the workout.   Of course, how hard you workout and when your next workout would be affects these numbers, but it's just a basic guideline.  With my metabolism and the frequent workouts, I need to be sure I eat some carbs rather than just the giant burger I'm craving.

I'm sure I have many more lessons to learn, and probably some unlearned ones that will rear their ugly head on race day, but you never learn if you don't get out there and try!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Summer Camp

The big girls spent last week at a girl scout day camp.  Sierra went last year and had a blast, this was the first year Sedona was old enough.

Here they are ready to leave the first morning (it's rather hard to get them to look at you when there is a wall of mirrors for them to check their pose in):
Sedona's unit leader took a lot of pictures throughout the week and shared them with the parents, so all of the camp pictures are from her.  I also don't have a lot of Sierra since no one sent me pictures of her unit.

Sedona and her aide working on stilts:
The theme this year was heroes, so every day included talks by local heroes.  Monday was crime scene investigation: 
Tuesday, they visited with the SWAT team:
Wednesday was firemen:

Thursday was EMS workers: 
Of course, in between there were lots of games, very loud singing, crafts, hiking and learning camp skills.  One of Sedona's favorite parts was all the bugs:
On the first day, she even got stuck in the latrine because the door was too hard for her to open.  She said she didn't mind because there were lots of bugs in there to look at.  (she did call for help and someone let her out)

Both girls were able to learn about how to do the flag ceremony properly.  Here is Sedona (the shorty holding the American flag) participating one day at the end of camp:
Friday was the much anticipated water day and swaps day.  My big girls were able to meet up with each other for a little bit:
Of course, between all of the fun planned activities, there were plenty of good ol' shenanigans too.  Sedona borrowed her aide's graduation cap (she was a senior that just turned 18, so this was her last year as a camper/aide):
And even girl scout camp isn't safe from the mustache craze:
On the last day, they do swaps.  Swaps are small trinkets on safety pins.  The girls make a bunch of their own and then trade with other girls.  Last year, Sierra only had a few.  This year, she was determined to not run out.  She made A LOT of swaps, which, of course, got Sedona interested too.

On their last day of camp they came home with all the swaps they got from the other girls:
Sierra had so many on her lanyard, she gave up and started putting them on her shirt also, so I made her take another picture:
They had a blast.  Sedona wishes she could sleep out there (the older girls camp overnight at the end of the week), and both of them are considering one of the shorter sleep away camps for next year.  They've been singing the girl scout songs so much that Secora is starting to sing along. 

Now they've moved on to summer enrichment classes at a local elementary school.  Each day they take classes in crafts, gym, and baking.  This was a flip flop from camp...Sedona went to summer school last year and Sierra didn't, so she was excited to take the lead and show Sierra the ropes the first day.  Next up is theater camp for Sierra and some extra park and pool play days for Sedona and Secora!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Trying For a Tri

I have wanted to do a triathlon forever. I have a little problem with dreaming big, which is ironic since I'm typically such a pessimist.  Give me just a hint of an upcoming adventure though, and I immediately lose all impulse control and turn it into something massive.  The most showy evidence of this propensity is in our 1,000+ mile road trips and a few short notice moves we've made.  Josh doesn't always help matters much, if I mention "well yeah, we could sleep in a campground 10 feet from the car. OR.........we could hike 40 miles", he's pretty quick to jump in with both feet and start planning. 

So back in 2006, we watched Josh's sister-in-law run her first marathon.  I don't really know why, but it literally made me tear up.  By the time she finished, the switch had flipped in my brain and I was in full on, "this is the most awesomest thing ever and I wanna do it too!!!" mode.  Josh and I immediately made plans to run a half-marathon (we had never done so much as a 5K before, so 13.1 miles seemed more feasible than 26.2).  We found a training program, bought a jogging stroller and started running.  I kid you not, I could not make it to the end of the street--a whopping two-tenths of a mile--without taking a walking break.  But the gears were already turning and it was only a week or two before the endorphins led me to blurt out, "I wanna do an Ironman!!!!"  

For those who don't know, an Ironman consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run, all on the same day, back to back. 

Josh managed a good middle ground here.  He realized an ironman was, shall we say, ambitious.  He suggested a sprint triathlon.  He also built me a road bike though (he used to's handy to have your own bike mechanic at home), and I discovered I had a lot to learn, but really liked cycling.   I decided I definitely wanted to do a tri.  We found out I was pregnant the week after we ran the half-marathon, so everything got put on the back burner for a little while.

Then in 2008, I planned to do a triathlon in Galveston, in October.  Hurricane Ike blew through September 12/13 and caused massive damage to the island and, obviously, cancelled the race.

With kids, PhD graduation, moves and more kids, there just never seemed to be any time.  When I created my 101 in 1001 goal list, I put a tri on there.  Here we are, in the last few months before time is up on that list and I still haven't done one.

This summer, there is a local triathlon with the swimming portion taking place snake-style through the lanes of a competition pool.  This was as good as it was going to get.  I'm a weak swimmer, so avoiding open water for the first go around seems wise.  Being local means there's no travel cost.  And it happens before my deadline for my goal list. 

So I signed up.  It's a sprint tri 7 years in the making.

