Sunday, October 30, 2011

My Last Race of the Year

Early in the year my boyfriend wanted me to do the Half Ironman in Miami on October 30th. I hesitated for a while before making a decision. I hesitated because my race season started early in February doing a Half Ironman in Costa Rica, another half in Vegas, full Ironman in May, several Olympic and Sprint distances and finally Miami in October. I knew by the time October came I would be burnt out on racing. I ended up signing up and was actually feeling pretty good about the race in the weeks leading up to it. I let him book our travel (one less thing for me to have to worry about). I must say it was nice not having to think about some of the small details. We left for the airport Friday morning to catch a 10:30 flight. He said we arrived in Miami at 8:30pm. I thought that seemed like a long time. Come to find out he booked a flight with 2 stops before getting to Miami. Lesson number one……next time I will book the flights. He did however take some healthy food for our day long adventure. Thank god he brought it because I would have been starving if he didn’t bring his mixture of ground turkey, egg whites, brown rice and spinach. That is one problem with traveling for events. It is so important leading up to an event that you eat really and hydrate really well. That is sometimes hard to do in an airport.
Going into this race, I could possibly have a PR (personal record). My previous best time at a Half Ironman was at the Honu Half in Hawaii. My time there was 5:21. This was a flat bike course so I should have a fast bike. The run course had a few hills but wasn’t too bad. I was hoping to beat my 5:21 time. Once I saw the weather conditions all my expectations went out the door. I had no idea how I could ride in the rain for 56 miles. The bike is my strength except when it’s raining! The forecast for our race was looking pretty dismal. I am very scared about crashing (I have had a few). Rain and slick roads are really dangerous for biking. Add in lots of wind and it’s not a good combination. Race morning we get up to wind and rain. There was not just a little rain it was pouring rain. I seriously thought about not doing the race. As we were setting up in transition I went to turn on my Garmin (which I use for my pace on the bike and run) and the battery was not charged! As we were leaving for the airport I was going to bring my charger and my boyfriend said to me that my Garmin was charged. Lesson number two……always check your own equipment!
I decided I would do the swim and then see about the bike when I got out of the water. The water was warm enough we could not wear wetsuits. I failed to bring my speed suit so I had to swim in my tri shorts and shirt. I also failed to bring clear goggles. I brought two pair of dark tinted goggles. I was thinking, “hey we are in Miami I will need my dark goggles”. Little did I know it was going to be dark and overcast most of the day. The water was really choppy. It was like a washing machine. My swim time was much slower than normal but at this point I wasn’t even sure if I was going to complete the race. I got out of the water and the rain had subsided to only a mist. I got on my bike and was extra careful for the first 5 miles of the ride. Once I got out of town onto the straight rode I picked up my pace. I really didn’t have a good idea of my pace, cadence, HR or anything because I didn’t have my Garmin. All that I had was a Timex watch. I was able to time myself for each 5 miles on the bike. I was pretty sure I was holding about a 20mph pace. Considering the wind I was pretty happy with that. I was worried about losing air in my tires or getting a flat for most of the ride. The day we packed our bikes to leave for the airport, I had to change my rear tire because it was flat. My new wheels have valve extensions on them and they were not holding air. I also did not have a chance to ride my bike on Saturday to make sure I wouldn’t get a pinch flat from the tire change. A pinch flat can easily happen if you are not careful when changing the tire. I will admit I am not the best at changing tires. Saturday the local bike shop tightened my valves so that they were holding air but I was still concerned for most of the ride. Fortunately nothing bad happened. My nutrition on the bike was great. I was able to stay well hydrated and take in enough calories to set me up for a good run. On the run I decided to carry my own water bottle with carbo pro in it. I usually rely on the aid stations for the run so this was something new during a race. I do this in training but racing is different. It turned out to be great. I used the carbo pro for my calories on the run instead of gels. Gels sometimes upset my stomach on the run. My run was good. It was not my best run time but I was happy with it. I was very happy with my overall time of 5:18 and that placed me 6th in my age group.
My boyfriend also had a PR of 5:38. He beat his previous best time by almost 50 minutes! He did awesome! With all the troubles we encountered leading up to this event and the horrible weather, I have to say it was a good day! He asked me if I want to make this race an annual tradition and I had to say NO but I would do it if he wanted to:)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Swimming and Triathlon Training – Is it all about the speed?

My first (and only) 8k swim
I have always thought that I’ve been a good long distance swimmer with decent stroke mechanics. My swim stroke was videotaped in the pool showing my technique both above and below the water and although there were some minor issues, I thought my mechanics were pretty good. I typically finish middle or top of the pack in most triathlons and in the pool my times have been pretty much the same over the past few years. I am definitely not the fastest when swimming 25’s and 50 sprints in the pool with other swimmers, I don’t sprint well and I don’t like to do it. In fact, people who have worse form than me, most times, beat me at the shorter distances like 25’s and 50’s. This would frustrate most people but I understand my body and understand what I can and can’t do. I don’t sprint well period!
I could however swim forever without becoming fatigued because I swim efficient. When I come out of the water in a triathlon I feel as if I had a good warm up, I am not exhausted or tired. So even though I may not be the fastest swimmer, I am very efficient and am able to save most of my energy for the bike and run.
Many people who compete in triathlons are very focused on their times in the pool but being a fast swimmer doesn’t translate into an efficient swimmer. Swimming for endurance and working on technique does not come over night, it takes years to develop. I am not saying that recording your times is not important; it is always good to know how you’re progressing day to day. If you have a great day in the pool, your times were faster, you felt stronger and you set established some significant improvements on previous times, doesn’t translate into becoming an efficient swimmer. Think about why you had a good day, was it because you had a great night’s sleep? Did you eat well? Did you come off a rest period? So many factors could’ve influenced your great day. Setting faster times is all good and well but how efficient are you and are you finishing with enough energy to complete the remaining 2 disciplines effectively?
This is the time of the time of year that most people are ending their racing season. I find this time of year people get in the pool less frequently or not at all. This time of year you should be working on your technique to become a more efficient swimmer; you should be doing more drills that are technique focused. Think about getting someone to video you in the water so you can see your stroke and mechanics so you can focus on becoming a more efficient swimmer. This will be far more effective for you than focusing on becoming faster. If you can have a good swim in a race and come out of the water feeling energized and ready for the bike that is a good thing! The worst thing you could do is to jack up your heart rate in the swim and come out of the water fatigued.