This race will be 400m swim, 12 mile bike, 3.1 mile run.  I have a reasonable amount of experience running and biking, but I've never put them together before and while I can get from point a to point b in a pool, I have no racing experience at all and have never taken a single swim lesson. 

So here are some things I've picked up so far that might help other people who are new to triathlon:
  • has some free training plans available that seem reasonable, as well as other information to help you get started.  I'm following the 10 week sprint distance plan.  
  • If you wear glasses, buy prescription goggles.  They're not much more than regular goggles and well worth having.  I started out swimming blind (with plain goggles) while I waited for mine to ship and it wasn't fun.  Being able to see made me feel more confident and was a heck of a lot more convenient.  Prescription swim goggles will not correct for astigmatism, so they don't give you perfect vision, but it's close enough.  I used the calculator on this site to determine which strength lenses to use (because I have a pretty bad astigmatism so just ordering based on my SPH number wouldn't work well for me), but I ordered my goggles from  I have been extremely happy with them.  They work great, there is no leaking at all, they come in a sturdy case, and you're provided with 3 different nose pieces so you can make them fit you. 
  • Once it was time to actually swim, I was having a lot of trouble.  I was completely exhausted after 25m and I felt like it was a huge struggle the whole time.  I discovered Total Immersion Swimming's videos on you tube and their methods made a night and day difference.  The "work less, swim better" series of videos were a good introduction, but the other videos are helpful too and I checked their book* out of the library so I would have a specific list of drills and workouts to follow.  The first time back in the pool, I felt a drastic difference.  I've only been doing this for about 2 weeks and I'm still quite slow, but I can do my 400m in about 12 minutes and I don't feel exhausted at the end.  That's key, especially in a tri with such a short swimming section.  Shaving a couple of minutes off your swim isn't going to make a big difference in your overall time, but if your heart rate is maxed out when you get out of the pool, you're gonna have a heck of a time jumping on a bike and riding well. 
  • I wasn't sure what I was going to wear because I didn't want to invest in a full tri-suit. I decided to go with tri shorts and a sports bra made out of swimsuit type material.  I can easily use both of these for biking/running even if I never do a tri again.  After the swim, I will throw on a shirt to avoid sunburn.  The only brands of tri shorts I could find locally to try on were Zoot and Pearl Izumi.  My regular bike shorts are Pearl Izumi, so I thought that's what I would want, but the leg hems were too tight and narrow, it felt like they were cutting into my legs.  On the Zoot shorts, the hem is a wide section that is just tighter than the rest of the short rather than having a specific tight, grippy band.  The Zoots were a lot more comfortable, so I bought them and they've worked well.  Something I didn't realize until after I wore them a few times is they also have handy pockets built into the sides, which is perfect to hold the chapstick I always want with me.   For the sports bra, I bought this one from Target.  I have not swam in it yet, but it seems to stay in place well and has worked great for biking and running.  It is the same material and molded cups you find in swimsuits, so it's a little more discreet than typical sports bras and should work well in the pool. 
  • Bricks.  Bricks are workouts where you do two or more things on the same day.  Typically a bike immediately followed by a run.  This is important, because when you step off a bike and try to run, your legs are all, "you're joking, right?"  My first brick was awful.  It was over 90 degrees and sunny, so I was too hot.  I took gatorade with me, but didn't adequately hydrate during the day before I went out.  I didn't properly cool down at the end of the bike ride.  I transitioned (from bike to run) too fast.  So I learned from my mistakes.  Just yesterday, I did my 2nd brick and it went much better and was actually enjoyable.  It only took a few changes: I went an hour later in the evening so the sun was not so high in the sky; a purposely drank an extra liter of gatorade in the afternoon on top of what I usually drink; I paid attention to my heart rate during the last 5 minutes of the bike ride and switched to a lower (easier) gear so I could bring my heart rate down; I also took the time check my heart rate (just counted for 6 seconds, then multiply by 10) during my transition and didn't start running until it had come down to the low end of my exercise range (but not all the way to resting rate). Last, but not least, I got my ipod out again.  I don't bike with music because I wouldn't be able to hear cars adequately, but I just run so much better with some upbeat tunes in my ear.  So much of any endurance exercise is mental, and the right songs help my mindset.  
So this is really happening this time around.  I've already invested too much time and money to back out now!  Josh has been absolutely wonderful and really supportive.  We are both signed up for a full marathon in 6 months too, so there has been a lot of exercising to fit in.  Six days a week, at least one of us is doing something.  With our schedule, this tends to happen in the evenings.  On a typical day, I eat a small snack and make dinner then when he gets home, I do my workout, then I eat when I get home and he runs.  Or sometimes we swap and he runs first.  The late sunsets help to fit everything in.  It makes the evenings a little hectic, but we happen to be in the one time of year where there aren't any evening activities for the kids, so it works out okay.   When we get into longer marathon training runs in the fall, I will probably have to bite the bullet and start waking up early so one of us can run in the mornings and the other in the evening. 

Has anyone else out there done a tri?  Do you have any tips for me?  The transitions worry me.  I'm not expecting to be fast, but I'm worried I'll get in the way of someone who is in a hurry. 

*The book link above is an affiliate link.  Aside from that, I have not been compensated in any way for writing about any of this, just sharing my own experience and opinion.


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